The days are short and cold, but winter in the Cairngorms is filled with breathtaking scenes. As we moved from autumn into winter, the wildlife behaviour changed, garden birds became hungry and Red Squirrels raided feeders for peanuts. Roe Deer are being seen in the open fields foraging and the Badgers at our Evening Mammal Hide are busy storing food for the winter months. In the recent days we have experienced amazing weather with cold, calm conditions and clear skies. This has provided the perfect ending to my last few Guided Days Out of the year, which has also delivered opportunities for lots of glorious sunset photos – although they will never look as good on camera as they do in reality!
The recent winter weekend for our Wildlife Identification Course led us to the Black Isle for waders and Seaduck. We enjoyed watching Pink-footed Geese, Scaup, Godwits and other waders with nice surprises like Brambling, divers and these stunning male Long-tailed Ducks.
This past week the ‘hoar frost’ has been hanging in the air and freezing all the foliage. Hoar frost happens when it is calm, but the air is damp, the droplets freeze in mid-air and cling to anything in sight. This has made the Strath turn into a winter wonderland with interesting cloud inversions from higher ground. The snow is yet to arrive fully, but these frosty conditions are one of my favourite times to wrap up and go for a winter walk.
The cool weather has brought more birds into the gardens, and it an important time of year to think of your garden birds as they struggle for natural food and fresh water. Remember to provide a variety of food and keep their water dishes defrosted. Watching out the window, it has been great to admire the variety of birds calling in to the bushes and feeders. A male Great Spotted Woodpecker tried to sneak into the fat balls and a surprise Brambling was amongst the Chaffinches feeding from the ground. Keep warm and enjoy watching nature from your window this winter.
As we head into the festive season, we look forward to preparing for the new year ahead and opportunities to get out in the Cairngorms National Park to explore and meet you on day guides and future holidays; we shall see you soon with the wildlife!