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  • Writer's pictureAilie Brown

Nothing like November

Updated: Oct 31, 2022

During November in the Cairngorms, things sometimes look a little bit darker and the trees look a bit bare, however this is the month for migrants in Speyside. The lack of leaves makes it much easier to spot thrushes feeding on berries and spotting the odd Waxwing or Brambling in mixed flocks around feeders.

A waxwing perched on top of a bush.
Waxwing on the hunt for berries (Simon Eaves)

The migrant species of thrushes such as Redwings and Fieldfares arrive in huge numbers from Scandinavia, are very social birds. They prefer to eat berries and fruit, so anything left on Rowan trees and Apple trees are of great delight to these charismatic birds. They are often in mixed flocks together along with Mistle Thrush and Blackbirds, their arrival makes those chillier and darker days of November much brighter.

A red wing perched on a bush.
A Redwing enjoying a feast.

Often out walking along the River Spey, in a local deciduous woodland that lines the banks, I am greeted with the sounds of Long-tailed Tits, the distinct calling back and forth to other members of their group gives them away. Often followed by a little party of Coal Tits, Great Tits, Blue Tits, sometimes a lone Treecreeper and the odd Crested Tit joins the fun too. They travel in numbers for safety and to look for food.

A long-tailed tit sitting on a branch.
Long-tailed Tits travel in noisy flocks.

Flocks of Siskin can be seen gathering in their numbers in preparation for winter. They are chatty too, most always heard before seen! Leaving a trail of seed packets, on the ground, fallen from Birch trees. If you get a light dusting of snow, their direction of travel is given away and can sometimes act as a treasure hunt, whilst out looking for birds.

Starlings are gathering and dancing in the air during most evenings. I forgot how much I missed hearing them over the summer. In their larger numbers, they make a lovely, dappled squeaking noise when roosting together, often scared off by predating Sparrowhawk.

Darker evenings in the Cairngorms National Park bring our calling Tawny Owls, which are setting up territories. Young that have been forced away from their nest a couple months ago are now setting up their boundaries. It’s a good time to listen out for them especially as it gets dark much earlier. You can sometimes follow the sound and spot them sitting high up in Pine trees.

A loch and snowy hills in November.
A winter scene in Speyside (Ailie Brown)

November is the start of the Stargazing months. The Cairngorms National Park is known for its remote areas and minimal light pollution, making it a wonderful place to see the stars and constellations during the November night sky.

There’s lots to be seen and heard in Speyside during November, some of which we look for during our Guided Day’s Out.

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