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  • Writer's pictureHarris Brooker

Summer Visitors to the Cairngorms National Park

Updated: Jun 9, 2023

In this post I’ll be sharing with you our star attractions that appear seasonally in Speyside and the surrounding areas. Some you might recognise, some you might not...


Pied Flycatcher

An exquisite black and white songbird. It often announces itself with its ‘zee-chay, zee-chay’ calls. The male has the pied plumage, with two white dots above the bill. The female is a duller grey and white. Rarer than the Spotted Flycatcher, oak and birch woodland are favourite habitats for this bird.

In this image is a Pied Flycatcher, a small black and white bird sat on a branch. There are leaves blurred in the background.
Pied Flycatcher (Photo Credit: Speyside Wildlife)
In this image is a Pied Flycatcher, a small black and white bird perched on a tree stump. There are trees and leaves in the background.
Pied Flycatcher (Photo Credit: Speyside Wildlife)

Spotted Flycatcher

Far easier to come by than the Pied Flycatcher. They are grey backed, white bellied with grey streaking down their breasts - fond of birch and oak woodland. They like to sit conspicuously looking for insects. When they’ve found something they’ll ‘sally forth’ to catch it, then fly back to their perches to eat.

In this image is a Spotted Flycatcher, a small grey and white bird. It is perched on a piece of rusted metal twisting upwards and behind it is a slate roof with sycamore seeds and moss.
Spotted Flycatcher (Photo Credit: Speyside Wildlife)

Tree Pipit

This small unassuming bird looks like the more common Meadow Pipit - it differs in being slightly larger, more upright and its streaking doesn’t extend onto the belly. There are streaks along its flanks that are thinner than what you would see on a Meadow Pipit. It is also, as its name suggests more of a woodland bird, though they can be seen together where the Meadow Pipit’s more open habitat and the Tree Pipit’s woodland habitat overlap.

In this image is a Tree Pipit, a small bird with a brown back and white breast streaked black. It is sat on some heather, with more blurred in the background.
Tree Pipit (Photo Credit: Speyside Wildlife)

Common Redstart

Certainly one of our more distinctive summer visitors. It’s colourful for a start - orange and red with grey wings, a black throat and grey cap. The forehead on a male redstart is white. The female has a duller orange and grey. They can live in both coniferous and deciduous woodland and feed on insects. They can nest in tree holes in dead trees such as silver birch. A sighting of these will certainly add colour to your day

In this image is a Common Redstart, a small bird with an orange breast, black throat and grey head. It is sat on a branch with a tree blurred in the background.
Common Redstart (Photo Credit: Speyside Wildlife)
In this image is a Common Redstart, a small bird with an orange breast, black throat and grey head. It is sat on top of a tree. Cutting across the image is a blurred branch.
Common Redstart (Photo Credit: Speyside Wildlife)

Wood Warbler

Our rarest breeding warbler - it looks very like the commoner Willow Warbler except it is a much stronger lemon yellow breasted with a white belly. Its back is greenish yellow. It has a very distinctive call like a spinning coin - that starts slowly at first then finishes with a flurry. This call is often how this bird is detected. Likes birch and especially old oak woodland but harder to find as the summer progresses. After they have finished breeding they stop calling - they are still present but like to stay in the canopy and creep unobtrusively after insects.

In this image is a Wood Warbler, a yellow and white bird sat on a branch with some leaves in the background
Wood Warbler (Photo Credit: Speyside Wildlife)

Barn Swallow

This is likely one of our most familiar summer visitors - one of a group of birds known as hirundines. They like to nest in man-made structures, building nests made of dried mud. They have white bellies, dark blue backs and a brick red throat. Swallows differ from martins in having long tail streamers. This species migrates from Africa to breed in Scotland - before bird migration was known, it was believed centuries ago that swallows buried themselves under the sediment of lakes during the winter. Nothing could be further from the truth.

In this image is a Barn Swallow with a white breast, blue back and rufous throat. It is sat on some fence wire with the background blurred
Barn Swallow (Photo Credit: Speyside Wildlife)
In this image is a flock of Barn Swallows roosting in a tree against a blue and cloudy sky
Barn Swallows (Photo Credit: Speyside Wildlife)

House Martin

This is another familiar hirundine - martins differ from swallows in not having tail streamers and are a bit chunkier. These have bluish black backs with white bellies. In flight when seen from behind you can see their white rumps.

Sand Martin

Another hirundine and the smallest in Europe - these birds don’t nest in man-made structures like Barn Swallows and House Martins but in holes in sand banks. Prior and during migration they can roost communally in large reedbeds - they have brown backs and white bellies. At their necks they have a brown collar. They make a rambling raspy call which is especially audible when at a colony. They are usually one of the earliest summer visitors to arrive, and can be seen from April to September

Common Swift

One of the fastest birds in the world - the Common Swift is greyish black with some white on the throat. It often announces itself with their pinging calls before wheeling overhead in a split second. Swifts are superbly adapted for a life in the air - their scythe-like wings enable them to twist and turn with ease after small insects. Its Latin name is Apus apus, meaning ‘without feet’. They do have feet, they are just tiny - so tiny that they are unable to perch on wires like swallows and martins. They could fly indefinitely if they wanted to. When they want to sleep they shut off one half of their brain and switch over later on. They only land to breed - they typically like to nest in old church towers and lofts, but such nest sites have become scarcer as modern development has reduced such cavities.

Garganey

The only summer visiting duck and not the easiest one to connect with. Males are brown and white with white eyebrows. Females are a duller brown, and with a brown eyestripe. They have appeared in Speyside on occasion, but in Britain as a whole it tends to be a passage migrant or breed in the far south of the UK. It likes thick cover when breeding and is thus secretive at this time. The name Garganey is onomatopoeic, and sounds like someone’s pinging the bristles of a comb.

In the centre of this image is a Garganey, a kind of duck with a brown and white plumage in the water surrounded by vegetation
Garganey (Photo Credit: Speyside Wildlife)

If you would like to go out with one of our guides to see some of our summer visitors, head over to our website and have a look at suggested itineraries and availability Guided Days Out


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