top of page
  • Writer's pictureAilie Brown

Wonderful Wildlife and Walking

Updated: Oct 30, 2023

It’s a great past time of mine, walking and looking for wildlife at the same time. In the past couple years, gaining more experience as a wildlife guide, has taught me that you really need to slow down and be patient when wildlife watching. Our Guided Day’s Out are exactly that. We tend to stop at great vantage points and scan, patience is key, we have a few leg-stretches throughout the day and when the weather is good, we will make a point of going for a walk.

A woman walking along a track in a woodland.
A wander round a woodland in Strathspey looking for Crested Tits (Chris Hewer)

There has been a few days this year where we have spent the day going on a walk, splitting the day into two different habitats, a walk in the morning and a walk in the afternoon. It sounds tiring but the distance covered wasn’t a huge amount. When wildlife watching, walking tends to be more of a wander, taking your time, admiring everything around you. It’s easy to walk past things and not notice. On one of my ‘walking’ days out with guests at the tail end of the summer, we really made an effort to go slow, and we encountered mushrooms, listened to bird song, watched Redstart and Spotted Flycatcher fleeting between tree’s, we stopped and admired the views, spotting an Osprey flying over the river, we stumbled upon a bright Bullfinch feeding on some Juniper, we acknowledged every wildflower and bumble bee that we passed and encountered Red Squirrels chasing each other and even a Crested Tit peeling off spiders from a fence. If I’m honest, I knew the area we had chosen to go walking was great for wildlife, but I wasn’t expecting to see so much.

A view of the Cairngorm Mountains from a viepoint.
A viewpoint of the Cairngorms from one of our local walks (Ailie Brown)

It's something you don't switch off, on my days off I always find myself going for a walk or wander and my binoculars are always part of that. A couple weeks ago, I took friend for a ‘walk’ to go look for mushrooms. Neither of us really enjoy eating them but enjoy identifying them. Me, being an amateur in the fungi world, planned a nice gentle three miles through some mixed woodland. We had barely covered a mile in the first hour. We investigated every species of Fungi we came across and with the help of books and an app on our phones, we managed to identify several separate species, including Boletes as big as my head!

a hand next to a mushroom to show the size.
Possibly a Fleecy Milkcap, one of many found on our walk (Ailie Brown)

I have a local patch which I walk in Aviemore along the River Spey. It goes through a lovely woodland with mainly Cherry, Birch and Alder, where I once encountered a flock of nearly 200 Siskins one winters day. I watched them twirl on the birch catkins and chatter amongst themselves as they moved above me. As I continued my walk, I noticed the debris on top of the snow of the seeds that had been consumed. It was a trail of where they had been. I thought to myself, if it hadn’t snowed that morning, I wouldn’t have noticed. These little encounters mean a lot to me, really enjoying wildlife just doing their thing.

People using binoculars in a woodland.
Sharing my local patch, searching for songbirds (Chris Hewer)

About three years ago now, I enrolled in the year long course Wildlife Identification in the Cairngorms National Park. One of the parts of this course I took away from the most was birdsong. I really enjoy learning and listening to birdsong. Every spring, I am relearning the Summer migrants when they arrive here and every year I pick up songs and calls that I am not familiar with. When walking, birding by sound is important as sometimes, you are in an environment you maybe can’t see far. Crossbills and Crested Tits are a species we often must go walking for. Pine Forests can be dense, but walking slowly and listening out for their calls, is the best way to locate these elusive birds. Although I did once have an instance of nearly being hit by a pinecone, only to pick it up and realised it was rather wet, and then another pinecone was dropped, looking up above, a family of Crossbills fed quietly, I think maybe aiming the pinecones at my head. I thought, not an experience I would have had, if I hadn’t ventured into the woods that day.

people walking on a track through a field on the island of Canna.
Walking on Canna during our Canna and Corncrakes Holiday (Ailie Brown)

It's very easy to sometimes see the species we are looking for and then tick it off. These small walks on our Guided Day’s Out, even if it’s just to a vantage point, teach us to slow down a bit and admire what’s in front of us. We love to include a nice leg stretch and sometimes a longer walk during our Guided Day’s Out, if you’d like to join us you can find out more here. Our Wildlife of the Cairngorms Identification Course or our Birdsong Masterclass is a great way to learn about birdsong too.

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page