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The Cairngorms Winter Wildlife Expedition, 2024

Monday 5th - Friday 9th February 2024



After some slight delays due to travel disruptions, the group headed out to the local community owned Anagach Woods. It was heavy rain throughout, so if was good to get some shelter in this coniferous forest. We saw Coal Tits, Chaffinch, Robin and Treecreepers near the feeders. Afterwards, we went for a circular drive which took us alongside the River Spey and one sighting of note was two Red Kites sat by the river, seen from Ewans van. The expansive flooding in the area was quite a sight.

It was back to the hotel to dry off! After out first meal together Ewan provided a talk in the Osprey Suite, about the Seabirds of Mull and the Hebrides.


The rain had stopped and it was a fresh and clear morning in Grantown-on-Spey. We headed straight to Aviemore to see if we could see the Waxwings reported in the area. After a good hour persevering, no joy, so we headed up to the Cairngorm mountains. We were treated to c25 Snow Buntings before undertaking a walk to explore this amazing sub-arctic habitat. No wildlife sighings of note on the hike but lovely views and winterscapes enjoyed by all.

After lunch we headed to local Marshes and again extensive flooding over large areas. We were privileged to see an adult White-tailed Eagle overhead, as the agitated Greylag Geese provided an early warning signal to help us spot it! Other sightings included Buzzards, Wigeon, Herons and Teal.

We called back into Aviemore for another quick check for the Waxwings and after 10 minutes we decided to give up and head back to the hotel. On the route back, Ewan got a message from another local guide that they had appeared, so, we made a quick u-turn and headed back! We got 7 Waxwings almost straight away, feeding from cotoneaster berries.

After a high tea at the hotel we headed off to a mammal hide ran by Speyside Wildlife. Target species included Badgers, Pine Martens and Wood Mice but unfortunately after three hours of perseverance, we did not see anything on the evening. On the drive back we did see a Badger crossing the road on the A95.


The snow had arrived as forecast, providing a winter wonderland around Grantown! We headed off to the Tomintoul area to look for the reported Great-grey Shrike in the area. two cock Black Grouse were seen roadside on route! We ventured out on foot in the snow and managed to see Brown Hares, Fieldfares and Mistle Thrush but no sign of the shrike. Ewans van spotted 5 male Back Grouse on the way back.

From there we headed north west to explore a stunning highland glen. We undertook a walk and were rewarded to see 3 Mountain Hares up on the moors. A distant Golden Eagle was also watched by everyone before a juvenile White-tailed Eagle flew overhead! Red Deer, Ravens, Kestrel and Buzzards made up a supporting cast of species.

After our meal at the hotel, John provided a talk in the Osprey Suite, on the ‘Owls of the North Pennines’.


Another cold, fresh and snowy winters morning as we ventured north to the Moray Firth coast. The water was like a millpond and we enjoyed sightings of Long-tailed Ducks, Common Scoter, Red-breasted Mergansers, Eider Ducks, Shag, Cormorant, Red-throated Diver and Herring Gulls. Purple Sandpipers were great to see feeding on the shoreline and we also saw Turnstones and Redshank by the harbour.

We headed further east along the coast and a short walk produced Sanderling and Ringed Plover feeding on the beach.

After lunch we visited a local nature reserve. Yellowhammers, Great-spotted Woodpeckers, Great Tits, Blue Tits, Song Thrush and Treecreepers were around the feeders. From the hide we were excited to see a male Smew! other waterbirds included Goldeneye, Tufted Duck, Goosander, Black-headed Gull, Mallard and Shelduck.

A quick check for Red Squirrels near the hotel at dusk but no joy, we will try again tomorrow!


The final day of the package! Yet more snowfall and cold, fresh conditions! It was straight to the Red Squirrel feeders in Grantown and we were treated to five or six animals in the snow.

The weather restricted our access to Abernethy so we spent more time in other areas to focus on Crested Tits. Coal Tits were in their usual high abundance along with Chaffinch, Great Tits, GS Woodpeckers and Robin. There was a Jay calling from the woodland as well. Crested Tits were calling from the canopy but we did not see a bird, after a lot of patience. Local naturalists were saying that they are spending more time feeding up in the trees on natural prey at the moment so there is a decrease of sightings at the feeders.

At lunchtime we said our goodbyes and went our separate ways. Many thanks to all of the guests for their wonderful company along with their patience and perseverance looking for these magical animals out in their wild habitats.

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