Summer in the Scottish Highlands

Other than my short trips to Oban and Perthshire I’ve been staying close to home over the spring and summer. As I’ve mentioned many times before I have wonderful wildlife on my doorstep, so have very little reason to travel far. I still thank my lucky stars on a regular basis that I ended up where I did. I’m a little ashamed to note that I haven’t written a blog about the local area since May, so lots to catch up on!

I’ve spent a fair bit of time preparing my new rental cabin “The Drey Inchberry” and welcoming my first few guests. It’s been lovely to put faces to the names of people I’ve “met” on social media. Everyone seems to be enjoying their stay so far. I’ve had comments in the visitor book such as:

What a lovely cabin, so well equipped and welcoming

LOVED!! my time here!! Great space and the workshop was fabulous, so many red squirrels and dolphins

A fabulous little retreat from life’s daily grind. Anywhere that has bunnies can only be good!

Great that visitors are enjoying themselves. You can read more about the cabin and check availability on the website. I also wrote this blog about it.

Aside from the cabin I have of course spent many an enjoyable hour in the company of the red squirrels. My happy place! They’ve been a little quieter than usual over the past month or so, but that’s normal for this time of year and there’s still been plenty of visits to keep me and clients happy.

The ear tufts are now gone sadly and they do look quite different. Tails are changing from a beautiful golden colour to stripy and black. The squirrels are still beautiful and personable though!

I’ve been hoping to see squirrel kittens because I’ve had quite a few pregnant/nursing females. Eventually in July I did see two playing together in the trees, mostly obscured though. And one comes down to the feeder, but is a bit nervous. They appeared a lot later than last year when I first saw a couple in May. I’m not sure if the adults waited longer to breed given the poor weather or if the first ones didn’t make it. Still… great to see these two!

At the end of July/early August I spent 3 days filming the squirrels and eventually managed to edit the footage down from over an hour to 3 minutes! I tried to focus on behaviours – the squirrels scampering through the trees, chasing one another, grooming and searching for and caching nuts. It’s such a great location to witness all of this.

I offer red squirrel workshops (10% off for cabin visitors) – more information on my website. I’m also now offering a three day residential “red squirrel therapy” tour over the winter months where we’ll spend time with both my squirrels and those at one or two other hides. Stay tuned for more details.

I have managed to tear myself away from the squirrels a few times though. I’ve been spending time at a favourite location in the North East. I’m offering workshops here too if you’re interested. There are a number of great places in the North East, but over the summer there are a couple which I visit regularly as they have pretty much everything I could wish for – a shoreline attracting waders, sand martins and fishing osprey

and scrub land where skylarks breed, cuckoos and kestrels hunt and stonechat and yellowhammer pop out of the gorse.

In July the butterflies appear – thousands of them.

Insect photography isn’t really my thing, but I did visit a local site renowned for its dragonflies. When I was there it was primarily black darters. These are one of the smallest members of the family and are a mixture of black and gold. They stopped quite a lot which made photographing them a bit easier! I was using my trusty Nikkor 300mm F4 lens because it has a fairly close focusing distance and means I’m not too close. The dragonflies in flight are common hawkers and there’s an emerald damselfly here too.

There were some 4 spotted chasers in a little pond near my house but it dried up in the hot weather. I only photographed them the once before this and had the wrong gear. This was the best I could do – unlike the darters they didn’t stop for long!

The bottle-nosed dolphins have been on form this year. I confess I haven’t made it down to Chanonry Point very often – too many people for my liking, but it’s always great to see them. They’ve been catching some huge salmon.

Due to the cold, wet spring many of the little birds, with the exception of the siskins, failed in their early breeding attempts. However, by June/July my garden and local woods have been full of young tits, finches, blackbirds, robins and great spotted woodpeckers. A joy to behold. On one visit to the woods all I could hear were the cries of the young fledgling tits. Lovely.

There have also been a fair few young rabbits in the neighbourhood.

It’s just as well I have the rabbits to entertain me as I’m struggling with the mountain hares this summer. After the sheer joy of following four leverets last year I’m failing miserably to find any at all and I’ve spent many a day walking miles looking for them. I worry that the cold wet April and then the hot dry July might not have been in their favour and with so few hares left in the location to start with it’s not looking good. I’ll keep trying though as I miss them. Here are a few images I took of adults a few weeks ago – they’ve now gone to ground and disappeared. The “hare hill” used to be my happy place but it makes me sad now, so few hares left.

I’ve been helping a friend test out camera triggers as I am fortunate to have so much local wildlife. It’s not gone entirely smoothly for all sorts of reasons (mostly due to a dodgy flash gun) but I have had some success with the garden badgers. It’s been good to see them in colour. It’s still a work-in-progress but definitely has potential. The badgers visit every night so once the flash issue is sorted I’ll try again and once it’s going smoothly I might give the woodland creatures a go. It would be great to photograph the pine martens.

Talking of pine martens I have captured a little daylight footage of the ones who visit the squirrel feeding station on my trail camera and spotted a youngster or two on the footage as well.

Lovely to see! I have photographed a couple of kits locally which was good. The youngsters are growing up fast and appeared separately without Mum. The first was mostly hidden behind a log or had her head down but the second was more confident.

So all in all it’s been a good few months. I’ve also been conducting a few workshops locally, in the North East and even down in Blairgowrie! If you are interested in joining me for a workshop then please check my website for details.

Highland based nature photographer and guide specialising primarily in Scottish wildlife but available to cover live music and events.

2 thoughts on “Summer in the Scottish Highlands

  1. Lovely blog – thank you for sharing. I am somewhat mobility-impaired these days, otherwise I would have loved to spend a few days at the Drey Inchberry, sounds lovely.


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