May and June in the Scottish Highlands

I can’t believe we’re more than half way through July already and I’m months behind on this blog! Last time I wrote about my local wildlife it was 6 May, so lots to catch up on. I should probably split this into two blogs but I’m just going to cover everything so make yourselves a cup of tea and settle down to read it all!

I talked a fair bit in that blog about the pine wood I’ve been exploring. I can add a few more birds, and insects to the species list now:

  • tawny owl (trail camera)
  • swift
  • swallow
  • house marten
  • blue, red and emerald damselflies
  • black darter
  • four spotted chaser
  • grasshopper
  • raft spider (I think)

I’ve also seen the crossbills again – twice – both times with their family of 3 young. I had my camera with me fortunately!

I also managed a few distant photos of the cuckoo.

And the roe deer have shown a few times too

The stonechat pair I was following in April successfully fledged three young which was fab to see!

After my initial success with the pine marten in April I failed to see it again on my next two visits to my little pop up Nitehawk chair hide. I therefore left it until mid June when I had 3 successful evenings in a row. I initially thought it was the same pine marten but when it did this I realised not only that the markings were different but that it was a he. This was a bit of a shame as it meant not only would he be unreliable but that there wouldn’t be any kits turning up. I did wonder why the eggs were being ignored – he wasn’t interested in those and the carrion crows were eating them all!

That was the best night for light. The marten was very nervous, hence the standing up looking towards the hide, but he appeared in the golden ten minutes.

Here are a few more from other evenings. It’s hard to get anything different as he mostly just chomps on the nuts and every so often looks up.

I’ve also been delighted to have regular visits from a very large male badger. I’ve named him Henry after the hoover as that’s exactly what he does to all the food I put out. He always appears after 9pm and has been fairly reliable. He’s a lot less wary than the marten and only once, after heavy rain did he appear in any way spooked by my presence. In fact, one night I packed up to leave, and as I walked away I turned around and he was back scoffing the nuts. My trail cam footage has revealed that on the odd occasion he’s joined by a second badger, but there’s been no sign of cubs.

Red squirrels are regular visitors here during the day and I’ve had my only kitten sighting here. Having had 3 nursing females at my regular site I’ve been gutted to see no kittens at all. This little one is adorable but gives very few photographic opportunities.

Talking of badgers, a friend Dawn Westwood, invited me to join her at the Speyside Wildlife badger photography hide one evening. It was a little overcast, but the badgers were great. We had 5 out from 8.30 until it was too dark to photograph them anymore. The hide is a little eccentric. It is high sided and you have to stand to see out the windows. The scrim netting on the main viewing side has a slit in the middle and one at either end, really close to the edge so very uncomfortable to use. It is therefore best for people who can stand for long periods or who go on their own. That said, it was a great a night!

I’ve also been seeing the garden badger a fair bit. A couple of years ago I was getting visits from a family of badgers, but this year it’s almost always just the one. In early spring before the days got too long I was sitting in my garden hide with LED lights to photograph, but recently I’ve just been looking out the window although I did creep round a fence the other night to grab a shot.

Late May and June my garden was full of baby birds. So good to see! I had tree and house sparrows, blue, great and coal tit, blackbird, starling, siskin, goldfinch, greenfinch, great spotted woodpecker, dunnock and recently robin. My laburnum was in flower at the time which was great.

“My” squirrels were great during May and June. The females were nursing young so would come in, plonk themselves down and eat lots of nuts whilst the boys were their usual cheeky selves. I was pleased to managed one photograph of a squirrel with bluebells (I only had 3 plants). It’s the May image in my 2023 Red Squirrel calendar (available now).

They have, frustratingly, been quiet in July. Initially they were chasing each other round the trees ignoring the hazelnuts and then the majority of them disappeared except very early in the morning. Sam has gone awol too which is really sad. I hope she returns. This is the 2nd breeding season so I was expecting it, they did the same in late March, but it’s a little disappointing for me when I have clients there and they don’t get the full red squirrel experience. That said, all clients have seen some squirrels, so not all bad!

I’ve spent a few enjoyable afternoons watching ospreys. Such gorgeous birds.

And before Tollie Red Kites shut to help prevent the spread of avian flu which is tragically decimating many of our bird species’ I had a great afternoon there.

I’ve braved the crowds and been down to Chanonry Point a few times for the bottlenose dolphins. Typically the two days I went without clients were the best. I had a bit of guide guilt as a result, but it was great to see them and I was relatively pleased with my photographs. I dusted off my old Tamron 150-600mm G1 lens for this, paired with my Nikon D850. I can’t remember the last time I used it but for the dolphins it’s much easier to use a telephoto than a prime.

July can be challenging for wildlife photography so dragon and damselflies have come to the rescue on more than one occasion. They are still emerging and I don’t think are close to their peak yet this year but there have been plenty to see and photograph. I was fascinated to find some emerging ones. I’ve never seen this before.

And here are a few I spotted at rest. Three female black darters (which are a beautiful gold colour) and an emerald damselfly.

I’m almost finished! I’ve taken a couple of clients up the North East coast, a favourite area of mine. I’ve developed a real love for common seals recently and so enjoy watching them.

We’ve also seen and photographed stonechats, skylark, meadow pipit, osprey, linnet, willow warblers, baby oystercatchers, eider ducks, little ringed plover and dunlin over my visits both with and without clients.

Finally. Bo. If you’re new to my blog and photography, Bo is a beautiful female mountain hare that I spent the spring with. She is one of the best hares I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. Very relaxed and very active. I suspected she was probably a nursing female with a leveret close by and eventually I was proved correct as I saw she had teats. Sadly, once she stopped nursing she moved on, probably further up the hill, away from biting beasties. I hope she’s safe and well and we’re reunited later in the year.

I think that’s about it! Well done if you’re still reading. A couple of other bits of news. Firstly I am now welcoming guests with one well-behaved adult dog to my rental cabin The Drey Inchberry. I know a lot of nature lovers travel with their dog so I hope this will be a popular decision.

Secondly I’ve tweaked a couple of my workshops. My Introduction to Wildlife Photography course is now just one day and is for people new to wildlife photography, and photography in general. We’ll go through settings and some field craft basing the day in my garden and local area. The hope is that clients will leave with a better understanding of the settings to use and techniques to practice. This can then be combined with the course below if desired.

For those who wish to see a selection of wildlife found within approx 1 hour of Inverness I now offer a generic wildlife photography package which can be 1-3 days and is for one to two people. The subjects we photograph will be chosen partly through client requests and also based on what is showing best at the time of year. I will give as much, or as little photography tuition as is required. This is suitable for all levels and a bridge, mirrorless or DSLR camera is required plus a lens of at least 300mm ideally.

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

One thought on “May and June in the Scottish Highlands

  1. Hi Karen – interesting read as usual, the variety of wildlife featured is very welcome. I do hope your career & business continue to prosper. Take care. BTW the email blog did not appear correctly in GMail, although the web view seems OK. WordPress kept “forgetting” me, and this blog changed its formatting – don’t know why! 🙂


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