Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival 2022

THANK YOU to The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival for bringing people together this year to get involved with new activities, and celebrate local businesses & 21st-century whisky champions.
Here at Wild Alba Tours, we had a lovely time meeting new faces and sharing the history and natural heritage of Quarrelwoods near Elgin. Cheers to many more years of Spirit of Speyside fun!
2022 | Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival

Lambing tour in Speyside, Scotland

It’s lambing time at The Haugh Farm!

Ian and his son Sam travelled from London to experience what life is like on a family farm in Scotland.
From the moment we arrived, we could hear the sweet sound of young sheep in the fields and the lambing shed. As we approached the lambing shed, we were warmly welcomed by the farm’s friendly lambing team, Graeme and Laura, who shared their knowledge and passion for sheep farming in the Highlands.
After watching Graeme’s happy collie dog, Lexie, herd some straying Black-faced sheep into the main field, Laura taught us about the different adaptations of native breeds, why Shetland sheep vary in colour and why farmers like the Texel breed (especially Graeme!).
Feeding pet lambs was next. Mother sheep (ewes) have two teets, the perfect number to feed two newborn lambs. But some ewes give birth to triplets. When this happens, Laura and Graeme help a different ewe with one baby adopt a triplet lamb. If this strategy doesn’t work, they bottle feed the orphans until they are big enough to eat in the fields with the rest of the folk.
With the professional assistance of Laura, both Ian and Sam bottle-fed the farm’s pet lambs. They even got to name an adorable spotty Black-faced baby. They chose the name, Linda. Happy days!
We hope you had a wonderful experience on The Haugh Farm, Ian and Sam, and lots of lovely stories to share with your friends and family in London.
Visit our website www.wildalbatours.com to book your lambing tour with Graeme and Laura at The Haugh Farm today!

Sara-Jane, Wild Alba Tours

Guided Wildlife Walking Tours in Scotland

A weetie adventure at Speybay Nature Reserve

Spring hasn’t yet fully arrived in Northern Scotland, but Speybay Nature Reserve came alive for Viv and Neil on our Coastal Bird Walk.
On our journey from wet woodland to waves, amongst many others, we spotted Reed Bunting, Yellowhammers and Red Breasted Mergansers. Seeing a Chiffchaff was a shared wish for the couple. So as we neared the edge of the reserve’s wet woodland, we stopped for a moment as we heard the distinctive “chiff chaff chiff chaff” call. It wasn’t long before one perched on the edge of a willow tree. We were delighted to watch the yellow powder puff flitting from branch to branch. Wish fulfilled!
After the excitement of watching a Chiffchaff for the first time, it was time for tea and coffee. Cups in hand, we sat and admired busy gulls, Oystercatchers and Pink Footed Geese near the mouth of the Moray Firth. Neil also spotted a bobbing seal!
It was a pleasure to meet you, Viv and Neil, and embrace the fresh sea breeze. Thank you for choosing Wild Alba Tours to be part of your holiday. I wish you more Weetie (Scots name for Chiffchaff) adventures!
Sara-Jane, Wild Alba Tours

Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival 2022

Announcement Time… We are official members of the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival!

The annual whisky event welcomes visitors to Speyside from across the globe each year and we can’t wait to see you there. Activities will take place from the 27th April – 2nd May.

Join us on a guided wildlife walk with a difference. Experience what it is like to walk among beautiful oak trees that help give whisky – in cask form – many of the distinctive flavours we enjoy.
wood nature bird summer
This walk is perfect for anyone who likes learning about nature in a relaxed outdoor environment. Get ready for a calm woodland walk sprinkled with wildlife and whisky cask facts.
This special experience has limited spaces so BOOK EARLY to avoid disappointment!

Wildlife Tours in Speyside: another soaring cat!

Learning about Scottish wildlife doesn’t need to be challenging. Our tour guide, Sara-Jane, likes to share fun ways to make bird calls memorable.

On Monday, I welcomed Elsbeth and David on our woodland bird walk experience in Ballindalloch. The Silver birch woodland came alive as we strolled under the canopy.


buzzard soaring the skies over the uk

We observed busy coal tits, great tits, and a song thrush as they prepared for breeding. We also got spectacular close up views of buzzards. At first, we heard distant “meowing” high in the sky – that’s when the soaring cat idea came to mind. Then one swooped down and settled in the crown of a tree no more than 15 metres in front of us. What a sight!


Really interesting and enjoyable walk in a lovely woodland

We booked a woodland walk during a visit to Craigellachie. Sara-Jane our guide was friendly, down to earth and very knowledgeable about the local wildlife, history and heritage of the area.

We were lucky to have a beautiful day for the walk but I think Sara Jane would be able to make it interesting and enjoyable for everyone regardless of the weather or your knowledge.

5 Star Trip Advisor Review. Elsbeth and David, March 2022

Once we reached the summit of our walk, we imagined what life was like when this old mill was in its prime.


I can not think of a better way to enjoy a sunny morning than to spend time in nature. Elsbeth and David agree! Thank you both for choosing Wild Alba Tours. I hope to see you again on another tour in the future. Safe and happy travels from all the Wild Alba team.

Written by Sara-Jane, Wildlife & Tourism Officer


A Spectacular Speyside Wildlife Walk

June is now in full swing and hopefully the summer weather will follow soon!

Luckily for our three guests from Cullen, the sun burst through the dense clouds and all the glorious wildlife in Speyside sprang into action!

We had an amazing day walking through a variety of habitats, and spotted some spectacular flora and fauna, as well as taking in the beautiful scenery Scotland has to offer.

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The River Spey
Along our 2 hour walk, we spotted Lapwing, Oystercatcher, Curlew and Sandpiper to name a few, as well as Skylarks filling the sky with their joyous singing.

As well as wildlife of the feathered variety, we also spotted Roe Deer, a very curious Rabbit and even the footprints of a secretive Otter.

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A very curious rabbit!
Part of our walk ventured onto the Speyside Way; the route of the old Speyside Line railway built by the Strathspey Railway Company between Craigellachie and Boat of Garten, commencing in the mid 1840s.  So it’s safe to say that our tours combine Natural History with local history!

When the sun came out, so did the butterflies. We spotted Green Veined White butterflies flitting through the fragrant Bog Myrtle and bursts of Red Campion among the pathways and woodland.

So thank you to our guests from Cullen, who won a voucher in an auction for Scottish Autism, for coming on a tour with us. We thoroughly enjoyed it.

 

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Our guests from Cullen on a Wildlife Walking tour.
If you would like to join us on one of our tours, please get in touch here.

 

 

 

 

 

Join us in the newly designated Tomintoul & Glenlivet International Dark Sky Park!!!

Here at Wild Alba Tours, we knew we worked in a very special place, with spectacular views of the stars at night.  Now it is official!!!  Tomintoul & Glenlivet was recently awarded International Dark Skies Park status.

If you are coming up to the area to see the stars, why not come out with us earlier in the day so you can make the most of the area?  Our guides would be delighted to take you for a tour and might even be able to suggest some good star viewing points.

Local resident and photographer Olly Hopkinson captured these excellent photographs of the Northern lights recently.  He would be delighted to help you take photos of the northern light should they be visible while you are up visiting.

Aurora 2 olly hopkinsonAurora olly hopkinson

Otter Facts

Here are some interesting facts about our native Otters

The European otter is an important part of the ecological systems and are an apex predator sitting at the top of the food chain.

The Latin name for the European otter is Lutra lutra pronounced “lootra lootra”!

They are a protected species under schedule 5/6 of the Wildlife & Country Act 1981.

They communicate with whistles, chattering’s and hisses.

They are member of the mustelid family which includes badger, polecat, weasels and pine martin and is a semi aquatic member of that family.

Otters were close to extinction in the late 1950’s due to organochlorines and pesticides being deposited into our water systems. This affected the reproduction system of the otter and the population took a crash during this time.

They reach lengths of 1.3 meters and can weigh 12 kilos.

They are able to breed at any time during the year, but Spring is common depending on food availability and have 1-5 cubs (usually 3) which are born blind. Light grey in colour and weigh around 40 grams.

Otters can travel over large areas. Some are known to use 20 kilometres or more of river habitat.

Wildlife walk by the river Spey
THE RIVER SPEY NEAR CRAIGELLACHIE, MORAY. PIC: P.TOMKINS/VisitScotland

Otters deposit faeces (known as spraints, with a characteristic sweet musky odour) in prominent places around their ranges. These serve to mark an otter’s range, defending its territory but also helping neighbours keep in social contact with one another. Females with cubs reduce sprainting to avoid detection.

Fish, especially eels and salmonids are eaten, and crayfish at certain times of the year. Coastal otters in Shetland eat bottom-living species such as eelpout, rockling and butterfish. Otters occasionally take water birds such as coots, moorhens and ducks. In the spring, frogs are an important food item.

Our native otter, the European otter can be found in every county of the UK with Kent being the last county to see the otter establish themselves.

The oldest recorded otter was a captive animal that reached 19 years of age and lived at the New Forest Wildlife Park in Hampshire. It was called Alpha.

The collective name for a group of otters is a “romp” and in sea otters it is known as a “raft”.

Our native otter reach 12kg but the heaviest was recorded at 23kg back in the 19th century being almost 6 feet in length.

The whiskers on the otter are called “vibrissae” and are used to sense movement in water to hunt prey.

Otters are not natural swimmers and at around 3 months of age the mother will drag them out of the natal holt and dunk them into the river. They will often cling to the back of mum and mimic her movements whilst being taught life skills.

Otters can only hold their breath for a few minutes – 3 to 4 is not uncommon.

All European otters have a distinguishing cream moustache which can be used to identify individual animals.

Wildlife Tour Cairngorms

Why not join us sometime soon on one of our wildlife tous. Book here

 

Our Favourite Walk in Glenlivet

Suie bothy walk

There is nowhere like the Braes of Glenlivet. The river Livet runs down the Ladder Hills into the valley. Rolling hills of purple heather and tumble-down crofts provide a very memorable days walking and wildlife spotting.

Parking the car at Allanreid we start our gentle climb up the valley with the Bochel (the shepherd hill) behind and Carn na Bruar (hill of the waters divides) ahead. The area is on the Crown Estate Scotland and is way marked as part of a series of low level walks. The track starts by going through fields of hardy sheep. Crossing a bridge, we soon rise onto the grouse moor and hear the mournful cry of Curlew.

It takes about an hour to walk up to the Suie Bothy. The path follows the side of the river Livet as it winds its way down the valley. The hills are perfect breading habitats for Lapwing, Curlew and Oyster catcher which are seen and heard all the time during our outing.

The Braes was once a popular whisky smuggling route and many illicit stills where located in the hidden glens and hills. As you walk you can imagine how it would have been very hard to police this rough countryside and the excisemen would have had to be very cunning to catch anyone.

Wildlife Walk in the Cairngorms
Moray Walking Festival

A herd of deer lower on the hillside stop there grazing then run for the hill tops and of into the distance. We cross the bridge at the Kymah Burn, and stop at the Suie Bothy for lunch. I have brought a selection of local meats (Rannoch Scottish smoked venison, Inverawe Smoked Argyll Ham & Salar Oak Roasted Flaky Salmon) This is a perfect lunch stop, complete with a bench for two facing down Glenlivet.  We stopped to enjoy the solitude in warm sunshine, entertained by wheeling lapwings, their sharp cries loud over the sound of the burn.

After our short lunchbreak we turned and head back out of the valley. We can see the rain coming in as we walk down stream. A rainbow appears to our left and soon we are pulling out our waterproof jackets. The rain passes as quickly as it came. Jackets are packed away with this being the first of a frequent ritual during the walk back to the car as we enjoy the changeable Scottish weather.

Back at the car we look at our list of sightings during our three hours. Lapwing, Oystercatcher, Curlew, Buzzard, Kestral, Stonechat, Meadow Pipet, Wheatear, Heron, Red Grouse, Dunnock, Dipper, Sand Martin, Swallow, Common Gull, Carrion Crow, Jackdaw, Rook, Raven, Blue Tit, Coal Tit, Chiffchaff, Chaffinch and Red Deer.

Book your wildlife tour here.

Our wonderful Summer Tours 2018

Our ranger Justin has greatly enjoyed meeting many guests on our wildlife tours in the Cairngorms National Park.

Here are his thoughts on the summer season tours

It has been a great first summer season for us here at Wild Alba. We have welcomed many guests from all over the world on our wildlife tours. People have travelled from the U.S.A, Spain, Sweden, Germany, Italy, France, Holland, India, Belgium and the UK to experience the living landscape of the Cairngorms and Speyside.

Wildlife Walk in the Cairngorms
Wildlife Walk in the Cairngorms

It is amazing to hear their stories about wildlife from where they live and how we are all experiencing incredible change. It was interesting to see how long it took for the name of Donald Trump to be brought up by our American friends or Brexit from our European neighbours. We have greatly enjoyed there company on our safaris and walking tours. I have personally shared a dram or two on our whisky tours and told the stories of illicit stills in the Glenlivet hills. We have learnt a lot from each other and will use these experiences to develop our tours for next year.

Here are a few more photographs of our guests and we look forward to welcoming them again on our wildlife nature tours.

Wildlife Walk in the Cairngorms
Moray Walking Festival

Wildlife Walk in the Cairngorms
Wildlife Safari on Ben Rinnes

Wildlife Walk in the Cairngorms
Wildlife Walk from Auldich to Tomintoul

Wildlife Walk in the Cairngorms
Wildlife walk along the River Spey

Wildlife Safari in the Cairngorms
Wildlife Safari on Roys Hill

Wildlife Walk in the Cairngorms
Midsummers night walk in the Braes of Glenlivet

Wildlife Walk in the Cairngorms
The Great Outdoors

We will be running a number of tours over the Autumn, Winter & Spring so book now here