Sara-Jane, Wild Alba Tours
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.
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!
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
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.
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.
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.
If you would like to join us on one of our tours, please get in touch here.
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.
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.
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.
Why not join us sometime soon on one of our wildlife tous. Book here
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.
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.
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.
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.
We will be running a number of tours over the Autumn, Winter & Spring so book now here