Justin & Joe go on a recce to find a new walking route

On a fine day the Wild Alba team head out to look at new wildlife walks in the great outdoors for the 2018 season.

A walk up a section of the east side Ben Rinnes is looked at. Ben Rinnes is the most dominating mountain in the region and one of the highest in Moray. It is a very popular hill walk with most people ascending from the West. The views are far-reaching from the top, taking in a large part of the North East of Scotland.

Wildlife walks in Scotland
Wildlife Tour in MoraySpeyside

The wildlife seen on the walk was extensive. As they walked through the forest Woodcock, Roe Deer and Red Squirrel where spotted. The forest was a pleasant mix of Scots pine, birch (downy and silver), alder and oak (pedunculate and sessile). Once on the side of the hill wider views opened up and other wildlife could be seen. A Kestrel and Buzzard flew high up the side of the hills while Snow Bunting and Red Grouse flew low over the heather. Further up the path a white Hare sped across the path disappearing over the brow.

The path ended at a Bothy sitting by the burn of Lyneriach nestled between the hill of Knocknashalg and Cairn Guish.  There were fine views of the Spey Valley below. The bothy provided shelter and place to rest before the walk back.

Wildlife Walk in MoraySpeyside
Mountain Bothy

This will make a great waking route and we hope that you will join us soon.

 

What has our botanist Dr Oliver Moore seen lately

Our botanist Dr Oliver Moore has been on a journey in the wilderness and has some fascinating observations:

Snowdrops in the Perthshire hills.

Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) are thought to be an introduced and naturalised species in the British Isles (although some argue they might just be native in parts of Southwest England). This does not detract from the sheer joy of seeing them apparently growing wild in winter. Here they were flowering on a south-facing Perthshire hillside in early February.

Snow Drops in the Great Out Doors of Scotland
Snow drops in Perthshire

Fox tracks in Fife

Fox (Vulpes vulpes) tracks crossing soft sand between dune systems along the Fife coast in late January. Notice the relatively straight and purposeful pattern and the oval shape of each footprint that helps separate these tracks from those of a domestic dog. What the photograph does not reveal is the characteristic musty odour that accompanies the tracks at certain points where the fox has marked its territory. This odour is often described as ‘coming and going’ in that one minute you can smell it, and then you can’t, before catching a whiff once more.

Finding Tracks in the Great Out Doors
Fox tracks in Fife

‘Bubble-gum’ lichen in Wester Ross

Lecanora muralis is sometimes described as the ‘bubble-gum’ lichen because of its tendency to occur in suburban situations on tarmac – where it resembles the spat-out and well-trodden artefact. This lichen is fairly tolerant of pollution which enables its persistence in towns but this photograph was taken in Wester Ross where it grew in the splash zone of loch edge rocks. The miniature ‘jam-tarts’ with flesh-coloured discs are the reproductive structures and are known as apothecia.

‘Bubble-gum’ lichen in Wester Ross
‘Bubble-gum’ lichen in Wester Ross

Pine Marten ‘Poo’ in the Cairngorms

Always exciting to find Pine Marten (Martes martes) scat. This was found in the middle of a forestry track in the Cairngorms. Pine Martens are known to mark their territory in obvious places and scats are often used for this purpose. I could not detect much smell when I got down for a close sniff which contrasts with the vile odour associated with the scat of American Mink (Neovison vison).

Wildlife tours in Scotland
Wildlife tours in Scotland

Walking up Beinn a’Chuallaich

What a magical day we had walking up Beinn a’Chuallaich. This mountain is a large sprawling hill with several long ridges.

We started the day in Kinloch Rannoch and after a short but hard ascent we were rewarded with an amazing summit view. This fine hill is a Corbett which is a classification of mountain defined by John Rooke Corbett, who created a list of all the Scottish hills of height between 2500ft (762m) and 3000ft (914.4m) with a drop of at least 500ft (152.4m) between each listed hill and any adjacent higher one.

The great out doors with Wild Albe Tours
View of Schiehallion

The snow was deep and hard going; at times we had to wade through knee high drifts. All this extra effort made for a most enjoyable outing and the walk up took around 2.5 hours. Hot flasks of coffee where stored in our rucksacks along with the essential chocolate bars.

Not only did we get great views of the surrounding scenery we also spotted Red Deer, Red Grouse, Ptarmigan, Snow Bunting and a Buzzard.

Red Deer on a wildlife walking tour
Red Deer on a wildlife walking tour

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch

We have been out this weekend doing the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch. Jackie, Laura, Jo and Justin each spend an hour seeing what they could spot.

The list was quite long with Blackbird, Blue tit, Chaffinch, Dunnock, Siskin, Long-tailed tit, Coal tit, Great tit, Tree Sparrow, Great spotted woodpecker, Hooded Crow, Robin and a cheeky Squirrel.

Big Garden Birdwatch
Cheeky squirrel on the bird feeder

You can still get involved as today is the last day of the birdwatch. The RSPB website is packed full of great advice on everything from bird care to how to make the perfect bird bath.

https://www.rspb.org.uk/get-involved/activities/birdwatch/

Announcement: New photography workshop!

Our guides have been busy scoping out locations for our new Mountain to Coast Weekend Break photography workshop. This week we’ve been out with one of our photographers visiting historical buildings and ruins, geological structures, rock formations, waterfalls and beaches from the highlands to the Moray coast. We are excited to be able to offer guests this opportunity to explore little-known locations while enhancing their photography skills. To celebrate the launch of this tour, guests will be presented with a free print of their favourite shot from the weekend.

Trip report: Wildlife Safari… plus whisky!

On this bespoke trip our guests wanted to squeeze a whisky tour in with as much wildlife as possible started with amazingly close views of bold coal tits whilst crested tits, great tits and a red squirrel attended the feeding stations beside us. A wonderful sighting of 7 black grouse was next, followed by a white-tailed eagle, peregrine falcon, two kestrels, several buzzards and a dipper, with red deer, mountain hare and feral goat representing the mammals. Heading up to the coast we added common and velvet scoter, red-throated diver, long-tailed duck, great skua, little auk, among many others. Then as the light began to fade, it was off to one of our favourite distilleries, where our guests were able to discover the secrets and intricacies involved in making whisky before sampling some for themselves.