Wild about Wildlife – how and what wildlife to spot in the Spring

As the Park celebrates its fantastically diverse nature at the ‘BIG Weekend’ event on 10-12 May, we asked local Cairngorms wildlife experts for their top spotting tips in May/June.

Cairngorms Wildlife
Snow Bunting by Craig Round

Nesting Birds

The summer migrants are back so nesting birds, such as the visiting Ring Ouzel, Snow Bunting, Ptarmigan and the Dotterel, can be found in the mountains. According to Speyside Wildlife guide Kate Mennie, the best way to spot these birds is knowing first what they look and sound like. “Bird calls are a vital way to tell species apart and locate them in the right environment,” she says. “A mobile app such as ‘Collins Bird Guide’ is a relatively inexpensive way of carrying photos and calls in your pocket.”

Cairngorms wildlfie
Pine Marten kit by Mike Hems

Baby Mammals

By now, most animals have bred and so it’s the ideal time to spot youngsters, such as Pine Marten kits and Badger cubs, out exploring their new home. Mammals are particularly active in these lighter months and you’re most likely to see them at dusk foraging for food. “As parents take their young to food sources, to help them grow and learn about the outside world, close views are possible,” says Kate. She advises that the best way to see these mainly-nocturnal animals is from the comfort of a purpose-built viewing hide, preferably through an organised evening trip with a guide to maximise your chance of a successful spot.

Cairngorms Wildlife
Pine Marten kit by Mike Hems


Poo gives vital clues about wildlife present and kids in particular will love scat spotting! For instance, if you’re set on seeing a Pine Marten, Speyside Wildlife guide Duncan Macdonald advises looking out for “amazing iridescent blue and purple poo”, so-coloured because of all the berries they consume at this time of year. “And if they’re eating rowan berries, you get this line of almost-completely undigested food, rather like sweetcorn for us humans!” he adds. As for Badgers, keep your eyes peeled for poo-filled holes in the ground. “They dig latrines and poop in those!” adds Duncan.

Cairngorms wildlife
Osprey catching a fish by Pete Cairns

The Osprey

This iconic bird has come to be associated with the Cairngorms and spotting one is on many a visitor’s trip tick list. The females will be guarding their eggs, with chicks usually hatching late May / early June. “Males are going to be hunting for fish for themselves and the females, using all the daylight hours,” says conservation photographer Peter Cairns. He recommends heading for clear, fish-filled water, such as Loch Morlich, Loch Insh or Muir of Dinnet. “Avoid peaty lochs where you can’t see the fish. One of the best places to spot Ospreys is actually the fish farm at Rothiemurchus. That’s a reliable location because it’s like a fast food restaurant for an Osprey!” he adds.

Cairngorms wildife
Lapwing by Glensesk Wildlife


If there is one spectacle that stands out for Glenesk Wildlife guide Jackie Taylor in May/June, it’s the waders, such as the lapwing, oystercatcher, curlew, golden plover and redshank. “Glenesk is an excellent place to spot them,” she says.  “They can be seen from the car as you drive up the glen road to Tarfside or Invermark car park. Wander along the Rowan Road or up Glen Mark, or up past Loch Lee into Glen Lee. They are fairly easy to spot with the naked eye or binoculars”.

Follow the BIG Weekend on #CNBW19 & see the full programme at: www.cairngormsnaturebigweekend.com

For more ideas on what wildlife to spot see our Cairngorms Wildlife photo blog.

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