Wildlife spotting is an activity that needs quiet, patience and a good deal of luck. Happening on something special during a gentle walk is almost as likely as a dedicated wildlife trip. Our advice would be to make use of the many local natural heritage experts that are provided by Balmoral Estate, Glen Tanar Estate, Mar Lodge Estate, National Trust for Scotland at Crathes & Drum Castles, Cairngorm National Park and the Aberdeenshire Ranger Service. They undertake many organised activities year round to help bring people close to some magic moments of nature. Check out our events listing to see if there is something on during your planned visit.
Programs like Springwatch and Autumnwatch tell us it is all about action but in fact much of the joy of a field trip is the peace, space and colour you will experience in that effort no matter how adventurous. Listening to the sound of wind through trees, birds singing in an early morning chorus or evensong promote a sense of well being that is becoming increasingly elusive in a noise polluted world.
We list below some of our headline wildlife but ask that you remember to marvel at the full wonder of the natural environment that is Royal Deeside and Cairngorm.
The high ground of Royal Deeside and The Cairngorms is roaming with red deer. Catch a glimpse of the majestic mammals on one of the local estates, such as Glen Tanar, Finzean or Balmoral. Take a drive through Glenshee, the area around Linn of Dee where it is possible to see whole herds. October is rutting season so keep your ears alert for rutting stags calling.
Witness the wonder of the golden eagle soaring above Loch Muick, or across the Mar Lodge Estate, which is internationally recognised as one of Britain’s most important nature conservation areas. A rare sight, these flying raptors are notoriously elusive. Perhaps more than any other creature the golden eagle is known as the true symbol of wild Scotland where their breeding density is amongst the highest in the world. Take a relaxing walk through the autumn scenery, either north, south, east or west of Braemar, and look out for them flying along the ridges.
The magnificent capercaillie is a huge woodland grouse found in the pine forests of Royal Deeside and The Cairngorms. The endangered, turkey like bird is a magical sight with its mini peacock tail feathers. Having become extinct in the 18th century and reintroduced in the 19th century, the capercaillie is facing a real risk of extinction once again. Take a trip to one of the many forests throughout Royal Deeside and The Cairngorms and keep your eyes open for the largest of the grouse family.
Magnificent Mountain Hares
Glen Muick, Morrone Hill near Braemar, and Gairnshiel on Donside are ideal places to spot the magnificent mountain hare. In winter their coats begin to turn white so that they can blend in with the snow and hide from predators.
A favorite for nature spotters, the red squirrel is a common sight in Royal Deeside and The Cairngorms, the pine woodland is the ideal environment for the red creatures. The Cairngorm National Park has many squirrel watch areas which are inhabited with many red squirrels. The best locations include Glen Tanar and Balmoral estates, Crathes Castle and the way marked walk on the Drum Castle estate.