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Summer variety in the Highlands

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The Scottish Highlands offer a plethora of wildlife in summer. While the birds often take centre stage on our trips, a range of rare species in other Natural History fields can also be enjoyed during the summer months of June and July. We celebrate all wildlife on many of our summer tours, taking the time to appreciate everything we encounter including birds, mammals, dragonflies, butterflies, moths, amphibians, botany and fungi. A period of the year with something for everyone, come and join us and you may even learn or see something new!

Dragonflies and Butterflies are firm favourites on these summer tours, taking flight on the warmest and sunniest days. We can always look for wildflowers if/when it’s raining! Rare odonata possible include Northern Damselfly, Northern Emerald, Azure Hawker and White-faced Darter, though we also look out for Common and Southern Hawker, Brilliant and Downy Emerald, Black Darter plus the Highland form of Common Darter while checking pools. With two nights away in North West Scotland, our Butterflies, Dragons and Birds tour is perhaps the best choice for those looking to see all of these on the same trip, although all have been recorded on our summer wildlife holidays at one stage or another. Of the butterflies, Mountain Ringlet is arguably the most sought-after and we know some great sites and have a good track record of success. Large Heath, Northern Brown Argus, Small Pearl Bordered and Dark Green Fritillary are also likely, most of these plus Scotch Argus and Grayling often featuring later in the year on the Highland Wildlife in High Summer tour. 

For the botanists (and even those with a passing interest) among us, seeing rare Twinflower carpeting the forest floor is often the stand out moment. The Highland Wildlife in Early Summer tour is perhaps the best option for the most spectacular showing, and late-June is also a great time of year for orchids with Greater and Lesser Twayblade, Creeping Lady’s Tresses, Greater and Lesser Butterfly, (Heath) Fragrant, Coralroot, Bird’s Nest, Small White and Northern Marsh and others flowering. Scarce mountain plants including Scottish Asphodel, Alpine Saw-wort, Trailing Azalea and a variety of clubmosses may be encountered on a hike into the hills, and other favourites include Moonwort, One-flowered Wintergreen, Grass of Parnassus and Small Cow-wheat depending on the season. And though the rarer species might dominate our daytime activities, the swathes of pink heather glowing on the moor in all their glory on a summer’s evening, is often the floral highlight – for me anyway!

We run moth traps whenever we can, in different locations and habitats. Naturally the large, bright hawk-moths draw the eye when first checking the trap, and we often log around 60-70 species of moths a week in June/July. It can become an addiction, and personal favourites I’ve recorded from my own garden include beautiful Ghost Moth and range restricted Cousin German. Mammals can often require an extra (and often nocturnal) effort and we recommend our Highland Mammals and More tour for the most dedicated. That said, we have excellent chances of seeing Red Squirrel, Mountain Hare, Red and Roe Deer on summer Strathspey tours, watching for Otter, Bottlenose Dolphin and Minke Whale on the coast and three species of bat. If lucky Pine Marten and Badger can be spotted on a night drive.

While at times it might seem as though birding takes a backseat, our avian specialities are never forgotten. In the forests we still look for Crested Tit and crossbills as we do on every Mainland Heatherlea tour, and it is a time of year when summer visitors such as Tree Pipit, Redstart, Pied and Spotted Flycatcher and Wood Warbler feature too. On local lochs, Slavonian Grebe and Black-throated Diver dazzle in stunning summer plumage. Raptors, including both eagles, are found locally and Ring Ouzel and Ptarmigan are also likely to feature on all tours. A boat trip under the cliffs of Scotland’s only Mainland gannetry is another highlight, with other seabirds plus waders, terns and farmland birds also making their way onto our busy checklists.    

Personally, I love this time of year and leading the summer tours. At a relaxed pace we can explore in detail, take in all the variety and we have often unearthed a new site or unknown gem in the process! And with such a range of Natural History backgrounds and experience among our visiting clients, I always learn or see something too - and what’s not to love about that!

About Heatherlea Holidays

Contact Information

The Mountview Hotel, Nethybridge,
PH25 3EB Scotland

T: +44(0)1479 821248