Summer Wildlife Visitors to the Cairngorms

In this post I’ll be sharing with you our star attractions that appear seasonally in Speyside and the surrounding areas. Some you might recognise, some you might not...


Pied Flycatcher

An exquisite black and white songbird. It often announces itself with its ‘zee-chay, zee-chay’ calls. The male has the pied plumage, with two white dots above the bill. The female is a duller grey and white. Rarer than the Spotted Flycatcher, oak and birch woodland are favourite habitats for this bird.


Pied Flycatcher (Photo Credit: Speyside Wildlife)


Pied Flycatcher (Photo Credit: Speyside Wildlife)


Spotted Flycatcher

Far easier to come by than the Pied Flycatcher. They are grey backed, white bellied with grey streaking down their breasts - fond of birch and oak woodland. They like to sit conspicuously looking for insects. When they’ve found something they’ll ‘sally forth’ to catch it, then fly back to their perches to eat.


Spotted Flycatcher (Photo Credit: Speyside Wildlife)


Tree Pipit

This small unassuming bird looks like the more common Meadow Pipit - it differs in being slightly larger, more upright and its streaking doesn’t extend onto the belly. There are streaks along its flanks that are thinner than what you would see on a Meadow Pipit. It is also, as its name suggests more of a woodland bird, though they can be seen together where the Meadow Pipit’s more open habitat and the Tree Pipit’s woodland habitat overlap.


Tree Pipit (Photo Credit: Speyside Wildlife)


Common Redstart

Certainly one of our more distinctive summer visitors. It’s colourful for a start - orange and red with grey wings, a black throat and grey cap. The forehead on a male redstart is white. The female has a duller orange and grey. They can live in both coniferous and deciduous woodland and feed on insects. They can nest in tree holes in dead trees such as silver birch. A sighting of these will certainly add colour to your day.


Common Redstart (Photo Credit: Speyside Wildlife)


Common Redstart (Photo Credit: Speyside Wildlife)


Wood Warbler

Our rarest breeding warbler - it looks very like the commoner Willow Warbler except it is a much stronger lemon yellow breasted with a white belly. Its back is greenish yellow. It has a very distinctive call like a spinning coin - that starts slowly at first then finishes with a flurry. This call is often how this bird is detected. Likes birch and especially old oak woodland but harder to find as the summer progresses. After they have finished breeding they stop calling - they are still present but like to stay in the canopy and creep unobtrusively after insects.


Wood Warbler (Photo Credit: Speyside Wildlife)


Barn Swallow

This is likely one of our most familiar summer visitors - one of a group of birds known as hirundines. They like to nest in man-made structures, building nests made of dried mud. They have white bellies, dark blue backs and a brick red throat. Swallows differ from martins in having long tail streamers. This species migrates from Africa to breed in Scotland - before bird migration was known, it was believed centuries ago that swallows buried themselves under the sediment of lakes during the winter. Nothing could be further from the truth.


Barn Swallow (Photo Credit: Speyside Wildlife)


Barn Swallows (Photo Credit: Speyside Wildlife)


House Martin

This is another familiar hirundine - martins differ from swallows in not having tail streamers and are a bit chunkier. These have bluish black backs with white bellies. In flight when seen from behind you can see their white rumps.


Sand Martin

Another hirundine and the smallest in Europe - these birds don’t nest in man-made structures like Barn Swallows and House Martins but in holes in sand banks. Prior and during migration they can roost communally in large reedbeds - they have brown backs and white bellies. At their necks they have a brown collar. They make a rambling raspy call which is especially audible when at a colony. They are usually one of the earliest summer visitors to arrive, and can be seen from April to September.


Common Swift

One of the fastest birds in the world - the Common Swift is greyish black with some white on the throat. It often announces itself with their pinging calls before wheeling overhead in a split second. Swifts are superbly adapted for a life in the air - their scythe-like wings enable them to twist and turn with ease after small insects. Its Latin name is Apus apus, meaning ‘without feet’. They do have feet, they are just tiny - so tiny that they are unable to perch on wires like swallows and martins. They could fly indefinitely if they wanted to. When they want to sleep they shut off one half of their brain and switch over later on. They only land to breed - they typically like to nest in old church towers and lofts, but such nest sites have become scarcer as modern development has reduced such cavities.



The only summer visiting duck and not the easiest one to connect with. Males are brown and white with white eyebrows. Females are a duller brown, and with a brown eyestripe. They have appeared in Speyside on occasion, but in Britain as a whole it tends to be a passage migrant or breed in the far south of the UK. It likes thick cover when breeding and is thus secretive at this time. The name Garganey is onomatopoeic, and sounds like someone’s pinging the bristles of a comb.


Garganey (Photo Credit: Speyside Wildlife)


Many of our members at Wild Scotland offer guided experiences and you can find out more here Wild Scotland - Wildlife & Nature Tours in Scotland (

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