• Dawn McCall


In May I went to visit the highlands of Scotland with my partner. More precisely the Caledonian Forest area hoping to see some of its unique wildlife. After a nine hour trip we finally arrived at a place called Boat of Garten. Boat of Garten is a small village on the top edge of the Cairgorms Nation Park. This was are base.

Boat of Garten Base

While at are base I set up various camera traps to see what was in the area. My partner set up his moth trap to see what we could find.

Camera Trap results

Roe Deer ,Wood Pigeon, Rooks, Domestic Cat and Red Squirrel. These are my favorite photos of the Red Squirrel put together as a composite.

Above: Photo of a Red Squirrel taken with Cognisys camera control box and PIR sensor, two Canon flashes and Camtraptions Wireless triggers. Put together in Adobe Photoshop.

Moth Trapping

Moth trapping results had small results as the weather wasn't the best but despite that we got a few moths & a beetle.

Nature Reserves

While staying here we visited some of the local nature reserves. These consist of ancient forests, marvellous mountains and vast lochs and waterways.

RSPB Loch Garten

RSPB Loch Garten is in the middle of the Abernethy Nature Reserve. This is an amazing forest of old Scotts Pines, Juniper, birches and Rowan. There is thick ground cover of Heather, Bilberry, Cowberry, Wavy Hair-grass, Wood-sorrel and Chickweed Wintergreen. These forests hold fewer species compared to the lowland woodlands but these woodlands have rare species that aren't often seen in the rest of Britain. One of the key species of this place is the majestic Osprey which is why the village is called the Osprey Village and Loch Garten have a special Osprey Center from which you can watch them on cameras. Other Species to look out for are Goldeneye, Crested Tit, and the only British endemic bird, the Scottish Crossbill. I've found they also have lots of Chaff Finches as you could see or hear them everywhere you looked.

Milton Loch

Milton Loch is a small Loch and is owned by the Boat of Garten Community Company and managed by the Company’s Wildlife Group. It has a selection of bird and insect life. It has its own bird hide which looks over the Loch and a pond dipping area which has different dragonfly and damselfly larva. I saw this heron walking around the reeds outside the hide.

River Spey

We walked along the River Spey, Ok it's not a Nature Reserve but to a lot of people it is Scotland's finest river and because of this it does hold a lot of great wildlife. One of which is the Atlantic Salmon which is why this river is so important to a lot of people the other is Whisky of course. Over 50% of all Scotch whisky is distilled on the River Spey. This Whisky is called Speyside Whisky and is one of Scotland finest. But putting aside the Whisky and the Salmon the river is also important for a lot of birds. On our walk we saw Pied Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, Common Sandpiper, Black-headed Gulls, Goldeneye and Oystercatcher.


Getting away from Boat of Garten near Aviemore is Craigellachie National Nature Reserve. It is one of nine NNRs within the Cairngorms National Park. Craigellachie also has the largest remaining Birch woodland in Strathspey. The woodland then thins out to moorland the higher you go with the odd Scott's Pine replacing some of the Birch trees. On the top there are strong winds so only the lower growing and hardier Heather and Bilberry remain. Surprisingly they is moths and later on in June butterflies that live up here.

These are some of the great places to see and explore in Scotland and hopefully I will return and be able to share this amazing wild land with you soon.

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