Spring is one of the best times of year for bird watching in north eastern Scotland. From the high tops of the Cairngorms, through the heather moors and fertile valleys of Glenlivet, to the sea cliffs of the Moray Firth there is increasing activity as the nesting season gets under way.
In the spring rare Black Grouse strut their stuff at traditional lekking grounds putting on an unrivalled Highland wildlife spectacle. During late April and early May Capercaillie can be seen lekking at the RSPB hide at Loch Garten. Nesting Osprey can also be viewed here during their nesting season.
Crossbill are often spotted feeding on pine and spruce cones high in the forest canopies of Glenlivet. Crested Tit also nest in these forests and woodlands, particularly towards the northern end of Strathavon.
Ptarmigan breed at a higher density on the Ben Avon - Ben a' Bhuird plateau than in the artic whilst Golden Eagle nest on the adjacent cliffs. Juvenile Eagle are frequently spotted hunting on the slopes of the Ladder Hills.
Waders breed in the upland valleys and moors of Glenlivet in some numbers. The first to appear are Lapwing and Golden Plover. As days lengthen the pace quickens and Lapwing and Curlew put on superb aerial displays whilst Redshank and Sandpiper nest beside rivers and burns. Hen Harrier and Short Eared Owl frequently pose a serious threat to young game and wader chicks as they methodically quarter the ground in search of their next meal.
The cliffs at Troup Head on the Moray Firth host huge colonies of breeding sea birds at this time of the year including the only mainland colony of Gannets in Scotland. This Special Protection Area supports over 20,000 individual breeding seabirds. Kittiwake, Guillemot, Fulmar, Gannet, Shag, Herring Gull, Great Black Backed Gull, Razorbill and Puffin may all found here in the spring.
During winter the Moray Firth plays host to many visiting water fowl including the commoner species of diver, Sanderling, Whimbrel, Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Spotted Redshank, Oystercatcher, Bar Tailed Godwit and Dunlin as well as resident Cormorant, Shelduck and Redshank.