Mar Lodge estate is one of Scotland’s premier areas for nature conservation, and much of the ground is protected.
With a little patience you can see a wealth of wildlife that is rare or absent from much of the country. Below you'll find an outline of some of the wildlife around the estate in each season. Please remember to observe from a distance and never disturb any wildlife. Dogs must be kept under control or on leads, especially during the bird nesting season between April and July.
Now resplendent in their white winter plumage, resident Ptarmigan (right) will be joined by visitors from further north who prefer the ‘milder’ Scottish winter. Look out for large flocks of Fieldfare and the smaller Redwing, busy feeding on any berries they can find.
Some mammals also get a winter coat to better blend in with the landscape and avoid predators, amongst them the Mountain Hare which sometimes ventures off the mountains and may be seen as far down as Allanaquoich.
Red Squirrels’ coats can turn almost grey in winter, but they are still conspicuous with their tufted ears; they don’t hibernate so you have a good chance of seeing them hunting for fresh food or looking for their earlier stores.
In winter you are more likely to see greater numbers of Red Deer along the glens and in the open valleys as they search for forage in the snow.
Red Squirrel sightings become more frequent as they are increasingly active during spring. They seek to regain weight after the lean winter, and their dull winter coats become a more vibrant red.
Spring is a busy time for the Black Grouse as they vie for females with their fabulous displays on the lek sites. You’d have to be up very early to catch this, but they roost in the trees so you may see them during the day as well.
An early nester is the Crossbill, which are not easy to see, but the female will be feeding chicks so keep quiet and your eyes peeled. They have quite heavy heads, and their unique crossed beak gives them the appearance of a parrot.
The river valleys will be filled with the sound of courting Oyster Catcher, Lapwing and Curlew. Many other birds will be arriving back from wintering away; look out for House Martins, Swallows, and Swifts. Listen out for Cuckoos as well; when did you hear your first one this year?
The first butterflies to be seen in spring are the majestic Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, and the small Green Hairstreak, which has fantastic, metallic green under-wings.
Many woodland plants are in flower now, making the most of the light before the tree canopy closes for the summer. In particular look out for Wood Sorrel (above), Wood Anemone, and Dog Violet.
Summer sees a host of wild flowers begin to bloom, and there are far too many to mention here. The grassy flats beside the rivers become beautiful meadows, and later on the heather turns the hillsides purple.
Birds are busy breeding at this time of year. On the moors look out for Red Grouse, Meadow Pipit and Skylark. These are all ground breeding so please stick to paths and keep dogs under close control.
Amongst the trees you may catch a glimpse of Tree Creeper, Crossbill, Willow Warbler, Tree Pipit, Stonechat, Chaffinch, Blue Tit or Great Tit. If walking along the rivers look out for the small Dipper with its white bib and dark red waistcoat; it is reliant on the crystal clear water to find its food.
You may also see Goosander with its elegant long neck; the females have a lovely coppery head, whilst the male is a dark metallic green. If venturing onto the mountains you may see Dotterel, Snow Bunting, Golden Plover or Ptarmigan. Again, these birds are very sensitive to disturbance by dogs, please do not allow them to run out of control.
Remember to look skywards and you may see Buzzard (above), or if really lucky a Golden Eagle. In July and August their chicks learning to fly, often accompanied by frequent calling.
On a sunny day you should see plenty of butterflies such as Small Pearl Bordered Fritillary, Small Heath, Red Admiral, and later in the summer, Scotch Argus and Meadow Brown.
Look out for Dragonflies and Damselflies near water, these brightly coloured creatures are beautiful but highly efficient predators of other insects.
Watch out for adders; males are pale, whilst females are usually a rich brown or copper colour, both have a line of dark diamonds down their backs. Snakes will almost always move out of your way, but give them plenty of room to do so, especially on cooler days.
Autumn is the season for fungi. They come in all shapes, sizes and colours. Some are edible but many are not – unless you are absolutely certain, don’t consider eating any of them.
Common species found on the estate are the highly toxic Fly Agaric, the red and yellow Plums and Custard, Slippery Jack with its slimy cap, Brittle Gills with their straight white stems and ‘painted’ caps, Ink Caps which exude a black inky fluid, Milk Caps which produce a white fluid when damaged, and the brightly coloured Wax Caps (right).
The pine woods provide ideal habitat for Blaeberry, which prefers shade, and this is the time of year for its berries. Other berries to look for are Crowberry (also black) and the red Cloudberry, Cowberry and Bearberry.
There are still some late summer flowers to be seen before the cooler autumn weather takes a real hold, including Field Gentian, Yarrow, Thistle and the exotically named Devil’s-Bit Scabious.
Late autumn sees the Red Deer stags begin their rut, when they vie for territory and the right to mate with hinds. Although you may not see the stags fighting, the primeval roar of their challenges echo across the glens.
Migrant birds such as Redstart, Wheatear, Swift, and House Martin will be heading off to warmer climes. Swallows will be gathering together before their flight to Africa.
Arriving in the UK to escape the harsh winter of Iceland and Greenland will be Pink-footed and Greylag Geese; look out for the skeins in the sky above, or grazing on grass and open land as they stop to rest on their way further south.
There are numerous national and international designations which recognise the value of the landscape, habitats, and species. These designations bring not only protection, but also obligations which the NTS must fulfil.
Why not see what wildlife species can be found at this property by visiting the National Biodiversity Network's Gateway. Remember to select the ‘group’ you are interested in.