Viola Stirling’s Nature Diary: 30th May 1921

Viola is still on holiday in the Aviemore area and is enjoying the wildlife that she sees there. She has evidently wasted no time in making friends with a retired local gamekeeper, probably striking up conversation about her natural history interests whilst on one of her walks. She describes here him showing her the nest of a Crested Tit with the chicks in it and she is able to watch the parent birds feeding their young.

The Crested Tit is a small bird that is seen exclusively in Scotland. These tiny members of the tit family have their habitat in pine plantations and live on a diet of insects and seeds. You can read more about the Crested Tit here.

Viola is also given the gift of a Long-Tailed Tit’s nest. These birds, found across the UK in hedgerows and woods, build an extraordinary nest. It is oval in shape with an entrance near the top and is more enclosed than the dish-shaped nests of other birds. The birds build this nest early in the season and it can take up to 3 weeks to construct.

You can read more about the Long-Tailed Tit here.

Viola records what the former keeper tells her about the incidence of birds in the Aviemore area and it is interesting to read his list to see what was found in that area in the early part of the 20th century. Viola comments that these birds are rare and this continues to be the case today.

The list includes the Snow Bunting. A lovely bird usually found in Central Scotland and normally seen there in winter.

The Ptarmigan, a game bird, slightly larger than a partridge and found only in Scotland. Its plumage is various shades of brown in the summer but in winter it changes to all white apart from its tail and around its eye.

The magnificent Golden Eagle, a very large bird of prey found in Scotland and Northern England, very rare now.

The Greenshank, a wading bird and a summer visitor to Scotland.

The Goosander, a ‘diving duck’, a member of the sawbill family and rarely found in Scotland.

May 30 Aviemore. Pine Woods. An old keeper showed us

the nest of a Crested Tit here with young in it. We

watched the old birds feeding them. The nest was about

4 feet from the ground in a hollow in an old Scots

Fir. We found another nest too in the hollow of a

tree stump. The old bird’s cry is rather pretty

a sort of zee-zee-zee. The keeper also gave us

a long tailed tit’s nest. He says that there are

snow buntings, ptarmigan, golden eagles, greenshanks

goosanders, long tailed and crested tits, about

here. Quite a collection of rare birds.