Cairngorm Wildlife Diary for 1999

by Allan Bantick

Unless otherwise explained all the badger sightings mentioned here were made at the Strathspey Badger Hide. If you would like to go, click here to email me.

Enjoy the diary and please do get in touch if you have any comments to make.

Wed 20 Jan. Went to Badger hide 1745 to 1830. Four badgers within 7 minutes

Sat 23 Jan. Goldcrest in the garden

Tue 26 Jan. In the afternoon at the Brock Hut saw a mink take a fish and swim with it to the island

Wed 27 Jan. Badger hide 1940 to 2020. Four badgers straight away

Thur 28 Jan. Badger lecture to University of the Third Age

Sat 6 Feb. Saw mink in the Inverallen burn. Otter tracks in the snow near Craggan golf course

Wed 10 Feb. Otter tracks in snow beside Inverallen burn. Heron, buzzard and bullfinch nearby.

Sun 14 Feb. Badger Hide, but first watched for otters. None seen but badger footprints at the waters edge where a badger had come down for a drink. In hide 1800 to 1845. 4 badgers seen.

Fri 19 Feb. Badger lecture to Grantown Society.

Sat 20 Feb. Took group to Badgers 1740 to1830. Only 2 badgers seen

Sun 21 Feb. Sparrow Hawk hunting in our garden

Tue 23 Feb. Otter spraint where Inverallen burn meets Spey

Wed 24 Feb. Visited above site again. A new fresh spraint had appeared. In the absence of a mound the otters have scraped the grass into a pyramid shape and placed their spraints on top. In the evening took photos of badgers in the snow.

Thur 4 Mar. Otter lecture to the Probus club

Fri 5 Mar. Took 6 guests to badger hide 1800 to 1900. 6 badgers.

Sat 6 Mar. Another 6 guests to badgers 1810 to 1910. Not such a good night - only 3 badgers seen. Weather wet and windy.

Sun 7 Mar. Found another otter sprainting site on the banks of the Spey near Pollowick

Mon 8 Mar. Chanonry Point in the morning - sadly no dolphins. After lunch found a much-used otter sprainting site near North Kessock. The site marks a freshwater burn - the only decent one for miles so there is competition for it.

Mon 8 Mar. Badger lecture to YOCs

Tue 9 Mar. Great Spotted Woodpecker in the garden

Wed 10 Mar. Took 3 guests to badger hide 1810 to 1925. First badger 1818. 5 seen.

Fri 12 Mar. Took 5 guests to badger hide 1815 to 1930. 4 badgers seen - one seemed particularly fond of treacle I had spread on a tree root.

Sun 14 Mar. Curlews in a field near Cromdale

Mon 15 Mar. Took 6 people to badgers 1820 to 1935. 4 badgers again. They were busily scent marking each other.

Sat 20 Mar. Took 2 adults and 6 children from Aigas Field Centre to badger hide 1900 to 2000. Only 2 badgers seen.

Sun 21 Mar. Got a message from Roy Dennis that an osprey has been seen at the fish farm.

Mon 22 Mar. Badger lecture to Mountview Hotel

Thur 25 Mar. The river, which had risen enough to wash away the Inverallen otter spraints, is now dropping and may expose that spot again before dawn.

Fri 26 Mar. Checked Tullochgribbon badger sett. All looks very well indeed with more evidence of activity than I have seen there before. Checked Inverallen otter spraint site again, and sure enough the water has dropped below it. The otters have already replaced the lost spraints with a lovely fresh smelly batch - presumably during the night. Later checked some osprey nests just in case - no ospreys seen.

Sun 28 Mar. Went to badger hide alone 1940 to 2145. Took some compost with me and left a pile on the sett. The badgers were frightened of it !! Pity because the pile was full of worms for them. Are they stupid or what?

Tue 30 Mar. Having heard various stories of osprey sightings went to fish farm and saw my first one of the season. It caught a fish right in front of us. Among the sightings heard of thus far is one at Spey Bay and, slightly embarrasing for the RSPB, the Loch Garten male. Whoops - the new visitor centre is not finished yet!

Fri 2 Apr. Osprey sightings. 1 with fish near nest D. 1 standing on nest L. None at nests C and P. Laura Cannicott saw 2 ospreys at nest D later. Drove to Mull. Watched for otters at Loch Spelve - no luck.

Sat 3 Apr. Watched and otter hunting in Laggan Bay off a headland just north of the Ulva ferry.

Sun 4 Apr. On the way to Carsaig Bay saw a buzzard with a snake. East of Carsaig Bay watched a white tailed sea eagle, then found a real hot-spot for otters. Lots of spraints and a number of holts - at least one in current use. This coastline is a popular walking route for tourists but the otters don't seem to mind. Later we watched another w-t-eagle near Loch Don. It caught a fish and brought it to shore to eat. It was mobbed by crows and seagulls.

Mon 5 and Tue 6 Apr. Watched for otters at Loch Spelve but no luck.

Wed 7 Apr. Osprey nest check. One sitting on nest D. One standing on nest L being swooped at by a curlew. None at nests P and C.

Fri 9 Apr. To badgers with 7 guest 2015 to 2150. Had to wait 50 mins for first badger to show up. Eventually saw 4.

Mon 12 Apr. Checked for badgers in Ellanwood following a request from Tess Jones. Some large holes that could have been badger, but inconclusive. Osprey check - one havinf fierce tussle with a crow at nest P, one deep in nest D, 2 at nest L and none at C. Lecture on ospreys to Mountview Hotel.

Wed 14 Apr. Continuous snow, even at valley floor level. Osprey nest check - nest D buried in snow so that I could not see if a bird was sitting. After a while a flurry of snow from the nest gave the game away as the osprey shook itself - it had been buried by the snow. She must certainly be incubating to endure that. Also one osprey at nest L but nothing at nests P or C. Later that day a phone call reported a dead otter on the roof of a fishing hut by the Spey. I handed that one over to SNH. 7pm I checked the Inverallen Burn spraint site - plenty of fresh stuff.

Thur 15 Apr. Checked Inverallen spraint site and also the next one along the river - both contained fresh material.

Fri 16 Apr. Still cold and snowy. 2 ospreys at nest D. Bumped into Roy Dennis who was showing a fairly well known politician around some of our most sensitive sites - the poor man looked frozen in his smart trousers, collar and tie. No birds at nest P, and I did not check the others on the assumption Roy would do them. Squirrel in our garden. No new material at Inverallen spraint site.

Sat 17 Apr. Took small group to badgers 2040 to 2200. 5 seen.

Sun 18 Apr. Chanonry Point for three hours- no dolphins seen. Osprey check - one each at nest D,P and L. Great news at nest C - two ospreys, one of which swooped into the bog and picked up moss etc to line the nest. This nest has been unused for a few years - maybe that is now changing. Otters - a fresh spraint has appeared at Inverallen.

Mon 19 Apr. Small beach north of Sandaig Bay. Plenty of spraints and a holt but no otters seen.

Tue 20 Apr. Gruinard Bay. Walked along shore for 30 minutes to a headland. Saw an otter briefly. Found amazing spraint site below steep slope, at the foot of which were some holts. On the way home checked Inverallen - more fresh spraints.

Wed 21 Apr. 2 ospreys at nest D - one in nest and the other flying around carrying a fish, apparently not sure what to do with it - stupid bird. 2 ospreys at nest P, 1 at nest L and none at C.

Fri 23 Apr.Gruinard Bay again. No otters seen but a white-tailed sea eagle patrolled the coast then flew to Gruinard Island where the crows gave it a hard time.

Sat 24 Apr. Ospreys - 2 at nest D and one each at P, L and C.

Sun 25 Apr. River has swollen with snow-melt and washed away the Inverallen spraints. Watched an osprey over Craggan Fishery. Buzzards very active around nearby trees - a nest in there somewhere ?

Mon 26 Apr. Watched an otter near Glen Elg for ages. Took loads of photos. On the way home checked Inverallen, and the otters have replaced the spraints that were washed away.

Thur 29 Apr. Osprey check - none at nest C but one each at nests D, P and L.

Fri 30 Apr. Osprey egg count with Roy Dennis. 2 in nest D and 3 in nest L.

Sat 1 and Sun 2 May. Near Glen Elg. Bivvied out overnight.Watched an otter hunting early evening. It turned over huge rocks to get at its prey. Lots of photos again. At dawn on Sunday went down cliffs onto the beach and watched two otters (or the same one twice) at the south end of the beach for a short while. On the way home checked osprey nests. One bird at each of the four nests. Phoned Roy - he had seen 3 at C and 3 at P that day, the spare one in each case was making challenges. It's as bad as East Enders ! Jane Nicol has found another otter spraint site - this time near the Grantown old bridge.

Mon 3 May. Osprey Lecture to Moray Firth Wildlife Centre. Just before the lecture someone phoned me from an oil rig (!) to tell of an exhausted osprey that he and his pals had helped to rest at the rig recently. Having rested in a box overnight it perched on the man's wrist for a while before taking off. It circled the rig, then dived towards the men as a sort of farewell gesture before leaving.

Wed 5 May. Osprey check - one bird at each nest.

Fri 7 May. Ospreys - one at each nest again.

Sat 8 May. Osprey nests - checked nests twice - 0500 to 0615 and 2015 to 2200. All quiet with the usual comings and goings.

Sun 9 May. Osprey nests - similar story - checked nests twice - 0500 to 0615 and 2015 to 2200. All quiet with the usual comings and goings.

Mon 10 May. Osprey Lecture to Mountview Birdwatching

Tue 11 May. Badger hide - the badgers have made a new latrine near an otter holt on the river bank. I wonder what the otters make of that. Found fresh spraints at Inverallen. Roy phoned to say the ospreys at nest C are incubating - great news.

Wed 12 May. Ospreys - one bird incubating at each nest.

Fri 14 May. Ospreys - one bird incubating at each nest. Took 6 girl guides to badgers 2130 to2300. Only one badger seen.

Sat 15 May. Ospreys - checked nests dawn and dusk. All quiet but at nest L the bird was restless for the second day running.

Sun 16 May. Busy day. Osprey nest check at dawn (all quiet) then a drive to Glen Elg to look for otters - none seen, then back in time to check the osprey nests again on the way home - still quiet.

Mon 17 May. Visited osprey nest X. Both birds taking it in turns incubating.

Tue 18 May. Visited osprey nest Y. Again, all progressing nicely by the look of it. No fresh spraints at any of the local sites - perhaps the frantic activities of the summer anglers has driven the otters to seek pastures new.

Fri 21 May. Osprey nests - one bird in each nest.

Sat 22 May. Osprey nests - one bird in P, D and C. Two at L.

Sun 23 May. Ann Wakeling phoned to say she and hubby Edwin had found a badger in a snare. They managed to let it go but not without some damage to Ann's fingers - brave girl. They took photos and informed the police.

Mon 24 May. Ospreys - one in each nest.

Tue 25 May. Still no new otter spraints at local sites. The otters really do seem to have moved away.

Wed 26 May. A lady told me how she and her family had watched today as a Mallard duck at Landmark visitor centre grabbed and drowned a black-headed gull that had been threatening her brood.

Thur 27 May. Osprey Lecture to University of 3rd Age. Before the lecture we counted the eggs at two nests. There were 2 at nest C and three at nest P.

Fri 28 May. Took a group to the badgers 2145 to 2300. We saw 4 badgers.

Sat 29 May. Loch Long to watch for otters - none seen. Drove to Skye and stayed at Heaste in B and B.

Sun 30 May. Walked along shore from Heaste. The coastline is littered deep with rubbish from fishing boats. Nets, ropes, creels, boxes and all manner of garbage creating a reall hazzard to wildlife. I took photos and spent the next few weeks bring this dreadful affair to the attention of the authorities. Went to an eagle eyrie later and watched one of the adults for a while.

Tues 1 Jun. Still no new spraints at lcoal sites. Osprey Lecture to Mountview Birdwatching in the evening.

Sat 5 Jun. Osprey nest check. 2 osprey at nest P and one each at the others.

Tue 8 Jun. Took 2 guests to badgers 2200 to 0030. 4 badgers seen. On the way home saw a fox at Sreet of Kincardine.

Fri 11 Jun. Glen Elg for three hours - no otters seen, but there were lots of seals. Is there a connection?

Sun 13 Jun. Fish farm to watch ospreys 0530 to 0800. Lots of activity.

Mon 14 Jun. To badger with 4 guests 2145 to 2355. 7 badgers seen. Watched the badgers mating, and saw them collecting dry grass for fresh bedding.

Tue 15 Jun. Fish farm 0600 to 0830. Lots of osprey action.

Mon 21 Jun. Glen Elg. Watched a family of three otters hunting for 40 minutes at close quarters. Got lots of photos.

Tue 22 Jun. Osprey Lecture to Mountview Birdwatching.

Sat 26 and Sun 27 Jun. Moray Firth Dolphin weekend aboard the 'Benbola'. Set sail from Buckie 0600. That day saw two minke whales, a few porpoises and two dolphins. Tied up and slept on the boat at Invergordon. Filthy weather so up early for the return trip. Saw quite a lot of dolphins on the way back along the coast between Narin and Buckie. Got very wet and cold but would go again any time.

Wed 30 Jun. Met with police, Ann Wakeling and Laura Cannicott at the site of the badger snare incident of 23 May. Explained to Mr Plod what had happened and showed him the semi-circle of dug up ground where the badger had fought to get free. He promised to take this up with the land managers.

Thur 1 Jul. Osprey check. One osprey in nest P. 2 chicks and an adult at D, one chick and an adult at L and nothing to be seen at C.

Fri 2 Jul. Helped Roy Denis and Frank Law to ring the osprey chicks at nests L and D. 2 chicks and a dud egg at nest L - 2 chicks at nest D. As we were finishing off at nest L the male osprey turned up carrying a fish. He dived at us without dropping the fish - and because we were just leaving he probably thinks he chased us away. Great stuff.

Tue 6 Jul. Glen Elg for six hours. Saw an otter for five minutes. Disappointing.

Thur 8 Jul. Found fox dung in our garden !

Fri 9 Jul. At Roy D's request, took two Rumanian scientists to the badger hide in daylight to show them how it is run. Later we went back and watched the badgers. They are hoping to set up some similar hides in their country and had come to Scotland to see how we do things. They have the right idea OK - they arrived at the hide well equipped with Rumanian wine !

Mon 12 Jul. Otter Lecture to Moray Firth Wildlife Centre. After the lecture we saw an otter in the river outside the centre.

Sun 18 Jul. Called in at osprey nest X. Saw the male and a chick flying around. Took photos. Bad news - Delphis, a boat belonging to the Moray Firth Dolphin Trust, has been stolen and sunk. There are some sick people around.

Mon 19 Jul. Helped Roy D ring some chicks in Sutherland. Later took 2 guests to the badger hide 2145 to 2325. Only 2 badgers seen but for a long time - the guests were delighted.

Tue 20 July. Roy D and I and a few others went to nest P to ring the chicks. Disappointingly there was only one live chick, plus a dead chick plus an infertile egg. Later gave an osprey lecture to Mountview Birdwatching.

Fri 23 July. Three weeks in USA watching all manner of animals and birds - California style.

Tue 17 Aug. Visited some of the osprey nests. Not much to be seen at the nests these days now that the chicks are flying.

Wed 18 Aug. Roy and I to nest Z to try and catch an osprey chick and fit it with a satellite transmitter. No luck - the female bird, who already has a transmitter, interfered too much.

Fri 20 Aug. Took a group to the badgers 2100 to 2230. 4 badgers - good show.

Sat 21 Aug. Roy and I to nest Z again to have another go. The female had left on migration so we mmanaged to catch the male chick and fit it with the transmitter.

Mon 23 Aug. Gave Badger Lecture to Moray Firth wildlife centre.

Tue 24 Aug. Roy D and I caught 3 ospreys at one of their favourite hunting spots. We fitted two of them with satellite transmitters. One of them was a youngster that had been born in Norway. It will be interesting to see if this bird returns to Scotland in future years to breed.

Fri 27 Aug. Tom Clay phoned to say that all the Loch Garten ospreys have now left on migration.

Fri 3 Sep. There is still no fresh material at the local otter sprainting sites.

Tue 7 Sep. Took 5 guests to badger hide 2000 to 2130. Good show- 6 badgers.

Sat 18 Sep. Private trip to badgers 1945 to 2045. 5 badgers seen.

Mon 27 Sep. Took 4 guests to badgers 1920 to 2040. 5 badgers seen.

Fri 15 Oct. Bad news. The badger hide has been vandalised. Peanuts strewn everywhere, torches and binoculars stolen, and, worst of all, the Log Book taken so we've lost the figures for this year. Thankfully no damage has been done to the badger sett and the badgers seem to be unaffected.

Sat 16 Oct. Glen Elg. Sadly no otters seen but plenty of other things including herons, cormorants, various other divers, buzzards, ravens and seals.

Fr1 22 Oct. Took family of 4 to badgers 1825 to 1930. 5 badgers.

Sun 31 Oct. Badger hide 1700 to 1800. 4 badgers.

Sun 7 Nov. Took group of 3 to badger hide 1650 to 1820. 6 badgers seen.

Fri 12 Nov. Otter spraints have reappeared at the Inverallen burn.

Mon 22 Nov. Badger hide 1635 to 1805. Only 3 badgers seen.

Not much else to report for the rest of this year due to moving house.