Cairngorm Wildlife Diary for 2000

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.

You can click here to email Allan or Heather

or phone 01479 831768 or 07787 323264

or write to
Cairngorm Wildlife, 23 Craigie Avenue, Boat of Garten
Inverness-shire PH24 3BL Scotland


Wed 19 Jan. Badger Lecture to Dulnain WRI

Tue 25 Jan. Found badger sett on steep bank overlooking the Spey near Boat of Garten

Wed 26 Jan. Badger Lecture to Abernethy WRI

Thur 27 Jan. Otter Lecture to University of the 3rd Age

Sun 30th Jan. At badger hide, saw two badgers briefly at 1815. They seemed nervous, no doubt due to having had the place to themselves for several weeks.

Thur 3 Feb. Badger Lecture to Probus Club

Sat 5th Feb. Spey Bay. About one kilometre up river from Dolphin Centre saw a roe and deer and found otter footprints in a muddy patch fifty metres from river bank.

Mon 6th Feb. Two of us to Badger hide. 1820 one badger at upper sett then 3 at lower sett.

Wed 8th Feb. Checked otter holts and a badger sett near Kincardine. No signs of recent activity at otter holts but the badger sett is clearly in current use with lots of dung in the latrines and evidence of bedding being moved in and out of the tunnels.

Sun 13th Feb. Found mink footprints by the fishing hut just downstream from the Boat of Garten bridge. Walked for two miles looking for otter signs but found none.

Fri 18 Feb. DL Badgers. Badgers in residence at upper and lower setts but not at alternative sett on the way in. However, found badger prints in snow near alternative sett which led all the way to the main sett. Later, Otter Lecture to Grantown Society.

Tue 22 Feb. Otter Lecture to Tomintoul Darby and Joan Club

Sat 26 Feb. MN sett. Large amounts of dung and lots of bedding going in and out. Badgers are having an easy winter - they are eating lots of worms, judging from the dung. Interestingly, one of their main boundary latrines is empty.

Mon 28 Feb. Badger hide 1845 to 1915. First badger straight away, another within 5 minutes, then by 7pm there were 5.

Fri 3 March. Glen Elg. Snowy drive over the Ratagan pass. On shore 13.30 to 14.15. No otters seen but plenty of bird life and seals. Fresh spraint at the main holts. A dead sheep in the entrance to one of the holts. Winter food for otters? Caught in blizzard near Achnasheen. Red Kite above A9 near Inverness.

Weds 8 March. TG sett. Badgers have abandoned sett, and a fox snare has been set on one of the main tracks nearby. Is there a connection? All other badgers in this area are doing well, so why has this family gone? There is a crow trap in a field not far away - plenty of food in it for any trapped bird, but I do hate those things.

Fri 10 Mar. TG sett again. Took photos of abandoned sett, empty latrines and fox snare. Will send copies to Scottish Natural Heritage.

Fri 17 Mar. Badger hide in daylight. Lots of dung and bedding and digging. Went to fish farm and nests P and D. No ospreys seen.

Wed 22 Mar. 1500 hours to fish farm to meet the new manager and discuss the osprey season. As we talked an osprey arrived overhead - the first seen there this year so far - quite a coincidence. Phoned Roy Dennis. 1800 went back to fish farm but no ospreys seen. Later took a group of 5 people to badger hide 2025 to 2130. Two badgers within five minutes. Watched for an hour. A barn owl perched above a nearby stile, to the delight of the guests who were avid bird watchers. Later Roy Dennis suggested the owl may be roosting in one of the nearby pine marten nesting boxes.

Sun 26 Mar. 7 buzzards overhead at Franki Thingy's farm at Meiklour. 1530 an osprey at the fish farm. 1715 to badger hide to inspect pine marten boxes. Pale feathers stuck in the grain around the entrance to one of the boxes - looks as if Roy was right about the barn owl.

Mon 27 Mar. To badger hide to improve perch for the owl and to train one of the lights onto it. Painted roof laths. Then to osprey centre to meet staff, only to learn that the ospreys had just arrived. Great excitement. They had arrive almost together and on the same date as last year - almost as if they had made an arrangement before the female left last August. "I'll meet you at the fish farm for lunch on the 27th as usual, and then we'll pop off home". Went to badger hide 2030 to 2130 - at least four badgers seen, probably more. No owl though.

Tue 28 Mar. Checked nests L,P and C. No ospreys. The keepers were burning the heather near nest D so we stayed out of the way.

Wed 29 Mar. Painted badger hide. Found two dead tree creepers beneath one of the windows - presumable they had been chasing and had tried to fly through the hide. Put them in the freezer for Roy to collect later.

Sun 2 April. Checked four osprey nests in the snow. None seen. Went to fish farm at dusk and saw one osprey overhead for a few minutes. Not quick enough with the scope to get its ring.

Tue 4 April. One osprey hunting at dusk over the fish farm. No luck. It chased another osprey away.

Wed 5th April. Checked nests. One osprey at D. None at the others. RD reported one at nest P on 4th - also the L female was in the Channels Isles on 3rd, so she should be the first of the sattelite tagged birds to get home.

Thur 6th April. RD reported an osprey at nest L - probably the female. He also wished to discuss the proposed Beaver web site.

Fri 7th April. Checked osprey nests. 2 each at D and L. None at the other 2. The two pairs looked quite settled. Later,took two RSPB people to badger hide 2020 to 2130. 5 badgers seen.

Sat 8 April. Fish farm 1900 - one osprey

Sun 9 April. Nests C and P - no ospreys. 1900 at least 3 ospreys at fish farm. One kept harrassing the others.No fish caught.

Tue 11 April. Scottish Natural Heritage phoned to say a keeper had been interviewed regarding the snare near a badger sett on 8th March. Hopefully this will be a 'shot across his bows' sufficient to make him think twice in future.

Wed 12 April. To badgers 2020 to 2130 with 4 guests. 4 to 6 badgers seen. Wet and windy.

Thur 13 April. Heard today that eggs of a sea eagle on Mull were stolen. They would have hatched in nine days time.

Fri 14 April. 0730 to 0900 nest check. One sitting deep in C. One on edge of L. None at P or C.

Mon 17 April. 1410 to 1540 nest check. Nothing at C. One flying at P. One sitting in D and L. Found a deer shooting seat near P - will ask keeper about it.

Wed 19 Apr Checked otter spraint sites near Grantown - some fairly fresh stuff, some old. Fish farm later - 5 ospreys hunting - one fish caught.

Fri 21 Apr. Osprey lecture at Strathmartine, Dundee.

Sat 22 Apr. Roy D collected the frozen tree-creepers. He told us the C ospreys are back - female flew back from Africa quite slowly - 250Km per day.

Sun 23 Apr Badger day at Spey Bay Wildlife Centre. Did lecture. Tony Archer told us a local keeper had let his dog out for a walk on its own - when it returned it sicked up the remains of three otter cubs on the carpet. Later took group to badger hide. 3 seen.

Wed 26 April. Nest check in heavy rain. Birds sitting in two nests. Fish farm in the evening - 3 ospreys, nothing caught. Later to badgers. 3 seen - foul weather.

Thur 27 Apr. Counted eggs at two osprey nests. Near one of them a thrush was singing - it song contained an element of the osprey call - evidently this is not uncommon where thrushes live near ospreys.Found a new osprey nest near nest L. I'll call the original Ln and the new one Ls.

Sat 29 Apr. Nest check. D, P and Ln sitting tight. C had a bird standing. Badgers later - 4 seen.

Sun 30Apr. Early osprey nest check - same as above - then observed mating at nest P. No birds at Ls.

Mon 1st May. Osprey Talk at Moray Firth Wildlife Centre, Spey Bay at 3pm. On the way there saw an osprey near Grantown Spey bridge. Also two at nest X. Disappointing day - not many osprey sightings. Dolphins in the bay in the morning. A king eider was swimming with the more common ones.

Wed 3 May. Start of security exercise with armed forces. Met the officers.

Thur 4 May. Moor Mor has lost its osprey eggs. Possible pine martens are to blame. The C pair look ready to lay.

Fri 5 May. Troops deployed.

Sat 6th May. Police phoned to say troops had caught two men attempting to steal osprey eggs. The men were known egg thieves, and had been charged under the wildlife and countryside act for disturbance. Later to badgers with a smallgroup. Good show - 3 badgers.

Sun 7 May. Early nest check - D, P and Ls sitting. C fidgetting about - might have layed. Evening at fish farm followed by nest check. Birds now sitting in C, D, P and Ln.

Mon 8 May. Early nest check - as above plus two ospreys standing on Ls.

Wed 10 May. Eddie Palmer of the Scottish Badger Committee came to see me.

Thur 11 May. Watched Ls for half and hour. She seems to be sitting on eggs. Observed mating.

Fri 12th May. Watched Ls again. The nest may have lost some of its sticks in the wind overnight, but the bird was sitting quite unconcerned.

Sat 13th May. Two nest checks. Both times all five nests sitting quietly.

Sun 14th May. 0515 nest check P,D,Ln and C. Sitting nicely. Too misty to see Ls without a treck.

Mon 15th May. 0530 all five osprey nests sitting quietly.

Thurs 18 May. 0945 as above.

Sat 20 May. Roy and I counted the eggs in the new osprey nest. Only two, but we got a look at the female's ring and she is only two years old so this is her first breeding season. Two eggs is normal for a first timer. Checked the other nests. At D the birds seemed slightly agitated. They could have had a hatch. Final nest check 2030 - all OK.

Sun 21 May. 0730 nest check. All five with a bird sitting and at D the other bird was in a nearby tree eating a fish.

Mon 22 May. 1900 watched the new nest for a while - all OK. Checked BG Slavonian Grebe on the way home - sitting OK.

Tue 23 May. Afternoon nest check - 5 ospreys and the grebe OK.

Wed 24 May. 2200 to badger with group of six. Spent almost an hour continuously watching 2 badgers.

Thur 25 May. 0725 nest check. All OK with 5 ospreys and a grebe. At Ls one bird had a fish - it flew off low across the moor.

Sat 27 May. 0725 nest check. All OK with 5 ospreys and a grebe. Heavy rain. Snow lying beside the A9.

Sun 28 May. 0800 and 2000 nest check. 5 ospreys and a Slav grebe sitting nicely. 2200 to 2330 to badgers with 4 guests. at least 2 badgers for more than an hour.

Mon 29th May. Morning nest check. All OK. Nest Ln may now be brooding - she was crouching rather than sitting. Grebe OK.

Tue 30 May. Morning nest check - ospreys all fine but the grebe was missing. Roy D came along to say her chicks had hatched safely - 2 or 3 chicks evidently.

Fri 2 June. Nest check 1030. Bad heat haze - couldn't see much. The four nearest nests seemed OK but nest D was totally invisible!!!!!

Sat 3 June. Nest check 0615, then to Glen Elg to look for otters. None seen, but there were lots of seals.

Sun 4th June. World Ocean Day. Otter Talk at Moray Firth Wildlife Centre, Spey Bay at 3pm

Mon 5 Jun. Nest check 1800. 2 ospreys at D and Ls, one each at the others.

Wed 7 Jun. 2200 to 2335 to badgers with 8 guests. At least three badgers seen- perhaps 5 or 6.

Sat 10 Jun. To badgers 2200 to midnight with 7 guests. Four badgers and a tawny owl seen.

Sun 11 Jun. Chanonry Point. Low Tide was 1450. Dolphins were there 1530 to 1630. This confirms what we heard recently - that low tide is best for dolphins at Chanonry Point. Charlie Philips from the Dolphin Observation Centre was also there at that time, which adds even more weight to the theory.

Wed 14 June. Osprey nest check 0600 to 0730. All OK despite the gales of recent days. Chanonry Point at low tide 1715 for 2 hours. No dolphins seen, but they had been there an hour before we arrived. To badgers 2200 to midnight with 2 guests. 4 badgers seen. There were some young playful cows in the field which was nerve wracking for us. The badgers were nervous of them too.

Sun 18 Jun. To badgers with 2 guests 2200 to 2300. 4 badgers. The field contained some older cows with calves plus a bull this time. The badgers were much more settled.

Wed 21 June. Chanonry Point 0845 to 1100. Low tide was 0910. Wonderful display of dolphins leaping all over the place. Evening osprey check - all fine. Probably all brooding now apart from Ls.

Sat 24 Jun. Chanonry Point for two hours at low tide. Not much happening at the Point but lots of leaping dolphins over at Fort George. Badgers in the evening with 5 guests 2200 to 2330. 4 badgers.

Mon 26 Jun. Chanonry Point 1415 to 1700. Low tide was 1345. Again most of the action was out at sea, with just a few passing dolphins near the point.

Tue 27 Jun. Afternoon walk down the Spey from the Boat bridge. Otter prints not far below the fishing hut. Osprey hunting along the river a mile further down.

Thur 29 Jun. Ringing the chicks at osprey nest Ln. BBC were there to film for a programme about Roy Dennis to be shown on Mon 17 July. 2 good chicks - pity, there had been three eggs. Peeped into nest Ls - one tiny chick just a few days old.

Sun 2 July. Chanonry Point for an hour from 0845. Low tide was 0645. A few dolphins around but no leaping about. Later we found a Sequoia tree near Tarbat, planted by Prince John of Clucksburg in 1809. Back at CP at 1600 but no dolphins. On the way home saw a fox on the A9 and two Red Kites near Mundole.

Wed 5 July. To badgers with six guests 2200 to 2330. At least 4 badgers seen.

Thur 6 July. Went with Roy D plus 3 RSPB staff to ring the osprey chicks at nest D. 3 good chicks. Magic !

Sun 9th July. Osprey Talk at Moray Firth Wildlife Centre, Spey Bay at 3pm. Saw 2 ospreys catch fish and watched dolphins out in the bay. Tried to find otters near Fochabers bridge but no luck.

Note - Bea has started to feed a disabled Black-Headed Gull with a club foot. It is also a bit stupid, compared with its pals, so getting food to it without the relatives muscling in is not easy.

Wed 12 July. Badger hide 2210 to 2320 with six guests. Good show, though in theory only 3 badgers seen..

Fri 14 July. Roy D, Bob and I to ring some osprey chicks near Aviemore. Two good chicks.

Sat 15 July. Chanonry Point at the end of the falling tide 1530 to 1730. Dolphins over at Fort George again but not much at the Point. Went and photographed the Tarbut Sequoia tree. Later took a French couple to the badgers 2200 to 2300. 5 badgers - great show.

Wed 19th July. Bea and I to Gruinard bay. No otters or Sea eagles seen. Got very wet in continuous drizzle.

Sat 22 July. Badgers 2230 to 2330 with 5 guests. 6 badgers seen, including a cub.

Mon 24 July. Fish Farm 0530 to 0730. Only three ospreys seen. Enquiries later revealed that others had also reported less ospreys at the fish farm than in previous years, despite the fact that we know there are at least as many ospreys around as before. One opinion is that there are more trout in the river than for many years - another is that the Fish Farm may not be stocking its loch as heavily as it used to. Later went to nest C and for the first time saw the chicks. There were two - one was bigger than the other, but both looked in good shape. It was a relief because both Roy Dennis and I had looked for them earlier in the week and seen nothing. The cup in this nest is quite deep so the chicks must have been sleeping. In the evening gave an Osprey lecture at Minton House, Findhorn.

Wed 26 July. A magical day. In the morning I helped Roy D catch an osprey using an Eagle Owl and a net. We removed her sattelite transmitter and replaced it with a new one. This bird went to Spain (not Africa!) last winter, and it will be interesting to see if she does the same again this coming winter. She is ten years old and has been a very successful parent. In the afternoon went to Chanonry Point at low tide 1420 till 1745. Great display from the dolphins - especially from about two hours into the tide. In the evening went to the badgers with 4 guests. 4 badgers seen.

Sat 29 July. Roy D and I and some of the RSPB ringed the chicks at nest C. The biggest chick was fitted with a sattelite transmitter. Very tall tree. In the evening went to the badgers 2135 to 2235. 4 badgers seen.

Sun 30 July. Chanonry Point 0830 to 1330. Low tide was 0530. No dolphins seen till after the tide turned around midday. Even then they were just cruising back out in the current. Disappointing because the sea was calm and would have been great for leaping photos.

Mon 31 July. Fish Farm 0600 to 0915. Very little osprey activity. Afternoon and evening at Loch Pityoulish. Saw the Loch Garten male osprey catch a fish as well as the appearance of other ospreys on and off. Locals say they have not previously seen so much osprey activity at the lochs and along the rivers.

Wed 2 Aug. Went to nest Ls to try and see its chick. Not seen - only a parent bird. Phoned Roy.

Thur 3 Aug. Tried again at Ls. This time the chick was plainly visible - standing in the bottom of the nest. Very pleased - phoned Roy on the mobile.

Sat 5 Aug. Ringed the chick at Ls. It was in good condition despite having its feet tangled in fishing line. Roy was able to cut the line off. It is a sobering thought that without these visits some birds would die due to fishing line and hooks, and perhaps other problems that we could have resolved. This chick would certainly have died in the nest had we not gone there to ring it. We then went to nest C to try and catch the adult female. Roy had tried the previous evening without success. It was the same story again - she would not come near the eagle owl and net so we gave up.

Sun 6 Aug. Chanonry Point 1115 to 1615. Low tide was 1100. Not much happened for two hours, but then lots of dolphins arrived and stayed for a while. Not very much leaping about though. Later to badgers 2135 to 2235 with 6 guests. Badgers out straight away. At least 4 seen - maybe 6.

Wed 9 Aug. Chanonry Point 1500 to 2130. Low tide was 1430. No dolphins seen at all.

Thur 10 Aug. The Loch Garten female osprey left for Africa.

Sat 12 Aug. Fish Farm 0600 to 0730 with Roy D. Caught 4 ospreys. Fitted one of them with the last of this year's sattelite transmitters. One of the ospreys we caught had lost a talon - I wonder how? Another was only two years old and had no rings so Roy fitted her with a set. Another was the mate of the female that went to Spain last winter - so he was fitted with that last transmitter.

Sun 13th Aug. Osprey Talk at Moray Firth Wildlife Centre, Spey Bay at 3pm.

Mon 14 Aug. To badgers 2115 to 2225 with 6 guests. First badger 2130, then 4 badgers for nearly an hour.

Wed 16 Aug. Eagle Alley. Walked up Strath Iolair to Coignafearn Lodge and back 1500 to 1700. Near the lodge there was a kestrel over the south side of the glen and two eagles over the north side. One of the eagles seemed to be carrying something. Almost back at the car another eagle appeared from the north.

Mon 21 Aug. The BBC brought a film crew to the badger hide to film the badgers and yours truly for a programme called "See Hear". It will be screened early in January. The badgers performed quite well, but the camera man ran out of battery power just as the action was at its best. The producer was not very pleased.

Wed 23 Aug. Fish farm 0615 to 0830. Ospreys were around most of the time. Saw two fish caught. In the evening I did a Badger Talk at Moray Firth Wildlife Centre, Spey Bay, for the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society.

Fri 25 Aug. Fish farm again 0630 to 0830. Lots of action but only one fish caught. I think some of the ospreys were juveniles trying their luck.

Sun 27 Aug. Badger hide 2025 to 2130 without guests. Sat outside the hide. Had four badgers feeding on peanuts at very close quarters - one within a metre of my feet.

Mon 28 Aug. 0630 to 0830 at Fish Farm. Again lots of action but only two fish caught. Ospreys perched in trees has been a common feature lately - perhaps juveniles needing to rest between hunting attempts.

Tue 29 Aug. The Ls chick was perched beside its nest. Phoned Roy D.

Wed 6 Sep. Tried to find the Ls chick or its father again. No luck. Later went to badger hide 2015 to 2130 with 5 guests. 6 badgers seen.

Thur 7 Sep. Tried again to find the Ls chick. Again no luck, but found a new nest. Will call it nest S. It does not appear to have been used.

Fri 8 Sep. Re-visited new nest with camera. Took slides. Also collected some sticks from under the nest to try and determine if they had been freshly snapped off their parent tree this year or if this nest had been here unnoticed for more than a year. The ends of many of the sticks in the nest looked too yellow and fresh to have been there very long. Roy D called round later and examined my sample sticks. He reckoned they were snapped off this year and the nest was therefore probably brand new. On the same trip I saw a kestrel and a buzzard hunting over the same piece of heathery hillside.

Sun 10 Sep. At First Coast, near Gruinard Island found otter tracks on a sandy beach. The otter had come out of the sea perhaps an hour earlier (judging from the distance of its first footprint from the sea and the fact that the tide was still falling) and it had walked 150 metres along the beach before heading inland up a grassy gully with rock walls. Under the west wall, among ferns, was a hole which might have been perfect for a holt.

Mon 11th Sep. Badger Talk at Moray Firth Wildlife Centre, Spey Bay, for the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society..

Sun 17th Sep. Badger Talk at Moray Firth Wildlife Centre, Spey Bay at 3pm

Tue 19 Sep. Findhorn Valley, Strath Dearn, saw a  golden eagle near the second lodge.  Also saw kestrel, buzzard, and dipper.  Later to badger hide with 5 guests 1920 to 2040.  There were 6 badgers, including 2 cubs.

Sun 24 Sep.  Badger hide with 2 guests.  5 badgers seen.

Mon 25 Sep.  Sett D.  Checked the three main setts.  Not much sign of life but some activity at a new location.  The badgers seem to have enlarged an old rabbit warren.  Later to badger hide with 6 guests 1920 to 2030.  5 badgers.

Mon 9 Oct.  Badger hide solo 1840 to1920.  5 badgers, including a cub.

Sat 14 Oct.  Found another osprey nest near nest Ls - or at least a failed attempt at building one.  The top of the tree seems to have fallen onto the nest and trapped it.   Later went to Kylerhea otter hide and watched from 1530 to 1730.  One otter seen at 1640 for 15 minutes working north to south along the shore.  Low tide was at 1400.

Sun 15 Oct.  Saw three golden eagles.  One, north of Sligachan, was enjoying the very strong winds and swooping around in fine style.   Further north saw another two.  One was perched beside a cliff while the other played with the wind.

Mon 16 Oct.  Badger watch with 3 guests 1905 to 2020.  Saw 4 badgers.

Wed 18 Oct.   Bill C and I did a rough check of the Piper Rock Wood for badgers.  Only one likely hole found.  Saw a Fox.  More thorough search another time.

Thur 19 Oct.  Papers announced the beaver reintroduction.   Have since heard England are to have badgers too.  Ireland are to get Golden Eagles next year.  I have been asked to help.

Mon 23 Oct.   Bea and I to badgers 1835 to 1955.  6 badgers, including a cub.  One badger attempted to climb a tree - daft thing.

Tue 24 Oct.   Found some rowan berries chewed up on a path near our house.  No rowan trees in the vicinity so probably a pine marten.

Weds 25 Oct.  Checked otter sprainting sites downstream from Cromdale bridge.  Plenty of fresh spraints.

Thur 26 Oct.   Letter in local paper objecting to beaver reintroduction.  Roy D was abroad so I replied to put the record straight.   My reply was printed the following week and was well received by other wildlife enthusiasts.                                                                                          

Mon 30 Oct.   To badgers with B and N 1750 to1900.  Seven badgers including at least one cub.

Wed 8 Nov.  Bea and I to badgers with 2 guests 1735 to 1835.  6 badgers seen.

Sat 18 Nov.  0735 watched geese take off from Loch Garten.   Later Laura Cannicott phoned to say she had found a dead badger on the road in Street of Kincardine village.

Mon 20 Nov.  1530 to 1600 watched geese arrive on Loch Garten.  1730 to 1830 went to badgers.  6 seen.

Tue 21 Nov.  1800 to1930 at badgers.  3 badgers but only briefly.

Sun 3 Dec.   In the afternoon checked Milton badgers.  Loads of activity.  1545 watched the geese arrive at Loch Garten.

Wed 6 Dec.  Checked Dell badgers.  Lots of dung and activity at the main sett - it has been a long time since this sett was so busy.  Later saw two female capers further up the Nethy.   1750 to 1920 to badger hide.  3 badgers only briefly again.

Sun 17 Dec.   Hen caper walking along the road outside the RSPB osprey centre.  1500 at Loch Garten.  The Loch was frozen over but a few geese landed on it.  They didn't stay long and headed for the river - the geese know that foxes can walk on ice.

Mon 18 Dec. 1500 Loch Garten.  No geese turned up at all today, but there were hundreds of gulls.  1945 to 2120 at badger hide.  Only one very brief glimpse of a badger.  It was very cold - maybe they were bedding down for a few days.