Cairngorm Wildlife Diary for 2001

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


15 Jan  Give Badger Lecture in Boat of Garten village hall 

17 Jan   To badger hide 1815 to 1900.  5 badgers seen

20 Jan   Featured on BBC TV with badgers

30 Jan  Saw Crested Tit, Tree Creeper and several Goldcrests in the forest near our house.  Also found a Pine Marten dropping less than one kilometre from home.

31 Jan   Found a Tawny Owl beside the road.  It turned out to be on the verge of starvation, however, before I could grab it, two lorries ran over it.  Fortunately it was only slightly injured and it is now recovering in the hands of a falconer near Aberlour.  He will fatten it up and release it in the Spring.

5 Feb  Heavy snow, so went out looking for prints.  Found badger, otter and mink prints along the river bank.  Today's papers tell of a Gambian fisherman having found the remains of a Scottish osprey in the stomach of a crocodile he had caught in his nets and killed.  The osprey had been ringed by Dave Anderson at Loch Awe in 1998.

7 Feb  Caught a mouse in the garden shed.  Released into the field.   Later, tried to photograph a dipper without success, but a sparrowhawk settled in a tree beside me for a few seconds before realising I was there.

12 Feb.  Chanonry Point midday near high tide.  No dolphins seen, but a poor stupid sea gull was trying in vain to break open a shell by dropping it on the shingle.  Usually this works very well, but this particular shell had some weed attached to it which was acting as a parachute so there was no chance of the shell picking up enough speed to break.

12 Feb  Give Badger Lecture in Glen Ferness (postponed till 19 Feb due to deep snow)

19 Feb  Give Badger Lecture in Glen Ferness (If the snow stays away!!)

20 Feb Give Badger Lecture in Tomintoul

26 Feb Walked to badger hide in a blizzard along the river.  Mink prints in old snow.  Checked two badger setts - no sign of movement, but then there had been heavy snow for the last two hours so any action would have been covered by now.

27 Feb  Local walk in deep snow via Kinchurdy rail crossing, a badger sett and the golf course.  Only wildlife seen - a buzzard and two roe deer on the 18th fairway.  Several x-country skiers about.

28 Feb  No new snow fell overnight so I checked the local river bank for otter prints.   South bank - mink prints (deep snow but no tail print so not otter).   However, definite otter prints on north bank, including tail print and drag, where the otter had climbed the bank and sprainted near a tree beside a tiny burn 80 metres above the bridge before returning to the water.   Took photos.  On the same stretch of river there were 22 mergansers, 7 tufted ducks and 5 goldeneye that morning.  In the evening went to the badger hide on my own.   Brief sightings of the head a single badger from 1925 for half an hour.   It was bitterly cold - approx -12.

4 March FOOT AND MOUTH DISEASE.  All local countryside is now closed due to the outbreak of foot and mouth - everyone is grounded except that skiers are allowed to continue - I don't understand.  Walked to Loch Garten on the roads.   With binoculars I re-checked the spraint site of 28th Feb.   Overnight snow had blurred things a bit but it looked as if the site had been visited again.

6 Mar Oystercatchers seen over the Spey at Boat of Garten for the first time this year.

11 Mar  Went to Chanonry Point.  No dolphins but saw a pair of long-tailed ducks and a pair of skylarks.  An osprey was seen at Aviemore Fish Farm - the first osprey sighting in Britain this year.

12 Mar  Osprey seen at the Fish Farm again.   Sparrow Hawk in our garden at Boat of Garten.

15 Mar  Saw the Sparrow Hawk again.  It was near the village church carrying a small bird it had caught.

17 Mar   Mink tracks found in the snow near Boat of Garten bridge.

18 Mar   Went to Second Coast, near Laide.  Found areas of otter sprainting along the shore.  One of these areas had an otter holt close by.  We saw a redshank on a beach, and fox droppings and fox tracks in a few places.

21 Mar  Started checking my six osprey nests for early arrivals.  None seen.   Nest C has been badly damaged by the winter weather.

23 Mar  Checked 4 nests - Ls Ln P and C.  No ospreys seen.

24 Mar  Checked nests Ln and S. No ospreys. Bad visibility due to heavy snow.

25 Mar  Checked all 6 nests.  No ospreys.  Saw a Red Kite one mile north of Tomatin beside the A9.

26 Mar  Checked all 6 nests.  Still no ospreys.

27 Mar  Checked 5 nests (not C).. No ospreys.   Fox droppings much in evidence on Nethy golf course.

28 Mar  Checked 5 nest (not C).  No ospreys.

29 Mar.   The regular male osprey LS Green has arrived at the Loch Garten nest.  He has a mate with him but the Centre staff are not sure if she is his regular one.   The pair have been mating and nest building, and the male has been bringing fish to the nest. 

30 Mar  Checked five nest (not C).  Still no ospreys. (Arghhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!)

31 Mar  Checked 5 nests (not C) early evening.  At last - an osprey at D.  Went to badger hide 2010 to 2100.  Only one badger seen. 2320 watched Northern Lights near Carrbridge.

2 April  Nest check of five nest (not C).  1 osprey at D.  Also heard today an osprey was seen at Ln.

4 April  Attended the launch of the Mammal Trust UK at Royal Geographical Society, Kensington, London.  Enjoyed a blether with several interesting and notable conservationists.   Also chatted briefly with the Rt Hon Mr Michael Meacher, MP, the Environment Minister.

6 April Checked six nests early evening.  One osprey at D and one at Ln.

8 April  Same as 6th

9 April  Checked 5 nests.  1 osprey seen at D.   Later went to Badger Hide.  3 badgers seen.

12 April  Thorough check of two nest sites with Roy Dennis.  From the behaviour of the female osprey, nest D may already have an egg, or if not will have one any day.

13 April   A dodgy vehicle has been seen in the area - red Escort Van F237 LAL - possibly belonging to an egg thief.

14 April.  Two nest checks.  Ospreys seen at D,C and B.

15 April   Gave Lecture "Wildlife of the Spey from the Summits to the Sea" at Spey Bay 3pm.  In the evening took a group to the badgers - 3 seen.

16 April   Nest check - ospreys at three nests.

18 19 and 20  April  Checked nests as best I could.   Was thwarrted in some cases by either heat haze or blizzards.  What a crazy climate Scotland has.   

21 April   0730 nest check.   5 ospreys seen - two of them may now be on eggs. 

22 April  Nest check.  4 ospreys seen.   Heavy rain prevented clear view of the distant nests.

23 April   0730 nest check.  6 ospreys seen.   Roy Dennis saw a wildcat today at Coignafearn.

25 April   0800 nest check.  4 ospreys.  Reported dodgy looking car to police.  They checked it out - all innocent.  Police offered full cooperation re car checks - we can phone them as often as we like when we find suspicious vehicles.

26 April   0600 catching ospreys at Aviemore fish farm.  Caught 3.   Carried out the usual checks and took photos of wing patterns.  Removed satellite transmitter from one bird.  In the evening Bea and I took RD's assistants to badgers.  Only one badger seen.

29 April  With Bea and 6 guests to badgers.  3 badgers and 2 roe deer seen.

30 April 0815 nest check. 5 ospreys.  2015 to badgers with Moray Firth Wildlife Centre - staff training session.  Only 1 badger - disappointing.

1 May   Went to badger hide 0745 to check all was OK after the poor showing the previous evening.   All the food put out the previous evening was gone so the badgers must have all come out after we had left.  Mustn't grumble.  0800 nest check.  Wasted effort - only 2 ospreys seen due to heavy haze.  

2 May   To badgers on my own 2150.   Good evening.  3 badgers minimum seen.

4 May 0800 nest check.  Ospreys sitting deep in four nests.  2130 to badgers with Bea and 2 guests.   At least 3 seen.

5 May Roy Dennis and I to two osprey nests intending to count eggs but the birds were unsettled and may not have finished laying so we did not intrude.

6 May  Went to Rosemarkie for lunch and to look for otters.  None seen.

7 and 8 May   Osprey Lecture at Spey Bay 3pm.   Later took 4 guests to badger hide.  At least 3 badgers seen.  Slept the night on a local  moor and watched Blackcock lekking at dawn. Magic!!!!!   On the way home checked osprey nests.   The usual four birds sitting quietly.

9 May  To Second Coast to look for otters.  None seen.

11 May  To badgers with Bea and 5 guests 2130 to 2330. At least three badgers, lots of bats and a tawny owl.

12 May  Spey Bay 0500 to 0900 looking for otters.  None seen but lots of osprey activity.

13 May  0700 nest check.   Usual 4 sitting plus one standing at L.   Learned today that the tawny owl I had picked up off the road in the winter had been successfully returned to the wild.

14 May  Checked nest M for eggs with Fiona.  Only one egg.  Why??????  Egg thieves?  Predators?  Not finished laying?  Simply only laid one????  GAve Lecture "Wildlife of the Spey from the Summits to the Sea" at Boat of Garten village hall.



16 May  Rosemarkie and Chanonry looking for otters and dolphins - no luck.

18 May  Bea and I to badger hide with 3 guests 2150 to 2300.   3 badgers seen.  Lots of bats.  Heard tawny owl and a fox.



19 May   Arrived on Skye late afternoon.  Visited 2 eagle nests sites - one had failed and the other had a chick.   Saw a kestrel and a cuckoo - the cuckoo was closely attended by small birds (probably pippits).

20 May  Short early walk - saw 2 eagles, one being harrassed by a kestrel.   Mid morning coastal walk during which we rescued a sheep from a rylock fence, came across two crows nests where anyone would find them (obviously this piece of coast is not often visited by people), found two areas of feverish otter sprainting and watched buzzards and eagles flying at a distance.   

The disappointing aspect of the walk was the terrible mess along the shore caused by junk thrown overboard from fishing vessels and pushed over cliffs by farmers.   Farm machinery, coils of barbed wire, nets, ropes, fish boxes, oil cans, chemical drums and a host of other items littered the shore to such an extent it was not always possible to avoid treading on them.   Tourists on Skye vastly outnumber fishermen and farmers, yet hardly any of the rubbish could have been attributed to tourists.    This experience was entirely consistent with other similar ones along various bits of the Skye coast, and it throws grave doubt on the assertion by the Countryside Alliance and others that the land is safe in their hands.

Later we visited Talisker Bay and had a close encounter beside the road with an eagle as it was being mobbed by crows.  Visited another eagle nest (complete with a chick) on the way back to base.   In the evening saw an otter in Bracadale Bay exactly halfway through the falling tide.  Wonderful.

21 May   Toured Skye by car and visited three more eagle nests, all with chicks.  Drove home to Boat of Garten.

22 May  2100 nest check.   Four ospreys in their nests.  Nest D may now have a chick.

23 May  Chanonry Point midday to look for dolphins, just before high tide.  Watched a group of five at a distance.   Later went to badger hide 2200 to 2330 with a group of six.   Only one badger seen. A poor show.

25 May  Nest check 0600.   Same old story - four ospreys in their nests.   D still behaving as if she has young.

27 May  To badger hide with 6 guests 2200 to 2335.  2 roe deer, a tawny owl and 2 badgers seen.

31 May  Strimmed grass at the badger hide.  Went to RSPB osprey centre - 2 chicks have hatched, 1 egg is infertile.

1 June  Red squirrel outside our house at 0800 hrs.

3 June  Took 2 guests to the badger hide 2200 to midnight.  At least 5 badgers seen.

4 June   Went to sett D.   Lots of badger activity evident at the main sett.

6 June   At least one osprey chick hatched at Rutland Water today - the first English osprey chick for over 150 years.

9 June   Osprey nest check.   Heavy rain.   One bird sitting tight at the usual four nests.   Gave otters talk at Spey Bay in the afternoon.

10 June   A friend of mine found a rainbow trout beside a path in Boat of Garten forest - nowhere near any water.  Otter? Osprey?   Who knows!

11June   Gave Lecture "Wildlife of the Spey from the Summits to the Sea" at Boat of Garten village hall, 2030 hours.

12 June   For the second time in a week I was told there may be a pair of hobbies in the area.   There has been another osprey hatch in England - this time in the Lake District.

21 June   Meeting of the Scottish Beavers Network at Roy Dennis' house.   Myself, Roy Dennis, Derek Gow, Paul Ramsay, Niall Benvie and Kenny Taylor were there.

25 June  To badger hide with 6 guests 2200 to 2345.   At least 2 badgers seen.

27 June   Gave Lecture "Wildlife of the Spey from the Summits to the Sea" at Spey Bay to Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society at 2000 hrs

28 June.  An otter was seen near the badger hide this evening.

29 June   Strimmed grass at the badger hide.

30 Jun  Visited by Laurent Cocherel, French wildlife author.   After dinner we went to the badger hide from 2130 to 2330.  We saw at least 4 badgers and took lots of photos.

2 July   Ringed the osprey chicks at nest D.  2 good chicks.  Red rings.  Female parent behaved differently than the previous year - could it be a different bird?   She has no rings so we cannot be certain.

2 July   Gave Lecture "Wildlife of the Spey from the Summits to the Sea" at Boat of Garten village hall, 2030 hrs

3 and 4 July  Watched for otters near Elgol on Skye on the 3rd and at Kylerhea on the 4th.  No luck on either day.

9 July   Bea and I to badger hide  2220 to 2330.  2 badgers seen.

15 July   Friends saw a badger near Auchernack Farm.   That is the closest sighting of a badger to Grantown on Spey I have heard about for a very ong time.

19 July   A badger latrine was reported near Cromdale - again, that is a new development in the spread of badgers along the valley.

20 July   Helped RD to try and catch a female osprey to remove her sattelite transmitter.  Failed!!!!!   We'll try again soon.

21 July   Bea and I to the new hide at Aviemore fish farm.  Very comfortable.   Saw 4 ospreys and lots of action but no fish caught.    Later, 2215 to 2330 went to badger hide. 2 badgers. Took lots of photos.

23 July   Gave Lecture "Wildlife of the Spey from the Summits to the Sea" at Boat of Garten village hall, 2030 hrs

25 July   Orrin fish farm 0545 to 0730.  Lots of ospreys catching fish 0600 to 0645.  Later went to badger hide on my own 2150 to 2255.  Great visit.  Took lots of photos of at least 3 different badgers.  Crept outside the hide for a close encounter with the badgers for a short time.

28 and 29 July  Shieldaig weekend - to look for otters.   On 28th watched at Inverbain without any luck.  On 29th watched at Ob Mheallaidh and saw an otter hunting about 1.5 hours after low tide.



3 Aug    Bea and I and 6 guests to badger hide 2140 to 2300. At least 3 badgers.

10 Aug  As above but at least four badgers.

13 Aug   Gave Lecture "Wildlife of the Spey from the Summits to the Sea" at Boat of Garten village hall

15 Aug   Took 6 guests to badger hide 2120 to 2230.   3 badgers.

17 Aug   Bea and I took 7 guests to badgers exactly as 15th

24 Aug  As above but 2100 to 2225.

26 Aug   Bea and I to Loch Mallachie in the afternoon.  Lots of pine marten dung along the paths.   An otter surfaced briefly within 2 metres of us as we sat by the loch at MR 963173.   


27 Aug   Gave Lecture "Wildlife of the Spey from the Summits to the Sea" at Boat of Garten village hall, 2030 hrs

29 Aug   Helped Roy Dennis try to catch an osprey chick to fit it with a sattelite transmitter.  Failed !!!!!

31 Aug   Took 7 people to see the badgers 2100 to 2230.   3 badgers seen.

Next two weeks busy with other things including a trip to Oxfordshire and South Wales.

14 Sep  During a walk in the woods by Boat of Garten saw a buzzard, a roe buck and two roe deer in separate places.  Found a fox den, two outlying badger tunnesl and a small badger sett, comprising three well used holes.   

16 Sep   Took the wife to see the sett mentioned above, and on the way home we found another one, complete with a recently used latrine.

18 Sep   A polecat put in an appearance in next doors garden.   Got a photo before it ran off.   

19 Sep   Checked the Boat of Garten Golf Club badger sett.   All was well, with lots of fresh spoil from the badgers having had a clear out, and lots of old bedding in some of the spoil.

21 Sep   Bea and I took three friends to see the badgers 1930 to 2115.  Four badgers on view for more than an hour.   Perhaps the best visit this year so far.   This may have something to do with it being autumn, and the badgers feeding as much as they can to pile on weight for the winter.

23 Sep   To Pylon Beach, Glen Elg for the afternoon.  No otters seen.   Herons and seals only.

24 Sep   To badger hide with 2 guests.  Great visit.  4 badgers.

28 Sep   To badger hide with 2 guests. 3 badgers.

10 Oct   People (visitors from Wales) were using ferrets and a goshawk near Boat of Garten to catch rabbits

11 Oct   2330 saw a wildcat near Drumuillie.

13 Oct   Bea and I plus 2 guests to badger hide.   3 badgers.

17 Oct  Watched a crested tit and at least two tree creepers in a wood near Boat of Garten

19 Oct   Saw a male capercaillie in the woods near our house.

22 Oct   Checked badger hide in daylight.   Walked round the area and found lots of dung in the two main latrines.

26 Oct   Bea and I and two guests to badger hide.   3 badgers

28 Oct  Bea and I and 4 guests to badger hide.   3 badgers

3 Nov   Bea and I saw the male capercaillie again in the same area as on 19 Oct.  We found lots of caper droppings under a tree.  Later we were told it signifies a favourite perch.   Near midnight saw a fox trotting along the road near Tom Dubh farm

4 Nov   We spent the day on an estate in Pethshire helping with habitat improvement.   On the way home we saw another fox.

7 Nov   A crested tit came to the nuts in our garden - the first we have seen near our house.

10 Nov   We saw the caper in the woods again - and the crestie was back in the garden.

11 Nov  Put up temporary hide in BW forest

17 Nov   We attended the Scottish Badger Conference at Battleby in Perthshire.    I am now on the Scottish Badger Committee. 

18 Nov   There were fresh caper droppings under the roost tree, and we found more under another tree approx one kilometer further away.   We also found another outlying badger hole that was clearly in use, and there was fresh dung in a badger latrine near the corner-post badger sett.

25 Nov  Male capercaillie seen near BW hide.    Found buzzard nest a few hundred metres further west.  

26 Nov   Male caper in same place.

27 Nov   Got photos of Great Spotted Woddpecker from BW hide.

28 Nov  Barn owl near Tom Dubh farm, near Nethy.

29 Nov   Wife saw barn owl near Drumuillie.  Same one as above?  It's not all that far as the owl flies.

30 Nov   More woodpecker pics.    Went to badger hide in the evening - no badgers seen but watched a fox eating the peanuts I had strewn about.

1st to 6th Dec   In BW hide most days.  Pics of cresties, coallies, blue tits, g s woodpecker.

7 Dec  Meeting of the Scottish Badger Committee at Battleby.

8th to 11th Dec   BW hide most days.  Starting to see roe deer in the area.  A wildcat was seen at Tulloch.

13 Dec   Got photos of the roe deer in the snow.

 15 to 19 Dec   BW hide most days.   Nothing new to report but lots of pics taken.

20 Dec   Found a new (to me) badger sett in the RSPB woods.   More than a dozen holes.   Saw a pine marten as I left the area.

21 to 25 Dec   Several visits to BW hide.   A mouse has eaten into the spare peanut bag in the hide.   He's very welcome.  Maybe he'll attract owls to the hide.    On 25th saw a barn owl near West Cullachie farm.

26 Took wife to the new badger sett.  Found even more holes and a large latrine.   There were lots of badger prints in the snow, indicating a very lively and active territory.   It also showed which holes were definitely in use - and I reckon it was most of them. We also found bare patches of earth where deer had lain up for the night and melted the lying snow.    We saw a brambling in our garden today.