Cairngorm Wildlife Diary for 2002

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


1st January  HAPPY NEW YEAR

1st to 9th Jan  In bed with Flu !!!!!!!!!!

10th to 26th Jan - In the Gambia.  Click here for all the fun.

29th Jan  Checked my local hide.   Most of the food I left out while I was away had been eaten - but there was still some fat and a few eggs left.   Topped up the nuts.   As I left, a male Capercaillie took off 200 yards SW from the hide and flew away to the NW.

31 Jan  Visited badger hide in daylight.  Not much sign of activity.   Came back in the early evening - no badgers seen.

1 Feb  Scottish Badgers Committee meeting at SNH Battleby.   Good one.  Came home with ideas about the Geographical Information System (GIS) and how it might be being applied to our local area by the local SNH office.

3 Feb  Saw a fox with prey (possibly a pheasant) near Loch of the Lowes.

4 Feb  Met with SNH (Anne Elliott) re the GIS system.   The local office is gathering information for their GIS records and will be glad of whatever I have in the way of badger setts, otter holts and the like.

5 Feb BW hide - have not seen a crested tit since returning from Africa.

6 Feb   Checked Roid sett, Corner Post Sett and various outlying setts.  Roid Sett is flooded and the badgers have moved out and expanded a nearby small sett as a refuge.   Nearby there is a fox den with dung and the remains of prey near the entrance.

7 Feb  Dell sett wih friends Bill and Nancy and their dog Charlie.  Great activity at the main sett.

9 Feb  Bea and I to badger hide 1750 to 1915.  One badger briefly 1907.

10 Feb  Bea and I to three local badger setts.  Plenty of activity - the badgers round here are having a good winter by the look of it.

11 Feb  Dead badger on A9 road opposite turn off to B851 south of Inverness.  Later visited the Shielich Burn sett - all is weel with lots of activity.  One of the tunnels under the road is clearly being used by the badgers, with no sign of them trying to get under the roadside fences.

12 Feb  Checked yet more setts and found a great deal of activity wherever I went.   Cubs will be born soon and this may account for all the action.

15 Feb  Checked out a new sett at Glais Dhudh, reported to me by nearby residents.  Nice one.   SNH will  contact the estate because there is forestry work going on that could threaten the badgers.   (Was told later by SNH that the estate did not known of the sett and, now that they did, would take appropriate protective measures.)

20 Feb  Saw a wildcat between Carrbridge and Kinveachy at map ref 910213 at 2330 on my way home from a gig .

24 Feb  Chanonry Point 1545 (exactly at low tide) saw two dolphins.

26 Feb  In the morning checked Alvie badger sett - all OK.  Later found badger footprints in the snow near Kinchurdy farm but failed to find a sett.  There must be one so will do a more thorough search at a later date.

27 Feb   Dead badger at Croftnahavon.   Took it to SNH for analysis.   Wrote to the estate to inform them of the sett in that forest - they wrote back very politely with their thanks for the information.   Are we getting somewhere????   I hope so.   Also at Croftnahavon, local photographer Stewart Potter showed us the otter spraints at the lochan on his land.

3 Mar   Found a badger hole under the railway line at Kinchurdy crossing.

4 Mar  Checked local badger sets and found the Roid sett, which had been flooded out on 6 Feb, was now totally under water, and the emergency sett in a nearby hollow had water lapping at its doorway.   

5 Mar   Discovered today at least one osprey has returned from Africa.  It was been seen on its nest at Dochgarroch, Inverness on 27th Feb, and has been seen hunting at its usual place near North Kessock.   This is ridiculously early.  Global Warming?????

8 Mar  Bea and I to badger hide 1830 to 1940.  No badgers seen.

10 Mar  Bill Cuthbert and I fitted a solar panel on the roof of the badger hide to charge the batteries.  Later Bea and I and Kevin Cuthbert went to the hide 1935 to 2100 but the weather was foul - driving snow - and no badgers showed up.

13 Mar   Finished installing the solar panel in the badger hide.   Lots of badger activity near the hide, including a pile of clumps of badger hair - a fight ?   In the afternoon, found a new badger sett between Drumuillie and Balnacruie.   Evening - took a group from Mountview to the badger hide.

15 Mar   Took Ellie from the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society to the badger hide.   2 badgers seen.

17 Mar   Early morning walk in local woods - saw squirrel and deer.   Later checked 'our' six osprey nests  - no arrivals yet.

18 Mar  Attended the re-launch of the exhibition at Moray Firth Wildlife Centre.  On the way picked up a very large dead otter off the road near Rothes.  At the Centre met Michaela Strachan, TV presenter from the Really Wild Show and NewsRound

20 Mar  Helped Roy Dennis build an osprey nest that had been tipped out of its tree by the uneven growth of the tree.   Then we went to another nest and removed some of it to reduce its weight - mostly cow dung used by the ospreys for lining.

21 Mar   Bea and I round the osprey nests - none seen, but our 'pet' black-headed gull with the disabled foot returned for the summer today.

22 Mar  Checked osprey nests - none yet.  Checked badger hide sett - lots of activity.

23 Mar  At BW hide - only woodpeckers seen.  Took some photos - couldn't resist.

24 Mar   Found an otter holt and lots of spraint on the river bank near Cromdale bridge.

26 Mar  Went to Knapdale to view the intended site for the pilot beaver reintroduction.   Brilliant place.

28 Mar   Early morning walk in woods.   Found a new badger sett .  

30 Mar   Dawn walk in local woods.   Buzzard with nest material.   Some badger setts near Loch Roid are totally flooded.   Could not find where the badgers had moved to.   Emergency sett mentioned on 4th March is now also under water.   Must check out more thoroughly an unexplained latrine I found a few weeks ago - maybe there is another sett nearby.   At dusk checked osprey nests.   One osprey seen at one of the nests.

31 Mar   Dawn - checked osprey nests - none seen.   Built some nest boxes for crested tits.   Afternoon - with Bill and Nancy and Charlie (their dog) found the badger sett referred to yesterday.   Large sett, but well hidden in a heathery hollow.   Evening - badger hide with one guest - 2 badgers seen.

1 April   Built more nest boxes.

2 April   Helped Roy D to build another osprey nest.   The original nest had a habit of falling out of its tree so Roy wanted to build a new, secure one in the hope the stupid birds would use it instead of their dodgy nest.   Some birds are just no good at building nests, or at choosing the right sort of tree top.   Unfortunately the ospreys were already around so we hoped they had not yet got too attached to their old nest tree.

3 April   Bea and I put out 6 nest boxes in the local woods.

4 April   Dawn walk.   Found another unexplained badger latrine near the Yard.   Will go and look for the sett sometime.

5 April   Took RSPB staff to badger hide.  2 badgers seen

6 April   Nest check - saw a total of four ospreys.   Later, put out another 4 nest boxes.

7 April  Bea and I and our friends Bill and Nancy painted the badger hide.  Later went to the osprey centre and met the new chief warden Emily.

8 April  Glen Elg with Bill.   Got lots of pictures of otters.   They turned up one and a half hours after low tide.

9 April   Found an otter spraint site near Boat of Garten bridge.

12 April   Glen Elg again with Bill and his son Kevin.  Not great, but Kevin got some terrific close shots of an otter from his position.  Bill and I were blocked out by an outcrop of rock.

13 April   Dawn walk in local woods.  Nothing much to report.

15 April   Dead badger on the Grantown road.  That's the second one at that spot in a week.  Evening - went to Roy Dennis's talk 'Birds Of Prey' - excellent.   

16 April   5.30am went on the RSPB capercaillie watch at the osprey centre Loch Garten.   Lots of people there.  Two capers seen by everyone.   Not really my scene, but it serves the dual purpose of letting visitors to the area see capercaillies without them causing disturbance to the birds by wandering willy nilly through the forest.

18 April  Dawn walk in local woods - nothing much to remark on.

19 April  Dawn walk in local woods - found more badger latrines near the Yard but no sett.

20 April   Attended Scottish Badgers Members Day at Muiravonside - helped out by doing some Map Reference and GPS coaching.  Worthwhile trip - made some new friends.

22 April  Dawn walk in Grantown Woods.   Evening to the badger hide with Kevin Cuthbert and 5 guests 2030 to 2230.   Saw at least three badgers.

23 April   Dawn walk near Cromdale.  Saw stoat, roe buck and dipper.

24 April   Dawn Walk Loch Vaa.   Saw deer but not much else.    Blue Tits busy in our nest box, removing some of the sawdust I had put in there for the winter.

26 April   Dawn walk near Loch Vaa again.  Saw deer, an osprey and some bullfinches. 

27 April   Dawn Walk near Boat of Garten - not much seen.

28, 29 30 April, plus 2 and 3 May  Dawn walks in Boat Woods.   Saw roe deer, cuckoos, red squirrels. 

6 May  Our pet seagull Cassie may have young - he flew off without properly swallowing his breakfast and went in a straight line towards the gull colony in the nearby field.

7 May  0530 to 0800 assisted with osprey count.  I did a spot near Carrbridge.   Not much seen.

11 May   Wife and I to badger hide with 5 guests 2115 to 2245.  3 badgers seen. Lots of activity including bedding being collected.

12 May  Nest check 0530.  Four ospreys on eggs, one standing on an empty nest.   0645 to 0745 photographing curlews at Nethy Bridge.

13 May  Wife and I to badgers with 6 guests 2115 to 2330.   Not the best of visits, but eventually we had half an hour of a badger close to the hide feeding on peanuts.

17 May   Found a small badger sett near Nethy Bridge - a few metres from a well used riverside footpath.


18 May  WEEKEND ON SKYE.  Drove to Glen Elg and watched for otters in the rain while being eaten by midges.  Nothing seen.   Crossed by ferry to Skye and drove to Bracadale.

19 May   A wet and windy day.   In the evening watched two young otters hunting in Loch Bracadale for an hour.   While we were doing that friends found a new eagle nest.

20 May   Our friends had a fairly close encounter with a Sea Eagle near Loch Bracadale.   We all went looking for more eagles with modest success.   In the evening watched (presumably) the same young otters hunting in Loch Bracadale, but this time their mother came and joined them.

21 May   Up at 0545 to look for otters at dawn.  0800 the same family of otters appeared, but only briefly.   In the afternoon we went to see some eagles and their chick near the west coast of Skye.  In the evening we drove home to Boat of Garten.


22 May  Saw male capercaillie in local woods.

24   To badger hide with 5 guests.   Saw an osprey, several bats and 2 badgers.

27 May  Gave lecture "Wildlife of the Spey" in Boat of Garten

28 May  On the way home from a gig we saw a barn owl on a fence post about a mile south of Carrbridge.

29 May   Three curlew chicks on Abernethy golf course today.   In the evening we went to the badger hide with 6 guests.   2 badgers seen.

2 June   Were shown a small outlier badger sett near Boat of Garten by friends of ours.   While searching for a main sett (failed!) we found an otter holt on the river bank.   In the evening we went to the badger hide on our own.   Saw between 2 and 5 badgers.

3 June   Gave lecture "Wildlife of the Spey" at Moray Firth Wildlife Centre, Spey Bay.

5 June   Gave lecture "Scottish Ospreys" at Moray Firth Wildlife Centre.   In the evening took a lady and her three children to the badger hide  2140 to 2330.  A poor showing - only three brief sightings of badgers.

7 June   Meeting of Scottish Badger Committee in Perth 1100 to 1600.

8 June   5th anniversary of Moray Firth Wildlife Centre.   Went to the barbeque and ceilidh.   Saw 2 ospreys catch fish in the sea while we were there.

9 June   To badger hide 2135 to 2340.   At least two badgers seen - a better showing than lately with lots of activity near the hide.

12 June  To badgers 2130 to 2330 with 6 guests.   Nothing seen till 2300, then three badgers for 30 minutes.

13 June   On the way home from a gig at 2320 we saw a barn owl fly over the A95 road near where it crosses the River Dulnain.

15 June   To badger hide with 6 guests 220 2330.   At least two badgers seen.  Watched one of them collecting fresh bedding.

17 June   Gave lecture "Wildlife of the Spey" in Boat village hall.

19 June  To badger hide with five guests 2145 to 2330.   At least three badgers seen - a good evening.

For the next two weeks I was largely too busy with domestic matters and golf to do much wildlife stuff.

1 July   Hid some food (peanuts, sultanas and corn flakes) under planks of wood for the badgers.    Gave lecture "Wildlife of the Spey" in Boat village hall.   At 2300 went back to the badger hide and watched the badgers turn over the planks of wood to get at the food I had hidden earlier.   They preferred peanuts to sultanas or corn flakes.

3 July To badger hide with 3 guests 2155 to 2355.   Continuous activity almost from the start.  2 badgers.

5 July  To badger hide with 5 guests 2155 to 2330.   Continuous activity from the start.  3 badgers.

8 July  Gave lecture "Wildlife of the Spey" in Boat village hall.

12 July  To badger hide with 4 guests 2205 to 2335.   3 badgers.  Marvelous evening.

13 July   To badger hide with 6 guests.  Not much happened for the first hour and a half, but then some close views of 2 badgers from 2330 to midnight.

14 July   Flemington Loch looking for otters.   No luck, but we saw lots of herons, gulls and a little grebe.

22 July  To badger hide 2130 to 2315 with 3 guests.  First badger within ten minutes, then continuous watching until 2310.

26 July   To badgers with 6 guests 2150 to 2300.   3 badgers.  Vary good show.

28 July   Saw osprey with fish fly over the B970 heading for the Loch Garten area.   Phoned the RSPB osprey centre to tell them, and they told their visitors to watch out for it.  Sure enough, it arrived at their nest a few minutes later.   2130 to 2240 to badger hide with 4 guests from Holland.   First badger 2147, then two more.   A magic evening.

29 July   Gave the 'Wildlife of the Spey' Lecture in Boat of Garten Village Hall

30 July   Cleaned out the badger hide.  Found an otter spraint on the river bank near the hide.

31 July  To the badger hide with 6 guests 2125 to 2300.   Only one badger seen.

2nd August  Checked some of the local badger setts.   Some evidence of activity at all the setts visited.   Saw a buzzard and a roe deer.

4th Aug  21340 watched badgers at a sett near Tulloch, then went to the badger hide and watched badgers there for a while.

5th Aug   Gave a talk 'Wildlife of the Spey' at the village hall.

7th Aug   Checked the nest boxes in the local woods with two of my grandsons.  Only one has signs of use.

11 Aug   To badgers with Dave and Darren from Cheltenham 2115 to 2220.  At least 3 badgers seen, including one that was already above ground as we approached across the field.  A super evening.

12 Aug To badgers with friends.   At least 2 different badgers seen.

13 Aug   To badger hide with yet more friends and their family.   2 badgers seen.

14 Aug   On the way home from the gig saw a barn owl about halfway between Carrbridge and Kinveachy junction.

15 Aug   Twice saw a kestrel - first above the 1st tee at Nethy golf course and again later near the Dulnain bridge turn of from the A95.

18 Aug  To badgers with people from the People's Trust for Endangered Species.   At least 3 badgers seen.

19 Aug   Gave a talk on the 'Wildlife of the Spey' at the village hall.

21 Aug   Checked some of the local badger setts again.   Some activity at all setts visited.   Later went to the badger hide with 6 guest.   A wonderful evening - at least 3 (possibly 5) badgers seen.

22 Aug   Saw a kestrel over the Nethy Bridge golf course again.

25 Aug   A badger was seen in a garden in Cromdale.   This is the first badger I have heard of in that area, although a temporary latrine was found there last year.   A survey might be a good idea.

26 Aug  Fish farm 0600 to 0900.   Only 4 or 5 ospreys seen.   3 caught fish.

30 Aug  To badgers with 5 guests. 2040 to 2145.   3 badgers seen

31 Aug   Bea and I and friends to Vane Farm Wildlife and Countryside Fair.   Helped out at the Scottish Badgers stand for an hour.   

3 Sep   Inaugural meeting of the Highland Badger Network at Culloden School of Forestry.   I was appointed Coordinator.

8 Sep   Badgers at the hide were reported to have been seen replacing their bedding.

11 Sep  Checked the above entry at the badger hide.  Found clear signs of fresh bedding in tunnel entrances.   Began searching Deshar woods for badger signs in the area where there is a proposal for 120 houses to be built.

12 Sep   7 buzzards circling over Abernethy Golf Club at midday.

13 Sep   Great Spotted Woodpecker in our garden - the first we've seen this close to the village.

14-15 Sep  Camping trip to Glen Elg.   Saw three otters briefly late afternoon on Friday (2 hours before low tide).   A damp night due to heavy mist.    Saturday morning got eaten alive by the midges and beat a hasty retreat.

16 Sep   Received an email suggesting forestry machines were approaching perilously close to a badger sett.  Went to see for myself (yes the machines were too close in my view), took photos, spoke to machine driver (who said he knew about the sett) and then emailed SNH who checked with the estate.    No real harm done, but by checking I hope we have sent all concerned the right message.

17-18 Sep   Continued looking in Deshar Woods for badger signs.   Found three possible outlier holes, probably no longer used.   I propped some sticks over the entrances and will check back in a day or two to see if they have been moved.

18 Sep   To badger hide with 6 guests.  3 badgers seen.

20 Sep  To badger hide with 3 Belgian guests.    3 badgers seen.

26 Sep  Spent most of the day re-building the website

27 Sep   To badger hide with 2 guests.   3 badgers seen.

2 Oct   Checked one of the badger setts near Boat of Garten.   Lots of dung and lots of digging in evidence.

3 Oct   Gave "Wildlife of the Spey" lecture to the University of the 3rd Age in Grantown on Spey

7 - 8 Oct   Camping trip to Glen Elg.    Monday - watched for otters for nearly five hours - saw four at different times.  Not close enough for photos though.   Herons (two youngsters squabbling), seals, and oystercatchers around but thankfully no midges.   Drove to Corran, watched for otters (no luck) and camped near Arnisdale.   Tuesday - 4 hours at Glen Elg during which had a close encounter with an otter that had just caught a crab and dragged it onto a rock right in front of me.  I took some pictures before it swam off - could be good ones, but we'll see when the slides come back.   Drove back to Boat of Garten in time to take 6 people to the badger hide.   3 badgers seen.

12 - 13 Oct   Bed and Breakfast weekend at Glen Elg.   Saturday - a very wet day so the wife and I walked the shore at Corran in the morning, but saw nothing special.   In the afternoon, fully waterproofed and carrying large brollies, we toddled down to Sandaig (scene of Gavin Maxwell's "Ring of Bright Water").   We had the place to ourselves.  We visited the memorials (one to Gavin and one to his otter 'Edal') and then walked along the shore a little way.   Hey Presto - a large dog otter appeared and we watched him hunting for fifteen minutes.   During our walk down to Sandaig and back again we could not help noticing that Pine Martens had marked the forest tracks in the area with piles of Rowan berries roughly every 300 metres.  Sunday - a frosty start to a beautiful day.   Watched by the shore for 6 hours and saw 7 (yes seven) otters.  On the path along the shore there were yet more piles of rowan berries, courtesy of the pine martens I expect, and oOn the way home a golden eagle flew over the road just outside Glen Elg village.

14 Oct   Took 3 people to the badger hide.  The usual 3 badgers were seen.

18 Oct   Ditto the badgers

21 Oct   Was told today of a dead badger found on the road by the cemetery in Grantown on Spey.   This is the first report I have heard of a badger in that area for a long time.    

23 Oct   Following up the above entry, I began a brief search for badger signs near the Grantown cemetery.   Nothing conclusive found.   Might be worth speaking to the local famers.

25 Oct   Took 3 people to watch the badgers 1805 to 1925.   3 badgers.  Super evening.

1 Nov   Committee meeting of Scottish Badgers at Battleby.

2 Nov   Took Pete Dale and family from the Dumphries and Galloway Badger Network to view the badger hide.   They may do something similar in their area.

4 Nov  Went to the TG badger sett - it has been abandoned last year, much to my surprise and much to my suspicion of dastardly deeds by local gamekeepers (we had found a fox snare on a run known to be used by badgers).   Thankfully, the badgers are in residence there once more.

6 Nov  Checked some local bager setts.   Found new latrines.   Also found Caprecaillie droppings.

9 Nov   Scottish Badgers Annual conference at Battleby.   It was well attended and altogether a successful day.

13 Nov   Checked the T Dubh sett.   Main sett has been extended and there was some fresh dung in a latrine.  I do not think this is a very large family.   Found Pine Marten droppings on a path nearby.

14 Nov   Took a local scientist to see some of the Boat of Garten setts.   We found a new outlier tunnel and yet more new latrines.  We also saw a kestrel in the forest.   Oddly, there were Capercaillie droppings on several badger tunnel spoil heaps in the forest - must phone RSPB about this. 

16 Nov   To Stirling University for a one day workshop on Mammal Surveying in preparation for taking part in the Mammal Society Winter Mammal Survey.

19 Nov   To Glen Feshie to look at a possible badger release site.  No good - the local badger territories look fully occupied already.  But - there is a useful looking enclosure that might serve to house injured mammals while they rehab.

21 Nov   Attended a meeting in Inverness to do with Wildlife and Tourism.   Ended up on yet another committee !!!!!

23 Nov   Recced a kilometre square in preparation for the mammal survey.    Most of it impassable bog.   Almost lost the wife in the swamp - must try harder next time.    *evil chuckle*

24 Nov   Did the actual mammal sighting part of the above survey.   The only mammals we saw were Marina Dennis and her dogs.   Disappointing.

26 Nov   Did the recce of another square.    During the walk we saw a kestrel and did a check of one of the nearby badger setts.   At least five active holes and a busy latrine.

28 Nov    Between Grantown and Nethy saw two buzzards and a kestrel

4 Dec   To badger hide by myself for an hour at 1630.   No badgers seen.

7 Dec   Did the mammal signs part of the survey of our first square.    Did not find much - this square contains very little habitat suitable for mammals.   Found evidence of deer and pine marten - that's all.

8 Dec   We did the sightings part of our other square.   Saw 4 red deer.   

13 Dec   Scottish Badgers Committee meeting at Battleby

14 Dec   We did the final part of our mammal survey - the signs part of our second square.   Found evidence of pine marten, fox, roe deer and red deer.  Also found a large previously unknown annexe to one of the local badger setts.   Six holes, four of which in use, and a very very busy latrine.

16 Dec  Attended a meeting in Inverness of the Tourism and Environment Steering Group

16 Dec  Two otters were seen in Loch Garten at 15.30 today

20 Dec   Checked out a report of a badger sett near Loch Insh.    A small affair, currently being used by rabbits.   There may be a main sett not too far away - finding it will be another job for another day.

25 Dec   Merry Christmas.   Checked an otter sprainting site near Grantown.  Some very new smelly material had been added in the last day or so.

31 Dec   Checked a badger sett near Boat of Garten.    This family has two main setts, of which this is the largest but not always the busiest.  However, today there were lots of badgers in residence, judging from the number of freshly excavated tunnels.