Cairngorm Wildlife Diary for 2003

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


Jan 03  Sobering up nicely after the festive season (we were out nine of the last ten evenings - 6 gigs and 3 parties)   Plans to inspect some badger setts today have been spoiled by a raging blizzard.

7 Jan 03   Checked some local badger setts.   Deep snow and temperature -18C.   Of all the the tunnels checked, only one showed signs of use.   The badgers at all the rest had more sense than to venture above ground !    There were a number of fox footprints along the forest edge.

8 Jan 03  0945 there were two buzzards over my house, and later there was one in a tree near the local saw mill.  When the weather is this bad the buzzards often move further south, but so far they are sticking it out.


9th - 24th January 2003  Holiday in the Gambia

9 Jan 03   Flew Inverness to Gatwick

10 Jan 03  Flew Gatwick to Banjul.   Coach to hotel Bakotu near Kotu stream

11 Jan 03   Birding walk with local guides Modou and Alou.   More than 60 species seen in just two hours.

12 Jan 03  Day at Makasutu, including a trip in dug-out canoes at Mandina Bolong.  Many more birds seen, plus Red Colobus Monkeys and a Grey Squirrel of some kind.

13 Jan 03   Lazy morning.  Afternoon birding trip at Cape Point.   Very hot and not all that interesting.   Saw an Osprey though - our first of the week.

14 Jan 03   Up at 0500 for a trip called "Birds and Breakfast" based at Lamin Lodge.   At dawn we embarked at Lamin in dug-out boats and canoes to view the early birds.    They included African Grey Hornbills, various Herons and Kingfishers - the Gambia boasts 9 different Herons and 14 different Kingfishers.   After breakfast we walked through the rice fields and saw a different range of birds, notably Shrikes, Weavers, Parrots, Black Kites and Hooded Vultures.

15 Jan 03   Another fairly early start ready for a morning at Abuko Nature Reserve, guided by a young apprentice guide called Ebrama - learning his craft under Modou.    During the walk we met up with an old friend from last year, Dembo Sonko, and someone called Dee (or Doodi) who has worked with Roy Dennis and others to do with reintroducing Red Kites and who was making a film in the Gambia about migration for HTV.    In the evening we went for another birding walk with another guide called Moses.   This session culminated in watching Nightjars near Kotu Point as night fell.

16 Jan 03  A tourist day on a four-wheel-drive lorry, visiting local schools and villages.   However, we lunched on the beach at Solifor Point where an Osprey turned up and caught a fish before our very eyes and took it along the shore a short way to eat it among the rocks.   A Grey Heron spotted it and tried to muscle in on the Osprey's meal, but the Osprey was having none of that and kept the fish for itself.  Quite right too !    Later that day we heard that a Dolphin had become stranded on one of the local beaches but local people and holidaymakers manhandled it back into the water and the beach rescue boat towed it out to sea.

17 Jan 03   A day delivering charity to a remote school and preparing for the coming weekend at Janjanburah, 180 miles up river.

18 Jan 03.   Journey to Janjanburah in a minibus on pot-holed rough roads.   It took more than 7 hours of bumping and shaking along.   At JJB we were ferried across to the island before beginning a 2 hour river trip in a pirogue.   We saw some different birds up here, notably a Fish Eagle that took a fish out of the river right in front of our boat.   There were also Baboons and Monkeys in the trees along the riverbank.   We hoped to see Hippos and Crocodiles too but no luck.   After dinner the locals danced for us and we joined in, but we were glad to get back to our tents after a long tiring day.

19 Jan 03   Up at 0600 for an early morning birding walk.   Highlight was a good long look at Verreaux's Eagle Owl (biggest owl in Africa - perhaps biggest in the world).   After breakfast we visited the local island market before setting off on the pirogue again for a river trip which would take us a little of the way back to the coast.   Again we had a close encounter with a Fish Eagle.   We disembarked at Sapu and endured the six hour drive back to the hotel.

20 Jan 03   Yet another early start, but this time it was for a lazy day on a pirogue cruising around the bolongs (mangrove creeks) near Denton Bridge, drinking, eating and sunbathing.   Nevertheless we saw lots of birds, including an Osprey sitting in a mangrove bush very close to where we had seen one last year - it could even have been the same bird and the same bush.   Altogether we saw six Ospreys during this trip.   Swallow Tailed Bee Eaters, a Sacred Ibis and Goliath Herons also featured.

21 Jan 03   Up at 0700 ready for the Camel Safari.  Yes, I know.   The less said about it the better.

22 Jan 03   Up at 0715 looking for Green Vervet Monkeys.   Found them near our hotel and tried to feed them bananas by hand with limited success.   Did tourist things most of the day and then a photo session by Kotu Creek where we got nice piccies of Little Bee Eaters and a passable shot of a Blue Breasted Kingfisher.   We hand-fed the Monkeys again with greater success, although my wife got attacked for being too slow because I was taking too long trying to get the perfect photo.

23 Jan 03  Up at 0445 ready for a long hot day on Treasure Island (Jinnac Island)   This was our final journey of the expedition and involved taking the Banjul ferry across the Gambia River and travelling in a 4 wheel drive lorry through villages along the Senegal border to the coast where we boarded a pirogue for the cruise to Jinnac Island.   This was not really a wildlife trip but we saw two Ospreys as well as lots of other birds.   We also saw a group of at least ten Atlantic Hump-Backed Dolphins off the beach on the west side of the island.

24 and 25 Jan 03   The long journey home.


29 Jan 03    Gave a talk on "Map References and the GPS" in Forfar to the Tayside Badger Group 

3 Feb 03   Short local walk in deep snow.   A flock of long tailed tits were seen in the pine forest.   Also, one of the nest boxes put out last year for crested tits has had some of its dead-wood packing removed.   Hopeful ?

Fri 7 Feb   Checked badger hide.  Fox prints in  the snow by the access gate.   Signs of badger activity at the sett and some dung in a new latrine.  Rabbits are using part of the sett.

Sat 8 Feb   Short walk up the Sluggan track.   Found pine marten and fox droppings.

Mon 10 Feb   Inspected badger hole under the railway embankment near the end of Kinchurdy road.   It appears to go all the way through the embankment and may be a drainage tunnel because at one end a concrete lintel is visible.   Badgers are certainly using it - there is a latrine at one end.    I will mention all this to the railway company.   Carried on to the river and found an otter spraint site I had not noticed before.  Watched a dipper on patrol.

Tue 11 Feb   Accompanied Adam Gordon and Peter Moore (SNH) to look at an area, where it is proposed to lay out an advanced biking trail, to see what disturbance there might be to the wildlife.  We concluded the trails should not enter the small area of woodland on the Spey Valley side of the watershed, but whether the powers that be will agree to that we shall see..    We actually came across a female capercaillie in there, so maybe that will help.

Mon 17 Feb  A barn owl was seen near Cromdale

Tue 18 Feb   Bea and I walked the golf course fence at Boat of Garten.   Badgers are entering the golf course in 30 different places, 9 of which had badger gates (all of which need attention) and the rest are simply holes under the fence made by the badgers.   Spoke to the golf club about this and made recommendation.   They are having a think about it.   We also found a small badger sett just inside the golf course.    On the way to the course we came across a man riding a motorcycle in the woods.   Apparently this is becoming more and more common.   I have written to the Community Council about it and they have written to the owners of the land and the police.   Let us hope it can be stopped - there are capercaillies and red squirrels in there.    Later that evening on the way home from a gig we saw a barn owl near Carrbridge.

Sat 22nd Feb   Bea and I walked to the Foich badger sett.    28 tunnels are in use and 14 not in use, and there are 2 busy latrines.   On the walk in we found lots of pine marten droppings on the forest tracks.   A badger was found dead on the B970 road near Aviemore.

Sun 23 Feb    Bea and to a badger sett near Aviemore.   6 very active holes.   This family were hammered when the new A9 cut them off from their food supply and several badgers were killed as they tried to cross the busy road.   However, they must now be foraging in the opposite direction because we found no signs of the badgers trying to dig under the fence alongside the road.

Weds 26 Feb   Attended the Police Wildlife Liasson Officers annual conference at Tulliallan.

Fri 28 Feb   Meeting with Peter Cosgrove of the Cairngorm Partnership to discuss codes of conduct when watching wildlife.

Wed 5 Mar   Took two forest rangers to see the badger hide.   They are setting up a similar operation of their own and were curious to see how our hide was equipped and operated.   A badger died on the road at Bunchrew today

Fri 7 Mar   Attended two meeting at Huntingtower Hotel, Perth, organised by the Tourism and Wildlife Forum.   Drove on to Hessilhead and stayed at Garnock Lodge guest house overnight.

Sat 8th Mar   Attended a course at Hessilhead Wildlife Rescue Trust on first aid for injured wildlife, run by Gay and Andy Christie (both recently awarded the MBE for their wonderful work).    In the morning we dealt with small birds and got to handle pidgeons.   In the afternoon we dealt with larger beasts including badgers, foxes, seals and swans.   I got to pick up a badger and a swan.   In both cases I was quite nervous but it was a valuable experience.

Mon 10th Mar    A black headed gull appeared in Boat of Garten for the first time this year... It was not our 'pet' one 'Cassie'.

Tue 11th Mar   Another badger death - at Seafield near Inverness

Wed 12th Mar  A vole appeared in our garden and ate seeds that were dropped by the birds.   Two more badgers were found dead on the roads today - one at Balloch and one at Ardersier. 

Thurs 13th Mar   Heard and saw both lapwings and curlews in our valley for the first time this year.

Fri 14th Mar   Attended the Scottish Badgers Committee meeting at Battleby.   Was appointed Vice Chairman.   Another badger road victim between Inverness and Beauly.

Sat 15th Mar  Saw 2 magpies on Kincardine estate - they are quite scarce in this area.   Visited the badger hide - lots of dung in the latrines and bedding at the tunnel entrances.  I made a photo hatch in one of the hide windows.

Sun 16th Mar  'Cassie' our pet seagull arrived back today from its winter quarters - 5 days earlier than last year.

Mon 17th Mar   Five-mile walk in the Docharn area looking for an alleged badger sett.   Nothing found.

Thur 20th Mar   Bill Cuthbert reported seeing a Kingfisher near Cromdale - wonderful.

Fri 21st Mar   Did a few running repairs to four badger doors in the golf course fence.    At 1920 took some guests to the badger hide.  One badger and a mink seen.

Sat 22nd Mar  Walked to Loch Mallachie and back.   Saw pine marten and otter signs at various places.   In the evening took a group to the badger hide - nothing seen - disappointing.

Mon 24th Mar   Badger dead on the road at Balnacruie.    Female, 9.75 kilos.    I took the carcase to SNH for later transfer to Edinburgh museum.     In the evening attended a CRAGG seminar on Biodiversity.  Presentations were given by Kenny Taylor and Peter Cosgrove.

Weds 26th Mar Bea and I and Gus Jones to Edinburgh to attend a reception given by Scottish Environment Link.  Good opportunity to meet others of like mind.    Dead badger on the A9 near Aviemore - too badly smashed up to sex.

Fri 28th Mar   Bea and I to badger hide in the evening.  3 badgers seen.

Sat 29th Mar   Badger dead on the A9 near Kinveachy. Mon 31st Mar   Checked two osprey nests - nothing seen.   

1st April   2 badger road deaths today - both near Inverness

I learned today that another Sea Eagle has been found dead near Mallaig.  She had been poisoned and is thought to have been the mate of the male sea eagle that was poisoned in the same area last year.    Conservationists are expected to try and work with gamekeepers and farmers rather than be in perpetual conflict with them - but it is very hard to do so when this sort of shameful behaviour is still going on.

Weds 2nd April   Checked two badger setts in the Boat of  Garten area.   Both setts are in good shape. 

Fri 4th April   Nest check.     Only found one osprey - nobody at home at the other nests.   One nest has blown out of its tree in the winter gales.

Tues 7 April  Went badger watching on my own.      Watched 3 badgers for about an hour.

Wed 9 April  Got a report of a dead badger on a road near Inverness

Fri 11 April   Tried to check a badger sett but was thwarted by a bottomless bog.  Will try another time by a different route.   However, did find a latrine so the badgers must be there.

Sun 13th April   Bea and I checked the above sett from the other side.  Found the sett eventually.    A small sett with little sign of occupation, but there was a latrine nearby so there must be a badger living somewhere there - or maybe one passing through got caught short.

Mon 14th April   To badger hide with 4 hoteliers.   At least 3 badgers seen.

Weds 16th April   Searched for two more badger setts with limited success.    Found one small sett which might have been one of the two I was looking for, but no sign at all of the other one.     However, saw two crested tits in the area.

Thurs 17th April    Received a report of a badger caught in a snare up north.    It is high time these dreadful devices were banned - they hardly ever catch the foxes they are intended for and even when they do they cause suffering too extreme for a civilized society to tolerate.  Poisons, gin traps and hunting with dogs have all been condemned on the ground of cruelty - what's so different about snares !?

Fri 18 April   Was told of a badger lying dead by a phone box at Scaniport, near Inverness.  It had been there for a week apparently.    However, it mysteriously disappeared before I could collect it, and the circumstances were distinctly suspicious.   Can't prove anything so best not to speculate in public.

Also on 18th April - another badger incident (my life is increasingly caught up with the fates of these charming, harmless, yet sometimes persecuted animals).    A badger sett had been threatened, and possible partially buried, by the thoughtless dumping of material from a landslide elsewhere in the area.   The matter is now in the hands of the police.

Still on 18th April - took 7 guests to the badger hide.   3 badgers seen. Sun 20th April .     A badger was seen by Lisies Restaurant today - further proff there is a sett in that area.   Late, took 5 guests to the hide.  5 badgers seen.  Later still - police phoned to report a nasty incident at a badger sett near Fort Augustus involving gamekeepers, dogs and guns.  Yuk !

Tue 22 April   Met with Anne Elliott and the estate forester at the site of the mud-dumping incident. Fairly unsatisfactory - better not say any more due to the police still looking into the affair.

Fri 25 April   Spent the morning checking badger setts at Tullochgru.   Failed to find two of the four listed setts.   Dodgy map references ?   Setts do not usually just disappear.   Later to badger hide with 4 guests - 3 badgers - brilliant session.Sat 26 April   Installed new lighting system at badger hide.

Mon 28 April   Checked a sett near Milton beside a small lochan.   22 active holes.   Checked dimensions of nearby badger doors in the forest fence - they look quite good and I might use some of their features the next time I build some.   Got home and designed the perfect badgerdoor !!!!!!

Thurs 1st May      CRESTED TIT CHICKS  



A Crested Tit with its punk hairdo

In April 2002 Bea and I put out some nesting boxes in the local woods in the hope of tempting "Cresties" to breed there.  We checked the boxes today and two of the boxes had crested tit chicks in them.   A third box had the eggs of a tree creeper in it.   This is a red letter day forus.    The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds will ring the chicks some day soon.

Fri 2nd May   2030 to badger hide with 5 guests.   3 badgers seen - another super visit.

Mon 5th May     To badger hide with 2 guests.   3 badgers seen.      The new lights are brighter than the old ones but the badgers do not seem to mind.    The new lights are also more efficient, in that they deplete the battery less over a given period of time.

Wed 7th May   Checked some setts in Docharn Woods.   Mixed findings but there was one very busy sett, previously unknown to me, that might explain sightings of badgers on the nearby A9 and A95 roads.   Also two badger road deaths reported today.

Fri 9th May   Badger hide in the evening.   3 badgers seen again.

Sat 10th May   Bea and I to Muiravonside for Scottish Badgers members day.    Assisted by giving a power point talk on map references and using the GPS system.

Sun 11th May    Checked another of the Docharn setts.   Only a single hole found.

Mon 12th May    Was informed that the Crestie chicks will be ringed on Thursday. 

Tue 13th May  Checked Crestie boxes with telescope - looking good.   Parents bringing food at both boxes.   Same story at Tree Creeper box.

Weds 14th May   To badger hide with 4 guests.   2 badgers seen.  Not the best of nights.

Thurs 15th May   RINGING THE CRESTED TITS.   There were six good chicks in each of the two boxes.   Bob Proctor did the business with Andy Simpkin and I in attendance.   All chicks were just about ready to fledge.   Brilliant.   We checked the Tree Creeper box and found that the chicks were still very small so they will be ringed in about ten days time.   Once the breeding season is over we will remove all the nests and send them away to be added to the national reference collection.   We will then re-pack the boxes with dead wood. 

Fri 16th May   Bea and I to the badger hide with 2 guests.   2 badgers again.



Sat 17th May   Drove to self catering cottage at Laga, Ardnamurchan.   Saw porpoises in Laga Bay.   Watched for pine martens in the evening - got just a glimpse of one.

Sun 18th May  Walked to Dhun Ghallain.   Found an otter holt among fallen rocks.   More porpoises (we saw them every day).   No pine martens seen.

Mon 19th May   Heavy rain all morning.   Afternoon - five mile walk to the RSPB reserve near Glenborrodale.   Saw buzzards, ravens and lots of pine marten droppings.   Otter spraints found along the shore.   Again no pine martens.

Tue 20th May   Day on Mull.   Up early to catch first ferry.   In the course of the day we saw a male hen harrier, two golden eagles and up to six sea eagles.    Friends of ours also saw 5 short-eared owls (parents and 3 young).   Back at the cottage saw a pine marten for a few minutes.

Weds 21st May   Drove to Ardnamurchan Point and Sanna Bay.   At Sanna saw a great northern diver.    Back at the cottage the pine marten(s) gave us a good show.   Took lots of photos.

Thurs 22nd May  Coastal walk from Camas nan Geall to Port a Chamais.   Found lots of otters and pine marten signs and also prey remains of a golden eagle or sea eagle - 2 gulls heads, two lamb legs and some fish skulls.   Took more pine martenpictures in the evening.

Fri 23rd May   Diabolical weather.    Visited the Glenmore Natural History centre.   Excellent.   At the cottage a weasel turned up on the veranda.   Later we watched pine martens again, and later still a hedgehog came to eat the left-overs.

Sat 24th May   Drove home


Mon 26th May     Andy Simpkin ringed the tree creepers.   5 chicks - all nearly ready to fly.    Drove to Perthshire to attend a beaver meeting.   In the evening gave a talk on the Wildlife of the Spey at Boat of Garten village hall.

Weds 28th May   To badger hide with 6 guests.   3 badgers seen - a good show.

Sun 1st June   Gave the Wildlife of the Spey talk at Moray Firth Wildlife Centre, Spey Bay as part of their wildlife week.

Mon 2nd June   To badger hide with 2 guests.  At least 4 badgers seen.

Tues 3rd June    Gave the Osprey talk at Moray Firth Wildlife Centre, Spey Bay as part of their wildlife week

Wed 4th June To badger hide with one guest.   Super evening - maybe as many as 6 badgers.

Mon 9th June   To badger hide with 4 guests.    2 badgers and a barn owl seen.

Tues 10th June   Repaired some of the badger doors along the golf course fence.

Wed 11th June  Bea and I to badger hide with 4 guests.   Super evening - maybe four badgers seen.

Thur 12th June   Rigged up bird feeder near the Grebe car park.   Red squirrels found it within a few hours.

Sat 14th June   Photographed red squirrels at the Grebe car park.   Did some maintenance work at the badger hide to improve ventilation.

Sun 15th June   Built a proper squirrel feeder and installed it at the Grebe car park.

Mon 16th June     Checked the nest boxes in the woods and was amazed to find that one of the boxes in which crested tits had raised a family was now occupied by redstart chicks.   The nest appeared to be on top of the old crested tit nest.  This box will go to the national nest reference collection when the redstarts have finished with it.       In the evening I gave the Wildlife of the Spey talk in Boat of Garten village hall.

Tues 17th June    We ringed the redstart chicks mentioned above.   Six good chicks.    Checked all the other boxes to make sure none of them were also housing new chicks.   All clear.   Removed one of the boxes that is also destined for the national nest reference collection to prevent it being used again.

Weds 18th June   BSCG committee meeting in our house.   Bea and I also took 3 guests to the badger hide.   We saw perhaps as many as 4 different badgers.

Fri 20th June   Gave a talk on badgers to about 60 primary school children at Carrbridge school.   Later took 4 guests to the hide.    Up to five badgers seen - one of them replaced the bedding in its sett with fresh green grass.

Sat 21 June   Installed hazelnut log at the Grebe Car Park ready for photographing squirrels.

Fri 27th June    Scottish Badgers Committee Meeting at Battleby.   The Anti-Snaring debate continued - not greatly to my satisfaction.   I have difficulty with the concept of someone calling themself a conservationist while still condoning the use of snares.  Is it me?

Sat 28th June   Retrieved some of the nest boxes from Deshar wood.

Mon 30th June   Checked Dell main sett after reports of forest operations nearby.  All OK.   Entertained Brain Sanders, Chairman of North Northants Badger Group (and his dog Billie-Whizz) and took him to the badger hide in the evening.  3 badgers seen.

Fri 4 July  Bea and I checked one of the Milton setts.   All OK.    In the evening took 6 people to the hide 2115 to 2300.   4 badgers seen.

Sun 6th July   Took a group of Toggy friends for a birdwatching walk in Deshar Woods, then to the Loch Insh Ospreys.   In the evening we went looking for deer near Carrbridge (failed) and to the badger hide where we saw 4 badgers.   A great day altogether.

Mon 7th July    Did the Wildlife of the Spey talk in the village hall.   Had a bit of trouble with the lap-top - it eventually decided to behave.

Wed 9th July  Collected the remaining tit boxes from the woods.   The boxes that had been occupied bean their journey to join the National Nest Reference Collection today.     A flock of Long Tailed Tits visited the nearby woods.    Took my fellow Scottish Badgers Committee member Andy Christie and his wife Gaye plus two other guests to the badger hide.   At least three badgers seen.   A wonderful evening.

Fri-Sun 11th-13th July   Flew to Chelmsford to attend the annual conference of the National Federation of Badger Groups at Writtle Agricultural College.   Ian Hutchinson, Alastair Greig and I represented Scottish Badgers.

Weds 16th July    Attended Jill Nisbett's Bumble Bee Workshop.   Most interesting.   In the evening Bea and I took old friends Dave and Darren from Cheltenham, plus three ladies, to the badger hide.   At least 3 badgers seen.   We saw one go down to the river for a drink then come back for more peanuts.

Sat 19th July    Bea and I went to the badger hide by ourselves to video the badgers in daylight.   Only stayed an hour.   Got a few nice clips.   If I can squash them small enough, one or two of the clips might appear on the Highland Badger Network Website.

Sun 20th July   Took 6 people to the badger hide.   3 badgers seen.

Mon 21st July   No black headed gulls seen in our village today.   It looks as if they've migrated.

Wed 23rd July   Took two clients for a day of wildlife watching.    We saw red deer (adults and young), crested tits, ospreys (adults and young) and badgers as well as the usual small birds.   Disappointed I could not find a red squirrel for them.

Thus 24th July   Sparrowhawk near the local saw mill.

Fri 25th July   Local walk looking for squirrel drays.   No luck but saw a male capercaillie and a crested tit.

Sat 26th July   Strimmed grass at badger hide in the afternoon, then took 4 people to the hide in the evening.   We saw 4 badgers, and watched one of them collecting fresh bedding and taking it into the tunnel.

Sun 27th July   Took youngsters from Mammal Action to the badger hide.  3 badgers seen.   Also, during the walk out, watched a long eared owl and its chick.  The adult was hunting over some long grass while the chick called for food.

Weds 30th July   Gave a talk on badgers to the staff of Scottish Natural Heritage at Achantoul, Aviemore.

Sat 2nd Aug   We passed a dead badger on the M90 near Kinross.

Mon 4th Aug  Found dead red squirrel on the road near our village.  Very sad..   Later we took 6 people to the badger hide.  4 badgers.

Fri 8th Aug   Took 6 guests to badger hide.   4 badgers seen.

Mon 11th Aug   Visited a local lady in her garden to view the damage done by badgers, including digging up a wasp nest.   This is a new phenomenon for this area, caused by the drought which has made worms unavailable.   As a result badgers are starving, and therefore foraging further afield than usual, including raiding people's gardens.   In the evening did the Wildlife of the Spey talk in the village hall.

Fri 15th Aug   Another phone call from a lady with badgers in her garden.   Was interviewed by the local paper re the hungry badgers.   In the evening took a family of French people to the badger hide.   3 badgers seen.

Sat 16th Aug   We went to Chanonry Point 1500 to 1630.   2 dolphins seen.

Sun 17th Aug   Photographer from the press came to take pictures for the paper.  Mike Harris of Grampian Badger Surveys came to visit.   We went to see some of the local setts.

Mon 18th Aug   Red Squirrel in our back garden - the first ever.  Will make a feeder for it in the hope of regular visits.   Dead badger on the road near our hide - almost certainly one of  'ours'.      Later, took 7 people to the hide - only 2 badgers seen.

Wed 19th Aug   Meeting of the Badenoch and Strathspey Conservation Group in Nethy Bridge.

Thurs 21st Aug   Saw a stoat carrying a vole or mouse in its mouth near the road bridge at Grantown on Spey.    Visited yet another house in Boat of Garten where badger have been digging up the garden to get at a wasp nest..    So far the owners of the houses visited by the badgers seem quite sympathetic.   Bea and I filled up the squirrel and bird feeders at the Grebe Car Park.   There was a crested tit there.   Today's local paper carried an article about the hungry badgers.

Fr1 22nd Aug   Red squirrel in the garden again.   It has not yet worked out how to get into the feeder I made for it.  Was interviewed by the 'Mail On Sunday' re the hungry badgers.

Sat 23rd Aug  Lady from Kirkhill phoned me for advice about feeding her local badgers.   Took a family of 5 to see badgers.  Only 2 seen.

Sun 24th Aug   Major articles in the 'Mail On Sunday' and the 'Sunday Post' about the hungry badgers.    Red squirrel in garden again - feeding mostly on sunflower seeds that it carefully extracted from the pile of mixed seeds.  It still has not worked out the feeder.   Might try filling it with sunflower seeds to get its attention.   Evening - took 6 people to badger hide.  Only one badger seen - rather worrying.    Also saw a fox.

Mon 25th Aug   Went to check reports of a blocked badger sett near Bridge of Brown.   Called in the police - it is now in their hands so best not to write too much here.   In the evening did the Wildlife of the Spey talk in the village hall.

Thur 28th Aug   Viewed the site of major housing developments at Culduthel, Inverness.   The badgers there have a difficult future ahead of them.

Fri 29th Aug   Took a local family to the badger hide.   2 badgers seen.   At last some rain, so the badgers may get some worms to eat.

Mon 1st Sep  Was alerted to changes in the proposed housing developments at Carrbridge.   Started to get involved by making some phone calls.

Wed 3rd Sep 03   Started putting out fresh nesting boxes for crested tits for next season..    Picked up another dead badger from the road near the badger hide.   It was a female weighing only 5 kg - less than half the weight it should be at this time of year.    This long hot summer has caused great suffering to the badgers and even those who survive may have difficulty surviving the winter if we do not get some rain soon.   Later, received a phone call about another dead badger, just outside the village of Boat of Garten.

Thur 4th Sep   Found a dead red squirrel on the road by Abernethy Golf Club.

Sun 7th Sep   Bea and I visited the site of the proposed housing development at Carrbridge.  We found a wasp nest that had been dug up by badgers.   The wasps were trying to rebuild it and as I took photos the wasps attacked.    Wrote an objection to the development on the grounds that an Environmental Impact Assessment has not been carried out, and in view of the proved presence of badgers there should be one.

Thus 11th  Sep  An otter crossed the A95 road near Gaick Farm (near Craggan Fishery !!!)

Fri 12th Sep   Took 5 people to badger hide.   3 badgers seen.   It was a relief to see we still have at least three badger.  I was beginning to worry that the recent spate of road deaths in the area may have reduced us to just one badger.

Sat 13th Sep   Attended a meeting of the North Region Committee of the Scottish Wildlife Trust at Inverness 1030 to 1600.

Sun 14th Sep   The red squirrel has at last worked out how to get into the feeder.   It is the most strong and athletic of creatures.  It climbed the wall of our house with a whole apple clamped in its mouth 

Mon 15th Sep   Put out two more crested tit nesting boxes.

Tues 16th Sep  Put out another three nesting boxes.   While we were out we saw a female capercaillie, long tailed tits, 2 red squirrels and a greater spotted woodpecker.

Weds 17th Sep   Red squirrel in our garden again.  He only took seconds to find where I had moved his feeding box to.   I also moved the blue tit nest box to a more north-facing position.

-----------------------      SHORT TRIP TO IRELAND      -----------------------

Fri 19th Sep  Spent most of the day traveling to Dunlewe, Co Donegal.

Sat 20th Sep   Visited Glenveagh National Park.    We learned that eleven of the newly introduced young eagles were doing well and had been seen wandering in areas many miles south of the park.   We did a local nature walk and climbed to a hilltop viewpoint.

Sun 21st Sep    Short walk along the coast near Mullaghdoo, Co Donegal.   Found an otter spraint on a sandy ridge among rocks.     At Gweedore  we watched herons and curlews on a huge sandy spit.

Mon 22nd Sep Began the journey home.   Drove the coast road along the top of Northern Island.   Saw buzzards for the first time this trip.


Wed 24th Sep  Did the Wildlife of the Spey talk at Spey Bay.

Thurs 25th Sep   A pine marten was seen at the badger hide this evening.

Fri 26th Sep   Meeting of the Executive Committee of Scottish Badgers at Battleby.    In the evening took 3 guests to the badger hide.   3 badgers seen.

Sat 27th Sep   Took 5 guests to the badger hide.   3 badgers seen.

Sun 28th Sep   Put out another 3 crested tit nest boxes.

Mon 29th Sep    Collected a dead badger off the road near Boat of Garten.   A female weighing 12 kg.    Took the body to Scottish Natural Heritage.

Weds 1st October   Had a look around part of Docharn Woods for signs of badger activity.   Found three dug-up wasps nests - a sure sign that badgers are active there.    

Thurs 2nd Oct   Meeting in Perth of the Tourism and the Environment Forum Steering Group.  "Wild Scotland" officially came into being at the meeting.

Sat 4th Oct    Topped up peanuts at the badger hide.   Checked the latrines - some fresh dung.   Found downy feathers down the trunk of a tree below one of the pine marten nest boxes.   Looks like we've had chicks - probably goldeneye.

Sun 5th Oct     Boat of Garten Golf Club reported damage done by badgers on the course.   It looks as if the badgers have been digging for voles.   There is a shortage of worms and they are going for anything they can get.

Mon 6th Oct    Inspected the damage on the golf course.   Almost certainly badgers.   Walked home along the river bank.  Found lots more badger diggings there, including three latrines.   Watched a dipper for twenty minutes.

Wed 8th Oct   Made two more crested tit boxes.    Borrowed a long ladder to inspect the pine marten boxes at the badger hide.   There were feathers and egg shells in both boxes, so we have had two families of goldeneye ducks this year.   In the evening I gave the "Wildlife of the Spey" talk to the Grantown Arthritis Awareness Group.

Fri 10th Oct.   Made a three-hole sparrow box and fixed it to the shed.    Put out the last two of the crested tit boxes in the local woods.   That makes eleven out there ready for next spring.  Fingers crossed !!!    In the evening took 6 people to the badger hide.   3 badgers seen.

Sun 12th Oct   A blue tit inspected the new nest boxes in the garden.

Mon 13 Oct   Walked the north end of Docharn Wood looking for badger signs.   The north-east section is good badger habitat, and I found some wrecked wasp nests and an old outlying badger tunnel.     Saw a male capercaillie near the highest point of the wood.

Wed 15th Oct    Photographed coal tits and crested tits at the Grebe Car Park, Boat of Garten.   Since starting to put food there, cresties have almost been guaranteed to be seen.   Topped up the food while I was there.

Fri 17 Oct   Topped up the food at the badger hide.

Sat 18 Oct    Bea and I to Glen Elg 1230 to 1700.   No otters seen - disappointing.

Sun 19 Oct    Bea and I removed the two goldeneye/pine marten boxes from near the badger hide.   They are in poor condition, having been out there for five years.     While there we had a look into one of the boxes by the river.   It contained dud goldeneye eggs.   We will report this to the guy who put it there.      At home, the red squirrel has visited the feeder in our garden roughly every other day for the past several weeks.   Magic!

Weds 23rd Oct    Re-made the goldeneye/pine marten boxes.    Topped up the food at the Grebe Car Park

Fri 24th Oct   Newspaper phoned to ask about an SNH press release to do with hungry badger being knocked down on the road.   I provided some local facts and figures.     Took friends to the badger hide - 3 badgers seen.

Sat 25th Oct   A lady phoned to report yet another dead badger on the road - this time at Bunchrew.

Sun 26th Oct    Repaired the lid of the squirrel feeder at the Grebe Car Park (it was stuck open !)   Topped up the food while I was there.    My work was closely supervised by 6 coal tits and 2 crested tits.

Tue 28th Oct   Went to a BSCG meeting to get a briefing on how to extract blood samples from dead red squirrels.

Wed 29th Oct  Checked the Dell badger setts.   No activity at the two known outliers but evidence of use at the main sett where 4 holes were clearly in use and 2 of the latrines contained fresh dung.    On the way out I found 2 more annex setts, each with eight tunnels and one of which with an active latrine.   This would explain why on occasion I have found no signs of activity at any of the known setts in the area.   The badgers must have been at one or both of these unknown annexes.

Sat 1st November.    Closed the badger hide for the winter.   On the way home I called at the Grebe Car Park to check the squirrel feeder and met up with some people who were on holiday and whom I had previously taken to the badger hide.   They kindly made a contribution towards nuts for the squirrels before departing on their journey home to England, with promises to return for the capercaillie watch next spring.   If they read this, I hope they had a safe journey and I look forward to meeting them again next year.

Sun 2nd Nov   Finished the annual report on the badger hide.   Took a packed lunch for a walk along the east shore of Loch Garten.    Found a partly submerged rock at the edge of the loch with 5 otter spraints on it.

Mon 3rd Nov   Checked 13th fairway at BoG golf course for more reported badger damage.  Not badgers this time.   Found wing cases of blue dung beetles in a badger latrine at a different part of the course.

Weds 5th Nov   Checked the badger hide, then walked the nearby river bank.   Found two badger latrines, a fox den, an otter holt and an otter sprainting rock.   Extraordinary !  After the village bonfire I walked part of the golf course looking for badgers.   Found one on the 14th tee and watched it at close quarters for 5 minutes before getting out-manoevred as it circled round behind me and caught my smell.

Thurs 6th Nov  Installed the two refurbished goldeneye boxes near the badger hide.

Sat 8th Nov   Checked the nest boxes in the Beechgrove Garden.   The tit box and starling box both contained nests, the robin box had been used just as a roost and the tree creeper box was unused.   The hedgehog box was empty and I left the bat boxes alone.   Best that a qualified bat person does that. 

Sun 9th Nov.   Spent most of the day typing wildlife summaries for a local project.  Yuk !    Also emailed the badger report to everyone.   

Mon 10th Nov   Moved the squirrel feeder at the Grebe car park further into the woods to reduce the disturbance factor.

Tue 11th Nov   Walked the local golf course with the Greens Convenor to assess damage done by badgers foraging for voles in the rough.    We also discussed how to protect their sett when forestry operations began.    Agreed a way to proceed that complied with the law, followed forestry guidelines and would get the job done while ensuring the badgers were safe. 

Wed 12th Nov   Two squirrels at the new feeder site.   Evening - BSCG AGM in Nehty Bridge.

Thur 13th Nov   We walked the local golf course after dark.  Saw nothing at all, not even a rabbit.

Sat 15th Nov   Annual Conference and AGM of Scottish Badgers at Battleby.   The AGM agreed a new anti-snaring policy - brilliant.   To read the detailed text go to the Highland Badger Network website.   Not everyone was happy with the decision, which is disappointing.    Above all we are supposed to be a conservation body and we ought to be unanimous in condemning the reckless and irresponsible snaring carried out by game keepers and others.   My contribution to the conference was to supply the lap top and LCD projector for the main presentations and to run two workshops on map references and GPS. 

Sun 16th Nov  Took myself for a walk in the dark and the drizzle.   Saw only two rabbits and heard a tawny owl.

Thurs 20th Nov    Attended a meeting of Wild Scotland steering group.   It seems that even before the organisation gets properly off the ground they are going to water down their earlier stated commitment to Codes of Conduct.    We are now talking guidelines, which, from the tone of those advocating the change, will largely place deciding what constitutes disturbance to wildlife at the discretion of the operator.    That seems to me a license for the cowboys to behave as badly as they please whilst wearing the badge of Wild Scotland which is supposed to be a mark of good practice.  

Fri 21st - Sat 22nd Nov   Attended the overnight meeting and AGM of the North Region Committee of the Scottish Wildlife Trust at Cromarty.   All the high ranking officials from HQ were there plus all the local staff and most of the committee - even most of those from the islands.   A most enjoyable and rewarding event.

Sun 23rd Nov   Bea and I walked the local golf course to see how the tree felling work was going and to check the badger sett.   All seems tobe progressing as agreed and the badgers, far from being driven away to their main sett by the work, are clearly still in residence.

1st December        Long chat on the phone with Fergus Ewing MSP about wildlife.   We disagreed on just about everything.    

3rd Dec   Watched a red squirrel bury three hazel nuts in our garden.  Went to a meeting in Carrbridge where representatives of Scottish Water and SEPA  explained the new Water Directives.

1 - 5 Dec   Spent much of the week bringing the database up to date and on other admin tasks.

Sat 6th Dec   Did part of the Mammal Society Winter Monitoring (MSWM) survey at the Sluggan.

Sun 7th Dec   Did another part of the MSWM near Loch Garten

Tue 7th Dec   Two red squirrels in the garden today - our usual one plus a different one.

Weds 10th Dec  BSCG monthly meeting in Nethy Bridge.  Discussed the proposed housing developments at Nethy, Carrbridge and Boat of Garten. 

Thur 11th Dec   Spoke to the police about the blocked badger sett near Bridge of Brown and was told the case has been closed.  I was not happy, and said so.  

Fri 12th Dec   Scottish Badgers Exec Committee meeting at Battleby

Sat 13th   Did a bit more of the MSWM survey at Loch Garten.   Later, I spoke again to the police about the blocked sett.   It is now possible that old photos of the sett may cause the case to be re-opened.

Fri 19th Dec    There were further developments regarding the blocked badger sett near Bridge of Brown.  Some old photos and a map have been found that might help to establish what the sett looked like a few years ago as a comparison to what it looks like now, and so help police decide to what extent it has been interfered with.

Sun 21st Dec      Walk in Deshar Woods.   At the Grebe car park there were two crested tits, a great tit and several coallies.   We checked some of the new crestie nest boxes to see if they were being used as roosts in this cold weather but found no clear signs of use.

Tues 23 Dec   Kestrel hovering near Garten Beag above A95 road.    We have not seen the squirrel in our garden for nearly a week.   Hope it is OK.

Christmas Day   Squirrel returned to us today.    Kestrel on overhead wires above A95 near Croft James.  Prezzies from Bea included a portable dictaphone for carrying in a pocket.   It will make keeping field notes a great deal easier, particularly in bad weather or when in a hurry - a lot easier than having to write it all down in a notebook.

Fri 26 Dec   Installed a new squirrel feeder and an extra bird feeder at the Grebe car park.   Bea started work on her Red Squirrels website. 

Sat 27th Dec      Squirrel in the garden again - but not our usual one.  This one did not have a pale band across the base of its tail and did not seem to know how to open the squirrel feeder.    In the evening one of the local young men hit a badger on the B970 road at Mullingarroch, near Boat of Garten.   The road was icy so he was driving slowly but he still could not stop in time when the badger crossed the road in front of him.  He used a torch to try and find the injured badger but could not locate it.

Sun 28th Dec   Bea and I went searching for the dead or injured badger mentioned above but failed to find it.   The nearby setts showed signs of having been expanded by the badgers and at least eight of the tunnels were clearly in current use.   We came across a small herd of 4 or 5 red deer in the woods near the road.

Tues 30th Dec  On the way home from Dundee saw a dead badger on the A9 near Killiecrankie.