Cairngorm Wildlife Diary for 2004

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


January 2004


Sat 3rd Jan 04   Red Squirrel in the garden


Sun 4th Jan 04   3 sparrows inspected the new sparrow box.   The warm weather has got them all fooled.  In the evening Bea and I went to the badger hide 1725 to 1835.  2 badgers seen.   The lights only worked for a short time.   The solar panel does not do a good job charging up the battery in these short dark days.


Mon 5th Jan   Prepared for a talk on the Gambia by scanning in over 100 slides.


Tue 6th Jan   Tullochgribbon badger sett.      Lots of activity - some new outlier setts, looking good.  Found a crow trap trap that was clearly not in use but had been wired shut.   Any bird finding its way in the open top would be trapped with no means of escape.  Took photos and informed SNH who said they would contact the land owner.    Later Bea and I took two people to the badger hide but no badgers were seen.


Fri 9th Jan   Early in the morning we watched jackdaws nest building in next door's chimney pot and blue tits inspecting both nest boxes.   Buds have appeared on one of our new hedge plants - the warm weather has got everything confused.     Later we filled up all our squirrel bird feeders at home and at the grebe car park before going away to Costa Rica for two weeks...........................................




Sat 24th Jan    2000 arrived home from Costa Rica.


Sun 25th RSPB Garden Bird Watch


Mon 26th Jan  Spoke with BBC regarding a broadcast soon about badgers.      Went to the hide in the afternoon - lots of snow about with prints of badgers around the hide so they must be in residence  at the lower sett    We then went to Inverdruie to collect a reported badger road casualty but it was not there..


Tue 27th to Thur 29th   Heavy snow prevented any field work.  Used the time to deal with two weeks of post and write up a report on our Costa Rica trip


Fri 30th Jan   Bea and I checked the badger hide and the surrounding fields and river bank.  Lots of soft snow about so we found prints of red deer, roe deer, fox, badger and otter.



February 2004


Tues 3rd Feb      Visited proposed Wind Farm site on the A939 Dava to Ferness road.   Seems a pity to turn this open hillside into an industrial site.    It is not specially beautiful but it has a certain rugged appeal and in any language it is open countryside.   If these wind farms could be in places that have already been spoiled it would be so much better.


Sat 7th Feb    Planned to do a survey of mammal signs near Boat of Garten but it snowed so there was no point.

Sun 8th Feb  Checked some of the crested tit nest boxes.  One was being used as a roost.


Mon 9th Feb  Walked the local golf course in the snow.   The badger sett beside the 13th fairway is occupied but the badgers had not emerged the previous evening.    Badgers from another sett had been active because one of the swing doors in the fence had been used - all the other nearby doors were still blocked by snow but at this one the snow had been swept aside by the opening door and there were obvious badger footprints.    Saw 3 roe deer on the course.


Tues 10th Feb  Rebuilt the squirrel seed feeder to allow access to seeds from below as well as above so that the bottom seeds get used before they go mouldy.   Bea and I installed it in the afternoon.


Weds 11th Feb   Watched crested tits, coal tits great tits and red squirrels using the new feeder.     Checked Loch Roid badger sett, CP sett and the pond hollow sett - all occupied.   The Loch has hardly formed this winter - just a few long pools around the edge, with one female goldeneye and six mallards in view.   There has been a bit of a tendency for local fields to have their drainage improved and this has not helped adjacent wetlands.   In the nearby forest I found very fresh capercaillie droppings.   At 1630 attended a meeting with SNH in Grantown on Spey.   Dashed home for a meal and then Bea and I went out to a meeting of Badenoch and Strathspey Conservation group.   A busy day !

Thurs 12th Feb  Carried out a field signs survey for the Mammal Society near Loch Garten.  Found evidence of field vole, otter, pine marten, red squirrel, badger, red deer and roe deer.


Fri 13th Feb  Issued press release about how vulnerable badgers are to road accidents at this time of year.    Took two ladies to the badger hide 1800 to 1930.   2 badgers seen.


Sat 14th Feb  Carried out another field signs survey, this time at the Sluggan.    Found signs of badger, fox, pine marten, field vole and both sorts of deer.


Sun 15th Feb  Updated various website.


Mon 16th Feb   Checked on the crow trap that I reported to SNH on the 6thJan 04.   This is what I found :



The overall view with my rucksack for scale


Door still wired shut - no escape possible



Top still wide open so a bird can get in



The rule is, when these traps are not in use they should be "rendered incapable of holding or catching birds".      In this case the estate has not complied. 


Tues 17th Feb    Reported the above trap to the police Wildlife Liaison Officer in Kingussie.    He said he will make enquiries but was not hopeful of taking action against anyone - in a case like this there were too many ways they could wriggle out of it..


Weds 18th Feb  Police Wildlife Liaison Officers annual conference.   


Thurs 19th Feb  Worked on BSCG website for hours and hours and............


Sun 22nd Feb   Topped up feeders at Grebe Car Park


22 - 26 Feb   Bad weather so did lots of wildlife admin work.   For example,  worked on various websites and responded to two wind farm applications, a road widening scheme and the national park renewable energy draft policy.   Proposed amendments to the Badger Act passed their second reading in the Scottish Parliament today.    SNH let me know that the crow trap referred to on 16th and 17th above was now open and offered to introduce me to the gamekeeper.   I declined.   (If you would like to know the reasons - email me).


Fri 27th Feb    Arranged with Andy Simkin for the RSPB vols to use the badger hide on Tuesdays again.


Sat 28th Feb  Bea and I to the RSPB vols day at Battleby.    Super day with lots of chances to chat with other bird people.  Made some useful new contacts. 


Sun 29th Feb  Long walk in the snow.    Email from Spey Bay - two osprey sightings today.   Janey also reckons she saw one on 16 Feb near the bridge.    Spoke to the police wildlife liaison officer about the crow trap and future policy regarding such incidents.   



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March 2004


1st and 2nd Feb   Website updates.    Fed squirrels at Grebe car park.


Weds 3rd March    Worked on lectures for the coming summer.   Took more pictures of crested tit boxes in the woods.    Found capercaillie droppings in Deshar Wood.    In the evening Bea and I gave the talk "Our Gambia Experience" in the village hall


Fri 5th Mar   Worked on Scots Beavers Website    Prepared lecture for next Weds.    Bought new battery for badger hide.   Red squirrel in our garden.


Sat 6th March   Took new battery to the hide.  Lots of badger activity in evidence - fresh dung, bedding and excavations.    Did more work on beavers website.  


Mon 7th Mar   Worked on new solar panel frame for the hide.   Red squirrel in the garden again.  Visited the hide again to measure up.   Found an otter spraint on rocks by the river.    Walked up Carn Sgriob to look for mountain hare snares in a place I had previously found them some years before.   No snares found.    Someone had sprinkled sand all over a footbridge across a burn near Achnahannet - perhaps to check for fox or pine marten footprints.    Built a cabinet for the batteries in the badger hide.


Tues 8th Mar   Finished building the frame for the new solar panel.


Weds 10th Mar  Took above frame to the badger hide.   Gave talk "Wildlife of the Spey" to the Tain Field Club


Thur 11 Mar   Squirrel in garden.    Osprey seen over Milton Loch, Boat of Garten, this morning.


Fri 12th Mar   Cleaned out  badger hide.  


Sat 13th Mar   Today's meeting of the North Region Committee of the Scottish Wildlife Trust was cancelled.   Bea went to Loch of the Lowes for a course on running wildlife activities on a shoe-string.   I did a temporary rewire of the badger hide in the morning, then in the afternoon Bill and Nancy helped me install the new solar panel.  Collected a dead badger off the road near Mullingarroch - female 8kg.


Sun 14th Mar   Made new peanut feeder from a large bottle.  Topped up food at the grebe car park.   Squirrel in the garden today - not our usual one.    Bea and I dissected a dead red squirrel and took a blood sample to send off to be tested for the parapox virus. 


Mon 15th Mar   I dropped off the dead badger at SNH Aviemore.   Ian Hutchinson and I checked out a reported abandoned badger sett at Culloden, near Inverness.   The report was all too true and the animals appear to have left the area altogether due to the combined effect of houses being built much too close to their sett and losing their foraging to overall sprawl of new houses.  Ian will write to SNH to find out how this was allowed to happen.   In the evening Bea and I did the Gambia talk in our house for five members of the Conservation Group.


Tues 16th Mar   Blue tits in and out of the nest box again.  Worked on Beaver website - new pictures and new index page.    Took RSPB staff to the badger hide for the annual briefing.    We saw dipper, curlew, oystercatcher and goldeneye.


Weds 17th Mar   Worked on last years badger hide stats to try and determine optimum time of arrival at the hide for each week of the season.   Went to hide and put up more pictures.


Thurs 18th Mar  2 squirrels in the garden - our usual one plus the new one from last Sunday.   Took peanut feeder to Milton Loch Hide.   Saw heron, buzzard, red squirrel, grey wagtail.


Fri 19th Mar   Bought new digital camera.   Yippee.


Sat 20th Mar  2 red squirrels in the garden again...2 blue tits at the box again.   Took part in a Goldeneye count on the river.   Saw two males and two brown-heads (females and juveniles).   Updated this diary.  Went to the badger hide.   Badger already above ground when I got there.   Saw three during the next hour.


Sun 21 Mar  Attended the WWF volunteers day at Royal Botanical Gardens Edinburgh.


Mon 22 Mar   Topped up food at the Grebe Car Park and at the Milton Loch Hide.   Took photos.


Tues 23rd Mar   Worked on badger lecture.


Weds 24th Mar   Otter spraints at Craggan burn near Grantown.    Topped up peanut bin at the badger hide - took photos at dusk.


Thurs 25th Mar  Heard on the news that 200 dead birds of prey were found on an estate in the south of Scotland.   Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr !!!!!!!!!!    Collected a dead badger from a road near Insh.   Female, 10 kg, lactating, so at least one cub is going to starve underground.


Fri 26th Mar Meeting of Exec Committee of Scottish Badgers at Battleby


Sat 27th March   Entertained a delegation from the Durham Badger Group who are considering building their own badger hide.    They examined our set up and then later visited the Speyside Wildlife Hide to see how they do it.   Good luck, say I.   It's great fun to do and there is no better way of educating people about badgers than showing them live ones going about their everyday lives.


Mon 29th Mar    Up at 0500 and away to Glen Elg to try and get some otter photos.   Bingo - got some crackers.   



It was bitterly cold and at first a bit wet but things brightened up and an otter came swimming along.   It came ashore right in front of me.   


In the evening Bea and I went to the badger hide.   Saw two badgers, a roe deer, a curlew, a mouse and heard a tawny owl.    


Tues 30th Mar   Did some tidying and maintenance at the badger hide.   Worked on BSCG website.


Weds 31st Mar   Practised badger talk.   Had 2 red squirrels in the garden.   Put half a coconut in a tree at the Grebe car park.    Bea and I gave talk on Badgers in the village hall.   Heard a rumour that ospreys have been seen at Loch Garten and Loch Insh.


April 2004


Thurs 1st April   Checked three of the crested tit boxes.   No birds seen but found jaguar footprints in the mud under one of the boxes.   On the way home checked if the squirrels had found the coconut - they had and seemed to be enjoying it.   In the evening I took a group of people to the badger hide and left them there with their own guide.


Fr1 2nd April   Checked five more crestie nest boxes.   Watched cresties excavate two of them.   In the evening went to Speyside Wildlife's hide and saw two pine martens, a brown hare, a very small badger and two roe deer.


Sat 3rd April   Checked the remaining crestie boxes - no activity seen.


Sun 4th April    Put out two halves of coconut, one high up in a tree and one low down to see if the deer are responsible for the extraordinary amount of coconut that is being eaten.   Removed a broken peanut feeder and took it home for repair.


Mon 5th April   Both high and low halves of the coconuts have been equally eaten - looks as if the squirrels (and a few birds) are the main users.   Or do we have a visiting pine marten?   The stupid male squirrel was in the garden today (he doesn,t know how to open the lid of the nut box)   I call him Thicko but Bea says that's unkind so he's "Rusty".    The clever female is now "Lucy".    In the afternoon I worked on the November badger conference and in the evening I went to the badger hide on my own and had two badgers on view.   Repaired peanut feeder.


Tues 6th April   Worked on Scottish Badgers admin in the morning and spent most of the afternoon updating my database.   Rusty turned up at lunch and ate lots of coconut.............




 ................ but still failed to get into the hazelnut box.   He's giving us men a bad reputation.   Took repaired peanut feeder to the Grebe car park.


Weds 7th April   Worked on a mail shot for the badger hide most of the morning.   At the Grebe Car Park the Squirrels have eaten a whole coconut in four days.   In the afternoon Bea and I put out two sets of four little tubes baited with dried meal worms as the first phase of a water shrew survey.   In the process we found a very good otter sprainting site at Milton Loch.    Called in at the Osprey Centre - things are looking hopeful for breeding this year.  (fingers crossed)


Thurs 8th April    Meeting of Scottish Badgers TB sub committee at Kinnettles.


Fri 9th April   Blue tit started bringing nesting material to our nest box.   Took a whole new coconut to the Grebe Car Park.   Finished bringing the database up to date.


Sat 10th April   Bea and I walked her proposed route for the June 'Ancient Tree Hunt'.  Checked a few crestie boxes on the way - no activity observed.    Checked one of the nearby badger setts - lots of activity and a busy latrine.   Evening - took six people to the badger hide.   Only got glimpses of badgers.   They are occupying tunnels in an awkward place this year - not easy to see from the hide.    When we left I put some coconut under a board to see if they would like it as much as the squirrels did.


Sun 11th April   0730 went back to the badger hide to see if the badgers had eaten the coconut.   They had moved the board to see what was under it (I often put peanuts under the board) but they had not touched the coconut.   I found some newly excavated tunnels well to the south of our main sett.   


Mon 12th April  0730 went to the hide again to check the coconut.   The badgers had not even bothered to move the board this time.


Tues 13th April   0530 went to the hide.  Peanuts eaten but not coconut - give up on that one then.   Worked on Badger conference and BSCG website.  Both red squirrels were in the garden at different times today.   Blue tit showed an interest in the hair in the hairnet............



........... we cut our own hair these days so we offer the off-cuts to the birds for their nests.   Guess who the grey stuff belonged to.


Weds 14th April   0700 at badger hide - nothing much has changed.   Checked some crested tit boxes - not much action.    Found capercaillie droppings on a path.  In the evening Bea and I took the Bates family to the hide.     Saw two badgers quite late - both very nervous.   The estate is very quiet these days so the badgers are more sensitive to intruders than previously.


Thurs 15th April  Replaced food at the Grebe car park.   I checked two badger setts near the golf course.  All OK and lots of signs of activity - bedding, busy latrines and freshly dug spoil heaps.  Later I worked on the BSCG website.


Sun18th April  Found eggs in one of my goldeneye duck nest boxes - great stuff.   2000 to 2145 to the badger hide on my own.   2 badgers seen.


Mon 19th April   0800 a blue tit took a mouthful of hair from the net to its box (see photo above).   10.00 a starling squeezed into the sparrow box.   Lucy the clever red squirrel turned up at about the same time.  Midday I went out and checked six crested tit boxes.   Nothing special to report.   Found a capercaillie dropping on a path in the woods.   Evening - took staff and vols from the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society for an evening in the badger hide.   One (maybe two) badgers seen.


Tues 20th April   Kestrel over Gaick Farm, Grantown.   Osprey at Loch Garten laid another egg today, having broken one in a fight on Saturday.    Curlew at Abernethy golf club is sitting on four eggs.


Wed 21st April     Worked on Scottish Badgers TB policy and response to the Animal Welfare Bill.   Collected and emptied the baited tubes from two sites at which we are doing a water shrew survey, rebaited them and placed them at two new sites.    In the evening attended a meeting of BSCG at Nethy Bridge.


Thurs 22nd April   Lucy, the female squirrel in the garden this morning.  Bea and I watched grey wagtails, common sandpipers and dippers on the river near Dulnain Bridge.    Updated the database.    In the evening took 3 people to the badger hide 2020 to 2155.   3 badgers seen.   Watched the badgers  excavating their tunnels.


Fri 23rd April   Two mice in the seed bucket this morning - great fun,       Lucy squirrel was here again.   Topped up the food at the grebe car park.    Tried to repair the gate at the badger hide - failed.   2035 to 2200 went to watch the badgers on my own.   Only one badger, and that briefly.    Plenty of evidence that the golden eye duck has been visiting her eggs in the box.


Sat 24th April  Took fresh coconut to the grebe car park.   Discovered that the lid to the squirrel feeder is in need of repair.     Came back later with tools to fix it.


Sun 25th April    Official goldeneye count - we saw one male and one brown-head on our stretch.    Worked on BSCG website with fellow members.    Finished repairing gate at the badger hide.


Mon 26th April   Rusty the stupid squirrel was here.   A starling squeezed into the sparrow gallery - presumable checking it out for its own nest site.   Found more capercaillie droppings in Deshar Wood to add to the growing body of evidence.     Checked eight nest boxes in the woods - no activity found.   In the afternoon a young man on a scrambles motor bike went roaring along the main track through the woods, showering me in mud and stones in the process.  I called the police but it'll do no good.   Checked some more boxes - found eggs in two of them.    Evening - 2020 to 2140 to badger hide with 2 guests.  Heavy rain but we saw two badgers anyway.


Tues 27th April   Lucy and Rusty squirrels both in the garden this morning.


Weds 28th April    Double checked the identity of the species that laid the birds eggs I found yesterday.   One pair of tree creepers and one pair of crested tits (Yes!).    Wrote an article on wildlife for the local newsletter.   Was told of a dead badger on the A9 at Laggandour.   Found more eggs in another goldeneye duck nest box.   Took one guest to see badgers 2015 to 2235.   At least one badger seen, maybe two.


Thus 29th April   Plenty of evidence that both goldeneye boxes are progressing well. Lucy Squirrel in garden.   Put out fruit at the badger hide in the hope of tempting more badgers to come by.   Went to the hide by myself and saw one badger for fifteen minutes.


Fri 30th April   0630 went to the badger hide - all the fruit and nuts had been eaten.    Checked the nests in the woods.   A starling squeezed into the sparrow box again but its companion (mate?) was too fat.   I will consider enlarging the hole because I would rather the starlings use the box than nothing, and so far the sparrows are ignoring it.    The cresties are doing fine but something (woodpecker?) has chiseled the entrance to the tree creepers' box wider and stolen all but two of the eggs.   2230 put out more fruit and nuts at the badger hide.


May 2004


Sat 1st May   0630 checked the hide - the badgers had eaten all the food once more.    While I was there saw blue tits nesting in the crack of an old tree, watched a pair of dippers bringing food to a nest under an overhang on an island in the river, watched three brown hares running around in  the field and was scolded by two great tits that must have their nest nearby.  Oh, and then there were the goldeneye ducks in their boxes..........           Spring has arrived.       



In the evening I repaired the tree creepers' nest box with steel plates in the hope that they will return and lay again, or at least try to hatch the two remaining eggs.   Found capercaillie and pine marten droppings in the wood.     Late evening - put out more fruit and nuts at the badger hide.


Sun 2nd May   0630 checked the badger hide - all the food had been eaten.    Lucy squirrel was here in the morning.   I enlarged one of the holes into the sparrow gallery so that the starlings can use it if they wish - the sparrows have shown no interest.    2055 to 2320 to the badger hide with 4 guests.   Nothing seen till 2255 when a single badger arrived and stayed for about twenty minutes.


Mon 3rd May    Moved the bird bath onto the lawn.   Lucy squirrel was here.   Topped up food in a neighbour's garden and at the grebe car park.   Checked the crestie nest from a distance - all is well.   The curlews on Abernethy golf course still have four eggs so that too is OK.   Which is more than can be said for the goldeneye ducks................



I took two gentlemen to the badger hide and this happened.  First we saw a badger briefly, then an otter (probably a male judging from the size) swam down the river.  Just after 2200 a pine marten arrived and ate fruit and nuts that we had put out for the badgers before climbing onto the goldeneye box and reaching in to steal an egg.   It ran off with the egg and came back ten minutes later for another.   We had an ethical dilemma here - do we 'save' the goldeneye by chasing the pine marten away or do we let nature take its course.   In the end, after three eggs had been taken, I went out and took lots of pictures, expecting the pine marten to be freaked out, but it did not twig what was happening for a quite a while.   Eventually it decided I was bad news and left without a fourth egg.   We had hardly got our breath back when a female badger arrived.  She had two large teats showing on her left side but none showing on the right side so she was probably feeding two cubs somewhere.   A larger badger (probably a male) then joined her but she was unhappy about sharing her space with him and ran away.   We left the hide at 2325 having had an amazing evening.


Tues 4th May    Starlings displaying and carrying nest material into the sparrow gallery.   Ho Hum.   By the way, today is National Star Wars Day.   May the Fourth be with you.


Weds 5th May  Fixed up a new starling box in the garden.   Checked both goldeneye boxes after last nights excitement - both female parents were present - one sat tight on her eggs, the other was already in the process of leaving when I arrived.   Held a meeting in our house to do with the wildlife week in June.   Bea and I retrieved the water shrew survey tubes from the golf course and from the river Nethy - also checked one of the local badger setts - all OK. 


Thurs 6th May   Red Squirrel in the garden.  Both blue tits in and out of the box.  Checked the tree creeper box (box 13) - no change, the two remaining eggs are still there but no sign of the birds.    Glimpsed a crested tit at the occupied box (box 7).   In the evening went to the badger hide with friends.  The pine marten was seen briefly but did not like the flash from our cameras.  Also saw three badgers.


Fri 7th May to Sun 9th May   Bea and I did the Mammal Identification Course at Kindrogan Field Studies Centre.  Very good, very busy and an exam at the end so very stressful at our age.  We thought we'd left all that behind many years ago.   We looked at skins, droppings and feeding signs and we trapped and examined small mammals and dissected owl pellets and scrutinised the contents under microscopes to identify the voles, shrews and mice that had been eaten (I identified mine as Donald, Joyce and Sidney).    Our tutor, John Haddow, was brilliant and worked with us well into the evening to give us all the best possible chance in the exam.   I was convinced we failed.


Mon 10th May   Crestie box 7 - I watched for an hour and eventually saw one of the parents leave the box carrying a small white sac - we've got chicks!!!!   2110 to midnight in the badger hide.   Saw one badger, a black grouse, a mouse, a vole and heard cuckoo and tawny owl.   One goldeneye box just had eggs in and the other had the female incubating.


Tue 11 May  Blue tits courtship feeding at the box.   Curlew still had 4 eggs on the gold course.  Crestie box 7 - opened the box (under license) to find six chicks.


Weds 12th May   Returned to box 7 and watched from a distance to make certain yesterday's visit did not disrupt things too much.   Observed two cresties coming back and forth with food so all appears to be well.   Worked on Power Point lecture for next week.   


Thurs 13th May   Curlews still on 4 eggs.   Both blue tits in and out of the box.   Evening, Bea and I to badger hide.   No badgers seen and the raided goldeneye box now just has seven eggs in it and seems to have been abandoned by the parent.   Saw wood mouse and two roe deer.


Fri 14th May replaced coconut and other food at the Grebe Car Park.   Checked all the small boxes in the forest (except box 7 - best left alone at this stage..   Box 13 now only has one tree creeper egg in it so something small has got in past my repairs and removed an egg - maybe the tree creepers are cleaning it out for another try.   Nothing else of significance to report - a bit disappointing.   Found a new badger latrine in an unexpected place and some pine marten dung not far away.   Heard woodpecker and roe deer.   Lucy squirrel in the garden.   2200 to badger hide on my own - watched a badger excavate its tunnel for half an hour.  Fell asleep and when I woke up most of the food I had put out was gone - the badgers or pine marten had sneaked up while I was a sleep.


Sat 15th Scottish Badgers Members day at Oatridge.   Unable to attend this time.    In the evening Bea and I practiced the night walk in the forest that we intend to do during Wildlife Week.


Sun 16th May    7 cold eggs in one goldeneye box - a heap of very warm eggs in the other.  You can't win them all.    Scruffy squirrel in the garden - not one of our regulars.   2 wood mice seen in our garden.  2100 to badger hide with 2 guests.   One badger seen twice briefly.


Mon 17th May  Scruffy squirrel and Lucy squirrel in the garden at different times.   Bob Proctor, RSPB came and we ringed the six crested tit chicks from box 7.   Wonderful stuff.   The chicks looked really good and will be leaving the nest in a week or so.  



 In the evening did the Wildlife of the Spey talk to an audience of more than forty people.


Tues 18th May   Gold Course curlew still on 4 eggs.   Wow!   An email from John Haddow to give us advance notice that Bea and I both passed the mammal identification exam with distinction !


Weds 19th May   Rusty and Scruffy squirrels in the garden together.   Rusty chased the other one away.  Checked goldeneye boxes - 7 cold eggs in one and a sitting duck in the other.  At the hide sett there was plenty of evidence of badger activity.   Took guests to the hide in the evening - saw an otter, a roe buck and two badgers.


Fri 21st May   Checked nest boxes in the wood.   In the process found badger and pine marten dung.   The box that had been "woodpeckered" had now lost all its eggs, but the chicks in the crested tit box were looking good.   At home our blue tits were now sitting on eggs or brooding chicks - could not tell which.    Went to the badger hide in the evening.   Two badgers seen - one of them a large active cub.


Sat 22nd May   Cleaned out the badger hide.


Sun 23rd May    Replenished the food at the grebe car park.    Four curlew chicks at the golf club had hatched.   Rooks were chasing them but the parent curlews were well in control.   Following a tip off from Pam Baird I found a new badger sett on farmland near the Speyside Way.   Four active tunnels and three unused plus a latrine not far away.    Signs of pine marten on the Speyside Way path.


Mon 24th May   Spoke to the farmer about the sett I found yesterday.   His response was quite hostile.   Pity, but that sort of negative attitude towards wildlife is commonplace among farmers and estate managers around here.    Crestie chicks still doing well.     Bea and I did a night walk on the golf course.   Not much wildlife seen but found 2 golf balls.


Tues 25th May   At the badger hide the goldeneye chicks had left the nest - must have happened within the last 36 hours.    In the afternoon Bea and I walked in the Mullingarroch woods to recce one of the activities for next week's wildlife festival.   Nice badger sett checked and lots of animals signs seen along the way.   A lovely walk.


Weds 26th May   All the crestie chicks have left the nest.   Great stuff.   At Abernethy golf club we saw all four of the curlew chicks.   They are already getting quite big so will soon be too much for a rook to cope with.   Badger hide in the evening - the predated goldeneye box still had seven cold eggs in it so the pine marten appears to have left the area.    Only one brief glimpse of a badger.


Thurs 27th May   Blue tits definitely have young in the nest.    Rusty, the rather dim squirrel, has finally learned how to open the nut box.


Fri 28th May   At least 2 red squirrels were here today.    Peepd into the blue tit box - a great heap of chicks.    Removed the goldeneye boxes from near the badger hide - was astonished to find the 7 cold eggs were now gone from the predated box.    The pine marten (or one of its pals) must have come back in the last 2 days to finish the job.


Sat 29th May   Scruffy the squirrel was here.


Sun 30th May   Made two new crestie-type nest boxes to replace the used ones that I will bring home for cleaning tomorrow.


Mon 31st May  Swapped the above nest boxes over and checked some of the other boxes - nothing to report.    It has not been the most successful of exercises this year compared with last year - swings and roundabouts.     Gave the talk "Wildlife of the Spey" in the Boat of Garten Village Hall


June 2004


Tues 1st June       Wood mouse in the garden under the shed.    At least two red squirrels in the garden - "Scruffy" at 0630, then at 0800 we had a very soggy "Lucy" eating nuts in the heavy rain.      One of the curlew chicks at Abernethy got eaten by a crow.  


Weds 2nd June  Took a researcher from Lion TV to see the badger hide in daylight.   In the evening took 5 guests to the hide.   3 adult badgers and 1 cub seen.


Thurs 3rd June  Took another 4 people to the badger hide - saw two adult badgers but no cub.


Sat 5th June   Attended SWT North Region committee meeting in Inverness.   In the evening took 4 guests the badger hide - only one badger seen.


Sun 6th June  Red squirrel in the garden.   Blue tits still taking food into the box.  Found a new badger latrine in the local woods.   Also found a pile of capercaillie feathers - sent them to the capercaillie project officer.


BOAT OF GARTEN WILDLIFE WEEK      7th to 11th June     (In conjunction with the Scottish Wildlife Trust)


Mon 7th June     The day began with a guided walk on the local moor.   Found skylarks, red shank, lapwings, a red shank nest, a predated lapwing egg and some buzzard or owl pellets.   In Happy Hour the kids had to find "Ten Favourite Things" and make a frog or toad card.   At home, our blue tits still had chicks in the nest.   We did a night walk starting at 2200 and saw signs of badger, capercaillie and red squirrel, and heard a roe deer barking.


Tues 8th June  Early morning watch in the Milton Loch Hide.   Saw heron, red squirrel, mallard and chicks, coots and blue tits in and out of the nesting box.  Later in the morning was nest box building workshop and in the afternoon it was a Bumble Bee session.   At various times during the day all three of our regular squirrels put in an appearance.   The children did a Bug Hunt and managed to find about 130 - some of which they managed to identify with help from a local expert.    At 2200 there was a badger watch at which one badger was seen for about half an hour.


Weds 9th June    Lucy squirrel was here at 0830 and the blue tit chicks were being fed in their box on and off all day.    Today's events in the wildlife week included a Scavenger Hunt, my talk "Wildlife of the Spey" in the Boat of Garten Village Hall, a late night walk on the golf course looking for bats and other night creatures, and a badger watch at which no badgers were seen but a fox turned up.


Thurs 10th June   Our blue tit chicks have fledged.    Wildlife week activities today were a woodland walk, pond dipping for the kids and "Moonlighting with Moths" during which we set out three moth traps.


Fri 11th June  Bea and I did a dawn walk in Mullingarroch Woods during which we saw three roe deer, pine marten scats and badger latrines, and various small birds.    Heard a crested tit but did not see it.   Got back in time for Moth Maths in which we emptied the traps and examined what we had caught.



At home, at least two of our regular squirrels had been in the garden.


Sat 12th June    Back to normal after the Wildlife Week.    Refilled the feeders at the Grebe Car Park, found fresh dung in the nearby badger latrine, checked some of the nest boxes (found several deer beds in the process) and found an occupied fox den with prey remains outside the entrance.


Sun 13th June   Took two people from Tain Field Club for a short walk in the woods looking for crested tits - failed to find any.   Discovered one of the bird feeders at the Grebe Car Park had been wrecked - pine marten?


Mon 14th June  Another peanut feeder at the car park had been wrecked.    Must build some stronger ones.    Saw a dead fox on the A95 near Boat of Garten.    Saw 2 red squirrels in Deshar Wood.   In the evening took 6 people to the badger hide.   At least two badgers seen.


Weds 16th June    Badger watch with 6 people 2150 to 2345 - 3 badgers seen including one cub.


Fri 18th June   We have seen a wood mouse by our shed every day this week - it is having a great time feeding in the seed bucket intended for the birds.    Repaired feeders for the Grebe Car Park.   


Sat 19th June   Badger watch with 4 guests 2145 to 2315 - 3 badgers seen.


Sun 20th June    Goldeneye duck count at Kincardine.   Only one 'brownhead' seen.    Repaired badger hide lights while in the area.   Had a look around the sett - the main latrine was empty, so the badger must have opened up a new one somewhere else (unless they are all very very constipated!!!!)


Mon 21st June   Lucy Squirrel was in the garden.     Saw a goldfinch at the Grebe Car Park.  Gave the talk "Wildlife of the Spey" in the Boat of Garten Village Hall.


Weds 23rd June   Checked all thirteen nest boxes in the wood.   No further action found at any of them.   Went to badger hide with 6 guests - 3 badgers seen, including one cub.


Fri 25th June   Cleaned out bird bath, added to the rotten wood pile and retuned a repaired feeder to the Grebe Car Park.   Made up another nest box.   2145 to badger hide with 4 guests - very good evening with 2 adults and one cub seen.


Sat 26th June  2330 to badger hide on my own.   Same action as yesterday - excellent.


Sun 27th June  Walk in Deshar wood.   Saw male capercaillie and a roe deer.   Found lots of deer beds.


Weds 30th June   Badger hide with 4 guests - possibly five or six badgers seen but could not be certain above three (too much coming and going in different directions).

July 2004

Thurs 1st July.   Bea and I checked two of the local setts.   Watched a badger excavating its tunnel with much shaking of its fur and clouds of sand and earth flying everywhere - hilarious !

Sat 3rd July  Scottish Badgers Exec Committee meeting in Dundee


Sun 4th July At least one red squirrel visited us today.


Mon 5th July   At least 2 squirrels today.   Spent much of the day working on admin for the Badger Conference.   Gave talk "Wildlife of the Spey" in the Boat of Garten Village Hall


Tues 6th July  More admin for Conference.   Caught a wood mouse in a 'live' trap in the garden - let it go and left some food out for it.   In the evening watched red deer at Dalnahaitnach.


Weds 7th July   Badger hide with 4 guests - 4 badgers in 1.5 hours of activity, including one badger collecting lots of grass for bedding.   Detected bats with the new Bat Detector.


Thurs 8th July  Bat detecting at Boat bridge - lots of them about.


Fri 9th July   Badger hide with 3 guests - at least 2 badgers - more than an hour of activity.


Sun 11th July  'Wildlife of the Spey' lecture at Spey Bay for Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society.  On the way there saw a dead fox on the road near Rothes.


Mon 12th July   Swept out the badger hide and topped up the peanut bin.   Went back there later with 2 guests - 2 adult badgers and one cub seen.


Weds 14th July   Topped up food at the Grebe Car Park - every feeder was empty.   Oops.


Fri 16th July  Collected dead badger from the road at Pityoulish and took it to SNH Achantoul on the way to catching the train for the journey to the NFBG conference at Giggleswick.


Fri - Sun 16th - 18th July   National Federation of Badger Groups Annual Conference at Giggleswick, Yorkshire.   Good weekend, meeting up with old badgering pals and making some new friends.  On the way home spotted a dead badger on the road at Lynwilg.


Mon 19th July   To badger hide with 2 guests.    4 badgers seen including the cub (now getting quite big).  Once again we saw bedding being collected and dragged into a tunnel.    Bea saw a brown rat in our garden that evening.


Tues 20th July   Most of the black headed gulls have left now and we are down to just one coming for its breakfast.    At midnight the brown rat was in our garden again and there was also a hedgehog.

Weds 21st July Only one blackheaded gull came for breakfast today. At 0930 I refilled the feeders at the grebe car park - only one had a few nuts in it - the rest were all empty.

Thurs 22nd July No blackheaded gulls came to breakfast today. That's it - they have all gone away for the winter. There were not as many as usual here this year to start with, but it is interesting to note that the last of them left on exactly the same day last year. The sparrows are still breeding - we watched a parent feeding young in the garden today. We also had at leat 2 different red squirrels today, and the brown rat put in an appearance in the garden again. At 2230 we went to Milotn Loch with the bat detector and got both pipistrelles and daubentons bats.

Sat 24th July 0830 checked the badger hide and found lots of fresh diggings. We then went off for a couple of days to find mammals to add to our list for the Mammal Society's July Mammal Challenge. At Chanonry Point we saw about a dozen bottle nosed dolphins, after which we drove west in the hope of getting porpoise in Loch Duich, but no luck. Spent the night in a local B and B.

Sun 25th July 1030 to 1230 on the shore at Glen Elg where we saw two otters (magic!) and both common and grey seals. On the way home called in at Coignafearn where we found feral goats. We also saw a dead badger on the A9 near the Fort Augustus turn off.

Mon 26th July gave a talk "Wildlife of the Spey" in the Boat of Garten Village Hall.

Tues 27th July Saw a barn owl at 2300 on the way home from a gig at Carrbridge.

Weds 28th July Did some admin for the Scottish Badgers Conference in November. Saw a song thrush in the garden (something of a rarity). Filled the feeders at the grebe car park. Saw a dead fox on the road near Loch Vaa. Bran Sanders from North Northants Badger Group came to see us and he helped me take a group to the badger hide where we saw at least two badgers, probably four. It is always hard to be sure because badgers are coming and going all evening.

Fri 30th July Andrew Thin, convenor of the Cairngorm National Park came to see me. We spent an hour and a half discussing wildlife issues relevent to the park, particularly those concerning forthcoming changes to the badger protection act and the new nature conservation legislation that is about to come into force. It was a very enjoyable and constructive discussion

Sat 31st July At least two different red squirrels visited the garden today. I filled up the feeders at the grebe car park again - most of the food I put out three days ago was gone.

As I have already mentioned, in the course of July we entered the Mammal Society Challenge to see how many different mammals we could see in the month. This is how we got on:

Place Seen
Boat of Garten
Red Fox
Roe Deer
Boat Golf Course
Brown Rat
Our Garden
Common Pipistrelle Bat
Boat Bridge
Common Shrew
Nethy Golf Course
Field Vole
Grey Seal
Glen Elg
Red Deer
Wood Mouse
Our Garden
Common Seal
Glen Elg
Daubenton's Bat
Milton Loch
Red Squirrel
Our Garden
Bottle Nosed Dolphin
Chanonry Point
Feral Goat
Glen Elg
Total Points


August 2004

Sun 1st Aug  To badger hide with friends.  Saw at least 3 badgers


Mon 2nd Aug    Examined badger damage on the local golf course.   They have been digging in the rough in search of food (mice, voles, cockchafer lavae etc) and the golf club are not best pleased.   Any suggestions how to deter them, please email me at .     We had two crested tits in the garden today.   Later I took 5 people to the badger hide - 2 badgers seen.


Tues 3rd Aug   Filled up the feeders at the grebe car park - all were empty.


Weds 4th Aug   Visited Cawdor estate with an officer from SNH and an estate representative to try and determine why some of the badger setts on the estate have been abandoned.   Nothing obvious found and it could simply be that the reduction in badger numbers in recent years has caused that particular clan to contract into a tighter group and pull back to their main sett on the edge of a nearby farm.   Later I went to the badger hide with Keith and Mrs Hopps from the Durham Badger Group and others - we saw 2 or 3 badgers.


Thurs 5th Aug  Checked all nest boxes in Deshar Wood.  One has been used as a roost but the others are unused.   Found pine marten droppings on one of the tracks.


Sun 8th Aug   Saw a red squirrel using the nut box that I had modified to try and defeat the rooks and jackdaws.  So far so good.    In the afternoon Bea and I went to the RSPB Fun Day at Forest Lodge.   Bea and I made the decision to concentrate more on practical conservation projects and have less to do with organisations that expend most of their energies in political lobbying.   We wish to get out there and actually DO SOMETHING for the birds and beasts.


Mon 9th Aug   Repaired another feeder for the grebe car park.    At least two red squirrels in the garden today.    Gave "Wildlife of the Spey" lecture in the Boat of Garten Village Hall.


Weds 11th Aug  The modifications to the feeders at the grebe car park have finally defeated the rooks and jackdaws - they have given up and not been seen in that area for a week or more.   Went to the badger hide with 6 guest - at least 2 and possibly 4 badgers seen.


Thur 12th Aug   Worked on the database.   In the afternoon met with the Cairngorms National Park LBAP Officer in Grantown on Spey to talk about LBAP issues, although the first hour was somewhat unfruitful due to a pointless stream of complaints by others at the meeting about the planning authorities - something that our kind host was in no position to do anything about.   


Fri 13th Aug   Finished bringing the database up to date.


Sun 15th Aug   At least 2 red squirrels in the garden today.   One of them (Lucy, we think) behaved as if ill, and lay down on the grass under a bush.   Eventually she got up rather groggily and meandered away.    At the time of writing this (30th Aug) we have not seen her since that day.


Mon 16th Aug   Set out some baited tubes at Loch Vaa and at Kinchurdy Pond for a water shrew survey.  Went to the badger hide with 6 guests - 2 badgers seen.   Started making out IPMR nest record cards for this season.


Tues 17th Aug   Continued with IPMR cards.


Weds 18th Aug   Prepared for SWT meeting and Badger Conference.   Continued with IPMR cards.    Crested tit in our garden.


Thurs 19th Aug   One red squirrel before breakfast - not Lucy.   Kestrel seen at 12th hole Boat of Garten golf course.


Fri 20th Aug   2 crested tits in the garden


Sat 21 Aug   Refilled feeders at the grebe car park.   They were not all empty, reaffirming that the corvids have given up.   Crested tit in the garden again, plus at least one squirrel.    To the badger hide with 6 guests - very wet evening - 2 badgers seen.  We found a new latrine beside a tunnel under a fence that separates two fields.  


Sun 22nd Aug   Swept out the badger hide and topped up the nut bin.   Did the scheduled goldeneye duck count - none seen.   Back to the badger hide at dusk with 5 guests - only 1 badger seen, but we glimpsed an otter in the river.


Mon 23rd Aug   2 crested tits in the garden plus one very small, very smart, red squirrel.   Gave talk "Wildlife of the Spey" in the Boat of Garten Village Hall.


Fri/Sat 27th/28th Aug   Scottish Wildlife Trust North Region Committee Meeting at Achiltibuie, a tour of part of the estate, the formal opening of the so-called "Posties Path" (after the refurbishment of its western section) and a Reception with the Coigach community.    During the weekend saw a pigmy shrew at the YHA, a buzzard at Achnacarinan, a vole (too quick to tell which sort) by Loch Osgaig and lots of ruined pearl mussel shells in the river at Badnagyle - no doubt the result of someone (illegally) trying to collect pearls.


Sun 29th Aug   Topped up feeders at the grebe car park.   


Mon 30th   Updated this web page.   Collected in the water shrew tubes from Loch Vaa and Kinchurdy Pond, emptied them and repositionedthem at Loch Mallachie and the burn near Cullachie farm.   Collected 2 dead badgers from the B970 within 50 metres of each other.  Terribly sad.


September 2004

1st to 9th Sept   Trip south to the TOGs Convention, then visited relatives before coming home.   Within half an hour of beginning our journey home from Colwyn Bay we passed lots of dead rabbits, a dead fox and 2 dead badgers along the A55.


Fri 10th Sept    Topped up the bird and squirrel food at home and at the Grebe car park.   Crested tits and red squirrels seen at both places.   Took a fresh supply of peanuts to the badger hide.   Saw a red deer near the hide.   The hide log book shows plenty of activity while we were away.

Sun 12th Sept    Did the Wildlife of the Spey Lecture to a German group from the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS) at Spey Bay.

Mon 13th Sept   Collected Water Shrew Survey tubes from Cullachie and Mallachie burns.   Some of the tubes had scats in them so they were sent off for analysis to see which sort of shrew produced them - fingers crossed for water shrew.   While at Cullachie we found an otter spraint.   Later I arranged for the Cairngorms National Park LBAP officer to come and see us at our house later in the month to see how we can coordinate our efforts with his and others.

Tues 14th Sept   Saw a dead fox on the road near Covesea, Lossiemouth.   In the evening Bea went to a red squirrel meeting in Carrbridge - I could not go (gig).

Weds 15th Sept  Took Rene Hockley Byam and hubby Ed from the North East Essex Badger Group to the badger hide 1945 to 2115.   Three badgers put in an appearance.

Fri 17th Sept   Topped up all the feeders at the grebe car park.   2 crested tits watched me do so.   We also had cresties in our garden today.

Sat 18th Sept    Took Roz Summers (a member of SWT North Region Committee) and hubby Andy and their two youngsters to the badger hide.   At least 3 badgers seen - probably 4 - possibly 5.

Sun 19th Sept   Topped up a neighbour's bird feeders and had the pleasure of seeing two cresties take immediate advantage.   Later went to our patch on the River Spey to count Goldeneye ducks.   None seen.

Mon 20th Sept    Began work to prepare for an owl pellet survey in our area.   In the evening to the badger hide with 3 guests, 2 of which had been earlier in the year and had not had a very good experience with us.   This was a very stormy evening so I feared it would be the same story but 3 badgers braved the weather and we had quite good evening after all.

Tues 21st Sept.  We were told of 5 dead small newborn mammals on the local golf course so we went to investigate.   We could not identify them so we will take them to SNH for an opinion - watch this space.   I watched a red squirrel in our garden in the afternoon.

Weds 22nd Sept  Repaired a broken feeder at the grebe car park and topped everything up again.   We had a meeting in our house with the National Park Biodiversity Officer Steven Corcoran.   Very interesting and enlightening - and also quite encouraging as Steven was very supportive of  the projects we have planned.

Thurs 23rd Sept Collected a manx shearwater from a local guest house. It had crash landed in Boat of Garten having been blown inland by the recent gales. Phoned Roy Dennis for advice, then put the bird in the garden shed for the night - I would return it to the sea in the morning.

Fri 24th Sept. Went first to SNH Aviemore and dropped off for identification the small dead mammal I picked up on Tuesday. Then went to Chanonry Point on the Moray Firth to release the manx shearwater. It all went rather well.......................

On the way home picked up a dead red squirrel from the road near Carrbridge in the hope of extracting blood to test for the parapox virus. Unfortunately most of it was on the road. Later I worked on preparations for tomorrow's meeting and the badger conference in November

Sat 25th Sept  Scottish Badgers Exec Committee meeting in Dundee.

Mon 27th Sept Received news of two badger road casualties at Altnahara. In the evening took two people to the badger hide. Heavy rain at times, nevertheless two or three badgers seen.

Weds 29th Sept. Spent all morning on admin for the badger conference. Re-filled the feeders at the grebeb car park.

Thurs 30th Sept. Red squirrel in the garden.

October 2004

Fri 1st Oct. Modified our squirrel feeder. Built a false front for crested tit boxes and took it into the woods to try it on some of the boxes. It fitted OK. Did some more work on the badger conference. In the evening took 2 people to the badger hide. It should have been six but four of the guests did not turn up. I phoned them later - they had forgotten but did not think it mattered much. Charming! Anyway - we had at least two badgers. Bit of a problem with the lighting system - suspect someone left a light on and drained the reserve battery. We'll see.

Sat 2nd Oct. Found a possible new badger sett on Nethy golf course - just an outlying single tunnel. Went to the hide and checked the battery situation after last night's problem. Seemed OK. Had a look around the sett. Plenty of digging and some fresh stuff in a latrine.

Sun 3rd Oct. Disected three barn owl pellets from near Easter Tulloch. Found the skulls of 5 field voles, 2 common shrews and a pygmy shrew.

Field Vole

Common Shrew

Mon 4th Oct. Contacted all Highland Badger Network people by email to try and get them to come to the conference. Worked on the HBN website. We had 3 crested tits in the garden around lunchtime - the most ever.

Tues 5th Oct. Checked badger hide sett and lights. All OK.

Weds 6th Oct. Two red squirrels in the garden today. Made arrangements for the Badger Hide to be brought under the safe umbrella of the Boat of Garten Wildlife Group (BoGWiG). That will protect its future if anything untoward should happen to me and the wife. Made a donation to BoGWiG and to Scottish Badgers from badger hide funds. Completed the upgrade to HBN website. Received news that badgers are damaging the newly laid green on the local golf course. Sought advice from other badger people and advised the greenkeeper to invest in an electric fence to protect the new green while it gets established. Collected piping in readiness to mount two goldeneye boxes on top of slippery poles to stop the pine martens from pinchng the eggs next year.

7th - 11th Oct. Long weekend away in South Wales.

Weds 13th Oct Re-filled all the feeders at the grebe car park - they were all empty. Went to the badger hide to make sure all was well. It was. Worked on the badger conference. Mid afternoon had a meeting with the John Muir Trust representative to see if our plans for BoGWig would qualify for an award. He said it probably would.

Fri 15th Oct. Nailed false fronts on 6 crested tits nest boxes to reduce the size of the entrance holes.

Sat 16th Oct.   Nailed false fronts on the rest of the crestie boxes.   Got soaked in the rain.  Took Sarah Hibbard and family to the badger hide. Saw at least one, probably two, badgers plus lots of bats and a barn owl. A very dark, quite windy and very wet evening.

Sun 17th Oct    Did the scheduled goldeneye duck count - none seen along my stretch of river. Several mallards though. Badger latrine by the middle fence was full, some of it containing what looked like undigested fungus. Yuk!

Mon 18th Oct. Checked badger hide sett. One of the upper spoil heaps is now a latrine. Checked another part of the estate for owl pellets - none found. Checked another badger sett - not much sign of activity - this sett is usually much busier. More evidence of a decline in the local population, I think.

Weds 20th Oct. Worked on admin for badger conference. Checked otter spraint site at Milton Loch - lots of fresh 'jelly'. Found fox dung near Drumuillie sawmill. Checked nearby otter holt - unoccupied at the moment. Checked Drumuillie badger sett - some signs of recent use but clearly not a permanent residence.

Fri 22nd Oct. More admin work for SB conference.

Sat 23rd Oct. Replaced broken bird feeder at grebe car park with a new one and re-filled all the feeders. 1820 to the badger hide with 4 guests. 2 badgers seen, several bats and a barn owl. The owl twice swooped out of a tree onto the ground, then lifted off again. It was very dark and we could not tell just by our dim electric lights if it caught its prey.

Mon 25th Oct. A local SNH staff member called at the house with a dead badger he had just picked up off the road opposite a major badger sett near Nethy Bridge. The deceased was a female weighing 15 kgs - a healthy animal indeed - apart from being dead of course. Spent another two hours on conference admin.

Tues 26th Oct. Checked badger hide. Had a job getting in because the padlock was frozen, then when I did get in I found one of the batteries was not charging up properly. It is a very old battery so we'll have to replace it. The local golf course still has badger issues because although the new electric fence around the re-turfed green is quite effective it does nothing to protect the many small areas around the course that will be returfed over the winter. A low chicken wire fence has been put around one such area and so far the badgers have left it alone, but I do not think it will keep them out for long. I walked the course to see for myself the extent of the problem in the hope of coming up with a solution. Most of the usual latrines are still in use and the access points around the perimeter fence are clearly being used. Back at home I emailed some golf courses around the country that appeared to have badgers present to ask if they had problems and if so what they were doing about them.

Weds 27th Oct. Spent a fruitless hour trying to photograph buzzards. In the afternoon Bea and I went to Kindrogan Field Studies Centre to meet Scottish Badgers chairman and the Kindrogan director to sort out the final details for the badger conference. While at Kindrogan the mobile ranng and it was a Strathspey estate owner who was calling to give his approval for me to erect two goldeneye nest boxes on smooth poles (to deter pine martens) near the badger hide. I am very grateful to him for his cooperation. Not so good - another phone call reported a dead badger near Forres. Later Bea and I received an invitation to help install crested tit nesting boxes in Anagach Woods near Grantown on Spey - we were delighted to accept.

Thurs 28th Oct. Continued with badger conference admin - it's not difficult but it's amazing how much time it all takes. A lady phoned to report a dead badger near Berwick.

Fri 29th Oct. A red squirrel came today - the first for nearly a week. Must've been something we said. It only took one of the six hazelnuts on offer in the box. I reckon it is finding plenty of food in the forest in this season of mists and mellow fruitfulness. Went and checked the badger hide - the old battery is still playing up. Tried again to get buzzard photos on the golf course but the rain came on and sent me running for cover. The red squirrel must have been back for a second breakfast - the nut box was empty when I got home. Two goldfinches paid us a visit today - this is only the second time we have seen that species here in the last five years. Found out on the internet about a badger repellant called Renardine - it might of use to the golf club so I'll pass the info to them next week. Finished the day with another two hours on the badger conference.

Sun 31st Oct. Removed the squirrel feeder from the grebe car park for cleaning and repair. Worked on a mailshot for the badger conference.


November 2004

Mon 1st Nov. Took Renardine info to the golf club secretary.

Tues 2nd Nov. Went to the badger hide with a member of SNH staff and a fellow enthusiast to decide exactly where to site the new goldeney duck nest boxes that we intend to mount on smooth poles to keep the pine martens from reaching them. We intend to paint them a dark colour to help them blend in once they are up. Returned repaired squirrel feeder to the grebe car park. Continued with badger conference admin.

Weds 3rd Nov. Got back up to date with conference admin. Bookings are still trickling in - numbers are now looking quite reasonable. Attend the AGM of Badenoch and Strathspey Conservation Group.

12th to 14th Nov. Scottish Badgers Annual Conference at Kindrogan Field Studies Centre, Perthshire. It had been a lot of work but the delegates all seem to have enjoyed themselves so it was worth it. Friday was arrival day for the weekend guests and in the evening we had a quiz in the bar. Saturday was the main conference day with lots of presentations and workshops, followed by the Scottish Badgers AGM and then a musical evening in the bar. Sunday morning we had a field trip - first to a badger sett then to some forest operations.

Mon 15th Nov. Began dealing with the aftermath of the conference.

Tues 16th Nov. 2 red squirrels at the grebe car park. Did the scheduled goldeneye count at Kincardine - none seen. Checked the hide badger sett - lots of fresh digging, some bedding at the tunnel entrances and four busy latrines.

Thurs 18th Nov. Walk in Deshar Woods with Simon Hawtin. We saw 2 cresties and a capercaillie and went to check some nest boxes and a badger sett.

Sat 20th Nov. Bea, Bill, Nancy, Chalrie and I put out eleven nesting boxes for crested tits in Anagach Woods, Grantown on Spey. Later Bea and I took Jane and Claire Arnold and their friend Babs to the badger hide. We saw two badgers.

Sun 21st Nov. Worked on badger hide stats for the year.

Mon 22nd Nov. Finished the stats and wrote the annual report. Managed to get most of it distributed by email before bed time.

Thurs 25th Nov. Checked golf course for reported badger damage to greens. Did not find any. Checked the sett by the 13th fairway. All four holes in use and a busy latrine by the fence. The club captain came along while I was doing this and he was most interested.

Mon 29th Nov. Filled all the feeders at the grebe car park. Took the goldeneye boxes and poles to the badger hide and assembled them. Found a new latrine. Later I continued with the paperwork from the badger conference. Went to a local hotel to discuss their needs for their wildlife garden. I will provide some nest boxes and they will organise a bird bath and provide hazelnuts for their squirrels. They may also leave some binoculars in the room facing the garden together with a log book and some bird identification literature for the guests to use. After that we went to the village hall to express our views on the forthcoming local plan - what should be built where and why not.

Tues 30th Dec. Gave the goldeneye boxes two coats of wood preserver.


December 2004

Weds 1st Dec.

Erected the two goldeneye boxes on poles at the badger hide. The idea is that the slippery nature of the poles will prevent pine martens climbing up and stealing the eggs.









Thurs 2nd Dec. Started building pine marten boxes to a complex and heavy-duty design that is reputed to be very popular with the animals due to its insulation and rainproof qualities. I hope they appreciate it - the wood costs a small fortune.

Fri 3rd Dec. Took Andrew Bateman and four ladies from Visit Scotland to the badger hide. We saw one badger.

Sat 4th Dec. Visit from a friend from the Highland Badger Network to speak about badgers in her area and some of the problems that she and others have experienced. Bea and I will do what we can to help. Later, I continued with the new pine marten nestbox.

Sun 5th Dec. Bea and I walked in Deshar Woods. We had four male capercaillie sightings (probably the same bird each time). Found a fox den with a capercaillie feather outside it. Found bird droppings inside one of the new nest boxes - a good sign. Found a badger latrine containing grain near the forest edge - goodness knows where the grain is coming from this far from any farm. We might have found a squirrel dray near the 'secret' path. There are a great many twigs jammed in the fork of a tree quite high up - I think too near the top for there to have been enough loose twigs above it to have formed such a large pile. Bad news - at the squirrel feeder someone has removed the front perspex panel. This sort of vandalism is uncommon around here and it comes as a bit of a shock to find we are not totally immune, even here. On the walk home we collected all the litter we could find - almost filling the large black plastic bin bag we had brought with us for the purpose. Not far from home we found a dead roe deer beside the road and a dead mouse in an empty crisp packet that was partly filled with water. Back at home I began building a new website for the village wildlife group (BoG-WiG) as part of a website design course I am doing.

Mon 6th Dec. Painted the pine marten nest box and three bird boxes I had prepared for the Boat Hotel.

Tues 7th Dec. More painting.

Weds 8th Dec. Topped up the grebe car park feeders. They were still far from empty so the birds and squirrels are finding plenty of wild food to eat.

Thurs 9th Dec. Built a bird nest box with an empty rear panel to fit on my office window so that I can watch and photograph the birds from inside if they use it.

Fri 10th Dec. Attended the Scottish Badgers Executive Committee Meeting in Perth. Had to leave before the end to catch my train home.

Sat 11th Dec. Put the finishing touches to the pine marten nesting box and made preparations to install it near the badger hide next day.

Sun 12th Dec. Bea and I put up the pine marten box in a tree near the badger hide.

The badgers seem to be quite active at the moment, judging from all the fresh dung in their latrines.

We had a packed lunch in the hide and while we were there we did the scheduled goldeneye duck count on that stretch of river. We saw one male and one 'brown-head'.

Tues 14th Dec. Installed a nest box on the outside of the glass of my office window. It will need some kind of backboard on the inside of the glass with a spy hole in it before Spring. Watch this space. Checked the Grebe Car Park - plenty of food still there.

Weds 15th Dec. Worked on Highland Badger Network (HBN) database.

Thurs 16th Dec. Went to Ross-shire to check on a badger sett on ground reported to be owned by people hostile to wildlife. Found nothing untoward.

Sat 18th Dec. I went to the badger hide on my own in sub-zero temperatures (-2C). There was quite a bit of snow about too. One badger poked its head out of the sett, sniffed the air and quite sensibly went back to bed. Later that night it got down to minus 14 degrees centigrade.

Sun 19th Dec. Severe frost most of the day. Topped up food at the Grebe Car Park - there was a tree creeper and several coallies present. No squirrels. Spent much of the morning on the HBN database again.

Mon 20th Dec. There were 3 robins in the garden this morning. They chased each other around a bit but by lunchtime their heart was no longer in it.

Tues 21st Dec. Had a walk on the Boat of Garten Golf Course in shallow snow - quite good for footprints. No badger prints found anywhere but lots of other animals including red deer, roe deer, rabbit, hare, fox, people (boots, skis and a sledge!) and dogs. The sett on the course showed signs of current occupation but no badgers had emerged during the previous night.

Weds 22 Dec. Happy Birthday to me. We conducted the BTO early bird watch and submitted our findings on-line just before the deadline. The details were: Start Time 0745. Daybreak 0820. End of watch 0915. Species arrival times: Robin 0831, Dunnock 0832, Chaffinch 0841, House Sparrow 0854, Blackbird 0903, Greenfinch 0904, Coal Tit 0909 and Jackdaw 0914.

Thurs 23rd Dec. Completed the Boat of Garten Wildlife Group (BoGWiG) website and uploaded it. Click here to pay a visit.

Sat 25th Dec. Merry Christmas to one and all. Woke up to a blizzard. Unfortunately - when I went into the garden to rescue the bird food from under the snow I accidentally scared off a red squirrel. Happily he did not stay away long and ate nuts, seeds and apple for more than an hour - much of which time he spent in the seed bucket sheltered from the storm. Later, did some more work on BogWiG website.

Sun 26th Dec. Worked on the backboard for my window nest box. Bea and I went for a walk in the melting snow. We found otter tracks and badger tracks. The otter had come out of the river, walked along the bank and then either did a complicated manoevre in and out of the water or had been joined by another otter.

Tues 28th Dec. Watched a vole run across the road just north of Blair Atholl.

Fri 31st Dec. Walked in Deshar Woods. Saw 2 cresties, a treecreeper, lots of coallies,a male capercaillie and a goldcrest. Also saw signs of activity at two badger setts.