Cairngorm Wildlife Diary for 2005

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 2005

The winter weather, refurbishing 2 bedrooms, the new year festivities and a decent recovery period thereafter meant that not much in the way of wildlife stuff happened for the first week of the new year.

Thurs 6th Jan. Meeting at the Forestry Office at Glenmore with Miranda Whitcomb to discuss the setting up and running of a nature club at the local primary school. Looks hopeful.

Sun 9th Jan. Bea and I walked in Deshar Wood in melting snow. We wore wellies - a bit unusual for us but the conditions warranted it. We also need to get used to walking in wellies in preparation for a couple of courses we expect to be going on this year. We put out more food at the Grebe Car Park and noticed that the Grebe Pond had formed properly this winter following all the wet weather. Fingers crossed that it will remain long enough for the birds to breed this year - something that has not happened for quite a while. We found yet another squirrel dray near the one we found on 5th December. Checked a couple of badger setts - one of which was completely submerged in the edge of Loch Roid. Not really a problem because the badgers have plenty of alternative setts in the nearby forest. There were several mallards and three goldeneye ducks (2 males, one female) on the loch.

Mon 10th Jan. I went to the badger hide on my own for an hour in drizzly cold weather. No badgers seen.

Fri 14th Jan. Found a brand new latrine near the badger hide. Checked another sett in the area and found at least four active tunnels. Topped up the feeders at the grebe car park. The apples I left there two days ago were gone. 1900 - meeting at our house of BogWig, the Boat of Garten Wildlife Group. It was well attended and those present were enthusiastic about the aims of the group across a wide range of wildlife projects.

Sun 16th Jan. We cautiously checked out the badger hide again - anxious that all is well during the 'closed' winter period when one of the females might be pregnant and in the process of choosing the sett in which her cubs will be born. Undue disturbance at this time could be bad news.

Fri 21st Jan. Bea and I walked in Deshar woods in light snow showers. Quite a few trees had fallen during recent storms - mostly dead ones but also a few live ones.

Sat 22nd Jan. Worked on an upcoming wildlife lecture presentation for the village. Finished building a new squirrel feeder.

Sun 23rd Jan. Installed the new squirrel feeder at the grebe car park, put out some apples and topped up the peanuts and seeds. The snow was quietly melting.

Mon 24th Jan. 0900 to 0930 sat watching to see if the squirrels were using the new lift-the-lid feeder. The only squirrel I saw was using a bird feeder. 1100 to 1130 I crept up to the badger hide and installed a large peanut feeder for the local birds. While there I noted that all the main tunnel entrances near the hide were in current use with remnants of dropped bedding on view and freshly dug spoil heaps. Checked the pine marten box for signs of use - none so far. Removed the oldest battery from the hide for checking at the local garage later - it is probably beyond repair. (This was later confirmed).

Tues 25th Jan. Made and installed a mealworm feeder for the robin in our garden. The robin needed no coaxing - he was in it up to his ears in no time. On the way to the evening's gig we saw a badger going through a gate beside the road only a mile from our house.

Weds 26th Jan. Watched a red squirrel at the new feeder. It had not learned to lift the lid yet but was managing to get peanuts through the bottom grill. Once it learns about the lid it will be rewarded with hazel nuts. There was also a crested tit in the area. The grebe pond has filled to overflowing after all the rain and snow this winter so maybe we will have breeding slavonian grebes once more this year. For the past two or three years the pond has not formed properly so the grebes have stayed away. At 1500 I installed a hastilly-built pine marten feeding table near the new nesting box and placed an egg and an apple on it in the hope of enticing pine martens to stay in the area and maybe eventually breed. Removed the battery cabinet from the hide and took it home for modification before buying a new larger battery to replace the old one. Collected some fallen birch branches for our wild log pile in our garden. Later I returned with the modified cabinet. The weather was wet and drizzly - ideal for badgers. At 1815 watched a very fat badger nosing around the field margin - it was quite unaware of my presence and I waited till it was well away before heading back to the car as quietly as I could.

Thurs 27th Jan. Meeting with Alan Smith to clarify the requirements for our John Muir Trust Award project. !940 - Bea and I to the badger hide briefly to see if the egg and apple had been taken yet from the pine marten table. They had not.

Fri 28th Jan. More work on the wildlife presentation already mentioned above, then prepared maps and equipment for a day of fieldwork tomorrow.

Sat 29th Jan. A long day in the woods. First a bike ride to Loch nan Carriagean to put out four water shrew survey tubes baited with dried meal worms. Then bike to the south edge of our John Muir Award (JMA) survey area to walk through the woods from east to west, then north to Loch Vaa, then diagonally back to our start point. At first it was pine forest with heather and blaebury undergrowth but that gave way to birch scrub with some juniper among grazed rough pasture near Loch Vaa, where we also found a few granny pine trees. We found capercaillie droppings in several places - mostly on old tree stumps as if they were being used as favourite roosting sites. Not many birds were seen but coal tits could be hear in parts of the forest. We saw three buzzards over the fields at the south west corner of our route and in the same area we came across two piles of fox droppings. Rabbit and roe deer droppings were evident everywhere. Strangely we did not find any pine cones stripped by squirrels, neither did we see a squirrel, though I did once see a red squirrel beside Loch Vaa a few years ago. Arrived home at 1500 hours. In the evening did a quick check of the pine marten table - the egg and apple were still untouched.

 

February 2005

 

Tues 1st Feb. Brief meeting with Miranda Whitcomb from the Forestry Commission about the new Nature Club at Deshar School. We will provide some support in preparation for and during some of the sessions.

Weds 2nd Feb. Checked the pine marten table at the hide. The egg and apple were still there so I put them on the ground and put fresh ones on the shelf. The badger loo was well stocked! I then walked the first half of the Sluggan track to collect animal signs for a lecture - I got fox, pine marten and red deer droppings. I also nearly lost my binoculars. Checked the Milton sett whilst in the area - very busy. Bea and I checked the new squirrel feeder at the grebe car park and the squirrels still had not worked out how to lift the lid so we propped it open a little way to give them a hint. We also put out some fresh apples, which seem to be very popular with the squirrels. We then went looking for nearby wood ant nests for Miranda to use with the school Nature Club but there was nothing within easy reach. We found two within about ten minutes walk of the main road but to get to them involved muddy tracks and awkward undergrowth.

Thurs 3rd Feb. Drove to Glasgow University to collect some second hand microscopes which the Zoology department sold to the Boat of Garten Wildlife Group cheaply for our owl pellet survey. I am very grateful to Mike Hansell and his staff. They kindly showed me round the National Nest Reference Collection while I was there and it was pleasing to see some of the crested tit nests that I supplied over the last two years serving a useful purpose. Mike said he would also be pleased to receive the contents of Goldeneye Duck nest boxes at the end of the breeding season. In the evening I checked the pine marten shelf (a roe deer watched me do so) - the eggs and apples remained untouched. On the way home I found that propping the grebe car park squirrel feeder open had worked - some of the hazel nuts were gone. Both new apples were half eaten. In the evening Bea and I finalised our response to a consultation on badger rehabilitation.

Fri 4th Feb. Whilst continueing my search for animal signs I found an osprey nest that had been wrecked by the winter storms. I phoned Roy Dennis but he already knew about it and was of the opinion that there was enough of the superstructure left for the birds to cope when they arrive home. Collected more red deer and fox dung and some feathers from a long-dead osprey chick. In the afternoon made some more adjustments to the grebe car park squirrel feeder, took some photos at Milton Loch and found some otter spraint at the loch outlet.

Sat 5th Feb. One of the eggs at the badger hide had been taken but the apples were still there.

Sun 6th Feb. An apple has been taken at last at the badger hide. Bea and I replaced the egg and apple. There were lots of badger footprints in the melting snow and we were able to trace much of where they had been and what they had been up to.

Mon 7th Feb. Took a visiting wildlife enthusiast on a guided walk in the woods. At last the squirrels have lifted the lid of the feeder and takne the nuts. We then visited a squirrel drey, some nest boxes and a badger sett. At the sett we found cat footprints - too far from human habitation to be a domestic cat. The wood ants nest near the sett was totally inactive, having been quite active four weeks ago. A check on www.strathspeyweather.co.uk revealed that it was now much colder than then. The lochside badger sett reported on 9th Jan to be partly submerged was now fully under water, as was a sett in a nearby hollow. Other setts in the area were still well above the rising water table so no problem. On the way home we saw a woodcock and a roe deer. Later at the badger hide the egg had gone again but the apple was still there. I found fox dung in the neighbouring field so our egg-eater might be the fox.

Tues 8th Feb. Five hazel nuts were missing from the squirrel feeder so maybe they have finally learned about the lid. The small badger sett on the Boat golf course is clearly in current use judging from the footprints going in and out of the main entrance. Spoke to the head greenkeeper and he told me the badgers had stopped digging up the new greens and the freshly laid turfs elsewhere on the course - thank goodness for that. In the afternoon Bea and I walked to Loch Roid to lay out some water shrew survey tubes baited with dried meal worms. On the way we found an outlier badger sett we did not previously know about. The loch was very high so if it retreats in the summer it may be worth repeating the exercise.

Weds 9th Feb. Worked on a lecture presentation all morning. In the afternoon Bea and I put out two sets of four water shrew survey tubes in the Carrbridge area. On the way home we checked the squirrel feeder and all the hazelnuts were gone again - they really do seem to have cracked it. We then went for a walk to look for more ant nest - nothing found. At dusk I went to the badger hide - again the egg had been eaten (broken shell was lying all over the place). Was it the fox or the badger or ????? We will no doubt find out once the risk of disturbing a pregnant badger has gone and we can come and watch in the evenings once more.

Thurs 10th Feb. Intended to go looking for otter spraints this morning but a blizzard put paid to that. Worked on the beaver website instead. In the afternoon Bea and I went to check the squirrel feeder and were told by a local lady that she had seen a pine marten at the feeder in broad daylight (or as broad as it gets) one Sunday afternoon in early January.

Fri 11th Feb. Visited the badger hide. 3 roe deer in the field. Replaced the egg and apple but still no sign of the pine marten.

Sat 12th Feb. We set off on foot to collect water shrew tubes from Loch nan Carraigean. On the way we topped up hazelnuts at the grebe car park and replaced the apple. We also found more ant nests and some capercaillie droppings on the main track. At the loch our tubes had suffered from the wet weather - 2 were half submerged and the other two were just at the waters edge. We could see that none had been used by small mammals because the meal worms were still in there. On the way home we diverted to a badger sett near Loch Vaa. The holes did not appear to have been used lately but there was an active latrine beside one of them so at least one badger is claiming possession. We found an outlier tunnel a hundred metres away and in the same place the remains of lots of pine cones that had been eaten by red squirrels.

Sun 13th Feb. Walked to the squirrel feeders at the grebe car park in a raging blizzard. Not a bird or a squirrel to be seen - hardly surprising. Went back to bed to warm up. At Kincardine I did the Goldeneye Duck count but there were none to be seen - again, no surprise considering the weather. The wind had been so strong it had lifted the pine marten's egg and the apple up and over the half-inch high rim of the shelf they were on. The snow provided a soft landing and the egg was unbroken. Went back to the grebe car park later and replaced the hazelnuts.

Mon 14th Feb. Went to the squirrel feed early and watched a squirrel lifting the lid to get at his hazelnuts - visual confirmation that the squirrels really are doing it themselves and not being robbed by some other animal. Today was Valentines Day and the start of national nestbox week. Roddie Jamieson and I chose that day to put up three nest boxes in the garden of the Boat Hotel - the press photographer was there to record the occasion and we got our picture in the paper a few days later. At the badger hide I put up a tit nest box and replaced the egg and apple in the usual way. Footprints in the snow told the story of much badger activity around the hide so that bodes well for badger watching this spring. I found a spraint on the river bank near the hide and at first thought it was otter. However, when I got it home and put it under the microscope the smell hit me - definitely a mink!

Tues 15th Feb. Meeting with Miranda to discuss the Nature Club meeting on Thursday.

Weds 16th Feb. Topped up squirrel feeder at grebe car park with lots of hazelnuts. At the badger hide all the food on the ground was gone again and had been replaced by a fox dropping, which confirmed what we had already suspected. Plenty of fresh dung in the badger latrines - all is well. In the afternoon I drove to Forfar to give a talk on the Wildlife of the Cairngorms National Park to the North Tayside Badger Group. For added interest I also did a quiz on animal signs which involved identifying the contents of a number of transparent plastic containers (droppings, feathers, hair, and feeding remains) and saying which bird or animal was responsible. Everyone seemed to enjoy it so it will be worth repeating at other talks.

Thurs 17th Feb. On the way home I spotted a dead badger on the A9 near Aviemore. In the afternoon Bea and I helped Miranda with the first session of the brand new Nature Club for the kids at Deshar School. The main events were jam-jar hibernation and a scavenger hunt - great fun.

Fri 18th Feb. Put out yet more hazelnuits out for the squirrels at the grebe car park and an egg and an apple for the fox/pine marten/badger at the badger hide. More fox dung had appeared.

Sat 19th Feb. More food for the squirrels, then went to B&Q to finalise pricing for pine marten nest boxes. Our original estimate of £34 per box for materials is still looking about right. Went to Homebase to buy a small three-drawer unit in which to breed mealworms.

Sun 20th Feb. We started our mealworm breeding unit. Nothing but the best for our local robin. We cleared out part of the airing cupboard, installed a small heater to keep the temperature constant and left nature to take its course. Fed the birds and squirrels at the car park - lots of tits there including cresties. Worked on next week's lecture presentation all afternoon - nearly finished. At the badger hide lots of small birds in evidence now that there is a feeder there. Found fox dung along the river bank.

Mon 21st Feb. Awoke to three inches of snow which put paid to our plans to retrieve some water shrew tubes. Updated the BoGWiG website.

Tues 22nd Feb. Collected wood from the local saw mill for nest boxes. Went to badger hide and found fox and badger footprints in the snow. Replaced the egg and the apple.

Weds 23rd Feb. A starling investigated the sparrow gallery on our shed. Spent the day at Glenmore Lodge on the John Muir Award "Introduction To The Scottish Outdoor Access Code" course. It was an interesting day with all sorts of exercises and we learned quite a lot about how the code is supposed to work and how this can be shared with others whenever outdoor activities take place. Went to B&Q to buy the rest of the wood for the nest boxes.

Thurs 24th Feb. Topped up food at the grebe car park. Actually, I am fed up with keep saying the same thing about the grebe car park and the badger hide. In future I'll comment once per week - usually that I have topped up the grebe car park feeders almost every day and replaced the egg and apple at the badger hide every other day. To continue - lots of badger prints in the snow near the hide and three cormorants on the river. In the afternoon Bea and I attended the Highland Squirrel Group meeting in Dingwall. Got home to find the squirrel had been in our garden - footprints in the snow and all the hazelnuts gone.

Fri 25th Feb. Discovered today that the squirrels prefer apples to pears. Badgers like both. Heard a woodpecker hammering out his message near the badger hide. Bea cleaned out her mealworm farm. Set off for Edinburgh prior to tomorrow's course on water shrew scat analysis. Before going however we attempted (more in hope than anger) to find the shrew tubes we had put out two weeks previously. Despite the snow we did manage to find seven of the eight tubes so we would be taking some scats to the course after all. We also took our newly acquired microscopes.

Sat 26th Feb. Water Shrew Scat Analysis Course at the research department of Edinburgh Zoo. There were twelve of us students and one tutor (Stewart). Our scats were from both shrews and voles but not water shrews. Telling the difference was very difficult and we will not be able to do our own analysis fully for some time yet. However, we can probably now tell the difference between rodents and insectivors.

Sun 27th Feb. 2 starlings went into our starling box. 6 sparrows also looked at the starling box but then two had a look into the sparrow gallery. One male sparrow was seen collecting nest material. Bea and I rehearsed our talk for tomorrow, then I spent the evening building another tit nestbox.

Mon 28th Feb. 2 blue tits investigated the sparrow gallery - spring is really in the air. Spent the morning making a second tit nestbox, then painted both. Collected rusty wire from the woods with which to make hoops for pegging down water shreww tubes. In the evening we did our talk "What Not Who Lives In Boat of Garten". There were 30 people there including us.

March 2005

Tues 1st March. Another sparrow collecting nest material. We were visited by another squirrel. Lifted half of the badger hide carpet to let the floor dry out.

Weds 2nd March. Walked the very snowy Boat golf course. Saw fox and roe deer prints but not badger. At the grebe car park photographed crested tits and tree creepers.

Thurs 3rd March. Met with Miranda to discuss the next meeting of the school's Nature Club. We will be doing something with rocks and fossils.

Fri 4th March. With Sue Murray we went to re-do two water shrew survey sites, both near Carrbridge. On the way home we checked the Docharn badger sett. Ten active holes and a busy latrine so all seems well.

Sun 6th March. Took more photos of forest birds and noticed that out on the moor lapwings have arrived.

Mon 7th March. Went to SNH to talk to staff about various things from badgers and pine martens to capercaillies and goldeneye ducks - quite fruitful. In the afternoon Bea and I went to Loch Roid to collect our water shrew tubes. No scats in any of them so for some reason small mammals are avoiding that area. On the way we examined a wood ant nest and it has become active in the slightly warmer weather. Later I worked on another pine marten nest box.

Weds 9th March. Photo session at the grebe car park - GS woodpecker, crested tits, tree creepers. At home, two house sparrows made themselves at home in the starling nest box and began nest building. Later some starlings evicted them. Wrote various letters to do with licenses and siting of nestboxes on estate land. Updated BoGWiG website.

Thur 10th March. The battle for ownership of the starling nest box continued again - and again the sparrow lost. Purchased a new battery in Inverness for the badger hide lights - then on the way home there was a red kite above the A9. Later we had the second session of the Nature Club/Watch Group at the primary school - this time it was all about fossils and rocks and the kids had a whale of a time making plaster casts of amonites. What a lovely mess.

Fri 11th March. The weather was snowy, icy and windy so I spent the day in the workshop making bird feeders and squirrel feeders.

Sat 12th March. Replaced the old feeders at the grebe car park with the new ones. The new designs will hopefully reduce the chance of food getting stuck in corners and going rotten. Time will tell.

Sun 13th March. More of the same with the bird feeders.

Tues 15th March. Photo session at the grebe car park - all the usual suspects. There was a sparrow hawk in a neighbour's garden.

Weds 16th March. Lots of admin to prepare for the badger watching season. New guides instructions and map and new log book layout. At the hide I installed the new battery and did some painting at the access stile and along the fence. Back at home I finished building a pine marten box.

Thurs 17th March. Painted the pine marten box and modified our garden squirrel feeder.

Fri 18th March. Our first black headed gull arrived for the summer - pretty much on time compared with previous years. Photo session at grebe car park - most of the usual candidates were there, but no crested tits. Now that the weather is warmer, are they away establishing their territories for the breeding season? I'll have to go round and check my boxes soon. The sparrows began to investigate the tit nestbox fixed to my office window. I thought the hole would be too small but they squeezed in. Bea and I collected water shrew tubes from Inverlaidnan and Crannich burns. Some scats were present so we will have a close look at them once they have dried out. Had a close look at what is probably a narrow headed wood ant nest and obtained a map reference to pass on to the Scottish Wildlife Trust who are the lead body for that species. This week I replaced the eggs apples and hazelnuts at the grebe car park and the badger hide on alternate days.

Sat 19th March. Feverish activity at the office window nestbox today. I attended the Scottish Wildlife Trust North Region Committee meeting while Bea went to the Highland Biological Recording Group meeting. Unfortunately this meant I could not go to the Scottish Badgers Executive Committee meeting this time. We are now on so many committees and there are so many meetings that we simply cannot go to all of them.

 

After dark I could not resist sliding the rear panel of the office window nestbox back to have a peep - the sparrows are remarkably well advanced with their nest building in such a short time.

 

Sun 20th March. Along with our friends Bill and Nancy, Bea and I cleaned out and repainted the badger hide and also painted the goldeneye boxes and their poles.

 

 

Mon 21st March. Took a supply of peanuts and the new logbook to the badger hide in readiness for the first badger watch of the season later this week. Went looking for slavonian grebes on our local grebe pond - none seen.

Tues 22nd March. Sent scats from shrew tubes to Mammal Society. There were curlews on the Nethy golf course today - I hope they have a family there again.It would be the fourth consecutive year.

Weds 23rd March. In the morning I put the carpet back down at the badger hide. While there I watched a blue tit investigate the nest box and also saw a stoat run across the lower sett. At midday we had a red squirrel in the garden. In the afternoon Bea and I went looking for suitable sites for trapping small mammals in the local woods. A large male capercaillie flew out of the trees by a clearing that we were checking out and at a nearby bog there were lots of caper droppings. We also found caper droppings on several old tree stumps in the area so there is clearly a serious caper population there. Later we received a phone call to say there was a dead badger lying in a field at Pityoulish.

Thurs 24th March. Checked the badger hide and read the log book to see how the first trip of the season had gone the previous evening. They had seen 2 badgers. In the afternoon Bea and I went to look for the dead badger. We found it eventually but not before discovering a fox den and two badger setts that we had not previously known about. The injuries to the dead badger were consistent with it having been hit by a car - even though the nearest road was a kilometre away. It must have wandered around for some time before succumbing to its injuries, poor thing.

Fri 25th March. Spent the morning putting the finishing touches to my osprey lecture for next day. Arranged a training session for RSPB staff who will be taking people to the badger hide this year. Spoke to a police sergeant about a reported badger sett incident in his area. Spent the afternoon building a new sparrow gallery - a bit late in the season but you never know. In the evening Bea and I went to the badger hide and saw 2 badgers.

Sat 26th March. Completed and painted the sparrow gallery. Went to Spey Bay and gave the osprey lecture at the wildlife centre. Apparently ospreys had been seen there earlier in the week so we watched for a while just in case, but it was freezing cold so did not stay long. Arranged for the WDCS staff to come and do a training session at the the badger hide.

Sun 27th March. Put the new sparrow gallery up on the porch. This week I replaced the egg and apple at the badger hide and the apple and hazelnuts at the grebe car park roughly every other day. A slavonian grebe was seen at the grebe pond today.

Mon 28th March. Went with the police to a badger sett where interference had been reported. Cannot say more at this point. In the evening I took three RSPB staff to the badger hide for their annual training session. We saw three badgers.

Weds 30th March. Spent most of the day sawing wood for pine marten nest boxes.

Thurs 31st March. Saw the slavonian grebe for myself. I stayed around at the grebe car park for a while and was rewarded with the chance to take pictures of a squirrel eating an apple and then going in and out of the hazelnut feeder.

 

April 2005

Fri 1st April. Spent the morning building a pine marten nest box. In the evening I took some WDCS staff members for a training session at the badger hide. A super evening.

Sat 2nd April. Bea and I watched a squirrel in our garden lift nearly a whole apple in its mouth and carry it out of the gate, round the end of the house, across the close and up into its favourite tree. The average red squirrel weighs about 280 grams and that batch of apples weighed roughly 120 grams each so the squirrel was carrying nearly half its body weight up the tree. Most of us could not even lift half our body weight, much less climb a tree with it.

Sun 3rd April. A starling checked out the starling box, then a blue tit checked the same box. The blue tit then went up to the window nest box which already contains a sparrow nest. Nice to see them all prospecting for nest sites - I hope they sort it out between them without too many ruffled feathers. Later I replaced the egg and apple at the badger sett. In the evening Bea and I checked out a local badger sett. All seemed well with five active tunnels, eight inactive tunnels and a busy latrine.

Mon 4th April. Painted the new pine marten box and built yet another bird feeder. Replaced the old feeder at the badger hide with the new one. Later I went back to the badger hide for a photo session on my own. There were four badger - and this was one of them.

Weds 6th April. Painted pine marten nest box. Meeting at our house with the local biodiversity chap. In the evening to the badger hide with 6 guests - 3 badgers seen.

Sat 9th April. Replaced egg and apple at the badger hide. Repeated this every other day for the next week.

Sun 10th April. Replaced the food at the grebe car park, then did a check of all the crested tit nest boxes. Very encouraging - 8 of the 13 boxes had been fully or partially excavated and two of them were lined with moss.

Mon 11th April. Meeting to plan the next Nature Club for the primary school. Then we put out four mammal traps at a not-very-promising site near the school. In the evening took a local guide to the badger hide. 2 badgers seen, plus a goldeneye duck going into one of the nest boxes on a pole. Great stuff. Checked the mammal traps just before bed - no luck.

Tues 12th April. Checked the traps several times today - nothing. Topped up food at the badger hide and saw the goldeneye duck fly out of her box. Briefed the RSPB staff re the goldeneye duck in readiness for their visit tonight.

Weds 13th April. Checked the traps several times - one had been stolen so I removed the others. Red squirrel in the garden. Three starlings in and out of the starling box. Delivered two pine marten nest boxes to Bunchrew for local use. Took 6 people to the badger hide in the evening. We watched a duck come out of the other box so they are now both in use. Marvellous!

Thurs 14th April. Installed a bird and squirrel feeder at the Abernethy Golf Club. Nature Club at the shcool was a bout pitfall traps and small mammal traps. The kids also planted some wild plant seeds in pots. Any that grow will be planted out in the community garden.

Fri 15th April. Badger road victim on the B970 near Pityoulish.

Sun 16th April. Worked on database all day.

Sun 17th April. Another dead badger - this time on the A9 near Aviemore. Went to Bamff to see the beaver set-up. Paul Ramsay first showed us the wild boar then took us round the first of two beaver areas. He then gave us a presentation about beavers before lunch. In the afternoon we visited the other beaver area. Bea and I were delighted to hear that the beaver lodge that Paul, Roy Dennis and us had built in preparation for the beavers' arrival in November 2001 was back in favour with the beavers, having been spurned at an early stage in favour of a lodge that they dug for themselves. We learned more stuff about beavers we did not know before and also saw a graphic example of how the beavers' love of eating aspen causes aspen to spread over a much wider area than it previously occupied in a very short space of time. Aspen lovers please note!

Mon 18th April. Replaced egg and apple at the badger hide and the food at the grebe car park every other day this week. Three pairs of goldeneye duck on the river near the hide. Red squirrels in our garden twice today.

Tues 19th April. Worked on database most of the day. Blue tits nest building in the new sparrow gallery.

Weds 20th April. Database again - I really should not let it get so far behind. With a bit of luck I'll get caught up by this time next week. In the evening took a party from the Highland Biological Recording Group to the badger hide. Magical evening with at least three badgers on view.

Thurs 21st April. Another dead badger on the A9 - this time near Pitlochry. Called in at the Loch of the Lowes - the osprey pair have eggs.

Fri 22nd April. Spent the day at Glen Elg looking for otters. None seen. Yet another dead badger by the road - this time at Garve. The poor things are getting knocked down wholesale.

Sat 23rd April. Blue tits are now building nests in two of the sparrow gallery boxes - not very bright, this pair. In the afternoon we did a survey in part of Deshar Wood. Mostly mono culture Scots Pine with heathers and blaeberry-type plants. Evidence of some mammal activity (rabbit, roe deer) and a few birds (chaffinch and coal tit mostly) and a few wood ant nest. Later we saw the two slavonian grebes on their pond and checked out the narrow-headed ants nest. This was the first time we had actually seen the ants and could start believing it really was what it appeared to be. We then met up with the local Police Wildlife Liasson Officer and he asked for a proper meeting some time soon. Good! Bea picked up litter all along our walk and managed to fill a plastic bag - people are not very tidy. Checked the badger hide - and for the first time the egg had been removed from its shelf. Let us hope the pine marten has finally twigged there is food there, although there is still no sign of it using the nest box nearby. Went back to the grebe car park and removed the squirrel feeder for repair. At home I soldered the feeder and then took it back where it belonged.

Crested Tit at its nest box

Crested tit eggs in their nest box

 

Sun 24th April. Bea and I spent the afternoon checking all of the crested tit nest boxes to see what developments there had been since the last check two weeks ago. To summarise, three had eggs in (two crested tits and one tree creeper), one contained a partly built nest but no eggs, five had been partially or fully excavated but had no nest and four showed no signs of use. Quite pleasing.

Mon 25th April. Re-checked the nearest occupied nest box from a distance to make sure our visit had not unduly disrupted things. Both parent cresties were present and going about their business. Went home to update this page and continue with the database - nearly up to date now.

Tues 26th April. Checked sparrow box on office window again. No eggs yet. Finally brought the database up to date and backed it up. Note - in future do NOT let it get so far behind.

Weds 27th April. Went to badger hide with 6 guests from the Highland Biological Recording Group. Only one badger, but we had it on view for half an hour.

Thurs 28th April. Spent most of the day in Perth. On the way there I saw yet another dead badger beside the A9.

Fri 29th April. Checked the crested tit nest boxes again - amazing. I was wrong about the tree creeper eggs last week - they too are crested tit eggs. Altogether I now have at least four pairs of cresties on eggs, plus another nest almost complete and another just begun. Watch this space. On the way home I disturbed a roe deer and on the path by Deshar Road there was a pine marten dropping. Later I took two friends to the badger hide - 2 badgers seen.

Sat 30th April. Took the newly repaired squirrel feeder back to the grebe car park and put out some fresh apples and coconut. At the badger hide I replaced the egg and apple and also noticed that there are downy feathers caught in the grain around the entrance hole to one of the goldeneye nest boxes. That probably means eggs.

 

May 2005

 

Mon 2nd May. Did a selective check of some nest boxes in the wood. To summarise - four crested tit nests with eggs in and two with complete nests but no eggs yet. Marvellous! Watched a squirrel at the grebe car park feeders. In the evening I took a Belgian couple to the badger hide - 2 badgers seen - a lovely evening.

Tues 3rd May. At Abernethy golf course, where curlews have nested successfully the last two years, there was a broken curlew egg on one the fairways. Rooks, no doubt.

Weds 4th May. More eggs - this time four in our starling box in the garden. The silly birds fly away in panic every time we open the back door of the house - hope they settle down soon or the eggs might chill in this cold weather. In the sparrow gallery on the front porch blue tits have built a nest but there are no eggs yet. At the badger hide I used a ladder to check the goldeneye duck boxes and was delighted to find 14 eggs in one and 16 in the other. It is probably fanciful to suggest they sense how safe they are on top of their smooth poles, but I'm going to do it anyway! Later I checked a few boxes in the woods again - same story as last time, although the vacant nests have both been added to since my last visit. During the walk I saw a male capercaillie and also found a badger latrine I had not seen before. In the evening I attended a meeting of the Cairngorm Rothiemurchus Aviemore and Glenmore Group (CRAGG) in my capacity as Scottish Wildlife Trust Representative for the area.

Thurs 5th May. Took 6 people to see the badgers - it was very wet cold and windy but we saw 2 badgers anyway.

Sat 7th May. Checked the active crestie boxes again. All is well but no chicks hatched yet. This parent bird kept me under close observation at its nestbox. Quite right too.

Other observations during the walk included a hen capercaillie high in a tree in the centre of the woods, an old badger latrine that had been unused for some months now brought back into use and a red squirrel feeding at the grebe car park feeding station.

Sun 8th May. Found another broken curlew egg at the Abernethy golf course. Also on the golf course my wife found an oyster catcher nest with a parent guarding one egg. In the evening I took 6 people from the Aviemore Walking Festival to the hide. The weather was foul but eventually our patience was rewarded with 3 badgers close to the hide.

Mon 9th May. Checked the nest boxes at home. The starling is sitting tight on its eggs and did not move when I opened the lid. The blue tit and sparrow nests are still without eggs.

Weds 11th May. Dealt with a reported dead badger near Pityoulish. Sadly it was a lactating female, but the cubs ought to be old enough to be OK at this time of year - especially since we now know that 'aunties' may get involved in raising the young. Later I dealt with the police over a badger sett reported to have been damaged by a farmer near Inverness. When will they ever learn! Andy and Gay Christie from Hessilhead Wildlife Rescue Centre arrived for lunch and in the afternoon we released a red squirrel that they had rehabilitated. Wonderful! Whilst in the woods we checked one of the crested tit boxes - it had a fine set of chicks in it. In the evening I took 6 people from the Aviemore Walking Festival to the badger hide and had a superb evening with good badger views quite close to the hide.

Thurs 12th May. Richard Rowe, who is writing a wildlife-watching guide for Scotland, came to see me. I showed him the badger hide and one or two other local hot spots. Played golf at Abernethy in the afternoon and was saddened to see that the oyster-catchers had lost their eggs - no doubt to the rooks.

Fri 13th May. Did a fairly thorough check of the nest boxes known to have seen action in recent weeks and took Keith Duncan from Scottish Natural Heritage with me for corroboration if required. To summarise - 2 boxes had eggs in (later confirmed to be blue tits) and four contained crested tit chicks. We also found a squirrel drey above one of the boxes and saw a green hair-streaked butterfly near another. Back at home there were 5 eggs in the starling box. It really was a marvellous morning. In the afternoon we took Mel Tonkin, the Scottish Red Squirrel Survey Coordinator, into the local woods for a recce prior to the red squirrel day she was to run for us next day. Mel and I took a group to the badger hide that evening and we saw at least 2 badgers.

Sat 14th May. Red Squirrel Day. The attendance was disappointing despite having advertised the day widely. Those that did turn up enjoyed a superb presentation and workshop in the morning, then lunch, then a survey session in the woods where Mel demonstrated how to conduct a measured transect in which the eaten and uneaten cones were counted and how certain deductions could be made from the results.

Sun 15th May. I re-checked the two boxes with just eggs in to try and deduce the species - now known to be blue tits - bless 'em.

Mon 16th May 05. Starlings are now bringing food to the nest box so we've got chicks. In the evening we drove to Salen, Ardnamurchan prior to a whale watching day next day.

Tues 17th May. Twelve hours on a boat from Laga Bay. We called at Tobermoray for fuel, then visited Coll where other boats had seen minke whales and basking sharks (but we didn't). We then went to a tiny island north of Coll where we saw seals on the rocks. Soon after, a dolphin came to check us out. We landed on the island for a barbeque and wandered around looking for otter signs and anything else of interest. A gulls nest was found. We then went to Muck and had a short walk before heading back to Laga.

Weds 18th May. Checked a few nest boxes. Blue tits now confirmed as being owners of the unidentified eggs. Starlings frantically feeding their young at our house.

Thurs 19th May. Blue tits now have eggs in the new sparrow gallery on our porch. I topped up the food at the grebe car park - 2 red squirrels were there and I fancied that one of them was our newly released squirrel.

Fri 20th May. Spent the morning preparing for a lecture on Monday. Took 7 guests to the badger hide in the evening - at least 2 badgers seen.

Sat 21st May. Checked the goldeneye boxes at the badger hide - still lots of eggs in both boxes but we have not seen the ducks for a while. There is a blue tit sitting on eggs right beside the hide.

Sun 22nd May. Helped the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society to take a group that included a disabled lady to the badger hide. While they were in the hide, Bea and I watched for otters at the Kinchurdy bend in the river without success. A short walk in that area located a large badger latrine beside a disused fishing hut. We also found two not-very-fresh otter spraint sites.

Mon 23rd May. Keith Duncan and I went round to ring the crested tit chicks. Of the four crestie families we had found on the 13th May, three were in good shape but the chicks in the fourth nest were all dead. Nature can break your heart. Altogether Keith ringed 16 crestie chicks (5+5+6) and they all lived happily ever after. Well - we'll see. We also peeped into the blue tit boxes - all seemed well. Back at our house Keith ringed the four starling chicks. In the afternoon I went to the badger hide to have another look a the goldeneye duck boxes. Still no sign of the ducks but the eggs were still there - Hopefully the smooth poles on which the boxes are mounted have kept the predators out. In the evening I did a wildlife talk in the village hall.

Tues 24th May. Checked the goldeneye boxes again and actually reached in and felt the eggs. Cold - not looking good. Spent the rest of the day on a course at Glenmore on Biodiversity and the John Muir Award.

Thurs 26th May. Checked the goldeneye boxes again and confirmed the eggs are dudd. Bea and I removed the boxes and poles and took them home.

Fri 27th May. Blue tit still sitting on eggs in our sparrow gallery. Took a group to the badger hide in the evening. It was cold and breeezy but we saw 2 badgers.

Sat 28th May. Crested tit in our garden - very unusual for the summer. Yellow Hammer on the local golf course - also fairly uncommon. Frustrating evening at the badger hide. We waited for two hours before a decent view of a badger, then a car came along the river bank and the badger ran away. Arghhh!

Sun 29th May. Nest box check. One crestie box was empty - all the chicks had flown and, strangely, the nest had been removed from the box. Another still had all the chicks in it and the third had just three large chicks in it - presumable the other two had fledged today or yesterday. The blue tits were still on eggs (one hissed at me). At the grebe car park a visiting bird watcher had seen a crestie near the feeders - first report of a crestie here since the start of the breeding season. The slavonian grebe was on her nest.

Mon 30th May

SKYE OTTER COURSE TRIP

14.00 Left home and visited the grebe car park. Topped up apples and then checked crestie nest 0505, which yesterday had just three chicks left in it. They were all gone! Great stuff.

15.00 Drove to Skye via Loch Carron. Stopped for coffee near Loch Carron.

17.05 Arrived Broadford. Short walk in the evening.

Tues 31st May 07.00 up to a sunny morning. 0930 down to IOSF HQ to meet the rest of the group (Jenny, Leon and Joan) and Grace and Paul. Talk on otter ecology then out to do some otter watching on Ardnish point by Broadford. 11.30 we saw three otters on a skerry about three hundred metres from where we were standing. We watched them hunting for quite a while before they headed off across the water. Lunch by an igneous intrusion of rock from which we saw a solitary otter – perhaps the local dog – hunting alone among the rocks. Visited a holt just 100 metres further along the coast. It was just a flat rock held up by other rocks with some dry vegetation for bedding at the back.

13.40 On our way back along the shore we spotted a single otter so we stopped to watch. Soon after, two more otters appeared and climbed onto to some rocks where they curled up and went to sleep. 14.30 The two otters woke up and went into the water where they joined another one – perhaps it was their mum who had called to them from their afternoon nap.

15.00 We followed some otter paths across the Ardnish headland to a holt on a grassy mound – apparently this is a natal holt. We then followed the paths further across the point to other holts. There were spraints at regular intervals along the paths. 15.45 We stopped for a rest at a footbridge and then walked back to the landrover.

 

June 2005

Weds 1st June Very wet weather. 09.30 Met at IOSF HQ and drove to the inner end of Loch Eishort. Found a holt above the shore of the Loch. 12.30 Lunch in the landrover, in the rain, at Ord. 13.00 We drove to Tokavaig and then parked at the end of a track on the foreshore and walked to a ruined castle on the headland and you can have it for a million pounds. By the way, it was raining. On the way back we paused at a holt near the castle. There was no spraint at the entrance so it was not in recent use.

13.45 Drove back to base and got changed out of our wet things.

15.00 Re-assembled at IOSF HQ for spraint analysis of the spraints we collected yesterday. Paul had prepared it by soaking overnight in denture cleaning solution which dissolves the soft material so that it can be sieved to leave just the bones behind. We found butterfish, common eel and blenny by comparing the bones with ‘keys’. These key illustrations can be obtained from a book published by the mammal society – possibly out of print.

Thurs 2nd June. 07.00 Up to another very wet day. 09.30 Set off for Corry with Grace in charge today. Started walking from the FC car park. Followed the coastal path round the headland to a heronry among conifers above the shore. Lots of trees had been blown over here in the hurricane not long ago. We continued another 300 metres, then turned back. 12.40 Lunch and a chance to dry out a bit at IOSF HQ. 14.00 We headed for Loch na Dal, but on the way we stopped at a Culvert over a riverto look at some otter mitigation fencing that had been installed to discourage otters from crossing the road and persuade them to go under the culvert – which they do not like to do very much, perhaps because of the noise of the cars overhead. To our innocent eyes it did not seem very good. It was made from chicken wire on a wooden frame about waist height that extended only fifty metres either side of the culvert. Apparently 100 metres is recommended. Having watched an otter climb a vertical cliff the height of a house with apparent ease, this fence do not seem likely to slow an otter down, never mind stop it.

14.10 We drove further down the main road and parked in a large lay-by. We failed to cross the foot of the raging burn at the first attempt and had to come back up to the road to cross at the road bridge. We got down to the shore and walked along in the rain still hopeful of seeing an otter. 15.20 We found a holt under the roots of a fallen tree. There was the skeletal remains of a fairly large, fairly fresh, fish with pinkish bones (salmon?)near the holt – no doubt the left-overs of the otter’s meal. Close to the shore nearby we found lots of spraints and the remains of a frog. One of the spraint areas was just bare earth and Grace explained this by telling us that the otters’ urine kills off the grass, so when they urinate as well as sprainting you get double the effect. 15.54 We continued walking south until we saw an otter coming the other way. It passed us so we turned and followed it back the way we had come. We were all very wet by this time so we were content to let the otter lead us back towards the landrover. Eventually we lost sight of it. 16.25 We spotted the otter again and continued to follow it but soon lost it for the last time. 16.55 We decided to call it a day (Geronimo) and headed up to the vehicle. Received a phone message from the Aviemore PWLO about a possible badger sett problem at Nairn - I was to phone DC Vincent McLaughlan next day.

Fri 3rd June 0900 Spoke to DC McLaughlan re a possible problem of interference with a badger sett near Nairn. He and the forensic people were to visit the site this mornng and wanted me to go with them but obviously I was not in a position to help. I asked to be kept informed. Evidently a shooting party of some sort put flags in all the tunnel entrances of the sett and fixed a ladder in position as a shooting seat from which all the flags could be seen. The sett is in woodland near Boghole Farm.

0930 Drove to Elgol 1030 Set off walking along the coast towards the point. Leona spotted a weasel down on rocks by the shore. Paul showed us a natal holt high above the cliffs with several entrances and spraint sites around a grassy area. It had a fresh water pool beside it with its own sprainting place. 300 metres further on we found another holt among old peat workings quite close to a high overhanging cliff edge. This holt appears to be unused at present. 1145 We went down a gully filled with rubbish and rocks to the entrance of Prince Charlie’s real cave. Three of us climbed up into the cave and there was an otter spraint in it.

1215 Lunch in the shelter of some rocks in the bay. At 1240 A stoat came running by.

1250 Set off further round the bay to look for another natal holt that Paul knew of. We found it but on the way, Leona found one very similar – both were filled with water so of no use at the moment. She asked “Will it dry out in summer?”. Paul said “This IS summer”

1300 Went down to the shore and watched for otters. None seen. By this time the weather had improved and there was even some blue sky. We stopped at other places to watch for otters but still nothing doing. 15.30 Got back to Elgol. Tea and coffee in the village hall, then drove down to Loch Slapin in the hope that otters might be found. 1640 Paul and I checked a natal holt . It appeared to be active with fresh spraint present. On the road above it Paul had sited eight reflectors on poles so that car headlights are deflected to frighten the otters. Evidently, at hot-spots where the reflectors have been fitted, otter road casualties are down to 23 per cent of their previous levels.

1654 We arrived at the other side of Loch Slapin and stopped to watch for otters. Still no luck.

1725 Went to Paul and Grace’s house to see a young otter from Cumbria that is being prepared for release. Grace gave it some fish and it came out of its house where we could see it and get a few piccies. 1930 Off to the Claymore for dinner. Paul and Grace joined us at 2130. Leona found out by going on line at the local garage that she had got a Two-One degree.

Some of the things we have learned or confirmed during the week:

Otters have very poor eyesight.
Otters prefer fresh water pools to streams or rivers to wash in. Paul does not know why.
Coastal ranges – female 4km, male 12 km
River ranges – female 20km, male 80km
Otters cannot hold their breath very long so the average dive is about 25 seconds.
To be classified as a holt, a den has to have an underground system with at least two entrances. A den with just one entrance might be called a lay-up or day bed or couch.
If you find a place with lots of spraints and lots of flattened grass in a small area, there is almost bound to be a holt nearby.
Otters at the coast hunt during the daytime because many of their prey are most active at night when they are harder to catch but they go a bit dopey in the daytime and so can be caught more easily. This means that in the winter, when daylight is concentrated over such a short time, otters can be watched much more reliably as they are forced to be active through most of the daylight to get enough to eat.
On Skye there is a plentiful supply of fish to eat and plenty of holt sites. This means that the limiting factor is the number of fresh water pools for washing salt out of the fur. On Barra and Coll the limiting factor is shortage of holt sites.
Crabs take a lot of effort for an otter to break into in return for only a small amount of food, so it does not profit much. If an otter eats mostly crabs its condition will quickly deteriorate.
I asked Paul if there was any relationship between the state of the tide and otter activity. He told me they had studied several thousand otter sightings and set them against tidal states and could find no relationship whatever.
Natal holts are often a long way from the sea and can be very high among or above the cliffs.
Diet is mainly fish but the otter does take small mammals, birds, frogs and even rabbits and chickens.
Spraint analysis shows that there is a fairly close correlation between what the otters eat and what is available, although care must be taking in reading too much into this as some of what the otters eat is soft and does not leave bony material behind so could be missed when analysing spraints in the usual way.

Sat 4th June SWT NRC meeting all day

Mon 6th June

0800 Starling chicks fledged last night or this morning.
0930 Phoned SNH re the Red Squirrel in their freezer.

1645 Phoned the police for updates on three badger sett interference or damage incidents.

Tues 7th June 05

0730 Spoke to Scottish Badgers re the three police/badger incidents above.

0930 Hare seen in the field just south of the B of G bridge NH 947 189.

Tues 7th June 05 Site Visit to the scene of oen of the above badger sett incidents. Conclusion - there has been serious disturbance at this sett.

1645 At the badger hide - the eggs had gone from the pine marten shelf. Checked the tit box - it contained just three eggs.

Weds 8th June

Wrote report for the police on yesterdays site visit.

1200 Blue tits taking food into our sparrow gallery on the porch.

1500 Filled up all the feeders at the Grebe Car Park - all but one were totally empty

Thurs 9th June Nest Box Check:

1540 Wood ant nest between the triangle path and nest box 0512
1541 Box 12 no change, unused.
1545 Box 7 no change, unused
1555 Box 6 - 4 eggs, probably blue tit. Amazing
1610 Box 9 - Blue tit chicks in the nest. Blue tit adult in the area
1618 Box 10 - just the empty nest
1625 Box 11 - no change, unused
1627 Wood ant nest between box 11 and the Vaa track
1634 Box 1 - still full of wood - unused
1643 Box 2 - The nest is lying in pieces at the foot of the tree and there is a small amount of new nest material in the box. We took the nest home with us.
1653 Box 3 - no change, unused
1700 Box 8 - just the empty nest in the box
1708 Box 13 - blue tit chicks in the box and both parents in attendance
1715 Box 4 - no change, unused
1722 Box 5 - just the empty nest still in the box

1725 Squirrel feeder at Grebe Car Park has been wrecked again by the squirrels. Much of the food I put out yesterday has gone. There must suddenly be a shortage in the forest. This is in sharp contrast to a few weeks ago when hardly any of the food we were providing was being taken.

Fri 10th June0800 Blue tits taking food into the sparrow gallery on the porch

2100 Badger hide with 2 people. 3 badgers seen (mum and 2 cubs)

Mon 13th June. Did the Wildlife of the Cairngorms National Park talk in the village hall.

Tues 14th June 1430 Bea and I topped up the feeders at the grebe car park. Red squirrel on the nuts when we got there - did not seem to mind our presence at all and we got quite close to it - almost certainly Ruadh from Cumbria. Several crested tits on the nuts - two with rings on. Yippee. 1600 Dead badger on B970 at Inverdruie NH8986-1129 - sex and weight not known.

Weds 15th June Fruitless trip to Skye to look for otters. Up at 0515 - set off at 0555. One hour to Garve, another 40 minutes to the turn off near Loch Carron. where the rain started. Kyle of Lochalsh in 2 hours 10 mins and arrived in Broadford in 2 hours 20 minutes. Very good, but of course it was very early with little traffic, although I was stuck behind a digger transported for a little while. Nowhere open for coffee. Drove to Loch na Dal for 0920. Nothing doing for ages then at 1115 I moved a little further along the coast. Visited the holt under the fallen tree at NG7043 1437 - nothing of interest except that there is a heronry in the trees above it.

At this point the rain arrived so I headed into the trees, but got eaten alive by midges so went back into the coastal breeze and huddled under the brolly. At 1340 the rain stopped and I wandered back along the coast towards where I had started. Took pictures of 3 seals. Gave up at 1525. Got home at 1825. The journey home took a little long than the outward one due to more traffic.

Thurs 16th June. 1500 baby sparrows being fed in the garden by their dad. 2125 to 0010 atthe badger hide with Eric Bird and three others. Not much doing till 2340 when 2 adult badgers appeared at the upper sett and stayed for 20 minutes. We saw 2 roe deer quite close.

Fri 17th June 1600 Peeped into sparrow box on porch. Two baby blue tits in the box - that's all I could see - could have been more underneath but impossible to say without lifting out the top two.

Sat 18th June 1430 Blue tit box at badger hide - only three eggs in the box, same as on 7th June. Looks as if that's it - a failed nest. 1200 a brown rat was seen at a friedns place in Boat of Garten. 2140 to 2340 Badger Hide with Caroline Davis and hubby from Mull plus their two young daughters. A disappointing evening with no badgers seen.

Sun 19th June 1200 Dead badger on A95 at Drumuillie NH9510-2036.

Mon 20th June 2150 to 2340 Badger Hide with two couples, both old friends from previous years. At least 3 badgers seen (mum and 2 cubs) but probably four and possibly five. The cows were in the field next to the hide for the first time for ages so the very long grass may soon be down to manageable proportions. We all got very wet feet and legs walking back to the cars.

Tues 21st June Selective nest-box check.
0809 - Box BT0509 at least four large blue tit chicks plus at least one parent in the area.
0817 - Box CT0502 no activity so whoever removed the nest did not carry on with whatever it had in mind.
0823 Box CT0508 no change - just the empty nest.
0825 Roe deer near box BT0513
0828 Box BT0513 nest empty - assume they have all fledged
0830 Capercaillie latrine at NH92971855 between box 13 and the old hide
0839 Box BT0506 6 blue tit eggs in the box and at least one parent nearby.
0843 Got home
1800 CRAGG meeting at Glenmore Forestry Visitor Centre

Weds 22nd June 2150 to 2320 to the badger hide with two ladies from New Zealand. Four badgers seen, including the two cubs. A super evening.

Fri 24th June. Strimmed the grass at the badger hide - it was getting so long we could hardly see the badgers.

Sun 26th June Lugged two buckets of peanuts to the badger hide - there are four groups expected at the hide this coming week.

Mon 27th June 1030 Went to badger hide. WDCS were there last night - they had 2 badgers. At 1115 I checked the last three occupied nest boxes:

1120 Box BT0506 At least five very small, fairly bald chicks in the box
1125 Box BT0509 Box empty - chicks fledged
1330 Blue tit box on porch. Box empty - chicks fledged.

1400 Spoke to Andy Christie of Hessilhead re the possibility of him releasing two red squirrels here on Weds.

2030 Did the Wildlife of the CNP talk in the village hall. 25 people in the audience

Tues 28th June 1400 Filled up all the feeders at the Grebe Car Park - they were all totally empty. Mountview were there with their scopes. Both slav grebes were on the pond - the female appeared to roll the eggs over.

July 2005


Fri 1st July Email from Richard Prentice to report a road kill of a badger seen at 09.45hrs on Tuesday 28th June 2005 on the A82 north of Dochgarroch – grid ref. NH621410. He sent this also to the Highland Council Ranger Service.
1630 checked grebe car park squirrels with the intention of maybe removing the nest box that the new squirrels arrived in. However, there were two squirrels feeding and chasing (possibly the new pair) so we left them in peace.
2225 I went for a walk in the local woods.
2245 there were roe deer barking near the corner fence post badger sett. 2300 I sat down among trees at the edge of Bills Badgery Basin.
2314 a badger arrived and went down one of the tunnels. Soon after a badger came out of a different tunnel (same badger? Who knows!), wandered around and then came towards where I was sitting. Luckily it passed below me, but then went down another sett only ten metres from my position. It came out again and went up the slope and round behind me, but must have caught a whiff of my presence and dashed back down the slope to the sett. I left at that point. On the way home I paused at Loch Roid and took a few flash photos of lapwings flying around in the dark. The roe deer were still shouting as I passed by and I got home at 2345.
2nd to 6th July - too busy with business and golf to do much wildlife stuff.

Tues 6th July. Read some papers and generally prepared for tomorrow's meeting in Perth

Weds 7th July 1015 to 1500 at Scottish Environment Link offices in Perth for a meeting with Cairngorms National Park staff to discuss their Vision for the park and the Draft Park Plan - specifically the Draft Strategic Objectives as they applied to environmental issues. Three CNP Staff were in attendance - Fiona Newcomb, Hamish Trench and Murray ***** plus nine others - me, Gus Jones BSCG, Tessa Jones Highland Ranger Service, David *** John Muir Trust, Ramblers Association, North East Mountain Trust, Jeremy Usher-Smith Highland Wildlife Park and Carol ***** Woodland Trust.

The meeting first looked at the park aims and how they were to be applied to protect the park environment and then looked at two documents - the Vision for the Park and relevant sections of the Draft Strategic Objectives including Environment Impact Assessments, Starting Point for the Park Plan, the use of Plain Language, ensuring Best Practise, Access and Landscape
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During the day Bea had considered our JMA plans and came up with changes to our intended area. She eliminated much of the southern half of the mono-culture Craigie Woods and added in the village community garden, the golf course and the river from south of the golf course to the village bridge. I heartily agree with the changes as they eliminate much of the large uninteresting areas of the forest while bring in more badgers and a potential for otters.
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2100 to 2330 Badger watch with 4 guests. A very late night but worth it. We saw at least five different badgers.

Fri 8th July 0915 filled up feeders at the grebe car park. The squirrel feeder was broken again so I removed it for repair. The grebe pond has almost dried up now - so I wonder how the slav grebes will fare.
0930 Checked nest box BT0506. Six large blue tit chicks looking very good and about to fledge.

Sun 10th July 1400 Common Blue Butterfly near 8th green at Abernethy golf course NJ00522134

Mon 11th July
1000 Spent the morning building another pine marten nesting box - this one for Terry Sayer at Nethy Bridge

1730 Bea found a dead field vole on the path in front of the 2nd tee at Abernethy Golf Club

2030 I did the Wildlife of the Cairngorms NP in the village hall. About 30 people in the audience. They must be crazy - it was a beautiful evening and they should have been out looking for wildlife instead of sitting inside listening to me.

Tues 12th July
1345 We smelled smoke in the garden and it turned out to be a fire in the woods behind our house. Exactly where we did not know at the time but the fire brigade were on the scene when we went out at 1530.

Weds 13th July Went to Skye 0800 to 1800 with Brian Sanders from North Northants. We saw four golden eagles near Bracadale - one at 12 noon a mile before we got there, two at 1400 by the causeway and another at 1530 near where we saw the first one on the way home. Went briefly to Loch na Dal but no otters.
2130 to 2330 to badger hide with Brian and two guest. Saw two badgers at 2235 for 40 minutes.

Fri 15th July
1530 Crestie on Grantown Golf Course between the 10th and 7th fairways.
1600 Gill Nisbett saw a North Brown Argus butterfly in the rough field opposite our house NH93541915.
1930 Owl pellet analysis session at our house - just Bea and I and Gill Nisbett. Examined 15 pellets from Cromdale and a few from Glenlivet. Found mostly field vole and common shrew, but also one bird, one bank vole and one that might have been a water shrew - we'll send it off to the Mammal Society for checking by an expert.
2245 Phone call to tell about a badger RTA near the Loch Vaa cemetery car park on the A95 at NH90871721

Sat 16th July
1100 Received a letter from Northern Constabulary to say a man has been charged under the Badger Act (see 28th March).
1430 Found the badger RTA near Loch Vaa and dumped it in a ditch - it was a large heavy male badger
1530 Continued with the owl pellet analysis - nearly finished.

Sun 17th July
1800 Completed the owl pellet survey.
1930 Checked box BT0506 - the blue tits had all fledged.

Mon 18th July
0900 Phoned Mammal Society re the water shrew skull. Phoebe said to send it to her and she will get it checked.
2000 Went out to watch badgers at the Milton Sett but my way was barred by head-high grass in the bogs. I tried a different route across fields and eventually got to a small outcrop above the sett at 2235. The ferns and grass were so dense I would never have found the sett if I did not already know where some of the tunnels were.
2047 The ferns below me started waving in a jerky fashion and soon a badger emerged. It visited one tunnel, then another and then moved away into the ferns. Nothing much happened for the next hour apart from one red deer in a field far below, three or four short sharp rain showers and about ten zillion midges.
2140 A badger came out from the ferns to my right - it may have been the same one as earlier - and I got a photo. It went down a tunnel and was not seen again.
2200 The ferns at the foot of the slope began a new version of the badger dance and after wandering back and forth several times a second badger entered the grassy arena below me and foraged for a few minutes before going down a tunnel.
2235 Went home.

Weds 20th July
Visit from Kathrin from Germany.
1130 to the osprey centre where Henry had brought his mate EJ a fish. Then an intruder arrived (we could not see a ring) and we watched as the resident pair defended their nest.
1430 to 16 30 Bea Kathrin and I brought in 10 of the 12 remaining nest boxes from the local woods - all except numbers 7 and 12. In the badger latrine near box 5 there was rabbit fur. On the cycle path fifty metres from the lorry park there was a dead common shrew.
2045 to 2330 the three of us went to the badger hide. Saw 4 badgers, 2 roe deer one red deer and a hare. We observed the badgers scent marking each other, chasing and play fighting. A very good evening. Took Kathrin back to her hostel in Kingussie just after midnight.

Thurs 21st July
1530 left home, fed the squirrels at the grebe car park and then continued to Skye for a couple of days.

1820 arrived at the Loch na Dal layby. Walked down and along a very wet shoreline looking for a dry patch to pitch the tents. Eventually found what we were looking for.

1930 settled in nicely and started watching for otters. No otters seen that evening.

Fri 22nd July
0500 I went for a walk along the shore
0800 breakfast, then both of us went for a walk.
1100 lunch and packed the tents.. No otters seen at all. Lots of herons, some oyster catchers, seagulls and one seal, but no otters.

Mon 25th July

Dealt with a phone call telling of possible badger persecution in the Aviemore area. After visiting the site and speaking with those who had brought it to my attention I sent a full report to the police.

2030 Did the Wildlife of the CNP talk in the village hall to an audience of 35 people.

Tues 26th July
Spoke to Aviemore Police about the Aviemore badger incident mentioned above. Sent a copy of my report to Scottish Badgers

Willie Gray saw an otter cross the road between Lisies Restaurant and the Carrbridge turn off at NH 9155 1900 at noon on Sunday 24th July.

Weds 27th July
0900 Bought a sack of peanuts from village shop. Topped up peanut bin at the badger hide. Swept the hide and changed batteries in the torch. Checked the sett - many of the holes are clearly in current use.

1430 Topped up apples, seeds and peanuts at the grebe car park.

1445 Retrieved the final two nest boxes from the woods.

1700 Received an email from R.Alasdair Love of the Mammal Society to confirm our water shrew jawbone and skull.

We are very pleased of course because this is the first confirmed report of a water shrew in this area.

2036 Went to Docharn main sett to watch for badgers. Sat there for nearly two hours and got eaten alive by midges and flies but saw nothing.

Fri 27th July

Spent much of the morning reading documents in readiness for various meeting.
1530 Delivered 11 shrew tubes and instructions to SNH for use by her and other SNH staff.

2100 Badger Hide with 7 guests. A very wet night . At least three badgers seen.

Sun 31st July No Black Headed gull seen today - looks like the have finally all gone back to the coast

August 2005


Mon 1st Aug Replaced coconut and apple at the grebe car park feeding station.

Weds 3rd Aug
0950 Collected a dead badger from near Revack Estate Entrance on the B970 at NJ02952578. Female, weighing only 7 kilos.

1400 Painted pine marten box and hedgehog box
1500 Baby Robin seen in the garden

2030 Took six people to the badger hide - Keith Hopps and his good lady and Rob Ford and his family. Four badgers seen - a very nice evening.

Thursday 4th Aug Camping Trip to Skye

1500 left home and arrived at Loch na Dal at 1815 having been held up a bit by tourist traffic. 1845 Began watching for otters, having pitched the tent and made some tea.
1900 Set off to look for otters
2015 Got back to camp, had more tea and some food and watched from nearby rocks.
2100 No otters, but plenty of midges - so bad I had to retreat to the tent. Early to bed.

Fri 5th Aug
0500 Up early, having slept quite well despite heavy rain at times. The tent walls were wet - condensation, I think. Outside, the midges were awful and although I braved them to brew some tea it was almost undrinkable because in a few minutes the surface was covered in drowned midges.
0530 Packed my rucksack but just before taking the tent down the heavens opened in a downpour so I dived back in the tent. After a while there really was a drip in the tent (two, if you count me) coming from a seam above the door. It was a very cheap tent so no complaints.
0600 Rained stopped and I headed for the van. Disappointing becasue for the second trip running there were no otters. I'll try again in the autumn after the midges have finished.
0835 Arrived at Chanonry Point.
0900 At least eight dolphins. They were not very active but stayed in the area for a long time.

Mon 8th Aug
Phone call from a lady from the RSPB to say there was a dead badger on the A9, near the Granish junction north of Aviemore. So.............
1110 Picked up a dead badger from the centre of the A9 at NH89771490. Female, weighing 7.5 kilos. This is not the first badger RTA in this vicinity, so I had a look around and found a clear path leading through the bushes beside the road. There must be a sett not far away - probably on the NW side of the A9 from which the badgers cross the A9 to get into the fields on the SE side of the road.

Weds 10th Aug

0830 Filled up the feeders at the grebe car park
2050 to 2230 Badger Hide againwith Keith Hopps and his good lady plusPeter Anderson and family. We had three badgers in view for nearly an hour. Also saw bats, a heron and roe deer.

Thurs 11th Aug
1500 Picked up another dead badger on the road - this time at Balncruie near the Heather Centre on the A95 at NH9704.2240. Too mangled to sex or weight. I threw it into the bushes to prevent more phone calls.

Sun 14th Aug
1600 Topped up the food at the Grebe Car Park
1700 Picked up a dead ferret off the A95 road near Grainish Farm NH9007.1503. Put it in the freezer when we got home.
1800 Installed a pine marten nest box in Terry and Lynne Sayers' garden at Juniper Cottage, Nethy Bridge NH9974.2020.

Mon 15th Aug 2010 to 2230 badger hide with three guests. Badgers out really early at 2020 - we saw at least four different animals and had at least one in view continuously for nearly two hours.

Tues 16th Aug Worked on database all morning

Weds 17th Aug Worked on database most of the day
1330 Two crows in the garden - first we've ever seen here
14.00 Red Squirrel in the garden. It had a good chew at the antlers from a Pere Davids Deer that we are using as a bird feeder tree.

Thurs 18th Aug
Finished updating database

Fri 19th Aug

Began preparation for a small-mammal trapping session

2015 to 2215 Badger Hide with Sue Williams and friends. Three badgers seen but not much else.

Sat 20th Aug

2020 to 2215 Badger Hide with Paul Fretton and friends. Four badgers seen

2330 Bea and I set out six small-mammal traps on the Nethy Golf Course around the second tee, first green and fifth green. Heard tawny owls hooting on nearby farmland.

Sun 21st Aug
0600 Checked last nights traps - nothing caught so we re-sited them along the burn among trees beside the fifth fairway.
1400 Dead badger on the A9 dual carriageway near Inverness NH7231.3922. Too squashed to weigh or sex.
1600 Kevin Strathdee and others saw a pine marten in woods opposite the Abernethy Golf Clubhouse at NJ00442110
1800 Checked the traps again but nothing caught

Mon 22nd Aug
0730 Checked the traps again - one had tripped but nothing in it.
1100 2 otters fighting (mating?) on east shore of Loch Garten NH97641800. Reported by phone by a gentelman from Grantown on Spey.
1600 Checked the traps. Nothing caught.
2030 Did the Wildlife of The Cairngorms National Park talk in the village hall. 26 in the audience - not bad considering there was a mistake with the advertising.

Tues 23rd Aug
0700 Checked the traps - 3 wood mice caught (2 males and a female). One of the males did not get weighed because the poly bag split and it escaped. The female was 15g and the other male 21g.

Weds 24th Aug
0730 Checked the traps - one wood mouse caught - female 21g.
1000 Spent an hour collating bird nest records for the year
1730 Checked the traps again - nothing caught

Tawny Owl Survey We did three tetrads. At each one we played an MP3 of tawny owl calls on and off for ten minutes and listened for responses. These were the results.
2123 Tetrad NJ02K. Nothing heard
2142 Tetrad NJ02F. A roe Deer
2159 Tetrad NJ02A. Two tawny owls - a male and a female

2115 On the way home, on the B970 at NH99072073 just south of Nethy Bridge, a pine marten crossed the road in front of us.

Thurs 25th Aug
0730 Check mammal traps at the Abernethy golf course for the last time this session. One female wood-mouse caught weighing 23g.
1300 Completed collation of the year's nest records.

Fri 26th Aug
Trip to the island of Eigg with the Scottish Wildlife Trust North Region Committee. Travelled to Eigg during the morning via Arisaig and a boat journey. We had lunch on Eigg at the Anchorage and then a guided forest walk all afternoon. Two hours to relax at the glebe barn (our hostel for the night) and then a twenty minute walk down the track to the anchorage for dinner with some of the Eigg Trust directors. We then found our way back up the track in the dark and rain to the glebe barn - not everyone found the turn-off at the first attempt!

Sat 27th Aug
Guided walk all morning around the crofts and farms to see what had been achieved and then the long trudge back to the Anchorage for lunch and our business meeting. At 1700 the good ship Sheerwater took us back to Arisaig. We drove home via the Little Chef at Spean Bridge and fell into bed - two weary souls.

During the two days we learned something of the progress that has been made on Eigg since the community buy out - and a very impressive story it was. On the wildlife front - we heard that the only mammal predators on the island are otters, feral cats and brown rats, all of which cause some damage to nesting birds. There are no badgers, foxes or mink on Eigg.

Mon 29th Aug Installed the wireless router so both Bea and I are now on broadband. Celebrated by updating my website diary - really quickly!!!
1100 Found a dead badger that had been reported to me by Ian Murray and Tom next door. It was near Loch Vaa on the west side of the A95 at NH91021770 - a male weighing 11 kg
1730 Topped up the feeders at the grebe car park
1800 Found another badger that Carole at the RSPB Centre had phoned me about. It was a female weighing 11kg and had been killed the previous evening near the entrance to Culreach Mains on the B970 at NJ01092272.
2330 Emailed both badger RTAs to Scottish Badgers

Weds 31 Aug
1000 Filled up peanut bin at the badger hide. Swept the hide. Checked the pine marten box - still no signs of occupancy.


September 2005

Thurs 1st Sept. Continued with the tawny owl survey. We did four tetrads this time and, as before, at each one we played an MP3 of tawny owl calls on and off for ten minutes and listened for responses. These were the results.
2025 Tetrad NJ02R Female heard
2042 Topperfettle Tetrad NJ02M Male heard
2055 Auchernach Tetrad NJ02H Nothing
2110 Culreach Tetrad NJ02B Female heard

Also, while driving from M to B we had a close encounter with a barn owl flying along the road beside us just before we reached the junction with the A95 at NJ044261.

Fri 2nd Sept. Spent the morning sorting out the small nest boxes. Sent four crested tit nests and three blue tit nests to the National Nest Reference Collection at Glasgow Uni. Also got in touch with an Aviemore lady re a badger incident.

Sat 3rd Sept. 1930 to badger hide with two guests. 3 badgers seen.

Mon 5th Sept. SNH phoned re the tawny owl survey - we compared notes and discussed how we intend to proceed for the next few weeks.

Weds 7th Sept
1000 Cleaned out most of this season's nest boxes.
1930 Did the Wildlife of the Cairngorm National Park talk for the Tomintoul WRI.

Sun 11th Sept. Message from the police - dead badger on the A832 just east of Lochluichart at NH33666347.

Mon 12th Sept.
1700 Beth from the post office told us about a dead badger she and the family had seen when cycling the previous day, so I went to check it out. Details are - B970 at Auchgourish NH-9407-1667 Female 10kg reported by a local cyclist and checked out by me today. These things are always sad but this is especially sad for us because this animal might be one from our badger hide family.
1945 to 2120 Badger Hide with Keith and Denise Hopps. Two badgers seen.

Weds 13th Sept

Built a squirrel box for Kevin Strathdee's family
1930 Did a Wildlife Quiz for the Grantown Arthritis Care Society
2230 On the way home we saw a barn owl by the A95 near the Broom-hill turn-off at NH-9917-2243.

Fri 14th Sept. Keith and Denise Hopps spent the evening with us. They very kindly left one of their remote camera systems with us. They told us about watching a heron at Milton Loch catch and eat an eel the previous day and left us with some photos of the event.

Sat 15th Sept. Bea topped up the feeders at the grebe car park. I worked on setting up the remote camera system.

Sun 16th Sept. Bea tidied up the wildlife part of the village garden and re-installed the hedgehog hibernation box which I recently repaired. I did some more work on the remote camera system.
1930 I took four guest to the badger hide. 3 badgers seen - a very pleasant evening. Meanwhile Bea did an update for the Boat of Garten Wildlife Group.

Mon 17th Sept. Got the remote camera system up and running - put it out in the garden for the night. It just needs better weather-proofing and it can go out in the wilds.
Bea put in a butterfly return.
1930 to 2130 I took 5 people to the badger hide. 3 badgers, a roe deer and a barn owl seen.
2330 Sold my old EOS 500 camera on eBay. Used the money to put in a bid on eBay for another C30 digital camera for another remote camera system.

Weds 21st Sept. Refined the remote camera system some more. Bought more bird seeds. Received a citation to appear as a witness at a court case in which a man has been charged under the Badger Act.

Fri 23rd Sept. Started filling in the IPMR nest records for the year. Continued refining the remote camera system.
Police phoned to ask for written report of a badger incident.
1930 to 2100 badger hide with 4 guests. 4 badgers seen. Watched the badgers scent marking, grooming and collecting dry grass for bedding.
Got home to be told that a local lady was bitten by a badger that she was trying to coax out of one of her out-houses this evening.

Sun 25th Sept.
0800 Put out printed badger faces on the bushes along the 13th hole at Boat Golf Club, which we sponsored for the Village Hall Open as a public relations exercise as well as showing support for the proposed new hall.
1000 Put out the remote camera in Deshar Wood.

Mon 26th Sept
1000 Went to collect the remote camera from Deshar Wood. Unfortunately I discover that when I had erased all the pictures from the card yesterday I had omitted to turn the camera back on again. Ho Hum. Brought the system home anyway because it was so windy that the tree it was attached to swayed around and kept setting the camera off.
1100 Worked on BTO nest records
1900 Took 4 people to the badger hide. 4 badgers seen.

Tues 27th Sept. Finished BTO nest records. Fifteen nests this year - 4 crested tit, 5 blue tit, 2 goldeneye, and one each of sparrow, starling, oystercatcher and curlew.
1800 Attended a meeting at the Forestry Commission office at Glenmore to begin the process of designing the next plan for Glenmore Forest.

Weds 28th Sept Worked on the remote camera system. Built a pine marten nest box.
1800 Attended a meeting of CRAGG at Glenmore Lodge.

Thurs 29th Sept. Put remote camera in the garden - got jackdaws and chaffinches. Built another pine marten nest box.
1500 Put remote camera system out in the woods near the secret path level with the squirrel feeder. Brought a broken feeder home
Received news of a dead badger (RTA) on the B9006 near NH 790480, which is near the damaged Croy sett.
Repaired the broken feeder

Fri 30th Sept.
0700 Wrote something for the Forestry Commission re the Glenmore Forest Plan
1130 Wrote a response to CRAGG re their future.
1230 Replaced the repaired squirrel feeder at the grebe car park, There were three squirrels and a crestie there - I did not think to look for a ring - silly boy.
1235 Checked the remote camera and switched the card for a blank one. On getting home the old card did not have any wildlife on it although the camera had been triggered several times. It had been a bit breezy so maybe the tree swayed too much and fired the camera.
1430 Meeting in Grantown with, CNP Biodiversity Officer to discuss the proposed Biodiversity Audit of Boat of Garten
1900 Tawny Owl Survey. We did two more tetrads:
1918 Tetrad NJ02D at Glen Beag - a female heard
1940 Tetrad NJ02M at Balmenach - nothing heard.
2130 Looked further into the availability of remote cameras for wildlife.

October 2005

Sat 1st October. Scottish Wildlife Trust AGM and Members Day
I got elected to the SWT Council. It was an enjoyable and informative day. In the morning I attended the visit to Loch of the Lowes reserve and Heather went to two workshops - fungus and marine.
After lunch there was an enlightening presentation on badgers and bovine TB by a scientist from DEFRA's Central Science Laboratory. Some of the points he made were:
It is unclear whether badgers give TB to cattle. If they do, science does not know how.
TB was almost eradicated from cattle in the late 60s but it persisted in a few stubborn areas in the SW of England. Badgers were suspected of being the culprits but despite many years of culling badgers TB increased sharply in cattle.
As well as badgers, at least ten other mammals are capable of catching TB.
Only UK badgers live in social groups. In all other countries they are solitary or live as pairs - just like all the rest of the mustelids (weasels and their relatives).
Badgers infected with TB can live and breed for many years. TB is not usually fatal to badgers.
The incidence of TB in badgers is not affected by population density but movement of badgers causes an increase in TB.
Culling badgers causes a void or vacuum and stimulates increased movement of badgers in the locality, which in turn encourages an increase in TB.
Therefore culling badgers appears to be counter-productive. This would certainly be the case for farmers if it were ever proved that cattle can catch TB from badgers. So far it has not been, but you never know....
The recent cancellation of part of the badger cull due to a sharp rise of TB in cattle in some of the cull areas may be related to this issue.
Summary: : Badger involvement in TB in Cattle is unclear. It is a complex issue which is as much economic and political as it is to do with animal welfare and agriculture. We were told that an unemotional scientific approach is required if answers are to be found.
I spoke to the presenter later on and he told me they now have more unanswered questions at the laboratory than they did at the start of the badger study many years ago. He certainly did not think culling was the answer and he thought the present trial cull would not produce worthwhile results, partly because one third of the cull has already been cancelled and partly because intervention by people and groups opposed to the cull has disrupted some of the attempts to capture badgers. Farmers taking things into their own hands and killing badgers in non-cull areas has not helped either.

Be spent the afternoon helping the SWT Watch leaders with the youngsters.

On getting home I found the remote camera system had stopped working and suspected it was due to the winds causing the trees to sway and trigger the device continuously, thus filling up the camera's card and running down the batteries. I could not do anything about it there and then because it was getting dark and we were going out to dinner.

Sun 2nd Oct.
1030 Retrieved the remote camera system from the woods and found things to be exactly as described above. The 12 volt battery was down to 5 volts and the camera card contained 557 pictures of an empty forest.

1300 Continued building pine marten boxes.

1800 Finished the two pine marten boxes and gave them their first coat of wood preserver.

Mon 3rd Oct
0800 Started a new Power Point presentation - photography in Nature Conservation.
1630 Set up the remote camera in the woods again, level with the grebe car park feeders but just beyond the secret path.
1945 to 2015 Badger hide on my own to take photos. Got some really nice ones of three badgers. When I left and was about to climb the stile, a fox ran across the field. It ran straight through the herd of cows to get away from my torch beam, ducked under the fence and stopped to look back at me when it was high on the badger sett.

Tues 4th Oct Began yet another survey for the BTO - this time recording in detail the food we give to the birds, what sorts of feeders we use and how often we clean them (!!!) and any signs we see of diseased or dead birds.
0900 Checked the remote camera - no pictures taken overnight but will check again later.
1530 Went to inspect a dead badger reported by phone this afternoon. It was on the B970 at Pityoulish NH 92191415 - a male weighing 10 kgs. Not much visible injury but there was blood on its nose and a puncture wound on one leg. Almost certainly a car-related death but strange there was so little to be seen. The badger was lying with its tail end under the fence in a gap to which a clear-cut badger path led and its nose and front paws on the edge of the road as if it had died on its way through the fence. Odd.
2200 Bea did BTO tawny owl survey in the garden. Nothing heard

Weds 5th Oct
0930 Took the tawny owl paperwork to Bill Cuthbert in Cromdale - he is going to do tetrads P, U and Y for us.
1950 Did the final tawny owl tetrad NJ02J at Auchosnich near Grantown. Heard a male and a female.

Thurs 6th Oct Retrieved the card from the remote camera in the woods. 63 pictures - mostly blank but a few with red squirrels on. Later the wind got up so the next batch will be awful. Must avoid attaching the camera to trees in future.
Painted the new pine marten boxes again. Worked on another power point presentation. Have agreed to do one for the BTO about my crested tit nesting programme.

Sat 8th Oct
1100 Walked to Milton Loch to recce for potential sites for goldeneye duck nest boxes. Found an ideal clearing at NH94301943 on a dry slope near some power cables. We also found another clearing near the main loch underneath the heronry. We also decided that the small inner loch would be a suitable site for some water shrew survey tubes.

1400 Began to rebuild the remote camera system into a small box. The first version was rather large and heavy and a bit too obvious.
1900 Continued the search on-line for professional versions of remote camera systems. Plenty available but mostly in the USA. Feedback from earlier searches suggest some of them are available in the UK - it is just a matter of choosing the right system for our purposes. Most systems are video based and need a mains power supply not too far away. I need a digital system that can run for long periods on battery power only. Several organisations have offered advice so I am sure we will come up with the right piece of kit soon. Stay tuned.

Sun 9th Oct.

Took two guests to the badger hide in very windy weather, not expecting to see much, but we had three badgers quite close to the hide

Mon 10th Oct Spent most of this week in Edinburgh doing non-wildlife things.

Fri 14th Oct Updated websites. Continued work on the remote camera system, then put it out in the forest.
1830 took 6 guests to the badger hide. 3 badgers seen plus a roe deer.

Sat 15th Oct
Collected the card from the remote camera and replaced it with an empty one. There were 184 pictures on the card - mostly of squirrels.
2130 took the bat detector to Milton Loch for ten minutes. Heard one bat - probably Daubentons.
2145 took the bat detector to the Boat of Garten bridge for ten minutes. No bats found.

Sun 16th Oct.
0845 Retrieved the remote camera system from the woods - bad weather forecast. 218 pictures, mostly of red squirrels. There was one of a crested tit at 1216 yesterday. As with the previous session and a session last week the first squirrel of the day came to the feeder at 0730.

Mon 17th Oct
Checked out the camera again and retrieved the card again at lunchtime - just squirrel pictures. First squirrel was just before 0730 again

Tues 18th Oct
0845 checked the camera again. First squirrel was just after 0730 this time. Conclusion, after four days of photography - at this time of year the squirrels start feeding around 0730. We also had a picture of a GS Woodpecker at 1704 yesterday.

Weds 19th Oct
0945 Set off for a recce of the river bank to try and find good sites for small mammal traps and the remote camera prior to our survey walk tomorrow. Failed to find good places for the traps and camera but found animal signs as follows.
0955 pine marten dung on a wooden bridge near a stile NH94621891
1030 otter prints (possibly more than one animal) on a sandy beach at NH94371775 beside a picnic table.
1035 possibly the remains of an otter spraint on a large rock at NH94291772 just fifteen metres from the fence around the garden of Dalvoult Cottage.
1045 badger latrine at the junction of fences at a tree a few metres from the river at NH93941750
The walk took about an hour going very slowly. The walk back to the bridge (without stopping but without hurrying) took half an hour.
Also saw a buzzard at NH94641839 and three herons at various places (possibly the same one three times!)
1600 Bea and I repeated much of this morning's trip. We began by placing the remote camera under the Boat Bridge.
In addition to this morning's discoveries we found:
1615 at NH 94681819 we found some prey remains on the bank - some fish and a fish skin - not from the same fish, we thought.
1627 at NH94461787 we found an outlying badger tunnel about 30 metres from the river bank. There were lots of badger diggings near the river in this area.
1630 at NH 94421781 we found a long winding ridge of sand along the beach as if a mole or other animal had burrowed along just under the surface.
1635 at NH 94711831 we put out 4 small mammal traps baited with dried mealworms, gerbil and mouse food, seeds and bran.

Thur 20th Oct
0715 Checked yesterday's traps. We caught a male wood mouse but it escaped as we tried to transfer it to its smaller bag for weighing. Need more practise at this.
1415 We walked along the west bank of the river with Alan Smith (our John Muir Award local rep), and Sue Murray our local tree expert. Checked the camera under the bridge. Only 2 pictures were taken since yesterday - no animals or birds in the pictures - could have been the wind moving the camera around.
We found an otter spraint among rocks under the overhanging bank just fifty metres from the bridge at NH94641905. A job for the future might be to put on waders, get in the river and do a thorough search under the bank for otter holts.
The pine marten dropping was still on the bridge and we found yet more badger diggings, but no badger latrine.
There were pine cones and beech nuts along the river bank despite there being no such trees in the area - clearly these had been brought down by the river.
We saw 3 herons over the river and a flock of field fares in the field at NH94641839.
The fishy prey remains we found yesterday at NH94681819 had mostly gone.
Otter prints on sandy beaches at NH94621883 and at 94621878.
Fins from a fish under a tree about 20 metres from the river bank at NH94711842 - possibly prey remains from a fish caught by an otter then collected by a buzzard to eat in the tree.
The trees we passed were Sycamore, Alder, Bird Cherry, Rowan, Ash, Aspen, Red Currant and Juniper (NH94661848).
The plants included Knapweed, Ragwort, Forget-me-not and Speedwort.

2130 I put out the four trip traps in our garden for practise at handling mice etc.

Fri 21st Oct.
0830 checked the four traps - nothing caught.

1820 to 1945 at the badger hide with 4 guests. A marvellous evening. We had non-stop action from 1843 to 1940 and saw at least three different badgers - possibly four. We watched a badger do some perfunctory digging around the sett entrance and then the fun began. Two badgers started mutually grooming each other and this developed into a general rough and tumble which included lots of biting and grabbing and wrestling. During a lull in the proceedings they both lifted their tails and reversed towards each other - I guess to rub their scent glands together in the time-honoured fashion. This activity went on for at least half an hour, in and out of the shadows, and it may have included some mating - difficult to say in the poor light.

Sat 22nd Oct. Installed the remote camera at the Murrays' house to try and get a picture of the otter that routinely passes their house

Sun 23rd Oct. Took six people to the badger hide 1820 to 1950. At least 3, probably 4, badgers seen.

Mon 24th Oct. Worked on my talk Photography in Nature Conservation

Tues 25th Oct
1430 Refilled the feeders at the grebe car park
1500 Retrieved the remote camera from the Murray's property at Milton. Unfortunately the wind had killed off the batteries in the first twelve hours so we only got two blurred great tit pics and a series of four showing a very small bird or animal moving around on the ground.

Weds 26th Oct
0800 Filled in the forms for the BTO tawny owl survey and sent them off in the post.
0900 Spoke to a supplier down south to do with a professional remote camera system. Wrote to the LBAP officer with a firm quote.
1000 Completed the Photography talk and transferred it to the laptop.
1100 Worked on modifications to the remote camera system
1430 Meeting at Inverness Museum with Ian Evans, facilitator for biodiversity audits for two Highland communities, to gain his advice regarding the proposed biodiversity audit of Boat of Garten.
1700 Meeting of the Highland Red Squirrel Group at Dingwall

Thurs 27th Oct.
0800 Updated the Beaver website (www.scotsbeavers.org) with the news that European beavers are being reintroduced to an estate in Gloucestershire and expressing disappointment that we in Scotland have passed up the chance to do the same.

1300 Began the process of refurbishing the crested tit nest boxes. Got four finished and another started.

1800 CRAGG meeting at Glenmore Lodge. Useful informal discussions after the meeting with SNH, RSPB and Rothiemurchus Estate representatives.

Fri 28th Oct.
1000 Set up remote camera in the garden.
1245 Meeting in Inverness with Scottish Badgers for two briefings - one on the new Protection of Badgers Act and one on the new Badger Workers training scheme.
1800 Took two old friends Nigel and Andy to the badger hide. Great session. Three badgers feeding, grooming and scent marking.
2215 Bill Cuthbert called in to tell us of a dead badger on the A95 road not far from our house. Bea and I drove to the site and moved the badger off the road. I will go and weigh it in the morning.

Sat 29th Oct
0930 Went to get the details of last nights badger RTA. NH91451892 on the A95 nearly opposite the Carrbridge turn-off. The badger was a female weighing 9kgs. I hid the body at the foot of the steep bank on the opposite side of the road.

Sun 30th Oct
0900 Checked the remote camera. Nothing of interest.
1100 Continued rebuilding the crested tit nest boxes
1700 Wrote an update for the Highland Badger Network

Mon 31st Oct
0730 Emailed HBN members re website update
0915 Neil Redgate phoned and we discussed Phase 1 habitat surveying. We spoke about surveying in general and the apparent low standards that were being set by some consultants.
0945 Phoned SNH to ask about listed badger consultants in this area and to discuss phase 1 habitat surveying. Evidently Mike Harris and I are the only two badger consultants on her list.

 

November 2005


Tues 1st Nov
1500 Put remote camera on deer path near box CT0505
1600 Finished rebuilding crestie nest boxes.

Weds 2nd Nov
0930 Phoned Hilary Smith of Herefordshire Action for Mammals (HAM) to ask about their otter holt project. The holts are made of branches (willow etc) to a design provided by one of the environment agencies. They made four holts, all in river meanders (oxbows?) - three off them on a reserve and one on farmland. Unfortunately one got used as a bonfire but one of the others was found to have an otter spraint out side it. Hilary promised to send me a copy of the design.

1100 Switched the remote camera card for a fresh one.. Thirty plus pictures - first squirrel this morning was 0820 GMT. It is still not focussing properly - perhaps the new one will do better.

Thurs 3rd Nov
Retrieved remote camera from woods. A Red squirrel had started foraging at 0730 this morning
1930 Did a talk "Photography in Nature Conservation" for the Inverness Camera Club. Lively audience of about 40 people.

Fri 4th Nov
Wrote an article on crested tits for the BTO Newsletter and completed my presentation on crested tits for the forthcoming Nest Record Scheme meeting in Kingussie.
1830 Went to the badger hide and sat outside on my own for an hour. Had two badgers quite close to me but they seemed to sense I was there and did not hang around.

Sat 5th Nov
Continued with repairs to nest boxes

Sun 6th Nov
Finished repairing nest boxes - sparrow gallery and starling box.
Buried the hedgehog box in the community garden with leaves and netting and topped up the bird feeders there.
1715 to1845 at the badger hide with 2 guests. I badger - almost continuous viewing for half an hour.

Mon 7th Nov
1430 Checked for signs of use of the otter holt below Sue Murray's place - nothing obvious - and tried to find a suitable site for the remote camera. The fence post beside the stile looks promising. Tried also to see if Sue's otter might be using a hole under the fence other than the one the stream runs through with a view to placing the remote camera there, but no luck. I think the place we had it previously is the best. While I was in the area I checked the badger sett nearby - no signs of use and the entrance was choked with leaves.
1500 Posted the starling nest from the box I renovated yesterday to the National Nest Box Reference Collection in Glasgow.

Tues 8th Nov
0900 Started painting the refurbished nest boxes.
1430 Repaired broken squirrel feeder at grebe car park.
1530 Set up remote camera in the garden to see who would use the new cage for ground-feeding birds.

Weds 9th Nov
Installed starling box and sparrow gallery on the shed. Finished painting the crested tit nest boxes.
Reset remote camera in the garden

Thur 10th Nov
Reset remote camera in the garden. Started work on Costa Rica lecture

Fri 11th Nov
Continued with Costa Rica lecture. Reset remote camera in the garden
1530 Visited dead badger on the B970 at NH 93211508 near the Milton/Sluggan track turning. It was a male weighing 13 kgs. This badger was reported by phone in the morning by Pam Baird and she was surprised that there was no visible damage. I promised to look into the matter since we had had a similar incident near loch Pityoulish not too long ago. Spoke with Ian Hutchinson and SNH (Anne Elliott). Ian said approach local vet if poisoning suspected but SNH decided they could send it to a lab if poisoning seemed likely. In the event I did neither because on lifting the badger blood came out of its mouth so clearly it had internal injuries and had almost certainly been hit by a car. Poisoning was almost certainly not involved.
1900 Owl Pellet Session. Two other BoGWiG members came along and we managed 13 pellets between us. The two others had not done this before so we had to teach them so it all took longer than it might have done. All the same a pleasant evening was had by all and we discovered the skull of 26 field voles, 35 common shrews, one pygmy shrew, one wood mouse and a water shrew. We were particularly pleased with the water shrew because they are uncommon in owl pellets (presumably becasue owls do not find them very easily) and this is the second one we have found so perhaps they are reasonably abundant here. If so, that is good news because nationwide they are struggling. Things we learned this evening included a suggestion that we should deal with the owl pellets as soon as we get them rather than leave it three months as we had done this time. The pellets were riddled with live maggots which made the job rather more yucky than it needed to be.

Sat 12th Nov
1100 Cleaned out the badger hide.
1145 Filled up all the feeders in the garden and at the grebe car park. The birds and squirrels are going through the food at double the rate of recent months - a clear indication that the onset of winter has put a stop to the plentiful food they had been finding in the forest. It may also be the case that in this wet cold weather they actually need to eat more to keep their motors running.
1430 Took a group of people from the Community Woodland Conference to show them how the hide is run.
1745 Took 4 people to watch badgers at the hide. 3 badgers seen

Sun 13th Nov
1035 to 1335 Bea and I did a bird survey of Tetrad NH5046 just NW of Beauly. It was part of a pilot project to establish the method by which the Bird Atlas will eventually be written. Our task was to wander through the different habits in the Tetrad for 3 hours and write down the birds that we saw in each of the nine 20-minute periods. Lumping all the nine periods together, this is what we saw:

16 coal tits, 2 blue tits, 6 great tits, 6 long tailed tits, 11blackbirds, 4 robins, 1 dunnock, 4 greenfinchess, 3 house sparrows, 33 rooks, 2 hooded crows, 2 buzzards, 6 bull finches, 3 wood pidgeons, 20 collared dove, 24 chaffinches, 2 tree creepers and a common gull.

We exhausted ourselves in the process but, not really seeing ourselves as bird experts, I think we did a reasonable job. Thankfully there were no really difficult birds to deal with and even the common gull, which we weren't sure about so used the voice recorder to describe in all detail, was easy to confirm from the book when we got home.

Mon 14th Nov

Wrote up the forms for yesterday's survey. Updated my website diary.
Phone call from Sandy Caird to say they had a badger asleep in one of thier sheds. It appeared to be un well - even to the point of ignoring someone who poked it with a stick. Spoke to the vet, then went to see the badger at 1430. We all decided to leave it where it was, leave the door open and see if matters resolved themselves. If it still had not moved or otherwise recovered in a day or two the vet would put it to sleep.
Phone call about a dead otter. It was near Balnaan on the Dulnain-to-Carrbridge Road at NH97322540. I collected it and brought it home. It weighed only 5 kilos and measured just one metre from nose to tail so was probably just a young one. Could not sex it because something had started eating it from that area.

Tues 15th Nov
News about yesterday's badger in Sandy's shed - it died over night. We have no idea what was wrong with it.
1400 Continued with the Costa Rica talk preparation.

Weds 16th Nov
Replenished all our bird feeders and thawed out the ice on the bird bath.
Continued with the Costa Rica talk prep.
1800 to 1900 Took Joanna Rae, BBC Radio Scotland presenter to the badger hide. 3 badgers for half an hour. The session will go out on the "Outdoors" programme on Saturday between 7 and 8 am and will last about five minutes.

Thurs 17th Nov
Thawed out the bird baths again - looks like a beautiful but frosty day.
Worked on Costa Rica talk

Fri 18th Nov
1430 Attended a site meeting regarding a proposed housing development in the local woods
1730 Took 5 people to the badger hide. 2 badgers seen for half an hour.
1915 Attended public hearing in the village hall regarding the development mentioned above. It all got rather heated and was a close run thing but the outcome was for the decision to be deferred until the draft of the new Cairngorms National Park Local Plan has been finalised. The present local plan is wildly out of date and no longer reflects current conditions, particularly concerning capercaillie issues.

Sat 18th Nov
0705 Listened to ourselves on BBC Radio Scotland on the Out of Doors programme. They broadcast their edited recording of Wednesday's visit to the badger hide.
1030 Set up the remote camera near the river Spey below Milton near where the Milton Burn joins the Spey at NH9465-946.
1030 Bea attended the AGM of the Highland Biological Recording Group at Strathpeffer. We are members of so many organisations these days that we sometimes need to split and go to different events.
1500 Attended the British Trust for Ornithology Nest Record Scheme meeting at Kingussie and gave a presentation on my crested tit nest box programme.

2100 Began planning the layout for the 2006 crested tit nest-box programme. I intended putting out thirteen boxes spaced 300 metres apart along a circuit that is outside the main capercaillie breeding area and that can be conveniently cycled round. The layout of the last 2 years involved too much hiking cross country and entailed unnecessarily encroaching into prime capercaillie habit.

Sun 20th Nov
1100 Checked the remote camera. 3 pictures taken overnight - of sleet!. Replaced the card but it did not work so had to go home and fix it.
1600 Refilled all the feeders at the grebe car park. I had to bring one home because the squirrels/jackdaws/etc had wrecked it.
1735 to 1845 Badger Hide on my own. Saw three badgers at close quarters - just about froze to death.

Mon 21st Nov
0900 Repaired feeder and returned it to the grebe car park
1030 to 1145 Put out five of the refurbished crested tit boxes without filling them with wood for the time being.
1345 Phoned Kenny Korland to discuss sharing information to avoid unwarranted disturbance of capercaillies when checking our nest boxes.
1445 to 1700 Bea and I put out the last eight refurbished crestie boxes in the woods.

Tues 22nd Nov
1100 Met Ian Brodie at Auchgourish and decided on where to put the two pine marten boxes.
1100 Did a few more owl pellets
2015 On the way to the gig a Barn Owl flew over the road near Deshar School.

Wed 23rd Nov
Brought the remote camera in. No pictures taken - I suspect the frost got at it.
1600 Did the badger hide stats for the year and wrote the report.
1800 to 1830 Sat outside the badger hide on my own. 2 badgers - it was very windy and they were nervous.

Thurs 24th to Sun 27th Nov
Snowy weather so apart from making sure the birds had plenty to eat I spent the time in the house catching up on paperwork and preparing for meetings and our trip to Belarus.

Mon 28th Nov
Attended an induction meeting at Scottish Wildlife Trust HQ at Cramond, Edinburgh. Most enlightening.

Tues 29th Nov
Spoke with Paul Edwards re siting of goldeneye nest boxes for next season.

Weds 30th Nov
1000 Fed the birds at grebe car park. There was a crested tit there
1030 Filled the squirrel feeder at Nethy Golf Club.

December 2005

Sat 3rd Dec
Went on holiday for a week

Mon 12th Dec
Arrived home from holiday

Tues 13th Dec
1100 Received an email from the police WCO to say the bird feeders at the grebe car park had been vandalised while we were away . Went to see - what a mess. The squirrel feeder and the seed container were missing altogether and the rest of the equipment (seed feeder tray, peanut feeder and 4 apple feeders) lay broken and strewn around the forest floor. I emailed the police and asked them to investigate.

1200 Installed the new bird bath

Weds 14th Dec
0800 Topped up all the bird feeders in our garden.

Thurs 15th Dec
1000 PC Mark Hilliard and another constable called round to view the damage at the grebe car park. They took copious notes but did not hold out much hope of catching the culprits. They would speak to the Strathy and suggested we keep our ears to the ground in case youngsters bragged about their deeds. Mark thought drunks were not likely to be the cause.

Fri 16th Dec
1000 Scottish Badgers Executive Committee Meeting in Perth

Sat 17th Dec
1100 Put out some new and refurbished nut, seed and apple feeders at the grebe car park to replace the vandalised ones.

Sun 18th Dec
1400 Sent off the acceptance for a grant from the CNP for remote cameras to monitor wildlife.
1500 Checked the grebe car park feeder station. All was well. Two crested tits, a tree creeper and assorted other tits had found the food supply. The hazelnuts were gone so presumably the red squirrels have also returned. Drilled a dozen holes in tree trunks and hid a hazelnut in each one.
1820 to 1930 to the badger hide on my own. First badger at 1900 for half and hour - another showed its head briefly making a total of two. It was quite cold but not freezing, with a steady breeze and chilly drizzle. The latrine by the white fence post was very busy.

Mon 19th Dec
1000 Continued working on my Belarus report.
1130 Went to look for an injured bird (probably a black grouse) in the forest reported to me by a lady from the village. Searched for half and hour at the place she described but the bird had flown (or been eaten!).
1200 Checked the grebe car park. Ten of the twelve hazelnuts I hid in tree trunks yesterday had gone.

Tue 20th and Weds 21st Dec Worked on Belarus report and website page.

Thurs 22nd Dec 1920 to 2030 Bea and I to badger hide. No badgers but we watched a mouse or vole.

Thurs 23rd Dec Updated Highland Badger Network membership records. Heard that Patrick Birkbeck had lost two dogs - a terrier and a spaniel.
1500 Put out remote camera by a pile of food at badger hide, to help the badgers through a particularly cold spell and possibly hoping to catch a picture of Patrick Birkbeck's lost dogs.

Fri 24th Dec
1100 began filling crested tit nest boxes with dead wood. Managed boxes 0604, 0606, 0607, 0608, 0609 and 0610 (don't ask what happened to 0605!)

1200 checked grebe car park. Male red squirrel and a crested tit.

Sat 25 Dec Brought in the remote camera from the badger hide. 490 pictures - all of badgers! No dogs

26 - 28 Dec - too busy with Christmas.

Thurs 29th Dec
Severe Frost last night -12degs C.
1330 Checked the Knoc Sett for signs of Patrick's lost dogs. No sign of them.

30th and 31st December - too busy with Hogmanay parties for wildlife things.