Cairngorm Wildlife Diary for 2008

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


Weds 2nd Jan 08
Following the Hogmanay celebrations my wildlife year did not begin until today.
1230 Bea and I conducted a Wildlife Walk as part of the Village Festival. There were six of us altogether. We began at the village hall, walked through the woods, then down to the river where we visited a couple of badger setts before following the river bank back to the village. It took just over two hours.

Back at home I worked on a new design for a squirrel feeder.

Thurs 3rd Jan
1000 Bea and I did a short survey session at Auchgourish.

Fri 4th Jan
Finished the new squirrel feeder and installed it at the grebe car park. Not a great job but it works well enough.

Sat 5th Jan
1000 Bea and I did a long session surveying at Auchgourish. We only found a few squirrel dreys but we did find lots of badger activity - several small setts and two latrines, one of which suggested the badgers had been into the horse feed store at a nearby house.

Sun 6th Jan
1100 Another good surveying session at Auchgourish.

Mon 7th Jan
1930 Went to the badger hide on my own. Quite a frosty evening but a badger came out for half an hour and was probably glad of the peanuts.

Tues 8th Jan
1030 A long session in Auchgourish woods to try and get the job finished this week. It was quite frosty but that did not matter.

Weds 9th Jan
Woke up to gales and rain but not the promised snow.
1000 Julia Roberts, project officer from the Highland Red Squirrel Group, came to establish a suitable route for a red squirrel walk in our woods. We filled the grebe car park feeders while we were there. We checked a couple of my tit boxes while we were passing and one of them that had seen no activity last year had been half emptied recently. A very encouraging sign.
1930 Gave a badger talk in Kincraig to an audience of thirty people in aid of a charity - Kiwoko HIV/Aids Hospital in Uganda.

Thurs 10th Jan
1045 Final session in Auchgourish. It began snowing lightly as we arrived and remained manageable for most of the session but got quite heavy in mid afternoon just as we finished. A radio station in Perth Australia phoned while we were out and I did a live interview for them about our beaver trial. Apparently the project has caught the imagination of the wildlife-loving Australians.
1500 Before going home I filled the bird feeders in a neighbour's garden and at the village hall.

Fri 11th Jan
Spent part of the morning writing the report for the Auchgourish survey and then went into the woods to find suitable fallen wood to make some whistles. Later I repaired a broken squirrel feeder in my workshop.

Sat 12th Jan
Bea and I returned to Auchgourish to confirm the position of two of the badger setts. We also collected some fallen birch branches for woodcraft projects.

Sun 13th Jan
1145 Bea and I checked all the nest boxes in the wood and recorded their status ready for the coming season. We decided to leave some of the empty ones as they were for comparison with the filled ones.

Tues 15th Jan
1400 Meeting at Crammond with Simon Milne to discuss beavers.

Weds 16th Jan
1330 Bea and Juliet Robinson took some of the local primary school children for a squirrel walk in the woods.

Thurs 17th Jan
1330 Bea and I topped up the grebe car park feeders and then installed a new tit box near the secret path - box number 0814. We then took the GPS round the new squirrel walk and plotted a few places so that we could draw it accurately on a map.

Fri 18th Jan
At the request of the local village hall committee I filled their bird feeders. They asked if BoGWiG could top them up regularly if they (the hall) supplied the nuts. Works for me.

Sat 19th Jan
0730 I went for a walk by the river until 0930. On the way I filled up the community garden bird feeders. It was very icy everywhere and I had to take great care. Not much wildlife about.Bea and I later went to the Abernethy Golf Club and we filled the squirrel feeder while we were there.

Sun 20th Jan
1300 I walked to Milton Loch Hide. The hide was locked, the handle broken, thee bird box, bird feeder and squirrel feeder gone and one of the goldeneye nest boxes wrecked by vandals. I got home quite depressed.

Mon 21st Jan
1330 Bea and I took food to the badger hide and on the way home collected the wrecked goldeneye box. We also filled the feeders at the grebe car park.

Tues 22nd Jan
Built a new goldeneye box and arranged with a local landowner to site it near one of his ponds. Took more food to the badger hide.
Back at home there was a message from the BBC Springwatch research team asking for assistance in preparing for this year's series of programmes. I will do everything I can.

Weds 23rd Jan
Llinos Davies, the Cairngorms National Park Water Vole Conservation Officer (phew!) came to see us and took us for a briefing at Milotn Loch where she had positioned two mink rafts. We were to check about once per week for mink footprints in the clay tray on the raft and inform her if we found any.

Thurs 24th Jan
Up very early and away in snowy weather to Dunkeld for a Forestry Module towards our level two badger accreditation. The morning was all in the classroom and we drove to Pitmeddon, Fife for the afternoon practical stuff around forestry machinery actually on the job. A most interesting day. I fed the badgers when I got home.

Fri 25th Jan
Spent most of the day working on an otter PowerPoint presentation. Took a break in the afternoon to fill the village hall bird feeders and to feed the badgers while Bea distributed RSPB Garden Bird Watch leaflets around the village.

Sat 26th Jan
Finished off the otter presentation.
1630 I took two friends to the badger hide for a brief session. No badgers and we could not stick around long due to other commitments - but the couple are interested in becoming badger guides so this was just a beginning. The river Spey had flooded its banks and was the highest anyone has seen for a very long time, to the extent that the badger sett below the hide was in danger of being swamped.

Sun 27th Jan
Bea and I checked the swollen river and it was amazing. Several local roads blocked altogether. We checked that the mink rafts at Milton Loch had not been swept away.

BBC Springwatch researche team phoned to agree to speak to our wildlife group at our next meeting on 5th Feb - at which I was to have done the otter lecture. No problem - it'll keep for another day and the chance to help Springwatch is much more important.

Mon 28th Jan
Bea and I put out posters for the Springwatch meeting and filled all the feeders at the grebe car park, village hall and community garden. We also checked the mink rafts for footprints - nothing on the stream raft but clear footprints on the Loch raft. Took photos and emailed them to Llinos Davies.
1400 Bea and I refilled some of the crested tit boxes - No 1 with ground up wood dust and No 3 with dead wood from the forest floor.
1800 I spent half an hour in the badger hide. Nothing seen until I left when a pair of bright yellow eyes showed up fifty metres along the bank in the torch light.

Tues 29th Jan
1500 I took a local couple to the badger hide and we did a fairly thorough examination of the upper and lower setts. We found a lively latrine near the far end of the upper sett. In the evening I dealt with emails - mostly concerning an anti-beaver article in the BBC's online magazine.

Weds 30th Jan
Bea and I went to see the headmaster at the local primary school to talk about their red squirrel project, then went round the woods and topped up all the empty nest boxes with new wood shavings from the workshop. Back at home I did a data search for an environmental company in respect of badger setts - thus earning some cash for the wildlife group.
1800 I went to the badger hide and stayed for an hour but saw no badgers.

Thus 31st Jan
0830 Simon Milne was on BBC Radio 4 live talking about the beaver project. It went very well.
We drove to Edinburgh and while taking a break at the Gyle I received a phone call from the Independent newspaper about the beavers. There was to be an article next day about reintroductions.
David Kerr fed the badgers for me while I was away.

Fri 1st Feb
The article in the Independent was mostly very positive about the beavers. Snow closed the A9 for most of the day but they got it cleared for late afternoon and we managed to crawl home eventually.

Sat 2nd Feb
We awoke to a very snowy scene so not much wildlife work got done. I did go and feed the badgers though, and their tracks in the snow provided a very clear picture of which tunnels are in current use. Most of the action was at the tunnels right in front of the hide - nice one - with a little more coming and going at two other tunnels.

Sun 3rd Feb
1915 Went back to the hide with food and stayed for an hour. One badger at 2005 for a short time. I heard a male tawny owl calling from near the nest box where they raised young last year.

Mon 4th Feb
A better day so I got out and topped up the food for the birds and squirrels at our house, the community garden, the village hall and the grebe car park.
After lunch I made a new bird feeder for the badger hide and took it up the to replace the old one. Badgers had climbed the tree and wrecked the old feeder so I put the new one where the badgers could not get to it. I also moved the tit nest box to a different tree where it would be less disturbed by hide visitors, yet still be visible.

Tues 5th Feb
This was to be a busy day so I was up early. I checked what action there was at the grebe car park (just a red squirrel) and at the village hall (lots of birds but no cresties).
I then made some phone calls to do with beavers before the real action took me away for the rest of the day.
1400 Ben and Kirsteen from the BBC Springwatch Team arrived and I took them round the main wildlife sites in the Boat of Garten area. We began at the badger hide with its background of great action from the badgers, pine martens, goldeneye ducks, ospreys, otters and owls. We then moved to Milton Loch with its heronry, mink rafts and goldeneye before visiting the village hall feeders in case there were cresties about. Finally we went to the grebe car park in the hope of more cresties and we took a brief walk into Craigie Wood to show Ben and Kirsteen one of the fourteen crested tit nest boxes.
1830 We held our monthly Wildlife For Everyone meeting in the village hall, featuring Springwatch with Ben and Kirsteen. They did a great job of telling us all about their plans for the coming season in which Simon King will be based in Strathspey and hopes to be going out live sometime after 2000 Monday to Thursday for three weeks beginning on 26th May. There was an audience of 24 people, our best yet, and they all had the chance to chat informally with Ben and Kirsteen over coffee and biscuits after the main presentations. Everyone promised to keep their eyes and ears open for wildlife information that might be useful to the Springwatch team and Bea and I would act as the channel through which people could reach the BBC if they did not wish to do so direct. The evening was a great success and we even managed to acquire a few more members for BoGWiG.

Weds 6th Feb
1430 I went for a walk in the forest. The CP badger sett is not in use at the moment. This 3-tunnel sett comes in and out of use on an irregular basis.
1630 Agreed a site for a new goldeneye nest box with a land owner beside a pond in a field on his land.
2000 I went to the badger hide and startled a badger that was already above ground. That's the last I saw of it.

Fri 8th Feb
Spent the morning on Scottish Wildlife Trust business
1300 Filled the feeders at the grebe car park and village hall
1500 Got new keys cut for the Milton Loch Bird Hide, then fed the badgers and filled the feeders at the Community Garden
1900 Locked the bird hide

Sat 9th Feb
0800 Took food to the badger hide. The badgers had not eaten the bread and apples put out the previous evening but had scoffed all the peanuts.
0830 Opened the bird hide and stayed to watch ducks and a red squirrel for a while
1800 I locked the bird hide

Sun 10th Feb
0830 I filled the feeders at the grebe car park and village hall. Crested tit seen at the village hall.
0850 I fed the badgers. There was a dead red squirrel on the road near the badger hide gate.
0900 Opened Milton bird hide.
0915 Short video session behind the village hall. Got a small crested tit clip.
1530 Bea and I locked the bird hide and checked the two mink rafts. One of them had been vandalised - the clay in the tray had been totally removed and some of the oasis thrown in the burn. Very sad.

Mon 11th Feb
Bea and I travelled to Glasgow for SWT's Re-Wilding event "Who's Afraid Of The Big Bad Wolf". It was tremendous. Very positive and a source of great encouragement to those of us who had been under fire lately from the opponents of species and habitats restoration schemes.

Weds 13th Feb
Spent the morning on various wildlife admin work to do with wildcats and beavers.
1200 I filled the feeders at the grebe car park, village hall and community garden.
1230 Fed the badgers and installed a remote camera.
1700 Meeting of the Highland Red Squirrel Group in Dingwall. There was talk of a grey squirrel having been seen at Rothiemurchus - scary.

Thurs 14th Feb
All day meeting of the Scottish Wildlife Trust Council in central Edinburgh

Fri 15th Feb
Spent the morning and evening on wildlife emails and phone calls but was able to get out for a video session at the village hall in the afternoon. This good spell of weather is too good to waste.

Sat 16th Feb
0800 I filled the feeders at the grebe car park, village hall and community garden, then fed the badgers. Quite a lot of pictures of badgers on the camera and they seem to be coming out on and off between 2230 and 0500.
1500 I went to the village hall to take some video. Nothing special to report.

Sun 17th Feb
0830 Went to the badger hide to put out food and check the camera. There was a buzzard perched on the white fence post so I checked below it for pellets. None found but lots of droppings so it will be worth checking again in future. The camera had 57 pictures on it - the first being at 2045. There was also a picture of a magpie. Before I left a great spotted woodpecker hammered out its tattoo on a birch tree right in front of the hide.

1000 Bea and I spent the rest of the morning preparing for a badger survey session next day at Tomintoul.

Mon 18th Feb
0630 Up early to get started on our badger survey. We found no actual signs of badgers but there was an old one-way badger exclusion door in a forest fence so someone must have thought they might be around. We did find some fox scats, squirrel feeding signs and a mink raft high and dry near the river. It must have been swept down by the recent floods so I phoned the survey coordinator to tell her where to find it.

Tues 19th Feb
0800 I collected the camera from the badger hide but there were only a few pictures on it - no doubt the recent cold nights have suppressed badger activity. There were two goldeneye males on the river.
0830 I filled the feeders at the grebe car park, village hall and community garden
1430 Meeting at the Highland Wildlife Park about wildcats. A survey was launched by Michael Russell, minister for the environment. All the great and the good in the wildlife conservation world were there and some useful networking took place.
1800 Meeting of CRAGG at Glenmore Lodge

Weds 20th Feb
1115 Nestbox check as follows:
1119 box 1 Full to the hole - no change
1124 box 2 ¾ full - no change
1131 box 3 Full to the hole - no change
1138 box 4 the shavings may have settled a little
1146 box 5 Still full to the hole - no change
1152 box 6 Still full to the hole - no change
1159 box 7 Still full to the hole - no change
1206 box 8 ¾ full, a few droppings
1213 box 9 ¾ full - no change
1219 box 10 Still full to the hole - no change
1225 box 11 Still full to the hole - no change
1232 box 12 Almost full - no change
1236 box 13 Now almost half empty of its new shaving
1245 box 14 Still full to the hole - no change

1232 Squirrel drey in tree next to nest-box 12

After lunch Bea and I completed the paperwork for yesterday's badger survey.
2015 to 2100 I went to the badger hide. No badgers seen
2145 Phone call about a dead badger on the B970

Thurs 21st Feb
1000 Found the dead badger at NH963197. It was a non-lactating female weighing 9 kg. I emailed the details to our HQ.

Fri 22nd Feb
Up very early to catch the first train to Edinburgh for a meeting of the SWT Conservation Committee.

Sat 23rd Feb
0830 Repaired the feeders at the grebe car park and replaced food.
0840 Topped up the village hall feeders.
1200 Put out food at the badger hide
1230 Renewed the food at the community garden

Sun 24th Feb
After lunch I cleaned all the feeders in our garden and the community garden.
2015 I put out food at the badger hide and stayed for twenty minutes but it was cold and snowy and no badgers came out.

Mon 25th Feb
1630 I went to the badger hide and left some food out. Pair of blue tits checking out the sparrow gallery on the shed.

Tues 26th Feb
I filled the feeders at the community garden, village hall and grebe car park. The community garden got a new seed feeder.
We checked the mink rafts - neither had prints but the clay had frozen in the recent cold nights. The goldeneye box on a pole had fallen over, or been pushed over.
1930 I spent an hour in the badger hide but saw no badgers

Weds 27th Feb
1300 Went to the badger hide and put out food. On the way home I went to put the goldeneye box at Milton Loch back up only to find it had mysteriously repaired itself. Thank you - whoever you are.

Fri 29th Feb
0830 A pair of blue tits were prospecting agan at the sparrow gallery on the garden shed.

Sat 1st March
0830 I put out food at the badger hide then filled all the village bird feeders.
1345 Daughter Lesley and I did a nest check in the forest as follows. There was hardly any change at any of the boxes.

Sun 2nd March
1000 Went to the badger hide and put out food.

Mon 3rd March
Bea and I had lunch in Perth with SWT Chairman Dennis Dick and his wife.
1945 I went to the badger hide for half an hour and put out food. Two badgers came out - one at the upper and one at the lower sett.

Tues 4th March
0830 I filled the bird feeders around the village.
1830 We had a BoGWiG meeting in the village hall. There were fifteen of us - I gave a talk on otters followed by a discussion.

Weds 5th March
0945 Bea and I did a badger survey at Tomintoul in grid square NJ14.19. We found not a trace of badgers - hardly surprising as much of the square was tangled forest and steep bogs.

Fri 7th March
0930 Bea and I checked the mink rafts - no prints.
2040 I went to the badger hide and stayed for half an hour. A badger came out at 2100 for about ten minutes. The weather was foul so I don't imagine the badger will have stayed long above ground. I heard a tawny owl in the birches above the hide.

Sat 8th March
0800 I went out in heavy rain to feed the birds around the village and put out food for the badgers. I got home at 0845 soaked!
1500 I collected more rotten wood from the forest floor for the crestie nest boxes. Got wet again.

Sun 9th March
Up quite early - busy day ahead.
0900 Starlings mating in our garden. They then flew up into the nest box. Looks very hopeful.
1015 to 1530 Bea and I helped a friend with her allocated square for the National Badger Survey. We found no signs of badgers but there was a fox scat in a field and a very busy otter spraint site on the river bank between the bridges at Grantown on Spey.
1930 Had a brief chat with Simon King, Ben Aviss and Stuart Armstrong in Aviemore regarding this year's BBC Springwatch series.

Mon 10th March
Spent much of the day with Ben Aviss from the BBC Springwatch team sorting out camera equipment for my nest boxes in the hope of capturing footage of the comings and goings of breeding crested tits.

Tues 11th March
Set off early for Newark for two days to attend a meeting of the council of the RSWT.

Weds 12th March
RSWT meeting, then a battle to get home in time for tomorrow's session with the BBC. The east coast train line had been closed by high winds and a stranded train so the RSWT sent me and others across country in a taxi to Leeds where I was able to smooth talk my way onto a train that got me into Edinburgh in time to catch the last train home.

Thurs 13th March
Up very early to prepare for the BBC arriving. We put out three camera-ready crested tit boxes in the woods - fingers crossed.
1200 Bought a fresh sack of peanuts and filled the feeders at the community garden and the village hall.

Fri 14th March
0800 The first black headed gull of the season turned up.
1100 Bea checked the mink rafts - no prints found.

Sat 15th March
Travelled to Cramond to attend the annual SWT Members Centres Day.

Sun 16th March
0800 I fed the badgers and topped up the feeders at the community garden, village hall and grebe car park.
0900 I then took some more wood shaving and topped up the new crestie boxes, only to discover that two of them were visible from a public path. I moved them to a more secluded spot.
1230 Ben Aviss and Stuart Armstrong of the BBC called in to drop off some more equipment before they head back to Bristol. They'll be up again in a month's time for more preparation.
1330 I did a full nest check of the crestie boxes. No change in any of them since the last visit so we are in good time with our preparations. One final thing - I visited the new boxes for the second time today and smeared mud over them to help them blend in a bit more. They are made from a pale type of wood and so stood out too obviously in the dark forest. Foxes seem to have been busy this week - I found two fresh scats during my rounds.

Mon 17th March
Up very early to make a start on heaps of admin.
0945 Took a break to try and video cresties at the grebe car park. Watched a spectacular chase by at least three red squirrel through the canopy. I took two short bits of video of crested tits - not very good though.

1500 I fed the badgers

Weds 19th March
1000 Swept the badger hide and checked all 3 goldeneye boxes and the pine marten box. No signs of activity yet at any of them.
1200 I set up a mini feeding station near box 14 in the local woods - the idea being to get some crested tit footage in dense woodland.
1800 Took a few SNH staff members to the badger hide. We had a brief view of one badger

Fri 21st March
1400 I filled the bird feeders all around the village and had a peep at the new feeding station - two crested tits seen. There was a very fresh fox scat on the secret path.
1430 Fed the badgers.

Sat 22nd March
1400 Into the woods for a while. Great Spotted Woodpecker on the nuts at the grebe car park and two crested tits at the new feeding station.

Mon 24th March
1930 Badger watch with two guests. Very cold weather (-4) but we did see a badger briefly.

Tues 25th March
1330 I filled all the village bird feeders before going away for a few days.

Sat 29th March
SWT Council Away Day. Morning discussions in the Pitlessie Inn, lunch, then visits to two SWT reserves - Bankhead Moss and Fleecefaulds Meadow.

Mon 31st March
1100 Filled all the village feeders.
1320 Nest check. Not much change except that the filler in two of the three new boxes had either settled a bit or a bird has begun excavating and box 13 has even less of its filler in than last time. I modified box 13's lid to make it quicker and easier to fit a camera if things continue to develop. A crested tit came to see what I was doing.
1615 I collected a dead badger off the B970 road at Mains of Garten. It was a non-lactating female weighing 8.5 kgs.

Tues 1st April
0800 Starlings were seen taking nest material into the nest in our garden
0830 I sat at the new feeder and watched crested tits feeding. Failed to get any decent video this time.
1830 Meeting of the Boat of Garten Wildlife Group "BoGWiG" in the village hall. Tonight's topic was moths and the session was led by Mike Taylor. Twelve BoGWiG members attended the session after which Mike set up his moth trap in our garden. Later we received a phone call from one of our members who had come across a dead badger at Pityoulish on her way home.

Weds 2nd April
0700 Went to find last night's dead badger. It was on the B970 at Pityoulish NH 9157.1378 - a lactating female weighing 12 kgs. Very sad indeed. Let's hope one of the aunties manages to raise the cubs.
1400 Bea checked the mink traps. Small footprints again - probably stoat.
1945 Went to the badger hide with a family of 5 people. One badger seen twice - good viewing.

Thurs 3rd April
0800 I looked into our starling box where there has been some very serious activity this past two weeks. There was a complete nest but no eggs yet.

Fr1 4th April
0930 Bea and I conducted a badger survey of square NH9332 in cold showery weather. The whole square is just a high level heathery bog in which no self respecting badger would live.
2030 I went to the badger hide on my own and saw one badger twice. One of the goldeneye nest boxes has a large twig in it. Hmmm?

Sat 5th April
The day started cold and snowy.
0800 I refilled the bird feeders all around the village and in our garden.
0850 I did a complete nest check in the woods. No changes since last time - hardly surprising because the winter weather just keeps on going. I found a fresh fox scat at the south end of the secret path.

Weds 9th April
1030 I topped up the feeders in our garden and all round the village
1100 Video session at the new feeding station. There were two cresties and three red squirrels in attendance.
2015 I took a family of five to the badger hide. We twice saw a single badger.

Thurs 10th April
0730 Nest check at the badger hide. A tawny owl was incubating 3 eggs in the camouflaged goldeneye duck box and tits had started building a nest in the tit box. The remaining goldeneye and pine marten boxes were unoccupied.
0815 Checked our starling box where there has been serious nest building activity lately. Still no eggs.
1100 Full nest check in Craigie Woods. Not much had changed but box 13 was now nearly empty and box 15 had a small piece of nest material in it. I also found a badger tunnel near box 15 and a fox scat near box 8.

Fri 11th April
1130 We went to Chanonry Point to see dolphins but none turned up. Dolphin guru Charlie Philips was there with a group of students from Middlesex and I was asked to give them an impromptu talk on beaver reintroduction. Later we went to the Black Isle Wildlife Park.
1930 I went to the badger hide to watch at dusk for the tawny owl to confirm I had not totally freaked her out by yesterdays intrusive nest check. Dave Gascoigne and Georgina from the RSPB came and kept me company. At 2100 a male tawny owl called and the female replied and at that moment we saw the two birds circle round the nest box tree. It was too gloomy to be certain of exactly what happened but I suspect the female was sitting on the eggs when she heard her mate call and she immediately left the box to join him. We stayed for a while to watch a badger before heading for home.

Sun 13th April
0800 Looked into our staring box again. Still no eggs.
2030 I went to the badger hide to try to see the tawny owl again. No luck but a badger came out for a while.

Mon 14th April
0830 I filled all the feeders around the village and at home.
1030 David Gascoigne, Georgina and I did a nest check around the crested tit boxes. There was little change from the last visit although two of the BBC's boxes showed signs of having been visited. We found fox scats in three places.
2000 I took a small group to the badger hide. It was still broad daylight when we arrived so I had a snoop round and I found a goldeneye egg in a nest box near the hide. Later, when darkness fell, we had at least three badgers in view. A very nice evening.

Tues 15th April
0900 Bea and I attended the Wildcat Conference in Aviemore - a very worthwhile event.

Weds 16th April
0900 I refilled box 14 with wood shavings then sat and filmed red squirrels and crested tits.
1400 I went to the badger hide and checked all the nest boxes. The high box and pine marten box were both still unused, the tit box has an almost complete nest in it and the low brown goldeneye box still has just one egg in it.
1500 I refilled nest boxes 1, 2, 3 and 12 with fresh wood shavings because the old filling had become very wet. I will build new boxes for those locations next season.
1930 I took Stuart Brooks from SWT and his family to the hide. Unfortunately they had to leave before any badgers came out.

Thurs 17th April
1500 Spent a couple of hours filming crested tits with a crew from BBC Springwatch.

Fri 18th April
1035 I learned that the bird hide had been vandalised overnight. I called the police.
2100 I went to the badger hide on my own. Still only one goldeneye egg but two badgers came out to feed on peanuts.

Mon 21st April
0900 I checked our starling box. There was a beautiful nest but still no eggs.
1300 I made a new squirrel feeder and a new crested tit nest box
2100 I went to the badger hide on my own. There were now two eggs in the goldeneye box. A badger came out just five minutes after I went into the hide.

Tues 22nd April
0715 Seven hour filming session with the BBC Springwatch team. Great fun but quite exhausting.

Weds 23rd April
1200 Scottish Wildlife Trust reception and council meeting in Inverness.

Thurs 24th April
1630 Nest check in Craigie Wood. Not a great deal of change but there were fresh droppings in box 6, dark feathers in box 9 and boxes 15 and 16 both showed signs of excavation.
2045 At the badger hide I saw a goldeneye duck fly across the field and into the top goldeneye box. Later it flew out again so I grabbed the ladder and went up to the box - it contained 2 eggs. The lower box now had 6 eggs in it and I found two blue tits roosting on top of a beautiful nest inside the tit box. It all looks very promising.

Fri 25th April
1300 I checked the tit box at the badger hide again to see if there were eggs yet. None seen. The lower goldeneye box had acquired another egg overnight and I noticed in the logbook that the tawny owls had been seen at their nest box at 2100 two nights ago.
1500 An injured squirrel arrived in our garden. No point trying to do anything for it other than make sure there is plenty of food and water in the garden - the last one we tried to help died of stress overnight at the vets office.

Sat 26th April
1000 I filled all the garden bird feeders and the various feeders around the village. There were two cresties at the secret feeder in the woods.
1400 The injured squirrel was here again. It fell asleep on our lawn and we thought it was dying but after a while it recovered and ran away into the woods. I checked both sparrow galleries - the one on the porch had three nests in it (2 blue tit and one wasp). One of the blue tit nests may be new but the other one and the wasp nest were old. The gallery on the shed was empty apart from droppings which I swept out. I also checked the starling box again - the nest is even bigger than previously but still no eggs.
2030 I took the family of the estate owners to the badger hide. We caught a glimpse of a badger but that was all.

Sun 27th April
1945 I took a group of three wildlife enthusiasts to the hide. There were 9 eggs in the lower goldeneye box. We watched the male tawny owl catch something (mouse or vole) and deliver it to its mate in the camouflaged nest box. The badgers were slow to make an appearance but they showed briefly just after 2200 and then two came out for a proper twenty minute performance at 2235.

Tues 29th April
1400 I took a fresh supply of peanuts to the badger hide and checked 2 of the nest boxes. The low box still had nine goldeneye eggs in it and the tit box still had just a nest.

Weds 30th April
0930 I filled all the feeders in the garden and around the village.
1100 I did a thorough nest check in Craigie Woods. There was mostly no change but box 13 now has a nest in it and boxes 15 and 16 had been excavated respectively to 45mm and 40mm below the bottom of the holes - significantly lower than last week. By contrast box 17, which is identical to 15 and 16, is still virtually full of shavings.

Mid evening - a neighbour phoned to say she was worried that a female blackbird had abandoned the chicks in a nest in her greenhouse. I promised to call round in the morning.

Thurs 1st May
0900 I visited the neighbour's blackbird nest. The male was calling his head off from a post and there were two females in the garden so I left a pot of live mealworms near the nest for the birds to find and went home with a promise to check back later.
1600 The blackbird situation had resolved itself. Male and female had quickly fed all the mealworms to their chicks and the neighbour went into town to buy more.
2050 Two otters were seen in the Spey by the island just below the Boat of Garten bridge.
2100 I took friends to the badger hide. It was a very late night with the badgers staying out of sight until after 2300.

Fri 2nd May
1400 I sat for a while near box 13 to try and see what had built the nest. I was disappointed to see a blue tit, rather than a crested tit, go into the box. I feel really sorry for the little cresties. They spend up to three weeks digging themselves a cavity only to have it stolen by bolder birds. I have observed this behaviour a number of times in the last seven years and I think it shows just how scarce nesting cavities are in young forests like this one.
1430 I sat on the observation platform near the grebe pond for an hour. I did not see a slavonian grebe but did see a pair of coots with a nest, widgeon, goldeneye ducks, tufted ducks, black headed gulls, lapwings, mallards and little grebes.

Sat 3rd May
0930 I filled all the feeders in our garden and around the village.
0945 I saw a slavonian grebe asleep on the shore of the grebe pond.
1000 I walked in to the BBC boxes 15, 16 and 17 to see if there had been any further developments - and there had. 16 and 17 were more or less unchanged but 15 was down to 70mm below the bottom of the hole. That is 25mm (one whole inch) lower than three days ago. I sat and watched for an hour in the hope of seeing a crested tit continuing to burrow, but no luck. At one point a great tit came and perched at the entrance hole but made no attempt to go in. The hole may simply be too small for it - I hope so anyway.
1130 I called in at the blue tit nest in box 13. The nest now has a lining of feathers.
1230 I checked our starling box - it now has 5 eggs in it.
2015 Badger watch with two people. It should have been five but three did not turn up. Charming.
2100 I discovered a broken goldeneye egg on the ground beneath the low box and feared the worst. Sure enough the box was empty. It looks as if Mr Pine Marten has been to call and removed all nine of the eggs.
2115 Three cars drove past the hide. There was a party going on at one of the estate lodges and we debated whether it was worth staying in view of all the noise. We hung in there and were eventually rewarded at 2303 with a visit from a badger at the upper sett. It stayed for about twenty minutes.

Mon 5th May
0745 I spoke to two twitchers at the grebe car park and they showed me a slavonian grebe on the far shore of the loch.
0800 I moved box 14 to a new location near box 13 in case the cresties can be persuaded to try again after blue tits bullied them out of their box.
0830 I put a camera trap at box 15 to try and see which birds were using it. While I was there a blue tit turned up so the cresties might have lost that box too.
1000 Bea and I went to look for dragonflies at one of the RSPB ponds and later at Kinchurdy pool so that tomorrow's BoGWiG Wildlife for Everyone session might have somewhere to go after Jonathan Willett's dragonfly talk. No luck with the dragonflies but we did find some caper droppings on a stump beside Kinchurdy pool.
1020 Bea and did a complete nest check at the badger hide. The news was mostly disappointing. Nothing at the pine marten box and both active goldeneye boxes were empty - the eggs presumably having been stolen by the pine martens. On the plus side blue tits had laid at least four eggs and there were two tawny owl chicks in the camouflaged box. We heard a cuckoo.
2100 I took four guests to the badger hide. We watched the tawny male bring food to the nest and saw a hare, roe deer and woodmice. At 2240 two badgers turned up for us to watch for about forty minutes.

Tues 6th May
1830 BoGWiG "Wildlife for Everyone" dragonfly session in the village hall led by Jonathan Willett. He gave us a talk and then we had a cup of coffee and a discussion before going to Milton Loch to look for larvae. Not much luck this early in the season but we found plenty of other tiny creatures and enjoyed dipping our nets and other utensils along the waters edge.

Weds 7th May
0730 I filled all the village and garden bird feeders.
0930 Bea and I did a full crestie nest box check in Craigie Wood. The main observations were:
Box 4 now three quarters empty
Box 8 now empty
Box 13 has a lined nest
Box 15 has a lined nest
Box 16 has a few pieces of nest material
We moved the camera trap from box 15 to box 16 and replaced its card. When we got home the card showed very little activity apart from a visit by a great tit to the box entrance.

Thurs 8th May
1600 I took two ladies to the grebe car park and showed them round our back garden with its wildlife features. Evidently they had me with Mark Stevens on BBC Radio Scotland's Out Of Doors programme several months ago and had gained the impression I ran a sort of visitor centre. Not true but I was happy to show them round anyway.

Fri 9th May
0800 I checked boxes 16. 15, 13 and 14 in that order and retrieved the camera trap from box 16. The card had fifty pictures on it but it did not capture any pictures of birds.
0840 Phone call to report a badger RTA on the A96 road fifty metres west from the Inverness Airport roundabout near Tornagrain at roughly NH 7731 5073.
0930 I updated the diaries and the website.
1600 I fitted a camera trap to box 0808 to try and see which species had built a nest in it.

Sat 10th May
2100 I took 2 people to the badger hide. We saw the tawny owl coming and going at their box and badgers eventually came out soon after 2300. Did not get home until 1230.

Mon 12th May
I travelled to Newark for meetings of the RSWT and got home on Wednesday evening.

Thurs 15th May
Penny Dunbar phones to say she had found a dead pine marten beside Milton Loch NH 9443 1934. Sadly it was a lactating female so there are some very unfortunate kits somewhere. She had the carcase taken to SNH from where it will eventually go to the zoo for their research.
1500 Bea and I did a full nest check in Craigie Woods. There was no activity at any box that had not already been started. The main points were:
0804 Lined nest - did not observe ggs yet
0808 Now has eggs
0813 Eggs
0815 Blue tit on eggs
0816 Nest building has stopped.

Fri 16th May
1000 I checked box 0808 - it's blue tits again. No cresties in boxes this year yet.
1400 I filled all the feeders around the village and our place.
1430 I went to find a wild crested tit nest that had been reported to me near the osprey centre. It is right beside a public road so much too public for the BBC to be filming at. It was hard to see into the narrow cavity the bird had excavated for its nest - a fact that might inform a re-design of my crested tit boxes.
1445 I sat near box 0804 to try and see which species were using it. I saw no birds but did find eggs in the box. On the way out I found some capercaillie dung on a tree stump.
I learned later that two of the goldeneye boxes fitted with cameras for Springwatch at Richard Thaxton's house had failed. One had been abandoned and the other was being used as a dump.

Sat 17th May
I set up a camera trap at box 0804.

Sun 18th May
1500 I checked the camera trap at box 0804 but the results were inconclusive. However, the eggs looked very like blue tit to me - pearly white with brownish spots.
1530 I checked our starling box when I got home - still just eggs.
1600 Ben Aviss and Stuart Armstrong from BBC Springwatch called round to collect some of the equipment they had lodged with me. We did a spot of planning and I decided to pull out all the stops to find a wild crestie nest that would be suitable for filming.

Mon 19th May
0415 I walked in to box 0804 to catch its occupant still asleep. Sure enough - blue tit.
0425 I heard a pair of tawny owls communicating near the main cross roads in the middle of the forest.
0800 Keith Duncan, myself and four of the staff from the osprey centre walked in to ring the chicks in the tawny owl nest near the badger hide. When we got there we found only one chick - its sibling must either have already fledged or provided a meal for a pine marten or for the surviving chick. Amazingly one of the goldeneye boxes that had lost its eggs to a pine marten had acquired another nine eggs with a duck sitting on them. There is no way of knowing if it's the same duck or a different one.
1000 I went to osprey nest D. There was a female sitting on eggs.
1330 I designed and built a very small crested tit nest box in response to what I had seen yesterday.
1500 I rigged up the new box on a stump in the burnt forest near box 0817 and then set off to look for a wild crestie nest.
1630 I disturbed a male capercaillie high in a tree in the centre of the old forest
1700 Success. I found a perfect crested tit nest in a classic situation. The bird had burrowed into the side of a large dead snag as high as it was possibly to go - about eight feet from the ground. The snag was so rotten one could easily push a finger into the wood and there was another similar snag fifty yards away which it will be worth keeping an eye on in future years.
2115 I went to the badger hide with 6 guests. The cows were a nuisance so we had to walk in the long way. Good badger viewing though. Just one badger but we had it for an hour.

Tues 20th May
I spent much of the morning dealing with emails and phone calls to do with beavers.
1630 Spent an hour videoing and watching the new wild crestie nest. Lots of comings and goings but not conclusive whether there are chicks yet.

Weds 21st May
0700 Sean Dugan and I went in to the new crestie nest site so that he could make a judgement on the stage they are at. I had to leave him there to go to a meeting.
0900 Bea and I met Howard Edge from the school and the joiner at the grebe car park to finalise the siting of a new interpretation board about red squirrels.
1000 I drove to Loch of the Lowes for the launch of their new HD video system for osprey watching and the official opening of the path to Dunkeld.
1830 Annual village tidy up - with Bea in charge. I did the grebe car park area.

Thurs 22nd May
1000 I went to the new crestie nest with Sean and BBC cameraman John Aitken. We set up a hide close to the nest then retreated for a while. The birds did not seem to mind. After a while Sean and I left John to it. Incidentally we almost fell over a badger tunnel between the camera position and the nest.
1400 Bea and I did some nest box checking at Milton Loch. The kestrel box contained 2 jackdaw chicks, the goldeneye box had one jackdaw chick and the owl box had 3 jackdaw eggs. The mink raft in the burn had been wrecked by the local vandals but the one in the loch was still intact although there were no prints in the clay.
1600 I checked all the boxes at the badger hide. The high goldeneye box and the pine marten box were still empty. The camouflaged box still had a very large tawny owl chick, the low brown box still had its seven eggs and the tit box now had at least eight tiny naked chicks.
2030 I peeped into our starling box - still just eggs.
2115 I took two people to the badger hide. The cows behaved themselves this time and we had fifty minutes of good badger watching - unfortunately the badgers did not bother to show up until nearly midnight so it was very late night indeed.

Fri 23rd May
Sean Dugan, Stuart Armstrong and I set up cameras inside nest box 0815 for Springwatch. Mum sat tight throughout most of process but flew off when I removed the side of her box for a short time to fit one of the cameras. I had to scoop out some of the wood shavings under the nest to centre the nest in the camera lens. Mother blue tit was back on her eggs just minutes after we retreated - apparently quite unphased by the disturbance.

Sat 24th May
0830 I observed a blue tit fly up into the sparrow gallery on our porch and emerge carrying a little white sac. Clearly we have chicks we did not know about.
1000 Sean and I took the BBC clamshell to the hide at box 0815 and got 28 minutes of footage. Mother blue tit had taken exception to our adjustments of her nest and had built it back up again to obscure the eggs from the side. However we got some wonderful shots from the top camera.
1300 I had another peep into the starling box - still just eggs.
1400 I took Ben Aviss and Chris the sound man to box 0815 to get some external shots of the blue tits coming and going. I took box 0817 down for Simon King to use in the show.

Sun 25th May
0930 Text from Sean Dugan - a woodpecker had predated the wild crestie nest I had found for Springwatch.
1000 The expected announcement about beavers was made in the Sunday Herald - we have been issued with a license to carry out a trial reintroduction.
1700 Sean Dugan and I scoured Craigie Wood for another wild crested tit nest. No luck.

Mon 26th May
1100 SWT Conservation Committee meeting at Cramond.
2000 BBC Springwatch. I got 2.5 mentions from Simon King (2 Allan Banticks and an Allan).

Tues 27th May
0900 I fed all the village birds.
1400 Bea and I did a full nest check - nothing significant had changed since the last check but there are now nine chicks in box 0808.
1715 I went to the badger hide. A tawny owl flew out of a tree near the camouflaged box which still contains a very large owl chick. There are 8 well developed blue tit chicks in the tit box and a goldeneye duck with seven eggs in the low brown box. The duck was absent when I got there but she arrived as was checking the camera so she did a quick about-turn and flew back to the river.
2000 Springwatch - and I got another name check from Simon and he even mentioned the Scottish Wildlife trust. Very nice.

Weds 28th May
0730 I spoke about beavers to Radio New Zealand.
0900 to 1200 Sean and I checked the well being of the chicks in box 0815 via the clam shell. All seemed well so we searched further afield for crestie nest. No luck but we had a close encounter with a large fox. We checked the badger setts at that end of the wood..Loch Roid was totally under water and both BBB NE and BBB Main setts were unoccupied. owever we found good signs of occupancy at BBB SW.
1400 Bill Cuthbert phoned to say he had found a crested tit nest in one of the boxes we had set up some years ago in Anagach Wood - box CTAN02. I informed the BBC and arrangements were set in train to get cameras in there.

Thurs 29th May
I spent most of the afternoon bringing my Cairngorm Wildlife talk up to date ready for Monday. The BBC phoned to make arrangements to use my workshop to modify the crested tit box.
2230 I went to the badger hide on my own. I could not find any badgers.

Fri 30th May
Spent most of the morning preparing for next week's beaver Steering Group Meeting.
1400 John Aitcheson and Chris Watson came round and built a new lid for the crested tit box and fitted it with two cameras.

Sat 31st May
1330 I joined the Scottish Wildlife Trust North Forum group at Carrbridge where Gus Jones was conducting a wildlife tour of the local woodland.
1830 I put a false lid on box 0813 ready to receive a video camera once the eggs have hatched. I then discovered a woodpecker hole in a dead tree in the burnt forest, only fifty metres south of the new box 0817b. I took some video footage. While I was there Stuart Armstrong from the BBC phoned to set up fitting the new lid and cameras to the crestie box at Anagach tomorrow.

Sun 1st June
1000 John Aitcheson, Bill Cuthbert, camera lady Jenny and I lugged all the gear into Anagach Woods to rig the crestie nest for BBC Springwatch. We built the hide about eighty metres from the nest and watched until we were sure the cresties were feeding their babies. We assembled the hide and John wired up the cameras and then we carefully carried it all to the box. Jenny caught the whole thing on tape. It only took a few minutes to remove the old lid, fit the new one and lay out the wires to where the hide would soon be - we then retreated to a safe distance to observe the birds' reactions. They were clearly unhappy at first but eventually one of them plucked up courage to take food into the box and remove a faecal sac. The other one ate the food it had brought for the chicks rather than brave the new lid. When the birds had gone away hunting again we carried the hide into its final position and once more retreated to a safe distance. It was twenty minutes before a crestie came back and it flew around for a few minutes with its beak full of food before plucking up enough courage to enter the modified box containing its babies. At this point Bill and I left leaving John and Jenny to go into the hide and get what footage they could. Tomorrow's Springwatch will reveal how they got on.

Mon 2nd June
Up early and practised my talk for tonight - just aw well as there were some mistakes.
Bill Cuthbert phoned to say there were redstart chicks in a box near the crestie box - probably box CTAN01 at NJ058 282.
1000 I visited the badger hide. The tawny owl chick has now fledged, there are now 9 eggs in the goldeneye box and the blue tit chicks are growing nicely. I changed the batteries and card in the camera trap on the goldeneye box.
Spent much of the rest of the day on beaver business. During a break I checked the starling box to confirm the eggs have been abandoned.
2030 Gave the Wildlife of the Cairngorms National Park talk to an audience of more than thirty in the village hall.
2230 Got home and watched Springwatch - Bill and I were both screened at the crestie box and SWT got a name check.

Tues 3rd June
1100 Beaver Steering Group meeting at Crammond.
On the way home on the train Springwatch phoned me for permission to use some of my pine marten pictures on the show that night. Sure enough - there they were to illustrate the point about how hard it is for tree-nesting ducks to keep their eggs safe.

Weds 4th June
1915 I helped out at Loch Garten as a spotter for Springwatch and had a chat with Simon King afterwards.

Thurs 5th June
1420 Went to the bagder hide. The goldeneye duck was still on her eggs so I changed the card and batteries in the camera trap. I surveyed the badger sett and found signs of occupancy only in the tunnels at the extreme ends of the sett - as far away from the hide as it was possible to get. Odd.
1520 Fitted my video camera to nest box 0813 and got 40 minutes of parents feeding very young chicks. While it was recording I went to the woodpecker nest I had found on 31st May and took some pictures.
1915 I went to Chanonry Point with Springwatch and sat in the Outside Broadcast vehicle while the show was going out live. Most interesting. Patti the director remained remarkably cool as a camera went down. It was touch and go if it could be replaced in time and if a dolphin would turn up while Simon King was speaking. The replacement camera got there just before a dolphin surfaced and it went out live on the show - great stuff.

Fri 6th June
1000 Scottish Badger Meeting in Perth.
2130 I went to the badger hide and got a brief glimpse of one badger. Could not stay long due to the midges - forgot to take my net.

Sat 7th June
1500 I strimmed the grass at the badger hide.
2215 I set up the old camera trap at the badger hide and then sat at the southernmost sett for an hour but saw nothing.
Midnight - I made the difficult decision to close the hide for the time being.

Mon 9th June
1000 I fed all the birds.
1100 I collected a dead red squirrel from Liz Gray's garden - but it was to far decomposed to be of any use.
Spent the rest of the day on SWT and beaver matters.

Tues 10th June
I drove to Seil Island and walked round the Balchuan Hazelwood Reserve. Beautiful. I sat on the coast and watched for otters but no luck. I did see a buzzard, oystercatcher, heron, hoodie and several pine marten scats.
In the evening I accompanied Simon Jones when he gave a beaver talk to the newly formed Seil Island Natural History Club at the new village hall at Easdale. We later drove to Kilmartin to our self-catering for the night.

Weds 11th June
A very useful day at Knapdale with representatives from British Waterways who had concerns about the effects of beavers on their canal and reservoirs. In the morning we showed their man from head office the three proposed release sites and in the afternoon we were joined by local staff who showed us their reservoir system. In the course of the day great strides were made in understanding each others issues and as a result we will quite definitely be able to work together. It took five hours to drive home.

Thurs 12th June
I checked the camera traps at the badger hide. The goldeneye one had failed - I think due to poor quality batteries. The old trap had worked very well and showed a small amount of badger activity on two nights - all of it at or after midnight.
The crested tits in Anagach nest box CTAN02 fledged today and were shown doing so on Springwatch.
2130 Bea dropped me of at the Cairngorm Hotel for the Springwatch Wrap Party. Lots of chance to chat with all concerned. I picked Simon King's brain about ideas for how we might best cover the beaver trial for television - very helpful.

Sat 14th June
I checked the chicks in Springwatch box 0815 in readiness for de-rigging the box and the hide. The chicks were still there so I just carried the heavy battery home and left the rest for another day or days.

Mon 16th June
1400 I fed all the birds around the village, removed the secret feeder now that Springwatch has finished and removed the wiring from the blue tit box and hide. The chicks were still there - in both boxes 0813 and 0815.
Received an email about a badger seen high on An Socach - this is the second such sighting on that mountain in a year. Here is part of the message:
"29th May 2008, about 5pm grid ref NH0849631983
Returning to Iron Lodge from An Riabhachan, a friend and I saw a badger on the broad grassy ridge leading from An Socach to Meall Shuas. It was coming up the ridge towards us, in no particular hurry. It stopped and
scratched at some longer grass, then either heard or saw us and moved off down into Coire Lungard, at a jog-trot. We did not follow, not wanting to risk harassing it. We did manage to get one photo before it moved off. I
thought it would be worth while recording this sighting as it was at about 750metres, with no trees anywhere nearby, and on peaty ground which would normally be damp."

Tues 17th June
Dennis Dick and I attended the launch of the Action for Mountain Woodland on Cairngorm. Dennis gave the keynote speech in the Ptarmigan Restaurant - he replaced the minister who had to pull out.

Weds 18th June
1400 Bea and I checked out boxes 0813 and 0815. The chicks were all still there so we just packed up the BBC Springwatch Hide and brought it home. We also had a brief look at the woodpecker hole nearby but no sign of the birds so the chicks must have fledged.

2100 I went to the badger hide on my own. The goldeneye duck was still on her eggs so I re-set both cameras. According to the log book the RSPB saw no badgers last night so I decided to keep the hide closed to the public for the time being.

Thurs 19th June
Spent a bit of time in sorting out admin arrangements for the beaver trial.

Fri 20th June
Bea and I to Edinburgh to attend the Royal Highland Show and meet the Environment Minister Michael Russell at the Scottish Wildlife Trust stand where this year's theme is the beaver. It was a lovely day and we discussed beavers with the minister both at the SWT stand and again later at the Cabinet Secretary's reception. We also spoke with Stuart Housden RSPB about beavers and Loch Insh - interesting.

Sat 21st June
1500 I checked boxes 0813 and 0815 - chicks still in both. 0815 had been attacked by something (woodpecker, pine marten) and the hole was now huge so I got the lid from 0816 and screwed it over the hole to stop anything bigger than a tit getting in. Otherwise this was a lazy day - long overdue.

Sun 22nd June
Rainy day.
1300 I checked box 0813 where the chicks had fledged and box 0815 where they had not.
1500 Badger hide. Goldeneye chicks had fledged but sadly the camera batteries had failed before they did so and there were no pictures of the happy event. The old camera trap had caught one badger at the hide in the past four nights. Not very good so I'll keep the hide closed.

Mon 23rd June
1000 Llinos Davies took Bea and I to show us the two mink rafts on the Spey that we were to monitor - one upstream of the Boat bridge at NH9460 1888 and one downstream of the bridge at NH9462 1929. We also checked the one on Milton Loch (the one in Milton Burn had been vandalised and will be removed).

Weds 25th June
Train to Cramond for a meeting with the press but they cancelled last minute. Useful day anyway and I attended a meeting of the beaver funding group.

Thurs 26th June
SWT Council Meeting including the election for the next chairman in which I was elected. This is the crowning moment of my wildlife career and I am the proudest man on earth. I am totally committed to the Scottish Wildlife Trust and the chance to lead the trust for three years is an amazing privilege. I shall reduce my duties in other organisations with immediate effect - I had already prepared them for this possibility. Bea and I drove to her sisters to spend a few quiet days with the family and get our breath back.

Fri/Sat/Sun Weekend with the family.

Mon 30th June
1400 Fed all the birds around the village.
1430 Retrieved box 0815 and its BBC cameras - the chicks had fledged at last.
2030 Did the Wildlife of the Cairngorms talk in the village hall. Small audience because it clashed with Andy Murray on TV at Wimbledon.

Tues 1st July
Interview over the phone with Jennifer Haworth of the Scotsman about SWT and my election to the chair.

Thurs 3rd July
Article in several papers about my becoming SWT chair including a somewhat controversial piece in the Scotsman about my opinions on the return of the lynx. Simon Milne issued a briefing paper to the SWT trustees in case they were contacted but the outcome has been really positive. We may even have gained some new members as a result.
2215 I went to the badger hide on my own. Some badger signs at the extreme ends of the sett and then at 2310 a badger came out to eat nuts for 35 minutes.

Fri 4thJuly
Follow-up Q and A article in the Scotsman about lynx but now it has all gone quiet.

1200 I fed all the birds around the village.

Sat 5th July
1500 I strimmed the grass at the badger hide.Sun 6th July
1000 I called in at the osprey centre for a chat with the staff. Bea and I were invited to dinner with some of them next week.

Tues 8th July
Only two black-headed gulls turned up at our house this morning - most will have headed back to the coast by now. Spent the evening with the RSPB osprey staff at their cottage - wonderful meal cooked by Dave Gascoigne the boss.

Weds 9th July
Did loads of admin - cleared out the filing cabinet and threw away lots of papers, mostly out of date badger stuff, to create space for the SWT paperwork that is almost bound to come flooding in after I take over the Chair in September.

Fri 11th July
More of the same.

Sat 12th July
Day at home. Worked on a beaver presentation and then went and fed the village birds.

Sun 13th July
Only one seagull this morning. Went away on family business for a couple of days.

Weds 16th July
Meeting in Perth with Dennis Dick, SWT Chairman, who gave me lots of advice to help me get started when I take over from him at the end of September. I very helpful day.

Thurs 17th to Sun 20th July
A few days of golf, punctuated with lots of phone calls and emails to follow up a course of action that I settled upon after Wednesday's meeting. Fingers crossed for the outcomes.

Mon 21st July
Still only one seagull this morning. Red squirrels have found us again and there was one in the garden this morning for the third day running.
I went to the badger hide and swept it out. Badgers have re-excavated two of the tunnels in front of the hide so it looks as if they are back. I'll consider re-opening the hide after a visit there tomorrow evening.
2030 I gave a wildlife talk in the village hall to an audience of 20 people.

Tues 22nd July
No seagulls this morning. It is amazing how often in the past the last seagull left on this day in the year (But see 23nd July!).
In the afternoon I spoke live on Talk 107 radio with Dominic Diamond about beavers. Following a scare-mongering story in the Observer Dominic jokingly claimed to be terrified at the horror stories of beavers wrecking the landscape in Tierro del Fuego in Argentina and feared that this would happen in Scotland. It was great to get the chance to rebut this nonsense with a proper explanation. Dominic was very nice about the whole thing and told the audience that he fully supported our beaver trial.
I took 3 guests to the badger hide and we were eventually rewarded with 2 badgers at 2320 giving us very good viewing for 45 minutes. Badger watching is still a very late night affair but beginning to be worthwhile again.

Weds 23rd July
I updated my databases this morning and then to my surprise a seagull turned up. I thought they had all left for the coast by now..
In the afternoon Bea and checked the mink rafts - two on the Spey and one on Milton Loch. No mink prints at any of them.

Sat 26th July
A seagull came to see us again this morning - they are still hanging on. In most years they have all gone by now. A red squirrel also paid us a visit.
2130 I took a small group to the badger hide and we saw one badger at 2230 for 45 minutes. Not bad but again a late night.

Sun 27th July
The seagull and the red squirrel turned up again this morning.
1900 Bea and I fed all the village birds on our way home from golf.

Mon 28th July
Seagull still here. I spent most of the day working my way through some Wildlife Trust documents.

Weds 30th July
Went to Cramond by train for a beaver meeting.

Thurs 31st July
Seagull still hasn't gone. Spent half the day on wildlife admin again.

Fri 1st Aug
Seagull again.
1500 I fed all the village birds, then checked the badger hide and filled up the peanut bin. Loads of wildlife emails - not really complaining and I will just have to get used to this.

Sat 2nd Aug
Seagull again. Played golf then did more admin - mostly phone calls.

Sun 3rd Aug
Seagull has finally gone.

Mon 4th August
Robin in the garden - the first we have seen for some weeks. Left home for 4 days of meetings in the Edinburgh area, starting with the Conservation Committee meeting today. Fascinating day discussing some quite sensitive issues. Later met with the SWT PR people.

Tues 5th Aug
Meeting in central Edinburgh with the press re beavers.

Thurs 7th Aug
Two SWT meetings at Cramond but I missed most of the first one by being stuck for three hours in a flood on the Edinburgh City Bye-pass.

Fri 8th Aug
Spent most of the day dealing with accumulated emails that had built up during my absence of the previous four days.
2015 to midnight in the badger hide with a young couple. We saw at least four, possibly five, badgers including two well-grown cubs.

Sat 9th Aug
In the morning I fed all the village birds and cleaned out some of the feeders. In the afternoon I wrote an article on crested tits for a magazine.

Mon 11th Aug
Prepared a Power Point presentation about beavers.
In the evening I gave the Wildlife of the Cairngorms National Park Talk in the village hall.

Thurs 14th Aug
A neighbour Andrew Bateman saw a red kite at Avielochan today.
David Kerr took a group to the badger hide for me this evening. They had a marvellous evening which included two otters foraging among the grass near the hide as dusk was falling. Later on there was a badger.

Sat 16th Aug
1000 I fed all the village birds

Mon 18th Aug
I spent much of the day on SWT and beaver admin.
2000 I took a group to the hide. We only saw one badger but we had it almost continuously in view from 2100 until 2230.

Tues 19th Aug
More beaver admin.
The RSPB used the badger hide this evening and they saw an otter as well as a badger. Could the otters be using a vacant badger tunnel? It's certainly happened before.

Weds 20th Aug
I went to a SWT meeting in Edinburgh.

Thurs 21st Aug
2000 To the hide with 2 people. We saw two badgers - the first at 2145.

Fri 22nd Aug
1430 Bea and I went to the badger hide to look for signs of otters at the upper sett. We failed to find anything conclusive.
2015 I went back to the hide and watched for otters for more than an hour. No luck.

Sat 23rd Aug
1700 I fed all the village birds.
2000 Worked on my new talk about beavers.

Tues 26th Aug
Spent half the day preparing for a three-day visit to Knapdale, starting tomorrow.

Weds 27th Aug
0730 I left for Knapdale.
While I was travelling Bea checked our three mink rafts. There were a few faint marks in the clay at one raft but nothing you could identify an animal from. The other two rafts had no marks at all.
1300 I had lunch with the Aitchiesons at Kiel after which we walked along the shore and got lucky. A large otter swam towards us and was so intent on his hunting that he either did not see us or did not consider us worthy of his attention. We crept close to the shore and watched as the otter caught a substantial meal in the form of a large eel which he proceeded to devour right in front of us. It was typical of such situations that our group, which comprised a professional film cameraman, a professional film camerawoman and a keen amateur photographer, did not have a camera between them.
1700 I met up with three of the SWT Staff at Cairnbaan and we headed for our accomodation at Kilmartin where we had a meal and laid our plans for the next two days.

Thurs 28th Aug
A busy day. We spent the morning visiting the main beaver release sites then held the Steering Group meeting in the afternoon at Cairnbaan. The drop-in session in the evening was very well attended - more than 50 people turned up of whom all but two were in favour of our beaver reintroduction project. I had a very useful chat with the two opponents and they left having had at least some of their concerns satisfactorily dealt with.

Fri 29th Aug
In the morning we held a meeting of Stakeholder Groups and Individuals, chaired by local councillor Donny MacMillan. It was a very positive meeting and everyone there now accepted that the beaver trial would go ahead as planned. Most still wished to have a way of inputting their views to the project and I think we convinced them that they would be listened to.
After lunch we held a private meeting with FCS and British Waterways to continue the process of formalising our relationships on paper.
I drove home in good spirits after a very productive three days. I got home to find that Bea had fed all the village birds for me.

Mon 1st Sept Spent much of the day on beaver admin - mostly resulting from last week's visit to Knapdale.

Tues 2nd Sept
1800 CRAGG meeting at Glenmore Lodge

Weds 3rd Sept
SWT Council meeting at Cramond.

Thurs 4th Sept
2145 On the way home from the golf club committee meeting we saw a barn owl flying near Tom Dubh farm on the B970.

Fri 5th Sept
0930 We fed all the village birds
1030 We checked the three mink rafts - nothing to report.

Sun 7th Sept
We drove to Dundee and bought a pre-formed pond liner at Dobbies.

Mon 8th Sept
Bea began preparing to remove our old pond liner and re-shape the hole for our new one. She's in charge - I'm just the labourer.
1030 Phone call to report a dead badger on the A838 near Durness NC-3989-6743. Apparently it was a small badger - probably female.

Tues 9th Sept
After lunch Bea continued working on the pond until the heavens opened.

Weds 10th Sept
!700 Phone call from a local ladsy to say a forest harvester was getting uncomfortably close to the badger sett at Clais Dubh

Thurs 11th September
I phoned SNH about the harvester at Clais Dubh and they informed the estate. I assume the estate took action. After lunch Bea and I continued with our new pond.

Fri 12th September
1200 I fed all the village birds.
1500 We finished installing our new pond. Hope it survives better than the old one.

Sat 13th September
1000 A group of us tidied up the area around Milton Loch in preparation for a visit by some assessors next week in our bid to become Scotland's village of the year.
1400 Bea and I and Paddy Smyth continued with the Milton Loch tidy up by cutting the grass along all the path edges and raking up the cuttings. I acquired a nice pair of blistered thumbs in the process.

Weds 17th September
0900 I fed all the birds.
0930 I checked the badger hide. The cows were in the field and the gate padlocked so I hope we have an agile group for badger watching tonight capable of climbing the gate.
1915 Badger watch with a group of 7. One badger for an hour. Also a barn owl flew very close to the hide.

Mon 22nd September
Travelled to Newark for a series of RSWT meetings over the next two days.

Tues 23rd September
RSWT England Forum

Weds 24th September
RSWT Council Meeting - then travelled home.

Fri 26th September
Spent all day doing admin - the aftermath of several days away.

Sat 27th September
Scottish Wildlife Trust AGM in Perth. Inspirational speech from Mike Russell, Environment Minister. I took over as Chairman of the trust at the end of the day.

Mon 29th September
1000 I fed all the village birds.
1030 Checked the badger hide. Cattle now gone. Pine marten box showed no signs of having been used recently. A few badger tunnels had been recently excavated.
Spent the afternoon on SWT and beaver emails and phone calls.

Weds 1st October
0930 Bea and I spent a very wet day surveying a square in the RSPB Abernethy forest for badgers. Not much luck, although we did find badger snuffle holes and a latrine on a track near the east end of the square and pine marten dung on the same track. We now know there is a sett in that square in deep bracken and hard to find if you don't already know exactly where it is. RSPB staff offered to take us to it one day.

Friday 3rd October
0930 Aspen Conference in the Boat of Garten Community Hall. Lots of people there that I knew so that was useful. I dashed home at one point to get more bird food to fill the feeders behind the hall so that the delegates had lively entertainment during lunch which was in the lounge that looks out onto the feeders area.

Sat 4th October
Spent all day doing SWT emails and phone calls.
2145 Barn owl at Tom Dubh Farm NH9782 2037

Sun 5th October
Filled the feeders at the community garden, hall and our garden.

Mon 6th October
1800 Crested tit in our garden.
1815 I took 4 guests to the badger hide. We saw 3 roe deer, an owl and 3 badgers.

Sat 11th October
Filled all the village feeders
Took a squirrel feeder to Frank Bargett
Cleaned our seed feeders.

Mon 13th October
End of season nest box check.
1,2 and 3 No change - still full
4 Empty - even the nest is gone
5,6,7 No change - still full of new shavings.
8 Empty nest full of insects.
9 No change still 35mm down from hole
10 No change still full of new shavings
11 A few dark feathers on top of the new shavings
12 Still full of old wood
13, 15 and 16 were removed in May
14 Still full of old wood
17 I could not find it
17b and 18 Unused - I brought them home.

Tues 14th October
Lots of SWT admin

Weds 15th October
1430 I began retrieving nest boxes. Today I got boxes 1 to 5.
1800 I took 4 people to the badger hide. We saw 6 roe deer, a dipper and owl and 2 badgers.

Thurs 16th October
1400 Meeting in Inverness with Scourie Estate.

Fri 17th October
I collected boxes 9 to 12 and 14.

1800 I took 6 people to the hide. We saw 4 badgers.

Sat 18th October
1030 I removed the final three boxes (6,7 and 8) from the woods.
1100 I fed all the village birds. At the grebe car park a coal tit fed out of my hand.
1400 Afternoon in the shed cleaning out and repairing nest boxes. Nice and warm in there thanks to the new roof.

Tues 21st October
1400 I submitted my IPMR nest records to the BTO.

Weds 22nd October
1000 Roy Dennis delivered our six squirrel traps and gave us a briefing. Bea and I then set them up, wired open - 2 at Dawn's house, 2 at the Dunbars and 2 at the grebe car park. The project is to relocate up to 50 red squirrels from areas where they are plentiful to a forest at Dundonnel where they died out when the trees were all felled in the sixties, or thereabouts. Since then a new forest has grown but it is too far from any other forest for squirrels to find - a very clear example of the effects of habit fragmentation.

On the way home from positioning the traps a neighbour stopped me to say he had been seeing a badger in his garden.

I spent the rest of the day on SWT admin - emails and phone calls.

Thurs 23rd October
0900 I put new food in the traps at Dawn's house and at the grebe car park.

Fri 24th October
1100 to 1200 We set the triggers on the squirrel traps but the weather was absolutely awful so we postponed until tomorrow.

Sat 25th October
0730 We reset the triggers on all the traps and aught four squirrels, 2 at the grebe car park, 1 at Dawn's and 1 at the Dunbar's place. Roy weighed them and took hair samples before transferring them to wooden nest boxes. Later we heard Roy got two at his place so that was six to start the project.

Later I repaired Dawn's bird and squirrel feeders.

Sun 26th October
Not a good start to the day - we forgot to put the clocks back until 1030/1130.
1130 Peanuts to the badger hide to cover the period we will be away in Madagascar. Looking at the log book the last three groups to the hide saw 4, 4 and 3 badgers respectively. Pretty good.

1200 I fed all the village birds for the last time before we leave. Our friend David Kerr will top them up while we are away.

Mon 27th October
0730 I checked the grebe car park to make sure there were still squirrel in evidence after removing two of their number. There were.


Fri 14th November
Email from Llinos Davies to say she had removed the mink raft on the downstream side of the Boat of Garten bridge because it had already been flipped by the first spate of the winter and there would be more to come. It was also very awkward and possibly dangerous to get to.

Sat 15th November
Spent most of the day preparing for a hectic week ahead.

1730 I checked the badger hide. On arrival I threw out some peanuts and called to the badgers. One came out at the upper sett almost immediately, soon followed by two at the lower sett.
I took the log book and peanuts away for the winter.

Sun 16th November
0900 I fed all the village birds.

Mon 17th November
1130 Meeting at the Edinburgh Zoo about the education and interpretation aspects of the beaver trial.

Tues 18th November
Four SWT appointments today:
1000 Meeting with Chief Exec
1330 Beaver Funding
1430 SWT Finance
1930 Presentation of the IEEM medal in Glasgow. Brief chat with the environment minister.

Thurs 20th November
1030 My first meeting as Chairman of the Scottish Wildlife Trust Council.
1830 I hosted a reception at the offices of the Adam and Company Bank. It was very well attended by the great and the good of the wildlife and environment world. I gave a short speech which was followed by a few words from Michael Russell. We were able to announce that the beavers would be arriving at Heathrow that evening, which gave the reception a special sense of occasion. The networking that began right at the outset continued well beyond the speeches and might have gone on all night if we had not called a halt at 2100, by which time the event had already overrun by an hour. Wonderful stuff and I was very grateful to Adam and Company for their generosity in hosting and catering so splendidly for the occasion.

This was a day of high pressure for me and one of the most special of my life. It all went remarkably well and has got my Chairmanship of SWT off to a flying start.

Mon 24th November
1000 I fed all the village birds.

Tues 25th November
Travelled to Belton Wood at Grantham for three days of RSWT meetings.

Weds 26th November
RSWT AGM and TWT Business Meeting
There was a formal dinner in the evening.

Thurs 27th November
TWT Annual Conference including an address by the Secretary of State for the Environment Hillary Ben.

Fri 28th November
RSWT Joint Forum meeting in the morning and then the journey home. All the trains were packed. Lesson - always travel first class on Friday afternoons.

Sat 29th November
1100 AGM of the Highland Biological Recording Group at Strathpeffer.

Sun 30th November
0800 I fed all the village birds.

Mon 1st December
We awoke to a snowy scene - very pretty.
1400 Bea and I went for a two hour walk. We went down through the village to the bridge over the Spey and then upstream along the bank. We checked the mink raft above the bridge - there were no prints but then there wouldn't be because the clay was frozen solid. Further on we checked a pair of outlying badger tunnels (inconclusive), crossed the steam railway track and then home through Craigie Woods.
1800 a friend phoned to say that on his way home he had just watched a wildcat (probably a female) cross the B970 near Mullingaroch Farm. He also said that two years ago he had watched a large tom wildcat cross the same road less than two hundred yards from today's sighting.

Tues 2nd December
Still snowy.
1030 Bea and I took another walk, this time to the grebe car park feeding station where we added more apples and hazelnuts to the supply. We then walked via the secret path to a main track and eventually back to the grebe car park in the hope of seeing red squirrels at the feeders. We did not, but no matter. Squirrel tracks in the snow were abundant throughout the area so clearly all is well. We did however see a crested tit near the feeding station and another one behind the village hall later when we attended the Tuesday lunch club.

Weds 3rd December
Worked on the annual badger hide stats and report in the morning. Not great this year.

1430 Bea and I went for a walk to Milton Loch and back. Not too much snow around but very cold - minus something. There were no prints in the mink raft on the loch. Unfortunately the goldeneye duck box and its pole were lying on the ground - possibly due a recent gale, possibly not.
1930 Meeting in Nethy Bridge to form a subcommittee to address local climate change issues. Bea and I were there to represent Abernethy Golf Club.

Fri 5th Dec
1100 Meeting at my house with Andrew Thin , Chairman of SNH

Sat 6th Dec
1030 Meeting of the SWT North Forum at Tore. 17 people attended - quite encouraging.

Sun 7th Dec
Sawed lots of wood for nest boxes in the morning.
1530 Fed all the village birds
1610 Tidied up the badger hide. Folded the carpet into the middle away from the walls. Threw out some food for the badgers and one came out for it after only five minutes - that was at about 1625.

Tues 9th Dec
1800 Meeting of CRAGG at Glenmore

Thurs 11th Dec
1500 Fed all the village birds
1530 Badger Hide. Filled the bird feeder and put peanuts down a few of the main entrances. There was bedding at the entrance to at least three tunnels.

Tues16th Dec
Travelled to Newark

Weds 17th Dec
RSWT Council Meeting at Newark

Fri 19th Dec
Bea fed all the village birds

Sun 20th Dec
1615 - 1645 Badger Hide on my own. 2 badgers came out at 1640.

Tues 23rd Dec
I finished building the nest boxes for next season's crested tits project - now 28 in all.

Weds 24th Dec
1100 Walked in Craigie Woods to plan the layout for the crestie boxes. I had thought about using firebreaks but they are over grown with deep heather so it would be exhausting. Deer tracks may be a better option. With so many boxes available I will reduce the spacing between them. Next job is to grind up dead wood with which to stuff the boxes - my neighbour Jock Morrison has volunteered his heavy duty chipper for the task.

Fri 26th Dec
1100 I fed all the birds. There were 2 red squirrels and 2 crested tits at the grebe car park.
I wrote an article about red squirrels for the local paper.

Sat 27th Dec
I went for a walk in Craigie Woods.
1100 CP badger sett = no signs of use
1115 Roid sett - in use
1120 BBB NE sett - in use

There was pine marten dung on the track near nest box 0612 and white feathers (I guess from a sparrow hawk kill or similar) near nest box 0614.

Mon 29th Dec
I wrote an article about goldeneye ducks for SWT magazine.

Tues 30th Dec
It was -14 deg C last night.

Weds 31st Dec
It was -12 deg C last night
1100 Collected a pile of dead brash ready for Jock and I to chip for the nest boxes.
1200 Fed all the village birds.

And so ends 2008