Cairngorm Wildlife Diary for 2009

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


Thur 1 Jan
1100 Blue tits investigating LH hole in the sparrow gallery on the shed.

1300 Village Wildlife Walk. No one turned up (dreich weather) so I went on my own. Saw a flock of long-tailed tits not far into the woods and used the endoscope to check some badger tunnels at the DV sett near the river.

Fri 2nd Jan
1000 Jock Morrison and I chipped three large sack-fulls of wood for the crestie boxes.
1200 Blue tits checked out the RH hole in the shed sparrow gallery.
1700 I heard that an otter and two young were seen in the Kincardine Estate stretch of the Spey a couple of days ago

Tues 6th Jan
1100 I fed all the village birds
1200 I cleaned out the nest boxes around our house
1430 Bea and I cleaned out the three goldeneye boxes and the tit box at the badger hide and put clean wood shavings in the goldeneye boxes. Checked the pine marten box but there was no sign of it having been used lately.

Weds 7th Jan
Simon Milne and I had dinner in Edinburgh with the Chairman of SNH.

Thurs 8th Jan
Beaver media meeting at Cramond.

Fri 9th Jan
1030 Induction Day for new members of Scottish Wildlife Trust Council.

Mon 12th Jan
1000 Began preparing crested tit nest boxes for the coming season and soon found I had made a mistake - about half of the boxes were soaked through from being left outside in the garden where they had been lying among wet leaves since the autumn. I began the long process of drying them out a few at a time in our heater cupboard in the house. Those that had spent the winter in the shed were dry so I began filling them with the new material Jock and I had ground up on 2nd Jan.

1400 I laid out the first four crestie boxes in Craigie Wood for the coming season.

Tues 13th Jan
Travelled to Edinburgh and stayed overnight with Simon and Francoise Milne.

Weds 14th Jan
Flew Edinburgh to Belfast with Simon Milne for a meeting of RSWT Countries Committee at Bangor. Topics covered included engagement with Europe, wild landscapes, beavers and cooperation between Trusts. After lunch we had a brief visit to two wildlife reserves before having to catch our plane back to Edinburgh.  Simon then drove us north to Ballater through some fairly snowy weather at Glenshee. Overnight at a hotel.

Thurs 15th Jan
1115 Simon, Stuart Brooks and I met with HRH Prince Charles for an hour at his home at Birkhall. We spoke of red squirrels and reintroductions. HRH loved what we are doing for red squirrels but was less happy about the beaver reintroduction. However I think we managed to allay his worst fears over the consequences of our actions and he was also pleased to hear that we have become known in government circles as the "voice of reason" in wildlife conservation.

Fri 16th Jan
Spent all morning catching up on SWT paperwork.
1900 Bea and I attended an update at the Ben Mhor in Grantown on the local mink/water vole project.

Sat 17th Jan
1030 Bea and I checked the mink rafts. The upstream Spey raft had no prints but there was a water shrew under the raft - it swam to the bank as I moved the raft. The cord attaching the Milton Loch raft to the bank had become severed but it had not floated away. We decided to move it into a safer place just above the wooden dam across the nearby burn. There were no prints in either raft. We took some photos for Bea's upcoming SWRI talk. There was a red squirrel by the bird hide.

Sun 18th Jan
It snowed, which scuppered my plans to clean out the Milton bird hide and put out some more crestie boxes.

Mon 19th Jan
1200 SWT Policy meeting at Cramond.
1930 Bea gave a talk for the SWRI entitled "The Wife of a Naturalist". 

Tues 20th Jan
1000 Bea and I fed all the birds. 1400 I put out another four crestie boxes:

Weds 21st Jan
0900 I put out another 4 boxes. It was icy so had to be very careful.
1400 Bea and I put out another 4 boxes:

Thurs 22nd Jan
1000 Bea and I put out another six crestie boxes:

Sun 25th Jan
1245 I was interviewed live on TV in Edinburgh about beavers for the BBC Politics Show South West. South West Water is considering installing beavers near one of their reservoirs to help deal with an algae problem. Some of the locals aren't happy.

Mon 26th Jan
Drove home in the morning then at 1430 put out the last five crestie boxes:

Tues 27th Jan
1000 2 blue tits checking out the starling box on the shed - no chance!
1100 2 sparrows checking out the box on my office window.
Nice to see some action.

Weds 28th Jan
1800 Reception at the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood given by the People's Postcode Lottery. Carol Smylie presented the cheques, including one for over £400,000 for the Scottish Wildlife Trust. Some of us, including some MSPs, adjourned to The Tun afterwards where a discussion ensued about a forestry leasing proposal in the forthcoming Climate Change Bill, to be debate in the Chamber next morning.

Thurs 29th Jan
0930 Sat in the public gallery of the Scottish Parliament to listen to the debate on the forestry leasing proposals mentioned above. Information provided in the Scottish Wildlife Trust's consultation response and press releases were referred to in several of the speeches - we really are being listened to these days.  Pity the vote did not go quite as we'd hoped.

Sat 31st Jan
1000 I fed all the village birds.
1030 I sacked up the surplus wood chippings from the nest box programme for use another time and returned the empty grass-cutting bags belonging to my neighbour Jock. He showed me some predator damage to one of his nest boxes and asked what would have done it. I'm pretty sure it was a woodpecker.
Later I arranged for David and Jane Kerr to feed the village birds while Bea and I are away next week. My thanks to them both.

Mon 2nd Feb
We drove to Cramond where Bea dropped me off for the SWT Conservation Committee meeting. Afterwards I got the train to Dalkeith where we will be based for the next week.

Tues 3rd Feb
1400 Marketing meeting at Leith Water for SWT. We hope to devise a plan that will significantly increase our membership - I hope the credit crunch doesn't put too much of a crimp in the plan.

Weds 4th Feb
I was supposed to meet Michael Russell, Minister for Environment, this afternoon but something came up and he postponed.

Thurs 5th Feb
All day on SWT business at Cramond.

Fri 6th
Worked on a report for the SWT Council.

Sat 7th Feb
Bea and I visited the Camping and Caravanning exhibition at the Glasgow SECC where SWT has a stand manned by Patricia Stewart from Clyde Members Centre and a team of helpers. They were recruiting members hand over fist and doing a wonderful job for the Trust - I am most grateful to them.

Mon 9th Feb
1800 Lecture at the McEwan Hall, Edinburgh "Building a Low Carbon Economy" given by Lord Adair Turner (Chairman of the Climate Change Committee) and Professor Jacqueline McGlade (Executive Director of the European Environment Agency).  There were more than 600 people in the audience. There was a reception later, then a few of us were invited to dinner with the speakers and the organisers and sponsors - a great privilege and very good networking opportunity.

Tues 10th Feb
1000 Launch at the Hilton Hotel Dunkeld of our Saving Scotland's Red Squirrels project. Michael Russell, Minister for Environment was to have opened the event but was called away. We later discovered there had been a Cabinet reshuffle in which Michael had been promoted to Culture and External Affairs and Roseanna Cunningham was the new Environment chief. The launch went off very well indeed and there was a great deal of good coverage on radio and TV.
1500 We got home to deep snow everywhere. As we were shovelling our way to the house David and Jane Kerr turned up to collect food to go and feed the birds.

Weds 11th Feb
My rearranged meeting with Michael Russell was to have taken place this afternoon but as he is no longer the Environment Minister there was no point. I had also provisionally arranged to meet Rhona Brankin MSP but that too fell through.

Thurs 12th Feb
Now that I was home I caught up with letter writing. This included thanking Michael Russell for his support of SWT as Minister for Environment and welcoming Roseanna Cunningham to the job. I finished my report to SWT Council and dealt with a heap of emails.

Fri 13th Feb
I went for a two-hour walk in the snow. Exhausting - but the woods are beautiful when full of the white stuff. Quite a few trees have broken under the weight of all that snow and many more were bent double, in some cases blocking the paths altogether. Despite the hard going it was wonderful to be out in the forest. Regular readers will have noticed the change in my activities since becoming Chair of SWT with more and more meetings and less and less time to get out in the wilds. This change was inevitable but I am determined to keep up most of my practical projects and to get outdoors as often as my SWT duties will allow.
Our friends in Grantown on Spey Bob and Gillian Mitchell told us they had waxwings in their garden today.

Sat 14th Feb
A slow thaw began.

Sun 15th Feb
Peesha, a lady in our village, phoned to say the waxwings had arrived in her garden. They must have finished all the berries in Grantown and moved here.

Mon 16th Feb
We awoke to a major thaw - an astonishing amount of snow has shifted overnight.
0830 A pair of starlings checked out the nest box on my office window - but I think the hole is too small.
0920 A pair of blue tits checked out the same box. They could get in no problem but the local sparrows might have other ideas - they usually use that box.
1400 I fed all the village birds
1430 I check boxes 0901 to 0908 but no action found yet.

Tues 17th Feb
Supposed to go to Edinburgh by train but the train was cancelled and a bus was provided. Lunch with an expert networker to gain some more insights into how things work around Edinburgh and the Parliament. Bus to Dalkeith and an hour's sleep before heading back into Edinburgh for a private dinner with fellow Chair's etc of related organisations. A most useful evening.

Fri 20th Feb
Took the van for servicing and then Bea and I went to Tore and spent an our with Mark Foxwell at SWT's office. .
1815 to 1915 I spent an hour at the badger hide. No badgers seen.

Sat 21st Feb
Bea and I walked to the grebe car park and watched for squirrels and cresties. No luck but we built up the brash barrier a bit with branches that had come down in recent gales and heavy snows.

Mon 23rd Feb
0830 Blue Tit checking out the Starling Box. Too late - there was already a starling in there.

Tues 24th Feb
SWT Council Meeting in Central Edinburgh. Very good meeting with lots of positives to bring away.

Weds 25th Feb
Bea and I drove to Carluke where Bob and Jean Barr took us to Falls of Clyde to meet some of the staff and volunteers. We then had a very pleasant walk to the Falls. At the peregrine nest-viewing area Jean actually spotted a peregrine near the old nest. We deduced it was waiting for its mate to come home, even though it's very early days yet.
Dinner with Bob and Jean then off to the Glasgow and Clydeside SWT Members Centre evening where there was a talk about Ailsa Craig. I said a few stirring words to the faithful.

Fri 27th Feb
1500 I fed all the village birds. There was a crestie at the grebe car park.

Sat 28th Feb
1000 to 1600 Bea and I attended a Watch Leaders Training Day at Dunkeld and Birnham. Very good day with 18 trainees plus staff. The morning had mostly to do with safety, rules and regs - the usually essential stuff. In the afternoon we had an Ancient Tree Hunt session among the nearby Birnham Oaks - great fun.

Mon 2nd Mar
I drove to Callander to attend their Members Centre meeting and chat briefly to them. The talk that evening was about the reintroduction of Sea Eagles to Eastern Scotland.

Tues 3rd Mar
Worked on my beaver talk for Forfar MC on 26th. Not feel great.

Weds 4th Mar
Still feeling rough but managed to Chair the Golf Club meeting OK - just.

Thurs 5th Mar
In bed with Flu.

Sat 7th Mar
1030 Feeling a bit better so Bea and I fed the village birds - there was a crestie at the grebe car park again. Bumped into Julia Spencer who told us 'her' hedgehog had been seen in her garden. I checked three nest boxes but no action yet.
Later I felt really bad again.

Sun 8th Mar
Full scale relapse - next week's proposed trip to Newark for a series of meetings was now out of the question so I phoned the RSWT Chairman for a long chat so as to provide some input from Scotland.

Mon 9th Mar
Bea dragged me off to the Doc who grounded me for a week on antibiotics.
2050 Excited phone call from Beth the local Postmistress - while out for a stroll she had just seen a badger in Kinchurdy Road, Boat of Garten.

Tues 10th Mar
1500 I sat by Loch Garten for an hour. Lovely sunny afternoon but not much wildlife about apart from a vole running across the road near the Osprey Chalets.

Weds 11th Mar
0930 I sat at the grebe car park for an hour. I saw one red squirrel, one crested tit and the first black headed gull of the season.

Fri 13th Mar
Bea and I checked both mink rafts. No prints. We then checked the three large nest boxes for goldeneye duck, owl and kestrel but they had all been taken down - we think to stop jackdaws breeding there. Jackdaws certainly used all three last year so maybe the boxes are too close to the village. I re-erected the goldeneye box on its pole, took the kestrel box away to put up at the badger hide and left the owl box on the ground while I think about things.
We then went looking for a geocache called "Where otters play" - found it, it was our first one.

Sat 14th Mar
I feed all the village birds.
1030 We drove to Glenmoriston to visit a former member of the council of the Scottish Wildlife Trust and return his books about Borneo.
Lunch at Cluanie and then we found two more geocaches on the way home.
Sad to say we found a small collection of dead creatures near a layby just after Drumnadrochit at NH 5293 2999 - a pine marten, a thrush and a barn owl. One can only guess at what set of circumstances led to such a calamity. I presume they were all road casualties on that rather dangerous road.
1830 I went to the badger hide to begin restoring the carpet and furniture to their usually places ready for the coming season. I nodded off in a chair for a while and when I awoke there were two badgers near the hide. They both looked quite healthy which is good news considering the long tough winter we have just had.

Sun 15th Mar
Bea and I played a few holes of golf at Abernethy. There was fox dung on the 8th fairway and a woodpecker hammering on a tree by the 6th green.

Tues 17th March
1000 Meeting with senior SWT staff at Cramond. Very useful morning in preparation for forthcoming events and meetings.
Later I drove to Carluke to join Jean and Bob Barr. After dinner we went to the SWT Lanark Area Members Centre meeting where I gave a brief pep talk before the main speaker of the evening gave a fascinating presentation about honey bees.

Weds 18th Mar
There was supposed to have been a meeting of the Scottish Biodiversity Committee today but it was postponed due to the Minister being unavailable.
1700 Bea and I attended the red squirrel awards ceremony at Eden Court, Inverness. Spoke with Roy Dennis and laid plans for Friday's squirrel trapping session.

Thurs 19th Mar
We were up early and put out four squirrel traps - two at the village hall and two at the grebe car park. We put food in the traps but wired the doors open to let the squirrels get used to going in and out.
I spent the afternoon on beaver trial admin in preparation for the release in May.
1845 Bea and I put more food in the squirrel traps and then set the triggers. We would be up early next day to see if we had caught any squirrels.
2215 As a precaution I checked the traps to make sure no squirrels would have to spend the night in a cage.

Fri 20th May
0745 We checked the squirrel traps and had already caught 2 red squirrels - one behind the hall and one at the grebe car park. The other two traps had sprung but no squirrels - we reset them.
0905 We checked again and had caught another squirrel at the grebe car park. The fourth trap had sprung again but still no squirrel. Never mind, we had caught three which was fine.
1030 Roy arrived - he had already caught 5 at his place so the day's haul of 8 was excellent. It brought the total to 44 red squirrels to be released at Dundonnel to create a new population.
Later I caught the train to Edinburgh to be on the spot for tomorrow's meeting.

Sat 21st Mar
Scottish Wildlife Trust Members Centres Day at Cramond. Those attending thought it was very worthwhile and they gave myself and the management team some ideas to take away and work on for their benefit. Websites and working with children were among the hot topics.

Mon 23rd Mar
Did a bit of phoning round and we've now set up a meeting to look at the whole question of websites for SWT Members Centres.
1810 I filled the feeders at the community garden.
1815 I took some prospective badger hide guides from the Grant Arms Bird Watching and Wildlife Club to the hide for an induction session. To begin with we checked the large nest boxes with the endoscope and found a tawny owl in the big brown goldeneye box. She squeezed out and flew away. Later we heard a male tawny hooting away and a female replied just once. Three badgers came out for us to watch, which was something of a surprise, given the hostile weather conditions.

Tues 24th Mar
1930 Took a couple to the badger hide. We had at least two badgers above ground for more than an hour.

Weds 25th Mar
The plan today was to paint the badger hide with wood preserver but the weather was pretty awful. Bea and I gave the place a clean out and left it at that, proposing to paint the hide next weekend.
1500 I fed all the village birds, then did a full crested tit nest box check. It took about 2.5 hours. There was a small amount of action at boxes 4 and 15. I saw a female capercaillie near box 7 and some pine marten dung showing blue beetle wing cases on the main track near box 15.
1800 A dead badger was reported to me near Chapelton on the A95. I went and found it but it was too squashed to weight or otherwise inspect. I sent the details to badger HQ.

Thurs 26th Mar
We drove to Hole of Ruthven and had dinner with our hosts and their other guests. I then did a talk about beavers for the Forfar SWT Members Centre. There ensued a lively debate with not too many awkward questions - a very positive evening indeed.

Fri 27th Mar
We went home via Loch of the Lowes. The female osprey was on her nest with a large trout - according the warden she is looking better than she did at this time last year so maybe that bodes well for the breeding season. Our visit was a great chance to meet some of the staff and volunteers.
1500 Louise and Claire from the RSPB Osprey Centre called in to arrange their badger watching for the coming summer.

Sat 28th Mar
Our plan to paint the hide was scuppered again - this time by heavy snow. I used the time to prepare for the SWT Council Away Day in four weeks time.
I spent the afternoon preparing for a meeting of the Scottish Biodiversity Committee next week.
2030  Earth hour. Bea and I went to the rendezvous in the middle of the village but only Tony and Alison Fielding turned up. We walked round the Milton Loch circuit in the dark then back to the Fieldings' house for coffee and drams.

Mon 30th Mar
1100 I went to the badger hide to do a few jobs. I began by checking the large boxes and found the tawny owl was back in the large goldeneye box near the hide. She thought about coming out but took one look at me and dropped back down inside the box. The other goldeneye boxes are still empty. I then fixed the kestrel box (from Milton Loch) into the fork of a tree near the pine marten box. I filled the food bin with peanuts and put some food under a board for the badgers to find later. Finished off with some bird watching and was rewarded with a buzzard, a blue tit, a great tit, two chaffinches and both a male and a female greater spotted woodpecker.

Tues 31st March
Travelled to Edinburgh by train for the second meeting of the Scottish Biodiversity Committee, held this time near Holyrood and chaired by the Minister for Environment Roseanna Cunningham. The great and the good from Government and Non Government Agencies were there; I represented SWT and to the opportunity to express our point of view in some of the discussions. Next meeting is in September. I stayed overnight at Dalkeith.

Weds 1st April
Travelled by bus to Cramond for a meeting about future plans for SWT's website. Brilliant meeting with lots decided, especially in actioning the Members Centres requests last week for space to include their sites on the main site. Another meeting followed with senior staff and I missed my train. I got the next one, Bea picked me up at Aviemore station and we drove almost straight to the golf club where I was to chair the monthly committee meeting. We made it - just.
While I was away Bea was told about yet another dead badger on the A95 near the saw mill. She went and dealt with it before too many other people saw it and phoned her.

Thurs 2nd April
We played nine holes of gold, then drove to Duns (3hrs 40mins non stop) to meet the members of the Berwick SWT Members Centre. They laid on a superb buffet and made us feel very welcome indeed. They also gave me a generous donation for the Trust and handed over many years worth of biological records to be assimilated into SWT's database. We then drove to family at Dalkeith and collapsed into bed!

Fri 3rd April
Up at dawn and away early to beat the rush hour traffic. We called in at Cramond to hand over the records and cheque from last night before continuing to Perth where I had a meeting of Scottish Badgers Advisory Group. Bea drove to Dundee to visit her Mum and then came back and collected me after my meeting.
We drove to Ray and Dianna Taylor's house at Aberfeldy for dinner and a blether before heading down to Grandtully for Aberfeldy Members Centre AGM and a talk by Paul Ramsay about beavers. Marvellous, entertaining stuff. I gave my usual short talk to the members about the current work of SWT and we eventually headed home having had yet another most enjoyable evening.

Sat 4th April
This was something of a chill-out day having had an exhausting week. We did however note that blue tits are nest building in the west end of the sparrow gallery on our porch.

Mon 6th April
Today we visited Stirling SWT Members Centre. We drove to Roy and Sue Sexton's house for lunch and Roy then took the four of us (Bea, me and Jean and Bob Barr) for a walk to two local reserves - an island and a reed bed near Alloa. We discussed various issues with these reserves and I took notes for action later. Back to Roy's for dinner and then into Stirling for their AGM and a talk on red squirrels by Mel Tonkin. Once again we were delighted with the warmth of our reception from the members.
When we got home there was an email from someone who had seen a badger in broad daylight beside the River Mulzie.

Tues 7th April
0730 I went to the badger hide and filled the peanut bin, then fed all the village birds. I spent most of the rest of the day on beaver admin in preparation for the release.
1900 Bea and I attended a meeting the village hall about NESBREC - North East Scotland Biological Recording Centre. We are already doing most of what they ask but it was useful to get up to date.

Weds 8th April
We set off on yet another SWT trip - this time to Skye via Kirkhill. It was raining heavily when we left. Our first stop was at a badger sett at Kirkhill where a local resident was concerned over an old track being upgraded and the effect that might have on the badgers. I deduced it would have little effect but the sett was a new one to me so the exercise at least gained us that record. It was a large active sett with more than fifteen tunnels, many of them in use, with fresh latrines and bedding in evidence. Great.
We continued to Skye, had lunch in Broadford and then went to find a Geocache just north of Portree. Then it was back to Portree to find the venue for tonight's talk and meet Jean and Bob at the B and B.
The AGM and meeting of the Skye SWT Members Centre was inspiring. They have a strong level of expertise on the island that they are using to good effect and the Chairman Deidre and her committee made us feel at home.  This series of trips is making us lots of new friends.

Thurs 9th April
Drove home. Lots of beaver emails and I was pleased at how perceived difficulties are melting away as the partners hold meetings to agree joint actions. It's quite miraculous how well it's all going when you consider the different organisations involved.

Fri 10th April
Spent most of the day on admin, then Bea and I took a chap to the badger hide in the evening. We saw at least 2 different badgers - probably more.

Sat 11th April
Yet more admin.

Mon 13th April
Blue tits still not sure which box to use. Still taking nest material into the sparrow gallery but also investigating other options in the garden.
I wrote my Chairman's Bulletin for SWT Members Centres and Bea and I wrote the agenda for tomorrow's BoGWiG meeting.

Tues 14th April
I checked the nest boxes at the badger hide. Low brown box had a sleeping tawny owl in it (possibly on eggs by now), High brown box contained 5 goldeneye duck eggs and the camouflaged box contained 2 goldeneye eggs.

Goldeneye Duck In A Box Near The Badger Hide

The tit box and kestrel boxes were empty and I did not check the pine marten box.
On the way home I called in at the RSPB osprey centre to brief them on the boxes at the badger hide (which they use every Weds) and then checked the Mullingaroch badger sett - all is well with lots of digging, bedding and latrines.
I filled all the village birds/squirrel feeders and did some work on the water supply to our garden pond.
There were 8 of us at the BoGWiG meeting and after a summary of what we had achieved over the past two year we agreed actions for the next year. We will go ahead with a publication following our local audit and will produce more CDs of the maps we made. We will replace the winter talks with summer walks and each of us will lead one. Hellen Geddes would like to be a badger guide (wonderful) but Bea and I were not allowed to step down as Secretary and Chairman. I made it clear that I would do what I could but that SWT has to be my priority for the next 3 years. We agreed the tree planting at Milton Loch would be best left to the autumn but that the area could do with a few more starling and tit-sized nest boxes. Larger boxes for owls, ducks and kestrels had not been a success last year because they had all been commandeered by jackdaws. All bar one goldeneye box they had now been removed. Some of us agreed to meeting next day to paint the badger hide.

Weds 15th April
Bea, me, David Kerr and Mike Taylor painted the badger hide. It only took a little over an hour. Later I went back to the hide and fixed the dodgy catch on a hatch and while I was there I checked the goldeneye eggs. No change since yesterday. Back at home I did more work on our pond pipe.

Thurs 16th April
0900 - 1200 Crested Tit Nest Check.
Most of the 27 boxes were still full or nearly full with the exception that 15, 22, 23 and 27 were down to the bottom of the hole or just below and 04 was well down with 2 blue tits in the trees nearby. Not looking hopeful for crested tits.
On the way round I saw a flock of crossbills and a male capercaillie near the track crossroads at NH9303 1812. There was fox dung on the track near box 06.
1945 - 2145 I went to the badger hide with a friend. We saw 2 badgers and 2 roe deer but nothing else.

Sun 19th April
I travelled to Grantham for the two-day RSWT Chaircon conference - in my case it was a four-day round trip.   Hmmm.

Fri 24th April
1000 - 1220 I filled all the village birds feeders, swept the Milton Loch bird hide, checked the mink raft and bridged the puddle near the hide. I then went to the badger hide, swept it out and checked the two goldeneye boxes - both of which contained eggs - 6 in the camouflaged box and 7 in the high box.

The High Goldeneye Box

1445 Did a partial check of the crestie boxes - no change except that box 04 has been excavated even more than last time I checked.

Sat 25th April
SWT Council Away Day at Boat of Garten. All the councillors and the senior staff attended for a debate in the morning, meet the community leaders over lunch and then field trips in the afternoon to Craigie Woods, Milton Loch and the Badger Hide. Heather and I had spent a lot of time preparing for the event over the last few weeks and to our immense relief it all went smoothly.

Mon 27th April
I fixed the broken lid of the badger hide peanut bin (a mouse had got in, couldn't get out and died - yuk!) then took an old friend and his relatives to the hide. We had 2 badgers for 45 minutes and watched an owl bring food to the owl box - I guessed to feed his mate who is on eggs.

Tues 28th April
Spent much of the day dealing with preparation for the release of our beaver families. Not long to wait now.

Weds 29th April
1930 I sat near the Dalvoult badger sett for more than an hour and froze. No badgers seen and when I took a closer look at the sett just before I left it did not look very active. There was a kestrel overhead at one point.

Thurs 30th April
1400 - 1800 Village Spring Sparkle. More than 20 adults and children turned out to tidy up the village and have a barbeque. Unfortunately it rained but we got a lot done.
2000 I took a couple to the badger hide. We saw 3 badgers, one of which was a cub.

Fri 1st May
0900 - 1000 I work on SWT Council business.
2030 I filled feeders at the grebe car park and village hall, then went to the badger hide on my own. The nest boxes were fine - 2 goldeneye ducks and a tawny owl with eggs. I saw 2 badgers and a roe buck.

Sat 2nd May
0630 - 0845
Crested tit nest box check. No change except that box 04 now has some nest material in it. I found a badger latrine by the secret path near box 06.

Sun 3rd May
2015 I took a young couple to the badger hide. We saw 3 badgers, one of which took a great fancy to my offering of bread and honey. There was a roe buck along the fence for the umpteenth time recently and we saw the tawny owl coming and going from the box. Eventually I peeped into the box with my endoscope and there was a chick - I planned to do a thorough check in daylight next day.

Mon 4th May
0915 I found a possible badger sett in an old rabbit warren near the grebe car park feeders.
0903 Checked box 04 and it now has some lining material but no cup.
1030 I went for a walk to the badger sett near Loch Vaa. It appeared unused but there was fox dung in an old badger latrine nearby.
1400 I checked the badger hide boxes again - goldeneye ducks on eggs in two boxes and two chicks and an unhatched egg in the owl box. No action in the pine marten, kestrel and tit boxes.
2000 I fixed up the camera trap at the new badger sett.
2100 I went to the badger hide on my own. It was cold and windy and I only caught 2 brief glimpses of badgers and one sighting of a tawny owl at the box.

Tues 5th May
1500 I checked the camera - nothing to report.

Weds 6th May
1000 Checked the camera again - only squirrels.
1015 Box 04 now has a cup.
1200 Bea and I checked the three nest boxes at the Boat Hotel - they haven't been inspected for at least three years. The open-fronted box had been moved to a different tree because its original one had been removed. We took it off and moved it higher up the trunk in amongst the foliage. The tit box in the corner of the garden contained 3 eggs and the one by the gate had nest material.

Thurs 7th May
I went to SWT HQ at Cramond by train for a meeting and got there early enough to check the local badger setts. The 4 tunnels of the so-called main sett did not look occupied but I later learned there used to be 16 tunnels so maybe I did not find the right, despite the GPS showing I was in exactly the right place. I then went to look for, and found, some more tunnels in woodland overlooking the sea. This sett was definitely active with bedding and paths in evidence.

Fri 8th May
Spent the morning on SWT admin.
1500 I filled the village bird feeders, then checked the camera trap - nothing to report.

Sat 9th May
1000 I gave a lecture on beavers to a large group of students huddled behind a wall on the beach at Chanonry Point. It was cold and windy but lots of people had come to watch dolphins of which there were plenty. The students, based in London but from every corner of the world, were very attentive and full of questions so that the session went on for more than an hour despite the uncomfortable conditions.
1500 - 1700 Crested tit nest check. No change except box 04 now has a lined cup.
1800 A starling flew in and out of our starling box.
2045 to 2215 I went to the badger hide on my own. I photographed both tawnies bringing food to the box and watched them hunting along the river bank. I also saw a kestrel, brown hare and roe buck but sadly no badgers.

Sun 10th May
0730 Two starlings bringing nest material into our starling box.

Mon 11th May
1030 SWT Conservation Committee meeting at Cramond.
1400 After lunch at Cramond I went to Silvan House for the inaugural meeting of the Scottish Reintroductions Forum. The meeting was chaired by SNH and the heads of most of the relevant government agencies and NGOs were represented. There were briefings on recent and current projects and general thoughts on what the future role of the Forum might be. I think it was a useful meeting - although it was a bit tense at times, everyone probably wondering when we might begin to confront some of the more controversial notions such as lynx and wolf. It didn't happen this time but maybe at the next one?
I stayed at Dalkeith overnight with family.

Tues 12th May
Back to Cramond for a long meeting with the Chief Exec.

Weds 13th May
0800 Our starlings still feverishly nest building. I phoned local expert Keith Duncan from SNH who said the starlings are too late for a first attempt and too early for a second brood so he suspects they have failed somewhere else and this is a second attempt at a first brood. He asked about my cresties and was unsurprised at their failure. The sever and lengthy snows of February killed thousands of cresties, coal tits and other small birds so breeding is way down. Owls also fared badly so he was pleased to hear about my tawnies. Evidently barn owls have bred again at Cromdale so that's more good news.
1530 Checked box 04 again - still no eggs yet.
1600 Checked the camera trap - batteries had died.

Thurs 14th May
Lots of phone calls to do with the beaver trial. Everyone's getting quite excited.

Fri 15th May
1000 Meeting in Grantown on Spey with David Hetherington to do with the Highland Tiger project to save the Scottish wildcat. We also touched upon the creation of the Reintroductions Forum in view of David's expertise in Eurasian lynx.
1530 Joined a working party at Milton Loch to help with a tidy up. We put together a picnic bench but of course there was a nut missing!

Sat 16th May
1030 I returned to Milton Loch with a selection of nuts and found one to fit.
1100 I filled the village birds feeders.
1130 I removed the camera trap from the new sett - nothing of interest taken.
1200 Used the endoscope at our starling box - an egg has been laid.
2015 Set up the camera trap at the Abernethy Golf Club.
2045 I went to the badger hide on my own. I checked the boxes - both goldeneye boxes still have ducks incubating, which is a relief because I heard that some other boxes on the same estate have been predated. The owl box has two large chicks.
2105 Both owl parents arrived in quick succession, both carrying small mammals for the chicks. One parent stayed in the box for half and hour.
2305 I set off for home having seen no badgers, then halfway across the fiedl I remembered I had failed to fill in the log book. When I got back to the hide there was a badger at the upper sett. Within a few minutes there were four of them and they stayed for the next 45 minutes, two of them coming right up to the hide to eat peanuts. I did not get home until after midnight.

Sun 17th May
0800 Checked the camera at the golf club - nothing on it.

Mon 18th May
0745 Dead fox on the B970 near Tom Dubh farm.
0800 Checked the camera again - nothing on it so I brought it home.
1200 I looked into the starling box and found 3 or 4 eggs.
Worked on arrangements for next week's beaver release.

Tues 19th May
1030 I checked the Balnafoich badger sett. Had a long chat with local farmer Hamish MacDonald - we talked about wildlife, marriage and the price of sheep.

Thurs 21st May
1100 SWT Meeting at Cramond

Fri 22nd May
1000 Bea and I visited the site of a new housing development on the outskirts of Inverness at the request of the site manager to check on a badger sett. We found an active artificial sett, presumably built during a previous development, and we advised accordingly.

Sat 23rd May
Bea and I attended the Lord High Commissioner of the Church of Scotland's garden party at Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh.

Mon 25th May
0800 Blue tits feeding young in the porch sparrow gallery
0900 Bea and I updated our nest box challenge and garden bird watch records on the BTO website.
1130 I found a new badger latrine beside the secret path.
1140 Box 0904 now has 5 eggs. 2 blue tits were alarm calling nearby.
1145 I filled the feeders at the grebe car park.
1200 Badger hide nest box check. 2 very large chicks with stripy markings in the owl box, goldeneye duck incubating in one duck box and a heap of eggs, but no duck, in the other one. Tit box empty.
1215 Cuckoo flew across the field calling.
1245 Filled the feeders at the community garden and community hall.

Tuesday 26th May
0800 Bea and I set off from home for four highly significant days. Our first call was Loch of the Lowes where I and senior SWT staff were to meet with the newish Minister for Environment Roseanna Cunningham. The meeting went very well and included a briefing for the Minister on the programme for the beaver release later in the week. Bea and I then headed for Knapdale where we greeted by a banner across the end of the Cairnbaan Hotle welcoming the beavers home - an uplifting start to our visit.

Weds 27th May
Bea and I spent the morning visiting the release sites and in the afternoon attended a briefing session at the local SNH offices. Back at the hotel some of the guests began to arrive.

Thurs 28th May
After an early start and a few technical snags the release teams succeeded in setting two families of beavers free in separate locations at Knapdale. It was a defining day in all of our lives and one we will none of us ever forget. It was also highly stressful because the consequences of getting it wrong would have been colossal.
That evening the Minister, Roseanna Cunningham, arrived at Cairnbaan and she joined our SWT management team, the funders and our Norwegian guests for dinner. It was a great occasion.

Fri 29th May
The release team met early to prepare the third and final beaver family for release. The Minister and I plus officials from FCS and SNH joined the release team and we drove in convoy to the release site where all went swimmingly. Later that morning the official launch took place at Barnluasgan where the Minister and I gave short speeches and the press carried out interviews. By mid afternoon everyone was heading off so Bea and I set off for home.

This account in no way conveys the highly charged atmosphere at Knapdale this week. I lost a third of a stone in four days - that will give you some idea of the pressure we were under. In the end we got the job done to everyone's satisfaction and beavers are now swimming free in Scotland for the first time in 400 years.

Sat 30th May
Bea and I joined other members of SWT North Forum at Loch Fleet for a day on the reserves. Most interesting and a relief to be taking part in an event that was someone else's responsibility. It was a glorious day and well worth the journey.
During our picnic lunch I phoned Jenny, the Field Officer at Knapdale, for an update on the beavers - they were all doing fine and one family had already begun to build a lodge. Quite a relief.
1900 After we got home I peeped into the starling box to find 1 chick and 4 eggs.

Mon 1st June
I had another look into the starling box and there was a heap of chicks - I guess 5.
2045 Badger Hide with 2 guests. Only one badger seen, and that briefly. The tawny chicks have fledged, so have the goldeneye ducklings in the camouflaged box but there are still at least eight goldeneye eggs in the high box.

Tues 2nd June
One of our adult starlings has a badly injured leg - possibly dislocated at the hip. It is still managing to take food to the box so we decided not to intervene.
I looked into the box again - definitely 5 chicks growing fast.

Weds 3rd June
Watched the starling take a bath.
Spent the rest of the day on SWT admin and began writing thank you letters to people who had helped us get the beaver trial started.

Thurs 4th June
More letter writing

Fri 5th June
Finally finished all the letters.

Sat 6th June
1030 to 1300
Bea and I did a full check of the 27 nest boxes in Craigie Woods. Only two changes - box 4 has a heap of tiny, hairy chicks in it - almost certainly blue tits - and the filling in box 13 is down to the bottom of the hole. Other items noted included fresh dung with blue wing cases in the new badger latrine at the start of the secret path, a tunnel near box 2 has been cleared out, possibly by badgers, we found what looks like a chaffinch nest in a fork in a tree near box 4 and there was fresh fox dung on the path level with box 11.
1500 I filled all the bird feeders around the village

Weds 10th June
I met the Chairman and Chief Executive of the Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts for dinner at a hotel in Perth, where we were staying the night prior to a meeting next day.

Thurs 11th June
1030 I chaired a meeting of the Council of the Scottish Wildlife Trust at the Dewar Centre in Perth. We were joined by last night's dinner guests and the Chief Executive of the Ulster Wildlife trust. Excellent meeting during which the Council discussed various key issues and provided guidance on them for the senior staff.

Fri 12th June
I stayed the night in Angus as guest of SWT's Chief Executive. He and I spent this morning visiting the staff and volunteers at SWT's visitor centre at Montrose Basin.
After lunch we attended the launch of a new footpath at SWT's reserve at Loch Balgavies. The ceremony was performed by the Lord Lieutenant of the County of Angus Georgiana Osborne after which we all walked round the loch on the new path in glorious sunshine. It is worth noting that in recent weeks a young pair of ospreys has been nest building in a tree on an island in Balgavies Loch so we are hopeful that they might return next summer and raise a family.
Back at home I peeped into our starling box to find the chicks well grown with a full set of brown feathers.

Sun 14th June
1600 BoGWiG dragonfly walk, led by Bea. There were only six of us and the weather was overcast, so not ideal for dragonflies, but we had a pleasant enough walk. At the RSPB pond we did manage to find a Northern Darter Dragonfly, a Common Blue Damselfly and a Northern Damselfly.

Mon 15th June
0800 Our starlings are still feeding the chicks in the box but we think our blue tits have flown.
1030 I fed all the village birds. There was a red squirrel at the grebe car park. Afterwards I walked to box 4 to check on progress and found a heap of very well formed blue tit chicks. On the way I found two new badger latrines beside the secret path; one between boxes 2 and 3 and one between boxes 3 and 4.
2130 I peeped into our starling box - at least 3 well grown chicks.

16th to 18th June
RSWT Joint Forum and Council Meetings at Newcastle.

Fri 19th June
0730 A baby starling peeped out of the nest box.

Mon 22nd June
Spent the morning on SWT paperwork and then went to fill the bird feeders around the village.

Tues 23rd June
Our family of starlings fledged this morning. I then travelled to Wales for the RSWT Countries Committee meeting at Machynlleth next day.

Weds 24th June
RSWT Council Meeting followed by a field trip to one of the local wildlife reserves. Later, travelled to North Wales to stay a few days with family.

Mon 29th June
Bea and I drove to Knapdale and went to lunch with Mary Lou Aitchison, our beaver film company lady.
1600 Meeting at SNH offices at Lochgilphead for a discussion on the beaver release and subsequent events. Very helpful.
1900 We went to Loch Linne to try and see beavers. Only limited success this time.

Tues 30th June
Bea and I climbed Dun Add and then had a long walk along the Crinan Canal.
2030 we went to Loch Coille-Bharr and got lucky straight away. We saw two beavers at fairly close quarters.

Thurs 2nd July
Train to Edinburgh for a marketing meeting at Cramond.
1800 We launched SWT's new Living Landscapes Policy Document towards Ecosystem Scale Wildlife Conservation. The event was held in the Royal Society of Edinburgh. I kicked off with a speech, followed by a response by Colin Galbraith of SNH and then Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham added her support and appreciation on behalf of the Scottish Government. All the major conservation NGOs were represented at the event which everyone agreed was a resounding success. Press coverage over the next few days was encouraging.

Sat 4th July
1600 I've been so busy lately the village birds have been neglected but today I filled all the feeders.

Mon 6th July
Today I wrote my Country Diary article. The article appears in the local paper once per month so six of us each write two per year. This time mine was about nature's resilience - for example its ability to recover from injury.

Weds 8th July
I visited our Marine expert at Tore to discuss her projects.

Sun 12th July
1300 I began doing a squirrel, ant and badger survey in Auchgourish woods. Very tough going; I found quite a few setts and ant nests but only one drey.

Mon 13th July
This turned out to be the last day that we saw a black headed gull at our house this year.
1400 to 1700 I continued with the Auchgourish survey. The weather has been lousy lately and today was no exception. At one point a thunder storm arrived and it was so violent I took refuge in a dry-ish ditch under some bushes well away from the tallest trees.

Tues 14th July
I wrote my SWT Chairman's Bulletin

Thurs 16th July
1000 I filled the village bird feeders.

Fri 17th July
I collected a dead red squirrel from a house in Dulnain Bridge whose occupants were worried that it did not appear to be injured so surmised it might have the dreaded squirrel pox virus. I assured them it probably didn't because it did not show the usually very obvious signs. However, to be on the safe side I posted it (wrapped in packets of frozen peas) to a research lab in Cornwall. I'll try to remember to post the PM results here.

Sun 19th July
Phone message from the Glenmore Cafe that there was a dead badger on the road near their premises. I phoned for the details and sent them off to Scottish Badgers HQ. I also heard about yet another beaver on the loose - this time at Kilmarnoch and Mauchline.

Mon 20th July
1400 I strimmed the grass at the badger hide - long job because it had not previously been done this year. I then checked some of the boxes. The pine marten and kestrel boxes showed no signs of use and the high goldeneye box still had its six eggs. They were obviously dud by now so I removed them.
2045 I returned to the hide to make sure all was OK. There were cows in the field so I did a wide circuit.
2110 A badger came out and got tucked into the peanuts - the racket I had made earlier with the strimmer clearly had not dimmed its appetite. Ten minutes later there was a second badger and a roe deer. They seemed unconcerned about each other.

Weds 22nd July
Train to Edinburgh for a meeting, then the sleeper to London overnight.

Thurs 23rd July
RSWT Council Meeting in Central London and then home on the sleeper again. While I was away 3 young lads brough a young squirrel to Bea at our house. Bea put it in a pet carrier at the foot of a tree overnight in the hope it would recover and climb the tree but it did not survive the night. We sent it to Cornwall for analysis. By coincidence the PM report from last week's squirrel arrived today - lots of broken bones etc so presumably a road victim.

Sat 25th July
1400 I checked both mink rafts. Nothing to see at Milton Loch but the River Spey raft had some suspicious footprints which I photographed and sent to the project officer. She inspected the raft herself a few days later but did not think they were mink.
1430 Something had eaten the dud eggs I had put there a few days ago.

Sun 26th July
Another dead squirrel arrived on our doorstep! We had been warned about this one - it had been behaving strangely in someone's garden for a few days before it died. We sent it to Cornwall like the others.

Mon 27th July
Bea and I continued the Auchgourish survey for ants, badgers and squirrels. No ants, lots of squirrel signs and no badger setts in that sector. Devoted some time to writing up the notes and updating the maps.

Tues 28th July
More surveying at Auchgourish, then I took some people to the badger hide. Good news - one of the missing beavers at Knapdale has been found.

Weds 29th July
Pressed on with the survey. Not much found this time but we're halfway through the job now.
1930 I filled the bird feeders around the village.
2000 I fixed a broken light at the badger hide

Thurs 30th July
2030 I took a family of 5 to the badger hide and we had at least 2 hours of continuous badger watching.

Fri 31st July
Report of another dead badger on the A95

Sat 1st Aug
Another 3 hours of surveying saw us complete the east sector. Only the west sector left to do and it will be the hardest.

Mon 3rd Aug
Recced the west sector and found a badger sett and an ant nest straight away, plus a means of easy access.
2000 I took six scouts to the badger hide. A wonderful evening, including watchng an otter cross the field. The boys were blown away by it all. I think the otter is living in one of the badger tunnels and could possibly have young.

Tues 4th Aug
Bea and I started the west sector in earnest and found several ant nests, a drey and a badger sett.
2030 To the badger hide on my own. I sat among the trees to try to see where the otter lives. No luck, but had a close encounter with 2 passing badgers - I don't know who was most surprised.

Weds 5th, Thurs 6th and Sat 8th Aug
Completed the Auchgourish survey and wrote it all up. It was quite hard going physically but probably good for us.

Mon 10th Aug
1400 I filled all the village bird feeders, then went to the badger hide to top up the nuts and read the log book. Last week the RSPB group had seen the otter again.
1700 Re-jigged the water supply to our garden pond and was chastised by a frog living under the bird bath.

Weds 12th Aug
Worked most of the day on a PowerPoint presentation.

Thurs 13th Aug
Repaired the stile at the badger hide. It's about 2 years overdue!

Mon 17th Aug
Edinburgh by train for a meeting of SWT Conservation Committee.

Tues 18th Aug
1945 Took three people to the badger hide. We saw 3 badgers but not much else.

Weds 19th Aug
Finished an SWT PowerPoint presentation and then filled all the village bird feeders.

Thurs 20th Aug
Drove to Knapdale in time to do a field visit to one of the beaver release lochs where they had built a small dam in a stream. Jenny H had put a pipe through it to drop the level a bit.
Back at home Bea found hedgehog droppings in our garden.

Fri 21st Aug
Another visit to the beaver dam, this time with SWT Chief Exec.
1300 Beaver Stakeholders meeting at Achnamara village hall. Mostly very positive because the majority are now either in favour of what we are doing or prepared to watch and see how it goes. We still have a handful of local opponents but we've just got to live with that.
1530 We took a few stakeholders to see the dam
1800 Drop-in session at Achnamara village hall.

Sat 22nd Aug
Drove home in the morning then put out the remote camera to try to get a picture of our hedgehog. I then checked round the garden and sure enough Mr or Mrs Hedgehog was under a hedge.

Sun 23rd Aug
0700 Checked the camera - nothing.
2000 Put out some cat food for the hedgehog

Mon 24th Aug
Still no hedgehog on the camera.
1930 I took a young Spanish couple to the badger hide. We saw 4 badgers. It was a late night but most enjoyable. My new Spanish friends know where to see an Iberian Lynx. I feel a trip to Spain coming on.

Fri 28th Aug
1000 Scottish Badgers Advisory Group meeting in Perth

Mon 31st Aug
Loads of SWT admin

Tues 1st Sep
More SWT work, then I fed the village birds.

Weds 2nd Sep
1400 Beaver Meeting with SWT and RZSS Chief Executives at Edinburgh Zoo.

Thurs 3rd Sep
1030 Full SWT Council Meeting

Sat 5th Sep
1900 Attended the Loch of the Lowes 40th Anniversary celebrations at the LoL Visitor Centre.

Mon 7th Sep
Heaps of admin: speech writing, PowerPoint presentations and document reading.
Phone call from a keen fisherman who saw a beaver near an un-named Loch near Clashnessie. The habitat there is devoid of trees so seems unsuitable for beavers but you can never say never in this business so I passed the information to SNH.

Tues 8th Sep
1400 Bea and I visited a lady at Cothill to inspect a small wood opposite her house for badger activity. There was a sizeable latrine and a few distinct paths but we could not find a sett. The bracken was impenetrable in places and could be hiding a sett, even quite a large one, but the ground was very wet except right at the top of the slope so probably not very suitable.

Thurs 10th Sep
Spent the whole afternoon on SWT emails and phone calls.

Fri 11th Sep
Worked on a beaver PowerPoint.
1915 Took three university students to the badger hide. Superb evening; roe deer in the field and hare and three badgers close to the hide. On the way home a badger crossed the road at the edge of Street of Kincardine.
When I got home there had been a phone call from a man in Alloway reporting yet another beaver sighting. Again, I passed the details to SNH.

Sat 12th Sep
Fed all the village birds. One of the nut feeders had been wrecked by the squirrels so I took it home for running repairs.

Mon 14th Sep
1400 SWT Marketing meeting at Cramond. Very intense, very lengthy discussions but with some helpful outcomes.

Weds 16th Sept
All day SWT admin to clear the decks before next week's trip to Lithuania followed by SWT AGM.   In the evening I took a young couple to the badger hide - roe deer, brown hare and at least 3 badgers on view.

Fri 18th Sept
BoGWiG Funug Foray led by David Kerr at Anagach Woods, Grantown on Spey.   There were 8 of us - a very interesting afternoon.

Sat 19th Sept
I fed the village birds before we left for Edinburgh.

Sun 20th Sept
We flew to Vilnius via Gatwick and Riga then went by road to Dubingiai, 50 km north of Vilnius.  Got there late evening.

Mon/Tues/Weds 21/22/23 Sept
5th International Beaver Symposium - two days of beaver presentations plus a day of field visits.   22 countries we were represented; Scotland was the biggest contingent.  Weird.  We learned a lot and enjoyed the company of lots of like-minded people.

Thurs 24th Sept
Travelled back to Edinburgh.   The flight connections were touch and go but we made it.

Fri 25th Sept
1100 meeting at Cramond preparing for the SWT AGM next day.

Sat 26th Sept
SWT AGM at the Burrell Collectin in Glasgow.   A great success.

Tues 29th Sept
Drove to Montrose where Ray Taylor and I gave a talk about the work of SWT to an audience of potential SWT Foundation Memebers.  Overnight with Ray in Aberfeldy.

Weds 30th Sept
Walk along the Tay with Ray then off to Loch of the Lowes for a repeat of yesterday's performance.  On the way home saw a dead badger beside the A9 near the Alvie sett.

Fri 2nd Oct
I fed the village birds.

Mon 5th Oct
Walk in the woods.  Saw a squirrel and 2 male capercaillie.   In the evenng took some people to the badger hide.  No badgers for more than an hours, then there were 2.

6/7/8 Oct
SWT admin and lecture preparation.

Fri 9th Oct
1300 Lynx talk by Fridolin Zimmerman at CNP offices in Grantown on Spey.   In the evening Bea and I visited Perth SWT Members Centre where Martin Robinson gave a talk on the Texas Coastal Birding Trail.

Mon 12th Oct
1400 I fed the village birds.   In the evening I took Favid Hetherington and Fridolin Zimmerman to the badger hide.  A great evening with badgers very close to the hide.

Tues 13th Oct
Bea and I went to Kirkintilloch and I gave a talk on the Wildlife of the Cairngorms National Park to the Clyde Members Centre.  Overnight with David Shenton.

Weds 14th Oct
David took Bea and I for a walk on the SWT Loch Ardinning Reserve.   Very interesting.

Fri 16th Oct
Did a search of my badger records for an EIA company then went to pick up a dead badger on the B970 at Pityoulish.  In the afternoon I fed the village birds.

Mon 19th Oct
Drove to Montrose where Ray and I did our SWT Foundation presentations, then bakc to Ray's again.

Tues 20th Oct
Visited the Keltneyburn SWT Reserve in the morning then drove to Loch of the Lowes for another SWT Foundation performance.  In the evenig I drove to Falkirk to visit the local SWT Members Centre then drove all the way home.  A very long day indeed.

Thurs 22nd Oct
Drove to Edinburgh for a Climate Change event at the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

Fri 23rd Oct
Morning meeting at SWT HQ to discuss the new SWT Foundation then drove home.

Sat 24th Oct
1815 to the badger hide with a young family; mum, dad and two youngsters.  At least two badgers.

Mon 26th Oct
Fed the birds then off to Loch of the Lowes for the final SWT Foundation presentation in the current series.

Tues 27th Oct
Updated my wildlife database.   In the evening took Dan Puplett and wife to the badger hide - at least 2 badgers turned up.

Weds 28th Oct
Dove to Skye - did the lecture "The Return Of The Beaver for the Skye SWT Members Centre.  Overnight with Pat and Roget Cottis.

Fri 30th Oct
Did BTO paperwork for the season.

Mon 2nd Nov
Filled all the viallage bird feeders.  Checked the badger hide was stocked up with nuts for the next two weeks.  Checked the mink rafts - the Spey raft was OK but no footprints, but the Milton raft had been interfered with.   Reported the situation to the project officer

Weds 4th Nov
Set off for a couple of weeks in the Amazon basin.   


Full report here.

Sat 21st Nov
Checked the badger hide and brought the log book home.   Did the stats for the season and updated the website.  Began Ecuador report.

Mon 23rd Nov
Fed the village birds then SWT admin most of the rest of the day.   Packed for tomorrow's trip away

Tues 24th to Fri 27th Nov
Travel to Grantham for 3 days of RSWT Meetings.

25th Nov
RSWT AGM all day followed by a formal dinner

26th Nov
RSWT AGM day 2

27th Nov
RSWT Joint Forum then got the train home.

Tues 1st Dec
Train to Edinburgh for a meeting with the Chairman of RSPB UK.

Sat 5th Dec
SWT North Forum meeting at Evanton. We walked in the forest in the morning, Patric Baird and his wife provided lunch and then we had a meeting in the afternoon, including an update on the water vole project.

Mon 7th Dec
SWT Conservation Committee meeting at Cramond. Main topic was lynx.

Weds 9th Dec
Media training day at Cramond - we were put through our paces to learn some of the tricks of the trade when being interviewed on radio and TV. Very worthwhile.
In the evening I attended the annual RSPB Christmas do near Holyrood. Spoke with a number of politicians, government officials and representatives from other NGOs - very useful indeed.

Thurs 10th Dec
SWT Council meeting at Cramond. For the second time this year all members of Council were present. We got through the main business in the morning and after lunch we were joined by members of the Conservation Committee who are not themselves on Council for a presentation by Dr David Hetherington on the Eursian lynx. There ensued a lively debate about possible restoration of the lynx to Scotland.
In the evening Bea and I plus Jean and Bob Barr visited the Lothians SWT Members Centre in Edinburgh.

Fri 11th Dec
I attended a meeting of the Scottish Badgers Advisory Group in Perth.

Sat 12th Dec
Up at 0300 for the early flight out of Edinburgh. We flew to Copenhagen via Amsterdam and arrived at our hotel early enough to go back out and join the marchers in front of the parliament buildings. Later we discovered a lot of people had been arrested, probably before we got there, so we were glad to have escaped all that. Evidently the police had been given extra powers and were using them to the full, to the point where a lot of innocent people were cut out of the crowd (including a nun!) and made to sit down in the freezing cold on the pavement. I think the police were just exerting their authority as a warning.

Sun 13th Dec
Walked to the city square and joined the party there. Lots of portacabins with displays in plus a huge Christmas tree surrounded by bicycles which you had to pedal like mad to make the tree-lights light up. Also some ice sculptures that were melting away (cos of global warming) and other very clever illustrations and displays. Eventually the outdoor stage came alive and Desmond Tutu appeared and gave a stirring speech to the thousands of people in the square.
We went back to the hotel for a sleep, then in the evening we were taken to the nearby theatre for the main purpose of our visit - the Bend The Trend event. Lots of networking before, between and after the film premieres including a few minutes with our host Prof Jacqueline McGlade, Exec Director of the European Environment Agency. She told me she was aware that Scotland's recently completed Climate Change Act was the most ambitious piece of climate change legislation in the world so far. She would also be contacting me to make arrangements for her team to film a Scottish chapter in their series of films which together will form an Environmental Atlas of Europe.

Mon 14th Dec
Out for a walk to the Little Mermaid statue near the coast, some hot chocolate at a cafe (it cost £10 for two glasses!!!) then off to catch the Metro to the airport. All the flights were more or less on time and we got back to Edinburgh late evening.

Tues 15th Dec
I spent the day Chairing the first ever UK Beaver Forum at the Edinburgh Zoo. Very well attended, about 80 people, including delegates from Norway and Bavaria as well as England, Wales and Scotland. Worthwhile exercise with some lively discussions on a range of issues. No lost tempers but a degree of disagreement on a number of issues.

Weds 16th Dec
Train south to Newark in time for dinner and a sing song at the hotel - this was pre-arranged in a weak moment some months ago and required me to take my guitar which was a bit of a nuisance on the train.

Thurs 17th Dec
RSWT Council Meeting and then the train home.

Fri 18th Dec
The snow arrived and so did my daughter and her hubby for my 70th birthday celebrations. Don't ask.

Tues 22nd Dec
Snow everywhere so I went to the badger hide to check all is well. Not much sign of movement but two tunnels where badgers had clearly been in and out so I dropped some peanuts down them. I also filled all the bird feeders around the village while I was out.

Weds 23rd Dec
More heavy snow overnight so spent an hour shovelling and then got a call from a neighbour who asked me to come and fill her bird feeders.

Christmas Day
Bea and I went for a walk in the forest. Very deep snow so it was really hard going. We topped up the grebe car park feeders.

Sun 27th Dec
Bea and I entered our BTO garden bird-watch counts for the past few months.

Weds 30th Dec
More and more snow arrived. I filled all the village bird feeders but failed to reach the badger hide to give them some nuts. The road was so bad it was impossible to park without blocking it. The badgers are probably best left undisturbed anyway in these conditions.

Thurs 31st Dec
Yet more snow. Checked the village hall had survived the snow and was OK for tonight's party and while we were there I saw a crested tit on the nuts.