Cairngorm Wildlife Diary for 2012

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 for booking details. 

Locations of sensitive nests and dens are kept deliberately vague for obvious reasons. If you have a bone fide reason for more detail please let me know. 

The diary will be updated roughly once per week, usually at the weekend. Apologies in advance for when circumstances cause this to slip. For more immediate brief updates follow me on Twitter @AllanBoat. Enjoy the diary and please do get in touch if you have any comments.

Cairngorm Wildlife supports the Scottish Wildlife Trust.  Please watch this video to see why ...............


Mon 31st Dec
No wildlife stuff today. Great Hogmanay party at the Boat of Garten Community Hall.

Sun 30th Dec
Filled all the village public bird feeders. 2 long tailed tits in the front garden. Took visitors to show them the badger hide. Lots of badger activity but decided against returning that night due to the lousy weather and for the same reason also decided against climbing ladders to service the goldeneye duck boxes. Watched a buzzard overhead and filled the bird feeder before going home.

Sat 29th Dec
Bea's Birthday. We found more fox dung at Auchgourish at NH 9481 1686.  Daughter and friend arrived for a few days.

Fri 28th Dec
Trains home and collected dogs from the kennels.  No wildlife stuff.

Thurs 27th Dec
Red squirrel at the feeder at the Angle and then took the dogs to Birchmoor kennels before taking the trains to Dundee for a family get-together.

Weds 26th Dec
A lazy day.

Tues 25th Dec
Up early and out with the dogs. Heard roe deer barking in the dark, spooky woods. Later at Auchgourish we found fox dung at NH 9471 1674 and pine marten dung at NH 9482 1702. When we got home there was a great spotted woodpecker on the lorry park feeder, a goldfinch in the back garden and a solitary long tailed tit in the front garden. A remarkable Christmas Day of wildlife.

Mon 24th Dec.
Early morning I topped up the feeders at the Angle and at the Grebe Car Park - can't have the birds going hungry over Christmas. There was a tree creeper near the GCP.

Sun 23rd Dec
In drizzly weather I drove with Bobby to the T junction of tracks near The Yard and finished the nest box job by filling boxes 14 to 10. Back at home there was a red squirrel on the lorry park feeder.

Sat 22nd Dec
My birthday. Bobby and I finally managed to install the repaired Box 1, checked that Box 2 was OK (the harvester had been very close to it) and then continued with boxes 3 to 9. On the way home found some capercaillie droppings on a forest track.

Fri 21st Dec
Foul weather so plans to continue with the nest boxes had to be shelved.

Thurs 20th Dec
Repaired Box 1 and then set of with collie Bobby to continue the nest box refilling job. We encountered the harvester again so once more had to change plans and carry on where we left off yesterday. We did boxes 23 to 15 - it took over 2 hours.

Weds 19th Dec
Started the job of filling the crested tit nest boxes with fresh wood shavings and this time I was able to use the shavings from my amateur efforts at wood turning.  The job did not start well - the lid of Box No 1 fell off when I opened it and then we found ourselves in the path of the forest harvester hungrily chewing its way towards us. A hasty retreat was called for at which we started at the other end of the job and fill boxes 24 to 27.

Tues 18th Dec
Filled some of the village feeders.

Mon 17th Dec
Mostly domestic stuff today - we're having a clear out, which is always both a pleasure and a pain.

Sun 16th Dec
The dogs and I saw a capercaillie in the Boat of Garten woods - too gloomy to be sure if M or F.

Sat 15th Dec
Filled some feeders then made a series of phone calls and emails to tie things off before Christmas.

Fri 14th Dec
Out three times in the melting snow with the dogs. Found footprints of rabbit, deer, red squirrel, fox and small mammals.

Thurs 13th Dec
TWT Council meeting, mostly to do with bedding the new trustees in. I was appointed back on to the Governance Review Group to help finish what we had started 18 months ago. Caught the 1243 train via York where Pacific A4 Union of South Africa was standing in full steam at the head of a train full of railway enthusiasts. Brilliant. Got home in the snow at 8pm.

Weds 12th Dec
Trains to Newark. Evening dinner and discussion with the new trustees of The Wildlife Trusts.

Tues 11th Dec
Lovely frosty morning and even though we had a late start there was nobody else in the woods apart from the harvester at work near the burnt forest. In the afternoon I researched some badger sett and RTA records for an EIA prior to a new road scheme in Inverness.  Packed for two days away.

Mon 10th Dec
Out very early with the dogs before it was properly light. The harvesters were already at work with their lights ablaze - quite spooky. Did a bit more work on the RSWT papers. Began preparing some pine wood in the shed for fashioning into bowls and bird boxes. Rather cold on the fingers in this freezing weather.

Sun 9th Dec
Worked through the papers for next week's RSWT Council meeting and discussion at Newark.  We have a number of new members of RSWT Council so settling them in will be a priority.

Sat 8th Dec
In the morning I repaired some bird feeders and then went round and filled up most of the village public feeding stations with fresh peanuts.

Fri 7th Dec
The thinning operation in our woods is going ahead at speed. Large stacks of wood all along the main track and yet when looking through the forest it's hard to see where all that timber came from. Once they've finished we'll hardly known the difference. Vacant places on the SNH Board were advertised today - food for thought.

Thurs 6th Dec
Long meeting of SWT Council including the budget, reserve and visitor centre management, conferences, members groups, succession and the usual routine reports. Got home late, tired after three heavy days.

Weds 5th Dec
Spent much of the day re-working the shape of next day's Council meeting. In the evening attended the Chevron Focus photo awards ceremony for young photographers. Brilliant evening, amazing pictures. Bumped into several old friends. Early night to be in good form for tomorrow's meeting.

Tues 4th Dec
Train to Perth for SWT Vice Chairmens meeting at the Bell Library to discuss strategy for the next 2 years.  Some useful outcomes to recommend to the Council meeting on Thursday.

Mon 3rd Dec
Snow overnight so we saw prints in the woods of cat, mice, dog, deer, rabbit and red squirrel. Later we found fox prints in the field.

Sat/Sun 1st/2nd Dec
Lazy Saturday then went to the musical "9 to 5" at the Playhouse. Train home on Sun - picked up the dogs.

Fri 30th Nov
Family weekend at Dalkeith so dogs to kennels, train to Edinburgh, bus to Dalkeith and walked from there.

Thurs 29th Nov
Put the finishing touches to preparation for next weeks meetings.

Weds 28th Nov
Trees have been felled across the entrance to 2 paths in the woods. This may be a temporary measure to keep people out of that part of the woods while they are in there working with machines, but I informed SNH anyway. More emails and phone calls ahead of next week's crucial meetings - I think we're ready now.  It snowed today so I did the rounds to top up the village public bird feeders..

Tues 27th Nov
Preparation for some difficult meetings next week took most of the day.

Mon 26th Nov
Attended a meeting of the Boat of Garten Housing Working Group. Progress on some fronts.

Sat 24th and Sun 25th Nov
Spent the weekend on an endless stream of emails, phone calls and paper writing for another round of meetings ahead. Looking forward to a break over Christmas.

Fri 23rd Nov
Up late due to alarm issues but made to the RGBE in time for th start of day 2 of the SAF Conference.

Thurs 22nd Nov
Caught the bus at the Carlton Hotel to RGBE for the 2 day SNH Conference to mark the end of the Species Action Framework. All the great and good were there which was a great opportunity to chat through current issues. Evening reception at the John Hope gateway followed by dinner at the Carlton.

Weds 21st Nov
Meeting with a trustee in town to talk through some issues and then a one-to-one and dinner in the evening with SWT CEO.

Tues 20th Nov
After a full 8 hours sleep got the 0800 train to Edinburgh for the SWT Conservation Committee meeting. Main topics were Europe, beaver, red squirrel, peatland, land acquisition, aquaculture and fisheries. Intended going out for the evening but decided on an early night at the Holiday Inn, Cowgate where I would stay for 3 nights.

Mon 19th Nov
Red squirrel at the Angle - Max the mongrel wanted to follow it up a tree. 1630 train to Perth and stayed overnight in the Station Hotel. In bed and asleep by 2115.

Sun 18th Nov
A crazy mix of watching football and preparation for a few days away from home.

Sat 17th Nov
The dogs and I found a sparrow-hawk's plucking stump at NH 9373 1877 on our way to Fairy Hill. Spent much of the day tidying up after yesterday's Edinburgh trip and preparing for a heavy week of meetings next week and beyond.

Fri 16th Nov
0725 train to Edinburgh for the SWT trustee induction. Excellent session from which we all learned something.

Thurs 15th Nov
Spent most of the day in preparation for a trustee induction session tomorrow

Weds 14th Nov
Attended the North of Scotland SWT MC meeting at Inverness. Excellent talk on the "Plight of the Bumblebee".

Tues 13th Nov
Lots of phone calls and emails on SWT work.  There's always something new cooking - keeps us on our toes.

Mon 12th Nov
0930 found that the Fairy Hill badger latrine had been topped up - surprising now that winter has started. At 1015 the dogs and I found fox dung on the secret path at NH9287 1890, which is near crestie box No 3. 1800 attended a meeting of CRAGG at Glenmore Lodge.

Sat/Sun 10th/11th Nov Filled all the village birds feeders, did a lot of dog walking and watched a lot of football.

Fri 9th Nov
0829 train to Edinburgh where I, SWT CEO and our Marine Officer met with the chairman of SEPA and his aquaculture expert to discuss perceived environmental issues. Excellent meeting - some misunderstandings cleared up and some myths debunked.

Thurs 8th Nov
On the way to Aviemore I spotted the dead badger I failed to find yesterday. It was just north of the Carrbridge turn of on the A95 at NH 9140 1896. I reported it to Scottish Badgers along with another one at Drumuillie, also on the A95, at roughly NH 9476 2018. A bit later on a lady reported yet another dead badger, this time on the Carrbridge road on the B9153 at NH 9116 1971, only 220 metres from the Docharn badger sett. Weird that in the past 3 weeks we have had 4 dead badgers, 3 of them within a kilometre of each other and another not much further away. I emailed my slight concerns to Scottish Badgers. Spent such time as I could preparing for a meeting next day with the chairman of SEPA and his aquaculture expert - not easy as there were a lot of distractions today. In the evening I gave the Mammals and Birds of the Cairngorms talk to the BWWC group at the Grant Arms Hotel in Grantown on Spey. May have recruited some new members for the Wildlife Trusts.

Weds 7th Nov
Received 2 reports of a dead badger on the A95 but I failed to find it. Ash die-back disease was reported near Carrbridge leading to lots of Twitter activity.

Tues 6th Nov
A police woman, the younger of the two policemen from the previous day and their photographer called in. I took them to the deer snare where they took some photos and then removed the snare.

Mon 5th Nov
0840 found a crude deer snare attached to a tree beside the Fairy Hill badger latrine NH 9381 1842. At first I thought it was for a badger, being close to an obvious latrine, so I phoned Scottish Badgers and as I described the set up to him it became obvious that the snare had been attached to a flimsy branch at about chest height and was therefore for deer, not badger. I had already taken some photos so I then phoned the police. At this point I noticed that the ground around the tree was churned up consistent with an animal having been caught and struggling. At 1130 two policemen came to the house and took a statement.

Sun 4th Nov
Morning walk to Loch Vaa. We found pine marten droppings on the main track NH9261 1766 and on the Mercedes track at NH 9225 1799. We also found capercaillie droppings on the Vaa track at NH 9207 1755. In the afternoon we walked at Auchgourish where we met several other dog walkers, including a lady who told us of a badger in her garage that refused to leave. I remembered that something like that had happened to her several years before. I advised her to leave it alone if she could and it would go away on its own or die, as I'm fairly sure happened the last time.

Sat 3rd Nov. Relax and catch up on domestic stuff.

Fri 2nd Nov
Trains home

Thurs 1st Nov
Trains to Berwick on Tweed where I was collected by Harry Edie and taken by the Berwick MC on a 2 hour tour of the wildlife reserve at Duns. In the evening I gave the talk "Mammals and Birds of the Cairngorms" to an audience of 60 or more. Stayed overnight with Harry and his wife.

Weds 31st Oct
Preparation for meetings - golf club tonight and Berwick SWT MC tomorrow.

Tues 30th Oct
Tube to Marylebone and train to High Wycombe for a Biffa Award Management Board meeting. Lots of worthy and imaginative projects to consider helping - very interesting meeting. Train back to London, dinner with family in town, then the sleeper home.

Mon 29th Oct
Spent the morning in preparation for my first meeting next day as a member of the Biffa Award management board. Spoke also with a chap down south about nest boxes for small birds that burrow into dead wood, such as our crested tits up here and his willow tits down there. Sent him a copy of the nest box design that I use. Bought a new sack of peanuts and filled all the feeders around the village before heading south again. Caught the sleeper to London from Aviemore.

Sun 28th Oct
Back at home, got stuck in to clearing the admin backlog, dealt with a dead badger (female, 9kg) on the A95 near Kinveachy NH 9124 1846 and removed the trail camera from Auchgourish - just a few pics of roe deer on the card.

Sat 20th to Sat 27th Oct
A week's holiday at Mannen on the Island of Tiree - walks and playing with the dogs on the vast beaches, reading, watching TV and one round of golf just about sums it up. Good weather for most of the trip apart from the last two days which got windy and cold.

Fri 19th Oct
Ensured all the bird feeders around the village were full before heading off on holiday. We drove to Oban in the afternoon and stayed overnight in the Royal Hotel complete with the dogs who behaved very well indeed.

Thurs 18th Oct
Bea went to a committee meeting of SWT N of Scotland Members Centre at Evanton while the dogs and I stayed home and peered out at the rain. Main focuss now is prep for our holiday to Tiree.  Heard on Twitter that the UK wildlife Minister, millionaire Richard Benyon, has refused to ban the possession of carbofuran which is routinely used by game keepers for poisoning birds of prey.  He is in the pocket of his wealthy pals and their bloodthirsty gamekeepers - there is a move afoot to have him sacked.

Weds 17th Oct
Minus 7 degs C this morning. Work has begun in Boat Woods preparing for a major tree thinning operation. The estate have been very good at briefing us on what to expect. There was a crested tit on the feeder at the Angle junction.

Tues 16th Oct
2 hour meeting at Loch of the Lowes with the new Scottish Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse MSP. Very productive and a good start to our relationship. He is strongly opposed to poisoning of raptors and other forms of wildlife persecution - good to know.

Mon 15th Oct
More SWT issues to deal with this morning. So, so time consuming. 2 crested tits on the lorry park feeder. About time too; they've been missing for weeks.

Sun 14 Oct
Dead badger at Street of Kincardine on the B970 - male, 11kg which is not very big for this time of year so probably a youngster. 2 red squirrels chasing round a tree at the lorry park feeder opposite our house. Wonderful stuff. Watched a bat flying near the 7th tee at Abernethy Golf Club at about 2pm. Rather odd? Watched a kestrel over Rothiemoon near Nethy Bridge

Sat 13 Oct
Wrote Chairman's Bulletin for SWT Members Centres and staff. Still no wildlife on the Auchgourish cam. Will consider a different site if still no interesting pics by the end of next week.

Fri 12 Oct
Re-filled some of the village bird feeders. More SWT stuff, ages spent on phone calls and emails.

Thurs 11th Oct
Much of the day spent sorting out issues of various kinds. Found more pine marten poo at Auchgourish, map ref NH 9450 1648. Nothing on the trail cam.

Weds 10th Oct
Finished refurbishing the 27 crested tit boxes in the woods - new lids, new fronts and new fixings where required. In all cases they are slightly lower than before for ease of checking. In the evening went to Culloden Academy for SWT North of Scotland Members Centre meeting all about marine issues. Excellent talk by Alex Kinninmonth, SWT's Marine Policy Officer, based at our HQ in Leith.

Tues 9th Oct
Installed the new Box 7. Tried to mend the lid of Box 3 but failed and had to bring it home for major surgery. Also finished making a box out of a hollowed out log. Not easy to do but could be attractive to birds, being natural-looking. At Auchgourish - nothing on the trail cam.

Mon 8th Oct
Bought some wood and made a new crestie nest box to replace Box 7 in the woods.

Sat 6th Oct
0930 to 1130 out with the dogs. Lots of fresh dung in the Fairy Hill badger latrine. Serviced boxes 22 to 27 which finishes the job. At Auchgourish we found very fresh pine marten poo on a track at NH 9473 1677. Took a photo.

Pine marten dung at Auchgourish
Pine marten dung at Auchgourish

Fri 5th Oct
Met someone in the woods who had just seen a hen capercaillie near The Angle.  Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts Council meeting via telecon1100 to 1500 - not an ideal way of contributing but better than missing the meeting altogether. Nothing to scare the horses. Bea and I tried to find the old badger sett of 4 years ago at Auchgourish but failed. No big deal, it was just a small outlier and probably not in use anyway.

Thurs 4th Oct
Found a single tunnel badger sett at Auchgourish. Definitely not the one we had found a few years ago.

Weds 3rd Oct
Spent 2 hours on RSWT papers for Friday's meeting.   No pics on the Auchgourish camera.

Tues 2nd Oct
Filled all the village feeders. No pictures on the Auchgourish camera.

Mon 1st Oct
Doblo to servicing - it needs new discs and tyres - ouch! Set up the camera at Auchgourish NH 9490 1677.

Sun 30th Sep
Up quite early - said my farewells to Simon King at the breakfast table. Thanked him for taking the trouble to come and perform for us - he'll come and see my badgers some day. In the evening we removed the camera from the loop area. It has been there since 7th Aug - a total of 54 day and of several thousand pictures we did not find a single crested tit. A bit worrying. Blue, great and coal tit, chaffinch, jay, gs woodpecker, red squirrel, pine marten and badger but no cresties. The camera will now go to an animal track at Auchgourish.

Sat 29th Sep
The big day. Simon King arrived at the Howard early and relaxed for the morning while we conducted the AGM, which went very well considering how these things can go. Our careful preparation helped, I'm sure. Celebs Simon King, Mark Beaumont and Stephen Jardine joined us for the afternoon session. The audience of 300 filled the Royal College of Physicians theatre and had a marvellous afternoon. Talks from Simon Milne and star turn Simon King were followed by the RSWT short-version film about a century of conservation and a Q and A session with experts chaired by Stephen Jardine. The reception in the evening for some of our supporters to meet Simon King went brilliantly.

Fri 28th Sep
Train to Edinburgh, final prep for Saturday with staff. Lunch and photo call at the Red Squirrel Bar with our giant squirrel "Sandy". Dinner at The Howard hotel where I was staying for 2 nights.

Thurs 27th Sep
Spent much of the day preparing for the SWT AGM, Members Day and Reception in Edinburgh on Saturday.

Weds 26th Sep
CNPA Land Management Forum in the Boat village hall, almost all about water and fisheries, how to prevent flooding and improve matters for salmon - with a bit about a new group called Cairngorm Nature and a mention of the SLE Wildlife Estates Initiative. In the evening we went to Eden Court for dinner with North Scotland SWT MC committee and then a talk by Sir John Lister-Kaye on wildcats, badgers, beavers and seals.

Tues 25th Sep
Foul day - did not continue with nest box upgrade. At Auchgourish we found fresh fox poo and some more that could have been either fox or pine marten. Checked the loop camera - not much of interest, replaced the batteries and filled the feeder.

Mon 24th Sep
Serviced boxes 16 to 21 with the dogs helping - no real issues this time. Spent the rest of the morning and most of the afternoon on emails, reading Minutes of meetings and speech writing. Early in the evening the badger cull petition passed the magic 100,000 target - it has only taken 17 days! I checked the camera and discovered that the feeder and the batteries were empty.

Nest box with woodpecker damage
Nest box damaged by woodpeckers

Sun 23rd Sep
Carried on with the nest box job and managed the next 8 (8 to 15). One needs a new lid and others need new fronts due to woodpecker damage. Only 12 more to go.

Sat 22nd Sep
Pleased to be told today that neonicotinoids are to be debated in the UK parliament. Started to service the crested tit boxes in the woods, the idea being to lower them and to ensure that they are only attached to trees with cord. The dogs and I managed just from 1 to 7, noting that number 3 needs a new hinge and number 7 needs a new box - it's falling to bits! In the evening I took a family to the hide - we had 5 badgers, possibly 6.

Fri 21 Sep
Found a new badger latrine at NH 9375 1876 beside the path just 120 metres from the football pitch. In the afternoon while out with me and the dogs Bea found a wasp byke that had been dug out by badgers at NH 9493 1682 in Auchgourish woods.

Thurs 20th Sep
Saw a male capercaillie during the morning walk at NH 9243 1856 near the end of the secret path, a red squirrel at the cross-roads and pine marten dung at NH 9347 1840 on the glove path. Evening meeting in the hall at which we villagers received three briefings - the James Hutton ladies explained their work with dog walkers, then Scott Henderson summarised his summer as the forest ranger and finally Will Anderson of Seafield Estates explained their plans for thinning the woods over the next few months. Altogether a very helpful meeting which went a long way towards allaying fears. Back home I discovered that a petition to stop the badger cull had already reached 71,000 signatures in less than 2 weeks. 100,000 makes the issue eligible for a debate in the parliament.

Weds 19th Sep
Walked around the woods wearing a headcam and blethering away to two researchers from the James Hutton Institute who are studying the relationship between dog walking and wildlife disturbance, plus the social issues. Bobby and Max were invited along to provide context! Later had phone calls from a lady at Dalfaber to say the badgers had moved back into the setts behind her house and that someone had set up cameras near the tunnels. I phoned SNH on her behalf and was reassured that it was probably the developer or owner of the land doing a survey that would be required before putting in a planning application for proposed cabins for that place.

Mon 17th Sep
Early morning long walk. Still no more fresh material at the otter spraint site but fresh poo in the Fairy Hill badger latrine. Took a couple to the hide - 5 badgers again. Watched Simon King and Brian May on TV this evening talking about the badger cull. They both did really well.

Sun 16th Sep
Saw a capercaillie of unknown gender in the burnt forest near the cross-roads in Boat of Garten Woods.

Sat 15th Sep
Drove to Oatridge for Scottish Badgers AGM and Conference. Excellent day during which we learned a great deal about urban badgers such as the ways in which they behave differently from rural badgers and ways in which they behave the same. The differences can be explained by the ease with which urban badgers can access food.

Fri 14th Sep
Meeting in Perth re the beaver trial. In the evening took a couple to the hide - a slow start but eventually we had 5 badgers including one that dragged a rolled-up ball of grass bedding into its tunnel.

Thurs 13th Sep
Filled all the village bird feeders. In the evening took 2 couples to the hide. Amazing - 4 badgers right underneath the hide window - I may have recruited these people to the Scottish Wildlife Trust!

Weds 12th Sep
Out with the dogs very early; almost still dark. Checked the camera - usual stuff plus 2 jays together and 2 shots of a badger between 2200 and midnight last night. Afternoon walk with the dogs at Auchgourish - fox dung on the track at NH 9448 1648. Saw a roe deer and a calf.

Tues 11 Sep
Checked the camera - usual birds and squirrels. Took 2 friends to the badger hide to brief them before their visit with people from the Grantown U3A next week. We had 2 badgers out within a few minutes. The Badger Trust appeal against the cull was turned down today - my tweet on the subject got multiple retweets.

Mon 10th Sep
Checked the otter spraint site - nothing to see. Long conversation with a local about all things wildlife - he gave me some newspaper clippings on forestry and fish farms that might prove quite useful, especially the fish farm article relating to issues that I hope to take up with SEPA in a week or two.

Sun 9th Sept
Between 0700 and 0800 had three capercaillie sightings - a hen in the burnt forest NH 9307 1827 and a hen and male together at NH 9264 1838, not far from the 'elbow'. I also checked the spraint site but it had not been refreshed. In the evening I checked the Bushnell cam - usual number of shots, the best of which was of a pine marten, which I tweeted.  Check it out at @AllanBoat.

Sat 8th Sept
First train home. Meanwhile Bea was out with the dogs to Loch Vaa. They discovered 3 otter spraints of differing ages on one of the rocks at NH 9223 1767, where the Vaa track leaves the main track. On the way home they disturbed a male capercaillie at NH 9277 1793, not far from the main cross roads. In the evening we revisited the otter spraint site, took some photos and removed some of the material for examination under the microscope later. We found vertebrae of trout in it. Interestingly, the spraint site is more than 600 metres from the nearest water (Loch Vaa) so there could be a natal holt nearby.

Fri 7th Sept
Scotland Europa members meeting at the Parliament, much of which was business focussed so not of huge SWT interest. However, it was reaffirmed for us that the UK is partially disengaging from Europe and at the same time some member states are unhappy about the UK choosing which bits of the EU partnership to commit to, rather than committing to the whole package. This provides Scotland (and Wales and Ulster?) with an opportunity to get involved on their own account, although exactly how one exploits the opportunity needs thought.   We are already trying to influence early drafts of legislation that affect the environment, assisted by the networking channels identified for us by Scotland Europa. Later had a meeting with SWT's CEO after which we walked to the Museum for a lecture on Cities for People, which was surprisingly interesting and thought provoking.

Thurs 6th Sept
Spent the morning on final preparations for the next 2 days, then caught the train to Edinburgh and took the bus to Holyrood for a Scotland Europa reception at the Parliament. Good opportunity to meet new people because this was not the usual crowd of eNGO representatives, in fact the Scottish Wildlife Trust is the only eNGO among the Scotland Europa members.

Weds 5th Sept
Squirrels seen at the grebe car park and near the discreet path this morning. Met the forest ranger quite by chance - he reported capercaillie are having a good year, jays have bred in the wood and 80% of dogs in the wood are not on leads (mine were!) although in truth most stay close to their owners and are not a problem to wildlife. He heard a crestie while we were talking but I did not - I told him that among the thousands of pictures of birds now taken by my Bushnell camera, none were of crested tits and I was a bit concerned. Later, I dealt with a flood of emails about marine pollution and other wildlife issues.

Tues 4th Sept
Golf at Huntly. Came home to find our usual dog walking field now contained sheep so we played ball on the football field while thinking about alternative arrangements.

Mon 3rd Sept
Bought more peanuts and filled all the village feeders. Read a number of papers including the Cairngorms Campaign reports on various bones of contention and SNH's commissioned report on derogations for introduced species in Europe - something that an anti-beaver groups pounced upon with glee, unsurprisingly.

Sun 2nd Sept
Golf and sleep after a heavy week.

Sat 1st Sept
We split into two groups; one to walk in our Ballachuan hazel wood reserve and the other to take a boat trip. The boat trip was cancelled due to a bad weather forecast so we had a discussion at the house belonging to the boatman on local marine issues, which was actually of better value than the boat trip would have been. That group then joined the others at Ballachuan where we saw buzzard, kestrel, sparrow hawk and signs of fox and pine marten. The pine martens had been doing their spectacular seasonal trick of depositing undigested rowan berry skins everywhere.

Fri 31st Aug
Set off at 0620 and drove to Loch Melfort Hotel, Argyll. Lunch with council and senior management team then a long council meeting in the afternoon. Lots of good discussions, much of it nicely rounding off the work of Conservation Committee the previous week. Dinner then bed.

Thurs 30th Aug
Final preparation for the next 2 days in Argyll.

Weds 29th Aug
Second day at Alladale being briefed on their work. Back at home I checked the trail cam - over 600 pictures including a badger and a pine marten, 2 jays together and some shots of a red squirrel and a woodpecker feeding together..

Tues 28th Aug
Joined the SWT senior staff on a visit to Alladale Wilderness Reserve as guests of Paul Lister.

Mon 27th
More preparation for the next six busy days. Trail cam had more than 500 pics but no surprises. Last minute booking for the badger hide - a young couple, both expert environmentalists in their own fields with whom I shared several mutual acquaintances. A brilliant evening of discussion with 4 badgers on view at one time.

Fri/Sat/Sun 24-26 Aug
Dog walking and golf. Checked the trail cam each day - mostly just squirrels and small birds.

Thurs 23rd Aug
The bird feeders around the village have taken a pasting from birds and red squirrel this week - went round and topped them all up. I also smeared the tree at the trail cam with peanut butter for badgers and pine martens. At the badger hide I topped up the peanut bin and otherwise prepared for a couple of groups this week. Repaired a feeder at the Community Garden - the new brilliantly designed quick release lid had jammed solid! Put the finishing touches to my notes for the Council meeting on Friday then checked the trail cam - the usual suspects plus a jay and a pine marten.

Weds 22nd Aug
0745 found a badger latrine at NH 9381 1842 near the small crossroads of paths at the shoulder of the summit of Fairy Hill. Built new work benches in the workshop. Enhanced some photos from the trail cam ready for Twitter.

Tues 21st Aug
Conservation Committee meeting at SWT's Leith HQ. Very good meeting with several papers signed off ready for Council to consider next week in Argyll. Train home.

Mon 20th Aug
0700 buzzard near the start of the discreet path - it glided casually away through the trees as we approached. Train to Edinburgh for the opera David et Jonas.

Sun 19th Aug
Came joint third in the Laing Trophy, so did Bea. 200 pics on the trail cam - mostly red squirrel plus some small birds and a roe deer. Still no cresties.

Sat 18th Aug
Worked some more on the Council papers and updated the website.

Fri 17th Aug
Spent most of the day on papers for meetings next week and the week after. In the evening took an enthusiastic couple from Italy to the badger hide. We had at least 3 different badgers, two of which came close to the hide so the couple took scores of wonderful pictures.

Thurs 16th Aug
Dead red squirrel at Grantown at NJ 0336 2721 and a dead fox at Drumuillie NH 9500 2026. Very sad. Repaired and refitted a squirrel feeder behind the village hall and built a new bird feeder for the Community Garden. Filled up all the village feeders. In the evening checked the card from the trail cam to find a black and white shot of a badger trying to get peanuts from the bird feeder.

Weds 15th Aug
Drove to Inverness and passed a dead badger on the A9 at NH 7187 3827 near the Croy turn off. Interesting fox dung on the 6th tee at Abernethy Golf Club - it contained what looked and felt like cherry stones. Checked the card in the Trail Cam - 200 pics of red squirrels.

Tues 14th Aug
Met with Danny Alexander. Checked the trail cam - more than 200 pics again, mostly red squirrel including a cracker with a red squirrel keeping a close eye on a roe deer. Filled up the feeder at The Angle.

Mon 13th Aug
Spent much of the day preparing for a meeting tomorrow with Cab Sec for the Treasury Danny Alexander.

Sun 12th Aug
Train home then took the dogs out and checked the trail cam - over 300 pictures, mostly red squirrel but one chaffinch, one roe deer and one badger.

Sat 11th
Spent the day at the Fringe and then met sister in law for the Macropolus Case opera. Brilliant.

Fri 10th Aug
Train to Perth for a Scottish Badgers meeting. Continued to Edinburgh for the opening concert of the Festival - Delius Mass For Life. It was wonderful.

Thurs 9th Aug
First thing, great spotted woodpecker at The Angle and a red squirrel behind the Hall and then 2 geese bickering over the moor in the afternoon. Thought about moving the trail cam to a different place in view of seeing someone walking past it the previous evening but decided to risk leaving it where is was. Phoned the local ranger who said he thinks he has seen 2 broods of capercaillie chicks in the woods this year - or it might have been the same brood twice.

Weds 8th Aug
1000 I went bird watching behind the village hall only to find most of the feeders were empty. All the same I saw coal tit, great tit, chaffinch, robin, collared dove and GS woodpecker. I removed two of the feeders and took them home for repair/modification and returned an hour later to reinstall them in a different arrangement, more closely grouped for easier watching or photography. In the course of the afternoon and evening I filled the rest of the village bird feeders and in the evening checked the trail cam at the new feeder - just one picture of someone walking past (odd that they should be so far off the beaten track).

Tues 7th Aug
Skein of geese over the woods this morning - I counted 11. Met an elderly man and his grandchildren in the woods, totally lost. Easily done around here. In the shed I made a new one-sided peanut feeder and in the evening Bea and I and the dogs put it out in a quiet spot near the end of the dog walkers loop with the trail cam facing it. Let's hope for some cresties.

Mon 6th Aug
Lots of birds about this morning but no cresties - haven't seen one for a while. Bea had a close encounter with a buzzard while out on the moor with the dogs - it flew up out of the nearby grass as she was passing. Did some work on trying to understand the neonicotinoids issue and what it might mean for Scottish Wildlife. In the evening I brought the trail cam home - just a few videos of roe deer and one of a red squirrel; nothing worth keeping.

Sat/Sun 4th/5th Aug
Weekend for golf and family stuff.

Fri 3rd Aug
Early train to Edinburgh for an SWT Business Development meeting. At 0740, from the train, I saw a dark (black?) cat-like animal bound across a field between Kingussie and Newtonmore. It was the size of a large domestic cat or larger and if pressed I would say pine marten but without much conviction - it was too big but not big enough for panther.

Thurs 2nd Aug
Filled all the feeders. We saw a red squirrel at the Angle.

Weds 1st Aug
Lots of emails and planning.

Tues 31st July
I took two chaps to the badger hide. There was a badger waiting for us at the upper sett when we arrived - it went straight down a tunnel but as soon as we were settled in the hide it came out again and stayed in view for more than an hour. We also glimpsed a second badger at the lower sett shortly before we left.

Mon 30th July
Changed cards in the Bushnell camera. Mostly videos caused by the wind making the trees shake plus three of roe deer. Collected the strimmer from Spey Valley Hire - £48 !!! - and in the evening used it to cut down the grass at the badger hide. Everywhere was very wet so I got soaked from the spray but the strimming worked quite well, considering the conditions.

Sun 29th July
I played golf while Bea picked up the dogs from kennels. They were not happy but were pleased to be home - I don't think we will do this very often. Sad news - I ran over a squirrel on the way to the golf club - it really upset me but thankfully it was killed outright.

Sat 28th July
Bea put the dogs in kennels (their first time) and caught the train to Edinburgh. I spent much of the morning in the Museum before meeting Bea off the train. We had lunch at Hadrians Brasserie and then walked to Surgeons Hall for my annual Chairman's Reception for the members of SWT Foundation. A super event and the guests appeared to enjoy themselves. We caught the last train home.

Fri 27th July
Early train to Edinburgh for Conservation Committee planning meeting. It went very well and we have something to work with.  Back to the hotel to see some of the Olympic Opening Ceremony, most of which I missed by falling asleep.

Thurs 26th July
Red squirrel on the feeder at The Angle. Took a photo - it wasn't much of a picture but I tweeted it anyway. Just inside the gate on the moor we found a dead common shrew - this is the third recently; I expect it's that time of year. It was gone half an hour later - lucky cat or crow. More preparation for tomorrow's meeting and Saturday's reception.

Weds 25th July
Watched a family of newly fledged coal tits flitting about near the discrete path - parent birds in attendance. Worked further on trying to hollow out a log for a 'natural' nest box - not convinced its worth all the effort. We decided definitely on a holiday and booked a cottage on Tiree for a week in October.

Tues 24th July
Two roe deer calmly crossed the path only 50 metres ahead of the dogs and me. Cheeky.   Took the strimmer to Aviemore for repair.   Later I did some preparation for Friday's Conservation Committee planning meeting.

Mon 23rd July
Two red squirrels during the morning walk. Filled all the village bird feeding stations. Built the lorry park feeder into a cage to keep the crows and jackdaws off. Took the strimmer to the hide to cut the grass down but it broke - I later discovered a fuel pipe had severed.

Sat/Sun 21/22 July
Family and golf.

Fri 20th July
Train home

Thurs 19th July
1100 to 1500 RSWT Council meeting.  Overnight in the hotel again.

Weds 18th July
Train to Newark and overnight at the Compton House Hotel.

Tues 17th July
Got stuck in to the RSWT papers. It took all afternoon what with phone calls and emails to our HQ and RSWT HQ. Took my camera out on the dog walks today to catch photos of the deer we have been seeing lately - not a deer in sight today! Typical.

Mon 16th July
Lots of crows along the discrete path. Spent most of the morning writing the Chairman's Bulletin and then started reading papers for the RSWT meeting later in the week. Cut the grass but not very well - too wet to fly properly. Bea and I won our golf match in the afternoon.

Sat/Sun 14/15 July
Golfing weekend - no wildlife stuff at all.

Fri 13th July
A new SWT member was recruited today via Twitter - is this a first? There has to be huge potential in this if we can harness it.

Thurs 12th July
Disappointed that the badger cull judicial review has failed. The Badger Trust and their lawyers are considering an appeal. Out with the dogs we had close encounter with a red squirrel at The Angle and shortly afterwards a similar brush with a young roe deer. Later 2 buzzards were seen circling over our house - something we do not see very often these days. We checked the Bushnell cam - it had one nice video of a roe buck and a few of 2 red squirrels chasing each other. There was an amazing number of small birds along the far fence on the moor - I guess the pippets, buntings and other LBJs have been hatching chicks galore this week.

Weds 11th July
Yet more rain, which is bad for some bird species but good for the worm eaters. Watched a film by the League Against Cruel Sports about some rotten practices among hunters and hunting organisations.   I tweeted the link to my followers.  I walked the course as referee with some Juniors playing in the Abernethy Golf Club Champs, then filled most of the village bird feeders on the way home. There was a kestrel hunting over the rough beside the 4th hole.

Tues 10th July
Rain stopped us playing golf with the seniors. Jonny on Good Morning Scotland and also on Five Live in the evening the following day. Once again he did us proud and the exposure has been very good for SWT. Paul Lawrie did not play with Trump - ostensibly this was due to his helicopter being unable to fly in the drizzly weather, which could even have been true but we chose to believe otherwise.

Mon 9th July
Bushnell camera had no useable videos on it despite being out there for a week. Mid morning, RSWT telecon. In the evening Jonny Hughes was on STV news talking about the Trump launch next day. Good job.

Sun 8th July
Joined in the Twitter campaign to try to persuade Monty, Paul Lawrie and Martin Laird not to play with Donald Trump at the launch of his awful golf course at Aberdeen.

Sat 7th July
Drove home - I was surprised to see so many dead hedgehogs on the roads. I suppose it demonstrates there are plenty about but very sad all the same.

Fri 6th July
Long day full of interest. Up before 5am and drove to Knapdale where I spent about 4 hours filming with Ray Mears about the Scottish Beaver Trial for the ITV series Wild Britain, scheduled to be screened in January. We sat for ages at the Dubh Loch beaver dam and talked at length about the relationship between beavers, their habitat and other wildlife species. In the evening I had dinner with Ray and the crew before they went out with SBT Staff to try to get footage of Ray in a canoe with beavers swimming about - I hear it went well.

Thurs 5th July
Bea and I went to House of Bruar to help launch a new business partnership between them and SWT. About 100 guests - super evening of speeches and good company.

Weds 4th July
Delighted to hear that Caroline Spellman ruled out the sale of England's forests and that an independent think tank said the forests should be kept in trust for the nation. Furthermore, England's forests should be increased by 50%. Out with the dogs, found a badger latrine right beside a path 300m south of Craigie Rock at NH 9372 1816. We also found a dead common shrew between Craigie Rock and Fairy Hill at NH 9395 1843. Later, on the moor, we saw wheatear, reed bunting and lots more LBJs.

Tues 3rd July
A day of golf, emails, tweeting and grass cutting. Nice to be home.

Mon 2nd July
Started catching up on heaps of admin that had accumulated over the past week. Finished replenishing the village bird feeders.

Sun 1st July
Train home. In the evening I started to catch up on feeding the birds around the woods.  I also collected the card from the Bushnell camera. In the week I had been away it had a few videos of roe deer young and old plus one of a GS woodpecker.

Sat 30th June
Train and taxi to Dalkeith where sister-in-law Maeve and I got into our finery for the premiere of Brave the movie.  At the reception in the Surgeons Hall I got to chat briefly with Robbie Cotrane about buzzards and ospreys before the speeches from VisitScotland and the First Minister got under way.  We then all trooped across to the Festival Theatre via the red carpet and banks of press photographers for more speeches, in some cases the same ones for the benefit of people in the audience who had not been to the reception.  At last came the movie. It was brilliant and is expected to bring millions of extra tourists to Scotland.

Fri 29th June
Golf with the RAF.

Thurs 28th June
All day Council meeting at our Leith HQ.  It went very well with some lively discussions.  The train home was cancelled due to being stuck the wrong side of floods and landslides in England but I was able to negotiate my way onto a Scotrail train - at first they said the would not honour East Coast tickets but I used my charms.

Weds 27th June
First session of the morning was about networking old and new. We then split into two groups - Maggie's dealt with Sustainable Development and mine with Economic Growth. We then caught the Metro back to Gare de Midi which houses the Eurostar terminal. We had time to kill so were able to reflect on our trip. We agreed that the most useful element was a new understanding of the relationships between the main institutions and the how and when of making effective input into the decision making process. The journey back to Edinburgh via London was uneventful and Maggie and her hubby dropped me at the Picardy Holiday Inn just before 2200.

Tues 26th June
Walked for 40 minutes to Scotland House in the heart of the Euro Zone for our 2 day course for gaining an insight into how the European system worked and how we could use it to our advantage. The morning was spent learning how the three main institutions (Commission, Parliament and Council) related to each other and something of the networking opportunities that this arrangement presents. After lunch we walked to the Parliament building, were given a guided tour and then met Alyn Smith MEP plus the assistants of two other Scottish MEPs. A short discussion ensued before it was time to return to Scotland House and book into a different hotel. I did a short video interview for Scotland Europa about our course and its worth, before we got ready for an evening out to dinner. The dinner was a long protracted affair, after which some of the group headed for a bar and some of us went to bed.

Mon 25th June
Train to London, collecting colleague Maggie Keegan in Edinburgh on the way, then Eurostar to Brussels. We walked through the town to our hotel (it took an hour) then went out to sample the night life. The hotel was a cheap pay-and-sleep affair -ensuite but no frills. We learned next day that we had walked through a somewhat dubious area of the city - ignorance is bliss!

Sun 24th June
Checked the badger hide - the badgers still hadn't eaten the cheap dog food I provided. Pity. Checked the log book - a group the previous evening only saw one badger and that was at 2230 - hardly worth going at this time of year. Checked the goldeneye duck box - great news, the chicks have hatched and gone. The box contained just the shavings and down plus fragments of egg-shell, consistent with a hatch. At home I finished packing for a hard week of travel ahead.

Sat 23rd June
I filled all the village bird feeders prior to going away for most of next week. I then started packing. In the evening I checked the card in the Bushnell camera - it had six videos of roe deer both large and small, male and female.

Fri 22nd June
Worked all morning on the papers for next Thursday's SWT Council meeting. Later took the dogs on the moor - Heather had told me the lapwing eggs have now gone so I went to have a look. Hard to say if they hatched or were scavenged. Friends Rhys and Ifan from Wales called in for a cuppa. Great to see them again. They had seen two cresties near the forest crossroads.

Thurs 21st June
Drove home, very tired. ITV phoned to discuss details of a proposed interview next month about the Scottish Beaver Trial.

Weds 20th June
Full day meeting of the RSWT Countries Committee.

Tues 19th June
Drove the long journey to Knapdale to greet the RSWT Countries Committee delegates from England, Ulster and Wales. After dinner we called at the hill fort at Dunadd for an overview of the area before visiting two of the beaver sites - the Dubh Loch and Loch Buic. At the Dubh Loch we were lucky to spot a beaver swimming towards its lodge towing a branch with green, succulent leaves. This probably indicates there is at least one kit in the lodge - great news. We then walked across the amazing dam the beavers had built to increase the size of the Dubh Loch to their satisfaction. At Loch Buic there were lots of midges but no beavers to be seen.

Mon 18th June
Swapped cards in the Bushnell cam - 26 videos, mostly of dogs but there was one fleeting shot of a pine marten at 0224 on Sat 16th June. 10am fed all the village birds then spoke at length with a local enthusiast about wolves, lynx, beavers and pine martens. 1030 I went to the badger hide. The badgers had not lifted the board to eat the cheap dog food I had provided on 10th June so I scattered some more about the place to see if they would twig that it was edible. I filled the bird feeder, then check the bird boxes. The tit box had last year's nest plus a heap of fresh nest material including wood shavings and duck down, presumably taken from a goldeneye box. Speaking of goldeneye, the top and middle boxes had a mix of wood shavings and down but no eggs, whereas the low box had a pile of eggs totally buried in shavings and down - the eggs were very warm to the touch so I have high hopes that they will hatch. In the evening we moved the Bushnell camera to a new location near the loop path close to the "Angle".

Sat 16th June
Golf in the morning then out with the dogs. Lapwing reluctant to leave her nest now so we are giving her a really wide berth till the chicks hatch. In the evening we were entertained near the "Angle" by 2 great spotted woodpeckers.

Fri 15th June
An invitation arrived for me and a guest to attend the European Premiere of the Disney-Pizar film "Brave" in Edinburgh on 30th June. Looking forward to it. Hope I get to meet Billy Connolly or Robbie Coltrane.  Exciting stuff.

Lapwing Eggs

Thurs 14th June
Lapwing was at her nest as we approached. She crept off quietly through the grass then flew noisily away - good girl. Eggs were still fine. In the evening the dogs and I watched a roe deer feeding then watched a great spotted woodpecker on the nuts at the Angle feeding station. Checked the card in the Bushnell camera - still no pine marten, just that dog again.

Tues and Weds
Busy days of report writing, emails and phone calls. No field work at all.

Mon 11th June
Went to the badger hide to see if the badger had eaten the dog pellets - no they had not. Out with the dogs we saw 2 red squirrels, one at the village hall and one near the start of the discreet path. On the moor, the lapwings eggs were still fine. In the evening checked the card in the Bushnell camera - just one video of a roe buck and one of a loose dog.

Sun 10th June
Whilst playing in the golf medal at Abernethy I heard a woodpecker drumming near the 6th green and watched a tree creeper feeding a chick halfway up the trunk of a tree beside the 7th tee. On the way home I called at the badger hide to put out some dog food pellets under the heavy board to see if the badgers would eat them. I then filled most of the village bird feeders. On the moor with the dogs I watched as the lapwing successfully fought off attacks first by a black headed gull and then by a rook. I checked the nest to be certain all was well and the nest still had its eggs. In the evening I filled the rest of the village bird feeders, then scattered dog food pellets in front of the Bushnell camera in the hope that pine martens would fancy them.  I had also put some of the same food in all of the squirrel feeders to see if they would like them - they are much cheaper than peanuts.

Sat 9th June
Dogs found a lapwing nest on the moor at NH9343 1923. A few minutes earlier I had watched a lapwing behaving oddly, possibly doing the broken wing routine, in the next field only fifty yards from the nest. Retrieved the camera from the badger hide - still no ducks filmed so the eggs may have been abandoned. In the evening the dogs and I set up the Bushnell camera near where we found pine marten dung on 6th June.

Fri 8th June
Wrote various reports. Went to the hide to check the goldeneye box - eggs still there but no duck. Bushnell card full but no ducks recorded - mostly just cows passing. Filled the bird feeder and left peanuts for the badgers.

Thurs 7th June
Red squirrel on the lorry park feeders and a wheatear again on the moor.

Weds 6th June
Early morning I visited box 8 to find that the coal tit chicks had fledged. I then found pine marten droppings on a stone in the middle of the main track exactly level with where an animal track joined the main track - a classic example. It was quite near box 22 so probably the same pine marten we caught on the Bushnell camera on 28th May. The forest ranger phoned to say the nest he found with blue eggs in had been raided - eggs all gone.

Tues 5th June
Saw a crestie very near box 22 where the family recently fledged. The forest ranger also saw a group of 4 cresties just 100m from the same spot - very encouraging. He had also found a nest with 5 tiny eggs in it, near box 14. In the afternoon I saw a widgeon with 9 chicks on the grebe pond.

Mon 4th June
Saw a beautiful wheatear on the moor today - first I've seen for a long time.

Sun 3rd June
The dogs and I found fresh fox dung on the moor - good to see but ground-nesting birds please beware.


Sat 2nd June
An amazing day at Loch of the Lowes where I took part in a visit by the world's press organised by VisitScotland in connection with a new Disney-Pixar animated movie called Brave which will be released in August. It's about a princess, an ancient curse, is set in Highland Scotland in natural surroundings and has a mystical, mythological flavour. Journalists from all over the world attended the event for which a private train was provided to get them to Dunkeld. It was a magical occasion and Scottish Wildlife Trust made lots of new friends in the media and in VisitScotland, with massive potential future benefits for all concerned.

Fri 1st June
Took some time to file and digest yesterday's meetings and action a few points, then did some speech writing for tomorrow's media visit to Loch of the Lowes. In the afternoon filled all the public feeders around the village - some were totally empty - oops.

Thurs 31st May
Exhausting day of meetings at Leith - some excellent discussions on quite thorny topics.  Caught the last train home.

Weds 30th May
0730 buzzard cruising over Fairy Hill -quite a rare sight these days. At 10:00 I went to the badher hide to check the goldeneye nest boxes. Top and middle boxes were empty but the low box had a duck incubating eggs. I installed the Bushnell camera facing the box in the hope of getting the chicks fledging, or even another pine marten attack. Later caught the train to Edinburgh for meetings tomorrow. During the journey I heard that, due to public outrage, DEFRA has reversed its decision to imprison buzzards to protect pheasants. Brilliant news - people power at work.

Tues 29th May
Checked a woodland badger sett at Aviemore - it is under threat of development.   The sett is active and in my view the proposed development should absolutely not happen  I have passed the details to the appropriate authority.

Mon 28th May
Full crestie box nest check 1000 to 1200 with the new Boat Woods Ranger. No new nests but there are healthy looking coal tit chicks in Box 8 and the crested tit chicks in Box 22 have fledged. The camera on Box 22 failed to capture the fledging but it did record a failed attempt by a pine marten to get into the box - brilliant.  See the video above.

26th and 27th May
Weekend off for golf and gardening

Fri 25th May
15 to 1700 I tried to find the wildcat that our friends saw yesterday - no luck I'm afraid. Pleased to note that the Wildlife Trust movement has protested loudly over the plans to imprison buzzards to protect Pheasants so. Scottish Wildlife Trust has adopted the same line.

Thurs 24th May
We heard a cuckoo near Craigie Rock at 0730. Was disgusted to hear on the news of DEFRA's plans to imprison buzzards and destroy their nests to protect pheasants. I tweeted accordingly and was rewarded with lots of retweets and some new followers.  The Wildlife Trust movement has added its voice to RSPB's howl of protest. Our photographic friends phoned to tell me they had just spent 45 minutes watching a wildcat at a local site. It first appered at 1530 and was almost certainly the so-called Springwatch cat. 2145 to midnight I sat near the badger hide in the hope of seeing the badger cubs but only had two brief badger sightings, both adults, which is precisely why we close the hide for the high summer period.

Weds 23rd May
0400 to 0530 in the woods with our friends. We heard a roe deer barking and then saw a caper flying out of a tree. We also paid a brief visit to Box 8. 0730 Bobby and Max and I watched a red squirrel at the feeder at the Angle. At 1130 I visited the lady at Struy. She had concerns about badgers - mostly about their welfare. They had burrowed under some concrete steps and I was able to advise on what to do about that. She also wants to fence her large garden but was not sure how that would affect the badgers' freedom to come and go and I was able to provide her with a copy of a standard design for badger doors. She was also a bit concerned on how local forestry operations were affecting the local setts - I did my best to reassure her. We also talked for quite a while about local big cats, especially a large black panther that had been seen on and off over quite a period of time.

Tues 22nd May
The girls had a badger in daylight this evening at 2130 and they got some lovely pictures.

Mon 21st May
I sat and watched Box 8 and was able to confirm that it is being used by coal tits - a first for me in many years of nest-boxing. In the evening I went to the Community Hall to meet the new Craigie Woods ranger. We swapped details and agreed to walk the woods together sometime soon to look at some of the important wildlife sites. I refilled the hall feeders while I was there - they have been emptied really quickly this week.

Sun 20th May
The girls had a great evening at the hide. They had a badger in daylight then, just before midnight, they had 5 badgers including 2 cubs. They also watched a roe deer swim across the River Spey.

Sat 19th May
Starlings investigating our starling box. I filled all the village public feeders and then checked my two active nests in the woods. Both parent cresties were present at Box 22 and there were lots of videos on the Bushnell camera card of them coming and going. Box 8 now has tiny chicks in it - the species is still unknown - I'll come back and watch closely in a few days time. Our friends called in to tell last night's story - they had at least 4 badgers. That evening they saw woodcock roding near a black cock lek site and they also saw a goldeneye with 8 chicks on the nearby lochan, an owl near the Delbog track, a buzzard and they heard a cuckoo.

Fri 18th May
Siskins on our feeders for the first time in more than a year. Two lady photographer friends called in for lunch, after which I took them to the badger hide to set up their photo gear for the next four days. While we were there I checked the boxes - the low goldeneye box had at least 3 goldeneye eggs in it and great tits were setting up home in the tit box. Later the girls texted that they had at least 3 badgers in view.

Thurs 17th May
Train home

Weds 16th May
Centenary of RSWT today so train to London, checked in to the hotel and changed into my kilt for the big event at the Natural History Museum where the Society was formed in the Board Room 100 years ago to the very day. Black tie was the order of the day (unless you're Bill Oddie) - altogether a splendid occasion. 300 people sat down to dinner, great speeches from Simon King, Aubrey Manning and David Attenborough - a fabulous event and I'm already looking forward to the next 100 years.

Tues 15th May
Received another report today of a slavonian grebe on our grebe pond - maybe it's true after all.

Mon 14th May
Phoned a lady at Struy who has concerns about the welfare of her local badgers. Arranged to go to see her next week.

Sun 13th May
Had some rather good wildlife incidents during the early morning dog walk. At first 2 red squirrels came charging towards us down the forest track, arguing and quite oblivious to the danger of running into the jaws of my two dogs (both dogs on leads of course). It wasn't until I shouted that the squirrels took notice and ran up trees. Later a large male capercaillie high in a tree flew noisily out over the track and finally we came across a badger latrine beside the path.  In the evening I took a group of 5 to the badger hide. The weather was truly awful and we had to wait a long time for the badgers to brave the storm but at last they did and we watched 1, then 2, then 3 of them for half an hour.

The eggs in box No 8 - I thought they were blue tits but they turned out to be coal tits

Sat 12th May
Set out on a nest check and quite soon bumped into a lady birdwatcher who insisted on listing the birds she had identified on the grebe pond - 2 little grebes nest building plus teal, widgeon, tuffties, goldeneye and the other usual suspects but sadly no slavonian grebes. At box 8 I sat for half an hour in the hope that the sitting bird would fly out for me to identify without having to disturb her but no luck so I lifted the lid to find no bird at all. She must have been away feeding so I am still none the wiser. The eggs look like blue tit but I cannot be certain. I next went to box 22 where the two crested tits were present and alarm calling. At least one of the cresties was carrying food so we might have had a hatch. I quickly changed the card in the camera and left. At home the card contained 66 brief videos, mostly of cresties coming and going but there were 2 of a great tit trying (and failing) to get into the box, speaking of which one of the cresties seemed to be having trouble squeezing through the hole so I may have to rethink the size of the hole. While going about these tasks I carried a rucksack of bird food with me and managed to refill all the public feeders en route - quite efficient for once. In the evening I took a group of four people to the badger hide - we had 2 badgers out within a few minutes and a third one arrived a bit later on.

Fri 11th May
Still very wet. Bea and I and the dogs drove to Chanonry Point for me to give my annual beach lecture about beavers to students from Middlesex University. The weather was really bad so we huddled behind some vehicles and kept it short!

Thurs 10th May
A very wet day so no field work and golf cancelled. Spent part of the day experimenting with ways of hollowing out a log for use as a nest box. Probably need to buy some new machinery.

Weds 9th May
I began the day by reporting the crazy orienteering/mitigation conflict to the Access Officer of the National Park. He was as surprised as I was and would look into the matter. 2015 I took an Australian couple to the badger hide. We saw 2 badgers and a roe deer and heard a tawny owl.

Tues 8th May
The new capercaillie mitigation signs have appeared in the woods. Bizarrely an orienteering course has also materialised, seriously undermining the carefully planned capercaillie mitigation measures.

Mon 7th May
0845 two great spotted woodpeckers near the feeder at the Angle in Boat Woods. 2015 I took 3 people to the badger hide. We saw 4 badgers and a barn owl.

Sat 5th May
1020 I did a full check of the crested tit boxes. Box 8 had a nest with eggs in it but the occupying parent bird shot out so fast when I arrived I could not tell which species. Judging from the style of the nest and the total lack of alarm calling I do not think it was a crestie. Box 22 crestie parents were both present and alarm calling when I arrived to change the card in the camera. The card just had one video of a crestie leaving the box and one of a red squirrel trying to find a way into the box. It was the weekend of the Osprey Festival in the village and I managed to pay a couple of visits to the SWT stand in the hall.

Fri 4th May
While out with the dogs I watched a red squirrel behind the community hall.

Thurs 3rd May
2015 went to the badger hide on my own to assess how to play the visits planned for the next week or so. Quite early on I saw a hen pheasant and a vole stealing peanuts intend for badgers but had to wait until 2150 before the first badger emerged. At 2215 two more turned up. On the way out, as I walked over a rise in the field, I disturbed a fox - I don't know which of us was the most startled.

Weds 2nd May
Meeting at SWT HQ about Members Centres and members. Some useful ideas emerging.

Tues 1st May
Caught the early train to Edinburgh for a meeting at SWT HQ in Leith then spent the evening with colleagues and stayed overnight at Dalkeith.

Mon 30th April
0830 finished filling the village bird feeders prior to going away for a few days tomorrow. 1500 checked the badger hide and bird boxes. No activity in any of the goldeneye or tit boxes but plenty of badger activity. Before leaving I filled the bird feeder and left some peanuts under a heavy board for the badgers to find later.

Sun 29th April
Played golf then filled some of the village bird feeders.

Irresponsible people lighting a campfire in a highly sensitive wood

Sat 28th Apr
0830 found a group of wild campers in Boat Woods less than 100 metres from an occupied crested tit nest box. I had a quiet word with them and they agreed to move. I phoned the estate keeper and he said I had done the right thing in trying to be diplomatic because one cannot insist people move if they are behaving responsibly. At 1030 I check the crested tit nest in box 22 and was pleased to see they had at least 5 eggs. However, I was horrified to see that the campers mentioned above had lit a fire. I gave them the length of my tongue and then phoned the estate again. The campers assured me they would stay until the fire was properly out. 1830 the dogs and I checked the campsite and were relieved to find the fire was cold and the campers had left the site immaculately clean.

Fri 27th April
Long early morning dog walk during which I saw a lady with a dog heading into the most sensitive area of the woods. Level with crested tit nest box 20 I heard a woodpecker drumming and I then checked boxes 16 and 17 but no activity in either and none at the single tunnel badger sett nearby. I did however find some rain-blasted pine marten dung on a stone at NH 9247 1748 near a T-junction of forest tracks. Met the local head keeper and we discussed capercaillie mitigation, responsible dog ownership and the sad death of the caper a few days ago at Rothiemurchus, almost certainly due to a loose dog.

Thurs 26th April
Trains home - then caught up on 3 days of emails and phone calls.

Weds 25th April
Spoke with CNPA by phone about capercaillie mitigation in Strathspey and elsewhere in the park. Train to more SWT friends, this time at Hyndland where I gave the Cairngorms talk to the Glasgow SWT Members Centre. Overnight at Hyndland.

Tues 24th April
Trains to Carluke to a friend's house, then gave a talk "Mammals and Birds of the Cairngorms" to the Lanark SWT Members Centre. Overnight with those friends.

Mon 23rd April
RSWT EGM and Chairman Conference in Cardiff. I was unable to go but colleagues attended in my place. Lots of emails and phone calls to do with SWT and then some preparation for two days of public talks starting tomorrow.  

Sun 22nd April
0830 met a bird watcher in our woods who was delighted - he had just seen a crested tit not 100 metres from the village hall. I hope it is one of the mystery pair a saw recently collecting nest material.  1030 I filled all the village public bird feeders and in the evening put together this video for a friend who had been waylaid by a fierce male capercaillie earlier this month.

I later leaned that a male capercaillie had been killed on Rothiemurchus Estate, almost certainly by a dog running loose - probably the very capercaillie shown in this video.

Sat 21st April
A rainy day so no practical wildlife work done. Broadband returned I so caught up on some emails.

Fri 20th April
The whole village was without Broadband since Tuesday so that made everything difficult. We all phoned our providers like mad to pile the pressure on but for a long time they would not even admit there was a problem.  Managed to do a few bits and pieces of email with smart phones.

Thurs 19th April
In the morning had a meeting in Edinburgh with our Vice Chairman of Conservation and then in the afternoon I attended a reception at Holyrood reporting on the findings of the IUCN Bogs, Communities and Carbon project, led brilliantly by SWT. More than 30 of the great and good were there representing parliament, government agencies and environmental NGOs.

Weds 18th April
Train to Edinburgh in time for two meeting at SWT headquarters.  Later the SWT CEO and I went to Fife and Kinross MC to visit the members and discuss the management of their reserves and answer a range of questions. Stayed overnight in the Holiday Inn.

Tues 17th April
Heavy rain so another morning of wildlife admin jobs, mainly preparation for meetings over the next two weeks in Edinburgh, Fife, Boat of Garten, Lanark and Glasgow.

A goldeneye duck caught on a camera trap at Boat of Garten

Mon 16th April
Spent the morning writing the quarterly Chairmans Bulletin and working on emails and phone calls to do with beavers, among other things. At 1410 I fixed up the trail camera on a tree facing box 22 which crested tits are using. I was a little concerned that the recent snow might have put them off so I retreated some distance and watched for a while. At 1430 the two cresties turned up together and continued operations so I crept away and left them to it.

Sun 15th April
Heavy snow put an end to thoughts of golf or wildlife field work.  Took the day off.

Sat 14th April
0820 the dogs and I saw a male capercaillie fly across our path in the woods at what used to be a favourite spot near a forest cross-roads. Spoke with a tame badger expert about badgers and other issues at an SWT reserve near the west coast and put him in touch with our reserve ranger there.

Fri 13th April
Installed the double sided feeder at the grebe car park and trimmed some of the branches from trees around the viewing area - they were beginning to block the view. Dealt with some really awkward emails and phone calls caused by people who should be working together to achieve common goals rather than sniping in pursuit of private agendas.  Grrr.

Thurs 12th April
Dealt with RSWT phone calls and then made another new single-side bird feeder and replaced the double-sided one I had put at the Community Hall the previous day which I decided was better suited to the grebe car park feeding station..

Weds 11th April
Met the same birdwatchers as yesterday - they had been looking for capercaillie. Had a difference of opinion with them over why nobody would tell them where the capercaillie leks were.

Tues 10th April
Met 2 birdwatchers in the wood - they were delighted to have just seen some crossbills. At the Golf Club a member reported he and his wife had seen a true wildcat near their house at Tulloch. White moustache, fat tail - the real deal in his opinion. At 1915 I went to the badger hide and put out some peanuts, then checked the goldeneye nest boxes. The Hi box had down in the box and around the entrance hole, the middle box bore no signs of activity and the Lo box may have some new down in the bottom amongst the wood shavings - inconclusive to be honest. The badgers had been busy digging out their tunnels and topping up latrines.

Mon 9th Apr
The better weather has really excited the local wildlife. On the morning dog walk we found a very fresh badger latrine near the discrete path junction at NH9352 1825, some plucked collared dove feathers near the glove path at NH 9371 1831 and some fresh fox dung on a tuft of grass between the wee cross roads and the summit of Fairy Hill NH 9382 1845. We also saw a red squirrel near the Community Hall at both the start and finish of our walk.   Back at home I continued with SWT phone calls in the hope of finding people at home on this Easter Monday. In the afternoon I finally got round to building a new bird feeder for The Angle - I installed it while taking the dogs for their evening walk.

Ringing a brood of crested tit chicks a few years ago

Sat 7th Apr
1030 attempted to find the nest of the mysterious crested tits. I checked the nearest eight nest boxes to the village hall with no success and speculated whether the birds might be using a box in someone's garden - I'll try to put the word out locally. The likelihood is a wild nest somewhere that I will search for next week. In the course of thesearch I got into conversation with a bird watcher and managed to recruit him as a new member to Scottish Wildlife Trust. Later I made temporary repairs to the bird feeder at The Angle - I really must make a new one.

Fri 6th Apr
At 1100 I sat hidden and watched Box 22 from a distance with a telescope to see if the crested tit pair had resumed operations now that the snow was receding. After 30 minutes the pair turned up carrying nest material. Brilliant. On the way home I saw a different pair of cresties collecting nest material near our Community Hall so they must either be using one of my other boxes or had found a site for a wild nest. I began plotting an attempt to find out. At 1400 the dogs and I found a patch of frogs spawn left in the grass by the receding puddle in which it had been laid. I scooped it up as best I could and put it in a nearby large pond - good luck with that.

Thurs 5th Apr
Everywhere still frozen but early snow soon turned to rain and some birds and squirrel became active. Discovered I could see the tree, where cresties are nesting in Box 22, from the main track but the box itself cannot be seen. I emailed the details of the site to SNH and the estate. Made some strategic SWT phone calls and emails.

Weds 4th Apr
Still snowing - no real chance of wildlife stuff outdoors so did some admin and then did some woodwork in the shed.

Tues 3rd Apr
Heavy snow overnight - 5 inches by morning. Made it to the badger hide in the afternoon to assess the feasibility of this evening's planned badger watch - decided it was not possible. Great pity.

Mon 2nd April
Not much in the way of bird life on the grebe pond - just a few greylags and goldeneye ducks. Much better news later on when the dogs and I went back to identify the birds using box 22 and were delighted to find a pair of crested tits in attendance. We left smartly to leave the wee beauties in peace while they get established

A crested tit at the nest box

Sun 1st April
Played golf - it did not go well. Later had to deal with some difficult emails - it goes with the job I suppose.

Sat 31st Mar
Carried on with annual SWT governance tasks, then took collie dog Bobbie for a walk up Laggan Hill where we were watched closely by a buzzard. In the evening I filled all the village bird feeders.

Fri 30th Mar
Bea and I and the dogs spent two hours checking the 27 nest boxes in our local wood. The lid of box 12 appeared to be in use by a bird of prey as a plucking table, judging from all the feathers stuck in the grain. Another, box 22, was clearly occupied because the soft wood filling had mostly been removed and a small bird flew off as I approached. I would revisit and watch in a few days time to identify the occupants. A single-hole badger sett beside box 17 showed signs of recent use. The day was a slightly disappointment but there is time yet fro more birds to get started.  When I got home I cheered up enormously on hearing the news that SWT's famous osprey the Lady of the Loch of the Lowes had turned up for her 22nd breeding season. Amazing - she must be all of 26 years old and still able to fly to Africa and back each year.

Weds 28th Mar
This week is mainly about strategy for the wildlife bodies that I serve. Lots of reading, thinking, emails and phone calls. It hasn't all gone as I would like it but then you can't have everything, can you. To brighten the day I watched two blue tits getting comfortable with the nest box on our porch, then later found some fox dung on the moor opposite our house.

Tues 27th Mar
Walking near loch Vaa a male capercaillie flew out of a tree. Also heard a woodpecker hammering nearby.

Mon 26th Mar
Picked up a dead badger from near Lizzies Kitchen, Boat of Garten on the A95. Female 8kg, fortunately not lactating - probably a yearling.

Sat 24th Mar
Filled up the village public bird feeders. Checked all the nest boxes at the badger hide - sadly no signs of action yet at any of the 3 goldeneye boxes, the kestrel box or the pine marten box but the tit box has got fresh nest material in it. On the river a male goldeneye duck was feverishly displaying to his favourite female so I have high hopes that the boxes will get used quite soon. At the grebe pond in the evening there were just the usual species, similar to yesterday, and still no slavonian grebes.

Fri 23rd May
1230 - greylag geese, oyks, tufties, goldeneye, mallard, black-headed gulls and lapwings on and around the grebe pond, but still no slavonian grebes. In the evening, took a couple to the badger hide. We had 4 badgers on view at one point and the tawny owl treated us to two prolonged hooting sessions very close to the hide.

Thurs 22nd Mar
Played golf at Abernethy - there was a woodpecker drumming near the 3rd green. At 1420 a chap phoned from the Milton Loch hide to say he was watching an osprey hunting over the loch.

Weds 21st Mar
Trains home, then in the evening Bea and I attended the North Scotland SWT Members Centre meeting in Inverness where Jonny Hughes gave us a thought-provoking talk on the Future of Wildlife Conservation.

Tues 20th Mar
A series of trains to the lovely town of Ayr where I gave a talk on the Mammals and Birds of the Cairngorms to a good sized audience at the Ayr SWT Members Centre meeting.

Mon 19th Mar
At lunchtime I spotted a crested tit on a feeder at The Angle, well into the forest. Dealt with a number of phone calls resulting from the Minister's beaver decisions of last Friday.

Sun 18th Mar
I topped up all of the village public bird feeders and then did some SWT paperwork.

Sat 17th Mar
SWT MC Day at Falls of Clyde New Lanark. Good turn out and some very helpful outcomes.

Fri 16th Mar
Ministerial announcement that the free-living beavers of the Tay are to be tolerated until the end of official beaver trial in Argyll in 2015, at which point a decision will be made on the future of beavers in Scotland. A new monitoring group is to be set up to study the Tay beavers, linked to the monitoring of the Argyll trial. The new monitoring group will be chaired by SNH and will include representatives from the Scottish Wildlife Trust, RZSS, SLE, the Tay District Salmon Fisheries Board and possibly others. This is very good news indeed and I believe the Minister has acted in everyone's best interests. In the afternoon I travelled to New Lanark in readiness for the Scottish Wildlife Trust Members Centres Day the following day.

Thurs 15th Mar
Spring is in the air - 2 squirrels chasing round a tree by our house, jackdaws in and out of a goldeneye nest box and blue tits investigating one of our tit boxes. In the evening, I took 4 ladies to the badger hide, slightly concerned that the badgers might freak out at the arrival of the first group of the year, coupled with new, brighter flood lights. Not a bit of it. At 1935 2 badgers came out in full view and we watched for more than 45 minutes. The tawny owl was also hooting again.

Tues 13th Mar
Brilliant start to the day - 4 or 5 goldeneye males displaying on the grebe pond. In the evening went to the badger hide on my own to better be able to judge when to meet a group for a badger watch later in the week. 2 badgers at 1935 and then 2 more (or the same 2) at 2015. There was also a male tawny owl hooting not far away.

Mon 12th Mar
Still feeling a bit rough. Managed a heap of paperwork, repaired a bird feeder and made 2 whistles and a loaf of bread.

Sun 11th Mar
Recovering from the flu a bit. Spent time preparing for next week. Widgeons, starling, lapwings, oyks and widgeons much in evidence at the grebe pond today but still no slavonian grebes.

Sat 10th Mar
Checked out a dead badger that had been reported on the phone by a local friendly bus driver. The badger was a male weighing 11.5kg and died near Loch Vaa on the A95 at NH 9088 1719. Later I filled all the village bird feeders and for the second week running the feeder deepest into the forest did not need more food - odd that the birds and squirrels have stopped using it.

Fri 9th Mar
Struck down with the flu. Late afternoon I went to the badger hide and change the card in the camera. While I was there I used the ladder to check the goldeneye boxes - no eggs in any of them yet. Back home, found more than a hundred videos on the card - mostly badger but also a few mice and pheasants.

Thurs 8th Mar
I saw the first black headed gull of the season at the grebe pond, also a few widgeon, lapwing, oyk and mallard.

Weds 7th Mar
RSWT Council Meeting.   Much debate but I had to leave before the end to catch the train home.

Tues 6th Mar
RSWT England Forum meeting at Newark. An excellent meeting, very likely the last of its type and much in the spirit of how we hope the new TWT England set up will function. Afterwards we met the proposed new Chairman of RSWT, Mr Renee Olivieri and in the evening the RSWT Trustees had dinner in town.

Mon 5th Mar
Train to Newark via York. Spent the afternoon in the National Railway Museum being a small boy of 12 years old for a few hours. Got my photo taken sitting at the controls of Mallard.

Sat 3rd Mar
Up a bit later than usual. 0930 a few tufties and several widgeon on the grebe pond but nothing else to speak of. Still no slav grebes. After breakfast filled all the public village feeders. 

Fri 2nd Mar
8am widgeon, mallards, tufties and goldeneye on the grebe pond plus oystercatchers on the shore and 2 jackdaws checking out a goldeneye nest box. Continued with papers for RSWT meetings. I retrieved the card from the Bushnell cam at the badger hide. Video clips of badgers, mice and a jay. Back at home a red squirrel looked as if it might be stuck inside the squirrel feeder but when it saw me it burst out and up the tree no problem. In the afternoon, RSWT telecon for 45 minutes before taking the dogs out again. Large flock of lapwings over the moor. Faced with a crazy schedule over the next few days and very little time left for preparation I was up half the night making a PowerPoint.

Thurs 1st Mar
Woodpecker drilling near the caravan park. 7 whoopers, 2 pairs of mallards, 2 pairs of tufties and lots of widgeon kicking up a fuss on the far side of the grebe pond. I submitted my thoughts on the recent Boat of Garten housing proposals to the local working group. Spent all evening working on a ton of papers for RSWT meetings next week.

Weds 29th Feb
On the grebe pond, 7 whoopers, lots of widgeon, a few mallards plus a lapwing driving a buzzard away.

Tues 28th Feb
Celebratory lunch in Perth today with all 7 of the surviving former Chairmen of SWT as my guests. This was in recognising their service to wildlife in Scotland as a part of the centenary celebrations of the Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts (RSWT) of which SWT has been an active member throughout its 48 year history.

Mon 27th Feb
1030 Boat of Garten Housing Group meeting. Large turnout including a rep from the Scottish Government. Threats to capercaillie from the new houses in the woods are still on some people's wish list but I will continue to oppose the idea all the while there are perfectly acceptable alternatives around the village.

Sun 26th Feb
0900 9 whoopers, 20+widgeon plus tufties and mallards on the grebe pond. No slav grebes yet.

Sat 25th Feb
Went out early and filled up all the village feeders. I noted that the experimental pieces of bread and peanut butter in one of the squirrel feeders was still untouched so I threw it out.  At 10am I met the students on the SWT Environmental Surveying Training Course plus Claudia their leader and some of the external expert trainers. We walked a triangle in the woods and discussed wildlife work in this area and in the process we saw 3 red squirrels, 2 tree creepers, a flock of crossbills, a great spotted woodpecker, a teal, a widgeon, 2 kestrels and a crested tit. Brilliant.

Fri 24th Feb
SWT Planning Workshop at the Edinburgh Central Youth Hostel facility. I got my ears well and truly bashed by some of the MC reps - Sonia Daniels, Sue Sexton and the Balguise Loch contingent to name but a few.

Thurs 23rd Feb
Full scale SWT Council meeting. Excellent session with some crucial discussions.

Weds 22nd Feb
Train to Edinburgh for a SWT business and marketing meeting at our Leith HQ. Overnight at Dalkeith.

Tues 21st Feb
8am - 5 swans and a number of ducks on the grebe pond. Red squirrel on the lorry park feeders again. 12 noon I moved the camera at the badger hide and brought the SD card home - it had 72 video clips on it but nothing remarkable. 1230 a neighbour showed me a badger he had picked up off the road on the B970 near Kincardine Church NH9381 1576. Sadly it was a lactating female weighing 9.5 kgs.

Mon 20th Feb
Red squirrel on the feeders at the lorry park - watched for ages. Carried on with papers before it was time to connect with RSWT for a telecon. Quite positive.

Sun 19th Feb
Updated this diary and then made my very first wholemeal loaf - great success. Worked on papers for several meetings next week.

Sat 18th Feb
A snowy day with an uncomfortable wind so dog walking would have been unpleasant were it not for the 37 geese and 2 swans watching us from the now ice-free pond on the moor. Spent the morning on some of the aforementioned papers.

Fri 17th Feb
Went round the village and refilled the public bird feeders. A red squirrel appeared to be stuck inside the new feeder at the lorry park so I let it out and removed the feeder for modification - I then put the old feeders back pro tem. I need not have worried - when I looked into the feeder there were so many broken hazelnut shells inside the feeder that other squirrels must have been coming and going with no problem so I imagine the stuck one would have worked it out soon enough. I'll go ahead with modifications anyway just in case. Earlier I had seen a crested tit on the new feeder so at least the birds like it and at dusk there were 6 swans on the grebe pond on the moor. In the evening I found myself with three lots of papers to work through for meetings next week - serves me right - I'll nail most of them over the weekend.


Thurs 16th Feb
Dealt with a veritable blizzard of wildlife emails then made a short film of the badgers mating at the hide.

Weds 15th Feb
Spent the morning on a pile of SWT and RSWT paperwork, then set up the Olympus camera on the new feeder.

Tues 14th Feb
Swapped cards in the Bushnell trail cam at the badger hide. 50+ videos captured including some of badgers mating. Was able to deduce from the clips what times the badgers had first emerged on ach of the four days - 1757, 1810, 1839 and 1837 respectively. Useful to know when planning badger watches. The new feeder is proving popular with the birds but we have not seen a squirrel attempt to open the lid yet.

Mon 13th Feb
Very fresh fox dung on the main track on the moor at NH 9359 1925. I installed the new mega bird and squirrel feeder at the lorry park.

Sun 12th Feb
Bea and I walked the dogs along the river at Kincardine. Still lots of goldeneye ducks and mallards about. Back home did more work on the miracle bird and squirrel feeder.

Fri 10th Feb
I removed the trail cam from the moor because it has taken no useful videos at all during the three weeks it has been out there. While we were doing so a buzzard flew off its fence post not far from where we were and when we got home there was a red squirrel at the lorry park feeder just third metres from our house. Went to the badger hide and set up the trail cam to start to get a handle on what time the badgers are tending to emerge - we will be opening the hide again quite soon. With that in mind it was encouraging to see so many signs of badger activity around the set with fresh excavations, latrines and bedding visible. There were also lots of goldeneye ducks on the river which bodes well for the nest boxes that we maintain near the hide. Before leaving I filled up the bird feeder.

Thurs 9th Feb
Filled the community hall and community garden feeders and then took the dogs for a long riverside walk along the so-called salmon trail. In the evening the Cairngorms National Park and Scottish Natural Heritage held a meeting in the village hall to discuss possible mitigation measures in our woods to benefit capercaillie. More than 50 people attended and the whole thing was very helpful. We must nevertheless be watchful that this does not become an excuse in the long run to build houses in that wood. It must always be remembered that Strathspey has 75% of the UK's capercaillies and their needs must always come first.

Weds 8th Feb
Dealt with some actions from yesterday's meeting and then began to catch up on some SWT admin. After lunch I took Bobby dog for a walk in the woods during which we topped up the feeders at the grebe car park, the Angle and the lorry park. Back at home I got on with making a world class combined bird and squirrel feeder.

Tues 7th Feb
RSWT Governance Review Group meeting, then the train home.

Mon 6th Feb
Train to Newark then dinner and a pre-meeting chat with some colleagues.

Sat 4th Feb
Spent much of the day working on the papers for an RSWT Governance Review meeting next Tuesday.

Fri 3rd Feb
-8 degs C this morning - nothing stirred on the moor. Bought more peanuts (£45 for 25kgs) Topped up most of the village feeders. Some feeders still had plenty in so I left them alone; at current prices I do not want to waste peanuts by having them go rotten. Wrote the Chairman's report for the next SWT Council meeting.

Thurs 2nd Feb
The dogs and I accidentally disturbed a buzzard by walking too close to its tree, at which it flew off to vent its irritation on two jackdaws in the next tree. When we got home there was a great spotted woodpecker on the lorry park feeder opposite our house. Installed a new peanut feeder at the Angle in the woods and went back in the shed to start making another one.

Weds 1st Jan
Spent part of the day dealing with a variety of wildife related issues, mostly governance stuff.

Tues 31st Jan
Conservation Committee meeting at Leith.

Mon 30th Jan
Train to Edinburgh, then a meeting at SWT HQ, Leith. Over night at Dalkeith.

Sun 29th Jan
In the morning, 11 videos on the Bushnell cam but all of dog walkers. Later I managed to complete the new BoGWiG website.

Sat 28th Jan
0900 Swapped the cards in the Bushnell cam. Frost on the lens was a problem again but we were able to discern a couple of dog walkers and a rabbit. Bobby and I went round the village and filled up all the feeders - there was a red squirrel at the Community Hall. I then fixed up the Olympus cam on a tree by as feeder near our house. In the evening I worked on the BoGWiG website again.

Fri 27th Jan
This morning the Bushnell cam was covered in frost so there was not much to see.   Later, lots of RSWT and SWT phone calls and emails.  Finished making the video for YouTube (mentioned yesterday) and uploaded it, then emailed the link to various people.


Thurs 26th Jan
On the moor in the morning 3 roe deer passed behind us. In the afternoon I set up the Bushnell cam on the fence along the far side of the moor.  Started making a video from the best few clips from the camera at the Angle this week.

Weds 25th Jan
Fox dung right beside a corrugated iron sheet on the moor where we know there are voles living. More videos at the Angle of red squirrels, a woodpecker and some mice. We removed both cameras from the woods and will try them in some new places. In the evening I worked on the new BoGWiG website.

Tues 24th Jan
Great start to the day - a crested tit in the garden and a buzzard on a fence post on the moor. The trail cam at the Angle had taken 70 videos, mostly of red squirrels but one of small birds and one of a woodpecker. I'll put a video together for YouTube later in the week.

Mon 23rd Jan
We took the cards from both cameras - nothing of interest on either of them. I moved one of the cameras to the feeder at the Angle to try to confirm what is using it and later went back to add more hazelnuts.

Sun 22nd Jan
Filled the village bird feeders and checked both cameras. No surprises on either cam but not easy to examine the pictures thoroughly in the field - we'll maybe switch cards next day for a proper look at home. Good news - the squirrels may have at last found the feeder at the Angle because most of the hazelnuts are now missing.

Sat 21st Jan
Snow virtually all gone.    More fox dung on the moor at NH 9344 1925. In the evening I spent a couple of hours at the badger hide to test the new lights. Excellent No badgers turned up but I don't blame them in the foul freezing gale that was blowing.

Fri 20th Jan
4 inches of snow overnight but it soon began to thaw. Fox and deer prints on the moor this morning and a crested tit in the garden. Checked the Olympus cam in the woods (nothing to report) and added a second camera.The snow was shifting fast by nightfall when the temp was +5.4C.

Thurs 19th Jan
The snow returned today, big-time.

Weds 18th Jan
Fresh fox dung near the bottom fence on the moor again. In the evening Bea and I attended a reception organised by SNH at the Grant Arms in Grantown. A most useful evening.

Tues 17th Jan
Bea and I took the new floodlights to the badger hide and installed them. Very pleased to get it done before more bad weather strikes and before I get busy with meetings again.

Mon 16th Jan
SWT Admin and phone calls to do with squirrel projects, TV filming and upcoming meetings. Filled all the village bird feeders. There was a strange hand written sign at the woods entrance by the grebe car park - something about "Hands Off Our Woods" and "Capercaillie Have No Negative Effects. Poachers Welcome". Weird! Checked the Olympus Camera - nothing of interest.

Sun 15th Jan
Had hoped to go to the badger hide and fit the new lights but the frosty weather made it inadvisable due to the risk of sliding off the roof as well as the painful prospect of handling metal objects in below zero temperatures. Filled a bird feeder in the woods and sprinkled nuts in front of the Olympus cam. In the evening worked a bit on websites.

Sat 14th Jan
0900 crested tit in the garden - brilliant. Wired up another LED light unit ready to go to the badger hide. Collected the Olympus camera from The Angle and moved it to another animal track between the discrete path and Kinchurdy Rd houses. No cats so far.

Fri 13th Jan
RSWT Review Group telecom in the morning. After lunch a meeting at CNPA HQ with Bob Grant re mitigation proposals for capercaillie in our woods. A difficult day.

Thurs 12th Jan
Sleeper arrived home on time. Met with TV producers concerning possible involvement with making a film about winter wildlife.

Weds 11th Jan
Tour of the Sennedd (Welsh parliament) which is - equivalent to Holyrood in Scotland and is designed with a similar flavour. Most interesting. We then held the RSWT Countries Committee meeting in the Millenium Centre - a very full agenda. Caught an early evening train to London in time for the sleeper north.

Tues 10th Jan
Train to Cardiff via London. Arrived in time to join the other delegates and the Welsh Environment Minister for dinner.

Mon 9th Jan
Fed the village birds; discovered a problem with the lid of one of the feeders. While out with the dogs I set up the old Olympus camera on a small animal track near "The Angle". On the way home I fixed the problem feeder. At home did some plotting with Bea regarding adverts for the badger hide for the coming summer - decided to make better use of websites rather than send posters out.

Sun 8th Jan
Weather much drier - it seems odd to have no snow in the Scottish Highlands at this time of year. While out with the dogs I watched a red squirrel feeding at one of the feeders. It has been a fairly inactive week but next week will be very different. Travel to Cardiff, then eventually back on the sleeper in time to meet a TV producer with a view to helping with wildlife filming later in the month, then two more meetings at the end of the week. Looking forward to it all.

red squirrel

Sat 7th Jan
Prepared for a meeting next week in Cardiff of the RSWT Countries Committee.

Fri 6th Jan
Wrote a report and checked the Minutes of a recent meeting and worked on the Agenda for a forthcoming one. Started the ball rolling on some planned events in the summer. In the evening took the new light to the hide to see how effective it was. Brilliant, so I ordered another one when I got home.

Thurs 5th Jan
Worked on wiring a new experimental light for the badger hide.

Weds 4th Jan
Caught up with SWT and RSWT admin - in particular got the diary organised for the next few weeks.

Tues 3rd Jan
Stormy day - did no wildlife work at all.

Mon 2nd Jan
Beautiful morning on the moor with a few snow showers. The dogs and I watched lots of geese flying overhead - 2 distinct Vees plus some stragglers. I filled the bird and squirrel feeders around the village and noticed, not for the first time, that some of the peanuts in the squirrel feeders were gong mouldy. New plan - no more peanuts in squirrel feeders - only hazelnuts or similar - and will make some new dedicated peanut mesh feeders to hang alongside for the birds. Watched blue tits actually going into the sparrow gallery - maybe they are sheltering from the snow. Spent some time in the shed making new mesh feeders.

Sun 1st Jan
Bea and I started the year by checking the goldeneye boxes at the badger hide and topping up the wood shavings. All of the boxes had females incubating eggs in the Spring and if the eggs had hatched there would have been scraps of egg shells still in the boxes but sadly none of the boxes had any egg shell in them so we now know for certain they had failed due to predation. No doubt the local pine martens had something to do with it. While we were there we removed all the light fittings from the badger hide - they are no longer weather proof after more than ten years service and we had decided to buy new ones of a more modern, energy efficient design. Before leaving we left food for the badgers and the birds. At home we watched blue tits investigating the sparrow gallery on our shed, crazy birds.