Welcome to the Cairngorm Wildlife Diary for 2013

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 ...............

Happy New Year One And All

Tues 24th Dec to 31st Dec
Mostly Christmas stuff but made sure the feeders around the woods and the garden were topped up. Spent a couple of days in Dundee and when we got back we saw 5 different tit species in the garden on the same day - blue, coal, great, long-tailed and crested. We also had dunnock, robin, siskin and greenfinch.. We went to the Hogmanay Ceilidh in the community hall as usual - and that's it for 2013.

Mon 23rd Dec
A lot more snow overnight - 13cm (5 inches).

Bobby enjoying 5 inches of snow in the woods

Sun 22nd Dec
Happy Birthday to me. Finalised by email the succession arrangements agreed over the last few days.

Sat 21st Dec
Plenty of snow about and fox footprints at the cross-roads. Checked the bird feeders - all OK.

Fri 20th Dec
Two morning meetings at SWT Leith HQ to put flesh on the bones of the ideas generated over the precious two days on how we would function during the next few months.  Looking good.  I then went shopping and caught the 1335 train home.

Thurs 19th Dec
Train to Perth for the succession meeting at the Royal George Hotel. It took the whole afternoon but we came up with a first class set of procedures. Got a lift to Edinburgh where I had time to settle in to the hotel before meeting over dinner with a colleague.

Weds 18th Dec
Spent most of the day preparing for the succession planning meetings tomorrow in Perth and Edinburgh. Abernethy Golf Club meeting in the evening.

Tues 17th Dec
The sleeper arrived on time but the trains out of Kings Cross fell foul of signalling troubles near Stevenage so some of us missed the first hour of the RSWT Council meeting. There ensued a 3 hour seminar called an "Ideation Session", which was a new one on me. Caught the sleeper home.

Mon 16th Dec
Worked on RSWT papers for next week's Council meeting. Took the dogs to Loch Vaa to clear my poor brain. Picked up Bea from the station after her away-day to Edinburgh, then caught a taxi back to the station to catch the sleeper.

Sat 14th and Sun 15th Dec
Filled all the woodland feeders prior to going away again for a few days. Crested tits still in evidence.

Crested tit at a feeder this week

Fri 13th Dec
Laid plans for the next batch of meetings.  Met up with a former colleague to catch up on tidings old and new.

Thurs 12th Dec
Took Simon to the train. A crested tit spent most of the morning in our garden.  I spent the rest of the day on succession planning.

Weds 11th Dec
Collected Simon Milne from Aviemoe station and drove to Grantown on Spey for a meeting in the Garth Hotel with Grant Moir and Will Boyd-Wallis from the Cairngorms National Park, to talk about possible future collaborations. We certainly now understand each other better. When we got home there was a crested tit in the garden. In the evening Bea, Simon and I attended the North of Scotland SWT MC meeting at which Mark Foxwell and Simon Milne each gave a talk about the work of the Trust. The meeting was very well attended - I counted 33 members present. Simon stayed overnight with us.

Sun 8th to Tues 10th Dec
Spent most of the time catching up on emails and phone calls after a busy, and in some ways a game-changing week.

7th Dec
Filled all the woodland feeders. Saw 2 crested tits at the grebe car park, a badger footprint in snow on the secret path and a male capercaillie near the elbow.

Fri 6th Dec
Awoke to a very snowy scene. Started work on getting a new CEO.

Thurs 5th Dec
Storms all over Scotland but most of my trustees made it to the SWT Council meeting - a dedicated bunch. A tough meeting in some ways but we got there in the end. All trains were cancelled but I made it home through the snow by bus.

Weds 4th Dec
SWT all day Planning Workshop for volunteers was held at the Central Youth Hostel in Edinburgh. I attended most of it but had to field quite a lot of emails and phone calls to do with the loss of our CEO. In the evening I attended the ScotLink Christmas reception at the Augustine United Church - a brilliant networking event.

Tues 3 Dec
Daughter Lesley's 50th birthday - we bought her a sky diving package and her daughter Anna bought her a ride on the longest zip wire in Europe. - we obviously think of her as a wild child.  Travelled to Edinburgh for a meeting with partners at the RZSS.  Learned that SWT CEO Simon Milne is to leave us to become the Regius Keeper (CEO) at RBGE.  Quite a shock for SWT but well done to him.

Sat 30th Nov to Mon 2nd Dec
Housework and preparation for 4 meetings next week. In the garden and the woods the birds and squirrels are going crazy for the peanuts - will have to buy more. Fox poo on the glove path in the woods - Max rolled in it. 

Simon King addressing the RSWT AGM

Fri 29th Nov
Last night's sleeper was delayed so I did not get home until 0930. Dreary, wet and cold in Strathspey but I took the dogs out anyway. Bea had started to refill the woodland bird feeders while I was away and we finished the job today.

Tues 26th to Thurs 28th Nov
Sleeper to London and up to Grantham for 2 days of RSWT annual meetings. Main business of Day One was the vote on the contribution that Trusts would pay over the next 2 years. A rise of 5% per year was proposed and eventually agreed after a lot of discussion and the defeat of an amendment. The voting went 33 for, 6 against and 5 abstentions. I used Scotland's vote to vote against, having taken part in the debate and spoken of the injustice of any rise above inflation. My view received the support of several Trusts but not enough to sway the vote. In the evening George Montbiot was the after dinner speaker and made it clear he was not a fan of concepts such as Natural Capital, Ecosystem Services and Biodiversity Offsetting, claiming with good reason they could be misused by unscrupulous politicians and businesses as an excuse to trash the environment. I had a chat with him afterwards and I hope convinced him that the Wildlife Trusts were not so naive as to let such a thing happen in our name. The second day was based on the rather ill conceived term "Nature Matters". As was pointed out by one of the delegates, the word "Nature" has been adopted by the RSPB in their recent advertising, partly because the term "Wildlife", which they wanted to use, is perceived as being ours. Therefore, the argument went, we should be using "Wildlife", that being just about the only word that is used consistently by all Trusts in our movement. I think that point had been raised previously in some earlier discussions but if so it got ignored. The best part of the day was a talk by a chap from Futerra.co.uk who was great fun and inspirational. Dame Fiona Reynolds, former CEO of the National Trust, also spoke and told us we must inspire people by being passionate and getting them out there in the fields and woods. Great stuff, but she also said there is no point in speaking to government, which is quite sad. It does not matter that the present UK government is not listening, we must keep the conversation going anyway in my opinion. In Scotland we have made great strides by engaging with the decisions makers and I believe the same goes to some extent at least in Wales and Ulster, so for someone like Dame Fiona to publicly discourage such engagement, even with the present deaf regime in Westminster, is disappointing. 

Sat 23rd to Mon 25th Nov
Recovered from all the excitement, laid what plans I could for next week's RSWT AGM and Business meetings at Grantham and filled some of the woodland bird feeders.

Weds 20th to Fri 22nd Nov
Went to Edinburgh for the World Forum on Natural Capital organised by SWT with more than a little trepidation on my part.. I need not have worried - the staff pulled it off in magnificent style. 500 delegates from 35 countries and some marvellous speakers including Deiter Helm, Julia Marton-Lefevre, Jochen Zeitz, Peter Bakker, Lailai Li, Pushpam Kumar and Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond. SWT CEO Simon Milne was MC for the event and was terrific, Jo Pike was the main Event Organiser and conducted the orchestra which was her staff brilliantly and Jonny Hughes shone in his inimitable way as Programme Director. I could not have been more proud of them. My main role was to host the events of the first evening including welcoming First Minister, leading the CEOs reception and acting as MC for the formal dinner including looking after the speaker Gordon Buchanan. The second day of the conference went just as well as the first and we have committed to doing it all again in November 2015.

Mon 18th and Tues 19th Nov
Did some preparation for NatCap13 later in the week and wrote my Chairman's report for the next SWT Council meeting.

A sign in the jungle in St Lucia.  If only the whole world understood this.

Sun 17th Nov
After 2 weeks of neglect, all the feeders at our house and in our woods were of course empty so I refilled them in the course of the day, then began to think about the meetings coming up in the next 3 weeks, beginning with the World Forum on Natural Capital which begins on Thursday.

Sat 16th Nov
Drove home non-stop with the dogs. We went the long way again via Dunblane, this being much quicker and an easier drive than the more direct route across country via Crianlarich. Journey time 4 hrs 5 mins, distance 193 miles.

Fri 15th Nov
We drove to Battleby where Bea dropped me off for the NSRF meeting while she drove on to her mother's for the day. NSRF was excellent - good atmosphere and an improved level of trust between the 25+ delegates. Got a lift to Perth to meet up with Bea and she and I continued to Strathlachlan to be reunited with our dogs.  Really gratefull to Sandra and Ali for giving the rascals such a lovely holiday - running around the Argyll countryside with their own dogs.  Using their Bushnell trail camera combined with some highly imaginative use of feeders, the girls have been getting some hilarious footage of pine martens and red squirrels.  Great fun.

Thurs 14th Nov
Caught up on paperwork and prepared for tomorrow's Scottish Nation Species Reintroductions Forum (NSRF) meeting at Battleby.   The aftermath of a period of absence is always a pain - worth it though.

Sun 3rd Nov to Weds 13th Nov
On holiday in St Lucia. Boat trips, dolphin watching, segway adventures, tree-top cable car ride and various cultural excursions plus lots of reading and sleep. A welcome break.

A large pile of pine marten dung on a tree trunk

Sat 2nd Nov
Walked the dogs down to the shore. Saw at least three herons, lots of oyks and mallards plus other birds. Otters are sprainting all over the place. Unfortunately the weather was awful and we got very wet but dried out during the long drive home, this time via the southern end of Loch Lomond, Doune and Perth. This route was slightly longer than Friday's but an easier drive in the filthy weather.

Fri 1st Nov
Drove to Strathlachlan via Perth to drop the dogs off with Sandri and Ali. Took just over 4.5 hours including a 20 minute stop for lunch. Sandra took me to see her feeding station where she has already got footage of pine martens. I got a picture of some pine marten dung on a tree trunk.

Weds 30th and Thurs 31st Oct
No wildlife stuff - got stuck into preparing for our holiday.

Tues 29th Oct
Trains OK so got to the Biffa Award meeting on time. Such inspiring and imaginative projects.

Mon 28th Oct
Final prep for tomorrow's Biffa Award meeting. Buzzard over the woods again. Trains across the country today were in disarray after the storm but I caught the sleeper from Aviemore in the hope things will have settled down in London by morning so that I can get the train to High Wycombe.

Sun 27th Oct
Fox poo beside the 1st tee at Abernethy Golf Course. Checked the woodland feeders - some of the food was going mouldy in the damp conditions.

Weds 23rd to Sat 26th Oct
Lots of phone calls and emails on Wildife Trust business.  Worked on the papers for next week's Biffa Award meeting.

Tues 22nd Oct
Dumped the Olympus trail cam - the camera was OK but the PIR arrangement never was very reliable and of course Bushnell has raised the bar for everyone. There was a buzzard and a flock of starlings over the misty moor this morning - very atmospheric.

New squirrel feeder made mostly of mesh

Mon 21st Oct
Red squirrel at the Angle this morning. Checked the Olympus camera - no pictures taken. Took it home for tests and found it performs erratically and kills batteries very quickly. Time to look into getting an HD Bushnell.

Sun 20th Oct
Fox dung near the 7th green at Abernethy Golf Club

Sat 19th Oct
Nothng worth keeping on the tral cam so got the old Olympus camera out of the shed and replaced the Bushnell camera in the woods to see if the older machine still works and if it would take better stills.

Fri 18th Oct
Filled some more woodland feeders and laid plans for travel in November

Thus 17th Oct
Took a couple and their teenage daughter to the badger hide. Very nice performance once again by the usual 3 adult badgers and a youngster.

Weds 16th Oct
Refilled some more woodland feeders. Dealt with a backlog of emails.   Finalised my Chairman's Bulletin for SWT's active membership.

Tues 15th Oct
Spent the afternoon doing the nest record returns for BTO using the IPMR programme which I do not find easy to use but got there eventually. Checked the trail cam - 174 pictures but nothing very usable.

Mon 14th Oct
Buzzard over the moor this morning. Built a new squirrel feeder for a friend

Sat 12th Oct
Took a family to the badger hide. Good session with the usual 3 adults and a youngster on show.

Fri 11th Oct
Arrived home and checked the camera - again a fair shot of a woodpecker but not really in focus.  Spent some time reflecting on yesterday's meeting and making some notes.

Thurs 10th Oct
Train from London to Newark for the RSWT Council meeting. Four hours of planning the future of the movement. Train back to London in time for the sleeper.

Weds 9th Oct
Two crested tits behind the Community Hall at 1130. Passable picture of a woodpecker on the trail cam. Caught the sleeper to London.

Tues 8th Oct
Filled all the feeders around the woods. Checked the trail camera - focus a little better but far from perfect.

Dead common shrew in Boat Woods.  It's that time of year

Mon 7th Oct
Moved the camera to a different set-up in the woods and wrote my quarterly Chairman's Bulletin for SWT volunteers and staff. Took a lady and her son to the hide - we saw 4 badgers.

Sun 6th Oct
Found Fox poo beside the 7th tee at Abernethy Golf Club and then found a dead common shrew near the Community Hall at Boat.

Sat 5th Oct
SWT AGM. It was intended to be a very small event but we had an audience of about 60 members. All went well with a wide range of questions from the floor which were handled deftly by the staff.

Fri 4th Oct
Meeting with Derek MacFeate at Page Executives in George Street to finalise the process of recruiting the next SWT Chairman. Working lunch with a colleague and then caught the train to Montrose and stayed overnight at the Park Hotel where we would be holding the SWT AGM next day.

Thurs 3rd Oct
Train to Edinburgh for 3 days of meetings, the first of which was at The Barge at Leith that evening to do with the formation of a Scottish Forum on Natural Capital. Overnight at the Malmaison hotel.

Weds 2nd Oct
Train home. Red squirrel behind the Community Hall. Email exchange with Scottish Govt  about plans for a new version of the Scottish Biodiversity Committee. Wrote up some notes on yesterday's meeting with Lothians MC.

Tues 1st Oct
Train to Edinburgh to meet the Lothians MC Committee at the British Geological Survey offices. Cheerful, dedicated people. Overnight in a hotel in Picardy Place

Mon 30th Sept
Scary day today - we migrated from OneTel to BT broadband. Topped up all the bird feeders around the woods and in the process saw a crested tit behind the Community Hall again. Cleaned and refilled our bird baths. Finalised my speech for the SWT AGM at the weekend and made some notes ahead of my meeting with Lothians Members Centre committee tomorrow.

Sun 29th Sept
Camera a little better but still not perfect. Probably have to accept that close up shots of small birds are not possible with this machine. Took our friend Emma and 2 of her family to the badger hide - great session with at least 4 badgers on view, maybe 5, including a youngster.

Sat 28th Sept
Caught the early train home. Checked the camera - still not very good.

Fri 27th Sept
RSWT Countries Committee at Brockholes after which Simon Milne and I caught the trains back to Edinburgh and went to a NTS Reception.   Brilliant affair with the chance to chat informally with like-minded people.

Thurs 26th Sept
Trains to Edinburgh, met Simon Milne and we travelled together to Preston.  The assembled delegates for next day's RSWT Countries Committee were taken on a Field trip to Brockholes reserve - amazing place, perfect for beavers but our guide did not seem very keen.

Weds 25th Sept
Saw a crested tit behind the Community Hall. Checked the camera - still not focussing properly but got a passable shot of 2 woodpeckers. Went back and adjusted things again later. Was called by Andy Christie at Hessilhead animal rescue centre to talk about about badgers. Packed for 3 days away.

Tues 24th Sept
Biffa Award annual awards ceremony at The Think Tank. There were 5 categories and a shortlist of 4 in each - 20 projects in all had made it to these finals. The overall winner was Crewe United Football Club from Northern Ireland with their Community Sports Zone through which they are hoping to bring their community together through sport. Trains home.

Mon 23rd Sept
A series of trains to Birmingham. where I had dinner with fellow staff and judges from Biffa Award - we were assembled ahead of tomorrow's annual Biffa Award awards ceremony.

Sun 22nd Sept
Checked the trail cam - not very good results so I tried a different set-up. Packed for 2 days away.

Sat 21st Sep
Badger Conference - it attracted the biggest turn out ever. Great event with very good speakers. My favourites were a lassie who had researched the effects of infrasound on badgers caused by wind turbines near badger setts resulting in some disturbing implications for humans and John Darbyshire who talked about building artificial setts and life as an environmental clerk of works.

Fri 20th Sept
Buzzard over the bonfire field. 1123 train to Edinburgh then on to Uphall and Oatridge for tomorrow's Annual Scottish Badgers Conference. Overnight in student accommodation.

A buzzard in Craigie Wood, Boat of Garten

Thurs 19th Sept
Fox dung beside the 8th fairway at Abernethy Golf Club. Checked the trail cam - it had taken some passable photos of a buzzard, one of which I posted on Twitter. Did a bit of preliminary work on papers relating to RSWT meetings coming up in the next few weeks. In the evening Bea and I and the dogs joined Scott Henderson the local ranger and a dozen other people (some also with dogs) for an end-of-season walk in the woods. Very nice.

Weds 18th Sept
David Attenborough announced that it was crazy to keep sending food to Africa - we should be persuading them to breed less. I asked on Twitter for a show of hands from anyone who believes as I do that over-population is the root cause of many of the world's problems. I didn't get much of a response.  Later I completed DEFRA's online consultation questionnaire about TB. It was quite difficult but worth doing. I re-sited the trail cam and set it to take photos rather than videos. Heard a buzzard over the woods.

Tues 17th Sept
Vince Cable wants to pedestrianise town centres. I did some checking and it would be brilliant for people and for the environment but would be a mixed blessing for businesses.

Mon 16th Sept
Chris Packham added his voice to the growing concern over 1,500 houses to be built near Aviemore in the Cairngorms National Park. I tweeted in support of his views and drew comfort from the fact that it isn't just me. Checked the trail cam - several videos of mice, red squirrels, GS woodpeckers and crested tits. In the evening I caught up via Twitter and other websites on the latest cruelty incidents associated with the badger cull and added my voice to the shout-out.

Sat 14th Sept
Nick Clegg duly made his announcement about the 5p plastic bag tax. It turns out that, unlike in Wales, Ulster and Scotland, big shops in England could just pocket the money rather than be obliged to give to charity.  Hmmm....

Fri 13th Sept
Took two more people to the hide where we saw 4 badger this time: 3 adults and a cub.

Thurs 12th Sept
Booked railway tickets for meetings over the next few weeks. Took 2 people to the hide in the evening where we watched 3 badgers for more than half an hour.

Weds 11th Sept
Started advertising our upcoming World Forum on Natural Capital using Linkedin and Twitter. At 1030 I took Claudia Gebhart and her DESS students for a walk in Craigie Woods. We talked of crested tits, pine martens, housing and goldeneye ducks. We discussed nest box design and visited the old Springwatch snag with its old nest cavities. In the evening Bea and I attended the Pete Cairns talk at Eden Court, Inverness, organised by the North of Scotland SWT Members Centre. A very good evening with more than 80 in the audience.

Tues 10th Sept
Topped up all the woodland bird feeders.  Simon Milne told me about an arrangement to meet Nick Clegg DPM at Cathkin Marsh at the weekend when Nick will announce a new 5p plastic bag tax in England.

Mon 9th Sept
Did lots of follow-up emails and phone calls from the weekend.  In the afternoon took part in a RSWT telecon

Sun 8th Sept
Checked the trail cam - videos of small birds plus red squirrels and GS woodpeckers.

Sat 7th Sept
Next morning we held a full four-hour Council meeting with some lively discussions. It then took me 5.5 hours to drive home - exhausted.

Fri 6th Sept
Set off at 0900 for Campbeltown to meet up with the rest of the SWT Council. The forecast for the rest of today was OK but tomorrow's was terrible so we swapped the programme round to do the field trip today and the Council meeting indoors tomorrow. It turned out to be a very good decision. After lunch at the Argyl Arms Hotel we drove in the SWT minibus towards Largiebaan which is our second biggest wildlife reserve. The track was really rough and we got the minibus well and truly stuck but with the full might of the Council pushing and cursing we managed to shift the vehicle enough to then reverse it to a safe place from where we had to walk the rest of the way up the hill to the reserve. Jonny Hughes briefed us on the issues, leading to a discussion, all of this while sheltering from the rain in a splendid barn, complete with barn owl box. We then walked the rest of the way to the sea cliffs at NR 5991 1466, a further 1.8km, where we saw a golden eagle fly by below us over the sea and a sparrow hawk among the cliffs. We had already seen a hen harrier over the moorland. We then walked back the 3.6 km to the minibus, most of us having walked about 8 km altogether that afternoon plus 200m of climbing. Back at the hotel we had a good dinner followed by a debate..

Thurs 5th Sept
0715 red squirrel at the Angle and 2 crested tits at 0800 behind the Community Hall. 1500 drove to the Gray Gull hotel at Ardrishaig, Argyll.

Weds 4th Sept
There was a GS woodpecker on the nuts at the Angle this morning. Nothing of note on the trail cam - the birds may take a few days to find it. I prepared for 2 days away from home.

Tues 3rd Sept
Dead badger on the A95 at Chapelton NH 9190 1907. Checked the trail cam - still nothing of note so I removed it. I haven't seen a red squirrel for about six weeks so I made a new feeder and set it up with the trail camera near nestbox No 28. I was going to hang the feeder from the box but as I did so I heard a noise and on opening the lid discovered a great tit roosting in the box. I moved quietly away and set things up at a safe distance.

Mon 2nd Sept
Filled the feeders at the Angle before being visited by Andy Muck from the Cairngorms National Park who wanted to ask about the volunteers in the Boat of Garten Wildlife Group (Bogwig). We have quite a lot - most are not very active, but some are very active indeed and work at county or national level. 1400 checked the trail cam - nothing of much interest.

Osprey nest stripped by the wind

Sun 1st Sept
Bought peanuts and refilled most of the feeders around the woods. There were 2 crested tits behind the community hall. Set up the trail cam on the double fence in the bonfire field aimed at what might be a fox den. Trouble is it's windy so that might shake the camera and keep setting it off - we shall see.

Sat 31st Aug
Checked all the feeders and found them to be OK, but only just. Must buy a new sack of peanuts. While out with the dogs we had two buzzards calling overhead along the secret path. Worked on the papers for our SWT Council meeting next Friday. Wrote to my MP about the upcoming debate in parliament on the new Lobbying Bill, asking him to ensure it does not deteriorate into a tool to gag campaign groups and NGOs

Weds 28th Aug
Trains home during which I indulged in a lot of Tweeting, mostly to do with the iniquitous badger cull. In the process I began to attract some new Followers.

Tues 27th Aug
Caught the trains to Ayr via Glasgow for a meeting with the Ayrshire Scottish Wildlife Trust Members Centre committee. Excellent meeting and i came away with ideas how to further improve communication within the Trust.

Mon 26th Aug
Went to the badger hide and noted that the two groups last week each saw one badger. Saw that the big tunnel entrance right in front of the hide has been extensively cleared out very recently. Sad to say, the badger cull began in Somerset this evening - a black day for us all.

Sat 24th Aug
Checked feeders in the woods before going away for 2 days. Spoke on the phone with a lady who makes films in Canada - she wanted to talk about starling murmurations, ospreys, dolphins and the Loch Ness Monster.

Fri 23rd Aug
Long walk with the dogs at Dalnahaitnach. Found fox prints in a muddy puddle. Noted that the osprey nest has been blown away leaving only the triangular frame that was put there many years ago on which to build the original nest. Clearly the site was not used this season.

Thurs 22nd Aug
Scattered grass seed on the bare patches in our big garden. Will cut the rest of the grass soon now that the wild flowers are more or less finished.

Weds 21st Aug
Dead hedgehog on the road to Nethy Bridge. There have been a few in that area lately - at least it shows there are plenty about. Topped up some of the woodland bird feeders. Found fox dung on the moor while out with the dogs. Took a lady and her two children to the badger hide - we had 3 badgers which was great entertainment for the guests.

Tues 20th Aug
Caught the early train to Edinburgh for the SWT Conservation Committee meeting, chaired this time by Tim Duffy, Deputy Convenor, as Jon Barnes the Convenor was in China. Wrote my Chairman's Report for Council. Later got an email from Gus Jones; the bees turned out to be Colletes succinctus and are neither threatened nor rare. The greenkeeper said this is the first time in his long service at the club that this has happened. He seemed quite interested - golf will continue unaffected.

Mon 19th Aug
Asked Gus Jones to advise on the bees in the bunkers at the golf club. He took photos and would get back to me after consulting an expert.

Sun 18th Aug
Was shown a colony of bees in two of the bunkers at the second hole at Abernethy Golf Club.

Fri 16th Aug
Scottish Badgers Advisory Group meeting at LINK offices in Perth. Great people working hard for badgers.

Thurs 15th Aug
Checked the badger hide - last week's groups from Mountview only saw one badger each night which is not a disaster but not great either. Fairly typical though for the time of year. Checked the structure of the hide, in particular the rotting log supporting one end. The hide has now settled firmly onto the concrete slabs that I inserted under that end to replace the old log. Good result. Added more food to the feeders at the Angle and Grebe Car Park.

Weds 14th Aug
Checked the feeders around the woods - two of them were almost empty. Filled them all up.

Mon 12th Aug
Meetings at Leith in Edinburgh to do with upcoming events.

Sun 11th Aug
Sudden boost in enquiries about the badger hide this week. Fox dung on the practice ground at Abernethy Golf Club and a dead mole on the road near the 4th green. 1400 two crested tits on the nuts behind the community hall at Boat of Garten. Packed for a 2 day trip to Edinburgh.

Fri 9th Aug
Telecon to discuss papers for upcoming meetings. Dealt with some lost email issues.

Pine Marten dung in woods at Boat of Garten

Weds 7th Aug
Dealt with a host of outstanding wildlife emails that had built up due to too much golf and dog walking lately. At 1500 I found some pine marten dung on the caper track in Craigie Woods at NH.9255.1838.

Mon 5th Aug
Packed up the crested tit nests and sent them off to Mike Hansell at the National Nest Reference Collection at Glasgow University. While packing them I got stung by a wasp. Ouch! Filled feeders at the lorry park and at home and checked that all the others were still OK. Collected the trail cam from the badger hide - it showed that badgers are appearing near the hide at around 2030.

Sat 3rd Aug
Took copies of the badger hide guide notes to Mountview in readiness for their use of the badger hide next week.

Fri 2nd Aug
Spent the afternoon at the badger hide strimming grass, topping up the peanut bin, filling the bird feeder, setting up the camera and sweeping the floor. There were plenty of badger signs near the hide so the guests next week should have a good show.

Thurs 1st Aug
Worked on responses to some fairly in-your-face ideas about the future funding of wildlife work across the UK. Checked the trail cam - just roe deer and sheep so I removed it.

Tues 30th July
Travelled from London to High Wycombe for the Biffa Award meeting. So many worthwhile community projects - pity we cannot fund them all. Used the time in London for a series of phone conversations with various wildlife people on a range of issues - money, TWT, reintroductions, strategy and so on. Had travel ticket problems again such that I had to smooth-talk my way through barriers at Marylebone, High Wycombe and Kings Cross due to the electronic strips on all of the tickets being corrupt.

Mon 29th July
Re-filled all the woodland feeders prior to going away for a couple of days. Checked the trail cam - just a couple of clips of roe deer. Caught the overnight sleeper to London.

Sat 27th July
Finished working on the Biffa Award papers. Checked the trail cam again but nothing worth keeping, especially the clip of heavy rain!

Fri 26th July
Got stuck in to the papers for next week's Biffa Award meeting. Checked the trail cam - nothing taken at all.

Nest box 29 from which crested tit chicks fledged this week

Thurs 25th July
Started work on the papers for a Biffa Award meeting next week. Checked the trail cam at its new position - 80 videos of chaffinches and red squirrels. Moved the camera to another new position on a major track through wooded farmland without baiting it at all in an attempt to reduce the sheer volume of material - I really want to capture clips of badgers, foxes and pine martens on the move.

Weds 24th July
Kevin Hacker, currently in the RAF and a great SWT supporter and keen wildlife photographer,spent the morning with me. We walked the local woods to show him the feeding stations, check the trail cam and bring home the two nest boxes that cresties had used. Later in the day he sat at the grebe car park feeders and got one set of pictures of a rather scruffy crested tit.

Tues 23rd July
Not much wildlife work today

Mon 22nd July
Filled all the feeders around the woods. The trail cam had 1 fox video and 152 of red squirrels. Later I repositioned it above head height facing straight downwards.

Sat 20th and Sun 21st July
No wildlife stuff - played the two rounds of the Abernethy Golf Club Championships. I came 2nd in the handicap section and 3rd in the scratch section - really pleased. Handicap chopped to 11.0.   One oyk chick found dead but 2 others seen later - a bit confusing considering we thought there were only two left.

Fri 19th July
Spent most of the day watching the Open at Muirfield but did pop out to check the trail cam - 162 videos, all of red squirrels

Thurs 18th July
The train staff made me breakfast at 0430 and dropped me on the Doncaster platform via the guards van with a note asking the station staff to help me get to Newark. I got to Newark at 0630 and sat in the park for 2 hours chatting to the dog walkers until the RSWT Offices opened.  Long RSWT Council meeting spent mostly on the 5 year plan.  Caught the 1551 train to London, dinner with brother John and wife Carole and then the 1950 sleeper home - famous golfer Craig Stadler was on the train heading for Muirfield and then to Royal Birkdale for the British Seniors Open.

Weds 17th July
Spent the afternoon working on RSWT 5 year plan in prep for tomorrow's meeting. Checked the trail cam - 2 fox, 1 roe buck and lots of red squirrel videos. Met the local ranger in the woods - he said he had seen no capercaillie chicks this year yet but has seen clocker droppings. Sleeper train to London, although that didn't quite work out because i discovered it would not arrive until 0930 which is nearly 2 hours later than usual and would have meant me missing my London connection and being late for the RSWT meeting. Anyway, the train crew were brilliant and arranged for the train to make an unscheduled stop at Doncaster.

Tues 16th July
No wildlife work today - spent the day at the AGC Seniors outing to Rothes GC. Great day, lovely weather. 

Mon 15th July
0900 red squirrel at the Angle feeder. Prey remains of a pigeon in the woods behind Kinchurdy Road at NH 9414 1877. Read through some of the papers for the RSWT Council meeting on Thursday. The crested tit chicks in box 29 have fledged. At home, I intended to cut the grass but didn't have the heart to cut down all those wildflowers. The trail cam had taken 98 videos - mostly squirrel but also lots of fox and six of pinemartens.

Sun 14th July
Golf - I won the Gordon Cup with a 64, beating Bea into second place with a better inward half. Two oystercatcher chicks are still surviving and running around the course.

Sat 13th July
Bea and I and the dogs attended the North of Scotland Members Centre visit to the SWT Reserve at Spey Bay. Pleasant walk to the viaduct and back with lots of plant and bird identification along the way. Saw an osprey, some young robins plus the usual gulls, terns and geese. Sad to see so many invasive non-native plants like giant hogweed and others.

Fri 12th July
Worked on SWT reports. Checked the trail cam - 8 videos of red squirrels. Re-jigged the feeder at the Community Hall to try to thwart whoever has been tipping the food on the ground. Prepared for tomorrow's trip to Spey Bay.

Thurs 11th July
Checked the trial cam - no pictures because I had forgotten to put a card in it!  Oops.

Weds 10th July
Checked SWT Council Minutes and worked on the new format Chairman's Bulletin; it took most of the day and I ran out of time to check the trail cam.

Tues 9th July
No wildlife stuff

Mon 8th July
1500 two oyk chicks and both parents on the 5th tee - no sign of the third chick. In the evening the ladies reported the same - only 2 chicks. In the evening I set up the trail cam at NH 92771877 just the wrong side of the fence beside the secret path. Baited it with peanuts and raisins.

Sun 7th July
No sign of the oyk chicks on the golf course but the parents were still making a fuss so they were probably hiding in the long grass. Bea took Sandra and Ali to see box 29 and they observed crestie parents arriving and leaving so all is obviously well with the chicks.

Sat 6th July
We went to the Speyside Wildlife Hide at Rothiemurchus a s guests of our friends Sandra and Ali. 4 badgers turned up, one of which appeared to be lactating which is weird at this time of year. Equally weird, when a pine marten approached the badgers ran away. The pine marten posed for photos for about 10 minutes.

Fri 5th July
Yellowhammer on the 2nd tee while playing golf with AGC Seniors. Only 2 oyk chicks seen on the 5th fairway this time - hope we haven't lost one. 1430 refilled the feeders at the Angle.

Thurs 4th July
The 3 oyk chicks still running around on the 5th fairway, growing well with parents in watchful attendance. At 1730 I filled the grebe car park feeders. 1745 I found that the eggs in box 01 have been eaten away even more by something - slime all over them so probably slugs. 1750 box 29, found a heap of quivering crested tit chicks in the box. No parents seen or heard. I removed the camera.

Weds 3rd July
Wheatears on the moor this morning. In the evening, while playing the reverse course competition at Abernethy Golf Club, the three oyster catcher chicks were still wandering about.

One of the oyster catcher chicks at Abernethy Golf Club

Tues 2nd July
Found a dead field vole on the main track in the woods behind the Boat of Garten Community Hall. Oyster catcher parents still making a big fuss alongside the fifth fairway at Abernethy so one assumes at least one of the chicks has survived - let's hope all three have.

Mon 1st July
Returned the refurbished feeder to the Community Hall.  Heard a delightful story from Margaret in our village shop about a cat and a blackbird who share their favourite breakfast of chicken-flavoured brekkies. Checked the trail cam on box 29 and there were videos of crested tits at 0500 on 28th and 29th June, not because they had triggered the camera but because something else did and the cresties just happened to be entering or leaving the box at the same time.

Sun 30th June
Removed the peanut feeder from behind the village hall and brought it home for repair. Played golf at Abernethy and was delighted to note that near the fifth green the three oyster catcher chicks were still running around. I'm quite surprised they have survived so long the attentions of gulls, crows and rooks. The parents are of course very noisy and quite aggressive, even to golfers.

Sat 29th June
Cut the grass in some parts of our garden, leaving the most flowery bits for bees and other pollinators. That's the best excuse yet for not having to cut the grass. The great tit chicks in our starling box fledged either last night or this morning - wonderful.

Fri 28th June
Went back to box 29 and increased the sensitivity setting of the camera, as decided last night. While I was there a crested tit was busying itself nearby collecting either food or nest material; I couldn't quite tell. A good sign either way. 1430 to 1600 Jonny Hughes and I met Cab Sec John Swinney MSP at Loch of the Lowes - a most useful and informative affair. We spoke about Landfill Tax, Natural Capital, Regulatory Reform and the breaking news that from next year retailers will charge 5p for plastic shopping bags, with the proceeds going to charity.

Thurs 27th June
In the evening Bea and I and the dogs checked the trail cam at box 29. We found no birds at all on the card so I decided to increase the sensitive setting in the hope of better results. Earlier, the oyster catcher eggs at the monument on Abernethy GC hatched but a gull grabbed one of the chicks. Later, Marie the steward found an abandoned chick and hoping it was the one taken by the gull delivered it to where the other two chicks were. It turns out she was right and the three stayed more or less together after that.

Weds 26th June
0900 meeting with Bruce Wilson, Jonny Hughes and Jo Pike ahead of a meeting with Cab Sec John Swinney on Friday. 1030 to 1430 an excellent SWT Council meeting.

Tues 25h June
Train to Edinburgh for two SWT meetings ahead of tomorrow's Council meeting. In the evening, dinner at Bond 9 (a dog friendly restaurant) then a discussion over drinks with colleagues at Hamilton's in Stockbridge. Topics included the government, national parks, charity governance and lynx.

Mon 24th June
Set up the trail camera on box 29 - I forgot to take screws with me so had to improvise. Still fizzing about houses to be built in our woods but must move on.

Take a long last look at these woods at Boat of Garten

This is about to become.....

......this !!!

Sun 23rd June
Got soaked four times while out with the dogs - it was a foul day. Filled feeders at the grebe car park and community hall but spent most of the day working on papers for next week's meetings.

Sat 22nd June
Filled the feeders at the Angle, then watched a buzzard cruising through the tree tops.

Fri 21st June
The Cairngorms National Park Planning Committee met at Boat of Garten and after a site visit decided in favour of building new houses in our woods. According to the Cairngorms NP website the RSPB had objected to the houses "....but withdrew their objection ahead of the meeting, stating that they were satisfied with mitigation measures and that the appropriate assessments had been carried out. "  Disgusting. So much for being "Nature's Voice".    I will not however make a public fuss - Bea and I fought and lost - but we remain appalled by the crass lack of respect for the environment shown by the Cairngorms National Park Authority with its obsession for house building and other forms of commercialism. Sad to hear that the Loch Lomond and Trossachs NP is going the same way. On a much brighter note, Bea and I went to dinner in Inverness with members of my family - a rare thing. The eight-strong party comprised me and Bea, my niece Liz, her eldest daughter Kelly and husband Ben, Liz's two youngest daughters and a family friend. A super evening with many trips along the highs and lows of memory lane.

Thurs 20th June
Removed the trail cam from box 01 - there were no crestie movies on it at all. Spent most of the rest of the day on papers for the SWT Council meeting next week.

Weds 19th June
Was picked up at the club and we drove to SWT's Jupiter Urban Wildlife Centre at Grangemouth. First job was a telecon with RSWT for us to respond to the consultation on their 5 year plan, which we did in full measure by submitting a number of quite fundamental changes of approach. Whether they will be heeded is a bit doubtful. 1000 Paul Wheelhouse, Minister for Environment and Climate Change, and his team arrived to launch the new Scottish Biodiversity Strategy. Brilliant that they had chosen one of our reserves to do so. The event began with a welcoming speech from me and the staff then led a tour of Jupiter including visits to the ponds, the plant sheds and the outdoor classroom after which the Minister joined in with a class of school children who were pond dipping. The launch then took place with speeches from the Minister, Jonny Hughes and Ian Jardine after which we adjourned for refreshments. It was a great event for SWT and for Scotland. I am especially pleased that the strategy recognises that nature's economic value must be balanced with its intrinsic value. Got home in time to play (badly) in the Midsummer 9-hole golf event at Nethy.

Tues 18th June
0730 checked the trail cam at box 01. Nothing I'm afraid - probably abandoned but I left the camera there for a few more days just in case. 1635 train to Edinburgh ready for an early start next day. Overnight at the Royal Scots Club.

Mon 17th June
0900 I set up the trail camera close to box 01 to see if it is still in use or has been abandoned, possibly in favour of box 29 which is only 150 metres away. 1215 Bea pointed out the remains of the flattened hedgehog outside our house which a neighbour told us about on Friday. Very sad; there are so few hedgehogs these days. Worked on my speech for the event at Jupiter on Weds. 1600 discovered there are tadpoles in our pond - Bea is delighted.

Sun 16th June
Drove to Loch of the Lowes to host a performance by Ruairidh McDonald and Fiona Kennedy to an invited audience.

Blue tit eggs in box 16

Sat 15th June
0830 collected the trail camera from the rabbit warren. Guess what - 270 video clips of rabbits! 1500 went to set the camera up at box 29 to try to find out which bird had laid the 6 eggs in it. Didn't have to bother because as Bea and I and the dogs arrived a crested tit shouted abuse at us from the next tree. There's your answer, so the count is blue tit eggs in box 16, great tit chicks in the starling box in the garden and crested tit eggs in boxes 01 and 29. Not too bad, but quite interesting that the two crested tit nests are only 150 metres apart.

Fri 14th June
0830 filled feeders at the grebe car park, community hall and the lorry park, then later filled the feeders at the Angle while doing a full check of the crested tit nest boxes which took from 0915 to 1140.  My poor old knees. Anyhow, the upshot was 6 eggs (species unknown) in box 29, 5 crested tit eggs in box 01 and 5 or 6 blue tit eggs in box 16. The dead rotten snag on which box 18 is fixed is on the verge of falling over so it's just as well there are no eggs in it. On the way round I replaced the wire on the lids of boxes 09, 22, 23, 24 and 25. In the afternoon I made some copies of the song I wrote years ago about Ospreys and Unicorns with a view to maybe doing something with it, speaking of which Bea and I attended "The Wee Osprey Tour" opening concert in the Boat of Garten community hall, featuring Fiona Kennedy and Ruaraidh MacDonald. The show included their new song "Fly Lady Fly", the launch of which I attended in the House of Lords a few weeks ago.

Thurs 13th June
In the woods behind Kinchurdy Road I thought I might have found a rabbit warren that badgers had adapted for their use so planned to come back later with the trail camera - map ref NH 9404 1850. We have at last established that the eggs in our starling box were laid by great tits which are now busily flitting back and forth, indicating the eggs have hatched. 1600 long tele-meeting with SWT CEO to put the fine detail on our plans for next week and beyond. At 2030 Bea and I and the dogs headed for the rabbit warren found earlier and set up the trail camera to see what is using it - probably still rabbits but you never know.

Weds 12th June
Removed the trail camera from the badger hide area; a simple job you would think but while doing it I was dive-bombed by two curlews who feared for the safety of their chicks which were running around in the long grass. Quite scary.  The great spotted woodpecker that had been so much in evidence on Monday was still paying close attention to the nuts in the feeder hanging on the wall of the badger hide.

Tues 11th June
Confirmed some diary changes for next week - I am definitely going to Jupiter for the launch of the new Scottish Biodiversity Strategy, I cancelled the planned badger watch and I decided in favour of attending the performance on Sunday at Loch of the Lowes of the new song 'Fly Lady Fly' which features our famous old osprey. Never a dull moment.

Mon 10th June
It took most of the day to write my Chairman's report for the next SWT Council meeting and respond to correspondence and emerging diary issues. Great news - the new Scottish Biodiversity Strategy, into which SWT has had significant input, is to be launched by the environment minister Paul Wheelhouse MSP next Wednesday at our Jupiter reserve at Grangemouth. Will have to make a few diary tweaks if I am to be there. 2100 to 2230 at the badger hide. Cuckoo still singing away and a great spotted woodpecker kept me amused while I waited for badgers to appear. Just had a five minute sighting of a badger among long grass around 2200. Removed the card from the trail cam and at home went through the eighty videos on it. It seems that 2200 or later is a typical emerging time for our badgers at the moment so I might have to reconsider the planned badger watch next week.

Sun 9th June
Played golf and slept.

Sat 8th June
Removed the trail camera from beside the goldeneye box on the grounds that the birds and pine martens have probably finished with it. Re-sited the camera on a badger sett to discover what time the badgers are coming out and if they have had cubs. 1900 checked our nest boxes at home - the starling box has 6 eggs, the open fronted box is empty, the shed sparrow gallery has two compartments full of nest material and one with a small amount of nest material on top of the remains of last year's wasp nest and the porch sparrow gallery has some nest material in two compartments but the third one is empty. After reviewing the card from the trail camera and discovering the goldeneye and pine marten were still active at the nest box I hurried back to the hide with the endoscope to check all of the boxes in case the birds had re-laid. No such luck.

Fri 7th June
Red squirrel at the Angle - seems to be a regular haunt of theirs. Looked into our starling box to find a bird sitting there. I could only see its rear half so don't yet know what it is but Bea thinks it's either a great tit or coal tit.

Thurs 6th June
A vole ran across the road as I drove into Nethybridge. There are three oystercatcher eggs on the gravel surround of the monument on Abernethy Golf Course - hope the crows don't find them. On the moor I watched a crow drive a buzzard away - this is the second time I've seen that happen recently.

Weds 5th June
Topped up the rest of the feeders in Boat woods. Responded to all outstanding SWT emails and did a heap of filing. Buried the pipe from the overflow of our rainwater butt to the wildlife pond - that should now keep the pond topped up automatically except in very dry weather.

Tues 4th June
0900 Meeting with a SWT trustee, then at 1030 the quarterly Conservation Committee meeting which included snaring, hares, pine martens, a horizon scan, gas extraction and the new Scottish Biodiversity Strategy.   Caught the 1630 train home.

Mon 3rd June
Filled some of the woodland feeders, then caught the 0829 train to Edinburgh. Natural Capital meeting at SWT's Leith HQ then a one to one with SWT CEO and stayed overnight at the Ocean Terminal Holiday Inn

Fox footprint on a path in woods at Boat of Garten

Sun 2nd June
Picked up the dogs from the kennels while Bea went to run the Ladies Open at Abernethy Golf Club. Took the dogs with me while I did a crested tit nest box check. Box 28 has a complete nest but no eggs yet (unless they are buried), box 01 has 5 crested tit eggs, box 15 is crawling with ants, box 16 has a blue tit sitting on eggs and box 23 has a broken wire. Note for next time - take a screwdriver, screws, wire and pliers for running repairs. Spent the afternoon reading through the papers for SWT Conservation Committee on Tuesday. Lots of interesting and positive stuff.

Sat 1st June
Took the dogs to kennels, poor things, then Bea and I caught the train to Edinburgh. We visited the Johnstone Terrace wildlife reserve and then moved on to the Edinburgh City Chambers for me to host the annual SWT Chairman's Reception. It was a super event - the CEO and I gave brief speeches to bring the audience up to date and then our staff mingled freely with the guests to answer questions and generally make sure they had a good time.  In the course of the day we received the good news that at Loch of the Lowes one of the eggs belonging to our famous osprey 'Lady' has hatched. If it fledges, it will be her 50th

Fri 31st May
Drove to Perth for a meeting of Scottish Badgers Advisory Group. Fittingly this was the day I was quoted in a press release opposing the badger cull in England. On the way home I called in at our Visitor Centre at Loch of the Lowes, the home of our famous osprey 'Lady'. She has four eggs but none had yet hatched.

Thurs 30th May
Chaired another RSWT Telecon, this time with the CEO of a wildlife trust in the north of England. Interesting that, as a scientist, he thought we had to be careful about insisting too much on scientific evidence because in the past on issues where there was not much science to refer to we had lost important arguments. Music to my ears to hear a scientist admit that there are other valid forms of evidence. Checked the Bushnell cam once more but there was no goldeneye activity at all - it looks as if they have given up. Wrote to the landowner for permission to put boxes on poles for next year to keep pine martens out.

Weds 29th May
Fox footprint on the main track at NH 9253 1840. In the afternoon there was a buzzard soaring beautifully over the moor but a crow spotted it and drove it away - brave crow. In response to the news that licenses were issued by Natural England for buzzard nests and eggs to be destroyed to protect a pheasantry, SWT has written to our Minister for Environment asking for an assurance that such a thing will not happen in Scotland.   To free up room in my workshop Bea and I spent most of the day assembling the metal shed we bought a few weeks ago which will act as a store for the bikes and other bulky stuff. Quite a big job but worth it

Tues 28th May
Wrote to the National Park with an article about children and the intrinsic value of nature - the official who had denied the value of such things promised to read it but did not respond to my suggestion of a meeting. The Scottish Biodiversity Committee sat today in Edinburgh - Simon Milne attended for Scottish Wildlife Trust.   He reports that the new Scottish Biodiversity Strategy includes a statement that the economic value of nature must be balanced with its intrinsic value. This is brilliant news and justifies the hard work of the Scottish Wildlife Trust staff in helping to bring about this breakthrough. I look forward to watching National Park officials eating their words when they see the new strategy. Of course the trick now will be to ensure that the strategy is implemented, unlike the previous version which was not.    Local news - the cuckoo was still active n the Abernethy Golf Course and there was a wheatear on the 1st fairway. There are eggs in the starling box in our garden - probably great tit, although we have not seen the birds themselves for a few days. There is also nest material in two of the three sparrow gallery compartments on the shed, but no eggs yet.

Mon 27th May
Did some SWT paperwork then went online to look into attitudes towards nature, still slightly stunned by a senior National Park official's denial that nature has any value other than a commercial one. Discovered there is a general public disgust at the attitude of officialdom towards nature. At 2pm I went to the badger hide - all of the goldeneye boxes are still empty but wood shavings and downy feathers from the middle box have been heaved out and are lying on the ground. The Bushnell camera revealed that goldeneye ducks are still visiting that box and are probably also visiting the box in front of the badger hide. Later, I Tweeted that DEFRA are "pale with worry" about the possibility that the badger cull could be illegal.

Sun 26th May.
Played golf and heard that a coal tit is nesting among the roots of the big pine tree next to the path from the 6th green to the 7th tee at Abernethy Golf Club.  Must investigate.

Sat 25th May
Made a YouTube video of the pine marten stealing the egg, put it on Twitter and also sent it to SWT, SNH and the owner of the estate. Went to the opening of the Station Square in the village. Got into conversation with two senior figures from the Cairngorms National Park. They both insist that nature has no intrinsic value, claiming that nothing in the natural world has any worth unless you can put a price on it.  Sick.    I tweeted this and got lots of support. I did not name names of course, though sorely tempted, but I will certainly do so in my speech next week to the guests at my reception in Edinburgh

Fri 24th May
Led another RSWT telecon, this time with Nottinghamshire WT CEO. He was on a train, then at a station, then on another train, but it worked remarkably well. Checked the Bushnell camera - it has taken videos of roe deer, fox and badger, plus one of a pine marten taking the last remaining egg from the middle goldeneye box.

Thurs 23rd May
Another foul day so stayed in and did lots of phone calls and emails about uncomfortable issues with some difficult characters in the wildlife movement. On the plus side finalised arrangements for the next round of SWT trustee elections. Led an RSWT telecon with Durham WT about the 5 year plan. Took nearly an hour but good value.

Weds 22nd May
Windy day so the scheduled shed building session was cancelled.

Tues 21st May
At the badger hide lots of badger activity but things are not going well with the nest boxes. The tit box is still empty, the low goldeneye box has lost all of its eggs, there is just one egg in the middle box and the high box is empty despite lots of signs of use such as down feathers around the entrance and inside the box. In view of what's happened to the low box I suspect the high box had eggs but they went the same way. I set up the trail cam on the middle box to try to catch the thief - almost certainly pine marten.

Mon 20th May
Spent a good deal of time planning the next few weeks.

Sun 19th May
Heard woodpeckers in the Boat woods again and saw a red squirrel - both species doing well this year. Cuckoo much in evidence still on Abernethy Golf Course. Sandra Price tweeted the sad news that today she has lost two families of dippers washed away in floods following heavy rain.

Crested tit on eggs

Sat 18th May
0945 carried out a full check of the crested tit nest boxes. Box 01 has a crestie on eggs, box 08 has lots of feathers but nothing else, box 09 needs repair, box 16 has a complete nest but no eggs yet and box 29 has been partially excavated. Could be worse - we live in hope for one or two broods.

Fri 17th May
Feeders at the Angle were totally empty so in the course of the day I refilled all the feeders. One to one meeting with one of SWT's Vice Chairmen.

Thurs 16th May
Woodpecker drumming like mad at the crossroads and the cuckoo still much in evidence at the golf club. In the evening took a couple to the badger hide - we had two badgers on view for nearly an hour.

Weds 15th May
Travelled home

Tues 14th May
Walked the Streets of London for a few hours including Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park where there was lots of wildlife swimming about on the Serpentine including swans, coots, moorhens, grebes and crazy people. Brrrr... In the evening went to the House of Lords to represent the Scottish Wildlife Trust at the launch of the song 'Fly Lady Fly' which features our old Lady osprey at Loch of the Lowes. The song was written by Fiona Kennedy, former BBC TV presenter (Record Breakers etc), and sung by 13 year old Ruairidh McDonald from Aviemore. We were welcomed by the Speaker of the Lords Baroness D'Souza and there were short speeches from Lord Nicol Stephen who was our official host, Fiona Kennedy who spoke about the song, Tim from Rutland Water who talked about ospreys and me who talked about the Wildlife Trusts. An inspiring evening made all the more interesting by the chance to chat with some of their Lordships (eg Jack McConnell, Nicol Stephen and George Robertson) as well as a number of delightful show biz luvvies, family members of the main participants and representatives from the Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust and The Wildlife Trusts HQ. A further bonus is that if the song sells well SWT and Rutland could benefit from the proceeds.

Mon 13th May
Filled all the woodland feeders. Got squealed at by a red squirrel at the grebe car park - there was also a red squirrel at The Angle - nice to see so many about. Caught the Sleeper to London.

Sun 12th May
Cuckoo flitting about all over the Abernethy Golf Course. Later, worked on SWT forward planning.

A pine marten at Ardersier

Sat 11th May
More SWT paperwork and then got started on building a build-it-yourself metal shed.  It's like large scale Mechano - my finger tips may never recover.  When it's done the bikes and garden tools, which are currently cluttering up the workshop, can move home.

Fri 10th May
0900 went to Chanonry Point to meet Charlie Phillips, Steve Ketts and a bunch of Steve's students from Middlesex University to talk about beaver reintroductions. This was the 4th year I have done this and as in previous years the students were wonderful - full of enthusiasm and really insightful questions. Back home I finished the work I had begun at Euston and then got stuck in to succession planning.

Thurs 9th May
Phone calls and emails with Channel 4 News regarding a programme about Climate Change to go out that evening. For a time it looked as if I would be live on TV but that fell through. Quite relieved as the programme was pretty awful and included a quote from a Scottish Gamekeeper that, "It's not just Climate Change, we need more control on predators." Disgraceful attitude but not really surprising coming from a profession that attracts more than its fair share of bloodthirsty morons. The quote I sent them from SWT did not get used. At 1915 I checked the camera at Box 01 - nothing on it but when I looked into the box there was a crested tit sitting, presumably on eggs. I removed the camera - it was obviously too far away from the box to be triggered by such a small bird.

Weds 8th May
Underound and train to High Wycombe for a board meeting of Biffa Award. Train back to Marylebone, walked to Euston (40 minutes) where I got a heap of work done in the lounge before boarding the sleeper. Another good night's sleep. This really is a very efficient way of travelling.

Tues 7th May
Trains to Cumbernauld for the launch of SWT's Urban Living Landscapes project. Over a hundred people attended plus several members of our staff who were brilliant as usual. Among the dignitaries were the Minister for Communities and Planning, the Deputy Provost of North Lanarkshire and the local MSP with whom I had a long and productive chat. One of the highlights of the event was photographic proof of a pine marten in one of our reserves. SWT staff gave me a lift back to Edinburgh where I got some work done in the lounge at Waverley station before catching the sleeper to London. Slept like a log from 2310 to 0700 - well done train driver.

Mon 6th May
Before going away for the next 2 days I filled all the feeders in the woods - speaking of which, Scott Henderson the local Ranger said he saw three crested tits on one of the feeders the previous day.

Sun 5th May
National Dawn Chorus Day. I went out 0630 with the dogs but only heard the woodpecker drumming in the burnt forest and saw coal tits and chaffinches.

Sat 4th May
Went to the badger hide, topped up the peanuts and checked some nest boxes. The tit box and two goldeneye boxes were empty but the low goldeneye box had at least 7 eggs half buried in the wood shavings. Set up the trail camera at crestie box 01 to see what had built the nest in it.

Fri 3rd May
Lots of emails and phone calls. Began preparation for meetings next week.

Thurs 2nd May
Squirrel at the Angle, woodpecker hammering in the burnt forest. Fox poo beside the 3rd tee at Abernethy Golf Club.

Weds 1st May
Topped up the feeders at The Angle and Community Hall although it was not hugely necessary – there is plenty of wild food for the birds in the forest.

Mon 29th April
0945 – 2 hour check of the crested tit boxes. Box 01 had a complete nest but no eggs yet. 07, 08, 24 and 26 being used as a roost, 15 and 16 some signs of digging and 28 and 29 slightly down. A little bit disappointing but considering the extended winter there’s still time for more pairs to get going. 1500 – watched a crested tit on the nuts at the grebe car park. When it had gone I moved in and did a better job of rigging the new feeder by hanging it from a cross pole. The trick is to make it accessible to squirrels while deterring the rooks and jackdaws. Bought a new sack of peanuts - 48 !!   2000 – took an Italian photographer to the badger hide – we had a great evening with four badgers, much to the excitement of my guest who got some brilliant photos. He said the experience was beyond his wildest dreams.

Sun 28th April
Starlings now nest building in our starling box. Fixed up the new feeder at the grebe car park. Made a bad job of it so will have to go back with more tools and wire to improve matters

Blue tits nest building in one of our sparrow galleries

Sat 27th April
Checked all the feeders around the woods and yet again the grebe car park feeders were empty while others were not. Watched blue tits nest building in the sparrow gallery on our shed - they are sensibly using the central compartment which will obviously be the best insulated. In the evening I finally got round to building a new large feeder for the grebe car park.  Hurrah!

Fri 26th April
Two planning meetings in SWT HQ then Maggie Keegan and I met Alyn Smith MEP in the European Parliament office at Holyrood to discuss Neonicotinoids, CAP Reform and future SWT events. The train home was seriously held up so I had to get a later one - got home around 9pm after an exhausting week.

Thurs 25th April
Along with other representatives of the UK countries I attended Ulster Wildlife Trust's (UWT) launch of their new brand and strategy which was held at Hillsborough Castle, the Queeen's official residence in NI. Great occasion with several speeches including one from the NI Environment Minister. Simon and I met in the pub afterwards with the UWT Chair, CEO and senior staff to wish them well with their new direction. Flew back to Edinburgh and stayed overnight in the Leith Holiday Inn Express.

Weds 24th April
RSWT Countries Committee meeting - an excellent, useful session. In the afternoon we went to the Stormont Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) to be briefed on badgers and bovine TB in NI. Fascinating field work using proximity devices and GPS cameras to assess badgers/cattle interaction. Early results suggest that badgers and cattle only rarely come into close contact, even in TB hotspots. In the evening we had dinner with guests including Anna Lo, Chair of the NI Parliament's Environment Committee - dedicated woman.

Tues 23rd April
Train to Edinburgh and bus to the airport to meet SWT CEO. Brief one to one before the Belfast flight then took a taxi to The Old Inn at Crawfordsburn where we would be staying for the next two nights. Dinner with the other CoCo delegates from England, Ulster and Wales.

Mon 22nd April
Filled all the feeders around the woods before heading away for a few days. Once again the grebe car park feeders were empty when all of the other were not - must make a bigger one. Caught up on the last lot of paperwork and then packed for four days away.

Sun 21st April
Worked on papers for RSWT Countries Committee (CoCo) next week and finished off some SWT admin

Brilliant poster in a "Lush" shop window in Dundee

Sat 20th April
Local bus driver phoned to tell of a dead badger, which I went to deal with straight away. It was at NH 9112 1796 on the A95 near Kinveachy - a female (non-lactating) badger weighing only 8.5 kg.  Very sad as always.

Fri 19th April
Drove home. Passed a dead badger on the A9 at NH 8971 1482 which is 500m south of the Grainish junction. Got home to the news that we have frog spawn in the tiny pond in our garden. Bea also told me about her group at the badger hide last night - only one badger but quite close views.

Thurs 18th April
Drove to Loch of the Lowes to see how our famous osprey "Lady" is doing. She was fine but had not laid any eggs yet. Drove on to Connel and then into Oban for dinner with the committee of the Lorne and Mid Argyll SWT Members Centre. On then to the Marine Science facility at Dunstafnage where I gave a talk on badgers to a lively audience.   Overnight at the Falls of Lora hHotel

Weds 17th April
Blue tits still checking out the shed sparrow gallery. Checked the badger hide - all OK: plenty of badger signs including busy latrines at both upper and lower setts. Checked the goldeneye and tit boxes - no activity at all. Final preparation for tomorrow's talk on badgers in Oban.

Mon 15th April
Filled grebe car park and Angle feeders. Blue tits making thorough examinations of both sparrow galleries - must put up a sign!. Moved an open fronted nest box from its place in a tree where it has never been used to the wall of the shed. Made a number of SWT governance calls.

Intrepid Minister For Environment Paul Wheelhouse Strides Across The Beaver Dam

Sat 13th and Sun 14th April
Domestic weekend of watching sport on TV and a spot of gardening before the rain started.

Fri 12th April
Refilled the feeders at the grebe car park and at the community hall. Saw a tree creeper at the gcp, 2 red squirrels at The Angle and capercaillie droppings on the caper track half way between the elbow and the crossroads. The van belonging to the men who are planting bushes as part of the capercaillie mitigation measures was parked very close to the lek, which seemed unwise with the lekking season being just about upon us. I emailed the relevant authorities to inform them of this but judging from their replies they did not seem concerned.

Thurs 11th April
Starlings investigated our starling nest box in the garden. At the same time two red squirrels were very active at the feeders by the lorry park.

Weds 10th April
Caught up on admin. In the evening attended the AGM of the North of Scotland SWT Members Centre at Culloden, which was preceded by a talk on slavonian grebes by a lassie from RSPB.

Tues 9th April
Official Ministerial visit to the Scottish Beaver Trial. We all drove to the Dubh Loch via Barnluasgan and walked to the dam. The Minister received a very thorough briefing from the representatives of SNH, FCS, RZSS and my team before he was invited to walk across the dam - which he duly did. The whole affair was a great success. Back at the hotel I had a catch-up SWT CEO before setting off home.

Mon 8th April
Drove to Cairnbaan, Knapdale and met Paul Wheelhouse, Minister for Environment. He and I and a small group then went beaver watching at Loch Buic. Success - everyone saw a beaver leave its lodge, swim along the loch and come out onto the shore. A colleague turned up with his family and told me he had seen a picture of me on TV the previous evening during a programme about adventure - evidently the picture was taken when I was in the Cairngorm Mountain Rescue Team in the 70s or 80s. We got back to the hotel in time for dinner - just! A big thank you to the staff of the Cairnbaan Hotel.

Sun 7th April
Awoke to snow so all golf was cancelled. Prepared for Minister's visit to Knapdale. Did lots of Tweets for badgers and beavers.

Sat 6th Apr
Topped up 3 squirrel feeders in the woods - there was a red squirrel on the one at the Angle when we got there. Bumped into the woodland ranger, and we compared notes on crested tits, capercaillie and the proposed new houses in the woods. There was no good news to share on any of these issues. Heard today about breeding ospreys on one of SWT's reserves which had been reported in the press and caused lots of people to go to the reserve to see them. Unfortunately we are not equipped for large crowds at that reserve so there were problems.

Fri 5th Apr
Simon Milne, SWT's CEO, on Radio Scotland early this morning talking about neonicotinoids and why the Scottish Government should ban their use. This was done to coincide with the UK Environment Audit Committee's press release calling for DEFRA to do the same. Fat chance - Owen Patterson, that lame-brained environment minister at Westminster, is teaming up with Germany to try to block an EU call for a neonics ban. After Simon's excellent broadcast I took the dogs out and we saw red squirrels in three different places; grebe car park, the Angle and the Community Hall. Carried on collating in the afternoon.

Thurs 4th Apr
Woodpeckers hammering and buzzards calling overhead at Abernethy Golf Club in the morning. Afternoon in the office collating responses to a questionnaire.

Weds 3rd Apr
Heather and I and the dogs did a full check of the crested tit boxes. The lid of box 18 has been used as a plucking station by one of the local birds of prey and badgers have been using the single tunnel sett near box 17, but there has been absolutely no nesting action at all.

Tues 2nd Apr
Worked on SWT Council papers and strategy for much of the day.

Mon 1st Apr
Filled the lorry park feeders then spent most of the day composing the SWT Chairman's Bulletin - a larger than usual version this time to provide our keenest members with a bit more detail. "Lady" has been reunited with her young mate from last year and they are merrily mating away.

Sun 31st Mar
Up and out very early. Mighty cold, minus 7degs and not a bird or squirrel to be seen. "Lady", our twenty-something elderly osprey turned up at Loch of the Lowes today. The dear old bag is back for yet another season.

Princess Anne planting the six-millionth tree with David Cameron looking on

Sat 30th Mar
Filled up the small squirrel feeder at the Community Hall and then repaired and refilled the damaged feeder at the grebe car park. Worked on websites.

Fri 29th Mar
Not much wildlife stuff today, but I did notice that squirrels had damaged their feeder at the grebe car park. Slept badly so got up in the middle of the night and did some report writing and caught up on emails.

Thurs 28th Mar
Got home and took the dogs out. Met a bird watcher who told me in the past 24 hours he and his wife between them had seen crested tits in three places, a flock of crossbills, a great spotted woodpecker, a male and a female capercaillie and a golden eagle - all in the Boat of Garten area.

Weds 27th Mar
Tube train to Fulham Broadway and walked to Ashburnham Primary School where today's event would take place. Princess Anne would plant the six-millionth tree in this Woodland Trust Jubilee Woods project final event, with David Cameron and a small group of us in attendance. Rob Jones and I represented Biffa Award. David Cameron did not stay long but Princess Anne did, as she had the previous evening, and I had another short chat with her. Simon King, President of The Widlife Trusts, was also there and we took the chance to catch up on current issues. I did not manage to catch David Cameron but I did get to talk to Michael Ellis MP, Chair of the Cross Party Jubilee Committee, who undertook to pass a message to the Prime Minister. Caught the sleeper home.

Tues 26th Mar
Walked to Buckingham Palace in freezing cold weather and took refuge in the TWT HQ in Buckingham Palace Road before meeting Biffa Award colleagues at the Goring Hotel. At 1700 we walked round to Buckingham Palace for a reception hosted by The Princess Royal for the Woodland Trust Jubilee Woods project. Various other people that I know were there which was nice but I also enjoyed wandering around in those beautiful surroundings and meeting new people. I had a brief chat with Princess Anne who was an excellent host and was kind enough to stay for the whole of the evening. Stayed overnight in the Kings Cross Premier Inn.

Mon 25th Mar
Early walk in the woods, discovered that something (dog, pine marten, badger?) had ripped a hole in the bottom of the bird feeder behind the village hall. I made temporary repairs. At home had a planning session for my upcoming journeys to London and Knapdale. Checked the camera at the badger hide to find that the badgers had been active from just after 1900 - phoned a friendto let him know in advance of his badger watching later this evening. Packed and caught the sleeper to London. On the sleeper engaged in a Twitter message exchange with Alyn Smith MEP - this resulted two days later in a meeting being set up between him and SWT Staff in Edinburgh next month.

Sun 24th Mar
Finished topping up the feeders in the woods. Checked the peanuts at the badger hide - again the board was tipped over and there were more than 40 videos on the camera. The videos showed the board being tipped over and three badgers wrestling for the food so I strung some of them together into a clip for YouTube and Twitter.

Sat 23rd March
Topped up some feeders around the woods, some of which were totally empty, after which I was running out of peanuts so had to buy a new sack - 48. Wow. Saw a red squirrel at the grebe car park.    Later at the badger hide the badgers had tipped the board over and eaten the nuts so I put down some more and set up the Bushnell camera to get some idea of timing.

Fri 22nd Mar
Saw a red squirrel at the Angle and then took some peanuts to the badger hide and put them under a board to assess the extent to which the badgers are active in this cold weather.  This was also to try to get them used to visiting that place prior to an upcoming badger watch on Monday

Thurs 21st Mar
0900 meeting with Biffa Award staff followed by a one-to-one with RSWT Chairman before the main event of the day, the RSWT Council meeting. Eventually got home at 2230 via three trains.

Weds 20th Mar
Walked the 3 miles to the Green Alliance Offices in Buckingham Palace Road, which is next door to TWT's London HQ, for a meeting of the RSWT Governance Review Board. After the meeting I walked the 3 miles back to Kings Cross and got the train to Newark. Stayed at Compton house and was in bed and asleep just after 9pm - knackered.

Tues 19th Mar
Up early to work on the papers for several meetings this week in London and Newark. 2129 Sleeper to London - slept really well.

Mon 18th Mar
Fox poo in 3 places on the secret path this morning. Set up equipment to help with a translocation project later in the week.

Sun 17th Mar
Toured round the bird feeders - some needed no attention at all, some were empty - weird. Tree creeper at the grebe car park and fox poo on a stump at NH 9324 1897 beside the main track near the start of the secret path. Red squirrel at the Angle.

What a way to spend Saturday night - buried in paper!

Sat 16th Mar
Train to Pitclochry for the annual Scottish Wildlife Trust Members Centres Day.  Lots of lively discussion and some riveting reports about all the amazing work being done on the ground by the members.

Fri 15th Mar
Two red squirrels at the Angle this morning.  Should have been at a badger meeting today but far too much to do in preparing for all the meetings over the next week..  Sent apologies a few days ago, Heather and I having made a small contribution by scrutinising a document for them before it went public.  Better than nothing.

Thurs 14th Mar
Spoke to Roy Dennis about an up-coming red squirrel trapping session for a translocation project.  We'll help again.  Started work on papers for RSWT meetings next week in London and Newark - necessary evil.

Weds 13th Mar
A day with Patric and Anne Baird at Evanton.  Lunch, then a walk with the dogs while Patric ran a committee meeting of the North of Scotland Scottish Wildlife Trust Members Centre.  In the evening I gave a talk in Inverness about badgers to the membership - a super audience of about 30 people.

Tues 12th Mar
The Angle has become a real hot spot for red squirrels.  Later I was called to rescue a red squirrel with its paw stuck in the mesh of a bird feeder at a house in Kinchurdy Road.  The squirrel was quite fierce and it was well and truly stuck so thick gloves and considerable force were required to shift it.  It ran away cursing.  The flat, sharply angled design of the mesh (something like this <>) was lethal and incidents like this are almost inevitable.

Mon 11th Mar
Minus 6 degs this morning and sunny.  Snow was perfect for prints - we found red squirrel, rabbit, roe deer, badger and the dead straight track of a fox.

Sun 10th Mar
Filled squirrel feeders at the grebe car park, Angle and Community Hall plus the multi feeder at the lorry park.

Sat 9th Mar
Red squirrel at the Angle again.  Climbed Carn Sgriob with the dogs - we saw one mountain hare, four red grouse, a dozen mallards and scores of LBJs. 

Fri 8th Mar
Red squirrel on nuts at the Angle again. Spoke to Local Council Chair; it seems an application for houses in our woods is highly likely to go in shortly. Disaster for our wildlife, especially capercaillie.

Thurs 7th Mar
Red squirrel on nuts at the lorry park then later I removed the Bushnell camera from Auchgourish; just a few badger videos on it not worth keeping.  Checked the badger hide; all's well.  On the way out a buzzard soared overhead, calling.

Fox poo on the discrete path

Weds 6th Mar
Red squirrel at the Angle again. Lately we've had lots of red squirrel sightings and lots of signs of fox, badger and pine marten in our woods. Local mammals are doing well at the moment. Worked on governance matters for SWT Council.    Our Broadband went off in the morning - the router had forgotten the password and username. A real pain to fix. Did some website proof reading for a wildlife group as penance for having to miss next week's meeting

Tues 5th Mar
3 red squirrels at the Angle feeders. I refilled neighbour's feeders. Bea reported a buzzard on the monument at Abernethy Golf Club. Spent most of the day on my badger talk for N Scotland SWT Members Centre next week.

Mon 4th Mar
Dogs to the vet for vaccine boosters. Red squirrel, GS woodpecker at the Angle feeders plus an unidentified bird with a white rump glimpsed as it flew off. Buzzard in the bonfire field in the afternoon.

Sun 3rd Mar
Spent most of the day creating a new website template for a family business.

Sat 2nd Mar
Filled the grebe car park feeders. Fox poo much in evidence along most of the Auchgourish tracks. Collected the card from the trail camera - it had 325 videos on it. Sifting through them kept me busy for the next two evenings. Our friends came to dinner - they had heard a crested tit near the Angle earlier that afternoon.

Fri 1st March
Filled the bird feeders at the Angle and the Community Hall, then did the necessary follow-up work after yesterday's Council meeting. Friends came to visit and gave us the good news that they will house sit for us while we are away on holiday in November - wonderful. We found fox poo, badger latrines and otter spraints along the river bank at Kincardine between the cattle grid and Kinchurdy Island.

Thurs 28th Feb
Marathon SWT Council meeting, such that I missed the intended train home.  No matter.

Weds 27th Feb
Trains to Wallyford for a meeting. Came away with a credible plan. Evening meeting cancelled so had an early night.

Tues 26th Feb
0830 fox dung on a stump at NH 9348 1811 beside the discrete path in Boat of Garten woods. 1811 red squirrel on peanuts at a neighbour's house. In the afternoon we took the dogs to the Glencairn end of Kincardine Estate. Lots of otter prints on a muddy beach at NH 9374 1631 fairly near the cattle grid.

Mon 25th Feb
0900 1 red squirrel and a GS woodpecker on the nuts at the Angle. 1530 by the River Spey at Kincardine - a buzzard overhead and goldeneye ducks on the river.

Sun 24th Feb
A member of SWT staff visited us. I took her and the dogs for a short walk in the woods.   In the afternoon I checked the Auchgourish camera - 2 videos of pine marten and badger.

Sat 23 Feb
Amazing morning walk - filled the grebe car park feeders then saw a red squirrel and two crested tits at the Angle, followed fox prints in the frost along the main track and then on the way home saw a large black male capercaillie. These sightings all occurred within a one hundred metre square!  Back home I spent a further 2 hours finishing off preparation for next week's SWT Council meeting. In the afternoon at Auchgourish I removed the card from the camera - it had videos of badger, fox and roe deer. Two of the badger videos were in broad daylight just after noon, which is pretty unusual for this time of year.

Fr1 22nd Feb
Early morning walk - filled the feeders at the Angle (there was a red squirrel there) the Community Hall and a neighbour's house. Did more work on the papers for next week's SWT Council meeting. Received an invitation to events next month at Buckingham Palace and Chelsea involving the Princess Royal and David Cameron - nice one.

Thurs 21st Feb
Attended the ScotLink "The Seas Revealed" seminar in the Scottish Parliament before catching the train home.

Weds 20th Feb
1026 train to Edinburgh. Evening reception in the Scottish Parliament for ScotLink's Scottish Environment Week, hosted by Claudia Beamish MSP, Labour shadow spokesperson on environment, and with speeches from Ross Finney, Link President, and Paul Wheelhouse MSP, Environment Minister.   Good value networking session.

Tues 19th Feb
Began preparation for next weeks SWT Council meeting. Collected the card from the Auchgourish camera - just a few badger and roe deer videos.

Mon 18th Feb
0930 meeting of the Boat of Garten Housing Group at CNPA HQ in Grantown on Spey. Not much of a comfort - and I'd better leave it at that.

Sun 17th Feb
Prepared for tomorrow's meeting at the Cairngorms National Park HQ of the Boat of Garten Housing Working Group. Photographed all the squirrel and bird feeders around the woods and made a page for them on this Website

A new all-mesh feeder for red squirrels behind the Community Hall

Sat 16th Feb
Lots of Twitter activity today including an exchange with Brian May and others about urban foxes which got me enough new followers to pass the 500 milestone. Also took the opportunity to plug the Wildlife Trusts movement to those people who are exasperated by Owen Paterson (UK Environment Minister) and his apparent lack of affection for UK's wildlife beyond creatures one is allowed to shoot at.

Fresh fox dung at the Secret Path

Fri 15th Feb
Fresh fox dung at the start of the so-called secret path in Boat Woods at NH 9323 1894. Filled the grebe car park feeders - odd that the wooden feeder for red squirrels here stays dry and fresh while others in the area rot. As we were leaving the feeders 2 crested tits turned up - the first I have seen for months. We also had a tree creeper.

Thurs 14th Feb
Installed the new mesh feeder for red squirrels behind the Community Hall. The old one, made mainly of wood, was rotten and smelly which is what tends to happen with wood after a year or two. Found very fresh fox dung on a side track at Auchgourish NH 9485 1686.

Weds 13th Feb
Took the dogs for a long walk to Loch Vaa. No wildlife seen - all too busy hiding from the blizzard. In the evening attended the North of Scotland Scottish Wildlife Trust Members Centre meeting at which James Merryweather gave an interesting talk on soils.

Tues 12th Feb
Finished making the latest version of an all-mesh squirrel feeder. Went to the badger hide to find out why, at our last visit, one of the lights was not working. It turns out the local mice had chewed through one of the wires - easily fixed. While there I noticed that 3 blue tits were investigating the tit box. Ray Mears re-tweeted one of my Tweets today which got me a few more followers. Along the Spey after lunch we saw goldeneye ducks and a dipper. No otter this time. Took 3 people to the badger hide - 2 badgers seen (or the same one twice).

Mon 11th Feb
Wrote to the local housing steering group about the potential for green features in the design of proposed new housing in the village. Checked the trail cam at Auchgourish - got some videos of pine marten, fox and roe buck.

With Ray Mears during filming at Knapdale a few weeks ago

Sun 10th Feb
We went looking for the otter again but no luck. At home I worked on a design for a squirrel feeder made almost entirely of mesh; only the lid would be wooden.

Sat 9th Feb
The dogs and I found pine marten poo on the capercaillie track at NH 9271 1830 after which we refilled the main feeders at the grebe car park and removed an old feeder to be cannibalised. At 3pm we walked the dogs by the river and saw an otter. It disappeared into a holt, above which on the bank was an otter spraint plus a badger latrine a few feet away. Amazing.

Fri 8th Feb
Caught up on domestic things at home, then took the dogs out to Auchgourish and checked the trail cam that had been there for a week - it had captured a few short videos of fox, badger and roebuck. In the evening I made a short appearance on the Ray Mears Wild Britain TV show covering the Scottish Beaver Trial

Thurs 7th Feb
Day two of the NEN conference. To conclude, it had been a highly successful and valuable event for all concerned. For SWT it was a proud two days in our history during which the Trust has grown in stature, made many new friends and increased its influence in the sector. There was much to reflect on during the train journey back to the Highlands and I arrived home a very happy man indeed.

Weds 6th Feb
Day one of the National Ecological Networks (NEN) conference staged by the Scottish Wildlife Trust (SWT) with the support of the Scottish Government which I was pleased to chair. The event comprised two days of presentations and debate on both the built and rural environment plus a reception on the first evening at the Scottish Parliament hosted for SWT by Rob Gibson MSP (Convenor of the Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee) and attended by most of the conference delegates plus Paul Wheelhouse MSP (Minister for Environment and Climate Change). At the conference itself, the session chairs and speakers came from a range of European and other countries and included the Deputy Director-General (Environment) at the European Commission, two global Councillors from IUCN, senior Scottish Government officials, doctors and professors from the James Hutton Institute, Cambridge University and other academic bodies, the Director of the Heritage Lottery Fund (Scotland), specialists from the agencies Scottish Natural Heritage, Natural England, Scottish Environment Protection Agency and Scotland Europa, plus various eminent ecologists and architects including a partner from the fabled Jan Gehl firm of architects in Copenhagen. A stellar cast.

Tues 5th Feb
SWT Conservation Committee at Leith. Main topics were red squirrels, wildcats, fracking and forthcoming conferences. Spent the evening preparing for chairing a conference on National Ecological Networks over the next two days.

Mon 4th Feb
Out early with the dogs - red squirrel near the harvester machines near the forest cross roads and another on the feeder at the lorry park. Topped up the lorry park feeder and the feeders in our garden before getting the train to Edinburgh for three days of meetings.

Max found an ancient box-type badger door.

Sun 3rd Feb
Installed the new squirrel feeder at the neighbour's house and filled her bird feeders. Cannibalised three old broken feeders for reusable parts for the next batch. Bobby and I found a single tunnel badger sett at Auchgourish.  Packed for four days away in Edinburgh.

Sat 2nd Feb
Took both dogs for a very short walk first thing then Bobby and I took the huge new bird feeder and installed it at the Angle. Spent much of the next few hours studying the papers for SWT Conservation Committee next Tuesday.  In the afternoon Bobby and I went to Auchgourish again to find fox footprints in the snow all along the main track. We fixed up the trail camera near a hole in the fence a few metres from the badger door we found on Thursday.

Bobby and the huge bird feeder for when I'm away for long periods

Fri 1st Feb
Made an over-complicated new squirrel feeder based on an all-mesh basket; bit of a monster but it can replace the rotten one in our neighbour's garden and we'll see if was worth the effort. At Auchgourish Bobby and I found poo from roe deer, red deer, fox and pine marten; quite a haul.

Thurs 31st Jan
In the afternoon Max and I found an ancient box-type badger door in a fence at Auchgourish at NH 9506 1687.

Weds 30th Jan
Spent much of the day preparing for my MC role at the SWT Natural Ecological Networks conference next week.

Tues 29th Jan
Tube train to Marylebone and train to High Wycombe for a board meeting of Biffa Award.   Got the sleeper home.

Mon 28th Jan
Filled the grebe car park feeders and in the process it dawned on me that free-hanging feeders seem to get emptied less quickly and remain intact longer than those screwed against fences or tree trunks. Could be that crows, badgers and foxes find hanging feeders more difficult to access. Took the dogs to Loch Vaa for a 2 hour walk during which we found fox dung on a stump beside the secret path at NH 9312 1896.    Caught the sleeper to London.

Sun 27th Jan
The forest harvester was at work this morning from before first light - so much for the estate's promise that the machines would not be working at weekends. What made it worse was the fact they were immediately behind the houses in Kinchurdy Road so anyone in that part of the village hoping for a quiet Sunday morning lie in would be sorely disappointed. I sent a polite email on the subject to the estate who to their credit replied apologetically later in the day. In the evening we were visited by 4 students from Salford University to talk about wildlife and environment. At 1700 I took them to the badger hide for a couple of hours but the badgers did not come out - I guess due to the cold windy conditions.

Sat 26th Jan
Finished making the huge bird feeder and a gantry from which to hang it. Did a bit of sawing and bark removal to prepare some of the wet pine trunks acquired recently for making into useful objects. It will be some months before they are dry enough to be turned properly without cracking.

Fri 25th Jan
Badger footprints in the snow all along the discreet path NH 9347 1811 leading to a latrine at the tee junction at NH 9354 1823. Finished working on Biffa Award papers and moved on to writing a response to a wildlife priorities strategy document. Heard the bad news that Owen Patterson MP has announced that the English badger cull is to go ahead in June - here we go again. Started Tweeting on the subject to help marshal support for a renewed protest - I hope the public does not lose heart..

Thurs 24th Jan
More work on meeting papers, then with dog Bobby collected the camera from Auchgourish - lots of videos of the blizzard plus a few blurred shots of a deer and one of a badger at 0318 on 20th Jan.

Weds 23rd Jan
Train home, then started work on the papers for next week's meeting of the Biffa Award Management Board at High Wycombe.

Tues 22nd Jan
Train to Edinburgh for a reception mounted by SNH in the Scottish Parliament to mark 2013 as the Year of Natural Scotland. Impressive turn out of the great and the good and a first class opportunity for networking. Overnight at the Cowgate Holiday Express.

Mon 21st Jan
Filled the old feeders at the Angle where I noticed fox footprints all along a new avenue created by the forestry harvester machines currently thinning there. Meeting of the Boat of Garten Housing Working Group in the morning then in the afternoon the dogs and I watched a buzzard soaring over the moor as snow began to fall. Quite a lot of snow fell during the evening and overnight.

Sun 20th Jan
Having been encouraged by new (to me) techniques devised for working with wire mesh I started to make a huge bird feeder intended for the Angle in the woods.

Sat 19th Jan
Finished making one of the mesh peanut feeders and installed it at the Community Hall. Found more fox footprints at Auchgourish where I set up the trail camera again, this time at NH 9496 1679 hoping for better luck than last time in that area when after more than a week we had very little to show.

Fri 18th Jan
Started the process of making new bird feeders.  Spent a couple of hours wrapping up some SWT Council business.

Thurs 17th Jan
Filled the Community Hall feeders and decided I would need to make some new ones because several of the current batch were getting beyond repair. Exchanged a series of phone calls and emails relating to some upcoming meetings and conferences. At Auchgourish we followed a set of badger footprints all along the side track at NH 9488 1684.

Weds 16th Jan
Very small deer footprints in the snow this morning. Filled the grebe car park feeders while out with the dogs before taking part in a telecon meeting of the Governance Review Group of RSWT.

The starlings appeared in the garden looking for food as soon as it snowed

Tues 15th Jan
3cm of snow overnight. Prints in the forest of roe deer and lots of rabbits and red squirrels, especially along behind the Kinchurdy Road houses. At Auchgourish there were very fresh fox prints all along the main track, clearly made since the snow stopped falling at about 8am.

Mon 14th Jan
Red squirrel on the feeder at the Angle in Boat woods, despite a huge harvester machine operating only 50 metres away. Lots of starlings in the garden.

Sun 13th Jan
Awoke to an slight fall of snow. Refilled feeders at the Angle and Community Hall. 2 robins were feeding together in our garden - a bit unusual.

Sat 12th Jan
Spent much of the day trying to find an alternative holiday to the one that we have had to cancel due to a clash of dates.

Fri 11th Jan
Train to Edinburgh for a Scottish Wildlife Trust business steering group meeting.

Thurs 10th Jan
Capercaillie dropping on a track in Boat woods at NH 9315 1807 which is between the x-roads and Kinchurdy pond.

Weds 9th Jan
Repaired the lid of the goldeneye nest box and replaced the lid of the tit box and took them back to the badger hide. In the evening Bea and I went to the Scottish Wildlife Trust North of Scotland Members Centre meeting in Inverness. It was a Magazine evening which I think means a variety of activities rather than a single talk or topic - that's certainly what happened and it was a great success.

Tues 8th Jan
Went to fill up the Community Hall bird feeders but they hardly needed it - the birds must be finding natural food at the moment. Went back to the badger hide and collected the two damaged nest boxes - it would be easier to fix them in the workshop rather than on site.

Mon 7th Jan
Filled the feeder at the Angle in Boat woods. It's now behind a massive wall of felled timber waiting to be collected by the sawmill lorry. Bobby then found some fresh fox dung in the middle of the main track at NH 9315 1829. Wrote the quarterly Chairmans Bulletin for the Scottish Wildlife Trust.

Sun 6th Jan
More fresh fox dung at Auchgourish NH 9489 1685. On the way home stopped at the badger hide where Bea and I put fresh wood shavings in the 3 goldeneye duck nest boxes. The lid of one of them and the lid of the tit box had developed rotten holes and will have to be fixed or replaced.

Sat 5th Jan
Saw 2 red squirrels at the grebe car park and another one on the lorry park feeders within a few feet of where the harvesters had decimated the forest - the squirrels seemed quite unconcerned. Rigged up the two crested tit nest boxes that I worked on two days ago at NH 9339 1894 and NH 9331 1894 between our house and the grebe car park..

Fri 4th Jan
Nothing to report.

Thurs 3rd Jan
Repaired a crested tit nest box and finished making a new one.

Weds 2nd Jan
Lesley and Simon went home.

Tues 1st Jan
Gold finch in the garden again. In the evening took Lesley and Simon to watch badgers - we saw 3 badgers within a few metres of the hide.