Fri 1st Jan Out with collie dog Bobby, wee Max being still laid up. GS
woodpecker and crested tit at the Angle. Checked the empty
crestie boxes 3 and 4 to find both had been used as roosts
Sat 2nd Jan Local ranger Alison Greggans and I went to the
badger hide to make sure all was in order and to check the nest
boxes. We took woodshavings with us to top up the goldeneye
boxes but that proved to be unnecessary as there was still
plenty in all three; I just loosened it up a bit to let air
circulate. We filled the bird feeder and left peanuts under the
heavy board for the badgers to find later. We'll meet again next
week to service the crested tit boxes in Boat Woods.
Sun 3rd Jan Spent most of the day sheltering from the
Mon 4th Jan Laundry. Finished a letter about beavers to
the Environment Minister and posted it.
Tues 5th Jan In the morning Alison Greggans and I worked
on the crested tit box layout in Boat Woods. The odd numbered
boxes were small ones and the even numbers were medium or large
boxes and the idea was to fill the small boxes with woody
material of some kind for birds to burrow into and leave the
medium and large boxes empty. To vary things further we put
well-rotted and dried, crumbled dead wood in boxes 1, 3 and 5
and fine wood shavings in boxes 7, 9, 11, 13, 15, 17, and 19.
The job took about two hours during which we saw crested tits,
crossbills, coal tits and blue tits. The new battery
for the badger hide arrived today so Alison and I lugged it
across the field and installed it so she will have two batteries
to work with when she takes guests to the hide tomorrow. Whilst
at the hide we checked the other battery and found the cells
were all dry so the next job is to fill them up with water in
the hope of extending the battery's life a bit more; it's
already 11 years old.
Weds 6th Jan
Alison Greggans took some people to the badger hide but no badgers appeared. It's not too surprising at this time of year.
Thurs 7th Jan
Quiet day of mostly paperwork such as
planning work on the badger hide.
Fri 8th Jan
the hide to top up the old battery with water. Whilst there I
put out the Acorn camera to see if the badgers are active or not
considering the blank night Alison had on Tuesday. A gs
woodpecker was hammering on the bird feeder while I worked. Two
roe deer in Boat Woods early on - Bobby dog ignored them.
Speaking of dogs, I took wee Max to the vet again and the
decision is to have him xrayed next week because he's really not
Sat 9th Jan
Took Bea to Culbokie for a
meeting of the Scottish Wildlife Trust North Group Committee.
I then took the chance to explore the Black Isle and picnic with
the dogs while the meeting was on.
Sun 10th Jan GS
woodpecker at the Angle.
Mon 11th Jan Checked the Acorn camera at the hide to find
it had only taken one video. Not a very good camera.
The sole video was of a Jack Russell dog running across the sett
at 1012 on 9th Jan which is a bit worrying, given the dodgy
relationships between badgers and dogs. That spurred me to
try to get in touch with Maginon who have had my other camera
since the middle of December and I've heard not a word from
them. Anyhow, in view of the last two badger watches
having drawn a blank and the forecast for the next few nights
being sub-zero I cancelled the planned badger watch for this
Wednesday. We should maybe not schedule public
watches in Dec, Jan and Feb in future years.
Jan Sent all documents relating to my missing Maginon camera
which I sent for repair on 15th Dec and about which I have heard
nothing since. Apparently it's likely to be in a warehouse
in Walsall, in a repair factory in Germany or lost.
Charming. Took wee Max to the vets for an investigatory
operation to assess what's wrong with his leg or hip. He
wasn't allowed breakfast, a state of affairs about which he had
much to say. The xray revealed a fractured pelvis but an
operation is not required, just a month of bed rest.
Weds 13th to Fri 15th Jan No wildlife work at all.
Domestic duties and looking after my wounded wife and dog took
up much of the time. Maginon have been in touch - a new
camera is on its way to me.
Sat 16th Jan Took Bobby
to Auchgourish for a change - we found fox footprints in the
snow. Checked the Acorn camera at the badger hide.
The cold weather had killed the batteries so no badger footage.
Sun 17th Jan Crested tit in our garden this morning.
Took the Acorn camera back to the badger hide with recharged
batteries and fitted a shelf above it to help shield it from the
descending frost. We'll see if that helps. The
promised new Maginon camera has not yet arrived.
18th Jan Chores
The heat from sleeping badgers has melted the snow
around the tunnel entrance
Tues 19th Jan Wrote to Scottish Govt about beavers again.
Took Bobby to Auchgourish and we walked round the SE section,
calling in at the badger sett at the far end. The
whole area used to be dense pine forest but has been clear
felled so I found it difficult to picture where the sett was but
Bobby found it with his expert nose. The temperature was
still below freezing but the frost and snow round some of the
tunnel entrances had thawed due to warm air coming up from below
so the sett was clearly occupied by sleeping badgers. On
the way back along the track we soon found some fox poo.
On the way home we called at the badger hide to see if the Acorn
camera had taken any footage but the only videos taken were of
me setting things up. When I got the camera home and
warmed it up it worked perfectly, which was irritating - what's
the point of a camera in Scotland that doesn’t like cold
Weds 20th Jan A great day; Heather's
plaster cast came off for the last time so hopefully that's her
Achilles tendon healed. At dusk Bobby and I went for a
walk over Fairy Hill and we found fox poo at NH 9373 1839 which
is on the 'glove path' about 50m SW from the mini cross roads on
the south shoulder of the hill.
Thurs 21st Jan Filled
up all the feeder sites with fresh peanuts and hazelnuts.
The hazelnuts at the Angle that the squirrels have left uneaten
for several weeks I scattered in the woods in the hope that
something will eat them. The replacement Maginon
camera arrived today, clearly from a German source judging from
the instruction books printed in Germanic and East
European languages only. Fortunately, I know how the
machine works and the on-screen menus have an English language
option. I'll put it out somewhere tomorrow. Got a letter
from the Scottish Government today in response to my recent
approaches about beaver reintroduction - the dialogue continues.
Fri 22nd Jan Reconfigured the feeders at the village hall
to include a lift-the-lid hazelnut device. Later Bobby and
I set up the new Maginon camera at the Auchgourish SE badger
sett in windy weather. We'll see!
Sat 23rd Jan Checked the hazel nut feeders to find no
evidence that the red squirrels are using them. Maybe the
nuts are past their sell-by dates. Removed the Maginon
camera from Auchgourish - it took 9 short videos of nothing very
much yesterday and then died. I think it's a battery
issue. I replaced it with the Acorn camera, which itself
has problems, ie the screen doesn't work anymore. Spent
part of the evening programming 19 Auchgourish badger setts into
the GPS with a view to checking some of them next day.
The Maginon at Auchgourish
Sun 24th Jan Ordered components to build external power
supplies for the trail cameras. Went to Aughgourish to try
to find one of the old setts but failed to find it. The
area has been clear-felled since I was last there some years ago
and the badgers may have moved out but I'll try some of the
other setts in the coming weeks.
Mon 25th Jan Went back to Auchgourish in bad weather and
removed the Acorn camera, which had died just like the Maginon
before it. I reckon our Scottish weather is too cold for
these machines, particularly regarding battery life. I'll
have to build a beefy external power supply for them. Went
looking for a couple of badger setts but the going was really
rough and Bobby collie and I eventually gave up when the rain
got really heavy - we both got soaked. This used to be a
heavily wooded area with 19 recorded badger setts but it is now
so exposed with piles of brash everywhere making it inhospitable
for most wildlife and making walking borderline dangerous.
I reckon most of the badgers have gone - so far I've found only
one of the five setts I've looked for. A hot shower when I
got home and changed into the kilt for tonight's Burns Supper at
the village hall.
The bare, inhospitable landscape at Auchgourish which
used to be a lovely forest
Tues 26th Jan Ordered components
for a couple of 6 volt power supplies which will allow the use
of 5 x 1.2v rechargeable AA batteries instead of 4 standard 1.5
batteries. The camera manufacturers often recommend
rechargeables but only provide slots for sets of 4 batteries
which is OK for standard 1.5 volt Duracells whereas 4
rechargeables only give you 4 x 1.2v = 5 volts which, since the
cameras are designed to run on 6 volts, is barely enough to
switch the camera on, let alone power it for several days or
even weeks. The weather was still really bad so I spent
much of the day in the shed building nest boxes mainly for
Milton Loch to replace the old rotten ones. Spoke with a
BBC Winterwatch researcher about grouse, habitat changes, floods
Filthy weather outside - perfect for nest box building
in the shed
Weds 27th Jan Entertained a group
from the fledgling wildlife group at Glenlivet. BoGWig
(Boat of Garten Wildlife Group) is now well established so the
Cairngorms National Park suggested we helped the new group.
We took them to the badger hide, then to Milton Loch and finally
to the village hall for coffee and a discussion. We told
them which of our projects had gone well and which had not, how
we organised ourselves, funding and so forth - a thoroughly
enjoyable and I hope useful session. We pledged to keep in
Thurs 28th Jan The components for
the new power supplies had all arrived so I built the first of
the 5-battery units. I'll get the Maginon out somewhere
later today or tomorrow to see how it functions. If it
works well I'll make a second unit and wire them in parallel for
Making a new power supply for the Maginon
Fri 29th Jan This was supposed to be the day I put up the new nest box
at Milton Loch but the storm arrived and made it unwise to be up
a ladder against a swaying tree. Instead, I did some
research on batteries and power supplies suitable for trail
cameras and came across Martin Harper of Wildlife and
Countryside services who works in association with another trail
cam expert of my acquaintance - Ron Bury. What did I
learn? Never use Duracell batteries in trail cams because
they have too high an internal resistance; best to use
Uniross alkaline batteries and if you use rechargeables make
sure they are 2.4aH or higher. What have I been using?
Duracells and 2Ah rechargeables. Rubbish!
Sat 30th Jan
Heavy snow so another day indoors watching football and shopping
for new batteries in the light of yesterday's research.
Lets hope it bears fruit.
Bobby in the snowy woods
Sun 31st Jan Long walk in the snow with collie Bobby to
Loch Vaa. On the way we followed the footprints of a fox
from the T junction at the end of the main track all the way to
Loch Vaa where it vered to the west side of the loch, which didn't
suit us so we gave up. There was a small group of tufted
ducks on the loch which is no longer frozen. We got
home to hear the terrible news that Terry Wogan died this
morning of cancer. We contributed to the tributes on
Twitter and Facebook and by email to the BBC. Heather and
I met through the Terry Wogan show back in 1999 and we met Terry
a few times so it's a really sad day for us.
Fox prints in snow near Loch Vaa
Mon 1st and Tues 2nd Feb Spent most of the time sheltering
from storm Henry and trying to recover from a heavy cold.
During the storm trees came down taking out fences behind
Craigie avenue and beside the play park - all thanks to the
protective forest having been clear felled for the upcoming
housing development. All of this was predicted by the
local residents - National Park please note.
One of several fences wrecked by storm Henry
Weds 3rd Feb The dogs and I checked the three feeding
stations around the woods. Plenty of peanuts at all of
them but we still have the weird situation in which the
hazelnuts at the squirrel car park are being eaten but the
hazelnuts at the Angle and at the Community Hall are not.
All of the hazelnuts are from the same batch and all are in
lift-the-lid feeders of similar design and red squirrels are
regularly seen at all three locations. This has been going
on for several months now. Weird. Nice view of a
crested tit at the squirrel car park. I went to the badger
hide and set up the Maginon camera with its 13 rechargable
batteries (5 in an external pack and two setts of 4 inside it).
I left some peanuts while I was there. Later I had a message
from the trail camera expert at Wildlife and Countryside
changing his advice about which batteries to use - he now says
Ron Bury advises using Vapex rechargeables in preference to any
non-rechargeable types so that's what we should all do.
Not very helpful since I took his advice of a few days ago and
ordered 24 Uniross alkaline batteries. In the evening a
video was circulating from 38 Degrees showing beavers being shot
(in Tayside I think) and urging everyone to sign their petition
to make shooting beavers illegal in Scotland. I shared it
on Twitter. If this gets enough publicity it might just
stir the Scottish Government to action in defining the legal
status of beavers once and for all.
Thurs 4th Feb Heard on the radio this morning Rob Gibson
MSP, leader of the RACCE committee, explaining why they have
rejected Scottish Land and Estates argument to retain shooting
estates exemption from paying business rates. His
explanation included refuting the argument that shooting plays a
major role in sustaining local economies - something I have
doubted for years. Nice to have politicians who will stand
up to the landed gentry when occasion demands.
Fri 5th Feb Another lousy day of weather. Two new
batches of batteries arrived today - I am now awash with them
and confused as to which types are best for trail cams.
Will have to conduct my own research - unless somebody out there
has got a better idea? Heard today that the 38 degrees
petition to give all beavers legal protection very quickly
acquired 30,000 signatures. Amazing.
Sat 6th Feb Finished typing up the statistics for the
badger hide in 2015. Here is the summary for the past 16
Checked the Maginon camera at the badger hide - very poor
results: 5 videos, all corrupt. Will try adjusting the
interval between triggers in case the thing is still trying to
save the last video when the next trigger happens. Set up
the Acorn camera with its new its full set of new batteries in
place of the Maginon. Walked with Bobby collie at
Auchgourish and got thoroughly lost, which was better news than
you might imagine because in the process of getting unlost I
stumbled across a previously unrecorded badger sett.
Sun 7th Feb Checked the Acorn camera at the badger sett and
sure enough it had recorded some videos but the screen doesn't
work properly anymore so I was unable to make the adjustments I
wished to. I set up the newly configured Maginon in its
place and took the Acorn home for a rethink. Walked again
at Auchgourish with Bobby and managed not to get lost this
time. We went looking for a badger sett near the main
track and miraculously found it - a single tunnel that at the
last visit was being used by a fox. Nothing appears to be
using it at the moment. At home I managed to get the Acorn
screen to work and made adjustments to its interval. In
future I'll just need to switch it on and at each visit replace
its card with a pre-formatted blank card; a bit of a pain but
do-able. Put the finishing touches to the first draft of a
piece about watching wildlife for the Scotsman Magazine to be
used in an article about the Cairgorms.
Collie Bobby has just found some very fresh fox poo
Mon 8th Feb Checked the Maginon camera at the Badger Hide -
rubbish. Fresh card, fresh batteries but only two videos
taken, one of my hand while setting it up and one saying "File
Error", similar to last time. I know the badgers were
there last night because I had put peanuts under a board for
them right in front of the camera and the board had been flipped
over and the peanuts were gone. Not sure what to do now.
The fact that the Maginon was working OK in the house on
Saturday evening but not outside at the hide suggests it doesn't
like cold weather, which means it's useless in Scotland.
Went to Auchgourish with Bobby and bumped into a local resident
who told me a male capercaillie was visiting her garden for a
while, ignoring her and the dogs. This fits with my
experience and that of others, who in the last year have been
seeing capers closer to the village than the experts would
expect. They say "research has shown capers avoid
tracks and other places frequented by people". Well,
research has also shown that the half-life of truth is seven
years; that is, half of what we believe to be true now will in
seven years turn out to be false. With that in mind I
believe the actual experience and opinions of local people
should not lightly be ignored. Some locals are now
saying this shows that capers are becoming more used to having
people around than previously, an opinion which has not found
favour with at least one expert of my acquaintance. We'll
see what seven years reveals. And don't get me
started on the beaver genetics argument.
Getting back to more profane matters, collie Bobby was delighted
to find very fresh fox poo at a track junction.
Tues 9th Feb Checked the Acorn camera at the hide to find it
had taken videos of a group of 3 badgers between 6pm and 6.30pm
and again between 5am and 5.15am. Strangely the buttons on
the camera were performing the wrong functions so it was only a
matter of luck that I eventually managed to see what was on the
card. I then went to Auchgourish in search of a badger
sett that I had failed to find a week ago, this time with more
success. It was a single tunnel sett, much overgrown with
grass and definitely not in use at the moment.
Weds 10th Feb Finished putting deer antlers at the three
woodland feeding stations for the red squirrels to nibble on for
calcium. At the squirrel car park the peanuts were going
mouldy in the feeder, not for the first time. It seems its
part wood and part mesh design is no good for that site so an
all mesh feeder is required. Collected Simon Jones from
the station and in the evening we all went to the SWT North
Scotland meeting where Simon gave a terrific talk about beavers
to an enthusiastic audience.
Thurs 11th Feb After taking Simon to the station Bobby and I
went for decent walk in the snowy forest. Highlight: we
found fox footprints in the snow at a junction on the 'secret
path' at NH 9262 1860. I love to know that foxes are still
here despite the best efforts of gamekeepers. Steve and
Jean Briggs came to visit with their dogs. Steve and I
went for a walk in the woods in the late afternoon and were not
very pleased to be passed at the Angle by two men on a quad bike
travelling quite fast south down the main track - motorised
vehicles are not allowed in the woods.
Fri 12th Feb Devised a better way of locking the lids of nest
boxes using bent fencing wire rather than 4 inch nails that get
stuck in the slot too readily.
Fox and pine marten prints side by side in snow
Sat 13th Feb Checked the Acorn camera at the hide to find it
has worked perfectly this time, although the screen is still not
happy if you try to view it on site and the quality of the
night-time videos is awful. That's manageable.
At Auchgourish, Bobby and I came across pine marten footprints
and fox footprints side by side in the snow - wonderful.
We then went in search of another badger sett and found it.
At home I set up the Maginon in the same way as the Acorn,
allowing a longish interval between triggers to let the device
save each image fully before the next trigger.
Sun 14th Feb Long walk with Bobby during which we found part
of the lower leg of a deer, including the hoof, at the main
cross roads in Boat woods. I should have taken a photo but
didn't. Checked the Maginon to find it had worked
perfectly. Set it up again, this time with an external
power supply and later in the day I checked it and again it
worked well, including some very nice night time IR clips.
The conclusion, if you are going to use trail cams for video
keep them short (eg 10 secs) and, even more importantly, allow
plenty of time between triggers (eg 12 secs).
Mon 15th Feb Set up the Maginon camera at the junction of the
Secret Path and Donald's track in the hope of getting the fox
that crossed at that point a week ago. Met a chap on the
caper track who had seen a caper the previous day near the south
end of the Opal track. At the cross roads the deer leg was
still there so I got some photos.
Lower leg of a deer in Deshar Wood
Tues 16th Feb Found badger footprints in the snow and
followed them from the end of Bobby's shortcut along the Glove
Path almost to the village until they ran out among the trees
where there was not enough snow for prints. I reckon the
badger was heading for someone's garden on Deshar Road; it's
happened before. Got a message from the Community Council
that someone has complained about cameras in the wood, afraid
they are monitoring dog walkers again. My cams all have
cards with my contact details on and explaining they are for
wildlife monitoring so probably not one of mine unless the
complainant didn't see the card - and in any case, until
yesterday I've had no cams in that wood since someone interfered
with one last August.
The Maginon cam monitoring a mammal track.
Weds 17th Feb Checked the Maginon to find it was up to its
old tricks; one bad video and a file error, that's all it wrote.
I reset it with a different card and hoped for the best.
The dogs and I then found badger tracks at the elbow and
followed them in both directions. The badger had come from
the area we know as Bill's Badgery Basin away to the west, then
walked south east along the caper track for about 70 metres
before striking south off the path to follow a harvester track.
I'm fairly sure it was not the same animal as yesterday because
the prints were noticeably smaller. Later on Bobby and I
went to check the Maginon again to find the same problem as
earlier so to test if even the 15 second interval I had set
between triggers was still not enough for videos to save
themselves properly I set it to take just photos. Later on it
occured to me to check see what default interval had been set by
Thurs 18th Feb To my delight the Maginon had taken a few sets
of photos without a problem so, acting on last night's
inspiration, I reset the device to its factory settings and lo
and behold the interval between triggers was one whole minute.
I therefore reset it to take one photo followed by one 10 second
video as previously but left the interval at the default one
minute. Sadly it didn't work - at my next check I found it
had done its old trick of taking a couple of pictures and then
registering a file error and dying, so I might have to accept
the Maginon can only be relied upon to take photos, not videos.
I set up the Acorn camera in its place. Learned today that
Wiltshire, Worcestershire, Herefordshire, Devon, Cornwall and
Cheshire have expressed an interest in getting licenses to cull
badgers which added to Gloucestershire, Somerset and Dorset
makes nine counties in all that have got it in for badgers.
Disgusting. So much for England's reputation of being an
animal loving country.
Fri 19th Feb Took the Maginon to the Elbow and set it to
taking three photos, no videos. On the way home I checked
the Acorn to find it is working well - I'll leave both cameras
undisturbed now over the weekend and on Monday see how they've
Sat 20th Feb Spent most of the day working on the golf club
website; the annual update and health check, aided and abetted
by my wife, the club captain and secretary.
Sun 21st Feb A filthy morning of driven sleet but undaunted
Bobby collie and I visited the Milton Loch Bird Hide to measure
up and plan for the afternoon work session. After lunch it
was back to the hide where Bea and I installed a new whiteboard
for visitors to record their sightings and a new nestbox on a
tree nearby to replace the broken one which I had intended to
replace last year but before I could do so a family of blue tits
took it over and raised at least one family in it. They'll
have better accommodation this year.
The new nest box near Milton Loch hide
Mon 22nd Feb Checked both cameras - both had worked quite
well within their limitations; the Maginon is only reliable for
two photos per trigger and the Acorn's screen is fractious.
The Maginon had recorded two people on scrambles motor bikes at
the Elbow at about 5pm on Sat 20th. I informed the ranger,
the chair of the Community Council and the estate of this
incident and of the quad bike affair on the 11th Feb. The
estate asked me to inform the police. Later Bobby and I
went to Auchgourish and found two more of the old badger setts;
No 17 and either 8 or 9 - hard to tell in the chaotic brash -
none of them active. I've seen enough there now to deduce
that almost all of the old setts are abandoned due to being
exposed to bad weather by the clear felling of the whole area.
One of the old setts is still active, being sheltered by a steep
slope to the north, and another active sett is new to me and is
among the remaining trees so that could be a fresh one.
Tues 23rd Feb As requested by Seafield Estate, I emailed
Aviemore police with details of the two recent sightings of men
riding quadbikes and motorcycles in our woods. Close
friends Ali and Sandra arrived with their dogs for us to look
after for ten days or so while they climb snowy hills and
photograph wildlife. Went for a walk with the girls and all
four dogs and filled the local feeders at the same time, prior to
my trip away tomorrow for a couple of days.
Weds 24th Feb Train to Edinburgh, a day of exhibitions, art
Galleries and shopping then off to the Scottish Parliament for
the ScotLink Species Champions reception, hosted by Rob Gibson
MSP and attended by delegates from all the major environmental
NGOs, Scottish Government and MSPs including Minister for the
Envrionment Dr Aileen McLeod MSP. I spent the whole
evening on some very useful networking; I reckon I knew at least
25 percent of the people there and it was great to be able to
catch up with everybody. Details of exactly who I spoke to
and about what would take up far too much of this diary and
would fatally tax my memory. Suffice it to say I came away
well pleased. Spent the night with family at Dalkeith.
Thurs 25th Feb Train home and then prepared for a badger
meeting next day. Early night.
Fri 26th Feb Meeting of the Scottish Badgers Advisory Group
in the ScotLink offices in Perth. This was Ian
Hutchinson's last meeting before he retires so we gave him
presents and ate cake and drank fizzy fruit juice to say
farewell. The meeting was very well attended and the
organisation is clearly in good health, good heart and very well
managed, which from all accounts is more than can be said for
the equivalent body down south. In the evening I posted on
the Aviemore and Strathspey Community Issues Facebook page a
picture of the man on a scrambles motorbike in the woods on 20th
Feb, along with a request that anyone who knew the man should
tell the police. There ensued an amazing exchange between
more than 20 people on opposite sides of the argument about
motor vehicles being banned from wild places to protect
wildlife. It all went on until midnight.
Sat 27th Feb The arguments on Facebook went on for another
two hours this morning - extraordinary. It was all a bit
silly but on the plus side would almost certainly have resulted
in the motorcyclists getting to know that their actions had been
noted and that it is illegal to drive through those woods.
I checked both cameras but no wildlife had been recorded.
The Maginon had taken photos of cyclists and walkers and the
Acorn had failed again. In the evening I got involved in a
Twitter debate about whether releasing wolves in the fenced
Alladale estate counts as rewilding. I deemed it was not
although the exercise might teach us something. There was
general agreement on that.
Sun 28th Feb Checked the Acorn camera again and it had worked
properly this time, recording both my leaving yesterday and my
arrival today. Pity there was no wildlife in between.
Our robin has taken a real like to the piece of Blue Stilton
cheese we hung in the garden - very posh tastes for a street
Mon 29th Feb Robin's at the cheese again. Would make a
nice video but the trail cams are both in the woods. Went
to Milton Loch to rig up a vandal-proof (yes, not easy) dry
writer on a steel cable for the whiteboard. While I was
there I found pine marten poo on the wooden ramp leading to the
door of the hide. It's possible the animal is nesting in
the locked storage area next to the main room. In
the shed I made a new all-mesh nut feeder and took it to the
squirrel car park to replace the wooden one in which the food
tends to get mouldy. I also removed the lift-the-lid
hazelnut feeder which has also outlived its usefulness; I'll
make a new one in the next couple of days.
Pine Marten Poo At Milton Loch Hide
Tues 1st Mar Local Ranger Alison and I went to look for
the alleged badger sett near the A9 level with Aviemore but
after an hour and a half we gave up. It was either a dodgy
map ref, or someone mistook a rabbit warren for a badger sett,
or it is long abandoned and has collapsed. In the evening
I took two ladies from the
Hostel, Hut and Campsite to the badger hide but
unfortunately no badgers came out, probably due to the biting
wind. One of the lights on the roof failed and it turned
out that the oldest battery had now died, as did its partner a
few weeks ago. They both lasted more than a decade so I'm
Weds 2nd Mar Checked both cameras in Deshar Wood - the
Maginon took 26 photos and the Acorn 19 photos and 19 videos,
mostly of walkers, cyclists and dogs. The only wildlife recorded
was a roe doe and a roe buck. Ordered a new battery for
the badger hide. Worked in the shed on a couple of jobs
for Ali the local ranger; fixed the lid of her map distribution
box and made some birch ID discs for her students.
Thurs 3rd Mar At 9am I found fresh badger prints along the
caper track in what remained of yesterday afternoon's snow. Spent the morning in the shed making more
discs and making two new hazelnut lift-the-lid feeders for our
local red squirrels. Came up with an idea to improve the
infra red performance of my trail cams - mount two side by side
or one above the other so that they both benefit from each
other's IR light, assuming one can roughly synchronise the
triggers, target areas and exposure periods. Worth trying.
In the afternoon Bea and I and the dogs installed the new
hazelnut feeders, one at the community hall and one at the
squirrel car park.
Fri 4th Mar Researched problems with SD cards and decided
to deep-format the cards I use in the trail cams in case the
cause of my issues was too much residual clutter of old images
left behind after previous superficial format attempts,
resulting in the cards being unable to write videos quickly
enough and therefore crashing. We'll see.
Sat 5th Mar Checked the trail cams and installed the newly
deep-formatted cards in both - we'll find out tomorrow if that
improved matters. There was a really nice photo on the
Maginon of me chatting to a lady I met that morning near where
the camera was sited. Quite atmospheric in the snowy
Sun 6th Mar Roe deer and red squirrels seen this morning
on the way to checking the cameras. Deep formatting the
cards hadn't made much difference so I reduced the video size
from 1080 (full HD) to 720 (HD) on both the Maginon and Acorn
cameras and already there are signs things have improved.
Again, we'll see. A point worth noting, the cards don't
work in the trail cameras after deep formatting but they do work
in the Canon camera so the process is to first reformat them in
the Canon camera, after which they'll work in the trail cams and
can be formatted again for those devices. In the afternoon
Bea and I installed the new battery at the badger hide which
means both floodlights now have new batteries.
Mon 7th Mar Carried out more extensive testing of the
Maginon and Acorn cameras, building on yesterday's work,
establishing that you can do almost anything you like with both
cameras provided the video setting is not 1080P. For
example, setting up for one photo plus one 720P video with an
interval of 5 seconds works without fail on both cameras using a
30mbs SD Card. Better still, the new 95mbs SD card arrived
and I found you can use that at 1080P video with no problems, so
it seems that slow SD cards have been my problem all along.
Incidentally, I established that the Acorn IR light is No-Glow
but the Maginon IR glows red quite brightly which is something
to consider when choosing which camera to use for which jobs.
Changing subject, I was very pleased to see that SWT and RZSS
have issued a joint statement on beavers calling on the Scottish
Government to come forward with a positive decision without
Tues 8th Mar Made a new nest box for Milton Loch.
Worked on some video techniques involving green screens and
cartoons - great fun.
Building a nest box really fast
Weds 9th Mar Set up two trail
cams at Auchgourish, one at a path junction where I had
previously found fox poo and one at a newly discovered badger
sett to confirm signs that the badgers are actually in
residence. Bea and I met with the local Ranger at our
house to discuss lots of stuff - there's plenty going on to keep
us all busy. Things are very positive just now, due
in no small measure to having such an enthusiastic and engaging
Thurs 10th Mar Checked the
Maginon camera at sett AU20 to try a different bracket
arrangement - it was no improvement. The good news was the
camera is now working perfectly and there were 28 pics and 28
vids on the card showing the sett is active. Only one
badger per image but they could have been different animals.
The time spread was from 7pm last night to 7am today.
In the afternoon Bea and I went to
the badger hide to carry in most of the necessary materials for
Sunday's work party. We checked the sett and were pleased
to see so much activity with latrines, freshly dug tunnel
entrances and busy footpaths. Whilst there I painted the
roof struts and discovered the paint we had bought was the most
hideous colour so I stopped painting and later on went back to
the shop, bought two tins of a darker colour and obtained a
refund for the unopened tin of hideous colour (we'd bought two)
- thank you very much Spey Valley Hire.
Fri 11th Mar Very wet morning so
had a gadget-making session in the shed - it did not go well so
it's back to the drawing board. Took the dogs for a long
walk to Loch Vaa but did not see any wildlife worth mentioning.
A Large Quantity Of Pine Marten Poo
Sat 12th Mar Went to Auchgourish
with the dogs and struck gold. On the way in I found a
large quantity of pine marten poo on the main track exactly
level with where a small animal track branched off, telling me
there is probably a den nearby. To put it mildly, I see an
opportunity for a trail cam there. Speaking of trail cams,
we then checked the Acorn cam at a track junction further on but
it had recorded no wildlife so I reset it and moved on - I'll
bring the other trail cam for the pine marten poo site. To
finish off we went to the AU SE badger sett where we first found
a busy latrine and then some tunnels. The busiest tunnel
was deep underneath the roots of a large bush which will be
providing excellent shelter from the gales that sweep that slope
now that the surrounding forest has been clear-felled.
Most of the other badger setts in this area which lost their
protective trees have now been abandoned. Phoned a lady at
Culloden who is concerned that badgers coming into her garden
might cause problems for her cat. I think I was able to
reassure her that the badgers would have no interest in her cat
and that the cat would have more sense than to hassle a badger.
On the other hand they might all become firm friends - it's
happened before. Filled all the local woodland bird
and squirrel feeder.
Sun 13th Mar Mostly a golf day
but first I went to Auchgourish, checked the Acorn cam (no
wildlife recorded) and set up the Maginon cam at the pine marten
poo site I found yesterday. Woodpeckers drumming in what
remains of the woodland. The Sunday Herald carried a piece
slamming the large-scale culling of mountain hares in the
Cairngorms National Park to which I tweeted to anyone who would
listen to ignore any spin that came back from Scottish Land and
Estates (SLE) and the other usual suspects saying the cull was
about tick control - I asserted it was not. I based this
assertion on the MacAuley Institute study that concluded tick
infestation of grouse was no different on estates that culled
hares compared with those that did not. There followed a
Twitter exchange between me and Doug MacAdam which could have
got out of hand but ended with my joke that went, "As
conservation bodies, SLE and GWCT aren't exactly setting the
heather on fire. Oh wait..." Doug took that
rather well and as usual we had managed to disagree without
quite falling out.
Mon 14th Mar Started the day at
Auchgourish checking the cameras. The Maginon had recorded
no wildlife but the Acorn had a very nice video of a roe buck.
The dogs and I then explored some paths we had not walked before
and with the Auchgourish woodpecker drumming away I ventured off
the path to check a nearby badger sett, AU 13, where there were
still two tunnels but neither was in use. Bea and I then
grabbed the ladder and put up a new nest box at Milton Loch and
the refurbished one at Abernethy Golf Club - and that completes
the season's nest box circuit apart from some minor adjustments
in Boat Woods which I hope to accomplish tomorrow.
Tues 15th Mar Bea and I walked
the crested tit nest box circuit to improve the lid-fixing
devices - it took 1 hour 50 mins. There had been no
nest-building attempts so far but several of the boxes contained
droppings so they are clearly being used as roosts by some
Weds 16th Mar Checked the trail
cams at Auchgorish. The Maginon had recorded some very
nice footage of badgers scent marking the place where pine
marten droppings had marked the same place. It also showed
a man and a woman investigating the camera so it's time to move
it. Nothing of note on the Acorn. In the evening we
went to the SWT North of Scotland Group monthly meeting in
Inverness where Kenny Taylor gave a talk on the voyage by wooden
boat from Oban to Eigg commemorating the work of Hugh Miller -
something like that.
Thurs 17th Mar During the morning
walk the dogs and I saw two roe deer, found pine marten poo on
the caper track (which Bobby ate, disgusting dog), heard a
woodpecker drumming just south of the cross roads and heard a
crested tit near the Angle feeders. Nice start to the day.
Later Bea and I checked the cameras at Auchgourish. The
Maginon had a nice badger video on it and the Acorn had recorded
a roe buck. We moved the Maginon to a more secluded spot
on the same animal track but at a place less likely to be seen
by other woodland users. Both cameras are still working
well although the Acorn night-time videos are very poor indeed.
I think the problem lies in weak infra red illumination so I'll
soon action an idea I had a few weeks ago to put the cameras
side by side and set them both to video so that each benefits
from the other's infra red light. Stay tuned.
Fri 18th Mar Long morning walk to
Loch Vaa where we saw a little grebe and a pair of goldeneye
ducks, plus a woodpecker drumming in the woods. On the way
home Bobby led us along a very distinct animal track where we
found a lot of deer hare and large piles of droppings but no
bones - weird. We also saw a male capercaillie high in a
Sat 19th Mar Excellent morning
walk at Auchgourish. At the gate we put up a woodcock and
then went in search of 4 badger setts, 2 of which we found (AU20
and AU03) and 2 of which no longer exist (AU01 and AU02).
The two live setts both had several well used holes and busy
latrines so I am happy that these active setts taken together
with the equally active SE sett indicate the badgers in the area
have fully adjusted to their forest being almost completely
clear-felled a few years ago. On the way out we found old
fox poo at a track junction.
Sun 20th Mar Called in at the
badger hide to top up the food containers and to admire the
results of the work done by last week's working party. The
place looks great and the badgers don't seem to have objected to
the disturbance because they have since re-excavated one of the
tunnels right in front of the hide. It'll be interesting
to hear how tonight's badger watch goes because it features some
of the youngsters in the working party. In the afternoon I
refilled the woodland feeders and on the way round chatted with
two bird-watching couples up here on holiday. Lovely
Mon 21st Mar Message this morning
to say last night's badger watch with junior rangers was a
success - at one point they had 3 badgers in view. This
morning I walked round the Auchgourish circuit and on the way
found yet more fox poo. Before leaving I removed both
cameras to carry out some experiments to see if placing two
cameras together would result in better videos by sharing each
others infra red lighting. If better videos do result it
might be worth investing in some infra red booster lights.
First result when aligning the two cameras revealed how much
better the cheap Maginon performs in daylight than the more
expensive Acorn - and we already know how much better the
Maginon performs at night.
Incidentally, this morning the Acorn camera had nothing of note on its card
from the last 3 nights but the Maginon had recorded three rather
nice badger videos. In the afternoon I found pine marten
poo on the discrete path before heading to the badger hide to
install the double camera for tonight's infra red experiment.
Spoke to a lady from Buckie whose garden is suddenly being
visited by a badger that is freaking out her cat. I was
able to reassure on a number of points and she seemed quite
happy. That's the second such call in the last week or so
from that area, possibly because there are some major housing
developments going up in the district and the badgers are losing
some of their foraging so are exploring new possibilities.
Tues 22nd Mar Divided the remaining hazelnuts between the
three feeding stations and removed from the squirrel car park
station the feeder that was put there a few weeks ago,
presumably by a visitor, the food in which was now rotten.
Spoke at length with a lovely bird watching couple from the
south coast. Collected the trail cams from the badger hide
and the results confirmed that the Acorn videos at night were
better when boosted by the Maginon's infra red light triggering
at the same time. Unfortunately that didn't help the inherent
grainy and out-of-focus problems of the Acorn so I'll just use
it for daylight stuff, possibly close up videos using extra
lenses. I then went to Milton Loch hide and removed some
branches from trees near the hide that would interfer with our
plans for the new Bushnell camera when it arrives - we hope to
catch the local pine marten on video.
Weds 23rd Mar Took delivery of the new Bushnell Aggressor
trail camera, spent some time getting to know it and then set it
up at the badger hide to test its mettle. I also set up
the disappointing Acorn camera at our bird bath with an extra
lens taped in place as the start of a process to see if I can
persuade it to take in-focus close-up shots which would be a
decent use for it rather than throw it away.
Thurs 24th Mar Deeply disappointed to hear this morning
that the decision on the future of beavers in Scotland has been
delayed yet again - the new forecast being "later in the year".
Utter nonsense - this helps nobody; farmers, conservationists or
beavers. All conservationists agree with worried land
managers that a certain amount of beaver management will be
necessary so for heavens sake let's sort it out. A piece of good
news - I saw a large male capercaillie in the woods this
morning. Frankly I'd rather have beavers. Checked
the new Bushnell Aggressor Low-Glow camera - a bit disappointed.
You cannot check images on site without a separate card viewer,
it killed two full sets of new batteries in the space of 2 hours
last night and the infra red illumination is erratic; bright at
first, then less bright and flickering. The mega-cheap
Maginon is more user-friendly once you get used to it.
Hopefully I'll find a way to master the Bushnell, but I was
expecting better. On the plus side there was lots of badger
activity and at 9.30pm a pine marten turned up. Sadly, by
then the batteries were too low for video so it just captured an
over-exposed still image. In the evening I found
pine marten poo on the Sock Route about 100m south of the mini
crossroads on the shoulder of Fairy Hill.
Fri 25th Mar Bea helped out at a work party to install a
duck-feeding platform ay Milton Loch. Later she joined me
to set up the new Busnell trail cam up a tree at the Milton Loch
bird hide to try to video the local pine marten that has been
leaving scats at the hide. In the evening I took a party
of 4 keen photographers to the badger hide. It was a cold
and windy evening so not the best conditions but we eventually
saw 5 badgers and the party all got some decent pictures.
Back at the village I showed them some likely spots for crested
tits and red squirrels.
Sat 26th Mar Golf!
Sun 27th Mar Made another batch of wood cookies for our
manic local Ranger then went round the woodland feeders to top
them up. Noticed that one of the feeders was in need of
attention thanks to the over-enthusiastic efforts of our local
red squirrels. I also noticed that wood ants are getting
busy - that's the first time this year for me. A less
welcome sight was of fresh vehicle tracks in muddy patches along
the tracks. I hope that doesn't mean the quad-bikers are
up to their old tricks.
Mon 28th Mar Took Bobby collie to Auchgourish (poor wee
Max was struggling with his sore hip today). Found that
the pile of pine marten poo where we recently set up a camera
for a few days has grown. Seems as if we should have left
the camera there a little longer. Never mind.
Further into the estate I set up the Maginon camera between a
badger sett and a junction recently marked by a fox.
Fingers crossed. On the way out I saw a vehicle possibly
belonging to a gamekeeper and shortly afterwards I heard what
might have been a gunshot. No comment. Bea and I checked the new
Bushnell camera at Milton Loch hide but there was nothing of
note on the card. In the afternoon I took both dogs for a short
walk in the woods to repair yesterday's broken feeder.
Read an online BBC article about successful lynx reintroductions
in Europe. Whilst being interesting and encouraging, the
article included a worrying quote from a contributor concerning
a possible UK lynx reintroduction project which I took steps to
check on. I of course fully support lynx reintroduction
but it has to be done properly by suitably qualified people and
organisations with the support of the government and land
The camera and feeder to check for crested tits
Tues 29th Mar Received some feedback on last night's
lynx-related enquiry. It appears I am not the only one
with concerns about that quote - the matter is being pursued.
Made a new mount for the Acorn camera to fix it to a fallen tree
trunk that I've used before near the Angle to check for crested
tits; I haven't seen our cresties for a while so I wanted to
make sure they are still around. In the afternoon Bea and
I set it all up 60cm from a feeder which is the distance that
the Acorn focusses best via a particular spectacle lens.
As usual it took several attempts to get the screen to work so I
could access the menu to change the settings; the Acorn really is a crummy piece of kit. This
time it's set to take 3 photos when triggered and then sleep for 15 seconds. No
videos needed for this project so sticking with photos makes
better use of the batteries and SD card.
Weds 30th Mar Nice start to the day: starlings
investigating our starling nestbox attached to the shed.
Inside the shed I made some more wood cookies but it's a noisy
job so to avoid frightening the starlings away I'd better
de-camp to the front garden for the next batch. In the
afternoon we checked the Maginon camera at Auchgourish to find
it had recorded a roe buck, a badger and a fox. Back at
home I received a phone call from yet another lady worried about
badgers coming into her garden - the third this month.
Today's caller was from Inverness in or very near to a large new
housing estate - surprise, surprise. I gave the lady what
comfort I could, some basic advice and an explanation of why
this had probably come about; she went away not exactly happy
but at least reassured she had found someone who was prepared to
talk to her.
One of the Auchgourish foxes
Thurs 31st Mar Heard a woodpecker drumming near the burnt
forest. At the badger hide I put food out for the badgers,
filled the bird feeder and checked the three goldeneye boxes.
Probing with the endoscope I established that the two boxes on
poles were empty. However, as I approached the one on the
tree trunk I could see the back of a bird moving about in it and
I could hear it scuffling. I decided against probing with
the endoscope both so as not to disturb it and also to avoid
being attacked if it was a tawny owl - they can be rather
aggressive. I'll think about setting up a camera although
there really isn't an ideal tree nearby. Back at Boat, the
Acorn had taken 1500 pictures of mostly jays but also gs
woodpecker, red squirrel, badger, coal tit and chaffinch.
A woodpecker was drumming again, this time nearer the Angle.
In the evening a neighbour called round to kindly donate a load
of bird food that he for some reason had in his shed. I didn't
A Jay In Boat Woods
Fri 1st Apr Checked the Acorn cam and refixed the feeder
more securely. 500 pictures again but no crested tits yet.
Checked the Bushnell at Milton Loch hide - nothing recorded at
all going in or out of the gap above the store door so I changed
the angle to check for the pine marten sneaking underneath the
floor space. Fixed up new bird identification posters
inside the hide, then checked reports of a possible badger sett
just outside the boundary fence - it's a rabbit warren.
Took the Hawtin family to the badger hide and at one point we
had 5 badgers on view - super evening. The Hawtins had
last visited us 12 years ago so it was great to catch up.
Sat 2nd Apr Removed the Maginon camera from Auchgourish.
The card had lots of videos and pics of badger, fox and roe deer
including a delightful video of a badger and a fox foraging
together and trying (and failing) to ignore each other.
(See the GIF on @AllanBoat on Twitter). Set up the Maginon at
the goldeneye box on the tree at the badger hide to see which
bird is using it and while I was there I checked the boxes on
poles; still no eggs. I then checked the card from the
Acorn cam on the fallen tree; 1880 pictures showing all the
usual species but still no cresties. Interesting that the
Hawtin family had seen cresties at the squirrel car park feeders
yesterday or the day before so we know they are around but they
simply have not yet found the new feeder by the Acorn cam.
I'll persevere until next week when we will be doing the rounds
of the nest boxes.
Sun 3rd Apr Mostly a golf day but I did manage to top up
the woodland bird feeders and to twice check the card in the
trail camera at the fallen-tree feeder. 1500 pics again of
the usual common species but still no crested tits. Forgot to
check if the squirrels have been chewing the deer antler at the
squirrel car park (they have been doing so with a vengeance at
the other two feeding stations but not the squirrel car park) -
I'll build it into a walk tomorrow.
Mon 4th April Checked the squirrel car park to find the
deer antler has gone. The wire securing it to a tree was
lying on the ground and had either been cut or wrenched off.
The knot, which would have been easy to untie, was intact so I
can't imagine a human had done this. A mystery. The
Acorn camera had taken another 300 pictures - still no cresties.
Updated the identification posters at Milton Loch and checked
the Bushnell camera; the only wildlife recorded was a rabbit.
Checked the Maginon camera at the badger hide to find that it's
goldeneye ducks that are using the box on the tree.
Completed an article about trail cameras for the next edition of
Tues 5th Apr A very wet night leading to a very wet Acorn
cam. Nevertheless it worked well and had nearly 600 pics
on the card, none of which were crested tit. Later I
removed the peanut feeder in front of that camera and replaced
it with a piece of deer antler and then took another piece of
antler to the squirrel car park feeders to replace the piece of
antler that has gone missing. In the evening I took three
people to the badger hide where soon after we got there a pine
marten arrived to scoff peanuts at the foot of the slope below
the upper sett. Soon after that a dog walker and his dog
went along the riverside path at which the pine marten ran up
the hill to the tree which houses the pine marten nest box,
climbed the tree, sat on a branch beside the box, then went to
the top of the tree, then down again to the box and finally down
to the ground where we lost sight of it. Amazing, and
brilliant for the guests. The badgers were a bit slow to
come out but eventually we had three in view which nicely capped
a superb evening.
Weds 6th Apr Checked the 20 crested tit nest boxes but
none of them are showing any signs of breeding attempts.
Checked the Acorn camera at the new piece of deer antler and
squirrels are already chewing it. Cleaned some nest boxes
at home - probably a bit late for best effect but better late
than never. Took a family to the badger hide and we had 3
badgers for a short time
A Red Squirrel Chewing An Antler For
Thurs 7th April Brought in the Acorn Camera and the antler
from the fallen tree near the Angle. A couple more nice
videos of a red squirrel chewing the antler.
Fri 8th April Checked the Bushnell at Milton Loch hide but
there was no wildlife recorded so we moved it to scan a
different area between the front of the hide and the edge of the
loch. We then set up the Maginon to watch the pine marten
nest box on the hill at the badger hide to see if the pine
marten I saw in that tree two days ago is actually using the
Sat 9th and Sun 10th Apr Domestic weekend - no wildlife
Mon 11th Apr Checked the Bushnell camera at the Milton Loch
Hide and the Maginon at the Badger Hide, both of which had been
targetting pine marten. Sadly, both drew a blank.
Put fresh cards in both cameras and hope for the best next time.
Great tits nest building in the sparrow gallery on our shed.
Tues 12th Apr Took 4 delightful young naturalists from
Singapore to the badger hide. We checked the Maginon trail
camera to see if the pine marten was using the nest box but the
camera had only recorded bats. Badgers were slow to emerge
this evening but they did eventually put in an appearance.
We speculated that gunshots heard earlier in the evening may
have discouraged them from leaving the safety of their dens.
Weds 13th Apr Train to Edinburgh for the Scottish Environment
Link Hustings at Edinburgh University. The five main
parties provided senior representatives who all made rather
similar points and promises. The hustings Moderator/Chair
viewed this as an encouraging sign that all parties knew what
action the environment requires whereas I took the more cynical
view that all parties knew what a room full of environmentalists
wanted to hear and provided it. Overnight at Dalkeith.
Thurs 14th Apr Train home to be greeted with various messages
requesting action. Those to do with badger watching were
easily dealt with - the forecast is snow so we're not going.
A lady from Street of Kincardine begged me to go and see what
was making squealing noises in her outhouse. It turned out
to be baby pine martens calling for food. While I was
investigating, mummy pine marten turned up and promptly moved
her babies to a place free from interference by doting
Fri 15th Apr The day began with snow showers, as forecast, so
I toured the woodland feeding stations and topped up the food as
required. Met a bird delighted watcher who had just seen a
capercaillie male at the cross-roads in the middle of the
forest. Checked two trail cameras: the Bushnell at
the Milton Loch hide had recorded a hedgehog which was only the
second such record there but the Maginon at the badger hide had
seen no action at all. Spent a couple of hours in the
workshop building a noticeboard for the Milton Loch dragonfly
Sat 16th Apr Did some more work on the noticeboard and took
it to the Milton Loch site to mark up the holes for drilling.
Bea and I then met Ali, Kate and Helen at the other side of the
loch where more work was going on and yet more being planned.
It's great to see this lovely place finally getting some TLC.
Sun 17th Apr Bea walked the dogs and found pine marten poo on
the track near Kinchurdy pond at map ref NH 9316 1805. In
the afternoon I checked the Maginon cam at the badger hide but
there was no action on it. Later I went back to the
hide to put my new Nikon camera through its low-light paces.
Very pleasing results; nice high-res badger images.
Mon 18th Apr Made some refinements to the new dragonfly
interpretation board for Milton Loch; it's almost ready to go
up. Set up the Acorn camera in a clearing in Boat Woods
where there is more tasty vegetation than under the canopy.
Tues 19th Apr Finished the interpretation board for Milton
Loch and installed it. Set up the Bushnell camera at
Milton Loch to watch for otters which means all three trail cams
are now deployed; one for otters, one for pine marten and one to
see what's using a particular clearing. Spent a little
time in Milton Loch hide at dusk but things were very quiet.
Weds 20th Apr Dead badger beside the B970 at the entrance to
the Kincardine Estate at map ref NH 9457 1758 - it was too much
of a mess to weigh or sex. Flew the Phantom quadcopter to try to
fathom where the water comes from for Milton Loch. Not a
great success - will maybe try again tomorrow and if that fails
it'll be back to Google Earth. Checked a couple of setts
at Auchgourish - all's well.
Thurs 21st Apr Did a quick check of the Acorn cam - it had
been triggered once at night but could not see by what on the
small screen. I'll see properly on the computer next time
I bring the card home.
Fri 22nd Apr Was sent a message by police asking me to assist
them regarding a disturbed badger sett but before I could
respond they had found another expert. That's fine and I
have asked to be kept informed so stay tuned. Bea
met two birdwatchers at the crossroads in the woods and there
were two crested tits nearby, which is great news because we
have not been seeing many lately and also because there are nest
boxes near that spot. Later I signed up to be a polling
agent in the local villages and to attend the count for the
Scottish Green Party on polling day for the Scottish Elections.
That's a first for me.
Sat 23rd Apr Met a group of birdwatchers from the Birmingham
area at the cross roads. They were very happy because they
had just seen two male capercaillies. I picked up the
Acorn camera from its clearing - it had recorded no wildlife.
It'll go out again later to monitor some bat boxes.
Attended the Milton Loch element of the annual village clean up.
Filled the squirrel feeder and agreed with others to put out
bird feeders, as we used to do till it became too onerous to
maintain. This time BoGWiG will provide the food and local
members will top up the feeders as required. Checked the
Bushnell camera and it had taken some superb pics and videos of
herons. Set up the Acorn cam at a set of three bat boxes.
Picked up a fallen starling box for repair and found another
starling box wired too tightly to a tree - I'll come back with a
ladder and re-fix it with a coach bolt. Others did litter
picking, brash collecting and so on, achieving an excellent
result. We finished by attending the formal opening of the
new dragonfly watching/duck feeding platform, complete with
cutting the ribbon for the local press photographer. In
the afternoon I brought the Maginon cam home from the badger
hide - no wildlife recorded at all. I'll think about how
it might be installed at one of the local otter holts.
A Heron Preening At Milton Loch
Sun 24th Apr Out early with the dogs and again met with bird
watchers on their way home, presumably having been out very
early indeed in the hope of spotting capercaillie. Good
for the area as a tourist destination but not necessarily good
for capers. I watched a red squirrel chewing the deer
antler at the Angle. Back at home I watched Mrs Blackbird
collecting wet vegetation from our pond and carrying it to the
tree where she had a nest last year. Looking good.
Mon 25th Apr Seeing red squirrels at the Angle feeders
almost every day now. Had another go with the quadcopter to get a decent over-view of
the local moor but still didn't get it quite right - will keep
Tues 26th Apr Foul day with heavy snow showers on a bitter
north wind. Made sure all the woodland feeders were well
topped up. Worked in the shed on bird feeders. Took
3 people to the badger hide. No badgers for nearly 2 hours
and then suddenly there were four. While we were waiting a
goldeneye duck flew into the nest box on a plastic pole that we
could just see from the hide.
Weds 27th Apr Met an RSPB staff member in the woods. We
had a brief conversation about dogs. Went to Milton Loch
and sorted out two of the starling boxes; removed the wire that
was biting into a tree and refixed that box with a coach bolt
and then in the same manner resited the box I repaired in the
shed a few days ago. Afternoon walk along the river with
the dogs - lots of common birds including my first swallow of
Thurs 28th Apr Stayed mostly out of our woods to avoid a
repeat of yesterday's annoying meeting with RSPB. Went to
Docharn woods later for a steep, tiring walk up Docharn Craig.
Came across scats from pine marten and fox and bumped into an
Fri 29th Apr Awoke to yet more snow - it's nearly May for
Pete's sake! Bea and I went to Milton Loch to fix up the new
bird feeders and check the Bushnell camera. On reflexion I
could have done a better job so will go back and have another
think. Similar story with an old squirrel feeder that had
been originally fixed up with wire that was now buried so deep
in the tree I could not get it all out. I refixed the
feeder with coach bolts but even that will have to be redone as
I discovered the lid had become too heavy and will have to be
replaced. Slightly better fortune with the Bushnell camera
which had captured heron, mallard, tufted duck and moorhen
although none of the pics or videos were good enough to be worth
keeping. Later we walked along the Spey and found an otter
spraint on a small mound on the bank between Boat Bridge and
Sat 30th Apr Rebuilt and resited squirrel feeders and bird
feeders at Milton Loch. It took most of the day and I'm
still not 100 per cent happy but it's better than nothing while
I rethink things.
Sun 1st May No wildlife work at all - played golf, watched
a lot of football and generally relaxed to recharge after a
tiring few days.
Mon 2nd May There was talk of pine marten and grey squirrels on
radio this morning which sparked a bit of an exchange on social media.
Good stuff. The woodland ranger and I checked the 20
crested tit boxes in Boat woods and were delighted to find 3
with signs of activity. Box 2 had a complete nest in it,
box 3 had a nearly complete nest in it with a crested tit in
attendance and a blue tit was prospecting at box 6. On the
way round we gave the topic of dogs and capercaillie a good
airing, concluding there is no simple answer. I believe
imposing a blanket "dogs-on-leads" policy is unhelpful and
unfair on most dog owners, leading to deep resentment and an
unwillingness to cooperate, whereas providing information about
local wildlife issues and explaining how the public can help by
acting responsibly at certain times of year, as is done at
Rothiemurchus Estate, is much more likely to succeed than trying
to impose unenforceable, draconian, one-size-fits-all rules.
At Abernethy Golf Club I discovered that the oystercatchers had
laid their first egg of the season on the gravel beside the
monument as in previous years. In the evening I took the
dogs to Auchgourish where we saw two black grouse flying.
Tues 3rd May Checked some of the nest boxes at the
badger hide. The tit box, the goldeneye box on the tree
and the goldeneye box on a pole in the hollow were empty but the
box on a pole on the hill had at least 8 eggs and a duck
sitting. While I was there I topped up the peanut
bin and the bird feeder and made a temporary cover for the
floodlight for the upper sett. Took a delightfully
enthusiastic couple from Australia to the badger hide where we
had two badgers close to the hide.
Weds 4th May Set up the Maginon camera at box No 2 to find
out what bird is building a nest in it. In the afternoon
I checked sett 02 at Auchgourish - all OK. As we left I
heard a cuckoo and on looking up I saw a pair gliding over just
above the tree tops. Nice one. In the evening
Alison Greggans' group at the badger hide had just one badger
for 20 minutes.
Thurs 5th May Acted as a Polling Agent and a Count Agent
for the Scottish Greens in today's Scottish Parliament
elections. On the wildlife front I managed to fill the
feeders at the Community Hall and at the Squirrel Car Park.
Sadly the oystercatcher egg by the monument at the Abernethy
Golf Club has gone, presumably grabbed by a predator.
Spent the night at the Election Count at Dingwall. Very tiring
but exciting and it felt right to be involved.
Fri 6th May Got home from the Count at 6am, grabbed a
couple of hours sleep and then checked the Maginon camera at box
No 3 in the woods. Blue tits seem to be in charge but a
great tit also squeezed in with some nest material and a
woodpecker did some hammering around the entrance hole so it's
all a bit confused. Afternoon in bed, then out with a
couple to the badger hide. Vickie had been before but Matt
had not and he brought his large pro video camera with him.
Excellent evening with an hour of badger activity at close
quarters so Matt got some nice footage. On the down side,
the floodlight at the lower sett finally gave up the ghost so I
hope the new one I've ordered gets here soon.
Sat 7th May Checked the Maginon cam again. More
videos and pics of woodpecker hammering at the entrance to the
nest box - to no avail really because there are no eggs or
chicks in it yet. Long chat at the Angle with two groups
of bird watchers - all after cresties and capers and all
disappointed so far. Checked the bat box camera at Milton
Loch and established the boxes are not being used so it was safe
to take them down, clean them and refix them, which I did with
coach bolts rather than with their original wire straps that can
eventually strangle the tree. Checked the Bushnell cam at
the Milton Loch narrows and we had pics and videos of an otter,
roe buck, herons, rabbits and various ducks.
Sun 8th May A golfing day
Mon 9th May Walked the 8.8km riverside circuit with the
dogs. Actual walking time was 1 hour 20 mins but we
stopped to install an extra feeder at the Angle and to blether
with other people at various places so it took an hour longer
than that. Found fox poo along the river bank path.
In the evening I took a photographer from Tomintoul to the hide.
A super evening with 4 badgers in front of us in broad daylight.
Tue 10th May A day of beauitful sunshine wasted getting
the Jeep serviced. It took six hours.
Weds 11th May Went to the hide early morning to drill
holes and measure up for the new floodlight, not knowing when it
would arrive; it's already 2 days late. Took dogs
along the river bank at Kincardine and had a look at the big
otter holt at the north end. Looks in use so I might put a
trail cam on it. The missing floodlight arrived so I
mounted it on a board ready to go to the hide but ran out of
time to actually install it - we can cope without it for a few
days. In the evening I took a group of five people
to the hide. We had a brilliant session with 4 badgers and
a pine marten. Got home quite late.
Thurs 12th May Another good day so a long walk along the
riverbank. Saw the usual ducks and other birds plus I
spoke to a couple of chaps who had just watched a stoat swim
across the river. Helped Bea with preparations for our
Digital Treasure Hunt on Saturday. In the evening I took a
lady to the badger hide where we had 4 badgers - another very
Fri 13th May Early dog walk round the loop and checked box
2 on the way - it had a complete nest and one egg in it.
Time will tell which species won the contest, blue tit or great
tit. On the way home from golf at Grantown I saw a dead
badger beside the A95 near the Heather Centre turn-off. In the evening Bea and I did a dummy run ahead of
tomorrow's Digital Treasure Hunt and managed to find all but two
of the target species in just under an hour. OK, we know
our way around these woods and have a good idea how to find
things but all the same the actual contestants should be able to
find most things in the allotted three hours.
Sat 14th May Up early and out with the dogs then, got set
up for the Digital Treasure Hunt which went very well.
Pity there weren't more participants but there were other events
on today, including an RSPB family event at exactly the same
time as ours, which was unfortunate to say the least. In
the afternoon I attended the John Finnie MSP drop-in party at
his house in Inverness for the Scottish Green Party members who
helped get him re-elected to the Scottish Parliament.
Spoke at length to lots of fellow activists.
Sun 15th May A golf day
Mon 16th May Began by doing some prep for next week's Link
Wildlife Crime Task Force meeting. Set up the Acorn camera
at the north otter holt on Kincardine Estate, then checked the
Knock badger sett where we found a huge latrine area.
Rather oddly we then found lots of abandoned tunnels which
didn't make sense until further along the slope we found just as
many occupied tunnels, including some underneath a huge fallen
dead tree. On the way home we swapped cards in the
Bushnell camera at Milton Loch narrows and found the card had
136 images on it, half pictures and half videos.
Unfortunately none of the images were of particular interest.
Badger sett under a fallen tree at Kincardine
Tues 17th May Golf at Rothes where I found a badger sett
near the 8th tee and a badger latrine in a ditch nearby.
In the evening I attended an SNH reception in Boat Hall where I
spoke with lots of different people about red squirrels,
capercaillie, beavers, politics, housing estates and the Cairngorms Nature
Weds 18th May Refilled some woodland feeders and sat near
box 2 for a while in the hope of glimpsing its occupants.
No luck so maybe a trail cam tomorrow.
Thurs 19th May Didn't have time to put a trail cam at box
2 but managed to check the Acorn camera at the otter holt on
Kincardine Estate - no action recorded.
Fri 20th May Bea and I installed the new floodlight at the
badger hide in time for tomorrow's badger watch and then checked
the goldeneye nest boxes. Nothing in the one
in the tree or the one in the hollow but there is still a duck
on eggs in the box on a pole on the hill. Found a
wonderful Y-shaped birch tree that had half fallen in such a way
that the Y had settled perfectly against the trunk of its
neighbour and was therefore prevented from falling all the way
to the ground. Quite how long the neighbour will survive
with all that weight against it only time will tell.
Sat 21st May In the morning Ali Greggans and I did a
crested tit nest box check with some great results. 8 of
the 20 boxes (40%) were in use. One contained 5 tiny bald
chicks and an egg (later confirmed as crested tits), 5 contained
great tits on eggs, one contained a complete nest with a cup and
one contained lots of nest material but no cup yet. Later
Bea took me onto the bonfire field on our moor (NH 936 191) to
show me the carcasses of a swan and a very small deer.
Impossible to say how they died but we speculated about foxes
and natural causes. In the evening I took the Spencer
family to the hide and we had a super evening with 4 badgers and
a brown hare near the hide. On the drive home a pine
marten crossed the road in front of us and then shortly
afterwards we came across a lactating badger lying on the road,
presumably having been hit by a car. Hopefully an auntie
badger will take over care of the young and in any case by this
time of year the cubs may already be weaned or partially so.
Very sad all the same. I lifted it off the road into some
Lactating Female Badger on the B970
Sun 22nd May Went back to where I had hidden the badger last
night to make sure it was out of sight. It wasn't so I
moved it and in doing so found the hole under the fence where it
had accessed the road. Clearly this is a well used route
so I'll come back another day, perhaps tomorrow, and see if
there's a sett nearby and if there are cubs wandering about.
Mon 23rd May Set up the Maginon camera at the gap under the
fence at Auchgourish a few metres from where Saturday's badger
RTA occurred to gauge to what extent it is being used by other
animals and to see if cubs turn up to look for their Mum.
Did some preparation for tomorrow's wildlife crime meeting in
Edinburgh. Bea and I attended the Scottish Wildcat
Action meeting in the Boat Hall. Well attended and a most
interesting update but the discussion on future actions that
followed was spoiled by a guy from Planet Stupid who didn't
understand the role that cats, true wild, hybrid or feral, play
in the Scottish ecosystem; he wanted mass culling of ferals.
It was explained to him that would created a vacuum for fertile
feral cats from elsewhere to move in - much better to trap,
neuter, vaccinate and return the local feral cats to where they
came from to skew the genetics in that area in favour of
Tues 24th May Great tits have been carrying food to the box
on the shed for a few days now so clearly we have babies.
The starling box has a good lot of nest material in it but no
eggs so far. Caught the train to Edinburgh for the
ScotLink Wildlife Crime Task Force meeting. Bumped into
John Finnie MSP at Waverley - he was also on his way to a
meeting. Subjects covered at my meeting included the new
political landscape, raptors, snares, beavers and hunting with dogs.
Weds 25th May Took a chap to the badger hide - we had 2
badgers at least and the guy got some brilliant photos. We
watched four goldeneye ducks fly from the river to the area
where their nest boxes are sited. Looks as if incubating
the eggs is, not for the first time, a team effort.
Thurs 26th May Checked the Acorn camera at the north
Kincardine holt; Bingo, a few pics and videos of an otter coming
and going over the past few days. Nice to know it's in
use and also the images might be useful evidence if ever the
presence of otters in that part of the Spey is called into
question. I know of at least two other holts along
the Kincardine shore from a survey carried out under the
previous ownership of the estate. We did it with a mixture
of canoeing, wading and swimming.
Fri 27th May Filled the woodland bird feeders. Found a
big fat toad in our wee garden pond. Finished
making a new net for fat balls and put it out. Removed the
card from the Maginon cam at Auchgourish - it had taken 92
images, mostly of nothing but wind-blown trees but including 2
videos of pumped up roe bucks running and chasing before the
camera died of exhaustion. All that action probably killed
the batteries which I confess were far from new when I put the
Sat 28th May Got my head round some numbers this morning and
according to BTO figures my goldeneye chicks will hatch and
leave the nest around 2nd or 3rd June and crested tit chicks
will fledge between 7th and 11th June. Exciting time.
Removed the Maginon camera from Auchgourish, having established
that orphaned badger cubs have not come looking for their dead
mother, and set it up at the goldeneye duck box in the hope of
recording the moment the chicks fall out of the box. I
tried to check with the endoscope that the eggs were still there
but couldn't see them so in case the chicks had already hatched
and gone I had to get the ladder from the badger hide and
actually reach into the box. Sure enough, the eggs were
still there (at least eight of them) but were buried under a
mixture of down and woodshavings exactly like we have seen in
Maginon camera at the goldeneye box
Sun 29th May A golf day.
Mon 30th May Removed the Bushnell camera from Milton Loch
- the card had a few mallard shots on it but nothing special.
That camera will go to the crested tit nest box later. I
wrote to the National Park with a suggestion to research and
publicise off-lead dog friendly walking routes to offset the
highly unpopular dogs-only-on-leads policy which is now so
widespread. If such off-lead routes were made available it
would stop some of the ill feeling at source and restore a bit
of balance. In the afternoon I checked the camera at the
Kincardine otter holt - the card had no otters this time but did
have a black spaniel investigating the holt. I learned
later that environmental surveyors were seen on the estate last
week so a new planning application to build accommodation can be
expected. In the evening I checked the Maginon camera at
the goldeneye box and disappointingly found it had recorded no
action at all at the box. While I was there I popped down
to the hide and watched a badger for a little while and to my
horror I saw the grass had grown so much in the last few days
that the badger was hard to see. I'll have to get back
here tomorrow with the strimmer.
Tues 31st May On the way to play golf I passed a dead
hedgehog on the road just south of Carrbridge. Very sad.
Later I went to the badger hide and strimmed the grass so that
tomorrow's guests can actually see the badgers. Before
leaving I left lots of peanuts scattered about by way of apology
for all the noise.
Weds 1st June This is day one of "30 Days Wild"; a project
organised nationwide by the Wildlife Trusts. It was a very
busy wild day for me, starting with refilling the feeders at the
Community Hall and at the Angle. I then had a protracted
conversation with a local enthusiast that ranged between trail
cameras, nest boxes of several kinds, several species of bird,
forestry, wildcats, badgers and pine martens. Later I
checked the camera at the crested tit box but it had hardly
triggered at all so next time I'll set it to a higher
sensitivity. The chicks are still in the box, well
feathered and hunkered down, trying to be invisible in case I
was a predator. In the evening I took three people to the
badger hide - a pretty full day for day one of the project.
The badger watch went well eventually, but we were interrupted
by people walking noisily along the river bank, then the same
people lost their dog and a woman was screaming and shouting to
try to find it. We found it for her and went back in the
hide and soon afterwards the badgers emerged one at a time until
there were four. One of the badgers came right up close to
the hide so the guests were delighted. I also sketched a
Thurs 2nd June Bea and I took a lady and her two young
daughters to the badger hide. First badgers did not appear
until 2150 which is about par for the course at this time of
year. I also checked the Maginon camera at the goldeneye
box but it had not recorded any activity so I guess it's too far
away and not sensitive enough. I sketched a badger.
Fri 3rd June Did a full check of the 20 crested tit boxes
with good results. All the active nests from last time
have progressed nicely - Box 2: great tit chicks, Box 3: at
least 5 crested tit chicks with both parents in the area, Box 4:
great tit sitting, Box 6: at least 5 blue tit chicks with one
parent in the area, Box 10: still only nest material, no nest,
Box 12: blue tit on eggs, Box 14: great tit on eggs and Box 20:
4 chicks, species unknown. At the crestie box (No 3) the
Bushnell had still not recorded anything other than deer so I
cranked up the sensitivity in the hope that would now pick up
the tiny birds.
Sat 4th June Checked the Bushnell camera at Box 3 again
but even with its higher sensitivity it only recorded deer.
However, as a pure fluke, while a deer was walking past at 0442
this morning a crestie came out of the box with a refuse sac in
its beak and flew off. Brilliant. Whilst in that
area I sat near Box 20 in the hope of seeing which species owns
the four eggs in it and by another stroke of good fortune a
great tit brought food to the box and left with a sac.
Great start to the day. In the afternoon Bea and I and the
dogs walked down to the Spey and onto an island where we
attempted to identify the trees. We also looked for otter
signs but were unable to find any. Received an invitation
to speak at a Hen Harrier Day organised by Birders Against
Wildlife Crime in August and was pleased to accept.
Sun 5th June Played golf at Abernethy and at the second
hole observed both parent curlews doing their best to look after
two lively chicks. There had been four eggs so there may
have been more chicks hiding in the bush. In the afternoon
I checked the Acorn camera at the North Kincardine otter holt.
It had recorded some nice otter footage on 31st May and 1st June
but only birds, a rat and a badger since. Some of the
otter footage looked as if the animals had been using the upper
tier of the holt but the camera is currently pointing at the
lower entrance so I've got to find a way of covering both
Mon 6th June Not the best start to the day - noticed the
feeders at the Angle were empty so nipped home, grabbed the bike
and sorted it. The Angle feeder gets more business than
all the other put together, probably because it is deep in the
woods and therefore the least disturbed by us humans, so I get
caught out sometimes. Our great tits are taking full
advantage of Bea's regular offerings of live meal worms,
ferrying them to the nest box for what seems like hours on end;
they must have the fattest chicks ever. Bea and I carried
out the final nest check at the badger hide goldeneye box to
find 2 dud eggs and therefore at least 6 chicks must have
hatched and gone. Result! Boxes on top of poles do
seem to be the complete answer to the pine marten problem.
We put the eggs under a board along with the usual peanuts for
the badgers to find later. In the evening I went back to
the hide to see what the badgers would make of the goldeneye
eggs, although I suspected they might not deal with the board
until well after I would want to stay so I set up the Maginon
trail cam to record the event. First badger came out at
2130, soon followed by a second one, but they did not stay long
so I went home and left the Maginon to do its job.
Tues 7th June Filled some more feeders. Found that
the squirrel feeder at the community hall had mouldy peanuts in
it - that's because it was intended for hazelnuts and therefore
did not incorporate as much mesh in its structure as my usual
design. I'll modify it at some point. Found pine
marten poo on the loop path at roughly NH 932 189 which is near
crestie box No 1. Took an Australian lady to the
badger hide - a very nice evening with 4 badgers on view.
Whilst there I removed the Maginon camera - it had recorded 100
videos of badgers and mice, including footage of a badger
dealing with dud goldeneye duck eggs.
Weds 8th June The fence round the new housing development
is now complete and a large digger has arrived and started work.
No sign of the shed box great tits to day so I'm assuming
they've fledged. Young blackbirds are being fed in the
garden so the hedge nestful have fledged too. Collected
the squirrel feeder from the community hall and took it home for
modification. Went through the 100 videos from the badger
hide which comprised more than 50 of badgers eating peanuts and
dealing with the eggs, several of mice finishing up the
left-overs and 3 of a pine marten arriving too late for the
spoils but scent-marking the place anyway on principle.
Pine marten scent-marking egg shells at the badger hide
Thurs 9th June Checked the crested tit nest box to find it
full of large chicks; they'll go any day now. Found very
fresh pine marten poo on the track near Craigie Rock so I
daresay it's been visiting the local gardens. In the
afternoon I watched a female goldeneye duck with five ducklings
on the River Spey not far from the badger hide. Could they
possibly be the ones that fledged from our box recently?
Hope so. In the shed I modified the squirrel feeder by
adding a mesh floor so that the food will dry out more quickly
after wet weather and be less likely to go mouldy.
Fri 10th June Today's plans got slightly amended by
events. Nevertheless I returned the modified squirrel
feeder to its rightful place at the community hall and then
removed a similar device from the squirrel car park and took it
home to be likewise modified. Later Bea and I and the dogs
went pond dipping in Kinchurdy Pond where we found all sorts
aquatic life including two newts. An afternoon of golf was
followed by a session in the shed to manufacture a special clamp
for the Maginon camera to be fixed above an otter holt tomorrow
- unforeseen events permitting.
Sat 11th June Checked the crestie box and the chicks are
still there. Will check again on Monday. Checked the
corner-post badger sett. Lots of cattle trampling around
the tunnels. 2 tunnels in occasional use with bedding in
one tunnel and a latrine nearby. Not a main sett but an
annexe or outlier for either the BBB or Loch Roid setts.
Rebuilt the squirrel feeder from the squirrel car park, adding
more mesh to avoid the food going mouldy - we'll put it back at
the feeding station tomorrow. Checked the cam at
Kincardine otter holt - 47 images, mostly of birds plus one
badger. No otters this time. Walked around The Knock
with Bea and the dogs and tried to identify the trees - we're
not very good at that.
Sun 12th June Started the day by reinstalling the squirrel
feeder at the the squirrel car park and topping up all the
feeders there. On the way there I composed a Limerick for
A pony who lived in Geneva, considered himself a beaver
His Mum said "Of course, you're really a horse", but he simply
didn't believe her.
Mon 13th June Checked Box 3 and was delighted to find that
the 6 crested tit chicks have fledged. Result! A
camper-van was parked in the woods overnight last night so I
informed the estate, suggesting they locked the gate that has
been open for the past several weeks for the developer's
machines. Received pictures of some nasty looking traps on
a pole across a burn on a nearby estate and asked a different
estate for their opinion as to whether they are legal or not.
Excellent meeting with CNPA about dog walking issues in the bird
breeding season, attempting to bring some balance to the matter.
The Park liked my ideas and would begin to test some of them in
the months ahead. Very pleasing outcome.
Tues 14th June An attempt to remove the front of nest box
No 3 to remove its nest for research purposes failed because the
screws simply would not budge. The box will have to be
brought home for major surgery but I did not have the tools with
me to unbolt it from the tree.
Weds 15th June The weather was absolutely awful so it was
a good opportunity to get my badger and wildlife crime paperwork
better organised in the office.
Thurs 16th June Went on a boat at Inverness with the
Scottish Wildlife Trust North Group in the hope of watching
dolphins. No such luck but we did see some harbour seals,
guillemots, swans and a fisherman catching a big fish.
Fri 17th June Removed the damaged feeder from the
community hall feeding station and took it home for repair.
Reinstalled it later. Took photos of the building works
near our house and Tweeted one of them saying, "Part of the
capercaillie wood at Boat of Garten now a building site -
probably not what you'd expect in a National Park". By
next morning it had received more than 40 Retweets - I'm
probably not very popular with CNPA at the moment.
Part of the Boat of Garten capercaillie wood is now a
Sat 18th June Today's crestie nest box check brought mixed
results with plenty of healthy nestlings but also a few dead
ones. Last week's bad weather will not have helped
matters. Here's the details: Box 2: at least 4 very large
great tit chicks, Box 3: empty now that the crestie chicks have
fledged, Box 4: 2 great tit chicks, Box 6: 1 blue tit chick plus
a heap of dead ones, Box 10: lots of nest material but no nest,
Box 12: at least 4 blue tit chicks, Box 14: great tit still
sitting and Box 20: 2 live great tit chicks plus what looks like
some dead ones. In the afternoon I checked the Acorn
camera at the Kincardine north otter holt - it had recorded
otters visiting on the 12th, 14th and 15th June. On
Twitter, my comments on the local building site continue to
attract comment. People cannot understand any more than I
can how this nonsense can be justified.
Sun 19th June Mostly a golfing day but in the afternoon I
checked badger setts AU20 and AU03 at Auchgourish. Both
were occupied and in good shape. Had an exchange on
Twitter about environmental protection and the EU Referendum,
saying the best protection we can hope for is by staying in the
EU. Other environmentalists agreed although one chap said
the matter would not be decided on the environment issue.
He's probably right.
Mon 20th June Attended the first session at the Spey River
Catchment Conference at Boat of Garten. A bit political
and please boys and girls spare us the PowerPoints with screens
full of text which are basically your lecture notes. Cheesh!
Later went to Milton Loch to check all is well and to photograph
insects; a new challenge for me which I really enjoyed.
Back at home I rebuilt an old squirrel feeder; it'll go back out
in the woods tomorrow.
A Bee on Foxgloves
Tues 21st June Reinstalled the rebuilt squirrel feeder at the
Community Hall, then went to the badger hide to check all is
well. Plenty of badger activity but the hide door lock
needs attention. Before leaving I put some peanuts under a
board for the badgers to find later. In the evening I
replaced the peanut feeder at the squirrel car park with a
bigger one - it was running out too often.
Weds 22nd June Bea and I fed the ducks at Milton Loch; no,
not with bread but with left-over salad stuff. We then
walked part of the Spey river bank looking for the ideal rock
beside which to set up a trail cam for otters. Nothing
really ideal so we'll try a different stretch next time.
Met up with the previous owner of the local estate - he asked
for a copy of one of the otter pictures taken at a local holt
recently - no problem.
An otter leaving Kincardine North holt
Thurs 23rd June Set up the Maginon camera at a line of rocks
in the Spey at the north end of Kincardine Estate in the hope of
getting some otter images. While I was there I changed
cards in the Acorn cam at the otter holt; it had recorded a
short, fast clip of an otter leaving the holt at midnight on
The Maginon set for capturing otter
Fri 24th June Took my wife and dogs paddling in the Spey near
Boat of Garten, worked on notes for my talk at the the Hen
Harrier Day on Cairngorm and built the frame for a new
squirrel feeder made with lots of wire mesh to prevent food
Sat 25th June Continued with the squirrel feeder but domestic
DIY intervened. Took Bea and the dogs to check one of our
favourite osprey nests. We didn't stray too close but it
seemed to us that it is not in use this year. While up
there we saw two groups of curlews, some golden plovers, some
lapwings and a buzzard. Later I resited the Maginon camera
on a tripod to keep it above the rising River Spey and then put
new batteries in the Acorn camera at the otter holt a couple of
hundred metres south along the bank.
Sun 26th June A day largely dominated by domestic duties but
I did manage to swimming at Loch Vaa with the dogs.
Actually, the dogs went swimming while I acted as paddling
lifeguard. Hope to get some proper wild stuff done
Mon 27th June Finished building the new squirrel feeder.
Quite technical and time consuming but probably worth the
effort. Checked both cameras - the Maginon at the otter
rocks had videos of heron, mallard, sandpiper and mallard but
the Acorn at the holt had packed up altogether due to dead
batteries - it really does not like rechargeables.
Tues 28th June Glasgow Uni has asked for the successful
crested tit nest and the contents of the successful goldeneye
nest box for their research so I made start on that by bringing
the crested tit nest box home and careful dismantled it so I
could remove the nest intact. I'll deal with the goldeneye
nest another time. Did some research into wildlife
partnership projects ahead of my upcoming talk at the Hen
Harrier Day event on Cairngorm in August. It's difficult
to assess some of these projects because judging whether a given
project is a success or failure often depends on your point of
Weds 29th June Lots of domestic stuff today but managed to
get down to the river with the dogs for a while. Also made
a start on the paperwork to go to Glasgow with the crested tit
Thurs 30th June The final day of #30DaysWild so I helped Bea
with the final survey of our front garden which we had not mown
for the whole 30 days to see what would appear through such
benign neglect. Later I took a sack of peanuts to
replenish the supply at Milton Loch. The jackdaws there
have not only been agile enough to empty the normal peanut
feeder but also found out how to lift the lid of the squirrel
feeder. I'll have to buy or build a cage.
Fri 1st July Went to the badger hide and modified the door
lock. Bea and I then took the ladder to the goldeneye box
on its pole and removed most of the woodshavings, downy feathers
and fragments of egg shell from the box. Later the
contents of the box plus the crested tit nest collected earlier
in the week were parcelled up and posted to Glasgow University
for the national nest reference collection. Checked the
Maginon camera beside the Spey and it had taken 52 videos.
Unfortunately most of them were triggered by the setting sun
glinting off the surface of the water but there was also a nice
video of 4 oystercatchers have an argument.
Sat 2nd and Sun 3rd July Quite a lot of golf and domestic
stuff got in the way but over the weekend I made good progress
with the feeder cage for Milton Loch, took a fairly ordinary
time-lapse set of images of clouds passing my bedroom
window from which I made a nice GIF and set up the Bushnell
camera at the squirrel feeder behind the community hall to make
sure it is actually squirrels that are using it and not the
jackdaws, as has happened at Milton Loch.
Mon 4th July Checked the Bushnell camera and it told us
all we needed to know. Yes the red squirrels are using the
squirrel feeder and the jackdaws are trying to use it but
failing, which is fine and dandy. The rooks however have
cracked the code and are opening the feeder with ease and
nicking all the peanuts so I've ordered a cage for it.
Speaking of cages, I spent most of the afternoon and evening
trying to complete the large cage for the Milton Loch feeders.
A rook opening the squirrel feeder
Tues 5th July Intended to carry on working on the new feeder
cage today but got a request to take some friends and their
grandchildren to the badger hide later so in the afternoon I had
to go up and strim the grass otherwise we would not see the
badgers. All went well in the evening and we had two
badgers out within five minutes of arriving at the hide.
Weds 6th July Finished building the new feeder cage but am
having second thoughts about its suitability for Milton Loch.
Two custom made cages arrived in the post today so I might use
one or both of those instead. Got a message from
ScotLink today about the Lynx Trust UK who have made an approach
to Link about their plans for reitroducing lynx.
Thankfully Link has no plans to get involved but to be on the
safe side I shared my experiences of the Lynx Trust UK with
ScotLink's CEO and provided a hyperlink to Andy Wightman's
article which describes their dubious activities.
Thurs 7th July Checked the Maginon camera down on the Spey
rocks - it had taken 67 videos of swimmers and canoes and
anglers plus herons. mallards and wagtails. Worked on a
revised cage design for squirrel feeders to keep the rooks out.
Fri 8th July Bea and I dismantled the feeder array at Milton
Loch and brought it home; it will be replaced with a cage
containing a squirrel feeder and a normal mesh bird feeder.
Spent an hour or so building the new cage.
Sat 9th July Recorded BBC Out Of Doors to listen to later
because it was to feature Scottish Environment Minister Roseanna
Cunningham and the Scottish Wildlife Trust so I hoped to hear
something about beavers and lynx. Took Bobby collie into
the capercaillie area of the woods (on his lead) and we found
pine marten poo in two different places; one just north of the
main crossroads and one on the secret path just north of the
elbow junction. Listened to BBC Out Of Doors when I got
home from golf; there was no mention of lynx but Roseanna
Cunningham said there will be a decision on beavers this year
Sun 10th July Found yet more pine marten poo this morning, this
time near the summit of Craigie Rock. Later Bobby collie
and I checked the Maginon camera at the Street of Kincardine
rocks in the River Spey and changed its batteries. We've
been hoping for otter videos but no luck so far, however this
time we got heron, mallards and a pine marten. The rocks
extend half way across the river and we know these animals swim
quite well (a stoat was seen to swim across the Spey near here
just a few weeks ago) so it looks from the clip that the marten
is using the rocks to get half way across which greatly shortens
the distance it has to swim to get to the other side.
After checking the camera Bobby and I wandered around the paths
on the Knock and to my astonishment Bobby came face to face with
his first badger. It was a small, wet, bedraggled thing so
I think probably one of this year's cubs out early looking for
food - the time was just 4.45pm. Bobby thought it was a
small dog and wanted to play but the badger ignored him and
trotted off. A little further on there was pine marten poo
on the track - it's almost hardly worth mentioning any more.
Pine marten on rocks in the River Spey
Mon 11th July Bea and I installed the new cage with all the
feeders inside it at Milton Loch. I may modify the locking
arrangement but otherwise I think it's OK.
Later I rejigged the cage at the squirrel car park so that both
feeders are now inside it. That just leaves two more
feeding arrays to fix and hopefully that'll prevent the rooks
stealing the food once and for all.
Tues 12th July Tonight's proposed badger watch has been
cancelled and I confess to being slightly relieved - there's so
much to do at this time of year. In the afternoon I made
some wooden latches for the new feeder cages to replace the
rather unsightly twisted wire arrangement. In the evening
I did what I thought would be the final crested tit nest check
but it turns out there'll be at least one more. The eight
active boxes were in the following states. Box 02: all
great tit chicks fledged and gone. Box 03: now in my shed, its
nest having gone to Glasgow University. Box 04:
damaged by woodpecker and the chicks gone, either fledged or
more likely having been eaten. Box 06: empty; even the
dead chicks found last time were gone. Box 10: a new
nest with at least three bald newly hatched chicks and 3 eggs.
A parent bird flew off when I arrived but I was not quick enough
to see which species; I'll have to come back another day.
Box 12: Empty nest with some woodpecker damage; the chicks have
gone, either fledged or eaten. Box 14: empty nest apart
from one unhatched egg. Box 20: empty nest; even the dead
chicks found last time were gone. Future
action includes removing the empty nests, refilling the small
boxes with dead pine wood and possibly fitting all boxes with
1.25 inch metal entrance holes to keep the woodpeckers out.
Weds 13th and Thurs 14 July Mostly golf and domestic stuff
but managed to top up some feeders and on Thurs took a chap to
the badger hide where we saw 2 badgers.
Fri 15th July Spent much of the day on squirrel and bird
feeders, refurbishing old ones and making new ones, the object
being for all feeders to be inside cages to prevent corvids from
stealing the peanuts and fat balls. A couple more sessions
and that should be it till the winter.
Sat 16th July Did more work on the feeders including putting
the finishing touches to the Milton Loch array and preparing the
Angle cage which I hope will go out tomorrow. Removed the
Maginon camera from the rocks in the Spey at Street of
Kincardine because I needed the tripod for something else.
It had recorded another video of the pine marten on the rocks in
the river, this time in daylight. It had also recorded
anglers interfering with the camera so it's probably just as
well I removed it. It can go back there outside the
Sun 17th July Bobby and I visited Box 10 and sat nearby for
20 minutes in the hope of seeing which bird has chicks in it.
No luck so I would have to come back later with a trail camera.
In the afternoon Bea and I and the dogs took the new feeder cage
to The Angle and set it up there. That completes the set
of four new feeder arrays: Milton Loch, The Angle, Community
Hall and Squirrel car park. In the evening I went back to
Box 10 and set up the Acorn camera a metre from it so we should
get some answers. I'll check it on Wednesday.
Mon 18th July Injured my back playing golf so no field work
for a couple of days.
Weds 20th July Checked the Acorn camera but it had recorded
nothing so am still none the wiser about which species is using
Thurs 21st July That's torn it - I tried playing golf again
and made my back much worse. Out of action now for quite
some time I should think; can hardly walk. In the days
that followed no fieldwork was possible but I was able to
prepare for upcoming events and keep in touch with the
government and others over burning issues of the day including
beavers and lynx.
Fri 29th July After yesterday's visit to the doctor where it
was established no permanent damage had been done to my back and
with much less pain going on I ventured out into the woods today
for the first time in a week. Found pine marten poo near
the far end of the Secret Path and then sat for a while with
binoculars near Box 10 and established it's great tits that have
chicks in it. Later the dogs and I went to
Auchgourish and found fox poo where a side track leads to two
abandoned chalets and pine marten poo near two fallen trees near
the start of the walk.
Sat 30th and Sun 31st July Checked all the woodland feeders -
they're all fine and definitely not being depleted as quickly
now that they are all in crow-proof cages. Set up the
Acorn camera on a busy badger path near sett AU 20 at
Auchgourish. I had intended to put it near the abandoned
chalets but couldn't find anywhere discrete enough.
Mon 1st Aug Checked the Acorn camera at sett AU 20 to find
the settings were all wrong; either it's gone all bolshie and
reset itself or I had a brain freeze when I set it up. The
dogs and I then went across the moor to the Otter Loch where the
lilies were in full bloom. We found an old goldeneye nest
box in a tree beside the loch but I was unable to get to it
without wellies so I don't know if it's still usable.
That's a job for another day.
Tues 2nd Aug Checked the Acorn camera to find that this
time it's working well but no wildlife recorded. On the
way home we called at the badger hide and strimmed the grass
ready for later. In the evening I took a family of 3 to
the hide and we had at least 3, probably 4, different badger on
view at close quarters.
Weds 3rd Aug to Sat 6th Aug Still struggling with a sore
back but managed to keep the feeders topped up and consoled
myself with watching lots of Olympics on TV.
Sun 7th Aug Was supposed to give a talk at the Hen Harrier
Highlands day on Cairngorm but it was cancelled due to wild
weather - I mean really wild! Andrea Goddard the organiser
asked that I commit what I was going to say to paper for
distribution so that the day was not a total loss. I
promised to do so.
Mon 8th Aug My back is improved somewhat so I checked the
two cameras at Auchgourish; they had taken some reasonable
videos of roe deer, plus one of a badger. Set up the
Bushnell camera beside our shed to try for mice.
Tues 9th Aug The Bushnell got some videos of mice, slugs,
beetles and a robin.
The mice seemed to prefer the peanuts to the biscuits but the
slugs were not so fussy.
A mouse beside our shed last night
on the Hen Harrier document for Andrea Goddard - nearly
finished. The jackdaws have found a way to
circumvent my cunning defence of the feeders behind the
community hall and are scoffing the peanuts so it was back to
the drawing board. Made some adjustments and only time
will tell if they make enough of a difference. In the evening I took a family of 4 to the badger hide
- we had 3 badgers.
Weds 10th Aug Day off.
Thurs 11th Aug Refined the
Bushnell set up with a close up lens for use once the rain
stops. Finished the Hen Harrier document. Took 5
people to the badger hide - we had 4 badgers.
Fri 12th to Mon 15th Aug I completed and
distributed my piece about hen harriers this morning, which is
quite appropriate on this the inglorious twelfth.
Here it is. For a pdf click
here. Managed the three trail cams at Auchgourish and
in the garden, achieving pictures of red and roe deer, mice, a
badger, robins and chaffinches. Since putting the feeders
in cages there has been a marked reduction in the rate at which
peanuts are being taken; clearly the rooks and jackdaws were a
bigger factor than I had realised. On the down side, some
peanuts have gone mouldy in the squirrel feeders so even
drilling holes in the wooden sides is not enough to ensure a
good enough air flow. I'll revisit the idea of an all-mesh
structure with a lid. Found pine marten poo on the small
footpath between the football pitch and the back of the Deshar
Road houses and also on the discrete path near the sock path
T-Junction. Clearly pine martens are about but not in
enough numbers to feature much on the trail cameras.
Attempted to photograph the moon from near Lochindorb but the
midges chased me away after only a few minutes. The
resulting pictures were not very good but I'll work on it.
On the way home there was a hedgehog toddling across the road
just south of Landmark at Carrbridge
Tues 16th to Thurs 18th Aug Managed to play golf
and win so my back is now OK I hope. Walked to Loch
Vaa and found pine marten poo on a couple of the tracks.
Had another go at photographing the moon with slightly better
results than the last attempt. Built and installed a new
all-mesh feeder and almost at once found mouldy food in another
feeder so I'll have to set up a production line of mesh feeders.
Checked the cameras at Auchgourish; the Maginon had taken
nothing at all and the Acorn had recorded a deer, a badger and a
pine marten. Did some reading ahead of tomorrow's badger
meeting in Perth.
Fri 19th Aug Drove to Perth for a
Scottish Badgers meeting. Lots of hugely interesting and
progressive stuff on the table - came home pleased to be back
involved with them; I am to be nominated at the upcoming AGM to
return to the board of trustees.
Sat 20th Aug I took part in a
survey of wood ants in the south east quadrant of Deshar Wood.
Bea and I have surveyed for ants before but we were only
recording nest sites. This time I hoped to get a bit
more comfortable with deciding exactly which species I've found
but there simply wasn't time and we just recorded the locations
of ant nests of all species. Eight of us worked the
morning session and six in the afternoon. I don't know how
many nests we found and recorded altogether but I found six and,
if that was typical, you do the maths. At lunchtime at a
demolished cairn on top of a small hill we swapped wildlife
stories. Some of the company saw a large brown bird flying
through the trees and declared it was either a goshawk or a
female capercaillie. What? Speaking of capercaillie,
we found a couple of moulted male tail feathers so that was a
nice prize for two of us.
Sun 21st Aug Checked the two
cameras at Auchgourish, one of which had a nice video of a
badger feverishly marking the track near the sett. I
uploaded a copy to YouTube which you can see
Someone had erected a palette at the gate suggesting they don't
want people to go in there, although there was no sign to
actually say so. To avoid hassle I decided to remove the
cameras for the time being while the situation clarifies but I
couldn't do so today as I did not have the padlock keys with me.
Mon 22nd Aug Went to Auchgourish
early and removed the trail cameras. Built a new squirrel
feeder and removed the mouldy one from behind the community
Tues 23rd Aug Fitted the new
all-mesh feeder behind the community hall; one more to make and
then all the feeding stations will have all-mesh feeders and be
better equipped to cope with the damp of winter. Got
a call from an Australian family wanting to go the hide this
evening, their last evening in the area, so I took them. I
was pleased I did because we had a great evening with close-up
views of 4 badgers and a pine marten. The guests were just
Weds 24th Aug to Sat 27th Aug
Made more new feeders to complete the job of replacing
everything in the woods before winter. All three stations
now each have a cage containing a new mesh bird feeder and a new
mesh squirrel feeder. There's just Milton Loch to double
check. More ant surveys are now planned for the next few
weeks and I'll muck in at some of them. The last one was a
bit too much for my old joints; five hours of trudging through
rough woodland undergrowth took two days to recover from.
Started experimenting with time-lapse photography with mixed
results. Tested out some different film editing
software and to my surprise found the easiest way to string
stills together as a movie is to use Windows Movie Maker as a
first step. Other, more complicated, systems are a bit
awkward to manipulate still images with but can be used later to
create different versions (eg GIFs) of movies made with the
simple Windows tool. On Friday evening we spotted a dead
badger at Drumuillie on the A95 at NH 9497 2026. On
Saturday I took a couple to the hide where, before reaching the
hide, one of the guests spotted an otter in the Spey, foraging
near the far bank. We watched the otter for five minutes
till it swam off downstream, then, as well as scattering peanuts
and dribbling honey on tree trunks in the usual way, I screwed
two screws into a tree trunk and balanced an egg on them in case
Tuesday's pine marten should return. Once in the hide we
soon had badgers on view. The most we saw at one time was
four so it was a lovely evening, despite no pine marten
appearing this time.
Sun 28th Aug and Monday 29th Aug
A quiet day on Sunday then on Monday Bea and I went looking for
narrow headed ants in the field along the western edge of Deshar
Wood. No luck, but back at home we looked into what
constitutes ideal habitat for these rare ants and have come up
with some ideas about other sites to search. We must also
re-check the site of a nest that used to be in use along the
Sustrans cycle track, although the last time we checked it was
inactive, due we think to being shaded out by the pine trees
that are much taller and thicker than when the nest was last
seen active. In the evening I checked the badger hide to
see if the pine marten had found the egg I balanced on screws on
Saturday - it had not. Nothing daunted I set up the
Bushnell camera there in the hope of catching the moment when
the pine marten eventually finds the egg. I stayed for a
while to watch a couple of badgers and take more photos.
Back at home I read through the agenda for tomorrow's Link
Wildlife Group meeting at Stirling and looked into a few
relevant issues online.
Tues 30th Aug Awoke to a report
by Craig Anderson on BBC Radio Scotland about a gamekeeper who
is claiming that the eagles and the hen harrier that have gone
missing recently have been killed by bird activists to make the
estates look bad. These people must be desperate to come
up with such nonsense. Attended a meeting of the
ScotLink Wildlife Group in Stirling. Main items included
Species Champions, The State of Nature report and National
Ecological Networks. More meetings are planned
Weds 31st Aug Checked the badger
sett AU SE. Fresh dung in the latrines and fresh
excavations so all is well.
Thurs 1st Sept Dead hedgehog on the road just inside the
southern edge of Nethy Bridge. Checked the database for
the map reference of the narrow-headed ant nest that used to
exist beside the Sustrans Cycle Path at Boat and programmed it
in to the GPS rerady to go looking for it again. Tried to
catch up on overdue paperwork and emails from recent meetings -
it took ages and I still hadn't finished before bed time.
Fri 2nd Sept Began by checking the egg and the camera at
the badger hide: the egg was still there and the camera just had
a few badger videos on it so the pine marten has not been to
call in the last few days. Checked several feeders around
the woods and was pleased to see there is no mould in evidence
at any of them so I hope that means the new all-mesh designs are
doing their job. Did yet more badger admin then in the
evening I took a lady and her teenage son to the hide where we
saw 3 badgers; it was just a short visit because the guests had
a long drive home next day.
Sat and Sun 3rd and 4th Sept A weekend of domestic duties
Mon 5th Sept Walked with the dogs from Milton to the march
stone on the summit of what I know as Sluggan Hill -
2 hours, 5.5km, 270m height gain. Found ancient fox and
pine marten poo along the way but nothing fresh. Took a
party of four to the hide; two of the guest were from Winsconsin
which is known as the Badger State which was lovely. We
had four badger in view at one point so the guests were
thrilled. The egg was still balanced on its pair of screws
on the tree trunk so the pine martens haven't yet found it.
Videos on the Bushnell showed badgers licking honey off that
tree and climbing up to sniff at the egg but they didn't take
it. I thought the egg would be going off by now so I put
it on the ground and balanced a fresh egg on the screws.
When badgers came out they had a sniff at the egg on the ground
but did not appear to know what to do with it - maybe it smells
a bit offish.
One of the badgers checking out an egg
Tues 6th to Fri 9th Sept With a trip abroad looming and lots
of prep to do I was mostly concerned with catching up with paper
while trying to stay ahead of the demands of the customers at
all the bird feeders. I was pleased to receive and
accept an invitation to speak at the 2nd All-Ireland Pine Marten
Symposium next month. My topic will be Living In A
Changing Countryside, dealing with the return of some species
that are not always convenient to have around the place.
At Auchgourish I found some very fresh pine marten poo so the
trail camera may well go back out there. I went to check
sett AU 03 and found it to be little used at the moment,
although there was dung in a latrine that could only have been a
week old. On the plus side I found a single tunnel outlier
that I had not found before and which was clearly in current
use; I named it AU Sett 21. Worked on the text for my talk
in Ireland and began creating a PowerPoint presentation
including writing off for permission to use images belonging to
other people and organisations.
Sat 10th to Mon 12th Sept Mostly domestic but while out with
the dogs had a long chat with an angler and his gilly on the
Spey. Quite encouraging as both seemed to appreciate the
value of a healthy environment. We even managed to talk
about beavers without them freeking out. I managed to
write my talk for Ireland and create a suitable PowerPoint,
including writing for permission to use some images that don't
belong to me, all of which were approved without delay.
Tues 13th to Sat 17th Sept Several days of tick-over, keeping
the bird feeders topped up and preparing for various upcoming
events. At Auchgourish we found a dead common shrew on the
path at NH 9505 1586, badger latrines are still being topped up
and fox and pine marten poo abounds. The eggs at the
badger hide have still not attracted pine martens - must be the
wrong sort of eggs or something - but the camera did record roe
deer, badgers of course and a brown hare. On Friday
a visit to the hide was enjoyed by a couple from New Zealand; we
had five badgers on view at one point. Next week I am to
receive a visit from our local police wildlife crime officer so
some preparation is required to gain the most from it because
although we do not have immediate issues hereabouts we need to
have a clear system in place to be able to react prompty the
next time there's an incident. The National Park has been
in touch to say that Scottish Environment Link has started a new
initiative called Link Local which is a kind of address book and
possibly an effort to try to coordinate efforts by local
wildlife groups. I quite like that so I signed BoGWiG up
and we'll see where it goes.
Sun 18th Sept Took part in phase two of the Deshar Wood wood
and survey. We found 48 nests and had close encounters
with roe deer, crested tit, bullfinch and a capercaillie.
We also found a badger latrine right in the middle of the pine
forest where there are no setts at all and nothing that could
represent a territorial boundary; slightly odd.
Me with one of the many wood ant nests that we found
Mon 19th and Tues 20th Sept Not much happened on Monday but
had a super visit to the badger hide on Tuesday. The
Bushnell camera had recorded a pine marten taking one of the 4
eggs I had fixed to trees (2 of the other 3 were also missing)
so we were hopeful the same pine marten would come back for
more. Not only did this not happen but a badger climbed
the tree and stole the remaining egg before the pine marten had
a chance at it.
Pine marten taking the egg. Note the badger in the
background watching how it's done
Weds 21st Sept In the morning I held a very useful meeting at
our house with Dan Sutherland, our local Police Wildlife Crime
Liason Officer. It wouldn't be appropriate to go into
detail here but I'm now up to date on structure and procedures
and so feel better able to act effectively when incidents occur
in future. In the evening Bea and Alison Greggans and I
attended the Charlie Philips presentation in Eden Court about
Thurs 22nd and Fri 23rd Sept No wildife work but was busy
preparing for the weekend and next week.
Sat 24th Sept I was triple booked on Saturday, it being the silly
season for AGMs and conferences. I decided reluctantly to
pass on the Humanist Society of Scotland Conference and the
Scottish Badgers Conference in favour of attending the Scottish
Wildlife Trust AGM and Members Day at the National Museum of
Scotland in Edinburgh. It was a marvellous occasion,
beautifully organised by our brilliant staff and with plenty of
excellent presentations and two lively Question and Answer
sessions. The Trust is in good heart, has passed the
40,000 members target and is pressing ahead with a bold agenda.
I really enjoyed the chance to catch up with old friends and was
particularly pleased that some of the conversations had quite
useful outcomes. Sunday was a day of rest.
Mon 26th Sept Fresh fox poo on the main track at Auchgourish
at NH 9480 1695. Took three people to the hide in the
evening where we had four badgers and a frog. I retrieved
the Bushnell camera from its tree; the card had 60 videos,
mostly of badgers plus one of a pine marten at 2020 on 22nd
Sept. One of the videos showed a badger climbing the tree
and dislodging the egg that I had placed there for the pine
martens, another showed a badger climbing the tree and falling
off. Fortunately it had not climbed very high but I might
have to re-think the plan. One of the people I follow on
Twitter uses a lift-the-lid squirrel feeder in which to place
his pine marten eggs so I might try that.
Tues 27th to Fri 30th Sept Preparation and travel for our
Danube holiday. Daughter Lesley and her boyfriend Simon
arrived to house-sit and dog-sit while we are away. I'm
really grateful to both of them.
Sat 1st to Mon 10th Oct Holiday cruising up and down the
River Danube. Lots of birds and trees seen but this was
just a relaxing holiday with no great wildlife aspirations.
The most notable wild thing we came across was the Croatian unit
of currency which is the Kuna. Kuna translates into
English as Marten, which is a most timely discovery as I was
about to go to Ireland to speak at their Pine Marten Symposium.
Evidently the marten was on the seal of the Croatian parliament
in the 18th and 19th centuries and is still depicted on some
Croatian coins. Martens are popular in Croatia due
to their reputation of helping to deal with any over-population
of nuisance rodents such as rats. I shall open my talk in
Ireland with that marvellous piece of information.
Tues 11th and Weds 12th Oct Two days of frantically
catching up on ten days of emails and refilling bird feeders -
the usual stuff. At Auchgourish foxes and pine martens
have been busily leaving their marks along the tracks.
Thurs 13th to Sun16th Oct Travelled to South Armagh in
Ireland for the 2nd All Ireland Pine Marten Symposium. I
was privileged to be asked to give the opening address which I
thoroughly enjoyed doing and which seemed to go down well.
More than 90 people from Scotland, England, Wales and Ireland
attended the event and on the first day there were talks by 13
expert speakers on various aspects of what the return of pine
martens means for Ireland; all this was followed by a dinner and
social evening. On the second day there was a briefing on
technical aspects of pine marten nest boxes followed by a field
trip to see these boxes in action. I did not go on the
field trip as I had a plane to catch. As for what was
learned; there's too much to go into detail. I really enjoyed
spending part of the social evening chatting with Emma Sheehy
who led the research in Ireland and who is carrying out further
work in Scotland. What seems clear is that the pine marten
poses no threat whatsoever to red squirrels, neither does it
threaten babies or sheep (there have been some crazy rumours
circulated by the anti brigade). The hoped for proof
of impact by pine martens on grey squirrels could not be
confirmed although there is plenty of evidence suggesting that
might happen. Sadly the evidence is all circumstantial at
the moment but there is so much of it that it seems quite
compelling, but we'll have to wait and see. It may
be that pine martens cause grey squirrel populations to collapse
once the density of pine martens reachs a certain level - but
even that cannot yet be proved. Fingers crossed for the
Mon 17th Oct Spent much of the day tidying up after the
Ireland trip but found time to start preparing for a talk next
month about "People and Wildlife in the Cairngorms". Out
with the dogs at Auchgourish we found on a stone the most neat
and tidy set of pine marten scats I have ever seen.
Tues 18th Oct Was contacted by Scottish Badgers to the
effect that a badger sett has been damaged behind Tesco's in
Inverness. Emily Platt will try to set up a meeting
at the site between me and the Wildlife Crime Officer tomorrow.
Walked the Kincardine riverside path in the afternoon and found
a pine marten scat on the path about 100m downstream from a
point level with the badger hide. Speaking of the hide, in
the evening I took a family of five to the hide and we saw at
least four badgers. No pine marten though.
Weds 19th Oct Attended a badger sett near Tescos in
Inverness with the police WCLO to check on possible disturbance
by contractors. Thankfully there was no harm done and the
work has been stopped while a plan is devised. Good
result. Continued working on my next public talk.
Thurs 20th Oct Various walks with the dogs and it was
really noticeable how many pine martens had been eating rowan
berries - they simply cannot digest the skins so their scats are
very obvious, giving I expect a false impression of the number
of pine martens in the area.
Fri 21st Oct Took a friend and her grandchildren to the
badger hide and we had three badgers close to the hide to
everyone's delight. I put an egg out for the pine marten
but it didn't turn up. During the drive home we
disturbed a tawny owl on a roadside fence post at Street of
Sat 22nd Oct Our local ranger organised the third in her
series of ant surveys this morning. I ducked out claiming
sore joints but evidently she had plenty of other volunteers.
I met them at the start and it was good to meet Andrea Goddard
for the first time, she being the lady who organised the
Cairngorm Hen Harrier Day event that had to be cancelled due to
the weather. I told her if she was organising another one
we could hold it in the Boat Hall and the local wildlife group
would pay for it. In the evening Bea and i attended
a talk in Boat Hall by Doug Smith from Yellowstone National
Park. Doug was hired by the US Government to reintroduce
wolves to the Park all those years ago and is still in charge of
the scheme. It was very interesting but I don't think we
learned much that we did not know already. It was a shame
Doug thought England had reintroduced beavers but Scotland had
not; I put him straight after the talk. I also told him
about the Scottish Reintroductions Forum which has been hailed
as such a remarkable achievement by IUCN. In the end
though his thoughts on how to handle opponents to
reintroductions pretty much matched my own: get talking to them
early and behind closed doors rather than slogging it out in
public if at all possible.
Sun 23rd Oct Digested an article in the Strathy (6th Oct
16) written by Fergus Ewing, Cabinet Secretary for Rural
Economy, about decision making in the Cairngorms NP. He
thinks environment has too high a priority and that businesses
are not getting a fair crack of the whip. In the process
he revealed how poorly he understands the decision making
process in the Park. He thinks the Sandford Principle, in
which the Park's first aim (Natural and Cultural Heritage) gets
priority, is applied in every case when in fact it's only
applied that way where there is irreconcilable conflict. Quite
disgraceful for someone in his position. I gather the
article has not gone down well in high places.
Mon 24th Oct Pine marten scats still much in evidence.
Saw a kestrel at the big bend in the Spey at NH 9370 1758.
Tues 25th Oct Took a family of 6 to the badger hide.
Super evening in which we had 4 badgers close to the hide.
Weds 26th Oct SSE wish to remove some huge electricity
towers from within Garten Woods but there are access limitations
caused by a number of factors including the presence of badger
setts in that part of the wood. RSPB warden Jason and I
walked the area and confirmed the exact location of the active
setts so that Jason can plan a route for the big machines to get
in and out without disturbing the badgers. Time well spent
and a good outcome.
Thurs 27th Oct Spent the day in Edinburgh. Got the
train down in the morning and attended a ScotLink meeting at SWT
HQ at Leith to do with Natural Ecological Networks (NEN).
The Chair will circulate a draft of where we're at for comment.
In the evening, as a member of the Cairngorms NP team, I
attended a reception at Scottish Parliament celebrating 20 years
of Biodiversity Partnerships. There were a number of
speeches including a lively one by Roseanna Cunningham, Cab Sec
for Environment. There ensued the usual very useful
networking session and I got a lift home in the Cairngorms NP
Fri 28th to Mon 31st Oct Caught up on domestic stuff over
the weekend then on Monday settled down to completing BTO nest
records for the 2016 season and sending off my application for
next year's Schedule One license. Put the finishing
touches to my talk for next weekend. Planned out my
travel and accommodation requirements for November which is
pretty full of meetings.
Tues 1st Nov Buzzard eating worms on the 6th fairway at
Abernethy GC this morning - or at least that's what it looked
like. Spoke at length with a former colleague about
golf clubs and the environment and how clubs can be encouraged
to enhance the wildlife on their courses. In the
evening attended a meeting about a proposed all-abilities path
in our woods and a loosely associated art project, both aimed at
connecting people with nature. Still finding lots of
fox and pine marten scats when out with the dogs.
Interesting that the dogs ignore pine marten poo but are
sometimes interested enough in fox poo to piddle on it.
Weds 2nd and Thurs 3rd Nov In the Auchgourish area an
impressive number of lodge pole pine trees have been felled, I
guess with a view to replacing them with native species at some
future point. On Thursday morning we disturbed a large
male capercaillie in Boat woods in a small clearing that we used
to know as collie Bobby's favourite snow patch because it was
always the last to melt in Spring and he used to delight in
rolling in it.
Large Male Capercaillie
Fri 4th to Tues 8th Nov Fox and
pine marten continue to amaze me with their territorial marking
all across the area. Gave a talk to the Cairngorms Campaign AGM
in Kingussie on Saturday. The session was supposed to last
20 minutes but with a lively discussion actually went on for 90.
A dead badger at Gartenbeg was reported to me by two people - it
was on the A95 at NH 9591 2089. On Tuesday the ScotLink
Species Champions initiative was relaunched in the Scottish
Parliament. It was led by Graeme Dey MSP and closed by
Roseanna Cunningham MSP with a total of 18 MSPs speaking.
I was impressed that some of them spoke quite boldly about the
nasty stuff that goes on in the countryside. Well done all
Weds 9th Nov With Bea, attended
the Scottish Wildcat Action Forum day at Strathdon organised by
the Cairngorms National Park. Terrific work being done by
all concerned. Presentations on lynx captive breeding in Spain,
SWA priorities, forest management for wildcats, small mammal
camera trapping, wildcat genetics and conservation breeding, a
year in the life of a project officer and a look ahead. As
well as being informative and inspirational the day was a superb
networking opportunity from which some interesting ideas
developed, more of which in this diary in the days ahead.
Back at home, spoke on the phone with SWT about another possible
future project and prepared for two days away in Edinburgh and
Thurs 10th Nov Chieftain train to
Edinburgh for the Species Champions event at Holyrood,
representing Scottish Badgers. Lots of people attended
including quite a few of the MSP Champions. I spoke to
some of the MSPs, not least Andy Whiteman, Alison Johnson, Colin
Smith and Graeme Dey. Another very useful networking
event. Took the Chieftain back to Perth and stayed the
night in the Station Hotel.
Fri 11th Nov All day meeting of
Scottish Badgers; Advisory Group in the morning and Trustees in
the afternoon. The organisation has come a long way since
my first involvement in the nineties; much better organised
under more professional governance arrangements. Chieftain
train home in the evening.
Sat 12th Nov Bea and I attend the
AGM of the Highland Biological Recording Group in the Boatof
Garten community hall. At home I took stock of the events
of the week, and committed my thoughts to paper - most of which
would be out of place here. Some email frustrations with
one organisation but that's kinda par for the course.
Sun 13th Nov Resolved the email
issue after a fashion then took the rest of the day off.
Mon 14th Nov Walked the crested
tit nest box circuit (20 boxes) to establish what work needs to
be done for the 2017 season. Roughly speaking, 4 need new
fronts (pesky woodpeckers) and 8 need to be re-stuffed with
rotten wood. On the way round I removed the old nests from
7 boxes. At box 9 there was half a dead rabbit at
the foot of the tree (weird), at box 12 a bird alarm called from
very close by and there was fresh nest material in the box (a
bit early!) and near box 10 a large male capercaillie flew out
of a tree. Back at home I made four new box fronts
to go out soon and hung a hessian sack full of wet rotten wood
in our heater cupboard for drying. That'll do for today.
Tues 15th Nov Collected more
rotten wood from the forest and started shredding it for the
nest boxes. In the evening Bea and I attended the SWT
North of Scotland Group meeting where we were treated to a talk
on Rewilding Dundreggan by Doug Gilbert from Trees For Life who
is the operations manager at Dundreggan Estate.
Weds 16th Nov Still trying to
resolve more email issues with one of the bodies with whom I deal.
I think someone's been too clever in setting up the forwarding
system. Reorganised the bird feeders in the garden.
Ordered more peanuts. Bea and I attended the
Highland Red Squirrel AGM at Dingwall despite a snowy forecast;
it felt quite brave of us but in the event there wasn't any.
Good meeting with a decent attendance for such a small group and
we managed to resolve a few things for another year
Shredding wood for nest boxes
Thurs 17th Nov Wrote up lots of wildlife stuff from meetings
past and prepared for next week's crop. Resolved to
try to get my head round Facebook which is increasingly being
used by small wildlife groups as an alternative to a website or
as an extra arm of one. Out and about with the dogs on a
frosty landscape. Got buzzed by a woodcock at Auchgourish,
not for the first time lately, and also continued to find
undigested rowan berries in pine marten scats. Set up my
badger colleagues as contacts and groups in my Hotmail account
due to continuing problems with Yahoo failing to communicate
reliably with them. If Hotmail turns out to be more
trustworthy I will consider migrating there from Yahoo
Fri 18th Nov Finally got round to rejigging the squirrel car
park feeding station and setting up the Bushnell camera there to
see if the squirrels are active at the moment. We may be
collecting some for a translocation project in the near future.
It's amazing how much of the deer antler the squirrels have
gnawed away. Joined the Red Squirrels Of The Highlands
Facebook Group and posted some stuff there.
Sat 19th Nov Very cold morning at Kincardine where the dogs
and I walked a new route and found more pine marten scats
containing ill-digested rowan berries. Office admin took
up the rest of the morning, eg scheduled in another Link meeting
date and finalised and distributed the badger watch guide roster
for the next six months. Later I checked the Bushnell
camera at the squirrel car park feeder and established that the
red squirrels are frequenting the site - this to confirm the
feasibility of trapping squirrels here for a new translocation
project. A crersted tit took exception to my being there.
Packed bags for tomorrow's nest box session.
Sun 20th Nov A busy day. Filled the woodland feeders,
then Bea and I repaired the fronts of four crested
tit boxes that had been damaged by woodpeckers in the summer.
The circuit of 20 boxes is now almost ready for next year.
At home, while I was in nestbox mode, I cleaned out the nest boxes in our garden. Later
the dogs and I removed the Bushnell trail cam from the squirrel
car park; the footage showed at least two different red
squirrels, a woodpecker, a crested tit, a blue tit and two coal
tits. Finally I packed for two days away, firstly at
the Link Congress in Glasgow then a briefing for Scottish
Badgers Staff, Advisers and Trustees at the "Science and Advice for Scottish
Agriculture" (SASA) facility on how it supports the authorities
in investigating wildlife crime.
Nest Box With A New Front. Note that this is
its second such treatment
Mon 21st Nov The first of two
very interesting days away. Got the train to Glasgow and
walked to Jury's Inn for the ScotLink AGM and Congress.
There were no particular issues at the AGM so we could
concentrate on the Congress, the first part of which had to do
with the effects of Brexit and how we could keep the environment
on the agenda throughout the process. I'll not go into the
details here other than to say there is so much uncertainty that
no obvious direction of travel was revealed. There are
many threats and a few opportunities so we have to stay alert
and impress on any decision makers we come across the importance
of taking the environment into account at every stage.
One of the opportunities will be the removal of CAP and deciding
what might replace it. Environmentalists agree that any
financial help for farmers must be in return for environmental
benefit on their farms. Later in the day we split into
workshops to talk about particular aspects of Link's work and
there was a thoroughly useful and enjoyable networking dinner in
Tues 22nd Nov This was a day for
talking strategy and about 20 of the delegates stayed for the
first session. Eddie Palmer and I had to leave at
lunchtime and drive to Edinburgh for a briefing organised by the
staff of Scottish Badgers at SASA on the use of forensics in
investigating wildlife crime. The session was very well
attended and was informative although for those of us who have
been involved with badgers for any length of time there were no
real surprises. Eddie dropped me off at Perth station and
I got the train home in the evening.
Weds 23rd Nov A freezing start to
the day with dangerous ice on local roads. Wee dog Max
found a badger latrine under a tree on the river bank at
Kincardine and there were many geese in the fields and ducks on
the river. Back at home Heather reported that there was a
flock of fieldfares on the rowan tree in our garden yesterday.
Read through my many notes from the past two days to try to make
sense of some of it - not easy. In the afternoon the dogs
and I found a badger tunnel we had failed to find last time we
looked for it (AU03). We only got it this time because the
bracken has collapsed and the badgers had cleaned the tunnel
out, making a fairly obvious spoil heap. Later I
reorganised the feeders behind the community hall - long
overdue. In doing so I received helpful vocal advice from
2 crested tits and a tree creeper.
Thurs 24th Nov This was a red
letter day for conservation in Scotland; Roseanna Cunningham
announced to the world that beavers were now a native species
once more after a 400 year absence. I cannot begin to say
how I feel about this. I have been involved in
attempts to bring this about since the year 2000, including
Chairing the trial reintroduction of beavers that began in 2008.
I guess there's no more to be said - as Professor Simon Milne
remarked in a suitable brief email to me later that day, "We did
it". Nuff said. What next? The beavers
in Tayside can now be properly managed for their own benefit and
the benefit of farmers for whom beaver-related flooding has been
an issue and the small population of beavers in Argyle can now
be reinforced with a fresh input of young animals.
In the evening Bea and I went to the Grant Arms Hotel in
Grantown on Spey to say Hi to Nick Baker and to hear Derek Gow (who had
quarantined our beavers down in Devon in 2008) talk about the
history of wolves in Britain. It was a slightly strange
and tense evening for some reason when it ought to have been one
of abandoned celebration. People are odd.
Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham and me and a
beaver in 2009
Fri 25th Nov I headed for Edinburgh to join
with Ellie Stirling and Eddie Palmer, Secretary and Chairman
respectively of Scottish Badgers, to meet with Dr Paul Monaghan
MP from Caithness. Paul had recently led a debate in the
House of Parliament on the ludicrous badger cull and wished to
discuss the whole business in a Scottish context and get our
views. We all took something from the meeting; Paul gained
an insight into the priorities and issues concerning badgers in
Scotland and we learned something more about the political
process at Westminster and how attitudes and ambitions down
there could have unexpected consequences for Scotland, for
example that some politicians would like to see a time where
cattle from England could be moved to Scotland with the
attendant risk of bringing bovine TB with them. We must
all fight to prevent such a disaster.
Sat 26th to Weds 30th Nov
Preparation for various meetings, topping up feeders and
planning the next step in nest box preparation occupied some of
the weekend. On Monday I went to Stirling for a meeting of
the ScotLink wildlife group at which I managed to avoid getting
another job while contributing to affairs to some extent.
On Tuesday I spent some time collecting photographs and
providing a quote for an upcoming article in the Strathy about
beavers. Also on Tuesday Ian Thomson, investigations
officer of RSPB Scotland, gave evidence to the Justice Committee
at Holyrood on the, in our opinion, unsatisfactory performance
of the Crown Office in dealing with wildlife crime. He
then reported on the experience at our Wildlife Crime Task Force
meeting on Wednesday in Edinburgh. The whole
thing is available to view on the Scottish Parliament website.
Thurs 1st to Sun 4th Dec Set up the Bushnell at the badger
hide to see if the badgers would eat the almonds that came as a
substitute with a recent Tesco order. The footage made it
very clear indeed that badgers like almonds. Refilled the
feeders around the woods and noted that crested tits are much in
evidence. Made final plans to fill the crested tit boxes
with the dead wood that I have been drying for the past few
weeks. Hope to get it done on Monday as the present spell
of dry weather is forecast to come to an end on Tuesday.
Downloaded the official Scottish Government beaver announcement
for future reference; I hope the legislation is enacted (if
that's the right word) without too much delay.
Wrestled with various bits of video software but most of them
don't work too well on my laptop; it's too slow. Have
concluded that a combination of Windows Movie Maker, VLC and a
free GIF maker fit my social media needs well enough. Any
serious stuff can be done on the main computer which can just
about handle Magix Movie.
Mon 5th Dec Minus 8 and fingers were sticking to metal
tools so postponed nest box work till it warms up later in the
week. Spent much of the day working on travel plans for
our whale watching trip in April - not an easy task but we made
progress. Got some really cheap first class train tickets
Tues 6th Dec Bea and I and the dogs started to refill some
of the crested tit nest boxes with rotten wood. There were
seven left to do but we only had enough material to fill four so
I've got to go gathering and drying rotten wood again.
Later I retrieved the Bushnell camera from the badger hide; it
had more than forty videos of badgers eating nuts and grooming.
Weds 7th Dec It was twenty degrees warmer this morning
(plus 12 degs) than yesterday morning (minus 8 degs).
Crazy weather. I removed all the hazel nuts and almonds
from the squirrel feeders because the squirrels simply are not
eating them - we had the same mysterious issue last winter.
I replaced the hazel nuts and almonds with peanuts in the old
Thurs 8th to Sat 10th Dec Friday was mostly Christmas
stuff. On Saturday Bea and I went to the badger hide to check
the goldeneye boxes; all three were fine but we topped up the
wood shavings in two of them. We then checked the pine
marten nest box. The lid has rotted away at one end so
needs replacing but otherwise the box is as strong as ever.
To our surprise, inside the box there was the skeleton of a
hare. At first we thought it was rabbit but the legs
seemed too long so we then suspected hare. Sure enough,
when we got home and checked the diagrams it was definitely
hare. I posted a picture on Twitter and there was a lot of
reaction. Some thought the hare might have been scavenged
rather than the pine marten having killed it, which is perfectly
possible. Someone else wondered if a different predator
had caught the hare and stashed the carcase in the box but I
ruled that out on the grounds that the box is quite high in the
tree and the entrance is quite small and I could not think of a
predator other than a pine marten that is strong enough and
agile enough to achieve such a thing. I even found myself
wondering if a pine marten was strong enough to catch a live
hare but the Vincent Wildlife Trust told me that martens in the
USA catch snowshoe hares so I daresay they are. We'll
never know for certain what happened.
Skeleton Of A Hare Found In A Pine Marten Nest Box
Sun 11th and Mon 12th Dec On Sunday a group of eight of us
helped Alison the Ranger with the next phase of the wood ant
survey in Boat Woods. It's a big undertaking so we're
doing it in bits and pieces; the next session is in January.
On Monday Bea and I joined two young guys, Will and Chris, at
Achantoul, Aviemore for a day of training by Hebe Carus for the
Trap, Neuter, Vaccinate and Release (TNVR) scheme for feral cats
to help halt the hybridisation of Scottish Wildcats. We're
proud to be helping build a future in Scotland for wildcats.
Later I topped up some woodland feeders; the birds and squirrels
are suddenly emptying them much faster than a month ago.
A Hissing Wildcat (taken more
than a decade ago at Kingussie)
Tues 13th to Fri 16th Dec Not much happened on Tues but on
Weds I headed to Edinburgh for the annual Scottish Environment
Link Christmas get-together. As usual it was one of the
best networking opportunities of the year, attended by most of
the good and the great of the Scottish environmental world plus
a fair smattering of MSPs past and present. I got home on
Thursday in time to take a family of three to the badger hide
but despite waiting for 3 hours no badgers turned up. On
Friday I had a meeting with SNH in Aviemore concerning the
Scottish Wildcat Action project.
Sat 17th and Sun 18th Dec Some interesting dog walks that
included sightings of heron, capercaillie and several pine
marten scats in the Loch Vaa area of Boat woods. Heather
and I having completed some wildcat survey training, I set up
the Bushnell camera and a chicken wing at Auchgourish as a kind
of practice session before we are called upon to do the thing
for real in the New Year.
Mon 19th to Sat 31st Dec Mostly family festive stuff but I
managed to keep the feeders topped up and monitor the Bushnell
camera at Auchgourish which so far has only captured a fox.
During this period, while out with the dogs, I saw at various
times most of the tit family including some cresties, a
capercaillie, a tree creeper and a red squirrel.
Also, Bea and I went to the badger hide and measured the pine
marten nest box for a new lid. Looking to the future, I
caught up with most of the wildcat documents that the Scottish
Wildcat Action staff had supplied in readiness for my becoming
more involved in the project next year. Looking
back, I will always remember 2016 as the year when beavers were
finally promised official naturalisation after an absence of 400
years. My personal involvement in helping bring this about
is something of which I shall always be very proud.