Allan Bantick OBE welcomes you to the Cairngorm Wildlife Diary for 2022

Most of the badger sightings mentioned here were made at the Strathspey Badger Hide. If you would like to go, click here for booking details.

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

The diary will usually be updated daily.   For comments on wider issues and for images and videos, please follow  @AllanBoat  on Twitter or Allan Bantick on Facebook or go to my YouTube channel.

Sun 2nd Jan.  Kate from BogWig delivered two broken peanut feeders from Milton |Loch for repair and collected some peanuts.

Mon 3rd Jan.   It snowed quite heavily.

Tues 4th Jan.  Mostly just slept.

Weds 5th Jan.  Saw fox footprints in the snow along Donald's track.   Repaired the two broken feeders.

Thurs 6th Jan.  Took the repaired feeders and reinstalled them, complete with peanuts, at Milton Loch.  Whilst there I noticed the feeder cage was looking tatty with broken strands of netting so the plan was to go back next day to fix it.

Sat 8th Jan.  Disturbed a woodcock beside the main track near Box 16.   Thought I had found a badger footprint in snow along the caper track but there was only one so perhaps not.

Sun 9th Jan.   Checked the three trail cams at the badger hide.  The new tawny owl box had seen no action at all. There was one video at the old tawny box of a tawny perched on top of the box, which told us nothing useful about whether or not the owl I found in the box a few weeks ago was alive or dead.  The camera at the big badger sett revealed that badgers had only emerged from their snowy lairs during four of the first eight nights of the year.  The most badgers seen simultaneously was four in one video; Bling was not seen in any of the footage.

Thurs 13th Jan.   It was less cold today so I ventured out and repaired the feeder cage at Milton Loch.  Lots of birds on the loch and a few tourists enjoying the peace and quiet.

Sat 15th Jan.  Received a hospital letter inviting me to phone them to fix a date for my CT scan.

Mon 17th Jan.   Checked the three cameras at the badger hide.  No activity at all at either of the two owl boxes but quite a lot of action at the big badger sett with up to five badgers plus a few mice and roe deer.  Bling with its snare was not seen.  Phoned the hospital and agreed Mon 24th Jan for my CT scan.  Fingers crossed.

Tues 18th Jan.  Managed 9 holes of golf.

Weds 19th Jan.  Topped up the woodland bird feeders. 

Sat 21st Jan.  Heather and I went to the badger hide and set up three trail cameras: one to watch the new tawny owl box, one to watch the old tawny owl box to determine if the owl in it was dead or sleeping and one to watch the big main badger sett and acquire some new snowy footage of badgers if the current forecast for light snow turns out to be correct. 

Mon 24th Jan.  Had a CT scan of my chest at Raigmore Hospital in Inverness.  We await the result.

Tues 25th Jan.  Checked the three trail cameras at the badger hide.  No activity at either of the owl boxes but quite a lot of badger action at the big sett.  There was a moderate stampede of 6 roe deer near the new tawny owl box and a pine marten had run across the big badger sett.  Checked the garden camera and once again there was no hedgehog action so I peeped into the hibernation box and it was empty, as we were beginning to suspect.  Unlike last winter, when we had lots of videos of bedding collection in the autumn of 2020, we had seen no such activity in autumn 2021, neither were we seeing the kind of occasional activity that we might have expected during this mild winter.  Pity.  Must ask our neighbour if his box is being used.  Sadly, the short trip to the badger hide to check the cameras in the morning just about floored me so finding someone else to take on the badger hide job is becoming a priority.

Sat and Sun 29 and 30 Jan.   Two severe storms over the week that caused a lot of damage in the Highlands with hundreds of trees down and power cuts.  Thankfully we were not affected but Carrbridge was.

Tues 1st Feb.  Checked the cameras at the hide.  Hundreds of videos recorded, mostly triggered by the storm winds.  No tawny images at all and just a few of badgers.  Strangely, on 1st Feb all three cameras ignored the time settings that said they should switch on at 4pm and off at 8am every day.  Will have to reset them.

Weds 2nd Feb.  Went back to the hide to sort out the cameras.  Collected the solar panels and brought them home to fit it with brackets in the workshop ready to go back up again.  The cameras were still not shutting down for daytime, as they were supposed to do, but I reset them and hope they'll do better next time.  Still no videos of our tawny owls but there were a few badger videos.  Part of the main sett had been re-excavated and there was a busy latrine with plenty of black, slimy poo so all seems well with the family.

Sun 6th Feb.  Restored the squirrel feeder to the Angle feeding station, a job I should have done months ago.  Got a letter from the hospital to say the CT scan did reveal lung problems and the consultant will see me soon.

Mon 7th Feb.  Did likewise with the feeding cage at the squirrel car park  by putting the squirrel feeder back in the cage.

Tues 8th Feb.  Spent part of the day in the shed building steel brackets and fixing them to the solar panels which were then ready to be returned to the badger hide and mounted on the south-facing wall.  In the afternoon I set up a camera in the garden of a friend who lives in Nethy Bridge to try to see what animal is making small holes in their lawn.  Probably badger, but you just never know.

Weds 9th Feb.   Met a bunch of birdwatchers in the woods near one of the feeding cages.  A crestie turned up while we were chatting.

Thurs 10th Feb.  Very snowy in the woods after a fall last night but it was very wet and would likely not lay for long.  Checked the camera in my friend's garden but no wildlife had ventured into his garden for the previous two nights.  I left the camera there for the next few days.

Fri 11th Feb.   Two woodpeckers were hammering away at their trees on Fairy Hill this morning despite the temperature being well below freezing with ice and snow on the ground.

Sun 13th Feb.  Bea and I to the badger hide to take some measurements and decide on next steps in reinstalling the solar panels.  All we need now is some decent weather to do the job.  While we were there we checked the three trail cameras.  There was no action at either of the owl boxes but there was quite a bit of toing and froing at the badger sett.  Also at the badger sett there were people with torches at 11pm one night having a look around, which they are entitled to do but it felt a bit suspicious.  The fact that there is a holiday cottage only 200 metres away and the guests there are told about the badgers also suggests their visit was innocent curiosity, as is the fact that they found my camera but made no attempt to interfere with it.  I'll keep the footage on file just in case.

Mon 14th Feb.  Checked the camera in our friends' garden in Nethy Bridge.  First animals filmed were rabbits, which did not please our friends at all (they had no idea), but then came a big badger which did please our friends. Their drive is completely open to the main road with no gates so it's inevitable that wildlife will wander in.  No doubt deer and pine martens visit sometimes. 

Tues 15th Feb.  We were visited by two new young guides from Speyside Wildlife.  We exchanged lots of information about what we could do for them in their private activities, eg mist netting and ringing (Oliver) and camera trapping (Wayne), and we hoped that they might at some point be able to help us in some way.

Thurs 17th Feb.   I took Wayne and Oliver to the badger hide to show them around.  Sadly, we discovered that the roof of the pine marten nest box had blown off, the strap holding it on had snapped.  We checked the cameras while we were there - no action at all at either owl box and the usual carry-on at the badger sett including scent marking and mating.   I did not save any of the footage.

Fri 18th Feb.  It snowed all day.

Sat 19th Feb.  Topped up feeders at the squirrel car park and delivered a sack to one of our peanut elves.  Overdid things a bit again.  Still no consultant appointment.  May have to reduce my dog-walking duties until the snow goes.

Sun 20th Feb.  Heather did all the dog walking due to the lying snow causing me problems.

Mon 21st Feb.  Heather did all the dog walking again - they flushed a woodcock at some point.  The snow fell again but hopefully next day it will have thawed enough for me to go out.  Still no letter from the hospital.  Bad night.

Tues 22nd Feb.  Took Naproxene in the morning as an experiment - the morning walk felt easier.  Interesting.

Weds 23rd Feb.  Snow began to fall in the afternoon and was forecast to last for two days, then warming up at the weekend when I hoped to get some work done at the badger hide.  We postponed our planned trip to the Italian Islands planned for June in view of threats of war in Europe.   Later we looked into a possible trip to Mauritius in the Indian Ocean instead. 

Thurs 24th Feb.  Woke to the news of war in Ukraine and to 3 inches of snow and a blizzard at our house.  Spent much of the day re-editing my 2009 wildlife diary.  It was a really busy year with lots of high level meetings and three trips abroad.

Sat 26th Feb    Took the solar panels back to the badger hide ready to re-install next week.  Checked the three cameras at the hide - no action at the tawny owl boxes but quite a bit of action at the big badger sett, including two videos of Bling with its snare; it was good to see him/her still alive and kicking.  At last my hospital appointments arrived in the post - 15th March for more tests and a meeting with the consultant.

Sun 27th Feb.   Managed 9 holes of golf today for the first time since Christmas.  Played with a fellow club member and scored level fours (36) including an eagle 2 at the par four 1st hole.  Extraordinary.  Where on earth did that come from?  Unfortunately, the effort exhausted me; but I could not be more pleased.  

Mon 28th Feb.   Removed a broken feeder from the cage at The Angle junction and took it home for repair.  At home I rejigged our front garden feeder cage now that the weather has warmed up enough to work with bare fingers.

Weds 2nd Mar.  Repaired the broken feeder.

Thurs 3rd Mar.  Reinstalled the repaired feeder at the Angle feeder cage.  Assembled all the tools (I hope) I would need for Friday's attempt to install the solar panels on the badger hide wall.

Sat 5th March.   Packed the tools ready for an attempt with BoGWiG colleagues tomorrow to reinstall the solar panels on the wall of the badger hide.

Sun 6th Mar.   A marvelous day.  It started bright and sunny although freezing cold, but it soon warmed up.  I refilled the feeder at the Community hall and then Bea and I met BoGWiG stalwarts Kate and Andy at the badger hide gate where I handed over 6kg of peanuts for Milton Loch before we all walked across to the hide.  The job for the day was to install the solar panels on the north wall of the hide rather than have them on the roof where their fixings had caused leakage issues in the last two years.  The job went very well and having wired the panels back into their respective control panels the read-outs seemed to say that all was well.  I'll check back in a couple of days to make sure both batteries have filled up properly.  Next job is to put the roof back onto the pine marten box for which I'll seek help from another of our BoGWiG members.

Mon 7th Mar.  Out with the dogs in frosty, sunny weather - just beautiful.  Since Spring is approaching I kept an eye out for capercaillie and their droppings in the core area of the woods.  Sadly, nothing seen.  I did find some pine marten droppings in a place where I've found them before, marking where a minor animal track crosses a more major track, map ref NH 93037 18903.  Will consider putting a camera in there again.  In the evening I went to the badger hide for an hour to check that the solar panels really were working properly and to see if I could persuade some badgers to come out.  The answer was yes in both case.  All the lights were green on the solar panel displays and both batteries were full, and a badger emerged only five minutes after I scattered peanuts and called to them, and then after another ten minutes another two badgers turned up, one of which was Bling, our snared badger.

Tues 8th Mar.   Made the decision to keep the hide closed until April and for future years to go firm on the period 1st April to 31st October for the badger watching season.  This is slightly shorter than in some previous years but badger watching in March and November is often a very uncomfortable activity so we'll simply not do it.

Weds 9th March.  Walked the caper track looking for capercaillie and their droppings but failed on both counts.  Lekking will begin soon so will keep going over the next few weeks.

Thurs 10th Mar.  Short dog-walk this morning so that I could possibly play golf.  Found lots of insect activity in one of the four large puddles near the pump track but not in the other three - a bit strange.   Watched a red squirrel at the feeder behind the community hall.

Fri 11th Mar.  Did quite a lot on my wildlife diaries.  Realised later that some of them name names inappropriately so they will all have to be sanitised before they go public.

Sat 12th Mar.  Bobby collie and I did another search for capercaillie and droppings but with no success again.  We will keep trying over the next few weeks.  Did more diary work but spent much of the weekend watching football and golf on tv.

Sun 13th Mar.   In the morning Bobbie and I conducted another fruitless capercaillie search, during which we met two wildlife enthusiasts equipped with not only telescopes and cameras but also with sound recording equipment - they were looking for crossbills.  We had a long chat about wild stuff.  Later, Heather and I set up an old Bushnell camera at the bug hotel near the 8th Green at Abernethy to try to find out what has been burrowing underneath it.

Mon 14th Mar.  Bea and I went to the hide to check the cameras.  Nothing very exciting to report except that the camera called GE2 had packed up.  Sadly it was out of guarantee so that's that unless Handykam can be persuaded to try to fix it any way.  Truth be told, we have worked these cameras quite hard since we bought them.

Tues 15th Mar.  Important day at the hospital where I undertook breathing tests and then was interviewed by the consultant about the whole issue and what happens next.  I was diagnosed with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis which was not good news although I am to be given a course of treatment that could slow the progress of the disease.   Prognosis: 2 to 3 years on average but.......

Weds 16th Mar.   Still digesting yesterday's news.  I'm OK with it - had a great life.  Refilled the squirrel car park feeders.  One of the feeders was broken but I was able to make temporary repair without tools.  Spoke to two visiting wildlife tourists in the woods.

Thurs 17th Mar.  Found out today that our little dog Max has lung cancer, so it has been a bad week altogether.  We're trying to stay positive.

Fri 18th Mar.  We had a productive morning at the badger hide, although I should point out that my wife Heather and BoGWiG volunteer Craig did all the work, for which I am very grateful. First job was to replace the lid on the pine marten box and wire it in place to stop it blowing off again. Job done thanks to Craig's athleticism.   Next was to inspect the old, rotting tawny owl box which we found to be empty so Craig cut it down and it now resides in my wheelie bin.  Future plan for tawnies: either leave things as they are and remove the barbed wire from the old tree or next winter move the new tawny owl box to where the old one was.  A case could be made for both ideas so will keep it under review.  I'll keep Craig informed of any owl breeding activity so that proper records can be made and possibly any chicks ringed.  We checked all the cameras but there is nothing to report. 

Sun 20th Mar.   Checked the camera at the golf club bug hotel to find that someone had interfered with it, as revealed by the images.  Unfortunately the crucial image did not show enough of the man's face to identify him.  On the other hand the camera had recorded a passing pine marten so all was not entirely lost.  I removed the camera because in the course of taking 4,000 images the batteries had died.  At the squirrel car park feeding station I came across a dozen or so bird watchers and it occurred to me that we are missing a trick there: we should put up a sign there with a QR Code linking to our online donation site for the village and encourage people to help us pay for all those peanuts.

Thurs 24th Mar.  A week of medical stuff mostly with a few bits of trail cam in between.   Lots of white feathers all over the ground at the top of Fairy Hill, probably a collared dove who had met its maker.  Nice weather this week again - pity I'm in no fit state to make the most of it.  On Thursday afternoon I refilled the feeders at the squirrel car park.

Mon 28th Mar.  Went to the badger hide in the evening to check things out.. Checked the card in the camera at the new owl box but no birds recorded.  Settled down in the hide at 1920 having scattered peanuts, topped up the pine marten feeder and called to the badgers.  At 1945 there was a badger at the upper sett, soon followed by another that might have been Bling.  At 2005 there were four badgers, so all is well with the family and they seemed pleased to have me and the peanuts back.

Fri 1st April.  First official badger watch of the season.  We spotted the first badger after only 5 minutes, then 3 more over the next hour.  The most we saw at one time was 4 and that number included Bling with its snare.  With all the comings and goings we had probably seen more than four different individuals.  I was very tired and cold at the end of it despite my heated waistcoat and the final uphill walk to the gate was really hard.  Cannot do this for much longer.

Sun 3rd April
Pine marten poo on the secret track just past Donald's track.

Mon 4th April.  Spoke to my builder friend who said that he and his pal had been to the hide over the weekend and measured up for the new roof covering.  He reckons they'll get the job done next weekend.

Fri 8th April.   Another hospital appointment, this time to determine whether or not I need to carry an oxygen tank when out walking: thankfully it is not yet necessary but who knows what the next few months will bring.  Next check is in three months time.  On the way home I checked the squirrel car park feeders: they were still nearly full which was a surprise.  Either there are only a few birds and squirrel about or they are finding plenty of natural food. 

Sat 9th April.  Went to the badger hide to do a couple of jobs prior to Monday's badger watch.  First I filled up the pine marten feeder right to the top, then I checked the owl box trail camera and was delighted to have captured a video of a pine marten in that tree and also a video of a tawny owl perched at the entrance of the box with its head inside the box, presumably checking out its suitability.  Brilliant!

Mon 11th April.  Not a bad day for wildlife stuff.  First thing, I found frogspawn in our garden pond for the first time in several years.  Next, I went to Milton Loch to check on reports of badger signs near the pond dipping platform, which turned out to be perfectly true: lots of surface digging including classic snuffle holes and to seal the deal a lovely smelly latrine with flies and everything.  In the evening I took a couple to the badger hide where we had at least 5 badgers including Bling, 2 roe deer in the field and a tawny owl calling loudly near the hide.  I checked the owl box camera but there were no new videos.  Before turning it back on I realigned it to put the owl box more in the centre of the frame.

Thurs 14th April.   Took a family of four to the hide, including two delightful children aged 5 and 7.    We had at least three badgers for more than an hour, but Bling did not turn up this time.  Judging from our observations so far this season our badger family has an absolute minimum of 5 members and there could easily be at least another three.  No signs of cubs yet but watch this space.

Mon 18th April.   Went to the badger hide, swept it out and topped up the pine marten feeder.  I then swapped cards in the owl box camera to find that it had been visited by tawny owls and female goldeneye ducks so it will be interesting to see which species wins the box; I hope it's the owl because if the ducks win the pine marten will pinch the eggs, whereas the owls are well able to defend their nest from the marten.  Spoke to the roofer guy and he still has a supply problem so we'll just have to wait.

Weds 20th April.   Completed and submitted a spreadsheet response to a survey about possible threats to wildcats.  I then checked boxes 1,2,3 and 4 of the crested tit circuit: no signs of activity at all yet.

Fri 22nd April.  Checked the rest of the crestie boxes to find very little activity at all apart from box 16 which had been three-quarters emptied of wood shavings and box 17 which had a tiny bit of dried up nest material in it, possibly left over from last year.  We heard a crested tit part-way along the caper track and then we met and chatted to two National Park Rangers.

Sat 23rd April.  Excellent evening at the badger hide: a brown hare, 4 roe deer, 3 badgers and a pine marten.  I checked the owl box camera which had recorded further interest from goldeneye ducks and a tawny owl.

Sun 24th April.  Long walk to Loch Vaa to test if I could still do it.  It took 2 hours and 10 minutes which is 30 minutes longer than it used to take before IPF struck, but at least I got round.   On the way we saw geese and ducks on the Loch and heard a few woodpeckers drumming in the woods.

Mon 25th April.  Not a great day, very cold and dreich and my legs had not recovered from Sunday's long walk so all dog walks and other outings were uncomfortable to say the least.  On the plus side I had a very enjoyable badger watch with a young lady from Burghead who free-lances in wildlife media, eg photography, filming and writing.  We had a brown hare in the field when we arrived, four badgers in the course of the evening and a ten minute pine marten visit to crown it all.  Bling, the badger with a snare, did not turn up.

Thurs 28th April.   Take a couple of guys to the badger hide where we had 6 badgers including the snared Bling plus a pine marten for the third visit in a row.  Of equal interest, I received a message from Craig our bird of prey expert to say the new owl box at the hide contains three eggs: two tawny owl eggs and one goldeneye duck egg.  There's going to be some confusion at hatching time.

Fri 29th April.  Sad day today: our wee dog Max was put to sleep because his lung cancer had reached such an advanced stage that he was beginning to suffer.  Goodbye dear Max, thanks for all the cuddles.  At the badger hide we removed the faulty floodlight with its mounting and brought the assembly home for the new floodlight to be fitted, ready to go back to the hide early next week.

Sat 30th April.  I fitted the new floodlight light to the assembly from the badger hide, ready to be reinstalled next week.

Sun 1st May.  Checked the goldeneye boxes at the badger hide: the box in the hollow was empty but the box on the ridge contained at least 15 eggs.  Brilliant news.  Refilled the feeder at the community hall and also checked the one at the squirrel car park but: it still had plenty of food in it.

Mon 2nd May.   Set up a camera at the hide to monitor activity at the pine marten feeder to inform a decision to possibly redesign the feeder to keep the corvids off it.

Tues 3rd May.   Created a display book for the badger hide so that other guides are working from the same facts and stories that I use.   In the afternoon Bea and I installed the new floodlight at the hide.  While we were there we swapped cards in the camera that I set up yesterday.  When we got home to check the card we were astounded to see that a badger had climbed the so-called badger proof pole at the pine marten feeder and was scoffing peanuts.   How on earth it got down without injury I can only guess so the whole thing may have to be re-thought because whereas it used to be corvids that emptied that feeder they do not now seem to be a problem and instead it's the badgers that have us stumped.

Weds 4th May.  Caught up on badger hide admin including distributing an updated version of the guide notes and risk assessment.  In the evening I took a lady to the hide where had 4 badgers but no pine marten and no Bling.  Disappointingly one of the trail cameras is acting up so we were unable to see what high jinks the badgers and martens were up to the previous night.

Fri 6th May.  Had a repair session with the cameras and managed to fix them both.  Decided to make golf a possibility by ordering a ride-on buggy from the Pro Shop in Inverness.

Sat 7th May.  Picked up the golf buggy from Inverness.  Took a couple to the hide.  We had 4 badgers but no Bling and no pine martens.  During the walk out across the field a tawny owl was hooting its head off repeatedly - or it might have been two having an argument.

Mon 9th May.   Took a young couple to the hide where we had 4 badgers and a tawny owl.  No Bling and no pine marten.

Thurs 12th May.   Had planned a badger hide visit but had to cancel due to ill health - I overdid things in the morning and had to go to bed in the afternoon.

Fri 13th May..Plumbers were here almost all day today, followed by electricians who between them installed a brand new hot water system in our house.   Clean, sealed and hopefully efficient and unlikely to go wrong.  The old system was antique, rusty and the tank probably contained all manner of filthy stuff so it was good to see the back of it.  Later, I went to the badger hide, scattered some peanuts and filled the pine marten feeder because we haven't been there for several days and had no plans to go before next week and we would not wish the animals to think we had forgotten about them. 

Sat 14th May.  Found some pine marten scats on the loop track about 200 metres from the Angle Junction.

Sun 15th May.   Discovered that yesterday my friendly local builder and his pal installed a new sheet metal roof covering on the badger hide.  I drove over to have a look this evening and it's really nice.  We're slowly getting there with refurbishing the hide.

Weds 18th May.. Bea and I went to the hide and tidied up the surrounds after recent work on the building ready for the next batch of visitors.   Was particularly exhausted today and not looking forward to the weekend when Bea will be away for two days at a family affair in Edinburgh.  Making myself be lazy and making myself eat without Bea's firm but kind insistence will not be easy.    

Fri 20th May.   Took a couple from Inverness to the hide.  We had at least 5 badgers but unfortunately no pine martens or our snared badger "Bling".  Time to get a camera installed again methinks now that the roof and other repairs are finished.

Sat 21st May.  Checked the garden nest boxes - zilch.  Not a single breeding attempt in any of them.  Really sad that our small birds are now so scarce.

Sun 22nd May.  Over the past 24 hours I've watched three different performances of the ballet Giselle.  Beautifully done but I'm not sure the composer had a grasp on right and wrong.  In my view the wrong guy got punished.  Today I heard that our two tawny owl eggs have hatched and we now have two plump owlets.   Brilliant news.

Mon 23rd May.  Set up a camera at the badger hide to monitor the pine marten feeder now that the builders have finished with the roof and will not keep triggering the camera.   Took a couple from Glenlivet to the hide.  We had at least 4 badgers plus a duck with four ducklings on the river (species unknown), a roe deer, a tawny owl and 2 great spotted woodpeckers.  Also, on the way out we could hear the tawny owls having a conversation in trees near the river.

Weds 24th May.  Bea and I went to the hide, Bea strimmed the grass while I checked the camera.  The strimming went well but the camera was still not working properly, possibly being to far from the pine marten feeder to trigger reliably.  I'l  give up on it for the time being and rethink the whole business.

Thurs 25th May.  While playing golf I checked box No 2 at the golf club to find it contained several large chicks - probably blue tit.   This suggests I should find time to check all the small nest boxes including the crestie boxes as well as all the golf club boxes.  I'll try  to do the golf club on Sunday and the crestie boxes one day next week.

Sat 28th May.  The Chair and Sec of Scottish Badgers came to see us today and we spent a lovely few hours chatting about all things badgery.   My wife cooked us a lovely meal and then we went to the badger hide for an hour or so.  Unfortunately we only saw one badger, but thankfully it stayed for quite a while before the cattle spooked it.   It did come back later and came really close to the hide so some excellent photos and videos were obtained by my guests.   The arrival of cattle in the field beside the hide really does appear to have affected the badgers somewhat so next week's visits may not be up to their usual active standard.

Sun 29th May.  Bea and I and Bobby the collie checked the 20 crested tit boxes.  It took us 2 hours and 10 minutes compared with the 1 hours 30 minutes which it took before I got ill  Anyhow, here's what we found.
Box 2.  Great tit sittint.
Box 4.  Lots of nest material but no nest.
Box 6.  Wasp byke.
Box 7.  Wasp byke.
Box 8.  Wasp byke plus lot of nest material but no nest.
Box 9.  Wasp byke.
Box 10.  Unidentified bird sitting.
Box 13.  Wasp byke.
Box 15.  Wasp byke.
Box 16  Lots of nest material and a partly lined cup.
Box 18.  Great tit sitting.

So, 6 of the 20 boxes contained wasp bykes, which does not worry me too much because the wasps have their job to do in the forest.  What is disappointing is the complete lack of crested tit nesting attempts for the umpteenth year in a row.   Happily, we did see a crestie  searching for insects around a tree trunk  between the Angle feeder area and the village.

Mon 30th May.  Bobby and I did the Craigie Rock walk which took us 70 minutes.  That's not too bad in my current weakened state although I used to do that route in under an hour.  The good news is that on the way home at the Community Hall at 0855 there was a red squirrel on the peanut feeder.   We have been hearing that people are not seeing red squirrels at all lately so it's a relief that I will be able to report that I have seen one with my own eyes.  Later I checked all the Abernethy Golf Club small bird boxes with the following discoveries:
Box 1.  Empty
Box 2.  A heap of well developed chicks, sp unkown.
Box 3.  The front had been wrecked by woodpeckers, the nest destroyed and the eggs or chicks eaten.
Box 4.  Lots of nest material but no nest.
Box 5 The weird concrete one.  A heap of chicks in the nest.
Box 6.  Empty.
Box 7.  A blue tit attending to chicks.
Box 8.  Lots of nest material but no nest, plus a wasp byke attached to the roof.
Box 9.. A heap of well developed chicks, sp unknown.
Conclusion:  7 breeding attempts in 9 boxes is pretty good.

Tues 31st May.  Took a regular family to the hide where we had badgers straight away, a roe deer soon after and lots of birds throughout the evening including sparrow hawk, goldeneye, gs woodpecker and tawny owl.

Weds 1st June.  Found very fresh pine marten scat on the secret path about 100metres short of the Elbow, exactly where a distinct animal track joins the main path. 

Sun 5th June.  Went to the badger hide in the evening and had to go in and out the long way due to there being cattle in the field..  Added a new page in the display book.  Checked the goldeneye box in the hollow, it was empty.  Checked the goldeneye box on the ridge, it still contained lots of eggs but I was expecting a sitting duck at that time of the evening.  Worryingly, there were no traces of down caught in the grain of the entrance hole which is what  you would expect if a duck was coming and going several time per day.  Perhaps that box is being used a s a dump, which would not be the first time.  I topped up the pine marten feeder with peanuts and noticed the feeder has a hole in it so a decision is needed either to repair it or to remove it altogether.  Stay tuned.  I intended to set up one of the trail cameras to search for Bling, our snared badger, but I was exhausted and had to abandon and limp home.  This whole business is getting harder and I doubt very much if I will be able to continue after this year.

Weds 8th June.  Filled the Hall peanut feeders in the afternoon and then took a lovely family to the badger hide in the evening.   They had been with me before and we were all looking forward to the evening - it did not disappoint.  We had a badger almost instantly which delighted the boys who had help scatter the peanuts.  Over the next hour we had two more badgers and lots of different small birds on the pine marten peanut feeder.   Highlight of the evening was the appearance of one of the tawny owl owlets at the entrance of its nest box.  The bird was so big that it filled the entrance to overflowing - had it eaten its sibling?  Who knows.  On the way home I took the family for a walk around Milton Loch.

Sat 11th June.   Exchanged messages with Craig Johnstone and others about our tawny owls.  At the time of writing there is only one owlet left in the box and after discussion we are undecided if it ate its sibling or if the said sibling has already fledged.  In the evening I took Leon Brown to the hide where we had at least three badgers scoffing peanuts on the ground and lots of small birds on the feeder.  Highlight was once again the tawny owlet which perched helpfully at the entrance to its box where we could easily get good pictures from within the hide.

Mon 13th June.   I set up a camera at the lower sett to monitor the area in front of the hide in the hope of finding Bling, or perhaps cubs.

Fri 17th June.  Bea and I went to the hide where she strimmed the long grass down to manageable length and I checked the camera.  The camera was not a success, having only taken three shots of me setting up the camera and another three of me arriving to check the camera, which means that no badgers at all visited the area in front of the hide over the past four nights.  Disappointing.

Sat 18th June.  Went to the hide with friends from Wales, regular visitors to the hide.  To my delight we had plenty of badgers - at least five, probably more, including the first cub we've seen this year.  Still no Bling and no pine martens.

Sun 19th June.  While out with the dog I found some pine marten scats on the cross-track quite near the unused crestie nest box No 3.  In the evening I took four photographers from Dublin to the hide where we had at least 5 badgers including perhaps 2 cubs.

Mon 20th June.  Family arrived for a camping holiday in the area; daughter Lesley, granddaughter Anna and great grandson Oscar which plus me made four generations.  Lovely to see them.

Weds 22nd June.  I took my family for a short visit to the badger hide where we had two badgers. 

Fri 24th June.  Steve R. took a group to the hide where they had 5 badgers including a cub.

Mon 27th June.  I took four people to the hide where we had 7 badgers including the cub.  No Bling and no pine marten.

Tues 28th June.  A few people at the golf club had caught Covid recently so  I took a lateral flow test - negative, thank goodness.

Weds 29th June.  Took a couple from Surrey to the hide where we had six badgers at close quarters for quite a while.

Weds 6th July.   Health continues to fail so must curtail trips to the hide by honouring confirmed bookings but taking no new ones for this year.  I took a lovely guy called Allan to the hide who kindly help me carry the peanuts to the hide and then helped to remove the camera from the lower sett and carry it back to the car.  In the course of our stay we had 6 badgers in view at one point.

Thurs 7th July.   Began preparing to monitor pine marten and red squirrel activity beside the 6th fairway at Abernethy Golf Club.  Discovered that the peanut feeder in the area was broken so over the next few days it will be brought home and repaired before setting up a camera.  In the meantime I'll put a camera on a tripod and point it at the pine marten nest box in the hope of catching Mrs pine marten prospecting for next winter's den site. 

Fri 8th July. to Sun 10th July.   Felt really ill and sent for help via 999.  Ambulance and paramedic ladies arrived and established I had another chest infection so arranged via our local medical practice for antibiotics.  Paramedics also thought if I went to hospital with them they might get a bed in the respiratory dept and be monitored by them over the week but I opted for the stay home with antibiotics choice.   Probably a mistake because on Sunday Bea rang 999 again and I was whisked away to Raigmore for tests in A and E before being returned home.  Patience in allowing time for the antibiotics to do their work would be the key next step.   I also now have to accept that due to the physical effort required, badger watching will be impossible for me in future.   The rest of the season's watches will be run by volunteers.   Here ends another chapter in my life; I'm really going to miss my furry black and white friends.  

Fri 15th July.  Could not sleep so checked the garden camera - at last some good news: we have a hedgehog in our garden again.   It was here on 5th July and again this morning, in fact it was the final image on the SD card so might still have ben around when I switched the camera off.

Sun 31 July.  Using my electric golf buggy I checked the camera at the  pine marten nest box at the golf club.  It had received a visit by a pine marten and another by a red squirrel.  Despite the mechanical transport the effort exhausted me so maybe that's another activity I'll have to curtail or modify, eg placing the cameras at places that the buggy can get to within a few metres of, which is not ideal.

Fri 5th August.  Excellent meeting between BogWig and National Park to discuss future working together. 

Sun 20th August.  Update.  The past weeks has been tough, feeling really ill.   However my health improved somewhat over the past few days due to change of medication resulting in my being able to eat more, resulting in feeling stronger and able to take more exercise, for example using the wheelchair as a Zimmer frame and taking short walks into the forest along the all-abilities track as far as the bird feeders.   There I can sit comfortably in the wheelchair, watch the birds and red squirrels, eat and drink something and chat to passers-by.   What a morale booster to be able to get out into the woods again.  Equally uplifting has been all the phone calls, cards and personal visits from fellow wildlife enthusiasts including former colleagues from the Scottish Wildlife Trust and Scottish Badgers as well as members of our local wildlife group.   As for actual  wildlife, I've seen lots of birds and a red squirrel at the woodland feeders and some garden birds..  Speaking of red squirrels  a walker on holiday told me he had watched a red squirrel come out of the open-fronted bird nest box near the old Dow's entrance to the woods: in all the years we have been here I've never even seen a bird use that box, much less a squirrel.   At home, my renewed energy has allowed me to get in the workshop today and modify one of our garden peanut feeders and move it to a place where I can see it from the armchair in which I spend most of my waking hours.   Even that simple task exhausted me so the rest of today is for tv watching and sleep.  More updates later in the week. 

Tues 22nd Aug.  Quite tired today so did nothing strenuous.  Pleased to report that the birds have found the new feeder so I set up the old Aggressor camera on it to get a handle on which birds we are getting.  The old Aggressor had been monitoring the back garden for hedgehogs but very badly because it does not work well at night but it does OK in daylight so is perfect for small birds on the new feeder.  I then set up the E3 camera to watch for hedgehogs in the back garden at night.   Later I visited Pet Cairns of Scotland Big Picture for a catch-up on all things wild, which I enjoyed very much.   

Weds 24th Aug.   Took the dog for a walk in the rain to the bench at the Angle feeder.  Watched a coal tit and a chaffinch before a crested tit turned up to absolutely make my day!  Aug.

Sun 28th Aug.  There was no crestie at the bench on Thursday but there were two on Friday and one on Saturday.  Good stuff.  Daughter and grandsons went back south on Saturday so it's back to just Bea and me now.   Had an unexpected visit on Saturday from Tom Clay, the guy who designed and led the building of the badger hide in 1995 and it was good to be able to update him on what a brilliant success the hide had been over all those years since he left.   

Mon 29th Aug.  Checked the pine marten nest box camera at the golf club - only a few pictures of red squirrels taken,  Set up another camera nearby pointing at a peanut feeder to see how the red squirrels and pine martens are faring.

Tues 6th Sept.  Not much wildlife stuff to report for the past week due to feeling rough again.  However today I checked the two cameras at the golf club; they had recorded lots of red squirrels but no pine martens.  Later we held a BoGWiG meeting to discuss the future running of the badger hide now that I am unable to continue and related matters.  We now have a plan!

Tues 13th Sept.  Checked the golf club cameras.  The pine marten nest box cam only showed red squirrels but the feeder cam had recorded red squirrels every day and a pine marten on 12th Sept.

Thurs 15th Sept.   Bea took friends to the badger hide.  They got very wet but were rewarded with 6 badgers including the two cubs.

Mon 26th Sept.  Not been too well lately but soldiered on.  At the golf club the cameras once again showed good red squirrel activity with the occasional glimpse of the pine marten.  At home, still no hedgehogs in the garden or crested tits so I moved one of the cameras to the feeder near the Angle track junction because my morning visits there have not been at all successful with either cresties or red squirrels, although I have not been staying long mostly due to cold wet weather.  The camera will reveal what's really happening.

Thurs 29th Sept
Checked the camera at the Angle, it had recorded several gs woodpeckers, including two images of a pair, plus one red squirrel.  No small birds had triggered the camera so I guess it is too far away, therefore it has to be moved closer or to a point close to the hall feeder since the whole point was mainly to check on crested tits.

Sun 2nd Oct.   Checked the cameras at the golf club.  The pine marten box cam had only recorded red squirrels but the feeder cam had recorded small birds, red squirrels, pine martens and a tawny owl.  Have spent the last few days experimenting with the sensitivity settings on the camera at the Angle junction feeder and even on the high setting it is not being triggered by small birds, which is what it's mostly there to monitor, especially to see if crested tits are visiting that feeder.  So, nothing for it but to take a tripod or some other device up there on which to mount the camera much closer to the feeder.

Weds 5th Oct.   I moved the camera at the Angle onto a pole attached to the feeder cage and therefore quite close to the feeders in order to be sure of capturing images of crested tits.  I'll leave it there for no more than a few days because the pole is pale in colour and therefore a bit too obvious when seen from the main track.  I had considered covering it in camouflage tape but did not have enough; I'll maybe buy some for future use.

Thurs 6th Oct.  At 1000 I checked the camera which I had set up yesterday on a pole close to the Angle feeder.  It had taken  466 pictures of which there were lots of gs woodpeckers and coal tits plus quite a few of mice, red squirrels, blue tits, great tits and chaffinches.  There were just two of a single crested tit, both this morning at 0802 and 0834, so we have at least one crestie hanging around which is a relief.  The final bird picture the previous day was an unidentifiable tit at 1810 and the first bird picture this morning was a woodpecker at 0736.

Tues 11th Oct.  Checked the camera at the Angle every day this week.  This morning the card revealed that a pine marten had got into the feeder cage last night and was able to open the lid of the squirrel feeder no problem.  I'll now have to do some soul searching as to whether or not to repair whatever access hole the marten had either found or made for itself.  The main reason for the cage is to keep rooks out but I don't think they go that deeply into the woods, eg of the thousand-plus images taken at the feeder this week not one of them featured a rook.  One jay, but no rooks.  Food for thought.  Contacted the peanut elf for that cage for an opinion and she thinks it's good to let pine marten access that feeder.  Fair enough.  Later I checked the Abernethy Golf Club cameras: both had recorded red squirrels but neither had recorded pine martens.

Weds 12th Oct.  Removed the camera set up from the Angle feeder cage.  One of the final images was a bit confusing: the edge of it was either part of a cat or pine marten.  Overall each day had produced between 120 and 400 images over the week with cresties being seen just once per day.  There had been a surprisingly large number of great spotted woodpeckers.  Less surprising were all the coal tits.   Before lunch I began sorting through landscape images on my main computer in the hope of finding something suitable to paint but with little success.  After lunch I drove the Carrbridge/Lochindorb/Grantown circuit and took lots of photos on the way in the hope of finding a better painting candidate.  In the evening I wrote a quote requested by the Scottish Wildlife Trust to be included an article to do with the Lifetime Achievement Award which I received from them last month.  An uncomfortable task.

Fri 14th Oct.   Put a Browning camera on a tree facing the Angle feeder cage set to take videos in the hope of capturing footage of the pine marten that has been visiting lately.  A nurse came to visit me - all's well at the moment.

Mon 17th Oct.. Had an uncomfortable episode while out for a short walk with sticks and carrying oxygen  A stray dog (which we know well) found me, having lost its mistress.  Poor thing didn't know whether to stick with me or go and find mistress so I decided to catch it and attach it the carry-strap of my oxygen cylinder as a lead.  Eventually I succeeded in that but the exertion drained me and I was on the verge of collapse, struggling to breath and legs like jelly, so I was forced to lie down in the bushes and phone my wife to bring the wheelchair, which she did.  I also phoned the dog's owner who arrived almost together with Heather - a formidable rescue team.

Tues 18th Oct.  Was visited by the new Doctor - Dr Jessica Seymour.  A useful session.

Weds 19th Oct.  Had a phone call from a respiratory nurse who had been spoken to by the new doctor about my case.  Apparently a new awareness-raising body is being formed about Pulmonary Fibrosis and I may be asked to get involved.

Thurs 20th Oct.   The camera at the Angle feeder station is proving quite useless so I took it off its tree and mounted it on a tripod much closer to the feeders to try to up its trigger rate.  We shall see. 

Sat 22nd Oct.  Checked all three cameras.  The Angle feeder cam had only triggered once so I reset the menu and I'll then reposition it tomorrow.  At the golf club, the pine marten nest box camera had recorded only red squirrels - are they using it themselves?  The feeder cam had recorded lots of red squirrels plus several visits by pine martens, one of which showing a marten with a damaged eye.  We've seen this before and can only speculate about the cause, but we have previously seen footage of tawny owls attacking both foxes and pine martens.

Sun 23rd Oct.  Checked the Angle feeder cam, it had recorded three clips of a red squirrel chewing a piece of a pere-david's deer antler for the calcium.

Weds 26th Oct.   Checked the camera at the Angle feeders: just a few birds and mice on the card, no martens and no red squirrels filmed, although on the way home there were two red squirrels at the Community Hall feeder cage.

Fri 28th Oct.  Checked the Angle camera again.  Two crested tits together was a great capture.  There were a few birds and red squirrels but still no pine marten.

Tues 1st Nov   Slept late.  Spoke to the Doctor on the phone, a scheduled call, things are not much changed.  Must stay positive.  Was asked to do an interview on Moray Firth Radio about my recent Lifetime Award from SWT but I had to turn them down because my illness makes it difficult to express myself clearly - nobody wants to hear that!

Weds 2nd Nov.  Checked the feeder camera in the woods.  Nothing special to report except perhaps a slight increase in red squirrel appearances for both peanuts and deer antler.  Still no pine martens.

Thurs 3rd Nov.   Removed the cameras from the Abernethy golf club.  On checking the SD cards, the camera at the pine marten nest box had taken very few pictures, none of which had recorded pine martens or red squirrels.  The other camera, pointing at a peanut, feeder had taken lots of pictures of red squirrels and gs woodpeckers and two of pine martens. 

Mon 7th Nov.   Today I removed the Browning camera from the feeder cage at the Angle junction.  It had been the for exactly four weeks and has told us a not unexpected story, which is useful because it confirms what we believe to be the case, especially to do with the presence/absence of pine martens in that wood.   The last image at that site of a pine marten was on 11th October, four weeks ago, so anyone who thinks that we are over-run with pine martens could hardly be more wrong.  Furthermore, anyone who is peddling such nonsense should be called out, and I'll start today on social media.  As for other species, our regular visitors this past month were coal tits, great tits, blue tits, crested tits, gs woodpeckers, jays, chaffinches, red squirrels and wood mice.

Weds 9th Nov.  Today Bea and Martin Jones (the new hide manager) went to the hide and checked on the big nest boxes.  The goldeneye box on the ridge still had 19 eggs in it, dead obviously, so the ducks had simply used it as a dump.  The other GE box was empty, as was the tawny owl box.  There once was a goldeneye egg in the tawny box but it never stood a chance once the tawnies took the box over.  Bea and Martin disposed of the dead eggs by throwing them in the River Spey in the time honoured fashion of returning the organic material whence it came, sort-of.   Sent the relevant info to the BTO for their database.

Weds 16th Nov.  Health-wise this has not been a good week, but I nevertheless managed to carry on tying off loose ends around my local wildlife efforts over the past year and progressing plans for next year.  This morning I enjoyed a morale-boosting visit from well known wildlife guide, writer and TV presenter Nick Baker.   We had a most entertaining two-hour chat about too many wildlife topics to list separately and I m most grateful to Nick for finding time in his busy schedule to come visiting-the-sick.

Sat 3rd Dec.  Been quite poorly so no outdoor work attempted lately.  This post is to test the website's functionality after my ISP people said they are moving it to a different type of server.  Fingers crossed.

31 December 2022.  Today may mark the end of this public set of diaries.  If my health continues to decline the site will close, now that ill health has put an end to my practical wildlife work.   If I should recover then I'll pick up the threads at some point so I may yet see you again - fingers crossed.


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