Hold on Tight… (Click here for more)

Hold on Tight… (Click here for more)

At the beginning of last week, we welcomed students from Wolverhampton University who were studying Animal Behaviour and Wildlife Conservation. A breezy night and a packed hide made the Badgers a little wary to approach, but the students got the views they were looking forward to. We hope that you enjoyed your visit and welcome you back in the future! With overnight snowfall, the wildlife hide looked magical during the day and as we walked up to the hide in the evening, fresh Pine Marten footprints could be seen in the snow leading up to the feeding stations which was exciting for our guests to see. With the Wood Mice and three of our Badgers keeping them entertained on a windy evening, a sneak peek through the curtain to the table caused excitement with a view of the female Pine Marten. Possibly the footprints we had followed a couple of hours before? The end of the week saw winds strengthening, causing nearby power lines to be broken by falling branches and trees, (and me without power for the day.) With power back on for the next evening, four of the Badgers made appearances to the hide, including the two male cubs from last Spring. With Badgers having an average of two to three cubs a litter, our two cubs last year were exciting and makes us hope for similar again this year. With the wind still present, Badgers made quick visits to the hide and the female Pine Marten got blown off the tree branch she was balancing on when a sudden gust hit. If a Pine Marten is...
Showtime for the Badgers (click here for more)

Showtime for the Badgers (click here for more)

The sunny but chilly weather at the weekend led me to become a bit optimistic about the arrival of Spring. I used the garden fork for the first time this year to remove weeds and underneath revealed the new buds of Daffodil and Winter Aconite underneath, the next morning the sun encouraging them to grow further. Last week the weather was again unpredictable at the Wildlife Hide with the mammals making appearances at different times during the evening and nights. With a quiet start to the beginning of the week, the Badgers took it in turns to visit the hide throughout the rest of the week. The more I observe the Badgers from the sett, the easier it becomes to start to identify the sexes and characters that visit the hide. Some may see Badgers as grey, furry animals with black and white striped faces, but once you start to observe them even just for a few hours in the hide, you start to notice differences that give them individual characters. Behaviours like being a bit wary to approach the hide to the confident Badgers that aren’t fazed and will quite happily stay for ten minutes or more. The head shape of Badgers can help us determine the sexes, with males having the bigger more triangular shaped heads and females with narrow heads. A Badger’s fur coat and facial stripes can vary by little differences such as defects on their facial stripes or how clean the lines are, scars from previous injuries and how light or dark their fur is. The Badgers that visit our hide certainly have their...
Bright Night and Family Outings (Click here for more)

Bright Night and Family Outings (Click here for more)

With a mix of rain and snow showers last week our mammals weren’t put off, and we were treated to some excellent sightings during the week. Our male Pine Marten came to the feeding table on two different occasions in the space of fifteen minutes, taking the egg then returning not long after for some peanuts and sultanas. A badger boar also came for a close inspection of our guests, who noticed a spot mark under one of its eyes, – a helpful way of identifying it from the other badgers. The appearance of the ‘Super Moon’ last week made trying to get to sleep tricky and possibly camouflage and walking unseen through the night harder for the nocturnal animals that live round the hide. Even though Badgers can hide from other animals that are colour blind it made the Wood Mouse an easy target for on-looking Tawny Owls! There was a family visit at the weekend at the hide from not one, five badgers! While what we believe were three young Badger siblings sharing food at the back of the hide, the older female and large ‘boar’ gave guests a close view at the front. All five gave us a prolonged viewing before scurrying back to their sett nearby. Badger setts are usually found in mixed woodland in open grassland habitats using a natural hill as a perfect location to situate setts, with several underground tunnels stretching for 10-20 metres. Each sett has several entrances and exits, the most used recognised by their latrines and discarded bedding of grass, leaves and soil. An average of six badgers live...
January in the Cairngorms… (Click here for more)

January in the Cairngorms… (Click here for more)

January is often known as the dullest, longest month of the year. The festive period has taken its toll and can be very cold with snow and ice covering the country. For wildlife however, their biggest concern is keeping fuelled up, taking shelter and birds often become quieter in song. Taking walks through the Cairngorm National Park though, birds can still be found and heard often near to a good food source and wildlife watching can continue. Crested Tits are mainly confined to the Caledonian Scots Pine forest here in Northern Cairngorms where they are more likely to be heard than seen. They have a distinctive song/call like a trilling ‘burrurret’ that can echo through the trees. Earlier in January walking through local woods on a cold but sunny day I could hear Crested Tits as I turned most corners, possibly contacting each other to warn of approaching danger or just being happy and singing on a beautiful morning. On a cold January day, Crested Tits are more likely to visit feeding stations and gardens for some easy food during the cold spells. If you stand very still they can often come just a metre or so from you when food is near. Many birds visit the Cairngorms in the winter, including Fieldfare, Redwings and Brambling. Brambling are a member of the finch family and mainly feed on seeds and especially Beech nuts. Often found on the edge of farmland fields or in Beech woodlands, they are spotted flying as a group to get to food sources but can also be spotted visiting garden feeders. Snow Bunting are also...
The Sloth and the Hummingbird… (click here for more)

The Sloth and the Hummingbird… (click here for more)

There was once a hummingbird that felt very proud of how fast he could fly. He whizzed from flower to flower, faster than any other bird he knew and took great glee from racing straight past them. Hovering by some flowers one day, he noticed a sloth! The sloth seemed so incredibly slow as he opened his bleary eyes at the hummingbird and slowly chewed on a leaf, that the hummingbird laughed out loud! He sniggered as he told the sloth how he did more than 70 wing-beats a second and flew back and forth at great speed to impress him – but the sloth seemed unimpressed. He slowly shrugged his shoulders and drawled “I could beat you in a race any day!” The hummingbird laughed out loud, accepted the sloths challenge and the scene was set – the race between the Sloth and the Hummingbird was to be the following day…. it was like the Hare and the Tortoise all over again!! On our upcoming Costa Rica holiday, we will of course see both of these wonderful creatures – the slow and well often ‘not-moving-at-all sloth’ slowly chewing on leaves or curled up like a furry football in a tree and the crazy hummingbird zipping around the feeders like jet fighters. The difference between these two creatures could not be more startling and I love seeing them both. But are they really so different? They may appear to have incredibly different life styles yet they are both warm blooded! And…. well…. erm…. no that is it I think – apart from that, they are nothing like each other...
Suprise Visitor to the Hide (click here for more)

Suprise Visitor to the Hide (click here for more)

The weather has been milder and mixed with a variety of animals active this week at the wildlife hide. The bulbs are coming up round the hide with Snowdrops and Winter Aconite making an appearance to brighten up the day. As I look out the window to the sun, I see the start of fresh, green buds on the trees trying to push through. We had seperate visits from wildlife presenter Patrick Aryee and BBC Radio Scotland, ‘Out for the Weekend’ to the hide on Monday and Tuesday night – we shall keep you posted as to when you can hear us on the radio! With the milder weather we got good views of Badger and Wood Mouse feeding in the gully. Later in the week, we got a close-up view of a Brown Hare that decided to be curious to the lights and smells around the hide, hopping about the feeding table and circling the hide for a few minutes. Later we got a fantastic view of a Pine Marten as it grabbed the egg, but as it fell to the ground it stayed for a bit longer to hunt around for the peanut butter and nuts before taking off with the broken egg. The Badgers have been a bit more elusive this week with a couple of sightings at the beginning and end of the week. Badgers in the winter don’t hibernate, but they do go through stages, especially in the colder nights where they have a prolonged sleep of up to two days to conserve their energy. They feed a lot in the Autumn to put...
Winter Walks and Wildlife (click here for more)

Winter Walks and Wildlife (click here for more)

The wildlife hide and surrounding areas have been engulfed in snow the past week. Badgers and Pine Martens with their thick winter coats have been keeping a low profile as they shelter from the freezing conditions in their setts and dens in the nearby mixed woodland, venturing out bravely to search for food. The snow covering made tracking of the animal visitors an interesting task. All round the hide were signs of the Badger shuffling through the deep snow leaving a flattened trail as it struggled with the depth of the snow fall. It was interesting to follow a Pine Marten’s tracks as it made its way through the woods and its various detours to the nearby old wood pile and shed. As the snow arrived it snowed all day and gave the perfect chance to wrap up and go for a long winter walk nearby. Everything was white and walking through the woods on those kind of days gives you such a calming feeling. At one stage when it became very heavy and my coat turned white, I searched for the biggest Scots Pine tree I could find and hid under its branches. While waiting for the worst to pass the silence of the snow falling gave the perfect opportunity to think and a friendly Robin even joined me, shaking its feathers of snow. At times like this you think of the animals that are more active during the night looking for food and the ones that come during the day. As morning breaks at the hide, the Red Squirrels and birds such as Blackbird, Jay and Chaffinch...
Footprints in the Snow (click here for more)

Footprints in the Snow (click here for more)

Winter is well and truly here, and the dark evenings will slowly start getting lighter as we approach Spring. I have been enjoying getting out exploring the area and the wildlife that lives round the hide. The Speyside Wildlife Hide has been busy the last few months with great sightings of Pine Martens, Badgers, Tawny Owl and of course the Wood Mice. We had two Badger cubs in February last year and we are of course hoping for the same again this year. The weather last week started off very cold, but milder by the end of the week and with more snow and winds forecast the animals were wanting to keep fuelled up. Snow allows us to track and find out what lives in our surroundings such as gardens and favourite walks – you can get sheets and books that make it easy to identify them. The snow at the beginning of the week gave a great opportunity to see any footprints around the hide, including Pheasant, Rabbit, Badger, Squirrel and Pine Marten! Our ‘acrobatic’ tree climbing Badger has been enjoying reaching up to the nuts in the tree this week. Who needs the gym? With the weather being changable one of our female Badgers has been a bit wary, slowly approaching the hide then trotting off into the darkness, whereas the two brothers are much more comfortable to sniff around and help themselves to some of the bait provided. During the winter months our hide is not open every night to guests, although we haven’t had many sightings of Pine Martens at the table this week while...
Join us in Sri Lanka this Year (click here for more)

Join us in Sri Lanka this Year (click here for more)

Our stunning holiday to Sri Lanka is led by Darren Rees and Charles Anderson (the pioneer of whale and dolphin watching in the islands). Chas recently contacted us after watching the BBC Blue Planet II. “Last night I watched part of the Blue Planet II series on iPlayer. The last episode included a sequence with large numbers of Sperm Whales off Sri Lanka. That sequence was filmed off Trinco, where we go whale-watching. It was filmed at the exact time of year when we shall be there (I talked at length to the BBC film crew who were there at the same time as me 18 months ago, staying in the same hotel; in fact, they were there in part because of my earlier work in Trinco). I was an adviser for the original Blue Planet.” Sri Lanka is renowned for its fabulous terrestrial wildlife and birds, but it is now also gaining a reputation as one of the top whale-watching destinations in the world, with Blue Whales being the main attraction, plus the chance of Sperm Whale and other species. Our four-centre holiday combines the best of both, with wildlife watching on land for Indian Elephants, Leopard, Monkeys and fantastic birding, with visits to Wilpattu National Park, Habarana and Trincomalee on the east coast. Sri Lanka is not just about the sea-dwelling giants, it offers so many highlights and ‘magic moments’. Ruth Dow was on our 2016 trip and sums up hers beautifully; “The whale and dolphin sightings at close quarters from the boats in the turquoise, clear, luke-warm water of the Indian Ocean off Trincomalee, were magnificent....
Happy New Year – have you made a resolution yet? (Click here for more)

Happy New Year – have you made a resolution yet? (Click here for more)

Happy New Year!!  Here we are well into January and Christmas and the New Year celebrations seem distant memories already!! I haven’t even managed to get out birding yet – which is not very good as ‘going out more’ was going to be my New Year’s Resolution! Speaking of this – is there anything you think you should decide to do in 2018 that you have not done before or have done before but feel you should do more of? And I am talking about wildlifey things here not the annual ‘go to the gym’ or ‘lose weight’ so many of us do. Here are a few ideas…. A Year List – I talked about this last year – see previous blog post to see my thoughts about doing this fun exercise Voluntary work – You could offer whatever skills you have to do some voluntary work for a wildlife conservation organisation – there are plenty to choose from and you could help clean a beach, plant trees, dig ditches or even just be nice to people in a hide, count birds or do a butterfly transect or… well all sorts of things are going on out there and you might just love it. RSPB Wildlife Trust Garden for wildlife – There is always lots you can do in the garden to benefit hedgehogs, finches, ladybirds, bees, ferrets, camels and all kinds of other wildlife. Planting more berry bushes, or a Buddleia for butterflies, flowers good for bees, making hedgehog, bat or bird boxes and so much more – or you could go much further and create a pond or wild flower meadow. It...