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  • Writer's pictureHarris Brooker

Spring Advances in Cairngorms

Updated: Apr 20, 2022

The Speyside Wildlife Evening Mammal Hide in the Cairngorms National Park is only getting busier as the year goes on. The Badgers and the Pine Martens have all been obliging, the Pine Martens slightly more than the typical three days a week that we’ve been used to seeing them.

Nowadays it’s so light that you can see the Badgers approaching and following their trails they like to use in order to get to the viewing area. One night however, they came later than expected, probably in response to the longer daylight hours.

There is a Badger foraging in the open platform of the hide area with a stilted platform next to it. The Badger has its head down as it forages, with darkness in the background
Badger foraging in front of the Hide (Harris Brooker)

They never fail to create awe in our guests - for some, the only time they have ever seen Badgers has been a fleeting glimpse, which doesn't offer as meaningful a connection with our largest carnivore as our hide does.

Four Badgers feeding in the open area in front of the hide. One is sniffing under a thick birch log. Another is licking peanut butter from the back of a wooden Scot's Pine stump. The two others, one is facing toward the camera with its nose under a small Birch log and the other has its back to the camera, also with its nose in the leaf litter
Four Badgers altogether feeding (Harris Brooker)

Close up of three of the Badgers feeding together. One is facing toward the camera licking the peanut butter from the back of a Scot's pine tree stump. The two others are both feeding, one is facing toward the camera with its nose up a small birch log lying on the ground. The other has its back to the camera with its nose in the pine leaf litter
Close up of three of the Badgers feeding together (Harris Brooker)

With longer daylight hours we’ve even had Roe Deer, Chaffinches, Siskins and Robins at the feeders giving the guests a glimpse of what comes during the day. Then there’s the Wood Mice - a Badger caught one, one evening and others have fallen prey too.

Both the male and female Pine Marten have been visiting. One evening we saw both individuals come to feed - though not at the same time. The female came whilst there were guests but the male only came after they’d left. Nevertheless, it was only the second time I’d seen both individuals come in an evening. One group of guests loved the hide so much they bought 14 badges, and combined with the purchases made by a few other visitors, sales amounted to £20. The highest I’ve ever achieved!

A male Pine Marten feeding in the forest
Male Pine Marten feeding (Harris Brooker)

Pine Marten feeding from a platform in the forest whilst a Badger feeds from the ground below.
Male Pine Marten feeding from the platform whilst the Badger feeds below (Harris Brooker)

Last night we saw all nine of the Badgers and both the male and female Pine Martens, as well as Wood Mice - it was the male Pine Marten that came first and when he went away the female came. Normally the female is very wary when the Badgers are around and she looks over her shoulder a lot, but will still feed. When she caught the male Pine Martens scent she hid in the treetops, reluctant to come out - it’s a reaction I’ve never seen before.

Bats have been making appearances too, though usually all we see is a quick fluttering motion and no more, as they hunt the moths drawn to the lights. Speaking of moths, there is a variety in our local area and I found this particularly special species one evening - the Rannoch Sprawler. They are greyish moths that are only active in March and April and like mature birch woodland, though I didn’t realise this at the time.

A Rannoch Sprawler moth sitting on a piece of wood
Rannoch Sprawler (Harris Brooker)

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