As we move through the month of October the colours throughout Speyside have transformed into shades of gold, orange and yellow. The ground is not drying between bouts of rainfall and there is a chill in the air. Winter is making its fast approach and as a consequence of the ground remaining wet, the Badgers often arrive into the hide with mucky snouts. This is evidence that they have been digging in the boggy marsh next to the hide in search of food. The ground is softer - a result of the increase in rainfall - and more often we might spot track marks left behind in the wet soil by our nocturnal mammals.
Over the past month, we have had more regular appearances of the youngest member of our clan into the foraging area. This young boar is a pleasure to observe as he has a very active and curious nature. He is very interactive with the older members of the clan and often runs to greet the older Badgers as they arrive into the area, sometimes nagging them for some social interaction and the chance for some mutual grooming. They often succumb to his requests as he is very persistent in his demands. This young boar was born in February/March of this year and still has a lot to learn from his more experienced family members. He must learn how to function within the family group and the patriarchal structure, how to keep himself safe and where to find the best food.
His playful, energetic and curious nature is wonderful to observe but also exemplifies the natural confidence, knowingness and poise of some of the more mature members of the group.
Another change amongst the animals that has made itself apparent during our evening watches is the change to the mammal's coats. The moult from summer into winter coats are essential for survival in the colder months. For the observer, there are secret messages that may be read from this change if we are to observe this process closely. For the Pine Marten, the individual age can be estimated by the moulting process. The older the individual the longer it takes for them to throw their winter coats. Therefore, by comparing the appearance of Pine Martens in the area during the period of this change we can predict who the older individuals are by noting those that make a later change.
The timing of a moult from winter into a summer coat can also reveal the success of a female Marten with breeding. Female Pine Martens that have had kits will often shed their winter coats faster than other individuals. This is because if they have had young in the early spring they will be spending a lot more time cosied up in a toasty natal den and so will have less of a need for a fluffy winter coat and so will toss it sooner than other Pine Martens.
As the winter nights draw in the Pine Martens exhibit important behaviour that helps them to survive the trickier months. Burying food to be consumed later is a common behaviour and if we place an egg out for the Pine Marten this is often one of the items that they will carry off to hide in a safe space. Food caching by burying goods in soft soil, under leaf litter or under tree roots provides a backup food resource for the harder times and is a common activity for animals throughout the Cairngorms such as with squirrels, Moles, shrews, corvids and Pine Martens!
The Wood Mice have also been a regular and charming visitor into the hide. They are incredibly fast and zip between the logs in search of peanuts. With large big feet, they are able to leap out of danger as they chance their luck out in the open. They are quick and decisive and a delight to watch being in appearance short and round bodied with long tails and nice bright beady eyes and lovely perky rounded mousy ears.
If you are interested in spending an evening closely observing these nocturnal mammals please visit our website for further booking details.