Wow, what a scorcher! This week has seen temperatures approach mid-twenties in what has been a glorious Easter in the Cairngorms. With snow falling just weeks ago, the tables have turned and blue skies and sunshine hitting Speyside. The resident birds are singing their hearts out along with huge influxes of summer arrivals such as Willow Warblers. The insects are out including Orange-tip Butterflies and Bilberry Bumblebees becasue they are making the most of the emerging flowers. Silver Birch have erupted in yellow-green as the leaves appear for the first time this year. I have also had a first for me in the Cairngorms, Adder! Spring has now well and truly arrived.
A Spring highlight for me, as with many other visitors to the area, has to be the Ospreys. Sadly no sign at Loch Garten just yet, but others are starting to pair up across the Cairngorms and many are around Speyside. Just a short walk along the river I had seen lots of birds including Goosander, Sand Martin and Dipper. I look to the skies and see an Osprey following the river’s course, eyes down looking for a meal. The third largest raptor in the UK, Ospreys are huge! This one was flying low and I could appreciate the size of it and power of it. I can’t wait to catch up with these when guiding this year.
In the day, there is plenty of wildlife to see, but what about at night? Well, it’s been rather exciting in our Evening Mammal Hide with plenty of wildlife action! It’s been a while since I have guided in the hide so I really wanted to see Pine Marten and Badger again. In and baited by 8:40pm, the Wood Mice are active straight away, scurrying back and forth grabbing as many nuts as possible. Bank Voles also make an appearance but are much quicker, blink and you’ll miss them.
With the nights drawing out, we waited for a bit longer but then our patience was rewarded. Badger! Not just one, but three appear one after the other. Two males with their bulky heads and one female with a more slender appearance, all munching away, hoovering up every nut on the ground. Watching them quietly we could hear them chewing, not the most graceful of eaters. With seemingly every nut consumed, they set off and we return to patiently waiting.
To entertain us whilst we wait for potential Pine Marten, we are entertained by Tawny Owls calling from the trees, A pair of them having a conversation. With the mice nervously looking for more food on the ground, we suddenly glimpse a Tawny strike at speed in front of the hide. A mere millisecond but luckily most of us saw it. Pipistrelle Bats also flitter in the dark skies. With us all eager to see Pine Marten, we are thrilled to see one approaching from the dark undergrowth.
Remembering old friends
As it moves into the light I am delighted to see that it is a female I know well with a stripe on her bib. Just a few years old, I remember when she first came to the hide when she was a kit. I am overjoyed that she is still coming. She boldly climbs the tree and goes straight for the egg. Delicately grasping in her jaws, she then swiftly runs away with it. “Let’s just wait 10 more minutes and see if she comes back.” I say to guests. Sure enough, a few minutes later she returns to scoff the rest of the food on the table. A fantastic end to a night in the hide which has delivered amazing wildlife encounters, happy guests, and a happy me!