Friday, 20 May 2016
Day 5: Scottish Highlands & Islands: Speyside, Martens & Badgers
First stop was the Cairngorm lower car park for a Black Grouse lek, we saw 1+ Red Grouse but sadly no black. We arrived about 7am maybe too late? A pair of Ring Ouzels, a male seen by a patch of grass was joined by a female. watched by another couple. Suddenly a female Sparrowhawk shot through and disturbed the Ring Ouzels that flew up the bank. An emergency meant we had to stay around Aviemore and at Craigellachie we heard singing Wood Warbler, walking back towards the entrance 4 Bullfinch were seen including 1 fine male. Tree Pipit was also heard. At Lochindorb, 8 Red Grouse seen close to the road and 3 Common Sandpiper on the loch but strangely no sign of the BT Divers. At Loch Ruthan, a male Wheatear seen, Willow Warbler, 2 Little Grebe and 3 fine summer plumaged Slavonian Grebes seen mainly distantly but 1 came across was seen from mid distance. 2 Common Sandpipers seen on the rocks briefly close to the hide. Back at Craigellachie in the evening, 2 Tree Pipits seen in trees just before the road tunnel, a Peregrine was heard, when 2 high flying Ospreys drifted over. Finally by the pool, a female Goldeneye seen plus an another Osprey flew over the pool high up in the sky. A Grey Heron seen by the left hand end of the pool. That evening, we went on the dusk watch, we assembled near Loch an Eileen, we were met by John, a jovial Scot who reassured us the Martens had been showing well the previous evening and he showed us around 30 young Red Deer stags fenced off in a field, before we entered the hide. Unfortunately I was beaten to the best spot in the hide by a couple determined to take these 2 spaces and they were very unsportsmanlike in jealously guarding this area the whole time we were in the hide, which really didn't enter into the spirit of co-operation required. I took up the next best spot overlooking the area to the left where there was a path leading down from the woods. John the ranger went outside and started putting peanut butter out and nuts etc, We were initially sceptical about whether we would see the Martens, but amazingly within half an hour of entering the hide and 10 minutes after John, the ranger had come back into the hide, the light was fading and the first Pine Marten ran down the path and briefly stopped right in front of me and I managed to get one fortuitous shot of it (see accompanying photo) as it momentarily stood in front of me. Fantastic! he then proceeded to feed on the goodies on the table right in front o the hide. It was near impossible for me to get any pics as the couple were jealously guarding their seats and not allowing me to get pic. But later on another 3 individual Pine Martens visited mainly to the table area but also to the area around the back but by this time it was too dark to get any sort of picture without flash, which of course was not allowed. We were also visited by 6 Badgers, first one around the table and then one going up a tree to take some food and then 5 around all together.