David Hickson writes for Kindrogan

Kindrogan Blog

I have been visiting  Kindrogan Field Centre  for more than 25 years. This year I  attended the mosses and liverworts course.  I love wildlife photography and on my visit  in early May 2012 I arrived well prepared,  with a supply of peanuts, hazelnuts and sunflower seeds. I set up a feeding station near the Kindrogan FSC car park  and almost immediately the red squirrels  had  found the food and they absolutely loved those hazelnuts.  I soon realised that overnight something was disturbing the two logs which I used as a squirrel feeding table. I thought that badgers may have been moving the logs, but Martyn the head of centre said that he didn’t believe that there were badgers near the centre.

Strange !!

Anyway those squirrels just kept on coming and their numbers seemed to build up day by day. The most that I saw at any one time was five, but unfortunately I only managed a photo of three together.

I got photos of squirrels early in the morning when they were  backlit  and also during the day in full sunlight. I started off digiscoping  (using a camera mounted on a telescope) from around  20 to 30 ft away, However,  I think that eventually the squirrels started to associate me with an easy food supply  and they allowed me to approach really close. Even as close as 4ft which was absolutely ridiculous !. Some red squirrel video here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E9iE4om4pw4 .I managed to get some of my best ever red squirrel photos without too much difficulty.




























On the sphagnum course one of the day field trips was to Cairnwell ski slopes.











It was near Cairnwell that I managed to spot a red grouse poking it’s head out above the heather.











There were also ptarmigan in this area but alas no photos.

Another day we went up Glen Tilt which is a beautiful deep V shaped valley.










It is always a good place to sight a golden eagle and I thought I had seen one, but  it turned out to be an osprey or at least I think it was. The odd thing was that it briefly  landed amongst the crags on the mountain top.











Meanwhile back at the field centre birds enjoying  the peanuts and sunflowers included blue tits, chaffinches, woodpecker and coal tits.











The great thing about Kindrogan FSC is that it is surrounded by such wonderful countryside. After my course I visited Glen Quoich near Braemar which is one of my favourite highland glens.











The  area is managed by the National Trust for Scotland and  deer numbers are now controlled so vegetation thrives and includes some spectacular displays of sphagnum mosses including this amazingly coloured sphagnum capillifolium.











I am leaving the best for last. On my final evening at Kindrogan  at 6.00PM  I spotted a pine marten coming in to my feeding area. I know they like peanuts an awful lot. Unfortunately I had no telephoto lens at the ready, but did manage  to get a wide angle shot through the car windows. The end of a great holiday.











I see that Martyn has subsequently captured some video footage of this animal on a camera trap and this is available to see on the Kindrogan youtube channel.  http://www.youtube.com/user/KindroganFSC

Dave Hickson


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