In late August 2012 Cheshire Mammal Group spent a wonderful few days exploring the wildlife of the Perthshire region before moving to their west coast base at Gairloch for the second part of the tour. Two of the contingent Jeff Clarke and Paul Hill are regular Associate Tutors for the FSC and were familiar with the area, for most of the rest of the party of nine it was their first visit to the area.
As usual with this area it wasn’t difficult to get off to a flying start on the deer front and within a day of the groups arrival Red, Fallow and Roe deer had all been duly noted. Red Squirrels were around the centre in abundance. In the same time period one of Kindrogan’s star attractions was enjoyed at length by the whole party as an adult female Pine Marten, fed unconcernedly at the regular location within the centre grounds shortly after dark. This magical mustelid was a first for many members of the party.
Superb weather conditions on the Sunday 26th August prompted a march uphill to the top of Glas Maol, here we had simply fantastic views of over 100 Mountain Hares close to the summit. We corralled a few within photographic range but left the rest in peace undisturbed in their daytime redoubts. A few scattered remnants of Hare suggested the mighty predator of the high tops was a regular visitor and it was no surprise when Chris Miles spied a circling shape which eventually confirmed its identity as a Golden Eagle as it zoomed high over our heads at warp factor speed. The top of the mountain also produced the hoped for Ptarmigan and a less anticipated juvenile Hen Harrier. Later in the day near Braemar part of the group had a wonderful walk through Caledonian Pine woodland finding the main target of Scottish Crossbill and a seemingly endless supply of Scotch Argus mixed in with the occasional Dark-green Fritillary
Monday 27th brought a deluge, but it didn’t stop most of our party enjoying a lucky encounter with an otter at Loch of the Lowes. they also returned home with some reliable information about a European Beaver site. This was not an opportunity to be passed up an 7 of the party were to be found on the banks of a river near Blairgowrie a couple of hours before dusk. You could tell we meant business as we had sacrificed one of the great ‘home cooking’ evening meals at Kindrogan to be in place at the right time of day. As we made our way downstream a call from Jack Swan alerted us to the presence of a Swift among a large flock of hirundines. Almost simultaneously we all expressed our curiosity at the birds blunt wings and as we watched the bird it was noticeably brown and broad across the bean. we got a couple of poor record shots but they are good enough to confirm our notes on its field characters and backs up our suspicion that the bird was a Pallid Swift! A short while later a second swift appeared, clearly different in profile and undoubtedly a Common Swift.
We resumed our search for the beavers and found some reliable signs of occupation along the river, despite it being in spate. We spread out along the banks but saw nothing move. as we re-gathered at a confluence point along the river young Ben Miles spotted a movement on the far bank and there in full view for several minutes was a family party of European Beavers, nibbling an munching the overhanging bank-side vegetation. They stuck close to the bank out of the main flow. Despite the fading light we managed a few ‘record’ shots. We left delighted; a new mammal for all of us and to celebrate we enjoyed a great meal in the Strathardle Inn at Kirkmichael.
Tuesday was moving day and we said goodbye to Kindrogan before heading off to enjoy the second part of our week on the dramatic West coast in search of cetaceans, otters and seals. To see more about this part of our week visit the CMaG Facebook page and from a young naturalists perspective of the trip make sure you read the Ben Miles blog.
If you are interested in getting to grips with lots of the regions mammals why not join Jeff Clarke on his Small Mammals course to be held at Kindrogan from 5th – 9th October. Apart from lots of small mammals we will be searching for Otters, Pine Martens, Beavers and even Scottish Wildcat.