The annual Wildlife Explorers week at Kindrogan provided highlights a plenty with amazing sightings of some of Scotland’s iconic wildlife combined with some high energy excitement. With 16 folks on the course it was a packed week in all senses of the word. So much to fit in and so much to see.
It all started with the high jinks of Kindrogan’s low ropes course. A great way for people to get to know each other and have a bundle of fun in the process, from 9 year old Charlotte to ‘Supergran’ Pat.
Fun on the Low Ropes Course Aug 2013
From here we headed to the heights of Kindrogan Hill for stunning butterflies such as the Dark Green Fritillary and a feast of Blaeberrys (Bilberrys) at the summit. To ease the pain of aching limbs we stayed close to home that first evening and enjoyed some late night moth trapping. We left one trap running overnight and in the morning we were rewarded with some exquisite moths, including Large Emerald and Gold Spot moth.
Dark Green Fritillary on Kindrogan Hill © Jeff Clarke
As always we kept an eye on the weather to get the most out of the week and so earlier than planned we headed out to Glen Lyon. Calling in at Fortingall to see its famous Yew tree; the oldest living thing in Britain. The weather was pretty decent, tempting out a few dragonflies and butterflies including some fresh Scotch Argus. We kept scanning the ridges for our main quarry and eventually we were rewarded with the splendid sight of a pair of Golden Eagles soaring around the mountainscape.
The weather also dictated the day we made our assault on a ‘Munro’ . The best weather day was to be the Monday so off we headed to Glenshee and the high tops of Glas Maol. You have to earn your reward when it comes to mountain wildlife and by the time we reached the summit we had seen very little. After a time we found a cluster of Mountain Hares, but our initial efforts to locate Ptarmigan met with failure, though a flock of Golden Plover was some consolation. As we prepared to descend a Mountain Hare bounded toward the summit, it got closer and closer until it briefly stopped a few metres from our mesmerised party (no one had a camera to hand). It gave us a casual glance before making its way slowly downhill. We took something of a looped route down across the summit and in so doing we managed to bump into a small flock of Ptarmigan to round off a memorable afternoon.
Ptarmigan near the summit of Glas Maol Aug 2013 © Jeff Clarke
Most evenings were spent looking for more nocturnal wildlife and through the week we mixed up bat watching and Pine Marten stakeouts. Sadly only one none-leader in the group was privileged to enjoy a Pine Marten encounter as their appearances can be erratic during the breeding season, but we did capture their antics on the trail cam which you can see on the link below.
Wednesday dawned damp but that didn’t stop us heading off to Chanonry Point and an appointment with one of the world’s most charismatic creatures. The Moray Firth is famous for its population of Bottlenose Dolphins. We were surprised on our arrival to find a young Harbour Seal close by on the beach, but as expected distant dorsal fins off Fort George confirmed that the dolphins were on their way. The weather wasn’t great but that didn’t dampen our enjoyment of these fabulous cetaceans. We had some 20+ animals in total, including some within 30 metres of shore, definitely a highlight of the week.
Bottlenose Dolphin @ Chanonry Point Aug 2013 © Jeff Clarke
On our return we set the Mammal traps and the first job the following morning was to check out the traps. For most people this was their first encounter with a Wood Mouse or Bank Vole. Though the big surprise was a mighty Field Vole captured within the walled garden and definitely outside its typical habitat.
Vole in the hold Aug 2013 © June L-M
Kindrogan is a very special place for mammals, three species of deer are present and the fortunate few get sightings of Otters and even Wild Cat but almost everyone gets to see the utterly delightful Red Squirrels which abound around the centre and which inspired young Charlotte to do the drawing you see below.
Red Squirrel by Charlotte © Charlotte L-M
Elsewhere we fitted in pond dipping, camp fire making, high ropes sessions, a visit to the Pitlochry Fish Ladder and on our last day we paid homage to the Ospreys at Loch of the Lowes, however for at least half our party the final big highlight of the week came on the last evening when we made our way to a secret location near Blairgowrie to search for European Beaver. Hopes were high when on our arrival we heard a warning slap from a beaver’s tail. After an anxious wait two swam into view and shortly after we found an animal feeding on the opposite bank in the fast fading light.
A European Beaver near Blairgowrie Aug 2013 © Jeff Clarke
The gathering gloom contrasted with the beaming smiles of those who were watching one of the pioneers of this reintroduced rodent. A fitting end to an eventful week!