Back in July 2017 I visited Perth for the excellent Southern Fried Music Festival. Originally I had planned to stick around until the Sunday, but Saturday’s headline (Rodney Crowell) pulled out and his replacement was of little interest so I figured I’d take advantage of a free evening/day to do some photography. On the Saturday evening I joined Bob Smith of Nature Nuts photography to hopefully see some beavers. We didn’t have a whole lot of success (although we did see a beaver briefly), but on asking what I could do in the area the following day Bob kindly offered me the use of his wildlife hide. Of course I said yes! And spent an enjoyable few hours watching red squirrels, jays, great spotted woodpeckers and a variety of little birds, including a couple of bullfinch. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to stick around for the (possible) pine martens in the evening, but it was a good day.
I’d been hoping to return ever since, but never had the time, so when I booked a few days at Bamff Ecotourism on Bob’s recommendation to hopefully finally spend some time with the beavers, I arranged to spend the Monday in the hide. (ps I wrote a blog about the beavers)
Equipment used: Nikon D500 & Nikon D610. Tamron 150-600mm & Nikkor 300m F4. The hide doesn’t have the best light being at the edge of a wood, but so long as I didn’t try for action shots of speedy squirrels I had a fair amount of success.
On this occasion it took a good hour or more for anything other than great spotted woodpeckers and little birds (mostly siskins) to appear, probably because there’s tonnes of natural food available right now.
Round about midday I confess I became a little distracted as I had a 4G signal after three internet-free days and was a tad sleepy having risen at 4.30am every morning for the beavers. I saw movement out the corner of my eye, it was a first visit from one of the local red squirrels. The squirrel sat eating nuts for a couple of minutes and then, in a blink of an eye, disappeared at great speed up the nearest tree. I thought little of it until I suddenly realised that the female pine marten had arrived! I almost fell off my bench in surprise as this was really unexpected. The day before this marten had first made an appearance at 7.30pm which is fairly normal behaviour as for the most part they tend to be nocturnal. It was around about that time I’d have to be leaving for the return journey to Glasgow, so I had told myself I possibly wouldn’t see one at all. I’ve seen pine martens many times at the Aigas Hide but always in low or artificial light so this daylight visit was a first for me and although the light at the hide wasn’t brilliant, it was still an improvement on those Aigas sightings.
The marten spent about ten minutes in front of the hide munching on nuts and was so wonderful to watch. She’s a beautiful animal.
Once she departed, and I’d gotten over the shock of seeing her, and had messaged Bob with the news, things settled down again. The one major difference being that the red squirrels all started to make regular appearances. This was also a pleasant surprise as they are normally morning and early evening feeders, disappearing for the afternoon. These did the exact opposite! I’m not complaining though. There were at least 3 individuals and there was almost always at least one present for the next few hours to keep me entertained. I’ve spent a lot of time watching and photographing these animals this year, but I never tire of it. Bob puts out a lot of nuts and even with the marten scoffing quite a few they never ran out of food.
Jays were much fewer and farther between than my 2017 visit, but they did appear a few times, as did a pair of pheasants.
At approx 5.30 I realised (again to my surprise) that the pine marten had returned …or so I thought! Yes it was a pine marten, but no, it wasn’t a return visit. At the time I (understandably I think) just presumed it was the female, as there was no reason to suspect otherwise. The kits, although they might have been heard during the night were yet to make an appearance at the hide and it seemed obvious to expect them to turn up with mum. However, on returning home and looking through my images I was convinced this was a different pine marten and it definitely looked more fluffy and dare I say cuter than the earlier one. I sent some images to Bob who confirmed I had in fact had a visit from one of the kits – so I was apparently the first person to see one this year and I hadn’t even realised – doh!! Actually its behaviour was quite different from the female so I should have guessed at the time. It ignored the egg I’d put out (apparently the female takes it and runs) and after a few minutes had dived under the logs for so long that I presumed it was long gone until it briefly reappeared. I’m now beginning to wish I’d stayed past 6.30 as I’m sure it and its sibling would have been back – they were both seen the following night. Still – I had two daylight sightings of the pine martens so I am very happy!
So it was another great day. I spent time over the weekend both at Bamff and then Bob’s hide watching conservation success stories – red squirrels, pine martens and beavers are all making a return to Scotland and it’s heartening to see. I can now travel less than an hour from Glasgow to spend time with red squirrels, and although realistically greys will never be eradicated from the cities, reds are definitely spreading further afield, thanks, as with beavers and pine martens, to the efforts of committed individuals and organisations. We read of so much doom and gloom where wildlife is concerned these days it’s great to have some more positive examples.
If you fancy a day out with Bob or a visit to his wildlife hide, full details are available on his Facebook Page.