A week in Perthshire, hot weather workshops and garden badgers

It’s been a busy few weeks since I last wrote. Lots of workshops which has been great, if a bit challenging in the hot weather, as well as a week in Perthshire visiting family (and the plentiful wildlife). I’ve also become slightly obsessed with photographing my garden badgers who have been appearing before dark every evening.

I’ve been using the Nikon Z50 a lot. It’s such a great little camera. I decided to purchase a Z mount lens and eventually chose the DX 50-250mm. It feels very cheap, but it’s so very light and the image quality is excellent. The combined weight of the two of them together is so light after lugging around my regular gear. I’m still not quite ready to fully switch to mirrorless, but I’m less opposed to it now than I was before. You can read more in my review.

This has been my first summer running workshops that don’t always involve red squirrels! It’s not been easy but I’ve enjoyed meeting my clients and showing them some of the local wildlife on offer. The squirrels have been quite quiet frustratingly. This is, I presume, because it’s breeding season again, although it does seem to have lasted an awful long time. I don’t suppose the hot weather has helped much either mind you.

That said, all my clients met some of my squirrel family, and came away loving them (as everyone does!). And what’s not to love?? The site (a deciduous wood) is very green right now which is a lovely contrast to the orange of the squirrels.

I took one client to the Cairngorm hide I use as she was based in Aviemore. The heather was in bloom and it looked wonderful. But… it was hot and very bright which sadly meant few squirrels and over-exposed, washed out heather. Such a shame. Leah had never seen a red squirrel though so she was delighted! These are the best I managed.

I like this image best though – it’s a golden-ringed dragonfly that kindly stopped for a minute in a photogenic location.

I’m always nervous taking clients to the dolphins at Chanonry Point as they are very hit or miss. As I wrote in my last blog, I did have a few decent visits in July which was a relief! August has been mixed. I’ve taken 2 clients. On the first occasion we had dolphins catching salmon but the second was a complete no show. So disappointing, but that’s wildlife for you and I bought my clients fish and chips to make up for it!

I’ve dismantled my pine wood pine marten/badger set up now although checking the trail camera footage (which only lasted 3 days as the birds at the nut feeder drained the battery) the pine marten was coming in in daylight again – typical! The birds are only now starting to show an interest in the feeder and I’m hoping to spot a crested tit on it sometime soon(ish). Lots of other birds still in the area though – I enjoyed watching a family of stonechats as swallows and house martens swooped around above me.

Also close to home I sat watching an osprey think about fishing. As always seems to happen, he couldn’t spot a fish so moved on, but always a thrill to see one at close quarters and I intend to spend as much time as possible during the next few weeks watching for ospreys as the juveniles learn to fish for themselves.

There were a fair few waders about too – large groups of lapwings, oystercatchers and redshank flew past as the tide pushed them off their feeding grounds. A couple of (I think) black tailed godwits were amongst the flocks too.

Much much closer to home, in fact at home, I’ve been enjoying the just-before-dark visits from the woodland badgers who have been appearing in my garden every night. I have a pop-up hide which I sit in to wait for them. They come down the path that leads from the wood to my garden, often pausing to check the coast is clear before venturing into the garden itself. Once they start feeding though they very rarely look up so I have to catch on the approach. It’s mostly the nursing female who is appearing. She is the more confident of the two and has been known to remain when the neighbours leave their house (which they seem to do every time a badger visits which is hugely frustrating!!). She isn’t bothered by shutter noise either – I tried switching off the silent shutter on the Z50 to get her to look up but she ignored it completely. The male is much more wary and runs at the slightest perceived threat or scent. I have had both together on a couple of occasions but with no interaction to speak of.

It has been exceptionally dry so the badgers will have had trouble finding earthworms which may be why they have been visiting so early. Mind you, they have also created a large latrine area at the side of the woodland path just at the edge of the garden so they obviously feel at home! When we did eventually have some rain I went out and photographed them, sheltering in my hide. The light, even with my own LED lighting was pretty awful but I did manage some very bedraggled badger images. Poor thing.

Guests of my rental cabin The Drey Inchberry can rent my garden hide to watch and photograph the badgers. I have lights and a heater to allow for evening/winter photography even in the dark. Guests who are booked on a workshop can use the hide for free, for others there’s a nominal charge. Over winter they do tend to come in quite early.

I spent the last week of July in Perthshire visiting family which was lovely. It’s a great part of the world and I did, of course, take some time both with family members and on my own, to visit some of my favourite spots.

I always enjoy watching ospreys in Perthshire. There are quite a few spots they frequent. On one occasion we thought we were witnessing an osprey drowning – it dived and then couldn’t get back out of the water. Too far away for photographs, but I was too worried about it anyway. Fortunately it managed to swim to the shore and clamber out of the water.

We visited Arbroath one day, somewhere I had never been before. Walking along the cliffs it was great to see so many breeding kittiwakes, many with twins. After a summer of horrible bird news due to the spread of avian flu it was nice to have some positive news.

I also found a mountain hare leveret! We only had a few moments together before it darted into a crevice, but wonderful to see.

I took a friend to Penny Hedge as she’d never seen pine martens before. During the day we enjoyed red squirrels, little birds and large helpings of glorious lemon drizzle cake. This was the first time I’d seen a nuthatch since moving North.

In the evening, although they kept us waiting until after dark, we were treated to visits from two separate pine martens, the first of which was a kit. Fab to see. I’ve spent a fair bit of time photographing martens this summer but their appearance is always a thrill.

If you’d like to join me for a workshop then please do get in touch. You can see what I have to offer on my photography site. The squirrels should be back on form very soon and it won’t be long now until winter. I have two residential packages – Red Squirrel Therapy and Winter Wildlife Photography Tour. These are booking fast so please do get in touch soon if you’re interested in either. You can, of course, book a stay in The Drey without doing a workshop too – it’s a lovely relaxing place to chill out and get away from it all, whatever the season and weather.

Finally, my 2023 calendars are now available on Etsy. Red Squirrels (A3), plus two formats (A4 and A3 skinny) for my Wildlife calendar.

There are greeting cards on there too, some of which are currently on sale.

Final thing! I’m now on Vero. A new social media platform with no ads and no algorithms. Please come and join me there.

That’s it for now. Looking forward to autumn!

Highland based nature photographer and guide specialising primarily in Scottish wildlife but available to cover live music and events.

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