Sep 21st, 2014
Our first proper day at Aigas and we were up quite literally with the dawn (6am when the first signs of light were touching the sky) to go to look for beavers. The official ‘beaver watching’ at Aigas ends at the beginning of September because there is no longer enough dusk light after dinner to walk over to see them – however there is still plenty of chance of seeing them in the very early morning provided you are prepared to be up at an unfeasibly early hour. We were and rather gingerly made our way through the still darkened woods to the hide. Mist hung over the loch and the dawn chorus was just breaking out.
They’d said we didn’t have much chance of seeing beavers and right enough – this morning we didn’t. However it was lovely and peaceful sitting looking over the loch, with the bats flitting backward and forward catching moths, and occasionally scrabbling over the hide roof. We walked back round the loch listening to the bird song while the sun properly came up. Then we had breakfast in the grand hall – a selection of cereals, fruit, porridge and toast. Our fellow guests are largely British of various persuasions (including quite a few Scots) and it was interesting to see that quite a few people ate porridge, but no one including the natives seemed to put salt on it!
We then had an interesting presentation from one of the rangers about the beaver reintroduction project in Scotland and saw a stuffed beaver who turned out to be ‘Boris’ the erstwhile patriarch of the Aigas beaver clan who had been found dead the previous year and was now having a useful afterlife displaying himself to guests.
Afterwards we had a ranger led walk round the whole estate and were shown how to identify beaver lodges and beaver felled trees (look as though they had been pencils sharpened old style with a knife by a not-particularly-skilled operator). We saw newts and a slow worm, together with a wide variety of bird life.
Lunch was a buffet with potato and onion soup followed by quiche and salad (R even ate this!).
In the afternoon we went out in a mini-bus to Glen Strathfarron. It was interesting to see the scenery turn from the ‘lowland’ hills and fields of the Black Isle into highland crags and moors within a few miles. By now the sun was shining and the view stupendous and we stopped by the river to see what we could observe.
The ranger put up a 60* magnification scope, and we were able to observe, first a wild goat on a mountainside so far away he could hardly be observed by the naked eye, and secondly, two circling golden eagles. These were specks unenhanced, but with the binoculars we could see they were big birds, and with the scope, the glint of gold at their necks. These were only the second golden eagles I have seen in my life (the first being one sitting on a fencepost near Wick over thirty years previously).
We then went for a walk in the relict Caledonia forest nearby – for us a huge contrast to the managed forestry plantations near us, far more open and less of a monoculture, for both reasons encouraging a greater variety of supported species.
Dinner was tomato and basil soup, followed by beef casseroled in red kite ale (I did a double take reading this as for a moment I thought we were getting red kite to eat!) and rhubarb and ginger crumble.
We were all getting tired by now and R wimped out of the last event of the day which was a presentation about the geography of the Highlands and the impact it has had on their wildlife. Being me I couldn’t bring myself to miss something which might be good (which it was) so had a big cup of coffee while watching the presentation, then came back to the cabin and tumbled into bed exhausted.