Sep 25th, 2014
Again we got up at 6am, and again went to the Loch to look for beavers. Again we saw nothing apart from mist and the occasional ripple as a (small) fish turned over. We have been so lucky seeing everything else that I almost think that the beavers have left and are now living the life of Reilly somewhere on the River Beauly….
During the night I had heard a stag roaring, and this morning Sir John said at breakfast that it had been the first of the year and he would take anyone who wanted to go to see where it had been rutting. R and I went and he showed us the footprints of the stag and his hinds – very faint because it has been very dry here. It was interesting to see that the stag’s prints are half again the size of the females’.
Then we went off to Easter Ross, with visits to the RSPB Nigg hide, Dornoch, Loch Fleet reserve, and Golspie.
Nigg was not a great success. By the time we arrived the wind had seriously got up and when we opened the window to use the scope, the door immediately blew open. The latch seemed to be defective as it just would not stay closed, and in the end R had to hold it closed by hanging on to the handle. In addition, all the birds seemed to have decided to seek shelter somewhere else and there were few to be seen.
By this time, the need for toilets had become urgent in some of our party (myself I am a fan of a good bush). We shot off to find some, but the only potential we could find was a local Lidl. Goodness knows what they must have thought of a mini-bus turning up and eight people queuing up to use their toilets.
Anyway – after that excitement we went on to Fleet where things greatly improved. The wind had dropped a bit, and in any case it was more sheltered, so we saw a wide variety of water birds and a few deer. The big highlight, however, was seeing a juvenile osprey sitting in a tree. This is a rarity so late in the year and a thrill for R and me who had never seen one before.
After watching it for quite a while, we went back through Dornoch (very pretty and quaint) and picked up coffee, then on through Golspie (also pretty and quaint) out to the beach where we went for a walk. We didn’t see anything stunning on this, but it was lovely and peaceful with the sun shining now, and in the way of these east coast beaches, not a soul to be seen (partially because it is generally too damn cold). I gathered some shells and we looked at a few birds and some seals fishing in the river’s mouth. More than anything else the area with its pine trees, sand dunes and clear beach reminded me of North Norfolk.
Back to Aigas for tea. R finally succumbed to his sad addiction and spent an hour by the fireside in the common room with the (not very nippy) satellite connection all to himself.
Dinner was stilton and broccoli soup (R actually ate this!), venison (I actually ate this!) with red cabbage and mashed potatoes, dark chocolate mousse with raspberries.
After dinner, we went up to the hide for a go at seeing pine martens and badgers. This time we were successful (the lochside hide seems to be much better than the quarry hide where we went the other night at the moment). When we arrived there at 8pm there was a badger already in evidence. The rangers had hidden peanuts in three holes in a log and put stones over the top of them. One by one he pushed them off and consumed the nuts with great relish. I’d never realized from our badgers how noisy at eating they are. After about 15 minutes with the nuts he trundled off and it was instructive to see how badgers search for food – everything was driven by his ever-questing nose. We waited for another ten minutes and then a pine marten appeared – he was a young one (only about two thirds of the size of the one we see in our garden) and very nervous. He climbed to the top of one of the posts where nuts were concealed and had a good munch, always looking about him (he was obviously more vision oriented than the badgers). After a few minutes he was spooked by something and vanished off into the woods. But a good end to a good day.