Badger watch

Near the Cairngorm Mountains of Scotland is the charming town of Grantown-on-Spey, an excellent base for birdwatching at the coast, in the mountains, and in the cool pine forest.  But it wasn’t birds that took us to the Rothiemurchus forest last night.  It was badgers.

Loch Morlich near Grantown-on-Spey lies in the heart of a Scots Pine forest with the snow--capped Cairngorm mountains in the distance.

Loch Morlich near Grantown-on-Spey lies in the heart of a Scots Pine forest with the snow–capped Cairngorm mountains in the distance.

Red deer at Rothiemurchus forest

A captive red deer herd greeted us on our walk into the hide (blind) on the Rothiemurchus estate.

Badger at Rothiemurchus forest hide

The first badger made an appearance about 10:30 pm, just as I was about to doze off in the darkened blind.  Exterior lights don’t bother the animals that come for peanuts and raisins; its just enough light to photograph them.

Badger at Rothiemurchus forest hide

European badgers in this area of Scotland are a rotund bunch (or maybe they are just eating a lot of peanuts).  Although we think of badgers as carnivores in the U.S., these badgers eat a wide variety of food including earthworms, insects, small mammals, root tubers, fruits, and of course peanuts.

Badger at Rothiemurchus forest hide

Peanuts and peanut butter can be found everywhere around the hide in the evening, so badgers crawl into some tight places to show off for us.

Badger at Rothiemurchus forest hide

Some noise put them on alert and this pair dashed off under the rocks near the hide.

Mouse at Rothiemurchus forest hide

Mice made brief appearances to grab some of the peanuts before the badgers ate them all.

Pine Marten at Rothiemurchus forest hide

But this is the animal everyone was waiting for, and she showed up quite late to grab her share of the peanuts.  The quick-moving, feisty Pine Marten is another member of the weasel family, like the much bigger badger.

Martens are about the size of a small house cat, quick on their feet whether on the ground or running about in the trees, and eat a wide variety of mostly animal matter, although they too love the peanuts.

Pine Marten at Rothiemurchus forest hide

Martens are agile climbers with retractable claws, so they can forage in trees as well as on the ground.

Pine Marten at Rothiemurchus forest hide

Pine Marten, like many other small carnivorous species (like red foxes), are exterminated by gamekeepers managing the grouse and other game birds for shooting.  On this small area of the Rothiemurchus estate, which brings in lots of wildlife viewers, the martens are safe.

Pine Marten at Rothiemurchus forest hide

They rarely pause in their foraging, so with low light levels in the pitch black night, it’s extremely difficult to capture an image of them.

We left the blind at 12:30 a.m., happy to have seen as many as five badgers and two martens, as well as a Tawny Owl and Woodcock flying about the blind.

6 thoughts on “Badger watch

  1. What lovely shots Sue. We have a badger watch close to us which I have been on a few times but they don’t have lights on them so it is tricky getting good shots. If you are lucky they appear just before the sun goes down but they are also quite a long way off. Sounds like you are having a great trip to the UK.

  2. Beautiful images and post. AM reading this on a bus in Ireland near Cork …. Not all that far from you in Scotland. Headed for Iceland eventually and back to Ireland. Jim

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