Aigas’ resident mammals

In my last blog about Fungi, I said we’d been very fortunate to spend a week on a workshop at Aigas Field Centre in October.

You don’t go to Aigas to see and photograph fungi though. To quote the Aigas website, it offers holidays “exploring the stunning wildlife, habitats and landscapes of the Scottish Highlands”.

Aigas was set up by Sir John Lister Kaye, a well-known conservationist who rescued the House of Aigas from demolition in 1976 and created the first Field Studies Centre for the Highlands and Islands there. Sir John, although now in his 80s, is very much in evidence in running the centre, suggesting improvements and conserving the wildlife. Sitting chatting to him before dinner about the state of rewilding, conservation, the status of endangered animals, is a joy.

So what did we see?

And the first photo is something we didn’t see! Beavers! There is a family in the loch, who are very evident from their nightly work in chewing through trees. But in the autumn, they can nap through the shorter daylight hours so we drew a blank on seeing them. Plenty of evidence of their presence though.

(At other times of the year, you can sit in the hide that Johnny Kingdom built at the centre and watch them swimming or posing on mud islands in the loch.)

On the other hand, red squirrels were much in evidence and love to seek out food and pose on this wall. One of the hides is perfectly placed to give good views of the squirrels with the dark background well out of focus.

I’ve taken a lot of photos of reds over the years and it was difficult to find something different. So here are “if you’ve got an itch, scratch it”

And “Aren’t I a pretty boy?” A rather classic pose

Laurie Campbell is a well known Scottish wildlife photographer who regularly leads workshops at Aigas, and with Sir John, he was instrumental in setting up the Campbell Hide for viewing pine marten and badgers. 

Laurie was another of our workshop leaders. An evening in the hide with Laurie starts after the excellent three course dinner (eaten in the baronial hall!), and the session lasts for as long as you have the stamina. We saw mother and ?son.

Mum

?Son, so identifiable with that damaged ear.

They were pretty nervous and it was obvious why when the badger came in.

Laurie had set a treasure trail of food for the badger, that meant lots of digging, turning over large boulders and wriggling into this tree trunk.

When he eventually left at about midnight, we all agreed to sit it out and mum did indeed come back.

We also heard and saw a tawny owl that night but in trees so far away, photos were impossible. Bedtime was at about 130am. Definitely worth the loss of sleep though

Later in the week, we were taken to see two of the many Scottish wildcats that are part of the wildcat breeding project that Aigas is proud to take part in, hoping to be able to release them into the wild eventually.

This is Coal (or maybe Cole) the 4 year old male showing off the distinctive tail and back stripes.

And this is the 12 year old female, easily identifiable by the white facial hair, just like my old man’s beard 🤣

And we saw all of these without leaving the grounds of the centre!

I’d definitely recommend a stay at this unique location.

Footnote: Just for David Curley. Although otters have been seen at the centre around the loch, they are not regular visitors. There are better sightings to be had on the riverside down at Beauly or North Kessock, which are both close by. But we didn’t see one other than in the far distance

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9 Comments
  1. Great blog CB, and super images! Wonderful to see these creatures and what a fabulous variety you saw there!

  2. So lovely to see Scottish wildcats without a gazillion bits of mess. I know you have a fabulous week, so nice to see the fruits of your sleepless nights and long days

  3. Fantastic blog and great images Chris. My next project is along those lines.

  4. Great blog and love the evils that Cole / Coal is giving you 👀

  5. What a fabulous place to stay and so much wonderful wildlife! Thanks for a great blog, Chris.

  6. Thanks for the heads up re Otters, I noted that they never mention them in their marketing so suspected that the Otters were not regulars.

  7. I would still visit just to see the Wildcats, I love your shots no evidence of cages 😍

    • David, they’re in big enclosures for the wildcats with lots of woodland for them to hide in. Aigas are in the process of building new ones too that look pretty big. You do need to be aware that seeing the wildcats is ranger led, ie you’re taken to the hide by one of the rangers and have about an hour.

  8. what a great place 🙂

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