Jen’s love for conservation started when studying Zoology at the University of Glasgow. After graduating, Jen spent five years with the RSPB, first on the Somerset levels showcasing the starling murmurations and then safeguarding the world famous osprey nest at Loch Garten. Her last stint with the RSPB was on Islay surveying chough and counting geese before coming back to the mainland to join the Scottish Wildcat Action team for the winter survey season.
Latest News - Trail camera visitors and some unusual antics
There is a real buzz around checking a trail camera, the uncertainty of will there, won’t there be a wildcat is what makes the task of re-visiting a camera location a very exciting one. As I move through the trees, trying to remember where exactly I put the camera, the first thing I spot is the bait post. If the bait is still there, untouched, it can be disheartening but if it is gone, ripped from the post, the adrenaline starts to kick in. Has a cat been here? The idea of the bait, which is firmly attached to a post, is to attract a cat to pose long enough in front of the camera in order to give a good set of images that allows us to pelage score the cat, and in turn determine if this is a possible wildcat or a hybrid (a cat with mixed wildcat and domestic cat ancestry).
However, attaching food to a post will attract any hungry animal that catches a whiff of the bait, and so there is an element of surprise when checking the captured images. I liken it to unwrapping presents at Christmas; you don’t quite know what you are going to get but you hope the gift you asked for is concealed within that festive paper you are dying to rip off. And the gift on everyone’s Christmas list this year is a wildcat. That is what we are hoping to find as we insert our SD card into our computer and open up the folder of saved images. However, more often than not there is not a cat but an unexpected gift that is equally as exciting, and sometimes pleasantly surprising. As much as we want a handsomely striped and blunt tailed cat posing in front of the camera lens, the other wildlife captured on camera is just as rewarding a find. And there have been some interesting and fascinating finds that I can’t resist sharing. So, here are the top contenders for best non-wildcat images from the Strathspey winter survey.
The first unexpected find for me was this beautiful stoat in ermine. He/she spent three days darting up and down the bait post, slowly munching its way through the bait until there was nothing left of it.
This jay has been another slow eater, taking several days to finish off the bait. This was the moment it managed to pull the head off of the quail!
Badgers have been a common visitor to our cameras, some not just taking the bait but also taking the posts! However, none of us expected what was witnessed by one determined badger. Lured by a wing which had been tied to a branch out of badger reach (or so we thought!), the badger started to climb the tree! Who knew that badgers were capable of, or even had the inkling to climb a tree!?
This stunning owl found the bait post to be a handy perch, which conveniently came with dinner!
This is only some of the wildlife that has been captured on camera. Other notable finds have included woodcock, buzzard, pine marten, wood mice, mountain hare, red squirrel, red deer stag.
I was delighted with these findings until Angus Glens trumped Strathspey with a golden eagle. Not that I’m competitive...much!
Of course, there is always that Christmas present that you just DON’T want...in this case, a dog doing its business up against your bait post.
You can see more images of other species caught on camera on our facebook page.
Scottish Wildcat Action is the first national project to save the highly endangered Scottish wildcat from extinction. It is a partnership involving over 20 organisations, including, Scottish Natural Heritage, Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS), Cairngorms National Park Authority, Forestry Commission Scotland, National Museums Scotland, National Trust for Scotland, Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies at the University of Edinburgh, Scottish Gamekeepers’ Association and the Scottish Wildlife Trust. It is funded by Heritage Lottery Fund and Scottish Government, as well as its partners.
See www.scottishwildcataction.org for more information.
This content was made possible by our Partners & Funders at Heritage Lottery Fund