Mammal Month

What a month! It’s usually birds that take up most of my camera’s memory card, but over the past few weeks I’ve been lucky enough to get some fantastic mammal sightings, including the second rarest carnivore in Britain…

Badger

Recently I visited a friend’s private hide. I arrived at 2:30pm and enjoyed squirrels, siskins and jays. Seven hours later, I glanced up and saw this badger approaching the clearing. You know that jolt in your chest when you see something absolutely incredible and rush to get your camera ready but your hands seem to move at half speed? That was me. Luckily this little one was in a meandering mood and took its time snuffling along the grass towards me. Obviously I kept as quiet and still as I could (despite the manic joy) but it still glanced over at me. There’s no fooling wildlife!

Roe deer

Roe deer prefer the seclusion and shelter of trees. Although they meander into open fields, they rarely stray far from the woodland edge. They are associated with Cernunnos, a Celtic horned god of wild animals and fertility. Deer were thought to have the power to pass to and from the Otherworld! Their antlers, shed each year, represent rebirth and rejuvenation. I saw this gorgeous buck from the same hide as the badger, which allowed me to get such intimate views. For me they’re one of Britain’s most magical creatures.

Rabbit

I’d been filming seals hauled out on the beach but there were some very grumbly clouds heading my way so I quickly packed up and hurried back to the car. Just beyond the sand was a dense area of gorse so as I walked I kept an eye out for stonechats and linnets. But instead I spotted a rabbit feeding out in the open. I was just marvelling over how darn cute he or she was when something caught my eye and this bundle of perfection appeared at the mouth of the warren. I’ve never seen a baby rabbit before and it was just as eye wateringly cute as I imagined. As a result of me stopping to take these photos I got caught in an absolute downpour before I made it back to the car, but getting soggy was totally worth it.

Red squirrel

I haven’t posted a squirrel photo since January so this is way overdue! I’d just enjoyed a swelteringly hot day in the Cairngorms. Aviemore was swarming with tourists so I made a hasty retreat back home. On the way I popped into my all-time favourite forest. It’s the sort of place you can get hopelessly and wonderfully lost in. I was tired and hungry after a long day but I thought I’d have a quick wander in case I spotted a squirrel. I walked for less than five minutes before I heard a crunching to my left and turned to see this little cutie at eye level, positively glowing in the sun. It was one of those right place right time moments.

Pine marten

Although I wish I could open my window and draw in all the animals with my angelic singing (while a pie cools on the windowsill), I’m not actually Snow White and the real world isn’t like that. For certain creatures, a little more effort has to be put in and a hide is the only way to go!
The pine marten belongs to the mustelid family with stoats, weasels and otters. They’re Britain’s second rarest carnivore after the Scottish wildcat, making them (in my view) as special as unicorns. I’ve been lucky enough to see them twice in the past, but both times were in the dark so photos were impossible.
Recently I achieved a huge goal of mine and got my first images of a pine marten! Despite their leisurely-looking lollop, these cat-sized animals shift at a fair pace. Luckily I managed to catch this lovely female running straight towards the hide.

Since posting this photo on Instagram, I was approached by Countryfile who then shared it on their account! I was incredibly chuffed.

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