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Tuesday 13 December 2011

BBC News - Concern over squirrel pox at Culzean Country Park

Red Squirrel

"Concern is growing for Scotland's red squirrel population after a case of deadly squirrel pox was confirmed at Culzean Country Park in Ayrshire."

"The virus was found in a grey squirrel, which is unharmed by the pox, but can pass it on to red squirrels.
Until now, cases had largely been confined to the far south of Scotland.
The National Trust for Scotland (NTS) said the presence of the pox virus in Ayrshire "represents a concerning leap to the north".

Squirrel pox was detected at Culzean by NTS rangers and staff from the Red Squirrels in South Scotland Project. It was later confirmed by expert testers."
The disease is almost always fatal to Red Squirrels. It causes lesions around the mouth, nose and eyes similar to Myxomatosis in Rabbits and usually kills the squirrel in 7 to 10 days.

Click the link below to read the rest of the story.

The squirrel pox virus (squirrel parapoxvirus) is believed to be transmitted from grey to red squirrels by parasites in dreys and by contact at feeding sites. 

Because of the latter, people are being advised not to provide squirrel feeders in areas where red and grey squirrels are both present.

Read a full report about this by clicking the link below.

Lesions to the eyes, nose and mouth of a red squirrel, caused by the squirrel pox virus

Friday 9 December 2011

Scottish Wildcat (Felis sylvestris grampia)

Click here to visit the Scottish Wildcat Association
I mentioned before that I was planning to get more involved in Scottish Wildcat conservation and this winter I will be setting camera traps in the hope that I can gather evidence of their presence.

In late summer 2010 I witnessed a large cat stalking a hare at night which, at a distance, looked very much like a wild cat; but there was no way of establishing if it was pure bred, hybrid or a feral cat.

I've also seen foot prints and faeces on several occasions since which lead me to believe they are about in this area.

The Scottish Wildcat Association is charitable organisation dedicated to protecting and conserving Britain's only remaining wild feline and through their wildcat haven project are working hard, not only to improve this cat's chances of survival long term but also its population expansion into areas from which it has disappeared.

Click here to visit the Scottish Wildcat Association

If you care about the plight of the Scottish Wildcat you can help either as a volunteer or with fund raising by becoming a member of the association.

Wednesday 30 November 2011

Camera survey of a local spruce plantation.

Norway Spruce plantation

Norway Spruce canopy
I was recently asked to carry out a survey for Red Squirrels and their dreys (nests) in a local plantation of dense Norway Spruce.

This is an area which normally shows a fairly high incidence of squirrel feeding during the late summer and autumn but the most recent signs I found were at least a month old and mostly green cone feeding from summer and early autumn.

This year has been extremely wet in this area and coupled with an almost non existent hazel crop, it's possible that mortality may be higher than normal.

I've looked, many times for dreys in this plantation and so far had not seen any. This occasion was no exception and as you can see from the images on the left, the tree density makes it an almost impossible task.

I used trail cameras in several places in the hope that one of them might catch a squirrel. In one part of the plantation where the most recent feeding signs were found I also discovered a group of fungi, which some animal had been feeding on. In the hope of finding out what, I set two of the cameras at different angles over these.

The other cameras I set nearby for several days but still no squirrels.

When I returned to collect the cameras I saw      where badgers had been turning the ground for earthworms and as you can see in the video composite below, the area was visited by a fox, two badgers and a Pine Marten in a hurry.

The light in the marten shot is the second camera firing. Both cameras are 'black flash' so this is just what the camera can see.

There are also two images of Red Squirrel dreys shown below for reference. These are both about 10 metres of the ground. They are not always this visible.

Red Squirrel drey in Scots Pine

Red Squirrel drey in Norway Spruce

Monday 28 November 2011

Dog Falls and Loch Beinn a' Mheadhain in Glen Affric

Dog Falls
A happy Kathy with the dogs, under an old Scots Pine
A week last Friday, Kathy and I decided to take the dogs round to Dog Falls in Glen Affric and walk up to a view of Loch Beinn a' Mheadhain.

The day was overcast and threatening rain but only managed wind and a light drizzle. From the viewpoint I took a shot of Loch Beinn a' Mheadhain (pronounced - ben a veyan) under a dark sky and then we diverted up the hill into some sheltered Pines for a brew up before returning.

We saw Woodcock which migrate here for the winter and somewhere on the hill above we heard a deer whistle an alarm call.

Happy days.

Loch Beinn a' Mheadhain looking west from above the dam

Wednesday 16 November 2011

Guisachan Farm - Sunset, Moonrise and Autumn

Guisachan Farm - November sunset
Moonrise over the old Guisachan House ruin
Autumn colours on the hillside above  Guisachan Farm

Tuesday 8 November 2011

The Porsche Cayennes of Larissa | Habitat Aid's Blog

This topical comment on the Greek economy and its parallels in conservation, by Nick Mann at Habitat Aid is well worth a read.

The Porsche Cayennes of Larissa | Habitat Aid's Blog:

Monday 7 November 2011

Trees for Life 2012 Calendar

This last weekend I was horrified to discover that I had accidentally scrambled the trees for life link code (top of right hand sidebar) and the link was sending everyone to a completely different site; so as part of my apology to them I thought I'd promote their 2012 calendar.

This year they've changed the calendar to focus exclusively on the Caledonian Forest, and it features outstanding photographs of the trees and wildlife there, together with thoughtful quotes about forests and the importance of volunteering. Beautifully produced to a high standard, it includes plenty of space for appointments and will provide inspiration all year long.

Order your 'Trees for Life' 2012 calendar

Tuesday 1 November 2011

Trail camera colour balance, sharpness and dynamic range

Fig 1. Acorn full frame
Fig 2. Acorn centre frame
All these images are shot at the same time so conditions for each camera are identical.

I deliberately included a fair amount of sky in the frame to push the dynamic range.
Click an image to open in a new window.

Fig 3. Bushnell full frame
Fig 4. Bushnell centre frame

Colour balance.

The Bushnell is warmer than natural, while the Acorn is slightly cool and the Prostalk much cooler than natural.

Fig 5. Prostalk full frame
Fig 6. Prostalk centre frame
Dynamic range.

The Bushnell dynamic range is by far the best but darker than I would prefer.
The Acorn looses some sky detail and the Prostalk performs poorly with noticeable blue fringing.

Sharpness and clarity.

The Bushnell again performs best while the Acorn is soft in the centre frame image (fig 2). The Prostalk looks sharp in the full frame image (fig 5) but shows the pixels significantly breaking down in the centre frame image (fig 6).

Overall performance.

1 Bushnell   2 Acorn   3 Prostalk

Cameras under test are
 Acorn 5210A 940nm, Bushnell Trophy Cam 2010 model 119445 and Hawke ProStalk PC2000

Friday 21 October 2011

Curious behaviour of Fly on Rosebay Willow-herb

I noticed this curious behaviour back in July and assumed this fly was feeding off something on the surface of the leaves. Probably someone viewing this will know what's going on and leave a comment.

Sorry it's occasionally a bit blurred. In my enthusiasm I got too close for the camera to focus properly.

Thursday 20 October 2011

Wood Ants (Formica rufa L)

After watching Ray Mears in the Highland forests last Friday, his mention of Wood Ants prompted me to post these images from earlier this year.

This first picture shows a typical nest composed mainly of pine needles and is about a metre across.

 Next is a much smaller nest, about the size of a football showing the holes the ants open up for ventilation and access.

Lastly a close up of workers clustered around one of the entrances through which they enter the nest with whatever they've plundered from the surrounding area.

Saturday 15 October 2011

Raccoon Dogs Skinned Alive in China « Protection 4 Animals

How anyone with the slightest feeling for other living things can carry out an act like this is beyond my comprehension.

It's time international pressure was used against countries who permit this sort of barbarity.

The fashion industry has a lot to answer for.

Raccoon Dogs Skinned Alive in China « Protection 4 Animals:

Friday 14 October 2011

Ray Mears on ITV tonight

It's a bit late in the day to be mentioning this but Juliet Robinson, the Red Squirrels of the Highlands project officer will be appearing in tonight's

"Wild Britain with Ray Mears

An ITV Studios production for ITV1

Series begins Friday 14th October, 8pm, ITV1.

This series returns to ITV1 with a new 10 part run as Ray Mears discovers some of our islands' finest and most beautiful natural habitats and celebrates the very best of our wildlife.

In this second series, Ray ventures further afield as he explores the wild landscapes of Great Britain - ancient pine forests, deep bogs, and remote mountains.

From the dramatic Cairngorms in the Scottish Highlands and the underwater world of a sea loch in the Outer Hebrides, to the steep sea cliffs on an island off the coast of Wales, Ray unlocks the vital links between the plant, animal and insect worlds and the role of man in the evolution of our ever changing landscape. Sharing his knowledge of field craft and his passion for our native wildlife, Ray shows us the hidden natural world that lives just beyond our doorstep."  Click here for more information

Acorn 5210a card full problem

I've just noticed in my site stats that someone had used the search term "acorn 5210a card full problem" and thought I'd better respond because I've just resolved this issue during tests on this camera.

I have used several different SDHC cards in the Ltl Acorn 5210A and had no problems until I tried the Kingston ultimateX 100X shown on the left.

The card would not format on the camera and so after formating with the PC I tried it again. The camera wrote nonsense files to the card and undid the formating. During the process I got the "card full" message on the screen but with no images on the card, so I reformated the card on the PC and tried it in the Bushnell and the Hawke ProStalk. It worked absolutely fine on these cameras so I tried it again in the Acorn, still with no success.

I guessed at this stage that there could be a compatibility problem so I got in touch with Kinston and received this reply:

We regret to inform you that we do not support the Acorn 5210A and therefore we are unable to recommend a SDHC card.

We sincerely apologise that we have been unable to assist you on this occasion. However, should you have further queries do not hesitate to contact us.
So the bottom line is don't buy Kingston cards to work in Ltl Acorn 5210 trail cameras. All the Sandisk and Lexar cards I've tried in the Acorn work OK but I haven't tested every available card.

I do have a Kingston SD 2G card which works in the Acorn so probably it's just their HC cards.

One SDHC card that does work in the Acorn is the Lexar 8GB SDHC 100X.

If anyone has other experiences like this, I would very much like to hear from them.

Wildlife reactions to trail cameras

Following on from the last post, I had the ProStalk set up over peanuts in the same area and as well as the squirrel, this was visited by badger and pine marten.

The video clip below shows a badger taking notice of the visible infra red when the camera switched on. Badgers and pine martens don't seem at all bothered by this and after their initial interest, will carry on as normal. Almost invariably, pine martens will come and give the camera a close up inspection and on a number of occasions where the camera has been set close to the ground, they have marked the camera by urinating over it. The first time this happened I thought the camera was a bit sticky when I went to check the card, and afterwards, as I looked at the video clips, I realised why.

This is not the case with other wildlife. Red Deer will always be nervous and shy away from the camera if they come close or it is directly in their path. Urbanised foxes, although nervous, do seem to tolerate the IR glow after a while, but out here where foxes are really wild, all you'll usually see is the light in their eyes as they keep to the edge of the illuminated area and skirt round and away.

Close by another camera caught these Red Deer hinds and I think a yearling calf, in the early morning light.

Thursday 13 October 2011

Red Squirrel feeding on fungus and Spruce cones

Back in mid September I had started to investigate a section of forest to the south west that I'd not surveyed; and which is geographically more isolated from disturbance than the surrounding areas. There is evidence of more Red Deer than in some other parts and I hope to give this more attention over the winter.

In a mature stand of Norway and Sitka Spruce were plenty of squirrel signs and I set up a couple of cameras to see what was about. The video clip below shows a Red Squirrel feeding on a fungus near the base of a Norway Spruce. When I first looked at the clips I thought I was getting false triggers but realised, on closer inspection, that the squirrel was breaking off pieces of the fungus and disappearing up the tree, only to drop bits from the canopy; which were triggering the camera as they hit the ground. If you watch carefully you'll see this happen part way through the clip.

Ultimately the squirrel pulled the fungus out of the ground, tipped it upside down and demolished it, leaving the scattered remains. While some of the fungus was consumed a large part of it was thrown about and left which had me wondering if this behaviour is an exhibition of what we would refer to as playing.

Green Sitka Spruce cone partially fed on by squirrel.

More feeding on Sitka cones. The ones that are almost completely stripped where also green cones.

Here a squirrel had taken a Norway Spruce cone onto a fallen trunk.

and not far away, this pile of Sitka cones, partially hidden under brush at the base of a Sitka have been fed on by either mice or voles. Note the close gnawing off of the scales in contrast to the untidy appearance of squirrel fed cones.

Monday 10 October 2011

Trail camera close focus tests

If, like myself, you want to use a trail camera for filming smaller animals at close range, then focusing is one of the issues which can be a problem.

The images below show how the Acorn 5210A 940nm, the Bushnell Trophy Cam 2010 model 119445 and the Hawke ProStalk PC2000 focus at 1 Metre.
Each image is cropped from the centre of the frame and when you open the image up to full size it will be 1:1 as it came off the camera.

It's important to note that no adjustments have been made to these images. Sharpness, white balance, contrast and brightness are exactly as each camera produced them.
All the cameras save stills in a jpg file format.

Acorn 5210A 940nm

Click on the image to view full size in a separate window.

The camera was set at it's 5 Mega Pixel resolution and the full image size is 
2560 x 1920 pixels saved at a print size of 180 ppi

Bushnell Trophy Cam 2010 
model 119445

Click on the image to view full size in a separate window.

The camera was set at it's 5 Mega Pixel resolution and the full image size is 
2592  x 1944 pixels saved at a print size of 96 ppi
Hawke ProStalk PC2000

Click on the image to view full size in a separate window.

The camera was set at it's 2 Mega Pixel resolution and the full image size is 
1600  x 1200 pixels saved at a print size of 96 ppi

The Acorn is the only camera that focuses at 1 metre, the Bushnell comes into focus at about 1,4 metres and the ProStalk doesn't really improve in real terms at any distance.

White balance tests will be following.....

Sunday 9 October 2011

Trail Camera Reviews

I've been intending to review the trail cameras that I've been using and while I'm without transport seemed like a good time to start. These cameras are, left to right an Acorn 5210A 940nm, a Bushnell Trophy Cam 2010 model 119445 and a Hawke ProStalk PC2000.

Ltl Acorn 5210 940nm

The Acorn is what they call a lo glow version; and means that it's IR diodes emit at a wavelength of 940 nano metres which is invisible to humans and wildlife.

Shown left with the back removed to access the colour viewing screen (48 x 35.69mm / 2.36"), key pad and additional battery compartment, this design is a departure from the more usual "peli" style cases used by Bushnell et.c

Bushnell Trophy Cam 2010 model 119445

The IR diodes emit a visible glow but they also have  2011 Black LED models 119466 and 467

This model has a black and white (24 x 32mm/ 1.5") display which can be used for camera set up but not for viewing what's on the card. You have to carry a separate viewer for this or wait until you have access to a PC.

The 2011 Black LED model 119467 does have a (32 x 42mm / 2") colour viewing screen.

Hawke ProStalk PC200

This camera is the smallest and lightest of the trio and again its IR Diodes produce a visible glow.

The black and white LCD display screen allows set up of all the cameras functions, but no viewing of images or video.

It is an extremely compact, functional and easy to use design.

There will be more about these cameras over the next few weeks, together with comparison tests and plenty of examples of field results in all modes and conditions.

All of this will be added to the trail camera page along with specification sheets and analysis.

Friday 7 October 2011

Autumn colours

 Autumn's well under way now and back as early as the 26th August the bracken (left) was turning at Corrimony.

This year has generally been fairly wet this far north and not, it seems, a good year for the development of some fruits. I've been checking fallen Hazel cobs recently and haven't found a kernel more developed than the one below which was 5mm across instead of about 13mm.

The Bird Cherry (bottom) on the other hand, is fully grown but these tiny seeds (3mm) are not going to help squirrels who would normally be enjoying the autumn Hazel crop.

I haven't seen any Rowan berries either, this year, other than one bush in a Glen Urquhart forest car park. I don't know what they're like in the wider area but people tell me there is a lot of fruit down south, which of course, has been a lot sunnier.

While on the subject of autumn colours, you may have noticed the change of colour scheme for these pages. I'd tired of funereal black and decided to brighten up the presentation. I'm not sure if I'm entirely happy with the way it looks so far, so there may be more changes to come.

Wednesday 28 September 2011

Strike one van.

Sorry I've not been active for a couple of weeks. I've had a bad chest, ear, nose and throat infection which put a whole new meaning to getting your cents worth.

On top of that, last Thursday night a Roe Deer helped me total the van which means that I'm going to have to function without transport for at least a couple of months; as I just don't have the cash resources to go out and get an instant replacement.

I managed to avoid the deer but hit a very big wall on the opposite side of the road. It doesn't look that bad in the picture but it wrecked the wheel and tyre and crumpled the chassis, plus there's damage to the body further back. The wall didn't move!

I'm having to re-assess how and what surveying I'll be doing over the winter. Corrimony and Dundreggan
will have to wait until early next year and meanwhile, I'll be working mainly in the forest to the west of Guisachan which is shown below.

As well as Red Squirrels, I'll be looking for Wildcat using low glow infra red cameras on the remote animal trails in the area.

This is an area of well over 600 hectares, much of which is dense plantation and relatively remote; so I expect to be working in there for a long time.

Sunday 11 September 2011

Olympus Digital f2.8 50-200mm Telephoto Lens for sale


Circumstances are forcing me to part with this lens which I really do not want to sell.

It is a four thirds fit, 100mm to 400mm equivalent to the old 35mm format with a maximum aperture of f2.8 and f3.5 at full telephoto.

It's in good used condition, gives excellent results and is available for sale on eBay

If you want to ask me anything about this lens please feel free to get in touch by eMail, phone or Skype

Saturday 10 September 2011

Save our Badgers

All the available scientific evidence suggests that plans to shoot badgers will do very little to prevent the spread of bovine TB in cattle, is not a long term solution and may well make the situation worse.
Find out more by visiting The Badger Trust and Save Me
You can also explore other options to our currently outdated practices by visiting Rethink Bovine TB and Bovine TB


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This web site is about the wildlife, particularly the mammals, of the Glen Affric National Nature Reserve area in the north west Highlands of Scotland, UK; and the equipment I use to search for them, which is chiefly trail cameras.

I provide a technical support and parts service for the Ltl Acorn range of cameras and the income from this provides for the upkeep of this site and the purchase of cameras for my own surveying.

I hope you find the site useful and informative; and please contact me if you have any questions that I haven't already covered.