This time last year I was writing about our long, dry summer.  Unlike most of the rest of the UK we have avoided the drought and exceptional heatwaves.  We often find ourselves apologising for the weather, this year folk are telling us what a relief it is to experience some cool air and a landscape that isn’t brown!

Our oldest beavers Millie and Bjorna (16 and 13 respectively) have moved back onto the small nearest the centre with their one surviving kit from last year.  They are now well beyond the average age for beavers in the wild, and maybe their move back to the smaller Loch Barnluasgan is them gracefully retiring from managing a much larger territory.

Last autumn, during our annual field signs survey, we were delighted to find two new beaver families.  They are not living on lochs but have built wetland habitats by damming very small burns from which they have created impressive wetlands.  The increasing numbers of families has necessitated the purchase of more camera traps to monitor the beavers’ activities and a consequent rise in our food bill for bait to attract the beavers (mostly sweet potatoes and carrots), which our Vegware funding helps subsidise

Au gust saw us partaking in a ‘Wild Seas’ weekend to celebrate the marine restoration taking place around Loch Craignish, namely native oyster and sea grass restoration projects.  We are responsible for delivering the education aspects of the oyster project, working with five local primary schools each year to monitor the oysters’ progress.  Two of our MSPs visited the event Ariane Burgess from the Green Party and Jenny Minto SNP.  Ariane is Holyrood’s species champion for the beaver and the night before we took her out to try and see some.  The beavers were on their best behaviour and we saw three within 15 minutes of arriving on-site!

We also record the other species that are living and interacting with the oysters.  Fish are the normal bait added to the creels so we can find out what’s living in the loch.  Many of the children have never had the opportunity to see or touch some of the creatures that live here.

Our hide is proving a great success with visitors hiring the space and getting some great images of pine martens, red squirrels, badgers, sparrowhawks, woodpeckers and red deer, as well as smaller species such as nuthatches and bank voles. We provide food for folk to put out including seed mixes, peanuts, sugar-free peanut butter and hazelnuts; red squirrels get very excited when they find hazelnuts and tend to run off into the woods to bury them rather than eat them on the spot!

We hope to have lighting installed soon, to enable us to hold winter badger watches.  One of the highlights this summer was catching footage of two very young pine martens play-fighting directly in front of the hide.

Our latest project is monitoring otter activity at a junction of the A816 Oban road.  There have been a number of otter road casualties here recently and we hope to be able to establish why they are crossing the road here and to come up with mitigation methods (such as light deflectors and culvert clearance)