Monday, 17 June 2013

Peaking Early

I warn you now, this will be brief.

We have a pair of foxes working the extreme North edge of the estate. Between ourselves and our neighbours, we've spent a lot of time spying the area from daybreak. (Which, by the way, means getting up there for about 3.30am.) One fox has been spotted regularly but over a huge area. Every time it has been spotted it has travelled out of everyones view and been lost to us.

The other has only shown muzzle 4 times in the last month. It seems to go around at breakneck speed and gets lost to us in double quick time.

Last night a friend came up with a (very, very expensive) thermal imager. We were up on the top of the highest hill in the area, right through the night, spying for any sign of either fox. And guess what?

That's right; no show.

So it looks like the alarm is going to be set for 2.30am. Again.


Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Foxes and Pussies

Although we are the middle of our 'foxing season', you haven't heard a lot about it. That's because it has been very quiet indeed. So far we've only found 2.5 dens.

If you're wondering about the 0.5 it's because we had a dog fox move onto the far reaches of our ground with a couple of cubs. They were survivors from a den being dealt with by a neighbouring estate.

But, all in all, it's turning out to be a strange season. We are catching few stoats, seeing few 'hoodie' crows, and finding very few foxes. 

There are a couple of foxes been spotted up on our North march too, but they also have eluded us. So far. Unfortunately the weather has broken down again so we're struggling to get good visibility for spying at first light.

We're also catching up with a few maintenance jobs around the place. Last Friday we were sorting up a footbridge, waaay out on the hill when I spotted a moth on one of the handrail uprights. It was bigger than any moth I'd ever seen.

As I had the email address of a chap who comes up here trapping and studying moths, I took some pics and sent them to him. I was surprised that, when he got back to me, he'd told me he'd only ever seen one before and asked whether he could post a pic on the Butterfly Conservation website. (

Apparently it's called a Puss Moth. You learn something new every day.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Beware Factors Bearing Gifts

A decade ago Angus Council came up with an initiative to boost local rural economies and encourage the public (yes, you!) to take some exercise. The Angus Glens Walking Festival was born.

At the news of the birth, the three wise men of Dalhousie Estates (the laird, the factor and the Head Gamekeeper) offered a gift.  That gift was a Glenesk resident who could help guide the walkers..... and maybe also the organisers. A Trudgin' Horse!

Since being volunteered that first year, I've been back every year bar 1. And I've grown to enjoy sharing my office with these visitors. I also enjoy the opportunity to tell them a little bit about the balancing act that is the management of a highland estate.

I was at it again just a couple of days ago and set out to demonstrate what it takes to get close enough to deer to shoot them. On reflection it was a rather tall order - and I'm not referring to the 1,000ft of climbing here. Rather, it was due to fact that there were 30 of them (plus 2 other leaders) and they were dressed in their most rustly clothes in colours that could be seen from space.

As you would expect, all the 'rare' stuff (sea eagles, golden eagles, hen harriers, adders, merlin, wildcat and otter marks etc) remained stubbornly out of sight. But we did get close to deer and we did see a good variety of 'other stuff'. And whenever I wasn't working their legs, I was working their ears.

They were very polite and gave me some very positive feedback. Personally, I considered it a bonus I survived the day at all after finding out that a couple of them were vegans. Although one chap likened me to Bear Grylls, I'm sure there were others who considered

me an arse.

We're needing a marketing 'hook' for our new wildlife tours. So I've decided to call myself Bear Arse.


Saturday, 1 June 2013


A few years back I was lucky enough to be offered the chance of a job exchange. The result was that I spent 3 months working on a remote 100,000ha game reserve on the edge of the Kalahari in South Africa.

From day one, it was incredible. I darted lions. I tracked rhino. I counted game from a low-flying helicopter. I helped in the live capture of 1500 head of game.

To call it a once-in-a-lifetime experience falls far short. It was surreal, like the plot of a cheap novel. But it happened.

The exchange was organised by my employer and one of our regular shooting guests. I spent a lot of time wondering how I could possibly show my gratitude for this amazing chance. The only answer I could come up with was to keep them up to date with my adventures. I emailed a daily blog.

As my time in the Kalahari went on, more and more people asked to be included on my mailing list. On my return to the UK, I was persuaded to keep writing.

My African adventure is 4 years behind me now. However it was such an amazing thing, that I can't bear for it to be over. It HAS to have been life-changing.

Yet, I feel the same. The only difference is that now I am a writer. My benefactor had my African blogs made into a coffee-table book. As I result of that, I was offered a regular column with 'Scots' magazine. A regular slot in 'Sporting Rifle' has since followed.

It might be small beer (I really don't know) but the fact is the ripples from Tswalu are still spreading out through my life.

If you're a regular visitor, you'll notice that my blogs had 'stalled' of late. Part of this is that I thought that, after 3 years, there wasn't much left to say. Part of it was also that it was getting a bit onerous. And part of it was that I could never find an answer to the question "...and why exactly am I doing this?!"

Well just recently there have been developments. The estate I work for- Invermark- is trying to develop in some new directions. One being wildlife tourism. And this blog is being pushed as a 'marketing tool'.

I still find myself asking "...and why exactly am I doing this?" because- at the moment- there seems to be nothing in it for me.

Apart from keeping those ripples going.