Work and wildlife in the Cairngorms

Work party at Allt Scheicheachan bothy in the Cairngorms

Great day for a work party (and picnic from the looks of things) at Allt Scheicheachan – not, you would think, ideal conditions for filming the wildlife.

When you walk in to the woods and sit with your back to a tree and don’t move for, oh, maybe half an hour or more… sometimes you still see nothing. The wildlife, as ever, runs to its own timetable. But you certainly won’t see anything by crashing about and making a din.


Last weekend I was up at Allt Scheicheachan, a bothy in the hills above Blair Atholl. It was a work party and also the area meeting, so there were a good few of us there, maybe about 20 or more by the Saturday afternoon. (And, yes, most of us were in tents; the bothy had plenty room for stray travellers.)

At one point there were four of us round the back of the bothy, engaged in the none too quiet occupation of digging a drainage ditch, when John Gifford said something about a weasel. I thought at first he was talking about something else, but then the two Kennys chipped in.

“Over there,” said Kenny Freeman.

“Out of that hole in the grass,” said Kenny Ferguson.

Just a couple of yards where the Kennys stood on the edge of the ditch there was a dead bird, already half eaten. About 10 feet further away there was a small round hole in the long grass – with a weasel sticking its nose out.

For the next few minutes we watched as it snaked through the grass to a thick clump of grass, paused, then sneaked across to the carcase to pull small fragments of flesh from it.

A first attempt to get photos failed when it scurried back to its hole but, while it was out of sight I moved closed and knelt down, camera poised, and didn’t move other than to press the button to take as many photos as I could; without my glasses on I couldn’t make out what I was seeing in the preview screen so was shooting in hope.

With a point and click camera the results aren’t quite Gordon Buchanan but, considering the circumstances, are not too bad either.

 Weasel at back of Allt Scheicheachan bothy in Cairngorms

Weasel at Allt Scheicheachan bothy in the CairngormsWeasel looking for food at back of Allt Scheicheachan bothy in the CairngormsWeasel eating a bird carcase in the CairngormsClose-up of weasel in CairngormsAnd just to finish, some photos from the work party, which was productive, the meeting, at which I fell asleep in the sun, and the ceilidh afterwards, which was a magic night in the best possible company.

Digging a drainage ditch at the back of Allt Scheicheachan bothy in the Cairngorms

Chow time for weasel was just a couple of yards from where the two Kennys were howking lumps out of the ground

Work party at Allt Scheicheachan

Even busier round the front. Norrie and Bob in boiler suits which remained surprisingly white since they’d just been up painting the roof black.

MBA meeting at Allt Scheicheachan bothy

Great weather and lots of folk made it easier to hold the MBA area meeting al fresco

Ian Shand playing the bagpipes at Allt Scheicheachan bothy, Cairngorms

Ian ‘Piper’ Shand playing a tune on the pipes to mark the end of the work day. He was being filmed for possible inclusion in a BBC documentary to mark the 50th anniversary of the MBA

For anyone interested, by the way, the Saturday saw the roof being repainted, some work to seal the doorframe, and drainage ditches and drainpipes dug in to two sides of the bothy. Saturday night saw lots of songs sung (including a new, personalised version of ‘Aitken’s Morning Rolls’), tunes played and stories told – maybe a small libation too. Not sure if any more work was done on Sunday because I was up early and went off to climb Ben Ghlas and Ben Lawers, making the most of some brilliant weather.

This entry was posted in Bothies, Nature, Wildlife and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Work and wildlife in the Cairngorms

  1. John Gifford says:

    Excellent photos of a usuallyvery cautious little animal.

  2. It must have been ace to have the pipers at the end of the day – I love them in the great outdoors. Actually heard a guy playing in Ennerdale forest in the Lakes one misty day – very atmospheric 🙂

    Weasels don’t seem to be shy at all if they have food in mind. The highest weasel I ever saw was over 2000 feet up on Hart Crag in the Lakes hunting amongst the boulders. We were both surprised to see each other.

  3. Norrie says:

    I Neil you will always know a good painter when the paint is on the ceiling walls and roof and not on the painter mate cracking blog mate once again

  4. gordy1983 says:

    Great photos and a cracking way to spend a weekend. I’ve only ever seen a weasel as a brown blur, darting across the road. The ‘holy grail’ for many wildlife photographers!

  5. Jinja Coo says:

    Any idea when the BBC doc on Bothies is going to be broadcast? Can’t see any info online.

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