'A Day at Aigas'
By Joanna Purkiss, an Aigas Wildlife guest.
(You may prefer to watch a ten minute video created by an Aigas guest in 2010 about her week at Aigas - click here.)
“Otter,” said Donald in a whisper! He was pointing. A V-shaped wake was slicing through the dark water like an arrowhead. There were six of us standing at the edge of the Beauly Firth, only a few feet from the water. Donald had promised us an otter, and here it was heading towards us at 6.20 on a still grey July morning. It was my first wild otter, a joy to watch as it came ashore and rolled in the wrack and tangle only a few yards away.
During our week at Aigas on a ‘Wildlife Programme’ we packed in so much. Yes, we had to get up early on two mornings, and we were in the pine marten hide until 10.30pm one night, but we departed Aigas glowing with the experience of a life time. We had seen things we had never dreamed of seeing in Britain, and so close and so well.
That morning we arrived back in time for hot porridge and steaming coffee with the rest of the group. Then a briefing in the library with Elspeth, another of the Field Centre’s senior staff, before heading off up a glen to find golden eagles. While we waited beside the river the sun came out and Elspeth showed us a dipper in mid-stream and some lovely starry saxifrage flowers. But her eyes were permanently on the skyline for not one but two eagles that appeared and soaring overhead. We could see the sun glinting on their golden napes as they circled.
Later on one of them stooped at a young deer calf high on the hill slope in front of us. The mother hind rushed down to collect it and lead it away to safety. We had lunch there, sitting in the heather in full sun, watching, learning and marvelling at that wonderful Highland scene.
We had a malt whisky to fortify us before a dinner of haggis starter and roast lamb in the baronial hall at Aigas, but we had to gobble our crème brulée because we had to skip off to the pine marten hide to see these fabulously sleek and agile little mammals, three of them, come bounding in to take the food the ranger had put out for them. We were only there an hour, and it was still daylight so we had time to head off for the beaver hide at the loch before dark.