Boat of Garten is well known as the Osprey Village and with good reason – it was here that these magnificent birds first reintroduced themselves in the fifties after completely dying out in the UK more than a hundred years ago. Ospreys can now be seen nesting at the RSPB Osprey centre and hunting over the local lochs and along the River Spey, and during the season you can watch them via the Loch Garten webcam. Boat of Garten Wildlife Group ( a Community Company group) installed an Osprey nest at Milton Loch last year and fingers crossed that a pair of Ospreys will move in this Spring.
A wide variety of other birds live on the water, including grey heron, golden eye, kingfisher, oyster catcher, slavonian grebe, tufted duck, merganser, dipper, divers, geese, swans and many more – all to be found within a kilometre of the village. There is a hide at Milton Loch on the northern edge of the village from which many of these birds can be seen.
In the nearby forests a special treat awaits the patient bird watcher because these pine woods are home to the crested tit, the Scottish crossbill and capercaillie. Redstarts and tree creepers also feature along with the many of the more common forest birds. During the day the buzzard, the curlew and the lapwing patrol over the village fields and at night the tawny owl and the barn owl take over. Kestrels and sparrow hawks take full advantage of the plentiful supply of rodents and small birds around the village and even the peregrine falcon and red kite pay us the occasional visit. To the west of the village, a viewing area and feeding station have been constructed near the Grebe Car Park. In spring or early summer Slavonian Grebes sometimes breed on the nearby loch, and crested tits and red squirrels take full advantage of the feeding station. There is always something to see, whatever the season.
A number of mammals can be seen in and around Boat of Garten. At dawn and dusk a walk beside the river might be rewarded with a glimpse of the charismatic otter. The forest walker stands a good chance of seeing a red squirrel at almost any time of the day and as the evening light fails even the shy pine marten and the Scottish wildcat might be seen hunting. Bats are numerous and are regularly seen over river, loch and field, while the rabbit and brown hare strive to keep one jump ahead of our many predators. One such hunter is the fox and a few foxes eke out a living close to the village. On the roads, hedgehogs put our driving skills to the test and everywhere the deer roam free.
The Strathspey Badger hide is situated very close to an ancient badger sett so badgers are almost guaranteed to be seen. There are also various types of nest box within sight of the hide so owls, goldeneye ducks and small birds can be observed raising families in the breeding season. The hide is just fifty metres from the River Spey so we sometimes see otters and ospreys hunting as well as watching a great variety of riverside birds going about their business. Bats, brown hares and roe deer are very common and once in a while a fox or stoat or pine marten is seen patrolling the area. It’s true to say that no two evenings are the same.
The hide is open from 1st March to 30th November each year. For further details and to arrange a visit, go to Strathspey Badger Hides or telephone Allan and Heather Bantick on 01479 831 768. We ask for a donation of £10 per adult visitor (accompanied children under 16 go free) every penny of which is used for wildlife conservation because the hide is entirely run by unpaid volunteers.