trial re-introduction. We were given a tip-off to visit a lodge some distance from the main visitor site, in a quiet loch, and so we set off a bit before dusk.
We immediately saw willow trees at the lochside showing signs of beaver activity, some chewed right off, some partly gnawed. Across the loch was a huge lodge - a mound of sticks built out into the water.
There is a special kind of animal-watching meditation. It took me years to learn it. As a child I was incapable of sitting still. My dad used to take me badger-watching, which involved sitting quietly by a sett at dusk until the badgers emerged. I would rustle and fidget, and the badgers would no doubt hear and use a different exit. The more frustrated I became by the wait, the noisier my scuffling and the less chance of seeing a badger, until eventually we would give up.
Somehow as an adult I have learned to wait quietly for animals. Attention is everything. Standing by that loch, I revelled in the cool breeze across the water, blowing gently in my face, perfect for not being smelled by the beavers. There was little sound except for the rippling water and the hush of breeze through twigs. It was good to know I was there, in the beaver's habitat, experiencing their loch.
As the light dimmed, details of the lodge became harder and harder to make out across the loch, and it became easier and easier to hallucinate brown furry bodies! I think I saw, faintly, movement at the fringe of the loch. I can't be certain.
But what I can be certain of was the splash. And then the 'pfffff', closeby, a sound similar to that made by a seal surfacing. Only this was freshwater, so it couldn't be a seal - it must have been a beaver!
It was almost completely dark by then, so we headed back down the track, full of that elation of proximity to a fellow-animal. That evening goes down in memory as one of those precious encounters in which sight was not primary - like the time we smelt an invisible brown bear passing us in the forest in Romania and the night camping in Zimbabwe when we heard a leopard killing a deer. This encounter, one quiet 'pfff', wasn't perhaps quite so dramatic as either of those, but in its own way, because these beavers are so newly re-introduced to Scotland, it was just as exciting.
I'm delighted that the beavers are back, both officially through the reintroduction trial and unofficially in the Tay valley. We need to return all of the native species that we have exterminated to extinction, to prove that we are willing to share our land with other animals. If you agree, please tell the powers that be - they are currently consulting on the re-introduction. You can have your say here: http://www.scottishbeavers.org.uk/