Scorchio! It’s been in the low twenties most of this week and the sunshine is bringing on all the trees and flowers. But it also means we’re back into high fire risk again. Please respect this and don’t light fires in the countryside…and especially don’t chuck used disposable BBQs in the dead bracken….
It’s amazing how quickly the trees darken in the sun. These two photos were taken only a week apart and you can see how the green of the birch has deepened in colour in a very short space of time.
And the aspen are finally coming into leaf, too.
Young leaves of all trees are great food for caterpillars….if you can spot them! This bright green one blend in to the leaves really well.
The aspen are producing seed now. You can only see this happening for a day or two- once the seed is ripe, it blows away within 48 hours. We were watching a gentle ‘snow’ of aspen seeds being carried off in the wind.
We’ve also allowed some of the seed to be collected to preserve the genetics of our local trees. Should disaster in the shape of fire or tree disease strike, it’s nice to know some of our seeds will be held elsewhere.
Our aspen woods support lots of rare and important species and we have one more now. We’ve just reintroduced aspen hoverfly (which used to be found here) to the aspen wood. These hoverflies need decomposing aspen for their larvae to feed on so hopefully the natural wind-blow of the trees will provide a long-term food source.
The warm weather has been great for flowers and butterflies. Many of our pollinators -like bees and butterflies – are in trouble, with habitat loss resulting in declines of lots of species. So even plants we consider weeds, like dandelions, are great a food source for these insects.
While kneeling down to take a photograph of one of our pollinators in action, I was suddenly jabbed in the knee. Let me introduce you to the culprit – a petty whin. These plants look a lot like gorse (whin) bushes but are tiny – but, like their larger namesake, are also possessed of annoyingly sharp thorns!
We’ve seen our first pearl-bordered fritillary of the year, too. We haven’t seen many of these stunning butterflies in the past few years, thanks a series of cold springs. But they had a good year last year and there seem to be a few more around this year. Thanks to Helen for these cracking pictures.
Down on the lochs, the great crested grebes have finally started nest-building. The male (at least, we think it’s the male) seems very attentive and was regularly bringing his mate parcels of weed…for grebe love, you say it with decomposing vegetation!
While the greylags all seem to have babies just now. Not as many as I’ve seen in previous years, I think, but maybe that was the cold spring – any eggs that were left for even a short time could have chilled.
And other birds are still trying to find a mate. On a sunny day, cuckoos call almost incessantly from high perches. This one was calling from the Old Kinord ruin.
And soon attracted the attention of…a meadow pipit! Cuckoos are parasites and lay their eggs in other birds’ nests…so aren’t at all popular with other species of bird. At Dinnet, meadow pipits are probably the commonest unwilling ‘host’ for cuckoos and they have a fractious relationship. The pipits will often mob and annoy a cuckoo until it gives up and moves on.
Away from the wildlife, we have hosted a couple of visits from the Cairngorms Junior Rangers this week. Here they are, having a shot of one of the fire beaters….just to show what kind of thing goes in to dealing with wildfires.
And finally…it’s traditional to have a fun article as your ‘and finally’. You know, when the news talks about climate change and how we’re all doomed, then the cut to Mrs Whatsherface and her skateboarding West Highland terrier to cheer everyone up. well, our this week was when we were paid a visit by the Banchory Morris Men last weekend. They danced for over an hour, entertaining (and nonplussing) visitors but were a colourful and entertaining addition to the weekend!