New Moon – Muir of Dinnet NNR

“Turn your money” my folks say when there’s a crescent moon in the sky “and it’ll double itself”. I’m not sure where this comes from (and it’s never worked for me yet) but there was a lovely thin sliver of a crescent moon on Monday morning. It was a beautiful start to the week, between the moon and stars and Venus bright in the golden dawn.

crescent moon

Crescent moon

It had been a frosty night and Morven was grey with frost.

Morven

frosty Morven

It didn’t take long until the frost had been topped up with some fresh snow. I think it’s all gone again by today -Friday – but now we’re into December the hills are regularly veiled in snow.

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Snowy Morven

We also had a day away from Dinnet this week, helping out at RSPB Loch of Strathbeg. This is a fantastic reserve and one I have a soft spot for, having done a lot of my early birding there – saw my first ever short-eared owl there, and had my first shot driving a car on the old runway. The reserve is rightly famous for it’s huge pink-footed goose roost and they’ve had lots of whooper swans there this winter too. It was lovely working in the reedbed to a constant background of “swan music”…and, indeed whoopers are “singing swans” some European languages. In fact, the name “swan” itself probably derives from an early Indo-European word meaning “to sing”.

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Pink-foot goose

whoopers

Whooper swans

If you’re planning on popping into the centre, make sure you check out the new display. This was done as part of a John Muir Award (the “share” part of the Discover, Explore, Conserve, Share ethic) by Rachel, who has added some of her own artwork to her cracking photos. it’s a lovely piece of work, so do have a look if you visit us this weekend.

John Muir award display

John Muir award display

John Muir award

Rachel’s John Muir award display

display

John Muir award display – pictures and artwork

John Muir award

Drawing from display

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Winter Gold -Muir of Dinnet NNR

It’s been a much better week this week. The rain has finally stopped and we’ve actually seen the sun a few days in a row! It was such a relief to start seeing bonny winter sunrises again.

sunrise

Sunrise

sunrise

Sunrise

The clear weather has made for some cold nights. It was viciously cold on Tuesday, with the temperature sitting about  minus 6 as the sun came up. Everything was grey with frost and looked beautiful in the sun.

frost

A frosty morning

Every leaf and old bracken frond was coated in frost. Even the picnic table was sporting a fuzz of ice crystals!

frosty leaf

Frost

Frosty fern

Frost on bracken frond

frost

Event the picnic benches are bedecked with frost

It was cold enough for the first ice of the winter to form on the lochs.

Kinord

Ice on the loch

Kinord

Icy Loch Kinord

With the ice, a few whooper swans have reappeared on the lochs. I wonder if they’ve been frozen off smaller patches of water elsewhere? You often see that, when it gets cold…wildfowl congregate on the larger lochs that take longer to freeze. In really bad winters, when everything freezes, they all wind up on the coast where the estuaries and sea stay ice-free.

whooper

Incoming swans

whooper

Super whoopers!

whoopers

On Loch Kinord

The reserve is in its winter dress now. The trees look starkly beautiful, with every branch sharp against the sky. So different from their golden gowns a couple of months back!

aspen

Aspen

aspen

Aspen back in autumn

 

Birches

Winter birches

birch

…and back in autumn.

Now that the vegetation has died back, you can easily see the bottoms of the trees. If you’re walking past  the young aspens, keep a look out for some large-ish holes -up to about 10p size – near the base of the trees. These are made by the large poplar longhorn beetle. These are pretty rare in Scotland (as are large stands of aspen) and you almost never see the adults…but you know they’re there by the holes.

Aspen with longhorn hles

Holes made by large Poplar Longhorn Beetles in aspen

With the trees being bare, it’s easy to spot birds in the trees. There are good flocks of redpoll in the woods, and we’re still seeing plenty of bullfinches and goldfinches around the edges of the Old Kinord fields.

Goldfinch

Goldfinch

These could easily be prey to the great grey shrike that was reported last weekend! Unfortunately, we haven’t tracked it down yet (they are highly mobile, have large territories and disappear so easily they appear to be able to teleport) but we keep hoping. The only predator I’ve seen perched on the power lines this week has been one of the resident buzzards. But keep a look out for the shrike if you’re out this weekend…look for a thrush-sized bird, white and black, perched up on a tree, often near woodland edge. Good luck!

Buzzard

Buzzard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Nasty November – Muir of Dinnet NNR

It seems like we’ve been getting a storm a week since the start of November. And it feels like we’re paying for all those dry days in the summer with all the wet ones this month. I think this is the 14th day in a row that we’ve had at least some rain and it’s tipped it down most of Wednesday and Thursday. There’s a distinct ambience of wet waterproofs about the office and I’m actually thinking that “waterproof” in an oxymoron, given how wet my collar, shoulders, sleeves, trousers and knickers are! Wonder when we’ll get our next dry day?

Raindrops and ripples

Although the reserve is still beautiful, it’s just been so grey the past fortnight. Now the leaves have gone, we don’t have any bright colours to enliven the greyest of days.

A wet day on the reserve. Again.

And everything is wet. Every tree, every stem of heather, blade of grass is dripping wet.  If we do get a glimmer of sun, these droplets can suddenly glow like diamonds.

Water on a pine branch after the rain

Rain on grass

Water on birch twig

When it’s raining, you’re more likely to walk with your head down…so you notice things under your feet. We’re used to seeing hoof fungi on the reserve -they are common on dead birch- but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a forked one before.

Forked hoof fungus

I’m not sure what this fungus is, but it’s pretty impressive and covers almost all of a fallen birch tree near New Kinord.

Small bracket fungus on dead birch

bracket fungus on birch

The Inonotus fungus looks especially dark against the trees when it’s wet. This fungus, also known as chagga, is a great tinder for starting fires…but maybe not toady.

Chagga fungus

It’s been good weather for ducks. And swans – there have been a few mute swans grazing in the field beside the reserve. Folk often don’t realise that swans and some ducks graze too, and we’re asked “is the swan okay because it’s in the field and not on the water?” Yes, it’s most likely fine and just decided to pop into the fields for a graze on some grass.

Swan in field

Wigeon are another bird that grazes. But they’re shy and we don’t often see them grazing next to the reserve as it’s too public for them. We’re more likely to see them on Loch Davan…and hear them whistling to one another.

Wigeon & juvenile mute swan, Loch Davan

We’re taking down snapped or dead trees next to paths (not elsewhere – it’s really good wildlife habitat!)…we don’t want any dead bits landing on anyone. Not a  massive amount of fun in the rain but always a good job to get out of the way in early winter.

Snapped tree

It’s hard to inspire people to get out into the countryside when the weather’s like this…and I’ll admit, I’d much prefer being stove-stoker or beer-taster on a day like today. But what I will say is, if you have been out, it makes your warm house  and hot supper feel and taste much better at the end of the day…at least you feel you’ve earned it!

Wet woods

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Grey from the East -Muir of Dinnet NNR

We’ve had an easterly airflow across Scotland this week. As a birder, I’d rather have had that a month ago, in migration season, but the weather seldom does what you want. Now we do have the easterlies they have brought unremittingly cold, grey weather to Aberdeenshire. I don’t think we’ve seen the sun at all this week and every morning has been damp and misty.

Mist hanging over the resreve

It was cold enough for frost on only one morning in the week.

Frosty leaf

But the rest of the time it’s been pretty wet. The forecast said “light rain” and, fair enough, we have had light rain. Unfortunately, this has been interspersed with heavy rain and the entire office reeks of drying waterproofs and chainsaw gear from working in the rain (actually, chainsaw gear is about the best of the lot – you’re in amongst wood so much, it pretty much just smells woody and resinous). We were taking down trees that had snapped or died near paths recently and, thanks to Simon and Daryl, are well through this winter job now.

Taking down dead tree

When it’s as grey as it’s been, the reserve doesn’t look at it’s best. Oh, it still has a sombre winter beauty, but it’s not as eye-catching as on a sunny day. So you start finding small beauties, in the water on a spider’s web or a leaf.

Oak leaf with raindrops

Catching water

The wildlife can’t take cover all the time, no matter how bad the weather is. But many creatures will have a snug hollow or sheltered spot they can hole up in. This wren popped out of a log pile looking remarkably dry, given it had been teeming down all morning.

Wren

The log pile also seemed to be home to the biggest damn rat I’ve ever seen in my life! We know we get brown rats on the reserve -you see their footprints on the mink rats, find droppings and occasionally see them laminated on the road. But I could count on one hand the number of times I’ve seen a live rat on the reserve…and even then, it’s only been a glimpse. This big one evidently didn’t spot me, and spent a good while looking out of the log pile, much like a gentleman of leisure surveying his estate. Introduced to the UK sometime between the mid 1500s and early 1700s, brown rats like this one are native to Asia. But they’re smart, adaptable, omnivorous and prolific breeders, and have largely displaced the native black rat.

Brown Rat

For some reason, rats are far more reviled than mice and don’t tend to appear in much children’s fiction (unlike Mickey, Reepicheep, and various Beatrix Potter characters, though I suppose Muppet Rizzo gets a look in)…the main legends associated with them are the slightly sinister rat king stories. Personally, I think an intelligent and social animal like a rat is probably worth a few more positive stories than they get. Yes, they carry disease, breed too much and can cause environmental damage… but it could be argued that humanity does that, too.

Brown rat

The damp weather this week seems to have provoked a minor flush of late fungi to grow. These are easily killed off by frost but it’s just been the odd morning that’s been below freezing. Quite a few false chanterelle seemed to have  popped up.

False chanterelle

Today, (Friday) was one of the national goose count days. These are done across the country by dozens of people (largely volunteers) who all count “grey geese” -pinkfoot or greylag-  on the same day. This allows the populations to be estimated in the UK in any given year. Normally, you’re well compensated for the stupidly early start ….the sound of the geese, the first rosy flush of dawn in the sky, the anticipation of the morning flight. And I’ve had some magical mornings goose counting… but this wasn’t one of them. It was dark, cold, lashing down and the geese had chosen to spend the night elsewhere. Dawn was at best slow, colourless and reluctant, I could hardly hear for the rain banging off my waterproofs, my binoculars were useless with water and I got out of my bed before 5am to count 19 poxy geese, mutter, grumble, mutter…. but even that is one of the (somewhat dubious) charms of wildlife. If it was too easy and we saw these things all the time, we wouldn’t value them. So, even in the rain….get out there!

A grey gooseless dawn over Loch Davan

 

 

 

 

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Slipping into Winter – Muir of Dinnet NNR

It’s been an oddly mild week for mid- November. It’s been 15 degrees a couple of days and I’ve not needed a jacket while working. But it’s not been wall-to-wall sunshine, rather mixed rain showers and sun as the weather comes in from the south-west. The week started on a fairly grey note, with a bit of rain and dramatically dark skies.

Bare birch against a grey sky

Loch Kinord

Bare trees around Kinord

There is very little colour left in the trees. The few larches on the reserve still hold a bit of colour.

Some of the larches are still golden

As do the willows in a sheltered corner of Loch Kinord. They have probably held onto their leaves as the willows are short and not so exposed to the wind as the taller birches.

The last of the autumn colours

The bare trees make it easy to spot birds. There have been several large flocks of redpolls feeding in the birches around the loch, and one of these flocks must have been at least 200 strong. It’s lovely to look up and see them feeding on birch seeds, decorating the tree like little Christmas baubles (appropriate, as I saw the first Christmas lights this week…and it’s only 16th November!).

A tree full of redpoll

But, though the days have been mild, we’ve had a couple of cold nights. Thursday night was bitterly cold after the warm day, and the difference between the water temperature and the air temperature meant that mist was rising off the lochs. It was about 15 degrees during the day, but minus 2 overnight.

Mist rising off Loch Davan

A misty cold morning

The geese and swans looked ghostly in the mist, sailing in and out of view as the mist swirled, thickened then cleared again.

Swans in the mist

Lift off- the geese are getting up for the day

The cold and reducing amounts of food has made the birds bold with hunger. This robin followed me around as I did a wee bit of maintenance around the visitor centre…”c’mon, scrape up some earth or turn over a log, why don’t you? I want to see if there’s anything wriggly and edible under there”.

Robin, on the lookout for scraps

Within the space of a fortnight, the peanut feeder has gone from an object of semi-indifference to a hive of activity. You really do have the “being watched” feeling as you fill it up, and you just know they all want to hurry up and push off so they can get back to feeding. The coal tits are usually the boldest and you’re no more than a couple of steps away before they’re on the feeder again.

Coal tit

But would you call a coal tit a “black ox-eye”?  Some folk would, and I discovered that this week when a volunteer loaned us a book of Scots bird names. Some I knew, but a lot I didn’t, and I think it’s one of the charms of wildlife (and words) that every part of the country has their own name for the plants and animals that inhabit their area.  I can appreciate there is a need to have a standard name for  creature so everyone knows they’re talking about the same thing, but I love the local names – they often have a story behind them if you dig deeper. One of the names  I came across for cormorant was “Mochrum elder”. This comes from south-west Scotland, where a rock in the parish of Mochrum was home to a large number of nesting cormorants. The locals thought they looked liked church elders, all standing around in their black clothes, gossiping…so they became “Mochrum elders”.  And I’ll leave you with a few from the reserve to have a guess at…what’s a “yella yitie”  or a “mossy deuk” or a “laverock”?

Cormorants roosting on Castle Island. Or should we say “mochrum elders?”

 

 

 

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Shades of Grey – Muir of Dinnet NNR

Shades of Grey. No, not a dodgy book, but a fair description of the weather this week. It was Thursday until we saw the sun…or even the sky, for that matter…and that was just a brief glimmer in amongst the general grey-ness. It’s been wet, too, and only now are some of the pools starting to fill up after the summer drought.

The few remaining leaves give a much-needed splash of colour

The view over Loch Kinord

Even on Thursday, it was a misty morning and the freezing fog took a while to burn off.

Misty morning

The trees are more than three-quarters bare now. The last few remaining aspen leaves were rattling forlornly in the wind.

Thee last of the aspen leaves

But even when they’ve fallen, the leaves can still be beautiful. Leaves often have a waxy coating to prevent water loss when they are growing, and this lingers for a while on the fallen leaf. Rain water will bead on the leaf and, when it catches the light, it can make the leaves look like they are studded with gems.

Rowan leaf with water

Dew-covered aspen leaf

Some people evidently decided to brighten up the grey-ness with a firework display at the weekend. Unfortunately, this happens every year….someone lets off fireworks on the NNR (which is illegal, as it’s not their land) and then leaves all the resulting debris behind them. Our colleagues at Forvie had to clear up two black bags of firework debris after the weekend, so I suppose we got off lightly….but nature reserves just aren’t appropriate places to set off fireworks.

We had another visit from Simon and Obama from Pony AxeS this week. It was a rather grey-but-still-beautiful trip down to the loch but the last of the leaves made for some pretty reflections on the water.

Pony AxeS

A grey day

We had a belated report that a crested tit had been heard above the Vat in late October so we spent a while looking and listening on Thursday, when it was nice and still and easy to hear bird calls. You don’t usually get crested tit on  Deeside – they’re confined to “the other side of the hill”, on Speyside – but there are records every five years or so. So we went out and looked and saw (deep breath) ….great it, blue tit, robin, coal tit, long-tailed tit, chaffinch, siskin, redpoll, bullfinch, crossbill, treecreeper and goldcrest. Oh, and nearly trod on a woodcock, which it guaranteed terrify the life out of you as it goes off from under your feet. But sadly no crestie.

Goldcrest

Male bullfinch

Female crossbill

Treecreeper

Can you see the woodcock?

It looks as though this grey weather might break on Saturday, so it’s probably going to be the best day to get out and about this weekend. If you do come and visit us, keep an eye -and ear – out for the birds described above … and if you see or hear a crestie- please let us know!

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Frosty Finish – Muir of Dinnet NNR

It’s been a cold finish to October. We’ve had snow in October (albeit just a sprinkle) for the first time in many a year and a couple of hard frosts. Usually we don’t get such hard frosts until the trees are completely bare…but not this year.

Frosty birch leaf

Frosty tufted hair grass

Dinging down!

The cold weather and approaching winter has meant that the duck numbers are building up on the lochs. Quite suddenly, there seem to be lots of goldeneye back on the lochs and the numbers of mallard, tufted duck and mute swan have picked up, too.

Mallards

Male goldeneye

We still have a few whooper swans hanging around the lochs. They are know as ” wild swans” or “singing swans” in other European languages (wilde zwaan in Dutch, “singschwan” in German) to differentiate them from the mute swans. It’s easy to think of the mutes as our “native” swan as they’re here all year, but, in truth, the whoopers are the only swan species we would normally have seen here – mute swans may well have been introduced by the Romans.

Whooper, having a flap

mute swans

There have been some spectacular sunrises on the clear mornings. I think the first light, reflecting off the water, with ducks or geese flying against the rising sun, is one of the most beautiful sights in the natural world. I guess we all have our favourites, but, for me, the ultimate wildlife spectacular has to be geese rising in the morning, the sound of their wings, their calls and the smell of frost.

Sunrise over Loch Davan

Pine needles against the sunrise

Geese over Loch Davan

If you can bear to get out of bed that early…and it’s not that early now…try and see this for yourself, at least once in your life. As well as at Dinnet, there are great goose spectaculars to be seen locally at Forvie (Ythan Esuary and Meikle Loch)  Montrose Basin, Loch Skene and Loch of Strathbeg. Just remember to wrap up warm!

Morning flight

 

 

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The Bright Fall of the Old year -Muir of Dinnet NNR

Someone once described autumn as the “bright fall of the old year” and I always thought this a lovely description of late autumn (even if I can’t remember who the quote is from…Tolkien, maybe?). The frequent gales and strong westerlies have stripped away a lot of the autumn leaves now and you can see that the trees are getting visibly barer.

The birches are really starting to get quite bare now

Only a few of the aspens still have leaves; they have shed their golden autumn gown for the somber grey of winter.

Aspen leaves

Aspen

Winter aspens

Aspens usually turn a lovely bright gold colour but a very few leaves will go red. These aspen saplings have gone  a lovely red-bronze colour.

This aspen sapling has gone red rather than gold

The rowans are pretty much bare now, of both leaves and berries. The wind has taken the leaves and the winter thrushes have stripped off most of the berries. But this means you can often get nice views of the redwing and fieldfare in the bare trees.

Waiting for everyone to pass by

Fieldfare, guzzling rowans

Other winter visitors are still passing through the reserve. A party of 14 whooper swans dropped in at the end of the week and were catching up on some well deserved feeding. The local mute swans weren’t happy but didn’t seem to like to approach a tight-knit group of whoopers …maybe numbers do count or maybe they just looked like one huge animal!

12 of the 14 whoopers on Loch Davan

Here comes trouble ….male mute swan in threat mode

Turning tail. Whooper “pack” chasing off mute swan

The birches have held onto their leaves longer than I’ve expected, given that the wind has been strong enough to snap trees. Yes, they are getting barer but the reserve still looks golden where the birches grow. But I reckon the brown of winter will be the dominant colour within about 10 days.

Birch wood

Autumn view over Kinord

With the nights “fair drawing in”, sunset and sunrise are happening later and earlier…which means you’re often in a better position to see them. The sunset on Wednesday night was amazing, with the clouds going an almost-unbelievable shade of pink.

You might as well make the best of the leaves while they last! We have, with a couple of autumn art events here. The youngsters had great fun being creative – or simply playing in the leaves. And why not?

Get creative with leaves!

Autumn art – a sun

Enjoying autumn!

 

 

 

 

 

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Versigny; our Twin!

Much like many of our Scottish villages are twinned with other villages in the world, did you know Muir of Dinnet nature reserve is twinned with another nature reserve? The tradition of twinning villages started after World War Two to foster friendships and understanding across different cultures. It also serves to promote tourism and trade; the example of the Scottish village Dull twinning with the US town of Boring, Oregon comes to mind…

In similar fashion, the twinning of Landes de Versigny Reserve, near Laon, in the Aisne department of Picardy became twinned with ourselves at Muir of Dinnet National Nature Reserve in 2015. In our case the agreement was made to work together for the mutual benefit of these sites.

We were twinned in part because of the huge similarities in our habitats and management strategies on our reserves. Here is a link to their booklet on the Versigny Reserve with information on the wildlife, history of the site and Muir of Dinnet connection (Paragraphs in English if you scroll through); http://conservatoirepicardie.org/actualites-agenda/le-livret-de-zouzou-est-arrive.

 

Here is a great guest blog from the team at Versigny, to give us a little taste.

Welcoming cattle in the NNR of Versigny Heathlands:

Hey! Some news from your twinned site of Versigny in the North of France, a small paradise of heathlands protected by the Conservatoire d’espaces naturels de Picardie. In this little area of heathland, which is very rare in this part of France, nature lovers have to work hard to develop these beautiful natural areas and protect the rare species that are found here.

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After big changes completed last year, and the opening of a series of trails to discover the Versigny treasures, we’re ready to welcome our cattle and friends. Each year for ten years, parts of the National Nature Reserve (NNR) of Versigny have been grazed by local cows. Each year our staff chooses an area to work and manage, then depending on its size, between seven and twelve young heifers are brought to the site with their farmer. This year seven animals spend five months in the NNR to graze almost 20 hectares of heathland and wet meadows.

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The sites that are under water for a large part of the winter become workable in spring, with the heat and the plants. Cows are not only grazing Purple Moor-Grass and wavy hair-grasses but also young heaths and young downy birches. So we can regenerate the typical meadows which were diminishing before. Animals and plants like it a lot and we can welcome again the roundleaved sundew or the bog bush cricket, some are very common in Muir of Dinnet NNR, but very rare here.

This type of grazing is not really appreciated by the cows. So we move the cows every two or three weeks to be sure that what we have planned is working and that the cows are happy!

New ponds in Versigny:

Last winter, five ponds were created in the NNR. For many decades they were completely silted and wooded and animals and plants from this kind of pond site were disappearing. A company made huge progress there; cutting and grubbing the trees. Then they removed all the mud and organic material.

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This could be used by the farmers in the close fields. The results are very encouraging. In spring common toads and agile frogs laid their eggs, with thousands of tadpoles growing in the ponds. This summer, broad-bodied chasers, spreadwings and other damselflies and dragonflies discovered this new paradise. We can still see them at this time of year when the sun is shining.

Lestes dryas (19) FB

New plants grow on the shores, with orange fortails and Bladder-sedges. Next year will certainly be very surprising and exciting!

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Saws and Spades

Well as you’d expect the autumn colours are still starring in this week’s blog. The stunning Rowan reds and Aspen yellows are bringing us a lot of joy on site.

I’m getting inspired for the upcoming Autumn Woodland Arts events with the colours. The 16th is now fully booked but there are still spaces left for Tuesday the 23rd of October if you hurry! From 2 till 4pm we’ll be heading out into the woods, collecting and identifying tree leaves and creating a big piece of art. Book now to avoid disappointment by phoning 01339 881667 or email Karen.mcdonald@nature.scot

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Tree leaves

The picture above of tree leaf examples of the species found at Dinnet Oakwood is courtesy of a fellow naturalist; thanks for letting me use this! Such a simple but stunning example of art that can be created using autumn leaves.

We were very lucky with the weather this past weekend when the Aberdeen University Conservation Society joined us on Saturday to help clear a large area of dry Heath of tree saplings. 18 folk turned up to help with a job that seems very daunting with just two people but turned into a very successful and enjoyable job with the work split between so many of us. This work is necessary to stop our Heath, important for the Bearberry plant, from turning into woodland. We were pulling and cutting, primarily Scots Pine saplings, some were very hard to spot.

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Thanks Conservation Society for the pictures!

It was a long, tiring day in the gorgeous sunshine.

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We needed a lie down!

This habitat may seem like it’s quite empty and like not much could thrive…

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However our dry heath is dominated by heather and bearberry (bearberry is usually found above 250m but is below 200m at Muir of Dinnet) and rich in plant species such as intermediate wintergreen, petty whin and stone bramble. Muir of Dinnet supports the 4th largest area of bearberry in Scotland.

Bearberry flower

Bearberry flower

Through the work day I spooked a Woodcock and a Brown Hare that had been hunkered down for the day in the Heather (sorry to both). On Monday evening when I was visiting the Heath I also spotted 3 magnificent Red Deer! I can only imaging they were admiring our handiwork in the many strewn tree saplings. Although it is unusual to spot these deer so low down we get them just up the hill behind the visitor centre so it’s not a huge distance for them to travel for the heather and young trees to chew on. Now that their source of Oak, Birch and Rowan leaves are falling away for the winter they will rely much more on alternative food sources. I am gutted I didn’t have the camera with me as they must have been less than 100m away and hung about for a bit. But here’s a slightly blurry video and picture caught by our camera traps just to prove they are here.

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Red Deer

I was speaking to one of our local residents and regular visitors about the Red Deer and he said he once had an encounter driving along the Tarland road when he had to stop and wait for 17 Red deer to calmly cross the road! What a sight! Do be careful driving to and from places at the normal commuting times now; as it’s darker at these times the deer species are much more likely to be active and potential hazards on the road.

It’s been getting colder and quieter on the reserve this past month so we’ve been moving on to the end of year tasks. One of these includes turfing over the fire pits we’d like to become grass again and maintaining the fire pits we want to stay for safe campfires. It’s a very satisfying job to see how much cleaner the place looks afterwards. It’s also lovely to be digging and having the Robins follow you about for the inevitable worms.

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Neat little fire pit

You can see how much bigger the fire pit above was before! Not so safe.

Finally here is an absolutely stunning wasp…don’t scroll down if you don’t want to see.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I struggle to understand why people hate these little fellows. I mean look at that fuzzy face! It’s certainly worth being wary of these creatures but as long as you give them space in the summer months and be careful when carrying sweet things coming into autumn they pose no threat. I mean this time of year they’ve been kicked out from home, lost their structured life and food is all they have left…I think the students might relate….

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