August at Muir of Dinnet NNR

Welcome to our first Muir of Dinnet NNR blog! But where to start? There’s always so much happening on the reserve, so we’ll kick off with a brief summary of what’s been going on this month.

August, for the wildlife, often feels like the waiting month. They’ve mostly finished breeding and the youngsters are becoming independent. Most of the birds are moulting their feathers, either after a hard breeding season or from juvenile into adult plumage. Bird become skulky at this time- the woods fall quiet as they stop singing so they don’t attract attention to themselves. The “gathering swallows twitter in the sky” and start sitting on the lines, discussing the way back to Africa for the winter and the ducks are in their drab eclipse plumage, where they all look like the brown females.

There’s also a change in the feel of the air- it’s hard to know whether it’s a gorgeous late summer day or a lovely early autumn one. The Vat trail is edged with flowers…but they’re the late ones, like devil’s bit scabious and valerian. Back in the days when flowers were used for medical reasons, the story goes that the devil got angry with the scabious for healing all ills, so he came up through the earth and bit off the roots to try and kill the plant! It has got very short roots but please don’t pull these up to check- they are an important source of nectar for the late butterflies like Scotch argus. These butterflies are almost velvety black –brown when the newly emerge but are starting to get a bit worn by now, like the one in this picture.

Scotch argus butterfly on devil's bit scabious

Scotch argus butterfly on devil’s bit scabious

August is also the month when the heather is at its height. The hills on and around the reserve are purple right now and the air smells of honey on a warm day. There are actually about three different plants we think of as “heather” but the one that covers most of the hills is ling (or Calluna) heather. It makes the reserve look particularly beautiful, so why not make the most of the nicest summer we’ve had in donkey’s years’ and come and visit us?
Heather (ling)

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