Solstices and Schools

Well, that’s the year turned….last weekend was the summer solstice and the days are now gradually getting shorter. It’s funny, but you can sometime “feel” the year turn quite quickly, and this is one of those years. Maybe it’s because it’s been cooler this week (12 degrees less than last week) but all the birds seem to be going quiet and some, like curlew, have already been seen heading south. These are probably failed breeders from a long way north of here, giving up and heading south already. But it’s also been humid and that has fairly brought the midgies out…and they’ve been biting worse than certain footballers are alleged to do. The humidity has also brought the toads out…you have to mind you don’t tread on them some days. This one needed escorted off the car park before it got squashed.

Puffed -up toad

Puffed -up toad, trying to look scary. Doesn’t work on cars, so we shifted him.

We’re still busy with school visits. We played host to the Aboyne Junior Rangers this week, looking at bushcraft and biodiversity. To show them this, we ran a moth trap overnight and emptied it the next day. Now, emptying a moth trap is like opening a present from a particularly eccentric granny…you just never know what you’ll get. Sometimes it’s brilliant, the next time it’s the equivalent of a bad jumper with 4 foot –long sleeves. This trap was pretty good, with over 30 species, including the lovely emerald moths.

A snout moth...it's palps, not a nose!

A snout moth…it’s long palps, not a nose!

Brimstone moth

Brimstone moth

Light emerald moth

Light emerald moth

Spot the moth? A mottled beauty on the visitor centre.

Spot the moth? A mottled beauty on the visitor centre.

Large Emerald

Large Emerald moth

But the highlight for the youngsters (apart from going under the waterfall and getting VERY wet) was the discovery of some newts and a slow worm in the grass.  These legless lizards look like snakes, but aren’t. They have a lizard’s teeth, not a snake’s, which is why this one was picked up and gently shown round.

Smooth or common newts

Smooth or common newts

Slow worm, with Aboyne Junior Rangers in the background!

Slow worm, with Aboyne Junior Rangers in the background!

We’ve had lots of questions this week “what’s the white frothy stuff on the grass?”. It’s cuckoo spit….so- called as it appears at the same time as cuckoos do. But it’s nothing to do with cuckoos, it’s made by a bug called a froghopper. These suck sap from the plant and excrete the excess water as a frothy mass –the cuckoo spit. It helps keep the bug moist and hide it from predators.

Cuckoo spit

Cuckoo spit

A froghopper, which produces the cuckoo spit

A froghopper, which produces the cuckoo spit

All of a sudden there seem to be ringlet butterflies everywhere. Named after the rings round the spots on their underwing, these are the small, brown butterflies that dance out of the grass ahead of you as you walk along the path. They seem to be quite early emerging this year but aren’t short of nectar with all the wildflowers around.

Ringlet butterflies

Ringlet butterflies

Ringlet, showing it's rings

Ringlet, showing it’s rings

And, yes, there was still one adder out this week. But they’re hard to spot in the long grass now.

This week's adder!

This week’s adder!

The dog roses are at their best just now. These hardy wild roses are a great source of nectar for insects and they can live a surprisingly long time. The oldest one in the world grows in Germany and is known to be at least 700 years old. So they’re worth more than a second glance if you are out for a walk this weekend!

Dog rose

Dog rose

 

 

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