Summer Days

“From the bonny bells of heather

They brewed a drink long-syne,

Was sweeter far then honey,

Was stronger far than wine…”

Thus starts the famous poem “Heather Ale” by RL Stevenson….and this would have been the start of the brewing season with the bell heather just coming into bloom. Only a few craft breweries make heather ale nowadays but it is a great source of food for bees and butterflies. Not to mention giving the hills their famous purple colour from this time onwards!

Bell heather

Bell heather

Bell heather in close-up

Bell heather in close-up

It’s not just the bell heather that is out. The wildflowers in the Old Kinord fields are probably just at their peak now, with lots of bird’s foot trefoil, meadow vetchling, clover and ox-eye daisies in bloom.

A wildflower meadow at Old Kinord

A wildflower meadow at Old Kinord

An ox-eye daisy, or "gowan" in Scots

An ox-eye daisy, or “gowan” in Scots

Another plant that is in flower right now is the slender St Johns wort. These plants owe their name to something called the “Doctrine of Signatures”. It stated that should a plant resemble a part of the body, then it would be good for treating that area. Not the safest or most accurate way to practice medicine but the leaves of the St Johns wort appear to have tiny holes in them- so it was used to treat the wounds (ie holes in them) of the Knights of St John on the crusades.

Slender St John's wort

Slender St John’s wort

The leaff of the St John's wort, showing the perforations or "wounds"

The leaf of the St John’s wort, showing the perforations or “wounds”

Away from the plants, there seem to be a lot of fungi appearing. You tend to see fungi more in autumn, but they seem to have started early this year. Maybe it’s to do with the mild and damp weather.

The blusher

The blusher

Tawny grisette

Tawny grisette

Speaking of damp, we narrowly avoided this thunder shower on Tuesday. There have been some spectacular skies as the thunderhead clouds build up…then it goes intensely hot….then very still….then the heavens open.

It's going to be wet soon! A thundery shower moving in over Loch kinord

It’s going to be wet soon! A thundery shower moving in over Loch kinord

 

The shower moving in

The shower moving in

The dragonflies and damselflies have also been enjoying the warm weather. Sadly, the dragonflies are too fast for me with my camera, but did manage to capture these common blues.

Common blue damselfly

Common blue damselfly

Mating common blue damselflies

Mating common blue damselflies

The warm weather is also good for all sorts of other insects and they, in turn, are food for birds. These willow warblers have the Latin name “Phylloscopus”, which means “leaf explorer. And that’s just what they do – flit around constantly, exploring leaves and branches for insects. They have great camouflage too!

A willow warbler

A willow warbler

A young and yellowish-coloured willow warbler

A young, yellowish-coloured willow warbler

However, the signs of autumn continue to creep onto the reserve. The rowan berries aren’t ripe, not by a long chalk….but they’re not green any more, either.

The rowan berries are just starting to turn

The rowan berries are just starting to turn

There are still adders going around, if you know where to look. Some are quite obvious but some are nigh-on impossible to spot in the long grass.

A handsome male basking in the sun

A handsome male basking in the sun

And finally….the posters are out, grass is cut, the bunting is up, the staff are gibbering wrecks and the weather forecast is being followed obsessively. This can only mean one thing… the Muir of Dinnet Fun Day is upon us! It’s this Friday, 11th July, 12 noon- 4pm at the Burn o Vat visitor centre. It’s all free….and under cover if it does rain. We’d love to see you there!

Putting up the bunting! All ready for Saturday's Cairngorms Nature Festival

Putting up the bunting! All ready for the big Fun Day!

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