While Katriona was away from Dinnet on holiday I was draughted in from my regular reserve of Loch Leven NNR to kep an eye on the place in her absence. I’ve been lucky enough to work at a few of Scotland’s National Nature Reserves while I’ve worked for SNH so I jumped at the chance for a week looking after the visitor centre and doing little bits of survey, maintenance and habitat management on a new reserve.
I got up early on the Monday morning only to find we were being hit hard by the back-end of Hurricane Bertha. It was raining for much of my drive up through Angus but when I hit Aberdeenshire it started to look worse. Branches and trees were down and roads were closed. I eventually made it to the Burn O’Vat visitor centre and made sure it was open.
My big fear now was that I’d spend my week up in Deeside clearing trees off the path! I set off around the paths and found a sizeable birch tree on the viewpoint loop. Fortunately it was easily dealt with and apart from smaller branches which were easily cleared, that was it.
I was able to set up the mothtrap outside the visitor centre every night during my stay. Every morning I’d check the trap. There was a couple of new moths for me including Scots Pine specialities like Plain Clay and Haworth’s Minor. I was quite pleased with seeing these but the young lads I showed them to in the visitor centre were less than impressed. I wish I’d had an Elephant Hawkmoth to show them.
I kept an eye on the camping activities around Loch kinord. Fortunately the bad weather had put the campers off and I did not have much litter to clear up and all the rain reduced the chances of a fire.
Looking across the Vat Burn from the top in a rare moment of sunshine last week.
Every blue damselfly was scrutinised for Northern Blue (or Spearhead Damsel). I could only find Common. Northern have a spear shape second section of the abdomen. There were also a few Black Darters and Common Hawkers on the wing even in the challenging weather.
I’d been looking forward to photographing Scotch Argus butterflies feeding on the Devils Bit Scabious but unfortunately most of the specimens I’d found had been battered by the weather.
Kat had warned me that to watch out for Slow worms while I am cutting the visitor centre grass. I found three. I put them out of harms way. Picking them up reminded me of when I was young and I used to find them on the roadsides.
Every day I went up to look at the adders. Numbers varied daily from just two to ten. Each adder was different. Some small, some large, others more ‘standard’ looking and another that was superficially black looking. I took loads of pictures and I may report back to how many individuals I found during the week. I showed them to lots of visitors, all of whom where very impressed. Kat, I know you were worried but I did not try to catch one!
I’m glad I filled up the nut feeder. This Red Squirrel spent a couple of days feeding. It was the only Squirrel I saw during the week. The creature often allowed quite close approach but would angrily quiver its tail wanting to get back to the nuts. This upset the local Coal tits that also wanted a feed.
On my last day was another highlight. I was counting the ducks on Loch Davan and I heard what sounded like a spaniel bounding through the long grass. Turning round I was surprised to see a young otter at the water’s edge. It sat there frozen just five metres away. Trying to move as little as possible I tried to get the camera out. It moved behind a tree so I tried to tempt it out with a whistle but unfortunately it did not fall for that and carried on away from me along the shoreline.
Muir of Dinnet is a fantastic reserve and the whole area is full of wildlife. I had a great run up Glen Tanar seeing Grouse, Long-eared Owl and Merlin and also another Otter. It’s well worth a visit and I can’t wait to get back up there.