Midsummer Greys

Midsummer? Hasn’t felt like it this week, although it has been getting warmer and wet, as opposed to cold and wet. But, regardless of the weather, the birds are still breeding and the year is moving on. This pair of redstarts were feeding young on the north shore of Loch Kinord. They are a classic example of the females being much duller than the males- you won’t get a much more handsome bird than a male redstart, while she’s a bit nondescript. But she was definitely better at coming back with big gobfuls of grub- or should we say grubs?

Cracking male redstart

Cracking male redstart

Female redstart

Female redstart

Female redstart with grub

Female redstart with grub

This meadow pipit is feeding young, too. A nice wriggling beakful of protein for the chicks!

Meadow pipit with food.

Meadow pipit with food.

The spotted flycatchers at the back of the visitor centre are getting bigger. Reassuringly, the adults are in and out all the time, so they seem to be getting food. We’re starting to see beaks poking over the edge of the nest now and caught this not-very-good pic of them all  leaping up, beaks open, as mum arrived. These huge yellow gapes provoke the parents to feed them- and give them somewhere to aim to stuff the food into!

Beaks up! All you can see at this stage.

Beaks up! All you can see at this stage.

Feeding time! Spotted flycatcher babies.

Feeding time! Spotted flycatcher babies.

Cutest babes of the week were definitely the goldeneye ducklings- gorgeous wee things.

mum plus two of her there babies

Mum plus two of her there babies

But the most exciting “chick tick” of the week was a brood of six baby wigeon on loch Kinord. I’ve suspected wigeon breed here for several years but never had absolute proof until this week. Some rather distant photographic proof here – mum was being very protective and keeping them tucked well in below the bushes.

Mum plus brood

Mum plus brood

Female wigeon

Female wigeon

Wigeon chicks, hiding close to the island

Wigeon chicks, hiding close to the island

The year turned last weekend – we’re past the summer solstice now- but you wouldn’t have known it weather-wise. The relative humidity has been about 75% – which is pretty sticky and leaves you smelling like the ratcatcher’s dog after a day’s ditching- but has been welcomed by some of the wildlife. Toads are suddenly easy to spot and there are slugs everywhere. They haven’t been able to resist the crop of broom blossoms and you can often find them several feet up a bush, munching happily.

Great black slug eating broom flowers

Great black slug eating broom flowers

Toad on the road. We moved it.

Toad on the road. We moved it.

What you looking at?

What you looking at? Toad close up.

The wet weather is bringing out the fungi too- puffballs and  russulas are starting to appear by the edges of the paths.

Puffball mushroom

Puffball mushroom

We also found our first adder in ages this week! Reptile colonies aren’t reliable- one year there will be heaps of adders in one area (like last year), the next they’ll disperse. The adders have dispersed this year, so it was nice to see this male basking by the path.

The first adder in ages!

The first adder in ages!

The wet days have also brought out a less welcome member of the local fauna – midgies! That’s probably why the sundew and butterwort are at their height just now- these insectivorous plants will be taking advantage of the bonanza.

Sundew

Sundew

Butterwort

Butterwort

But they’re probably not big enough to catch the lovely small pearl-bordered fritillaries. These butterflies are continuing to emerge and will be taking advantage of the heather coming into flower very soon.

Small pearl - bordered fritillary

Small pearl – bordered fritillary

And these moths should be okay too. The wee black one is the chimney sweeper. They’re the small black moths that you see in grassy places and fly during the day. the other is (I think, and please correct me if I’m wrong) a green arches from the moth trap.

Chimney sweeper moth

Chimney sweeper moth

Green arches?

Green arches?

Other flowers appearing this week have included the heath-spotted orchids. Look out for these in damp spots.

Heath- spotted orchid

Heath- spotted orchid

Away from the wildlife, we have continued to host school groups in the run-in to the school holidays. We (along with the RSPB and Aberdeenshire Council) played host to the Junior Rangers from Aboyne this week and discussed biodiversity, species monitoring and ways of connecting people with nature by looking at how our ancestors used to live. We had a go at fire lighting the hard way and learned the art of fire carrying – often harder than lighting it in the first place!

Quern stone

Quern stone

Flint arowheads

Flint arrowheads

Junior rangers with hoof fungi

Junior rangers with hoof fungi

Carrying fire. Once smoldering, a tinder fungus will hold an ember for hours.

Carrying fire. Once smouldering, a tinder fungus will hold an ember for hours.

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