Last week’s glorious sunshine has been trying very hard to stay with us this week, giving us sunny spells amongst the showers most days. We managed to dodge any showers on Friday’s fun day, which was well-attended by visitors from all over the north-east and beyond. Visitors were treated to face-painting, arts and crafts, story-telling, wildlife displays, nest-box building, tea, cakes and games. Our colleagues from the Dee Catchment Partnership and Aberdeenshire Council Ranger Service were on-hand with information on outdoor access and a popular collection of moths collected on the reserve overnight.
If you missed our fun day or just want more fun, St Cyrus National Nature Reserve, is holding its discovery day on Sunday 19th July – pop along to St Cyrus to experience the reserve’s dunes, beach and wildflower wonderland. More information about our National Nature Reserves and events programmes can be found on the NNR events website.
The recent heat and humidity in the atmosphere has led to some very spectacular bouts of rain and a few rumbles of thunder. Summer thunderstorms have caused quite a stir nearer the coast where half of the average monthly rainfall for July fell on Aberdeen in just 4 hours! Being inland, the reserve hasn’t experienced the same deluge as Aberdeen – the weather gathers volume and energy as it moves eastward.
The summer plants are now in full-flow. The pinks and purples of cross-leaved heath and bell heather are appearing all across the reserve. They are joined by the yellow spikes of bog asphodel which can be found in our wet, acidic heaths and bogs and are easily seen from the Vat trail.
Around the loch, Water forget-me-not and water lilies are flowering in abundance, along with grasses, nettles and forbs. The still, humid weather and delayed growing season have led to high pollen counts over the past moth – hayfever is having an excellent summer so far!
The insects continue to emerge with an inundation of ringlet butterflies appearing this week – their name comes from the distinctive ring markings on the underside of the wing. Ringlet caterpillars feed on a variety of coarse grass species found around the reserve. A few 6-spot burnet moths have been spotted too; their caterpillars are more fussy, feeding only on the yellow-flowered bird’s-foot trefoil.
On a sunny day, the loch margins are frequented by the electric-blue flashes of common blue damselfly, one of 8 species of dragonfly and damselfly (collectively known as Odonata) found on the reserve.
The dark-coloured melanistic rabbits can still be spotted on the reserve – there are at least 3 wandering about – one at Miekle Kinord, one at Old Kinord and another in the woods near New Kinord. A similar number of blonde leucistic rabbits are present too, but are a little less-obvious than their darker counterparts.
This week’s blog will finish with a song – a bird song!
When walking around the reserve, the trees and bushes appear very quiet compared to spring – the majority of our small birds are not singing melodic tunes to attract mates but instead are busy searching for food to feed hungry chicks. The songs which can still be heard are often short, high-pitched calls from an unseen source. The question is, what do these calls mean?
Contact calls are made to keep a flock together. Flocks of crossbills passing overhead or long-tailed tits feeding in woodland make short calls as they move, keeping individuals aware of the other members of the flock whilst they move or feed. The calls are quiet and can be simple notes or multiple tones or chatters.
Warning calls are in response to predators or triggered by us as we walk around the reserve. These simple, high-pitched calls alert other birds of a present danger and will silence a nest full of hungrily-cheeping chicks, keeping their location safe.
Lastly, feeding or begging calls are made by young birds wanting food from their parents. It is the sound heard from nests and fledglings and can only be described as persistent. The parents respond to the noise by feeding the chicks, which will go on even when the chicks are the same size as their parents!