Well, the damp summer continues. The rain on Sunday into Monday washed out several parts of the Vat trail. I wish we’d taken before and after photos but we just piled in and fixed it! The trail isn’t quite as smooth as it was but thanks to lots of wheelbarrowing and shovelling, it doesn’t have foot deep holes in it any more. The pictures of the Vat burn in spate and the video clip here https://www.facebook.com/125227577507847/videos/vb.125227577507847/1039303886100207/?type=2&theater will give you an idea of how much water there was.
The rocks on the left of this picture are normally several feet from the burn and people sit there to picnic. Not on Monday they didn’t!
Apart from the torrential rain, it’s been pretty damp, at least in the mornings. Dew soaks everything first thing.
Even the normally sunny St Cyrus, which we visited on Wednesday, was rainy…but we got to see one of their special flowers, the maiden pink, which grows on the dunes there. We have some at Dinnet too -but we suspect ours is a garden escapee!
Compared with something like a maiden pink, it’s tempting to think mosses can be dull. But the Sphagnum mosses that grow in the bogs can be surprisingly colourful. You just need to look really closely to appreciate them.
We’ve had a lot of dead rabbits on the reserve lately. Myxomatosis is once again running through the local rabbit population. It’s caused by a virus (the Myxoma virus) which probably originated in South America. It’s not usually lethal to the rabbits found there but has a kill rate of between 65-95% in European rabbits. Some rabbits have a natural immunity, but, like all viruses, it mutates and periodically takes its toll on the local rabbit population. But the rabbits’ misfortune has been a bonus for some of the local scavengers. The buzzards have been cashing in on this free food supply of dead or dying rabbits and we even had an unusual visitor, a red kite, making the most of it too.
On the days when it has turned sunny, it’s often been intensely hot. This has brought out the local insect life, with the dragonflies being the most spectacular and colourful of these.
Even now, new dragonflies are emerging and this common hawker looks ghostly- its body hasn’t fully hardened or coloured up yet.
The adders are still being seen occasionally as they bask to warm up.
This close –up of their scales shows why adders often have a matt appearance, compared with slow worms which end to look shiny.
The occasional sunny day has also made the heather open up properly now. The hill do look purple at this time of year.
The craneflies (daddy longlegs) are everywhere just now. Leave a light on and a window open and you’ll soon spot them, bumbling around the lightbulb. Or maybe don’t – the midges will come in too!
The spiders and their webs have been much in evidence on the dewy mornings. Like almost all spiders, they are carnivorous and spin weds to snare prey (there’s only one spider in the world, in Central America, that eats mostly plant material, not insects). There are a huge number and variety of these, and here is a selection of the local ones.
There are still a few butterflies around….but these have had a poor year, due to the cool, damp summer.
And some migrant birds will be here for a while yet. The ospreys are continuing to fish in the lochs.
Elsewhere, late summer/ autumn signs are continuing to creep in. The teasels are in flower and their seeds will be welcomed by finches in a month or so.
The fungi are also becoming increasingly obvious. One of my personal favourites is the amethyst deceiver, because they are so vibrantly purple. It’s a colour you almost don’t expect in nature- it looks like the sort of purple only found in 100% artificial additives kid’s sweets.
The rowan berries are getting increasingly red. In the sunnier patches, they have assumed that vivid scarlet colour that heralds autumn….but are still an orangey-green in shady spots.
The cowberries are ripening fast too. These tart red berries are found in the woods all around Burn o Vat.
The wild rasps are fast going over- or being eaten. I often think wild fruit has a sweet intensity just not found in domestic fruits and, judging by the flattened grass around the rasp bushes, lots of other people agree and have been paying homage to the bushes too!
If you look at the ground as you walk around, you’ll notice the leaves have started to fall. Not a lot, not yet, but the birches especially are starting to shed worn or damaged leaves. This one has been caught in the act of falling, held suspended in the air by a silken spider thread. So get out into the countryside and enjoy the summer- while it lasts!