Just as we accept the arrival of autumn, the sun decides to shine! The past week has been graced with some beautiful still days and glorious sunshine which are certainly welcome on the reserve.
The sun brings out the bright autumn colours spreading through the reserve
Even the days where the sun hasn’t shone, the loch has been calm in the still air
The wildlife has also been enjoying the spells of sunshine. No fewer than 6 lizards were basking along the stone wall near the Celtic cross.
Among the lizards were a few very tiny ones:
Still growing fast, this little lizard has recently shed its skin. Look around the base of its legs and tail for the pale remains of the old skin.
Night time temperatures are dropping which has led to some spectacular cloud inversions across the Dee valley.
It is worth getting up early just for the glistening appearance of the dew-covered vegetation which has been sparkling in the early sunlight.
A couple of our more unusual and elusive insects have shown themselves this week. Sometimes called the undertakers of the insect world, the burying beetle or sexton beetle feeds on carrion and are often seen attending to small dead rodents or birds. A pair of these bizarre and brightly-coloured beetles will commandeer the corpse and dig the soil away underneath it, burying it. Having laid eggs on it, their larvae are provided with something to feed on after they hatch. Sexton beetles have a mutually-beneficial relationship with small mites. The mites benefit from the transport provided by piggybacking on the beetle. In turn, the mites eat the eggs of flies, whose larvae would compete for the same food source.
Another unusual insect this week was an ichneumon wasp. This one is one of our larger species; this female has an impressively-long ovipositor which she uses to insert eggs into fallen birch trees.
A few weeks of holding its territory and this speckled wood butterfly is looking very worn
Our birds are all busy feeding up in preparation for winter. A few warblers are still hanging about on the reserve, this chiffchaff was practising its characteristic call in the trees near Loch Kinord.
Whilst our peanut feeder is frequented by chaffinches, tits and a woodpecker, it has also been the favourite of a male red squirrel who never ceases to entertain when he visits.
In August, the visitor centre hosted a Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland (BSBI) plant recording weekend. Following this, we have been updating the plant records for the reserve. A recent wander up the Vat burn yielded a fantastic variety of ferns. Starting at the ruined buildings in Bogingore and working up to the gorge, there are an impressive 11 species to be found. This week’s blog will finish off with a few pictures of the ferns which we at the reserve are so very frond of!