Sunshine and scales

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.

Sunshine over Loch Kinord

Sunshine over Loch Kinord

Kayaking

Kayakers enjoy a paddle in the sun

The sun brings out the bright autumn colours spreading through the reserve

Autumnal birch

Autumnal birch

Rowan

Rowan

Even the days where the sun hasn’t shone, the loch has been calm in the still air

Calm over to castle island

Calm over to castle island

Still and cloudy

Still and cloudy

Duck enjoying the calm loch

Duck enjoying the calm loch

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.

Adult lizard basking

Adult lizard basking

Adult close-up

Adult close-up

Among the lizards were a few very tiny ones:

Sleeping in the warmth

Sleeping in the warmth

Hiding

Hiding

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.

Recently shed - a few bits of skin still remain on the legs

Recently shed – a few bits of skin still remain on the legs

Night time temperatures are dropping which has led to some spectacular cloud inversions across the Dee valley.

Inverted cloud over Aboyne

Inverted cloud over Aboyne

The reserve is buried under the mist

The reserve is buried under the mist

Looking towards Lochnagar

Looking towards Lochnagar

It is worth getting up early just for the glistening appearance of the dew-covered vegetation which has been sparkling in the early sunlight.

Dew on the lawn

Dew on the lawn

Dew gathered on a spider web

Dew gathered on a spider web

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.

Sexton beetle

Sexton beetle with a mite

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.

Ichneumon wasp

Ichneumon wasp

Ovipositing eggs into birch

Ovipositing eggs into birch

A few weeks of holding its territory and this speckled wood butterfly is looking very worn

A worn speckled wood

Accumulating some wing damage over the season

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.

chiff... chaff... chiff... chaff... chiff...

chiff… chaff… chiff… chaff… chiff…

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.

Is the coast clear?

Is the coast clear?

Red squirrel

Approaching from the trees

Wary of the camera-wielding SNH staff

Wary of the camera-wielding SNH staff

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!

Maidenhair spleenwort in the ruined buildings at Bogingore

Maidenhair spleenwort (Asplenium trichomanes) in the ruined buildings at Bogingore

Wall rue

Wall rue (Asplenium ruta-muraria) – once used to treat rickets

Male fern (Dryopteris filix-mas)

Spore-producing sori on a male fern (Dryopteris filix-mas)

Scaly male fern (Dryopteris affinis)

Scaly male fern (Dryopteris affinis)

the aptly-named lemon-scented fern (Oreopteris limbosperma) - the sori of this fern are gathered round the edge

the aptly-named lemon-scented fern (Oreopteris limbosperma) – the sori of this fern are gathered round the edge

A delicate oak fern (Gymnocarpium dryopteris)

A delicate oak fern (Gymnocarpium dryopteris)

Polypody (Polypodium sp.)

Polypody (Polypodium sp.)

The finely-divided lady fern (Athyrium filix-femina)

The finely-divided lady fern (Athyrium filix-femina)

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