Blue skies and cold mornings

The trend of sunshine continued all through the past week with more clear blue skies and still weather. The cloudless skies have seen the temperature drop overnight, giving a far more autumnal chill to the air early in the day. The temperature inversions in the low-lying parts of the reserve have led to some pretty scenes in the low morning sunlight.

Last of the cloud burning off over Loch Davan

Last of the cloud burning off over Loch Davan

The cloud leaves a clear blue sky for the rest of the day

The cloud leaves a clear blue sky for the rest of the day

The night time temperatures have dropped enough to see the first frost of the autumn.

Frozen beads of dew

Frozen beads of dew

Early morning frost

Early morning frost

However, the frost is still short lived – a quick dose from the sun and the frost rapidly thaws

Dew on grass

Dew on grass

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Warmer in the sun

The morning dew still adorns the spider webs, adding a distinct sparkle to the vegetation

Dew on an old umbellifer flower head

Dew on an old umbellifer flower head

Like tiny glass baubles

covering webs like tiny glass baubles

In the cold morning, a sun patch becomes a hive of activity with insects and reptiles warming themselves up for the day.

Lizard out basking

Lizard out basking

Female black darter warming up

Female black darter warming up

Still cold - the sun hasn't reached this fly's perch yet

Still cold – the sun hasn’t reached this fly’s perch yet

The cold mornings have made some of our more secretive wildlife easier to spot. Just outside the reserve, herons were picking about in a recently-ploughed field.

Searching for soil invertebrates

Searching for soil invertebrates

On the reserve, the wildlife which normally hides away when visitors arrive was out and visible in the sunshine

Roe deer

Roe deer

Buzzard perched in the sun

Buzzard perched in the sun

The buzz of very large bumblebees has appeared across the reserve this week. These bees are fertile females looking for a safe spot to burrow and hibernate. In the spring, they will set off in search of a location to start a new hive.

Large fertile female bumblebee

Large fertile female bumblebee

Bumblebees aren’t the only insect dispersing at this time of year. During the summer, aphids mostly reproduce asexually, producing and reproducing new wingless aphids which become ubiquitous over trees and garden plants. Before winter, many aphids produce sexual individuals with wings. These aphids mate and produce eggs that overwinter and hatch in the spring. A walk amongst the trees in early autumn usually means having a few clumsily-flying aphids landing all over!

Aphids sitting in the sun

Aphids sitting in the autumn trees

Winged aphid (having landed on my arm)

Winged aphid (having landed on my arm)

Even the plants are getting in on some dispersal. The thistles across the reserve have finished flowering and are now releasing their seeds into the wind. The fluffy structure around the seed is known as a pappus – a word derived from the greek pappos meaning ‘old man’. Many of the daisy family, to which thistles belong, have seeds adorned in pappi of all shapes and sizes from the large, feathery thistle seed to the small, stalked, umbrella-like dandelion seed.

Thistle heads releasing seeds

Thistle heads releasing seeds

Large feathery pappi of creeping thistle seeds

Large feathery pappi of creeping thistle seeds

Compact seed heads of ragwort

Compact seed heads of ragwort

Aphids and thistles aside, a walk in the woods on a sunny day at Muir of Dinnet is a great day’s activity. The reserve has been very popular this past week with the carpark filled to capacity over the weekend. Not surprising when the reserve is so colourful at this time of year.

Autumnal bracken

Autumnal bracken

Sunlit woodland

Sunlit woodland

Yellowing birches

Yellowing birches

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Dashes of red from rowan trees

It has been particularly pleasant down by the loch

Glass-like water

Glass-like water

Barely a cloud in the sky over Loch Kinord

Barely a cloud in the sky over Loch Kinord

The moon has been easily visible during the day

The moon has been easily visible during the day

If you have taken a wander on the reserve recently, you may have noticed signs up around Loch Kinord. The September and October warm weather has resulted in a bloom of blue-green algae in the loch. The algae can be seen as little clusters on the north and east shores of the loch.

Blue-green algae

Blue-green algae

Blue-green algal blooms can be potentially toxic to animals and cause skin irritation or illness in people. Whilst the bloom is present, it is best to avoid entering the loch and to prevent dogs/horses entering the water.

On Wednesday and Thursday, staff from Muir of Dinnet joined Scottish Natural Heritage staff from across Grampian to explore some of the coast north of Aberdeen. This gave SNH staff an experience of nature conservation in a variety of interesting circumstances; visits included Sands of Forvie NNR, Bullers of Buchan, RSPB’s Loch of Strathbeg reserve and the Museum of Scottish Lighthouses in Fraserburgh. This week’s blog will finish with a few photos from these visits.

Geese over Loch of Strathbeg

Geese over Loch of Strathbeg

Geese in flight - Loch of strathbeg is an important roost site for tens of thousands of pink-footed geese

Loch of strathbeg is an important roost site for tens of thousands of pink-footed geese

Konik ponies - grazing is an important part of wetland management at Loch of Strathbeg

Konik ponies – grazing is an important part of wetland management at Loch of Strathbeg

The sunny weather extended to Loch of Strathbeg

The sunny weather stayed nice over the visits

SNH staff getting involved with non-native pine removal

SNH staff getting involved with non-native lodgepole pine removal

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At Fraserburgh, we were distracted from the museum tour by several minke whales!

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