Blue and green skies

After what we feared may be the first of the autumn gales over the weekend, the sun has returned and shone nicely all week. As the sun gets lower in the sky, the light reaching us takes a redder hue. This compliments the autumn colours wonderfully; with the nice weather set to continue over the weekend, the reserve couldn’t look nicer for an autumnal woodland walk.

The sun shines after a wet weekend

The sun shines after a wet weekend

The lochs are mirror-like in the calm weather

The lochs are mirror-like in the calm weather

The bracken looks particularly nice as it dies back for the winter

The bracken looks particularly nice as it dies back for the winter

Yellowed bracken

Yellowed bracken fronds

Birch leaves falling

Birch leaves falling

The rowan trees provide flashes of red amongst the yellowing birches. On the ground, the tormentil has turned crimson.

Red rowan leaves

Red rowan leaves

Going from green to red

Going from green to red

Crimson tormentil leaves

Crimson tormentil leaves

The clear skies see the temperature drop significantly at night. Heavy fog sits in the hollows of Kinord and Davan, and across Deeside.

Fog across deeside

Fog across Deeside

The fog lifts to reveal a thawing dew-encrusted landscape.

Polytrichastrum moss

Polytrichastrum moss

Dew-adorned Polytrichum

Dew-adorned Polytrichum

Despite the cold, the spiders still hang on, producing ornate webs that shine in the morning dew.

Webs and dew on gorse

Webs and dew on gorse

Webs hanging in birch branches

Webs hanging in birch branches

Dew-soaked webs in heather

Dew-soaked webs in heather

With the webs covered well into the middle of the day, I do wonder how much use the webs have been at catching flies for the spiders to eat.

Every strand covered

dew marks the lines of each strand

Soggy silk strings

Soggy silk strings

Waiting for the web to dry

Waiting for the web to dry

The spiders aren’t the only insects still hanging about in the cold. Several other insects can still be seen on the reserve, often concentrated to the open, sunny patches where they can heat up. If only the midges weren’t still about too…

A hoverfly on an autumn hawkbit flower

A hoverfly on an autumn hawkbit flower

A greenbottle fly attracted to a roe deer carcass

A greenbottle fly attracted to a roe deer carcass

Lacewing

Lacewing

A large fox moth caterpillar still fattening up for winter

A large fox moth caterpillar still fattening up for winter

Dung beetles can be seen regularly across the reserve. They seem eternally ill-fated as their rounded body often leads them to becoming stuck on their back, legs flailing. Being big, slow and clumsy makes them ideal prey at this time of year. They’re important in the diet of many predators, notably foxes; their iridescent blue wing cases and exoskeletons are clear in fox scat at in the autumn.

Iridescent dung beetle stuck on its back

Iridescent dung beetle stuck on its back

On several occasions this week, I’ve encountered geometrid caterpillars hanging down over the path from long silk threads.

Geometrid caterpillar hanging mid-air from silk

Geometrid caterpillar hanging mid-air from silk

The caterpillars would be a great find for the passing flocks of tits feeding up for the winter. When threatened, the caterpillars bungee down on a thread of silk, out of harms way. When the danger has passed, they hoist themselves back into the canopy to continue feeding.

Geometrid caterpillar on solid ground

Geometrid caterpillar on solid ground

A few black darters are still making most of the sunny weather, basking on the boardwalk across Parkin’s Moss. The moss is going through its own colour transformation as the bog myrtle begins to lose its leaves.

Boardwalk in the autumn sunlight

Boardwalk in the autumn sunlight

Enjoying the warmth of the wooden panels

Enjoying the warmth of the wooden panels

Bog myrtle turning pinkish gold

Bog myrtle turning pinkish gold

The reserve continues to produce lots of fungi of different shapes and sizes. These three are present around the visitor centre.

The fly agaric - an old favourite of fairy tales

The fly agaric – an old favourite of fairy tales

A purple jellydisc, I think?

A purple jellydisc, I think?

Ergot in timothy grass - one of our more toxic species

Ergot in timothy grass – one of our more toxic species

Also near the visitor centre, our brambles are only just coming into an edible (and delicious!) state.

Brambles turning tasty

Brambles turning tasty

There are still places available on the photography walk and the weather looks set to be perfect. You don’t need a fancy camera, come along to enjoy the colours and scenes of the season!

photo walk

Over the next two weeks, Research students from the University of Aberdeen will be out recording information on the archaeology on and around Castle Island on Loch Kinord. The loch has a long history of human habitation, including 5 crannogs and a wealth of bronze-age archaeology. Here, the archaeologists are setting up GPS equipment to accurately record the locations of underwater features.

Archaeologists preparing to investigate Loch Kinord

Archaeologists preparing to investigate Loch Kinord

This week’s blog will finish with one of our more wonderful natural spectacles: the northern lights. It has been an excellent year so far for seeing the aurora borealis in Scotland, with good visible aurorae on several occasions. It hasn’t escaped the news or social media; aurora watching is becoming very popular indeed. Last week, the west of the country got a wonderful show on Wednesday but cloud over the east blocked out the view in the Northeast. Thursday night was clear and a subdued aurora was visible from Aberdeenshire.

Aurora, visible near Echt

Aurora, visible near Echt

If you fancy getting out into the cold, crisp, clear nights in search of a cosmic wonder, it is easier than you think! Lancaster University offer a free email alert service, along with apps and useful information at http://aurorawatch.lancs.ac.uk/

Alternatively, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Centre offers a 30min forecast based on a fancy model called OVATION. The pictures are helpful to decide if it is worth getting numb fingers or not! It can be found here: http://www.swpc.noaa.gov/products/aurora-30-minute-forecast

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