It’s been another cracking week on the reserve. It’s 21 degrees Centigrade as I write this…and it’s going to be written quickly so we can go outside and get some sun! We’ve not had a great deal of rain for nearly a fortnight now and we’ve seen more butterflies these past three weeks than all the rest of the summer.
As you may have heard on the news, it’s been a poor year for butterflies. They don’t like cold, damp weather- and, apart from a fortnight in June, that’s all we’ve had until now. It would be a sorry world without the bright splash of colour these insects bring….but their decline is likely to be another symptom of climate change. This is only the 3rd peacock butterfly we’ve seen on the reserve this year.
It’s been too warm to see adders this week- they’ve probably basked and got going before we arrive at work! But we did spot a lizard, right in the middle of one of the usual “bask” spots. It’d better watch out- lizards are a common prey of adders.
We also spotted another animal we don’t usually see this week. This shrew was rooting around the grass by Loch Kinord, on the hunt for insects. Shrews are tiny mammals that live life at a phenomenal rate; they need to eat about 80-90% of their own body weight daily and their heart beats at upwards of 500 beats per minute. They can starve to death is they don’t find food for as little as half a day, so this one wasn’t stopping, even when we pointed the camera at it. We think it’s a common shrew, not a pygmy shrew, so it’s not the even the tiniest of the shrews you find here! You more often hear them than see them, squeaking in the grass, but, bizarrely, that could be as common shrews can use echolocation to help work out their surroundings….you can’t see very far when you’re less than 5 cm tall.
The warm,dry weather seems to be bring autumn on faster than normal. Some of the trees are getting a little drought stressed- so, at this time of year, they effectively cut their losses, drop their leaves and start to shut down for the winter. The dry week has brought a noticeable change in many of the birch trees.
Down on the lochs, all four grebe chicks are looking fat and healthy. This is the first week we’ve seen them diving, so it looks like they’re starting to feed themselves….which will doubtless be a relief to their parents! But they are still being fed- we saw one particularly large fish being delivered while we were there.
The heather is just starting to go over. There’s a hint of brown in it there wasn’t last week. So, if you want to see purple-clad Scottish hills, we’d suggest going sooner than later.
The rowans are gradually getting redder and redder, changing from an orangy-scarlet to a deeper blood-red. It’s one of the heaviest crops of rowans we’ve ever seen this year, with every tree drooping under the weight of berries. The birds are spoiled for choice just now- but they’ll have competition in a month or so when the winter thrushes arrive from Scandinavia!
The late sun has been benefitting the dragonflies too. There are loads of black darters around just now, although they, like all dragonflies, will gradually fade away through September. Look out for these small dragons perched on the boardwalk if you come and see us this weekend.