Dry Days, Green Trees

What a wonderful week it’s been. Warm, sunny and dry. And it’s warmed up enough to bring the insects out in force (sorry – that means the midges are just starting too). By far the most spectacular of these this week was a Kentish glory moth we saw at the Burn o Vat.

Male Kentish glory moth

We were surprised to see him here. Most of the birches around Burn o Vat are too mature for Kentish glories – they need younger tree leaves for their caterpillars to feed on. The adults don’t eat at all, and only live for a week to ten days, so it’s likely this male was on the hunt for females, trying to detect their pheromones with his wonderful feathery antennae.

Check out the antennae on you!

We have seen a few of these moths this year, thanks to the testing of some new pheromone traps on the reserve. These mimic the scent of females and allow us to check  if Kentish glory are present on the reserve. We check these regularly so we can release any males that have come for a closer look.

Pheromone moth trap

Another insect we saw this week probably attracts the label “fascinating” rather than beautiful. Burying beetles do what it says on the tin- they bury the corpses of small, dead animals for their young to feed upon. This on has hit paydirt, with a dead mole to lay eggs into.

Sexton or burying beetle

We had a couple of days with the Cairngorms National Park Junior Rangers this week. Here, on Day 1 they were learning about bushcraft skills, fire lighting and, more importantly, fire prevention.

 

Using chagga fungus for firelighting

Chagga and hoof fungi- one was used for fire lighting, the other for carrying fire.

While Day 2 focused on biodiversity and biological recording. While the moth trap didn’t yield many moths (it was too cold and clear overnight) the earthworm and soil survey was more successful. Whenever we do this, we always turn up mostly immature worms and only very few mature ones…not sure why, but if anyone knows, please get in touch!

Junior rangers doing soil survey

pH testing soil

All of the birches are fully in leaf now, but some other trees are just “bursting”. The bullfinches have been taking advantage of this, eating the budding whitebeam. They are after the energy-rich flower buds tucked inside the bud.

Bullfinch eating whitebeam buds

Male bullfinch

The song thrushes, which have been “worming” on the lawn for the past month, have youngsters. This well-grown “baby” was following it’s parent around, begging for food.

Song thrush with “baby” behind

Some other song thrushes are just getting started. We found this one, sitting tight on some beautiful blue eggs.

Song thrush on nest

The nest with blue eggs

The lapwing have chicks too. We were trying, fairly unsuccessfully to count them. They are still pretty small- just little balls of fluff on stilts- but have a surprisingly good turn of speed. They move around, disappear behind tussocks and reappear elsewhere, so you’re never quite sure how many you have! There are at least nine- but I suspect these are a few more hiding in the long grass.

Lapwing parents with a chick in the foreground

Lapwing chick

Finally, if you head out this weekend- it’s still very, very dry out there. It’s getting to the point a cigarette butt can set fire to the countryside- and there have been a couple of wild fires out west and up by Inverness. Please, let’s not have one here- don’t light fires and make sure your cigarette butt is properly out.

High Fire risk- just don’t!

 

 

 

 

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