The busy season is in full swing now. We’ll be full-on now until around mid- September, when it goes back to being merely busy, as opposed to totally mental! Everything is growing and we have lots of visitors – it’s summer and it’s nice to be outdoors. We also have a lot of school groups at this time of year, in the run up to the end of term. We spent a couple of days with the Cairngorms Junior Rangers from Aboyne Academy this week, studying bushcraft, biodiversity and the art of getting wet! There were some spectacular finds in the moth trap.
While releasing the moths, we also found a micro- moth, which gave us a little-and-large picture and illustrates how diverse moths can be. The big moth is the poplar hawk moth from the trap – but the wee black dot on the buttercup just to the right is the cocksfoot moth. It’s tiny – only a few mm long – and its larvae feed on cock’s foot grass.
We also had a go at the art of fire carrying – which worked pretty well in some dry hoof fungus. Slightly less popular was the bit where we dissected owl pellets to find out what they’d been eating …but it’s surprising how addictive hunting for shrew remains in owl pellets can be.
And we got wet too- what’s the point of a waterfall with a wee cave at the back if you can’t go into it? You wouldn’t think you could fit anyone in there, but I think seven of the Junior Rangers were in there when the second pic was taken.
It’s also the time of year when everything is growing like the blazes. Yes, it all looks very pretty and green, but it’s slightly daunting when you know you’ve got to keep it cut! In the past week, we’ve cut the whole south and east shores of Loch Kinord…and that’s over a mile of path to be cut, on both sides of the path, so it’s always double what you think it should be! And that’s not including the lawn at the visitor centre or round the car park…
What with all the strimming and working with groups, we haven’t had much chance to look for wildlife. But that’s where remote cameras are great – they do it for you. It’s amazing the variety of wildlife you can pick up on one. Here’s a selection from last week, all on one big rock in the woods which Willlow pointed the camera at.
Mind you, sometimes the wildlife comes to you. These house martins were investigating the centre, with what looked like a view to maybe nesting. Before houses, they would have nested on cliffs and you can see how well they cling on with their feathery feet and use their tails for balance.
And sometimes you don’t want the wildlife to come to you. Well, not in the office, anyway. I left the back door open while I was strimming out front – it’s hot, it’s nice to let some air in – and came back to find a huge toad in the middle of the floor. Now, I never advocate picking up a toad – 1) it’s not fair to frighten them, 2), the oils on your skin can irritate them and 3) their first line of defense is to pee on you. Copiously. So, the toad spots me and hops off to hide under the recycling bin, peeing as it goes, leaving a damp trail across the floor with every hop. And we added “mopping up toad pee” to the list of “Jobs For Today” after evicting the toad to under the woodshed. I suppose today’s top tip has to be – don’t pick up toads because they wazz all over you!