Muir of Dinnet NNR- Hot, Wet and Sticky

What a beautiful weekend we had. Sunny, warm and everything you’d want a summer’s day to be. The warm weather has brought the water lilies out early this year and they are already in full bloom. Often, it’s into July before they’re in full swing.

White water lily

Water lilies on Loch Kinord

Water lilies

The only blot on the horizon was the behavior of some visitors over the weekend. Unfortunately, the fine weather brings out the numpties as well as all the nice people, and we spent much of the weekend clearing up after them. To say we find this rather annoying is a bit like saying Atlantis had a minor problem with rising damp….grrr.


According to the national news, it was the  “hottest midsummer day for 40 years”. Not here it wasn’t…was anyone else making sarcastic comments to the telly at that point? I didn’t even catch all that report – it was drowned out by the rain on the roof…

Wet midsummer

It has been very humid here this week. The amphibians are loving it, as are the damselflies and dragonflies. In a sunny day, right by the loch, you can hardly take a step without kicking up several electric-blue damselflies. If you stop and watch them, you may see them settle. And lots of them are mating just now. This pair have formed a heart shape in their mating clinch.

Making a heart shape- mating common blue damselflies

The replies like basking, too.  The great thing about common lizards is, if they stay still and you zoom right in, they look like Godzilla in the picture- even if they are only 4 inches long.

Basking lizard in close up!

The humid nights are good for moths, too. You can sometimes find them “roosting” during the day, like this small emerald.

Small emerald moth

As all hay fever sufferers will know, the grass is just about at its height. It’s so deep you can hardly spot a deer in it. We only spotted this roebuck when he lifted his head. You can see his antlers are still growing and that he’s in “velvet” -the soft skin that covers growing antlers and supplies them with blood. Once the antlers are grown, the velvet will die off  and be thrashed off on small trees. Then his antlers will be ready for battle!

Roe buck in velvet

In fact, there were actually two deer. You can jut make out the second one in the background. But it never lifted its head and remained inconspicuous.

Can you spot roe deer no. 2?

Also inconspicuous are the new baby grebes ( not sure of the right term ….grebelings? Grebelets? Grebenets?) . We were beginning to wonder if the grebes had bred this year, before spotting a slightly odd-looking one on Loch Davan. After peering at it for ages, and convincing myself that no, it was just a bit ruffled from preening, a picture eventually revealed that the grebe was carrying at least one tiny chick on its back. You can just see the head sticking up in the picture.

Great crested grebe with a youngster on its back

While the grebe chicks are new, the lapwings are fledged. Here is one of this year’s chicks, fledged and capable of flight.

If you do visit the reserve this week, you’ll probably look at some of the plants and think of “Beauty and the Beast”. The beauties are the dog roses. These are in full flower and look lovely, whether in the commoner pink form or as the pure white “Jacobite” rose. Although we think often of them as just a pretty roadside shrub, they can be very long-lived and there is a record of one over 1000 years old in Germany.

Dog rose, pink form

Dog rose, white form

And the Beast? Well, walk round the loch and you’ll see a few spooky-looking trees. These are almost completely bare and covered in webs. The culprit is the bird cherry ermine moth, which lays its eggs on bird cherry trees. The caterpillars then spin lots of silk – the webs -to hide in and eat all the leaves. Although it looks alarming, it doesn’t usually kill the tree.

The bird cherry ermine moth caterpillars can completely strip a tree

Bird cherry tree, looking “webby”

Bird cherry ermine caterpillars

Some wildlife even benefits! The tree was full of siskins, tits and these bullfinches- all having a feed off the caterpillars which weren’t hiding in the webs!

Female bullfinch, having a feed off the ceterpillars

And, to finish- we saw the first signs of autumn this week. Now, don’t yell at me- when you work outdoors, you see the year turn earlier than you’d think and you get pretty sensitive to the nuances of change. It works the other way too- in November, you’ll see spring signs…and, in June, autumn ones. On Tuesday, even before midsummer, we heard, then saw several curlew heading south. These will be failed breeders, perhaps even from the Arctic Circle, heading south to spend the winter on some nice, muddy southern estuary. Now, how long will it be til you hear someone say “aye, the nights are fair drawing in…..”?









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