Muir of Dinnet NNR – Sunny Days and Moth-y Nights

What a cracking start we had to the week. Four nice days in a row- must be summer. In fact, in Scotland, that could have been summer -but we’ll keep our fingers crossed for a bit more sunshine still to come. We started the week with a visit to St Cyrus, partly to see off Andrew the student placement (who will be much missed) and partly to help out with other jobs. Now, you never know what you’ll be doing on your “own” NNR from day to day, let alone a different one, and it wasn’t long before I was scribing for Therese and Andrew as they took samples from a newly-washed-up dead porpoise calf. It’s a bit gruesome (but fascinating at the same time) – you need to take skin, blubber and muscle samples from the animal. And, while it’s heartbreakingly sad to see a young animal like this beyond help, the samples will tell us something about the health of the sea- did the porpoise get enough food, how much plastic is in its body and so on.

A sad sight- a young porpoise washed up at St Cyrus

Back at Dinnet, the loos blocked again, that that was Tuesday gone. Nuff said, let’s move on to a nicer subject. Like moths. We set up the moth trap on the Wednesday, with the light on a timer to attract the moths once it got dark.

Moth trap, set up for night-time

And, in the morning, we come back to see what we’ve got. What we had got was a lot….of toads, that is. There were eight, ringing the trap, waiting to catch any moths that had landed on the ground.

Free meal for the toads!

Unfortunately, the toad hopped off the sign just as I took the picture!

And the moth trap itself was crammed with moths. Helen, from Aberdeenshire Council Ranger Service, is still sitting identifying moths as I write this, several hours later. She’s a great lepidopterist (moth and butterfly enthusiast) and can tell her engrailed clays from  small square spots- which is the point I give up and put the kettle on. The final scores aren’t in just yet but we  had over 40 species of moth and at over 200 individual moths in the trap. Here are just a few of them…

A snout moth. You can see how it came by its name.

Moth collection – true lover’s knot (top), antler moth (bottom right) and two grass moths (the small ones). They’re on an egg box- that’s not 151 calories per moth.

Two lesser swallow prominent moths, resting in a rather curious position.

Burnished brass moth. It is iridescent and the colours only show as you turn it to the light.

Light emerald moth

Away from the moths, the last of the fun day clearing up was completed. This involved stitching the gazebo canvas back together where it had parted company along the seams. Told you we never know what we’ll have to turn our hands to!

Fixing the tents after the fun day

With July galloping towards the end of the month, more autumn signs are starting to creep onto the reserve. One of the most obvious of these is the steadily-ripening fruit. It won’t be long before these rasps are edible – and some in sunny spots are already sweet enough to eat.

Ripening rasps

And the rowan berries are gradually changing from green to orange.

Ripening rowans

The rain later in the week has made some fungi pop their heads up. It’s actually been too dry for a lot of these mushrooms to form- but not for much longer, by the looks of the forecast. These chanterelle are still quite small after the dry weather.

Over at Old Kinord, there are a few very pale sandy-coloured rabbits going about. These stick out like a sore thumb and I’m always amazed nothing’s eaten them yet. Still, gotta catch them  first and if there’s one thing rabbits do well (apart from breed), it’s run fast!

Sandy coloured rabbit

And another heads-up. Last time it was for our Fun Day. This time it’s for the Rhynie Wifies on the 1st August. Step back in time with them and celebrate the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology…and see if you’d have made a good Celt!


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