Muir of Dinnet NNR – Bringing History to Life

Well, that’s August here. Where is the year going? You always know the summer is wearing on when you start to see devil’s bit scabious in flower. I always think it’s a horrible-sounding name for a very pretty plant, but it comes from an old legend. The plant was used to treat scabies – a horrible, itchy skin disease (I can guarantee, if you Wikipedia it, you’ll be scratching by the end of the article) and the devil was so angry with the flower for the relief it gave, he came up through the earth and bit its roots off!

Devil’s bit scabious

The grass is still high and you can just see something the size of an adult roe deer in it. The long grass is also ideal for concealing any youngsters which will only be a couple of months old at this time of year.

Roe deer in tall grass

Some birds are just fledging new young just now. We were lucky to spot this fairly new garden warbler fledgie round the loch. These warblers have been in short supply this year and, like many African migrants, are in decline as a species.

Young garden warbler

All of the graylag goslings are looking quite grown-up now. They are still noticeably smaller than their parents but have fully-grown feathers. They are fun to watch when they have congregated in the water lily bays as they can’t swim through the lilies easily and form long lines to follow narrow channels of clear water.

A procession of greylags

Less fun are the clegs, or horseflies. These form part of the unholy trinity of Things That Bite, along with midgies and mozzies….but cleg bites are the worst of all. This insect is the reason why we are frequently found doing hot, heavy work in entirely unsuitable thick clothing. They can easily bite you through a light cotton shirt and (if you’re sensitive) can leave you with a huge itchy, oozy lump for a fortnight. And the only reason there’s a picture of it is that it’s on the other side of the window…I’d splat it if it were anywhere near me.

Cleg or horsefly.

I also saw something I’d never seen before this week- a toad eating an earthworm. We were moving the tarp over the trailer to shake some water off it and disturbed a toad and some worms that were under it. The toad instantly inflated- I’m a big, scary toad, don’t come near me – but pretty much instantly forgot about us when it spotted a large worm about a foot away. It crawled after it and, in fairly short order, scoffed it – a bit like spaghetti but with more wriggling. And we even managed to grab a quick video of it-though the shakiness was due to trying to get rid of the aforementioned cleg which landed on my hand at that precise moment!

Inflated toad, trying to look scary



We also  celebrated the year of History, Heritage and Archaeology at the reserve this week. Muir of Dinnet NNR is covered in archaeology, but it can be hard to excite people with what may just be a line of rocks on the ground. But seeing how people lived, what they ate, and what they had to do to survive is a bit different and we brought the past to life with the Rhynie Wifies. They created an Iron Age camp and showed off traditional foods and skills, which seemed to give people a new respect for how long everything took when you didn’t have shops or electricity…do you think you could survive without them?

Backing bannocks on a hot stone

Two “Celtic princesses” admiring themselves in a bronze mirror

Making a hole for a stone pendant with a bow drill

Willow demonstrating how flint arrowheads were attached, using roots and pitch to secure them.

Spindles for spinning wool

Iron age feast- bread, cured meat, smoked fish, mushrooms, goat’s cheese, nuts, beans and samphire.

The reverse of the bronze mirror. these were high status items and were often beautifully decorated.

Iron spearhead

Iron age washing line!

Quern stone

Making butter with “Tiny Rhynie”.

Totemic skulls- all real except for the one on the right.  It wasn’t someone who tied bags of dog poo onto a tree, honestly….

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