Muir of Dinnet NNR – Officially Autumn

September’s here. The golden, changing month when summer slides into autumn, when the first frosts nip the air and when the wild geese arrive on rushing wings from the north. In myth, it was the month of Hermes, god of going, who guarded gateways and crossroads. There was a time the god wayposts-the herma- stood at all crossroads showing travelers the way (though they weren’t quite fingerposts, featuring an entirely different part of his anatomy all together). And the wildlife could certainly use some guidance – so many of our birds will be heading south with only their in-built natural guidance systems to see them all the way to Africa. All of these birds will be gone soon. Good luck, little bids- we hope you make it.

Willow Warbler


Tree pipit

“…and gathering swallows twitter in the skies”.

Other changes are afoot too. The numbers of geese and ducks on the lochs are picking up as winter roosts start to form. These aren’t Icelandic geese, rather the local area greylag flock congregating on Loch Davan for the winter.

The geese are gathering

They are shedding their feathers just now, as are the ducks, and the waterline is thick with wildfowl feathers.

The edges of the lochs are covered in feathers

Moulting geese produce a LOT of feathers!

Goose feather

Also shedding are plants with wind-blown seeds. We used to call these “hairy witchies” when we were kids and try and catch them. Most of these will be seeds of rosebay willowherb.

“Hairy witchies”- mostly willowherb seeds blown on the wind.

The heather is still in bloom. There are still lots of people leaping out of cars to take pictures Scotland’s bonny purple hills, as pictured in all the literature- even though they are really brown for 3/4 of the year!

Purple heather, with Kinord in the background

The bees love the heather. This late-summer nectar source is vital for insects- a real bonanza as the days shorten.

Bee feeding on heather

Mind you, it’s not just the flowers the insects love. This gorgeous small copper butterfly seemed to be interested in a patch of bare ground. Perhaps it was after some salts or minerals it couldn’t get from plants.

Small copper butterfly

Small copper butterfly

The scotch argus are still around in quite good numbers but are really looking on their last legs now. This ragged specimen was by no means the worst of the bunch!

Scotch argus, looking ragged

Other animals have been tucking in. too. While you don’t often see a red squirrel, the remains of squirrel-chewed cones are a constant presence underfoot.

Squirrel-chewed cones

And any low-growing birch bracket fungus may well be munched by a roe deer.

Birch brackets low down often get munched by deer

And the mornings get colder, we’re starting to see adders again…but they’ve eluded the camera so far! Much more obliging were these common lizards. I always think the way their mouths turn up slightly always gives them a slightly pleased-with-themselves look!

Common lizard

Lizard, basking in the sun- and looking a bit self-satisfied

This one both did and didn’t have something to be pleased about. It’s growing a new tail and must have had a nasty surprise that caused it to lose the old one – maybe a fight with another lizard, or a strike by an adder or bird attack. And, let’s face it, you don’t shed bits of yourself unless you have to. But losing a tail isn’t fatal to a lizard- they can contract muscles around arteries and veins to stop bleeding and will grow a new tail over time. Much better to be a lizard with a stubby second tail than dinner.

Lizard, growing a new tail

We’ve been out with the trail camera again and Willow has managed to get some good shots. It’s nice to know that even if you don’t see it, all this wildlife is out there…and you never know your luck, you might just see one of these creatures on the reserve!

Pigeon drinking- the pigeons and doves are the only birds that don’t need to tilt their heads back when drinking

Ducks after dark

Mallard ducks


Otter sprainting

Do you think this is my best side?

Or is this side better?

Yes, definitely this one!





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