Why Are Wasps Annoying and Other Autumn Stuff- Muir of Dinnet NNR

Well, it was National Poetry Day yesterday, so I suppose we should be putting some verse up. But, according to the radio it’s national Ask a Stupid Question Day today…so we’re going to lead with the question I was asked this week. A chap came into the visitor centre and we asked if we could help. So, he thought about it for a bit and than said “Yes, maybe you can. Can you tell me….why are wasps such a***h****s?”. Once we straightened our faces, we did our best to answer. Wasps are a pain at this time of year and, in autumn, I quite share the gentleman’s opinion of them. They do a good job for much of the year, eating a lot of garden pests. However, once the queen dies and the hives break up, they go off looking for high-energy sugary food….like ripe fruit, or cans of of juice or even beer…and that’s when they really start spoiling your picnic. They’re also more likely to sting just now, as they are old, knackered and frankly grumpy. The best thing is to stay calm and try not to flap at them as this can provoke them. But I’m afraid people do occasionally get stung without provocation and you’re forced to conclude it’s just because wasps are a***h****s.


It’s been a pretty grey week to come back to after a fortnight’s holiday sun. It was Thursday before we had a glimmer of sun but at least it stayed dry for the pupils of Aboyne Academy who were out learning about wildlife survey techniques. I think they were very interested in the tracking and feeding signs session, surprised at how colourful moths could be, and alternately disgusted and fascinated by the owl pellet dissection (“Eeuuugh! That’s poo! I’m not touching that!”). Hopefully they will be able to apply these techniques to their own study site and get a few good wildlife records for the area.

Track board. Can you name any of them?

Feeding signs- hazelnut shells

The contents of the owl pellets

Moth trap

Autumn green carpet

Pink barred sallow

Green brindled crescent

This rather unremarkable-looking moth rejoices in the name of Flounced Chestnut

Dark Swordgrass moth- a migrant moth

Canary shouldered thorn, impersonating a dead leaf

Pink barred sallow and sallow moths. You get a lot of yellowish-dead-leaf tpye moths at this time of year.

The odd sunny day has brought the adders out for a bit of last-minute basking. This young female is doing a fairly typical adder thing of hiding her face under the rock. Snakes don’t have eyelids so they will often shade their eyes from the sun by poking their face under a rock or moving to keep their eyes in the shade of some vegetation.

young female adder

Out on the reserve, autumn is in full swing. I don’t think, unless the winds drop, it’s going to be a particularly “yellow” autumn- the leaves are being stripped from the trees as soon as they turn.

The aspens are starting to go yellow but the leaves are soon blowing away

The first winter migrants are in. We’ve seen redwing- just a couple, more will arrive once the winds stop being out of the south- and heard geese overhead.


The winter thrushes will fall on the rowan berries when they arrive- if the local blackbirds haven’t had them all first.

Red rowan berries

The rain has left big puddles on the track. Not that the wildlife objects, they are ideal bathing pools for lots of small birds.

Bath time!

Bathing thrush and chaffinch

Bathing song thrushes

There are still lots of fungi around. They really vary in size, from these tiny yellow “fairy clubs” less than an inch long, to this huge cep, nearly a foot tall with a diameter like a dinner plate.

Yellow club fungus


If you’re out and about this weekend, things to look out for include geese arriving back from Iceland …but I’d suggest just going for a walk and enjoying the autumn. We’ll have another month of it before the clocks change and winter starts, so make the best of those golden, sunny days that smell of fallen leaves and changing seasons. Enjoy!

Bracken. Yes, I hate it- but it does look pretty at this time of year.





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