A Rich and varied Tapestry

As we enjoy the height of summer and biological productivity is at its peak in the reserve it is an opportunity to take a good look at how our wildlife are faring – has it been a good year?

We do this in a range of ways. A key approach is to research around certain rarer or under recorded species. We find out when they emerge, how long they are around for, their preferred habitat and when the conditions are right we go out and actively look for them.

This is the case with the Northern Brown Argus Butterfly.

In Scotland most individuals are of the endemic race artaxerxes and have a
clear white spot in the middle of the forewing. If you get a clear view of its upperside,
they are readily identifiable

In Scotland this butterfly has a distribution of small, scattered colonies and is on the Scottish Biodiversity List as considered to be of principal importance for biodiversity conservation in Scotland and in most urgent need of conservation action.

The butterfly forms discrete colonies that are generally small (<100 adults). Most colonies breed on habitat patches of less than 1 ha. The adults have a very limited ability to move and colonise new areas, the biggest movement recorded at just several hundred metres.

On the reserve we are really fortunate to have patches of its preferred habitat type and we are really pleased to have discovered a colony of Northern Brown Argus butterfly around our wild thyme and rock rose mini-meadows on the Little Ord trail. This small gem of a butterfly has a silvery appearance as it flies low to the ground over sheltered flowery grasslands.

We will go on to map our common rock rose range here and carry out surveys of eggs and of adults in flight.

A preliminary timed count of 15 minutes identified 5 individuals

For nocturnal species such as moths we can use tools such as light traps to sample what is around.

Moths are a fascinating yet often overlooked group of insects, and as a result some of the UK’s most important species remain poorly understood. Moths are a vital part of the UK’s biodiversity as they pollinate plants and provide food for birds, bats and other wildlife.

Not only that – they come in fantastic shapes and colours, with elaborate names and amazing life-cycles. If you take a close look you begin to appreciate their minute yet completely beautiful details.

Helen Rowe, Aberdeenshire Council Ranger and butterfly conservation county recorder, alongside keen volunteers Duncan, Mary and Shona set their light traps at home and around the reserve as part of moth night in a celebration of all things mothy. Mothnight coincides with the peak of the year in terms of the number of species on the wing.

A really healthy haul with every egg carton full of moths in crevices. Over 50 species were recorded, including 5 large poplar hawk moths

I joined Helen and co the next as they shared their haul with some keen families and moth enthusiasts.

My favourite was this beautifully fresh green arches – a species of broadleaf woodland and bogs

As you know we are real fans of deploying trail cameras to record our wildlife in remote corners of the reserve.

In an act of studied neglect we accidentally left a camera out for a month in a location that has proven to be really rich. Going through the thousands of images this week we have realised that this burn is a little ribbon of life, with 6 species of mammal recorded and 13 species of bird. So yes we think our wildlife are having a good year.

We will leave you with a small selection.

Dippers feed on underwater invertebrates, such as stonefly and caddis fly larvae, by walking straight into, and completely under, the water to find them.
Common sandpiper. They habitually bob up and down, known as ‘teetering’

The elusive and secretive otter. Otters are well suited to a life on the water as they have webbed feet, dense fur to keep them warm, and can close their ears and nose when underwater. They require clean rivers, with an abundant source of food and plenty of vegetation to hide their secluded holts.

The Bushnell camera takes some lovely photo’s of our family groups of Mallards and their ducklings.

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