Sultry Silences

This week we have experienced some bizarre weather on the reserve with some extreme heat and lingering humidity. Wednesday saw the hottest September day in Scotland in106 years and out on the ground it was pretty uncomfortable, with a temperature breaking 27°C and 96% humidity. Coming in to enjoy the wildlife on a sunny day off I was surprised at the lack of movement and the quietness.

I changed tack and took some time to appreciate the smaller things that abound.

These lovely almost entwining Orange Grisette (Amanita crocea) in the woodland around Loch Davan. There latin name refers to refers to the saffron colouring of this mushroom with Saffron the orange-yellow spice derived from the flowers of the Saffron Crocus. These fungi form mutually beneficial relationships with Birch.
Recently given the common name Bald Inkcap, Parasola leiocephala is a very delicate member of the inkcap group of fungi. It occurs singly or in small groups in short grass and on woodland edges.
This is one of the many short-lived inkcap fungi that appear overnight following rain; the fruitbodies develop, expand, shed their spores and decay within 24 hours and by the next morning there is usually little or no evidence of them ever having been there.
A fragile seeming white Harebell.

With its papery petals and delicate appearance, you might think the harebell a rather fragile wild flower. In fact, it’s incredibly tough and resilient. It just needs to be given the environment it grows in: the harebell is a wild flower of dry, open places from the bare slopes of hills to the windswept coast.

Within our grassland I noticed this superb looking spider – a female 4 spot Orb weaver spider.

The heaviest spider in Britain at a impressive 17mm across her abdomen, this large female was laying in wait for a passing grasshopper. This species builds its web close to the ground to catch jumping insects. The female builds the more elaborate web, complete with a funnel-shaped retreat where she goes during inclement weather. She amazingly can change colour. It takes her about three days to take on the colours that accurately match her surroundings. An amazing adaptation!

A common green grasshopper – an enticing snackette for this large spider. She is at her biggest and most noticeable in August and September when her true prey catching abilities can often be observed with even wasps and bumblebees making up a part of her diet!
Fox moth caterpillar. This caterpillar emerged in June and will continue to feed for a little while longer before finding a cosy space under some moss or leaf litter to overwinter
If you go off trail beware of bungee jumping caterpillars. To increase their chances of finding tasty buds and also to enable them to spread to nearby trees some of the caterpillars will spin a thin thread and hang downwards from the thread.

Our butterflies are gradually on the wane as our flowers die back with Peacock butterflies dominating and a few Red Admiral and Painted Lady occasionally making an appearance flying high and fast.

Red admiral

Starting each spring and continuing through the summer these strong flying butterflies make northward migrations from North Africa and continental Europe. The immigrant females lay eggs and there is a consequent influx of fresh butterflies from July onwards, arriving here about this time every year.

Painted lady. Painted lady have been seen here in the last week and make an even vaster migration, known to have come as far afield as North Africa, the middle east and central asia.

Our swallows are gathering in numbers with the 2nd broods successfully fledged.

Newly fledged swallow

By early September, most swallows are preparing to migrate. They flutter about restlessly, and often gather on telegraph wires. Most leave the UK during September, with early broods of youngsters being the first to go. I watched as a kestrel took a watchful position a little way off.

After the blazing sunshine has come two days of wreathing mistiness. It has been eerily quiet across the a glass calm Loch Kinord with the mist seeming to stifle noise. Its very atmospheric and a little unnerving.

Kinord views in the mist.
Reflections on a still loch

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