Adventuring into Autumn

Although the high temperatures are set to continue into next week the mornings are starting to feel fresher and the breeze has an invigorating edge to it. On the reserve we are getting our first peek of autumn. Whilst our trees are bearing fruits and berries, other species are going for broke, capitalising on the fine weather to get one final brood in.

Song bird chicks such as black cap, robin and blackbird can be found low to the ground just now and even though the bird breeding season is technically over there are still lots of young naïve birds around. Pease help our wildlife thrive when visiting and keep dogs at heel or on a lead.

Everyone say “awwww”- three newly-fledged willow warblers
Emerging rowan berries.
Bane of witches, diviner of the future and producer of jam, rowan is an elegant tree with a mystical history. The colour red was considered to be the best colour for fighting evil, and so the rowan’s bright red berries have been associated with magic and witches.
The creamy frothy petals of Sambucus nigra grow in clusters. Elderflowers are one of natures finest edible treasures and a signature wild food of mid summer. Their elegant, sweet, heady fragrance translates into lots of  delicious drinks and desserts. Elderflower champagne is one of the simplest and most rewarding boozy summer preparations.
Bramble or wild blackberry. Brambles used to be planted on graves to stop sheep grazing, but might also have had the more superstitious purpose of keeping the dead in. 
Wild raspberry, commonly called ‘red raspberry’, is also known as the ‘hindberry’ in some parts of Scotland because it is a favourite food of deer. In Scotland, the small and tart wild raspberry has long been foraged for its delicious berries. Archaeological evidence indicates that Mesolithic hunter-gathers ate raspberries.

We had a fantastic bat and moth event here on Friday night on a mild, still summers night. Our Soprano pipistrelle have disbanded their maternity roost and now is the time to glut and build up those reserves for mating and later on hibernation. They are incredibly active on the paths feasting on the plentiful insects around right now. Young recently weaned bats stick close to their mothers as they hunt.

To attract our moths we used a combination of pungent smelling “sugar”, a treacly, beery tar that we painted onto the trees, wine ropes – exactly as it sounds and light traps.

Large yellow underwings and dark arches really loved the sugar, whilst species like the large emerald came readily to the light. Live moth trapping is really exciting as you get to experience these amazing creatures in their element, fluttering and active.

Dark arches moth feasting on “sugar”.
A dazzling Large emerald moth at our light traps

The reserve work of the week has been to clear Himalayan balsam by hand pulling from along the Monodavan burn.

Impatiens glandulifera -a highly invasive non-native of waterways . Himalayan Balsam aka policeman’s helmet, kiss-me-on-the-mountain and poor-man’s orchid. Its “impatience” is demonstrated by an ability to grow massively tall in just one season, and its seedpods are grenades filled with seeds that can go off at any second, often triggered by rain drops.
Himalayan Balsam spreads prodigiously quickly and forms dense thickets, altering the ecological balance and character of wetland habitats. Many seeds drop into the water and contaminate land and riverbanks downstream, but the explosive nature of its seed release (seeds can be projected up to four meters away) means it can spread upstream too. It produces a lot of pollen over a prolonged season and is attractive to pollinating insects. There is concern that its presence may therefore result in decreased pollination for other native plants.

Just to leave you with a master of camouflage. Can you spot the spider? This little spider is actually called an invisible spider and its camouflage ability is astonishing. It lives on the lower trunks of trees, in this case birch. The female constructs a web of very fine threads, which lies very close to the trunk surface, practically invisible to the naked eye, and on this web they are approached by males during courtship.

Can you spot the invisible spider – I have to admit I couldn’t
On closer inspection
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