Exceptional Times and a Massive thank you

At Muir of Dinnet we are approaching the end of an intense high season with over 41,000 visitors across summer, from all over the world, choosing to visit us and enjoy our beautiful reserve. We are taking a moment right now just to pause and consider how it’s all gone. The exceptionally long hot, dry summer has altered the “normal” rhythm of things like emergence and die back here.

Our water birds and otter have had a great year. We monitor and map the birds on Loch Kinord twice a week and are overjoyed by our numbers . We would like to say a massive thank you to all of you who have supported our position and chosen not to take water borne access across this breeding season. We believe that at the critical time in Spring our birds were relaxed enough to want to remain and breed here.

Reflections of scudding clouds on a limpid calm Loch Kinord on a still summers day.
A proud wigeon mother parading her brood of three ducklings. Only 200 breeding pairs are recorded UK wide. Every brood is precious!
This graph shows a weekly timeline beginning in week 11 – mid March. Across the crucial breeding season Loch Kinord has provided an ideal habitat for far more birds this year compared to last. This years bird numbers are shown in orange. I find the difference in numbers in week 22 – early June – just astonishing. 190 birds seen this year compared to just 9 last year.
A continuous timeline from March 2021 to end of July 2022
A family group of three otter were spotted on Loch Kinord earlier this week

August brings a riot of colour to the hillsides of Scotland as the heather begins to flower, creating a uniquely bonny landscape.

The carpet of colour you see is actually made up of two types of flower, Ling heather with its loosely arranged pink flowers and the dark pink-purple chimes of Bell heather.

Our local bee keepers have had their cheerfully coloured hives on the moor for about a month and the sound of thousands of honey bees feeding on the sweetly smelling blooms is extraordinary. The honey that results from these bees is dark and fragrant and very popular.

South Heath erupting into bonny blooms of heather
Beehives on the moor. Scottish Heather Honey contains 10x the amount of the essential nutrient Manganese than other honeys making it a superfood.

Historically heather has been put to use in many practical ways. Long leggy stems made durable thatching. People made a yellow dye from heather as well as strong rope which withstood the effects of seawater.

Heather was also gathered together in bundles to make a variety of besoms and brooms. On the Isle of Lewis, a particular kind of hoe drawn by a person had two rows of wooden teeth followed by a row of heather to smooth the soil.

The dark pink-purple chimes of Bell heather

Unbelievably late we are only now beginning to see wild mushrooms within our woodland, and then only the odd one or two. This year the weather has really altered the timings for many groups and this has been really disorientating for us too. It’s fantastic to have our weird and wonderful mushrooms back at last.

Warmer temperatures dry out soil, especially during periods of low rainfall. Dry soil creates a snowball effect by killing plants, which yields more dry soil. But the effects do not stop at plants – some fungi suffer as well.

It might appear as though fungi are not important because they are only scattered here or there when you see them in the woods. That is because most fungal growth is underground. Fungi are dominant members of the community of microscopic organisms that live beneath our feet. In many soil communities, fungi represent an average of 55%-89% of all microbes. Because fungi strongly impact ecosystem health, how fungi respond to drought is an important question.

Filamentous fungi get their name because they grow in branching filaments, called hyphae The hyphae expand outwards to form large networks of tissue that traffic nutrients from distant places, making filamentous fungi expert scavengers. One of the dominant roles of scavenging fungi in maintaining a healthy ecosystem is nutrient cycling by decomposition. . 

Great black slug eating a mushroom
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