Aigas Field Centre
Aigas Field Centre

Demystifying Fungi

1 October, 2018. Posted by Aigas Field Centre

Fungi is a very difficult group to get to grips with. There is such a bewildering number of species and genera, which make identification very hard. It amazes me how experienced mycologists can recognise seemingly nondescript mushrooms at arms length. A large proportion of the species I have identified are host-specific microfungi growing on plants. [caption id="attachment_2493" align="aligncenter" width="655"] One species that is easy to identify: Fly Agaric (Amanita muscaria)[/caption] Fortunately, last week I had the opportunity (through my recently-started placement year at Aigas Field Centre) to help out and join in with the first two days of a week-long course on fungi, led by expert mycologist Liz Holden. After only a few hours I had discovered and learned several genera and a few species I'd never encountered
Continue Reading...

The Keys to the Kingdom

11 September, 2018. Posted by Aigas Field Centre

The Kingdom Hide, our loch-side hide which was built by Johnny Kingdom in 2007, is the perfect place to spend an evening wildlife watching. Nicknamed the 'beaver hide', there is so much more to see than just the beavers. Myself and another ranger decided to spend some time there on the evening of the summer solstice, when we would have maximum daylight. It wasn’t long before we got our first amazing sighting. Looking around, we saw a tawny owl (Strix aluco) perched in one of the trees at the side of the loch. It was turning its head, searching for prey. After watching the tawny owl for a few minutes, we carried on scanning the loch and the surrounding greenery and caught a glimpse of something moving
Continue Reading...

Swift and Sure

23 August, 2018. Posted by Aigas Field Centre

Over the last few weeks, we at Aigas have been keeping an eye on a swift (apus apus) nest that is in the attic of the main house. We’ve been doing so via a webcam situated above the nest. We’ve watched a pair of adults lay eggs, incubate them and the chicks hatching out. Two chicks have been growing well, fed regularly by the adults. The time from hatching to fledging is usually six weeks, however, after only 3 – 4 weeks, one of the chicks had vanished! It was too early for it to have fledged (it didn’t have the necessary flight feathers) so it must have fallen from the nest! Two of our rangers ventured into the attic and found it sitting patiently on the
Continue Reading...

An eventful morning at Aigas

13 August, 2018. Posted by Aigas Field Centre

The morning was expected to be like any other – I had all of my normal jobs to do (with the addition of sorting through a moth trap that I had set the night before), however, it was to turn out very different. After potting all of the moths that I had collected I began my usual daily jobs. First was topping up the hazelnuts and peanuts at the squirrel hide. Before I could sit down a red squirrel was in. As I sat watching, the peanut feeders filled with fledgling great tits, chaffinches and siskins. In a flash they took off. Two juvenile great-spotted woodpeckers joined the red squirrel.  This all happened in less than five minutes. In the following five minutes the red squirrel and
Continue Reading...

Waking up with Coileach Dubh

6 August, 2018. Posted by Aigas Field Centre

Our Aigas guests will be familiar with what we call the Early Morning Run (EMR). At the beginning of the season, we offer guests the opportunity to visit a black grouse (Lyrurus tetrix) lek and otters (Lutra lutra) later in the season. Black grouse or Coileach Dubh in Scottish Gaelic, participate in courtship behaviour known as lekking where males (blackcocks) congregate display competitively, in attempt to capture the attention of the on-looking females (greyhens). Black grouse are commonly mistaken for and are related to Capercaille (Tetrao urogallus) – the horse of the woodland, which also participate in leks but are much larger in size, and now incredibly scarce in Scotland. Lekking behaviour The dominant male is usually positioned in the centre of the lek and tends to
Continue Reading...

Butterfly Garden: Before and After

6 July, 2018. Posted by Aigas Field Centre

May 2018 (Before) Now that signs of spring are finally showing themselves around Aigas, we have seen Queen bees buzzing around after being woken up from hibernation by the warmer temperatures. They need to find flowers with nectar to feed on to raise their energy levels so they can move on to locate a new nest site for the upcoming summer. Some species of butterfly spend the winter as larvae or pupae, whilst others hibernate and will also be rousing around the same time as the bees.  To help these species find flowers and nectar, we are in the process of creating a bee/butterfly garden behind the Magnus House. Planting native flowers is a great way to attract bees and butterflies to a garden. Wild bees and
Continue Reading...

The dolphin, the dipper, and the ‘dunno’

3 July, 2018. Posted by Aigas Field Centre

Last month our Walking and Wildlife group had excellent views of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) surfacing and later an adult dipper (Cinclus cinclus) which was teaching its fledgling to swim along a stream. Towards the end of the day, a member of the group spotted this unusual looking bird which both surprised and confused our rangers. After some investigation, we confirm this is a black bird (Turdus merula) with a plumage abnormality.  In addition to various pigment abnormalities, plumage abnormalities can include issues with feather growth or loss. A common misconception is that pigment abnormality is albinism or leucism, however the bird is capable of producing dark feathers therefore cannot be classified as a true albino. This could be detrimental to the individual’s survival as it is
Continue Reading...

Otters in the Mist

15 June, 2018. Posted by Aigas Field Centre

Two weeks ago, I was lucky enough to be joined by a group of Aigas Wildlifers for an early morning trip to the Kessock bridge. We were hoping to see otters (Lutra lutra) but as we set off from Aigas, thick mist was still lying around us and we didn’t want to get our hopes up. The previous mornings had seen the haar (a cold, thick sea fog) lingering over the Moray Firth well into the day, making otter spotting almost impossible. Still, we were determined to give it a shot, and we were rewarded for our efforts. Off in the distance, we spotted a rock with two moving mounds at the top – otters! The creatures were almost ethereal, sometimes vanishing in the mist and then
Continue Reading...

Naturedays on the Isle of Skye

28 May, 2018. Posted by Aigas Field Centre

Over winter, the Naturedays team travelled to many primary schools and nurseries around the Highlands to deliver an outreach programme on how animals survive the harsh winter months. As we entered spring, the outreach changed from this theme to one on energy flow. The education team recently took a trip to the Isle of Skye as the first schools to receive this new programme were two primary schools on the island. Skye is the most easily accessible island in the Inner Hebrides since the completion of the Skye Bridge, a free road bridge from the mainland. The first school visited enjoyed the presence of the whole Naturedays team for one session, before we split and two of us departed for the second school. A variety of topics
Continue Reading...

Nature Photography at Aigas with Laurie Campbell

28 May, 2018. Posted by Aigas Field Centre

Laurie Campbell is one of Scotland’s leading nature photographers. His knowledge of the natural world has allowed him to photograph Scotland’s most iconic species, producing beautiful results. Here at Aigas, we’re lucky enough to have him lead programmes throughout the year. He runs a photography workshop and a masterclass for more experienced photographers. I am definitely not a photographer. My experience consists of pointing and shooting a hybrid camera with blurry results. On past trips out with Laurie I’ve felt a little intimidated by the guests’ flashy cameras and the photography jargon (I still do not know what ISO stands for). However, last week I took my camera with me for a day in Glen Starthfarrar with Laurie and his group, and I’m so glad I did.
Continue Reading...