Aigas Field Centre
Aigas Field Centre

Tree Planting in the Aigas Community Forest

17 December, 2018. Posted by Aigas Field Centre

Bordering our Field Centre is an undulating, 260ha community owned patch of woodland - Aigas Community Forest. Bought with the aims of increasing biodiversity in areas of previously poorly managed plantation; it demonstrates sustainable timber sourcing, whilst providing a fantastic recreational area for the public. Aigas Field Centre has deep links with the community forest and is strongly supportive of its missions, helping to buy it over in 2015. Two of our members of staff are on the committee board and help to shape decisions regarding its management. Planting trees in the Aigas Community Forest ©Pete Short Over the winter months we have been carrying out surveys around the forest to scout out areas with higher value for wildlife, such as crested tits, in order to install nest
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My Mission to Spot a Ptarmigan

10 December, 2018. Posted by Aigas Field Centre

We rose early, eager to reach the mountain. Our goal: catch a glimpse of the elusive ptarmigan (Lagopus muta), a bird that breeds and winters at high altitudes throughout the Highlands. In summer these birds have a cold, speckled grey plumage; in winter they are almost entirely white, a camouflage against the snowy mountain backdrop they call home. I knew we had a hard task ahead of us; the ptarmigan is well camouflaged and small (roughly wood pigeon sized), and we had a lot of ground to scan. I hoped to recognise the bird by its distinctive call; the ptarmigan’s Japanese name translates to ‘thunder bird,’ due to the deep, booming croak that the bird produces. While in my opinion it sounds a little more like a
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My First Solo Hide Visit

6 November, 2018. Posted by Aigas Field Centre

The Autumn Birds group flocked up the hill towards me, buzzing with anticipation for what the evening may hold. Brimming with badger and pine marten trivia, and anxious not to disappoint on the first hide visit that I had ever run, I waited. The evening certainly did not let me down. As we stood in the fading light outside of the Magnus House, sharing news of the day's fantastic wildlife sightings, we witnessed our first nocturnal hosts; bats! They swooped past along the path and tree line, carrying out daily commutes between hunting grounds and roosts. Five species of bat have residence on site: Natterer’s (Myotis nattereri); Brown Long-eared (Plecotus auritus); Common and Soprano Pipistrelles (Pipistrellus pipistrellus & P.pygmaeus); and Daubenton’s (Myotis daubentonii). Some lucky individuals seemed
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Going Batty in the Highlands

23 October, 2018. Posted by Aigas Field Centre

Soprano pipistrelles (Pipistrellus pygmaeus) are one of 18 species of bat found in the UK. They are our most commonly sighted bat, feeding on midges, mosquitos and other small flies, using echolocation between 55 and 80 kHz. They often roost alongside other species of bat such as Common pipistrelles (Pipistrellus pipistrellus). Aigas is home to another two species of bat; brown long-eared (Plecotus auritus) and Daubenton’s bat (Myotis daubentonii). Female pipistrelles form maternity roosts during the summer and give birth to pups between June and July. For the first four weeks, the pups rely solely on their mother’s milk, after which they are able to fly and begin foraging independently at just six weeks old. At this time, some individuals may become a bit confused and lost.
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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