Aigas Field Centre
Aigas Field Centre

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...

Discarded antlers all around us

9 May, 2018. Posted by Aigas Field Centre

It is the time of year where we find shed antlers around Aigas. The Red Deer (Cervus elaphus) have finished their rut, and the stags are now shedding their antlers in preparation for this year’s rut. The smaller Roe Deer (Capreolus capreolus) will soon enter their breeding season, we have already spotted some young bucks in hard antler. Antler physiology Antlers function as an object for sexual attraction, the quality of the antler can determine how successful the male will be during the breeding season. Male deer use these antlers to lock with other males and wrestle for mating privileges, they can be used as weapons, but their primary purpose is ornamentation for sexual selection. Some species such as Chinese Water Deer (Hydropotes inermis) possess tusks which
Continue Reading...

My first experience of leading a school group at Aigas

26 April, 2018. Posted by Aigas Field Centre

As a new ranger, I recently had my first experience of teaching school pupils. My previous teaching experience includes assisting with zookeeper talks and interacting visitors to nature reserves, where my audience consisted mostly of adults. When I learned that I would be required to plan my own lesson and help the Education Team with school visits, I was apprehensive. Our first outreach visit was to Teanassie Primary School, who are familiar with Aigas Field Centre. The pupils were from different year groups (P2/3 and P4/5), but everyone was enthusiastic and enjoyed learning about food chain interactions. It was great to see how much they already knew and build on this knowledge through puzzles and games. This particular school have been coming to Aigas for many years,
Continue Reading...

Exploring the Bone Caves

23 April, 2018. Posted by Aigas Field Centre

Every year, a school group from the south coast of England travel north to learn all about the Highlands. Traditionally, we take this group to Assynt to climb Stac Pollaidh, a rocky Corbett of Torridonian sandstone just north of Ullapool. However, due to icy conditions, we had to provide an alternative walk. We landed on the Bone Cave Circuit near Ichnadamph, and it did not disappoint. The walk took us through a limestone valley, past a spring where water seems to flow from nowhere, and into a dried up riverbed. The riverbed provided students (and rangers) with a lot of rock-stacking fun. The path then climbs up to a cliff face, in which the cave system lies. Four large caves are easily accessible and were thoroughly explored.
Continue Reading...