Aigas Field Centre
Aigas Field Centre

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.
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John Muir Day – Celebrating an Inspirational Conservationist

20 April, 2018. Posted by Aigas Field Centre

“Camp out among the grass of glacier meadows. Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. - The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.” John Muir Born in Dunbar in 1838, John Muir was a Scotsman at heart and from an early age went out exploring the mountains and hills around him. As a child he and his family emigrated to Wisconsin, USA, where he grew to become an important figure in nature conservation. As an adventurer, climber, botanist, inventor and writer, John Muir was passionate about everyone caring for our world as well as enjoying it. His writing and public voice influenced many decisions in conversation including establishing Yosemite as a
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The Rewards of Walking in the Hills

19 April, 2018. Posted by Aigas Field Centre

Back in February, Pete and I decided to hit the hills of Glen Affric armed with warm boots, plenty of layers and ice axes for a day of winter walking. With the Highlands still firmly in the grip of winter’s freezing fingers, we had a limited number of daylight hours to play with. With our alarms set for 4:30am, we aimed to be walking by sunrise. Being woken up at such an early hour always feels a little painful, but once you are outside the sacrifice pays off. I find being surrounded by nature at this time a moving experience, hearing the dark morning silence broken by the song of a robin or the movement of a roe deer in the bushes and seeing the first rays
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Birch Syrup: Beneath the Bark

14 April, 2018. Posted by Aigas Field Centre

It’s easy to think that while there’s snow on the ground, there isn’t much going on in the way of wild food. While an icy blanket conceals the winter fungi and the bitter frosts slow the growth of spring greens, a cascade of meltwater from an overhanging birch tree drips squarely down my neck. For a frozen second, inspiration hits. Downy birch, Betula pubescens, cover much of the hillside around Aigas, and in the Highlands they are one of the first colonizers to freshly felled ground, their tiny windblown seeds finding purchase in tiny nooks and crannies in the earth. All round foraging superstars, they support the chaga mushroom,  Inonotus obliquusa, a secretive and delightful species that yields an amazing array of health benefits. The tender young
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Aigas Ranger Training with Naturedays

12 April, 2018. Posted by Aigas Field Centre

Having experienced the Aigas Ranger Training Scheme (ARTS) once before I was eager to see what new things 2018 would bring. I was most excited for the week of education training with Naturedays, the charity based at Aigas which focuses on environmental education. This week certainly didn’t disappoint and was by far one of my favorites. We took part in a multitude of activities some of which took me right back to being a young child exploring nature again. Games like camouflage and orienteering with an educational twist which Naturedays do with Primary School children proved to be just as fun for us adults. I’d be lying if I said they didn’t bring out my competitive side as well. Team building games like ‘the magic stick’ were
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Aigas Ranger Training – Part 4

27 March, 2018. Posted by Aigas Field Centre

A fresh fall of snow turned the Highlands into a stunning icy landscape. On Monday we revisited Culloden Battlefield and Clava Cairns. By understanding the history of these sites, we can understand some of the human factors that have shaped the Highland landscape into what we see today. These are sites that our more historical programmes visit alongside wilder places. On Tuesday we visited ex-ranger, Jack Ward is Reserve Officer for Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve. We were able to get an insight into the running of their reserve and how they manage the deer population. We also had a look at their tree nursery which has inspired our own Staff Naturalist, Ben Jones. The reserve is managed by Scottish Natural Heritage and is aided by dedicated
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Aigas Ranger Training: Part 3

9 March, 2018. Posted by Aigas Field Centre

Day 1 We started the week with an early morning run to the Inverness shore looking for otters. To our delight we spotted a mother and her cub. Following that great success we headed to the east coast to explore for wildlife on sea lochs, freshwater lochs and sand dune habitats. We had shows from an array of wading birds, seals (common/harbour and grey/atlantic), kestrel, sparrowhawk and, best of all, a peregrine falcon hunting wood pigeons! Day 2 Dan Puplett, a freelance woodland ecologist, spent the day with us teaching us about – you guessed it – woodland ecology. We visited an ancient remnant of Caledonian pine that is found in one of our local glens to identify trees in their winter ‘coat’. Looking at the trees
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Treecreepers at Aigas

27 February, 2018. Posted by Aigas Field Centre

It has been a cold winter in the central Highlands and we are accustomed to wearing our full length pyjamas to bed along with the occasional hot water bottle to keep us warm at night. Our native wildlife however have a range of slightly different techniques to ward of the chill of a winter’s night. During the day it is clear to see the signs of overnight occupants in the crevices of the giant sequoias on site. A small amount of white guano dotted underneath the rounded nook in the spongy trees bark gives this away. The impressions (larger than golf balls, smaller than tennis balls) speckle the trees and appear to have been excavated by something. By 9:30 on a cloudy Tuesday evening, darkness had taken
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Aigas Ranger Training: Part 2

23 February, 2018. Posted by Aigas Field Centre

Over the last week we have done a lot of walking, wandering through local straths, glens, farms, forests and along the shore discovering Scotland’s spectacular array of wildlife and delving into its great history. Day 1 On Monday we explored a beautiful route through Forestry commission woodland, past a loch, landing us in the wonderful Victorian village of Strathpeffer. Jonathan Willet challenged us to see (or hear) ten species of birds on the short walk and in no time at all we had coal, blue and great tits ticked off, soon followed by chaffinch, treecreeper, robin and wren. Towards the end, and to our delight, we heard calling crossbills, croaking crows, the drumming of a greater spotted woodpecker and a large flock of siskins fluttering between the
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Aigas Ranger Training: Part 1

21 February, 2018. Posted by Aigas Field Centre

For the next 8 weeks the Aigas rangers will follow a comprehensive research programme, taking an in depth look at the geology, history, mega and micro fauna and flora of the Scottish Highlands. Day 1 Ben, Aigas' Staff Naturalist, started the day with an introductory talk on the Eurasian beaver, Castor fiber, with focus on our collection here at Aigas, updating us on our beavers movements and behaviour throughout the winter months. Following this he took us on an interpretive walk around the loch giving rangers the chance to identify signs of animal activity and learn about the history behind Loch Cuil na Caillach ('the nook of the wailing woman', aka the Aigas Loch). Along the way we saw crested tits, red squirrels and a jay. Day 2
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