Aigas Field Centre
Aigas Field Centre

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
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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
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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
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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.
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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
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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,
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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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