Aigas Field Centre
Aigas Field Centre

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
Continue Reading...

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.
Continue Reading...

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...

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...

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...