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
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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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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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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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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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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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