Aigas Field Centre
Aigas Field Centre

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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Amazing Badger Behaviour Caught on Video

2 February, 2018. Posted by Aigas Field Centre

One of our regular guests at Aigas, Wendy, has recently sent us some stealth camera footage from a couple of her visits here last season, which included quite a few clips of badgers around the estate. Badgers (Meles meles) are generally solitary foragers and use their well developed sense of smell to find food. This clip shows an example of a badger searching a feeding area, maybe for earthworms or insects which are two of their main sources of food.   Badgers also have long claws on their fore paws which are useful for digging setts and foraging. Here we can see one using its claws to easily reach the food it has found. Sometimes badgers’ foraging grounds overlap which can cause disputes over food. An example
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The Big Garden Bird Watch

30 January, 2018. Posted by Aigas Field Centre

This weekend RSPB held their annual Big Garden Birdwatch. A nationwide wildlife (primarily bird) survey that is participated by half a million people. This year we got involved. Undeterred by the rain, our ranger team spread out across the estate, sitting at some of our many feeding stations to carry out the count. In the one hour, we recorded 17 different bird species. This included the tits – blue (Cyanistes caeruleus), great (Parus major), coal (Periparus ater) and crested (Lophophanes cristatus); dunnock (Prunella modularis), chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs), siskin (Spinus spinus), yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella), robin (Erithacus rubecula), treecreeper (Certhia familiaris), house sparrow (Passer domesticus), carrion crow (Corvus corone), raven (Corvus corax), blackbird (Turdus merula), great spotted woodpecker (Dendrocopos major), collared dove (Streptopelia decaocto) and red kite (Milvus milvus).
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Three mammals, three facts

25 January, 2018. Posted by Aigas Field Centre

The pine marten, otter and red squirrel are three of the UK's most iconic mammal species, and at Aigas we are lucky enough to see them all regularly. Here are three things to know about our amazing fauna friends. Red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris) Their fur colour can range from a reddish brown to a deep brown. They undergo moults in spring and autumn, the latter producing a darker fur. This darker variation can be seen in the video below -  but be vigilant as the squirrel is quick to move! Some of you may have seen deer antlers hung up in various places and wondered why. Red squirrels gnaw on them to get calcium as their diet does not provide them with sufficient amounts. Squirrel pelt was
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Toothed jaws on the west end

14 December, 2017. Posted by Aigas Field Centre

Back in July the Aigas Loch was alive with fast, beautiful, prehistoric predators of the air. Their ancestors with 70cm wingspans were the largest creatures in the air 300 million years ago. Dragonflies are a pleasure to watch wherever you are in the world. Some people dub them the new birds with their rise in popularity amongst twitchers. Dragonflies don’t call or sing to give away their presence however their 2 sets wings beat at around 30 times a second often making an audible hum which draws your attention. [caption id="attachment_1629" align="aligncenter" width="551"] Spotted chaser[/caption] Our world is home to 5,900 species of dragonfly, we have 45 of them living in Great Britain & Ireland, 11 of which feed and breed on the Aigas estate. A stroll
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Foxes at Dawn

4 December, 2017. Posted by Aigas Field Centre

A frozen loch gleams icily in the last hour of night.  An eerie stillness settles around us.  No birds are stirring yet; deer are still out on the river fields, yet to slip back into the woods as winter daylight slowly spills in from the cloudless east.  Whisps of ghostly white mist hang over the valley and somewhere far upstream we can hear the bugling of the twelve whooper swans that have winged in from the high Arctic to winter on our river. We had dumped a road-kill roe deer carcass out on the moor with a stealthcam in place to see who and what would exploit it.  The first and obvious images were fox.  A solitary fox tugging at the rib cage and hauling it off
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A busy night at the Quarry Hide

28 November, 2017. Posted by Aigas Field Centre

Having been at Aigas for almost a month and not seeing a badger, I decided to head to the Quarry Hide on a night off and wait for as long as it took in the hopes of seeing one of Britain’s largest land carnivores. At 7pm, after baiting the logs at the hide with peanuts and peanut butter, we headed inside to wait. Not long after we had arrived, the trees to the left of the hide rustled and we saw a shape moving around. It was a barn owl which flew around for a bit before perching on a tree trunk directly in front of us. It stayed there for a few minutes, giving us a good show before flying off into the darkness. Only a
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Whisky and Wildlife – My Aigas Week

22 November, 2017. Posted by Aigas Field Centre

Saturday evening, our first evening and all the course participants are gathered in the common room, already making friendships and eagerly awaiting our introduction. I have been to Aigas before but it is still a special feeling, the warmth and anticipation of the week to come. First things first though and, only travelling from Carlisle I have come by car and the lovely journey through the Borders and into the Highlands is part of the holiday for me. I have plenty of time to take to the more quiet routes, looking for wildlife and enjoying the stunning autumn scenery. I time my arrival, as suggested, in time for afternoon tea. I mingle with others who have been picked up from the airport or railway station and we
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Saving Scotland’s Highland Tiger

16 November, 2017. Posted by Aigas Field Centre

Last week Scottish Wildcat Action (SWA) convened at Culloden Battlefield for a forum which we had the privilege to attend. As Aigas Field Centre plays a role in the conservation breeding programme it was a great opportunity for us to learn how SWA were getting on elsewhere. SWA is an action plan supported by the Scottish Government and Heritage Lottery Fund - united by a group of experts with the ultimate goal of saving the UK’s only remaining native feline, the Scottish Wildcat (Felis silvestris silvestris), from extinction. The ‘Highland Tiger’ appears like a tabby cat but more muscular and has slightly different pelage. The wildcat can be differentiated by having a dorsal stripe that does not extend into the tail, a broad, flat head, and dark
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Polly the pine marten is thriving at Aigas

9 November, 2017. Posted by Aigas Field Centre

We were contacted by Hessilhead back in August who had received a pine marten kit and wanted to know if we might be able to release it at Aigas. After weeks of rehabilitative care at Hessilhead Wildlife Rescue Centre, Gay and Andy Christie brought her to Aigas where she was temporarily housed in an enclosure designed and built by our Staff Naturalist, Ben Jones, in a patch of woodland in the Aigas gardens. Ben set up Bushell stealth cams around the pen and we watched of the following nights as our local pine martens came up to the enclosure to see Polly. With no evidence of aggression or worrying behaviour from Polly or the other pine martens we release her onto the Aigas estate. Since then, we
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