Aigas Field Centre
Aigas Field Centre

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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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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