Over the last 3 months, Aigas’ three Academic Placements along with Staff Naturalist, Ben, and Field Officer, Pete, have been surveying the neighbouring Aigas Community Forest (see more about the forest in this previous blog).
The main aims of these surveys were: looking for Crested Tits, and assessing the suitability of areas in the forest for them; locating suitable owl box sites (typically large Scots Pines); looking for signs of mammals and scoping out the best bits of the forest to take Aigas guests to in the coming season. Other aims included recording any other notable wildlife sightings (birds, plants and everything else), and becoming as familiar as possible with the forest; all 260 hectares of it! Surveys involved traversing a route through a selected area of forest until it had been thoroughly surveyed, and all of the information in the aims above had been documented.
Here are a few photos showing the fantastic diversity of habitats and landscapes that can be seen throughout the forest:
Some older, crooked Scots Pines in an area of thinned Scots Pine plantation. The old pines have lots of thick branches, perfect for strapping an owl box to. The thinned Scots Pine plantation is good habitat for Crested Tits, Crossbills and lots of other birds, as well as Red and Roe Deer.
An open patch of forest with a mixture of Silver Birches and Scots Pines. This area is being planted with a mix of native broadleaf deciduous trees to increase the biodiversity of the forest; improving the habitat for a wide variety of plants and animals.
A stunning view down the River Beauly from an elevated area of forest containing Sitka Spruce and Douglas Fir. Sections such as this were planted several decades ago by the Forestry Commission as commercial crops. The long-term plan for these areas is to fell them in patches, replacing them with native Scots Pines, which will be felled gradually and sustainably so as not to heavily impact the wildlife in the area.
A thinned area of forest with a Scots Pine dominated plantation in the background. Thinning plantations helps to limit the spread of disease between the trees, as well as allowing more light to reach the ground layer, increasing the diversity of plants and mosses that can grow there.