Aigas Field Centre
Aigas Field Centre

A Ramble on Raasay

28 August, 2019. Posted by Aigas Field Centre

What can Aigas rangers get up to with one day off? Explore and adventure! While we see a lot of the Highlands during our Aigas weeks, there are always more pockets to discover and with one day off together, myself and ranger Michelle decided to fit in an island adventure. I have never really been to Skye so wanted to have a look in that direction but, wishing to avoid any crowds, we chose the smaller island of Raasay as our destination. The issue was that to get there and back in a day didn’t leave much time on the island at all so we chose to travel towards the west coast after finishing work at Aigas, camp there and get an early ferry to Raasay. Easy!
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Fascinating Fungi

22 August, 2019. Posted by Aigas Field Centre

On the 7th September we will once again welcome the wonderful Liz Holden, one of the UKs leading mycologists, to Aigas. She is leading a programme called Fascinating Fungi, and everyone is getting very involved! So far we have scoured the Aigas estate and Glen Strathfarrar, looking for fungi of all shapes and sizes! We’ve been well rewarded; some of the specimens found include the amethyst deceiver (Laccaria amethystina), angel’s wing (Pleurocybella porrigens) and beefsteak fungi (Fistulina hepatica), to name but a few! Fungi play very important roles in ecosystems: they recycle organic matter, are a food source for a variety of organisms and even help trees communicate. Fungi and trees live in symbiotic relationships. The fungi lives in or on the tree’s roots, and transfers nutrients
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Unexpected Beauty

30 July, 2019. Posted by Aigas Field Centre

Too often when looking at the natural world, people overlook insects in favour of birds, mammals, plants and other organisms that are typically thought to be bigger, brighter, or (wrongly in my opinion!) more interesting. Even within the insects, butterflies, dragonflies and moths often steal the show. In this blog, I’ll be focussing on the unexpected beauty that can be found by looking closely at insects which attract less attention, and perhaps one or two that usually attract attention for the wrong reasons! First up, a midge! Though this is a not-biting midge known as a Chironomid. The males have incredible feathery antennae which are probably used to sense the chemicals released by females when they’re ready to mate. There are many different species, almost all of
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Orchid Fever

4 July, 2019. Posted by Aigas Field Centre

Orchids have captured people’s imagination for generations. Many have unusual flowers that look like tiny men, ladies in dresses or monkeys (giving rise to the English names Man, Lady and Monkey Orchids). Others mimic bees, wasps or flies to trick the insects into pollinating them without a nectar reward. Some are proud, bold and bright, others have a more unobtrusive, subtle beauty. Here in the Highlands, you can find around 20 of Britain’s 50 or so species. The most common two are the Northern Marsh Orchid (Dactylorhiza purpurella) and the Heath Spotted-orchid (Dactylorhiza maculata). With their large spikes of ornately patterned flowers, they probably fit in to the ‘proud, bold and bright’ category! Both are found in a variety of habitats, from grasslands and heaths to marshes
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Having a Whale of a Time!

9 June, 2019. Posted by Aigas Field Centre

Since coming up to the Highlands I have had great fortune with bottlenose dolphin, harbour porpoise, grey seal, common seal and otter sightings. I have decided to put this to good use and completed training enabling me to survey and record marine mammal activity along the coastline.  Whale and Dolphin Conservation collect scientific data from volunteer efforts to study the presence and abundance of species around the coast and their feeding and behavioural patterns. This can help them to decide which areas of the coast should be prioritised for different types of protection and whether areas are suffering from disturbance. There is a population of around 210 bottlenose dolphins using the Moray Firth and there is a catalogue of fin shapes for all the regularly seen individuals
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Beautiful Views and Ptarmigan Sightings from the West Coast

7 May, 2019. Posted by Aigas Field Centre

We have had some beautiful weather over the last few weeks in the Highlands, which was perfect for the many walks we did with a residential school group staying at the Field Centre. One of my favourite days was going up Stac Pollaidh, a mountain on the west coast, about half an hour’s drive from Ullapool. It is listed as a ‘graham’ for being 612m in height and translates from Gaelic and Norse to ‘pinnacle of the pools’. Indeed, there are many jagged pinnacles on the mountain itself and beautiful views out to many lochs below. As we started walking, the temperature was perfect for climbing a mountain, and I was amazed at how quickly the kids were climbing it! As we got higher and higher, clouds
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A Richness of Pine Martens

2 May, 2019. Posted by Aigas Field Centre

Before coming to Aigas I had never seen a pine marten. On arriving in February for the start of ranger training it was one of the species I was most keen to see, and at the earliest opportunity I took myself off to Quarry Hide for a spot of night time wildlife watching. Wrapped up warm against the chilly winter evening, I eagerly waited, training my eyes on the slightest hint of movement in the surrounding vegetation. I was soon rewarded with a brief glimpse of a barn owl, flying to a perch for a few moments before melting silently into the night. Not long afterwards, a badger snuffled its way into the pool of light in front of the hide, and started noisily gobbling peanuts from
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A Day in the Mountains

23 April, 2019. Posted by Aigas Field Centre

On the final weekend of ranger training, the whole Aigas team journeyed West to Glenshiel for a chance to unwind after an intensive 8 weeks of learning all that we could about being a ranger in the Scottish Highlands. Winding our way through the valley, we gazed up at the rugged mountain ridges that towered either side, our appetites whet for another day in the mountains by a wild and windy group hike up Meall Fuar-mhonaidh earlier that day. The next morning, we set off on a short drive to the start of our walk. The mountain we had chosen was called ‘The Saddle’, a 1010m (3313ft) craggy beast standing apart from the seven-mountain Glenshiel ridge to the East. The first part of the ascent took in
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How to see the Aurora Borealis in the UK

15 April, 2019. Posted by Aigas Field Centre

While visitors from all over the world flock towards the north pole in an effort to witness the aurora borealis, to see an it in the UK on a clear night is a relatively rare occurrence. Our Field Officer details how he managed to witness this beautiful display here at Aigas Field Centre back in February. The Northern Lights Aurora chasing in Britain is a fickle game. In the past I have been fortunate to live in dark sky areas and have seen my fair share of faint green smudges on the horizon, but had failed thus far get a proper view of the aurora borealis. A handful of times each winter, a hardy few would troop to local haunts such as Surprise View (Lake District) or
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Four Seasons in One Day

12 April, 2019. Posted by Aigas Field Centre

There’s a saying in Scotland that goes something like this: if you don’t like the weather, just wait five minutes. We experienced this first hand on a recent visit to a local strath, where the changing elements made us feel like we had a yearlong tour in just one day! Starting the morning in a light drizzle, we left Aigas and quickly transitioned into a torrential pour. As we wound our way through the glens we stepped into a second winter, as snow began to coat the vehicle and freshly ploughed fields gave way to icy hills. [caption id="attachment_2892" align="aligncenter" width="900"] Credit: Richard Thompson[/caption] As the snow grew thicker and the mists turned to fog, we were forced to abandon our usual plan of watching the skies
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