Aigas Field Centre
Aigas Field Centre

Goodbye Ospreys – See you in the Spring!

16 October, 2019. Posted by Aigas Field Centre

Autumn in the Highlands. Crisp frosty mornings, mist rolling in low waves over the valley, the cacophony of pink footed geese filling the skies - this season is undeniably beautiful. However, it heralds the departure of one of my favourite species, the osprey. As we, and all of our resident Scottish animals, ready ourselves for the colder months to come, almost all of Scotland’s ospreys will have started their long journey South for the winter. Their incredible migration averages around 6,700km, taking them about 45 days to reach the sunny wintering grounds of Western Africa. For this years young fledglings, this must be a daunting prospect. Their parents will leave weeks before them and they must navigate the journey alone; how they manage this is still a
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The Fabulous Flow Country

14 October, 2019. Posted by Aigas Field Centre

After completing my first week as an Academic Placement student at Aigas, I wanted to make the most of my first day off and explore more of the area I am lucky enough to be spending the next year living in. Myself and another academic placement student, Paige, decided to head to the Flow Country and learn more about the blanket peat bogs found there. Peat bogs are arguably one of the most important habitats in the tackle against climate change because of the large amount of carbon that the peat stores. The Flow Country peat bogs alone contain 3x the amount of carbon there is stored in all of Britain’s woodlands combined! The more carbon there is stored, the less there is released as carbon dioxide
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Wildflowers and Gardens at Aigas Field Centre

9 October, 2019. Posted by Aigas Field Centre

This was our first visit, excitement and eagerness increasing as the time for our drive north approached. We had no hesitation in making an early start, to allow a leisurely drive with stops but still getting to Aigas for settling in before the afternoon tea. The baronial Aigas mansion welcomed us as we drove up the drive to be met by one of the rangers who showed us to the cottage with common lounge where we would be spending the week. Excellently appointed, with everything we could want and we managed to get some unpacking done and clothes hung up before it was time for afternoon coffee/tea and cakes and formal welcome. We already had our programme for the week, printed out and left in our room,
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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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