Aigas Field Centre
Aigas Field Centre

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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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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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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Three Fascinating Fauna of Scotland

27 March, 2019. Posted by Aigas Field Centre

Chosen at random, these are three fascinating fauna commonly seen on an Aigas Wildlife week. Fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis) In Scotland fulmars were known as mallemuck – a corruption of dutch words malle (foolish) and mok (gull) which refers to the ease in which sailors/fishermen would have captured them. However, towards the end of the 17th century they became more commonly known as  fulmars which is Old Norse, literally translating to ‘foul gull’. This name refers to the birds ability to projectile vomit a strong smelling oil to deter predators. Like their albatross relatives, fulmars can be spotted soaring gracefully along the tops of sea cliffs and only centimeters above the water. They have a varied diet consisting of sandeels, crustaceans, small squid and jellyfish. Due to the
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Early Morning Nature Drives at Aigas

19 February, 2019. Posted by Aigas Field Centre

It was still dark as we gathered at the front of the house, wrapped up in hats, scarves, gloves and thermals, clutching our coffee filled thermoses. Few words were uttered as we loaded into the minibus and took our seats; it was not yet 6:30am. As we approached the coast, the first light of the sun had almost reached the horizon and shards orange escaped from the darkness. [caption id="attachment_2788" align="aligncenter" width="600"] Dawn twilight as we approached the coast[/caption] Tentatively we unloaded our Swarovski ‘scopes and began to scour the shore in silence and hopeful anticipation. Every ripple catching the dawn twilight made our hearts flutter. First, a grey seal popped up as if to mock us. He rolled back his head, sniffed loudly and disappeared. Several
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My Mission to Spot a Ptarmigan

10 December, 2018. Posted by Aigas Field Centre

We rose early, eager to reach the mountain. Our goal: catch a glimpse of the elusive ptarmigan (Lagopus muta), a bird that breeds and winters at high altitudes throughout the Highlands. In summer these birds have a cold, speckled grey plumage; in winter they are almost entirely white, a camouflage against the snowy mountain backdrop they call home. I knew we had a hard task ahead of us; the ptarmigan is well camouflaged and small (roughly wood pigeon sized), and we had a lot of ground to scan. I hoped to recognise the bird by its distinctive call; the ptarmigan’s Japanese name translates to ‘thunder bird,’ due to the deep, booming croak that the bird produces. While in my opinion it sounds a little more like a
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My First Solo Hide Visit

6 November, 2018. Posted by Aigas Field Centre

The Autumn Birds group flocked up the hill towards me, buzzing with anticipation for what the evening may hold. Brimming with badger and pine marten trivia, and anxious not to disappoint on the first hide visit that I had ever run, I waited. The evening certainly did not let me down. As we stood in the fading light outside of the Magnus House, sharing news of the day's fantastic wildlife sightings, we witnessed our first nocturnal hosts; bats! They swooped past along the path and tree line, carrying out daily commutes between hunting grounds and roosts. Five species of bat have residence on site: Natterer’s (Myotis nattereri); Brown Long-eared (Plecotus auritus); Common and Soprano Pipistrelles (Pipistrellus pipistrellus & P.pygmaeus); and Daubenton’s (Myotis daubentonii). Some lucky individuals seemed
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