Aigas Field Centre
Aigas Field Centre

The Birds of Aigas

13 December, 2021. Posted by Aigas Field Centre

The Highlands are a great place to look for birds, and Aigas is no different! As a keen birder, I’m never far from my pair of binoculars when on site, working or just having a wander around. We are blessed to have a fantastic range of woodland bird species to marvel at on a daily basis. The tops of the pines are filled with Chaffinches and Redwings, the high-pitched calls of Treecreepers and Goldcrest surround us, and Crossbills sing their beautiful, trilling tune throughout the year. Crested Tits live on site throughout the year, and are especially active in winter, offering us the chance to gain an insight into the world of these rare Caledonian Pine specialists. At night, the twits, twoos, hoots and screeches of Tawny
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Getting familiar with the Pine Martens

2 December, 2021. Posted by Aigas Field Centre

Now that the holiday season is over at Aigas, us Academic Placements have each been tasked with designing and completing a project over the winter. I remember, very soon after arriving, having a conversation with Hermione and Susie about these projects and a Pine Marten Catalogue was mentioned. A couple of years ago, a previous ranger at Aigas (also called Lucy), compiled a catalogue of all the pine martens on site. Each had been individually identified by their unique creamy bib pattern, named and photographed, with their profiles pinned to the wall of the Campbell Hide for guests to read. Some more recent Pine Martens were also identified by Louis, who did his placement at Aigas last year, but there is the possibility that there are more
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The Badgers of Aigas

25 November, 2021. Posted by Aigas Field Centre

Now that the Aigas visitor season has come to an end, life on the Aigas estate changes with the cooling weather. As our seasonal staff return home for the winter, our academic placements begin to learn that outside of the season the field centre is just as busy as ever.  A greater amount of the daily responsibilities of the wildcat breeding programme are handed over to the placement students, who now have a greater opportunity to get to know the individual personalities and behaviours of each wildcat. This is vital as it helps us with monitoring and keeping track of any behavioural or appetite changes to best ensure the health of our cats. Site maintenance is also an important part of the wintertime at Aigas, ensuring that
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The Rutting Season Commences

19 October, 2021. Posted by Aigas Field Centre

The arrival of autumn has bought with it some exciting changes around the Aigas site.  Temperatures are dropping, leaves are beginning to change colour and red deer stags can be heard roaring across site as the rutting season gets into full swing! The ‘rut’ describes the breeding season for our three largest deer species, red, fallow and sika. This season can start as early as the end of September and last throughout the winter months, tending to be the only time of year where the females and males integrate. Leading up to the rut, mature red deer stags will prepare to contest against rival stags for access to a harem of fertile females. Consequently, red deer stags are at their peak condition once autumn arrives, with lots
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The Geese Have Arrived 

3 October, 2021. Posted by Aigas Field Centre

We have seen thousands of Pink-footed geese flying over Aigas recenly. These birds have migrated from their breeding grounds in Iceland, Greenland and Spitsbergen (Norway) to winter in the UK’s wetlands and farmlands. Around 510,000 individuals are expected annually in the UK, with a large percentage in East Anglia. Around 90% of the world’s Pink-footed geese spend the winter in the UK, seeking to escape the extreme temperatures in the Arctic. Our northerly location means vast numbers are seen (and often heard) flying over Aigas at this time of year as they pass over on their way further south.   Geese will often be seen migrating in a v-shape formation, with flocks being known as ‘skeins’. This formations helps geese travel as the front goose breaks up the air that they are flying into. This creates a slip stream effect meaning the geese behind don’t need to expend as much
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Out with the Old, In with the New

30 September, 2021. Posted by Aigas Field Centre

As early September rolled around, it was once again time to say goodbye to our previous years placement students and say hello to our new placement students. Josephine  The first month of the academic placement at Aigas has been a whirlwind of activity and I have enjoyed every minute of it. Each day has consisted of a new personal wildlife sighting or an educational insight into the day-to-day life of working at a field centre. My time spent in Falmouth prior to coming to Aigas had not prepared me for the diversity of wildlife and scenery that is now right on my doorstep; each day spent out in the highlands revealing stunning views and sightings of species that are often not found south of Scotland. The entire
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Pinky and the Pine Martens

28 September, 2021. Posted by Aigas Field Centre

After a busy first couple of weeks on my placement at Aigas, going on days out along the West Coast spotting White-tailed eagles and looking after the wildcats, I was excited for my first hide visit. In preparation, I wrapped myself up in so many layers that I struggled to move; thermals, shirt, fleece, coat, snood and gloves. I’d spent the last two years studying Zoology at university in Cornwall and had definitely become used to a much warmer climate! I also spent at least 10 minutes putting my camera in and out of my bag and finally settled on leaving it behind: for my first hide visit I wanted to watch whatever appeared with my own eyes, not from behind a lens. At 8.15pm, Tay and
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March at Riverview

8 April, 2021. Posted by Aigas Field Centre

Winter always lingers on late into the year in the Highlands; gladly some preliminary vernal signs have started to make themselves clear over the last week or so. At Riverview we’ve seen the first Lesser Celandines blooming, Sallows freshly blossoming, and heard the bouncing song of a newly returned Chiffchaff echoing around in the treetops. The Chiffchaff was easily spotted, as there are still no leaves on the trees! [caption id="attachment_3911" align="aligncenter" width="700"] The first Lesser Celandine of the year in flower at Riverview.[/caption] There have been some exciting additions to the Riverview bird list since the February update! Emily spotted a brief Golden Eagle cruising over the ridge on the opposite side of the Strath, and Milo has twice seen a Peregrine darting over the craggy
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February at Riverview

22 February, 2021. Posted by Aigas Field Centre

It’s been a month of extreme weather here at Aigas. We’ve had snow and temperatures down to a biting -14⁰C, followed by a relative heatwave with the snow melting even up on the hills! Fortunately, a lot of the hardy Highland wildlife seems unaffected, and we’ve had some wonderful sightings. Since our last blog we have been treated to views of a barn owl flying past our house! The low temperatures and snowfall that we’ve been experiencing puts increased pressure on barn owls for several reasons, one: poor insulation means they require more food in colder weather to make up for energy losses, and two: their main mammalian prey is more difficult to locate with snow and ice covering the ground. Barn owls may alter their diet during these harsher times, taking more small birds while small mammals remain difficult to hunt. We were relieved to see the last of the snow melting
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Riverview Ranger Recording Restart

3 February, 2021. Posted by Aigas Field Centre

Back in May last year, rangers Michelle and Richard, and education officer Milo, set themselves the challenge of recording 100 species in 24 hours in the area around their house. They ended up finding an incredible 140 species over the course of the day! For the rest of the year, they kept a track of the species that they saw in the area, tallying up hundreds of species. This year, Riverview veteran Milo has been joined by rangers Emily and (myself) Calum. With another lockdown underway, we decided it was time to start afresh with the Riverview wildlife records. The whiteboard was wiped clean, and the 2021 species lists were started! It hasn’t been a particularly easy start to the Riverview recording year! Sub-zero temperatures and frequent
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