Aigas Field Centre
Aigas Field Centre

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
Continue Reading...

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
Continue Reading...

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
Continue Reading...

Aigas Rangers Survey Local Community Woodland

12 March, 2019. Posted by Aigas Field Centre

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
Continue Reading...

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
Continue Reading...

The Weird and Wonderful World of Sphagnum Mosses

18 February, 2019. Posted by Aigas Field Centre

I have always been fascinated by the more unusual and overlooked groups of wildlife; from obscure beetle families, millipedes and slugs, to lichens and bryophytes (mosses and liverworts). So often these understudied organisms can tell us huge amounts about the health of the ecosystems in which they dwell. Sphagnum mosses are one such group that have piqued my interest recently. Familiar to some as the major component in peat (which they form as they slowly decay over hundreds or thousands of years), few people know that the UK has over 35 species of this diverse genus of mosses. The Scottish Highlands are the centre of Sphagnum diversity in the UK, with all species able to be found within a 3-hour drive of Aigas. Globally, Sphagnum mosses are
Continue Reading...

Touch Not the Cat bot a Glove

11 February, 2019. Posted by Aigas Field Centre

Managing the Aigas Wildcat Conservation Programme is always an exciting affair; each day different to the next, adding new foliage to enclosures, cleaning out den boxes, checking the stealth cameras for mating behaviour can all be components of a standard week. But, one day towards the end of last year was exceptionally interesting... Our young male Coll needed to have a blood sample taken for genetic analysis. Both his parents have scored high on their genetic test and Coll is likely to score even higher. [caption id="attachment_2734" align="aligncenter" width="700"] We took the opportunity while Coll was under anesthetic to take some close up images of his pelage.[/caption] All wildcats in the conservation breeding programme have had their lineages traced and genetics sampled to ensure only genetically strong
Continue Reading...

The Twelve Days of Aigas Christmas…

20 December, 2018. Posted by Aigas Field Centre

On the Twelfth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me... Twelve Whoopers Whooping Eleven Squirrels Stealing Ten Deer a-Dancing Nine Pine Cones Prancing Eight Jays a-Jousting Seven Cresties Chattering Six Pips a-Piping Five Balancing Puds Four Handsome Hares Three Merry Martens Two Busy Beavers And a Badger up a Birch Tree! All original images by Laurie Campbell, with a few elfish alterations.

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
Continue Reading...

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
Continue Reading...