Aigas Field Centre
Aigas Field Centre

Hoorah for Hedgehogs!

20 November, 2019. Posted by Aigas Field Centre

The hedgehog is a well-recognised spiny mammal, native to the UK. Most people are familiar with or have had a close interaction with these loveable little mammals. Be it a glimpse of a pointed face through fallen autumn leaves, hearing the munching of slugs on our garden lawns or stories of the motherly Mrs Tiggywinkle from the classic tales of Beatrix Potter. Unfortunately, our beloved spiny friends have faced some tough times in the last few years. The People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) have uncovered, through their own mammal surveys, that since the last millennium over a third of all hedgehogs across the UK have been lost. That has left us with less than 1 million individuals across the entirety of the UK. This loss has
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Searching for Roosting Treecreepers

5 November, 2019. Posted by Aigas Field Centre

When all had gone quiet on the Aigas estate, I decided to have a wander round our five giant sequoia trees (Sequoiadendron giganteum) that we have on site, originally planted by the Gordon-Oswalds who built the Victorian part of the Aigas house. I always look up in awe at these trees and how the wet climate in the UK has allowed them to grow so quickly compared to in their native range in California. It is remarkable that the sequoias we have in Scotland are only around 200 years old at most but they have grown so tall and are now an important part of other species’ habits. If you look up at a giant sequoia you will most probably notice a number of holes excavated by
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The Life of an Atlantic Salmon

23 October, 2019. Posted by Aigas Field Centre

As we approach November the spawning season for Atlantic Salmon (Salmo salar) begins. Spawning occurs throughout November and December; in larger rivers this may begin and finish a month early or later. Salmon are anadromous spending 2 to 3 years as juveniles in freshwater streams before migrating to the ocean for 1 to 4 years travelling over 6000 miles then returning back upriver to spawn. Many individuals die after spawning only the surviving population are able to spawn again. 1000 to 17,000 eggs can be laid by a single fish; however, an extremely small amount of eggs survive to maturity due to predation, ecological factors and interference during other life stages. Three returning fish per parent is considered a successful outcome. [caption id="attachment_3305" align="aligncenter" width="770"] An Atlantic
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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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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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