Aigas Field Centre
Aigas Field Centre

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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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
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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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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
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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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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
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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
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