Aigas Field Centre
Aigas Field Centre

Mighty Oaks from Little Acorns Grow

27 November, 2019. Posted by Aigas Field Centre

It was an extremely cold and frosty, but beautifully sunny day as myself and the Naturedays at Aigas education team headed out for an afternoon of seed collecting. Each year, Naturedays runs an outreach programme where the team heads out to Highland schools, nurseries and local green spaces to teach students and young people about the natural world they live in. This year’s programme focuses on human impacts on the natural world and how we can use nature’s solutions to solve the problems we are currently facing as a result of climate change. One activity included in this programme involves giving each group a handful of acorns that the students plant out and eventually grow into oak trees. Not only will the students be able to learn practical skills for planting and tree
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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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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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A Trip to the North Coast

28 January, 2019. Posted by Aigas Field Centre

Our outreach sessions carry us far and wide around the highlands; which recently included a two-day excursion around the north coast. We aim to reach as many schools and classes as we can to share our love for wildlife. The north coast is an exceptionally beautiful and remote landscape; giving rise to small, personable primary school sizes. Durness primary, for example, was a single class of eleven with one teacher. We visited three different primary schools, ran five hour-long sessions, and covered all five of our outreach topics many times. Many of our sessions were being tested for the first time after weeks, if not months, of preparation. Our quick-fire approach was designed to keep them engaged whilst introducing some of the current conservation ideas, such as;
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Tree Planting in the Aigas Community Forest

17 December, 2018. Posted by Aigas Field Centre

Bordering our Field Centre is an undulating, 260ha community owned patch of woodland - Aigas Community Forest. Bought with the aims of increasing biodiversity in areas of previously poorly managed plantation; it demonstrates sustainable timber sourcing, whilst providing a fantastic recreational area for the public. Aigas Field Centre has deep links with the community forest and is strongly supportive of its missions, helping to buy it over in 2015. Two of our members of staff are on the committee board and help to shape decisions regarding its management. Planting trees in the Aigas Community Forest ©Pete Short Over the winter months we have been carrying out surveys around the forest to scout out areas with higher value for wildlife, such as crested tits, in order to install nest
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Waking up with Coileach Dubh

6 August, 2018. Posted by Aigas Field Centre

Our Aigas guests will be familiar with what we call the Early Morning Run (EMR). At the beginning of the season, we offer guests the opportunity to visit a black grouse (Lyrurus tetrix) lek and otters (Lutra lutra) later in the season. Black grouse or Coileach Dubh in Scottish Gaelic, participate in courtship behaviour known as lekking where males (blackcocks) congregate display competitively, in attempt to capture the attention of the on-looking females (greyhens). Black grouse are commonly mistaken for and are related to Capercaille (Tetrao urogallus) – the horse of the woodland, which also participate in leks but are much larger in size, and now incredibly scarce in Scotland. Lekking behaviour The dominant male is usually positioned in the centre of the lek and tends to
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Butterfly Garden: Before and After

6 July, 2018. Posted by Aigas Field Centre

May 2018 (Before) Now that signs of spring are finally showing themselves around Aigas, we have seen Queen bees buzzing around after being woken up from hibernation by the warmer temperatures. They need to find flowers with nectar to feed on to raise their energy levels so they can move on to locate a new nest site for the upcoming summer. Some species of butterfly spend the winter as larvae or pupae, whilst others hibernate and will also be rousing around the same time as the bees.  To help these species find flowers and nectar, we are in the process of creating a bee/butterfly garden behind the Magnus House. Planting native flowers is a great way to attract bees and butterflies to a garden. Wild bees and
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Naturedays on the Isle of Skye

28 May, 2018. Posted by Aigas Field Centre

Over winter, the Naturedays team travelled to many primary schools and nurseries around the Highlands to deliver an outreach programme on how animals survive the harsh winter months. As we entered spring, the outreach changed from this theme to one on energy flow. The education team recently took a trip to the Isle of Skye as the first schools to receive this new programme were two primary schools on the island. Skye is the most easily accessible island in the Inner Hebrides since the completion of the Skye Bridge, a free road bridge from the mainland. The first school visited enjoyed the presence of the whole Naturedays team for one session, before we split and two of us departed for the second school. A variety of topics
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My first experience of leading a school group at Aigas

26 April, 2018. Posted by Aigas Field Centre

As a new ranger, I recently had my first experience of teaching school pupils. My previous teaching experience includes assisting with zookeeper talks and interacting visitors to nature reserves, where my audience consisted mostly of adults. When I learned that I would be required to plan my own lesson and help the Education Team with school visits, I was apprehensive. Our first outreach visit was to Teanassie Primary School, who are familiar with Aigas Field Centre. The pupils were from different year groups (P2/3 and P4/5), but everyone was enthusiastic and enjoyed learning about food chain interactions. It was great to see how much they already knew and build on this knowledge through puzzles and games. This particular school have been coming to Aigas for many years,
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Exploring the Bone Caves

23 April, 2018. Posted by Aigas Field Centre

Every year, a school group from the south coast of England travel north to learn all about the Highlands. Traditionally, we take this group to Assynt to climb Stac Pollaidh, a rocky Corbett of Torridonian sandstone just north of Ullapool. However, due to icy conditions, we had to provide an alternative walk. We landed on the Bone Cave Circuit near Ichnadamph, and it did not disappoint. The walk took us through a limestone valley, past a spring where water seems to flow from nowhere, and into a dried up riverbed. The riverbed provided students (and rangers) with a lot of rock-stacking fun. The path then climbs up to a cliff face, in which the cave system lies. Four large caves are easily accessible and were thoroughly explored.
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