Aigas Field Centre
Aigas Field Centre

The Rewards of Walking in the Hills

19 April, 2018. Posted by Aigas Field Centre

Back in February, Pete and I decided to hit the hills of Glen Affric armed with warm boots, plenty of layers and ice axes for a day of winter walking. With the Highlands still firmly in the grip of winter’s freezing fingers, we had a limited number of daylight hours to play with. With our alarms set for 4:30am, we aimed to be walking by sunrise. Being woken up at such an early hour always feels a little painful, but once you are outside the sacrifice pays off. I find being surrounded by nature at this time a moving experience, hearing the dark morning silence broken by the song of a robin or the movement of a roe deer in the bushes and seeing the first rays
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Birch Syrup: Beneath the Bark

14 April, 2018. Posted by Aigas Field Centre

It’s easy to think that while there’s snow on the ground, there isn’t much going on in the way of wild food. While an icy blanket conceals the winter fungi and the bitter frosts slow the growth of spring greens, a cascade of meltwater from an overhanging birch tree drips squarely down my neck. For a frozen second, inspiration hits. Downy birch, Betula pubescens, cover much of the hillside around Aigas, and in the Highlands they are one of the first colonizers to freshly felled ground, their tiny windblown seeds finding purchase in tiny nooks and crannies in the earth. All round foraging superstars, they support the chaga mushroom,  Inonotus obliquusa, a secretive and delightful species that yields an amazing array of health benefits. The tender young
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Aigas Ranger Training with Naturedays

12 April, 2018. Posted by Aigas Field Centre

Having experienced the Aigas Ranger Training Scheme (ARTS) once before I was eager to see what new things 2018 would bring. I was most excited for the week of education training with Naturedays, the charity based at Aigas which focuses on environmental education. This week certainly didn’t disappoint and was by far one of my favorites. We took part in a multitude of activities some of which took me right back to being a young child exploring nature again. Games like camouflage and orienteering with an educational twist which Naturedays do with Primary School children proved to be just as fun for us adults. I’d be lying if I said they didn’t bring out my competitive side as well. Team building games like ‘the magic stick’ were
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Aigas Ranger Training – Part 4

27 March, 2018. Posted by Aigas Field Centre

A fresh fall of snow turned the Highlands into a stunning icy landscape. On Monday we revisited Culloden Battlefield and Clava Cairns. By understanding the history of these sites, we can understand some of the human factors that have shaped the Highland landscape into what we see today. These are sites that our more historical programmes visit alongside wilder places. On Tuesday we visited ex-ranger, Jack Ward is Reserve Officer for Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve. We were able to get an insight into the running of their reserve and how they manage the deer population. We also had a look at their tree nursery which has inspired our own Staff Naturalist, Ben Jones. The reserve is managed by Scottish Natural Heritage and is aided by dedicated
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Aigas Ranger Training: Part 3

9 March, 2018. Posted by Aigas Field Centre

Day 1 We started the week with an early morning run to the Inverness shore looking for otters. To our delight we spotted a mother and her cub. Following that great success we headed to the east coast to explore for wildlife on sea lochs, freshwater lochs and sand dune habitats. We had shows from an array of wading birds, seals (common/harbour and grey/atlantic), kestrel, sparrowhawk and, best of all, a peregrine falcon hunting wood pigeons! Day 2 Dan Puplett, a freelance woodland ecologist, spent the day with us teaching us about – you guessed it – woodland ecology. We visited an ancient remnant of Caledonian pine that is found in one of our local glens to identify trees in their winter ‘coat’. Looking at the trees
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Aigas Ranger Training: Part 2

23 February, 2018. Posted by Aigas Field Centre

Over the last week we have done a lot of walking, wandering through local straths, glens, farms, forests and along the shore discovering Scotland’s spectacular array of wildlife and delving into its great history. Day 1 On Monday we explored a beautiful route through Forestry commission woodland, past a loch, landing us in the wonderful Victorian village of Strathpeffer. Jonathan Willet challenged us to see (or hear) ten species of birds on the short walk and in no time at all we had coal, blue and great tits ticked off, soon followed by chaffinch, treecreeper, robin and wren. Towards the end, and to our delight, we heard calling crossbills, croaking crows, the drumming of a greater spotted woodpecker and a large flock of siskins fluttering between the
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The Big Garden Bird Watch

30 January, 2018. Posted by Aigas Field Centre

This weekend RSPB held their annual Big Garden Birdwatch. A nationwide wildlife (primarily bird) survey that is participated by half a million people. This year we got involved. Undeterred by the rain, our ranger team spread out across the estate, sitting at some of our many feeding stations to carry out the count. In the one hour, we recorded 17 different bird species. This included the tits – blue (Cyanistes caeruleus), great (Parus major), coal (Periparus ater) and crested (Lophophanes cristatus); dunnock (Prunella modularis), chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs), siskin (Spinus spinus), yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella), robin (Erithacus rubecula), treecreeper (Certhia familiaris), house sparrow (Passer domesticus), carrion crow (Corvus corone), raven (Corvus corax), blackbird (Turdus merula), great spotted woodpecker (Dendrocopos major), collared dove (Streptopelia decaocto) and red kite (Milvus milvus).
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Living alongside Chimpanzees in Uganda

24 January, 2018. Posted by Aigas Field Centre

I arrived in Hoima, Uganda, on Monday 15th, and since then it has been an absolute whirlwind of experiences, every one of them incredible. I spent a night in the Itahyo Forest where the Chimp Trust works with the community to manage the forest effectively for chimps and biodiversity. The forest is beautiful and peaceful, with a tree nursery inside being managed by the forester. The dedication of this man to the forest he has managed for decades is inspiring. During the evening a group of wild, unhabituated chimps decided to nest about 100m away from the lodge, meaning I was able to watch them the next morning for over an hour - another bucket list moment of this trip. I was not alone in watching these
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From Aigas to Ngamba

19 January, 2018. Posted by Aigas Field Centre

Eazy, the newest chimp at Ngamba

A very belated Happy New Year to everyone in the Aigas community! Right now I'm sitting taking in the view over Lake Victoria listening to hundreds of birds and some very noisy chimps - I'm probably sitting in the same spot Kerri was 2 months ago when she wrote her blog. I am lucky enough to also be spending some time on Ngamba Island this winter. [caption id="attachment_1693" align="aligncenter" width="600"] Sunset over Lake Victoria[/caption] Firstly some updates from the island: Eazy the infant is doing well. He is still being integrated with the main group. It's a slow process but is going well. He still seems nervous around certain older members of the group, but he's been observed having some good playing time with the alpha male,
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Rural Skills at Aigas

22 December, 2017. Posted by Aigas Field Centre

Over a period of 9 sessions, a group of S3/4 students studying Rural Skills at Inverness Royal Academy have been coming to Naturedays to get practical experience related to what they have been learning. Activities that the group of students have been carrying out include an estate tour, stream clearing, pothole filling, putting up fences, planting bulbs, path cutting, shrub pruning and maintenance and raking leaves. As well as all of this, over a few weeks they scrubbed the wooden balustrades of Hen House, one of the cabins that Aigas guests stay in during the season, to clean them and get all of the varnish off before adding a new layer of varnish so they look good as new. The most recent project they have been working
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