Friday, 29 July 2011

Friday 29th July

We have had some great sightings of ring ouzels up in Glen Tilt near Forest Lodge lately. Ring ouzels look similar to blackbirds but can be distinguished mainly by the white band across their breast. The live mainly in upland areas and are a summer resident, coming to Britain to in March/April to breed in gullies, crags and steep sided valleys. They will migrate in September and head back towards north-west Africa where they overwinter.

Ring ouzels are a red list species due to their declining population which is thought to be down to low first year survival rates and possibly a high adult mortality rate as well. If you fancy seeing ring ouzels then have a walk up Glen Tilt and you should be able to spot them flying about in the glen above forest lodge.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Thursday 28th July

The weather this last week has been exceptional. It has been very hot and sunny which has been great for spotting butterflies. Although we were seeing very few over the last few months we have been spotting a lot more now. Whilst out and about you can also hear many young buzzards around at the moment calling to their mother to be fed. The wet weather over that previous weeks have also made a lot of fungi grow so it is a good time to go out and test your identification skills.

We have loads of great events coming up including animal antics tomorrow and on 12th Aug between 1 and 4 pm at the castle grounds. You will get to have a look at skins, bones, feathers and nests of some of the animals you can expect to find in Scotland and can ask questions and test your knowledge on wildlife. Also we have feeders and homes on Tuesday 2nd Aug at the Atholl Estates Information Centre where you can come along and make bee, bug or bird boxes. This event is between 2 and 4 pm. Next week we also have a wet and wild event from 10:30 am until 12 on the 19th July, meeting at the information centre where you can discover what lives in the rivers around Blair Atholl.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Saturday 23rd July

I would like to take this opportunity to remind you about the Scottish Outdoor Access Code.  Walkers, dog walkers and cyclists alike are all welcome to use the estate to enjoy the great outdoors and we accommodate the public by providing a car park and waymarked trails so you can get right into the heart of the glens without disturbing the running of the estate.  All we ask in return is that you please remember that this is a working estate and that you are responsible and follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code.  This means acknowledging and following signs if it means you are redirected from where you want to go for your own safety and keeping the place clean by not leaving litter lying around. 

Please be aware that your access rights do not apply when there are either clear signs indicating you should not be there, the area is clearly maintained like a garden or is enclosed by a wall such as in the castle grounds and when you have been asked to go a different way by a member of staff for yours and their safety.  We had an incident on Sunday when a cyclist refused to take an alternative route when he was asked to because sheep were being moved up Glen Tilt after being clipped.  The path itself was very narrow with steep drops on either side, one leading to a river.  Because the gentleman was in too much a hurry he ploughed on into the sheep scattering them everywhere and separating lambs from ewes because they panicked.  In turn he created a very dangerous situation.  By ignoring all requests for him to take an alternative route he broke the access code.  In the end it took three hours for the shepherd and the dogs to calm the sheep back down and get them to their new location. 

By following the Scottish Outdoor Access Code it means that everyone has the right to use and enjoy the great outdoors and also estates and businesses can function with minimal disturbance.  Please don’t be irresponsible; signs and advice are there for a reason to keep you and everyone else safe.  We are incredibly lucky to be able to have access into wild areas as not many countries have the same rights so if we all respect each other we can continue to use and enjoy the great outdoors and see the wonders that wildlife has in store for us.

More information can be found at

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Wednesday 13th July

Today we went out with the Cairngorms biodiversity officer to look for dragon and damselflies to learn a bit more about them and their life cycle.  We had great weather for it as it was really sunny and hot and the damselflies were out in their masses even if the dragonflies were absent.  As we were trying to capture them with a net to identify them, birds were swooping down from above the loch and rainbow trout were jumping up from below also trying to catch them to fill their bellies.  The swifts were also swooping across the surface of the water with their beaks open grabbing a drink on the move before going back to capture more damselflies. 

We saw many different species including one which was only known to have come up as far north as Loch of the Lowes.  This was the Azure Damselfly.  It is a blue damselfly which can be identified by having a U shape on the abdominal segment 2, unlike the common damselfly which has a club shaped marking.  It was a great find and even better to know that this species is expanding its range and moving further north.  There has been a population of Azure damselflies identified at castle Fraser but it is thought that this must be a relic population. 

Other species we encountered were the Common Blue, Large Red, Emerald and the Blue-tailed Damselfly.  The latter we only saw in its larval form and could be distinguished by having no markings on its lamella (the three tail like structure on its rear).  Emerald larvae on the other hand had three vertical lines on their lamella.  Whilst pond dipping for damselflies we also caught a very large diving beetle larvae and spent a lot of time trying to avoid walking on the hundreds of tiny frogs and toads which had just emerged from the water.  All in all it was a good day, very informative and a lot of fun.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Saturday 9th July

Last night we had the moth trap out to see what species there are flying around the estate near the castle.  The trap consists of a high intensity bulb positioned on a large container with a funnel pointing down the way where the moths fly into then get trapped.  There are eggs boxes inside the container for the moths to hide under so they are safe and unharmed in the trap.  We check the trap in the morning to record the species then release the moths at night so they do not get predated upon by birds. 

We recorded over 15 species in the trap this morning and were really excited when we came across a bedstraw hawkmoth.  It was very large and looked amazing with its white band around its face and the red tingle to the inside of its wings.  Another moth we captured was the burnished brass which has really bright shiny gold patches on its wings.  The beautiful golden y moth was also very pretty as its name suggests and had extensions to its wings, also like the burnished brass.  This will help the moths blend into their surroundings and make them resemble dried leaves or bark to reduce the risk of predation. It really is amazing the amount of different moth species you can get in your back garden which you rarely get the chance to see up close.

Burnished Brass

Bedstraw Hawkmoth

Beautiful Golden Y

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Sunday 3rd July

Driving through Blair Atholl yesterday I noticed a female with 6 ducklings following in close pursuit behind her so it looks like the ducks have been breeding again this season. Ringlets butterflies are out in their numbers this year and can be seen in most of the wild flowers meadows around the estate but unfortunately the butterflies have been very scarce this year on our transect areas. Hopefully we will have a good summer and have a bigger butterfly population next year.
Our red squirrels are eating through the seed mix as fast as we are putting it out for them because this is the time of year when they are lacking food. This is because the plants have just started flowering and have not yet seeded and most of the seeds from the previous year have been eaten over the winter and spring so food becomes quite scarce. This is why you may begin to see them more frequently in your garden at this time of the year trying to scavenge bird seed.
We have a Tree Mendious event coming up on Thursday the 7th July where we will be getting up close and personal to our tree giants. We have loads of fun activities lined up which will be sure to keep your children occupied and having loads of fun. The event starts at 10:30 am and lasts until 12 midday and begins at the Glen Tilt car park. It costs just £1 per child so come along and have a morning of fun and games.