Wednesday 29 June 2011

Wednesday 29th June

Yesterday we were really lucky to have great weather for our 15 mile guided walk from Mar Lodge to Forest Lodge. It was a great day and we had a fantastic group of people out with us. We spotted many different bird species including goosanders and ringed ouzels on the way as well as frogs of all ages from legless tadpoles to fully grown adults and about a hundred deer grazing or basking on the top of the hills. There are some fantastic views coming down this route and it is a beautiful walk, especially when you get close to the Falls of Tarf as the valley becomes very narrow but the river looks so refreshing and tantalising.

Earlier in the week we went out looking for small cow wheat, a small plant with yellow flowers which occurs in upland woodlands. It is hemiparasitic and needs to tap into other plants roots to grow. This plant species is listed under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan as its range is declining dramatically due to changes in woodland management, grazing, planting of conifers and fertilizer run off but a huge factor is also the loss of wood ants in forests. Small cow wheat requires wood ants to carry their seeds away into their nest so they can spread and germinate. Here at Atholl Estates we are lucky to have one of the largest populations of small cow wheat in Scotland and considering there are only 18 sites left in Britain which contain small cow (when there used to be over 200) we are pretty lucky. The small cow can be found on the Glen Tilt trail, about a mile below Gilberts Bridge. The area is fenced off to avoid any disturbance and damage to the site and is indicated by a picture of a flower.

Small Cow Wheat

We were also out looking for a few more rare species like the intermediate wintergreen which is distinguished from the common wintergreen by having a longer stigma (about 1 cm compared to about 0.5 cm the common wintergreen) and having flowers which hang further out from the stem, unlike the commons which are tight to the stem. The species has been declining with Scotland now being its Stronghold. We found quite a lot of this species up Glen Tilt which was a nice find. We were also hunting for lesser butterfly orchids as there was a historic record of them being up Glen Tilt but unfortunately we could not find any.
Intermediate Wintergreen
Whilst out sitting across the water from Auchgobhal on the same day I was watching a dragonfly flutter around my head in circles then finally catch a fly then take out down by the pond to eat it. A red squirrel then came sauntering down the hill, stopped in front of me to check me out then dived off into the broadleaved wooded area beside me. So if you sit in the same place long enough the wildlife comes to you.

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