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Wednesday 25 May 2011

Plodda Falls viewed from the west side

If you follow the forest road south west from Tomich towards Cougie, you'll find a Forestry Commission car park and picnic site after about three miles.

From here you can walk down through the forest to view Plodda Falls as it plunges over a hundred feet into the deep river gorge below. A viewing platform has been built directly over the fall so you can walk out and look straight down the cascade.
It's impressive and I'd recommend you do it slowly if you suffer from vertigo.

Yesterday I decided that with all the recent rain it might be worth going the long way round to see the fall from the other side of the river.

The river below the falls is not easy to cross at the moment because of all the extra water so I went in from Garve bridge which is a bit of a trek with no paths. This made me later than I'd originally intended so the light was fading but still worth the effort.

Monday 23 May 2011

Common Juniper (Juniperus communis) at Dundreggan Estate

Dundreggan is a 4000 hectare estate in Glen Moriston which is owned by Trees for Life, a charity organisation dedicated to restoring part of the Caledonian Forest in Scotland's northern highlands.

Yesterday, Sunday 22nd May was Biodiversity Day and Trees for Life held a public event to open new visitor facilities at Dundreggan. I took the opportunity to meet a few people and discuss surveying for Red Squirrels in the area which currently has few sightings and nothing confirmed on the estate itself.

Steve Morris, the estates manager showed me some gnawed spruce cones that had been found. These were mostly mice but one cone was definitely squirrel gnawed, so the challenge is now to establish their presence and distribution.

Following the official opening of a new visitor footpath we were taken to see the Wild Boar enclosure which is, in part an experiment in Bracken control and forest regeneration. I found it a moving experience to see these charismatic animals in a near natural environment, albeit behind a fence because, to me, they are the precursors of large wild animals once again living in the forests of northern Scotland.

Exciting as all this is, something that really drew my attention was the Juniper ( Juniperus communis ) growing over a large area adjacent to the visitor car park. This species has badly suffered from changes in land management, over grazing and browsing in recent times; and to see it here in all its representative forms was a real pleasure.

Saturday 21 May 2011

Brief encounter

Tantalisingly brief, daylight view of Pine Marten.

18.49 hours last Thursday evening on a trail regularly used by badger, pine marten and deer.

Thursday 19 May 2011

Staphylinidae – Rove Beetle

I've just discovered that there are apparently over a 1000 species in the family staphylinidae, at which point I almost lost the will to live. After a search I came across Mark Telfer's blog and having had a good look I came to the conclusion that it may be a member of the sub-family steninae which is about as far as I can go.

I've sent out a few emails in the hope that someone can help identify this rather colourful specimen which I spotted at NH 30256 26219 on 18.05.11

Sunday 8 May 2011

Orange-tip Butterfly - Anthocaris cardamines

The Glen Afric area is on the edge of Orange-tip distribution in Scotland.

I photographed this one today at NH 30161 26109
on a Dog Violet between mixed woodland and a Spruce plantation.

I've seen a few of them this year in the Tomich area.

You can find more information about butterflies and their distribution at the
UK Butterflies
web site.

Thursday 5 May 2011

Twilight Badger

Following last nights dusk appearance of the Badger and Pine Marten, I decided that if the rain held off I'd pay the sett a visit with the proper camera.

It was threatening rain at 2000 but I went anyway and arrived at about 2030. I'd prepared a spot a few days ago under a Norway Spruce about thirty feet from the bait site and left some peanuts, back around midday. If my scent was too fresh they probably wouldn't appear until well after dark.

 I was in luck tonight. The rain stayed away and a slight breeze was blowing gently down the bank towards me so I settled in to wait and promptly fell asleep. (That will give Martin a laugh) Luckily I woke up about fifteen minutes later just in time to witness the arrival of a Badger and although it was getting dark there was still enough light to get a few shots.

I quietly left at 2110 without seeing a Pine Marten and left the Badger to its feast.

For those interested in the technicalities these two images were 1/8th second at F5 and ISO 1600.

My friend Badger

The last time I saw these two in close proximity to each other was a couple of weeks ago when the Pine Marten was chased away from near the sett entrance.

This location is further away from the sett and they seem more settled although the Pine Marten still keeps a wary eye on the Badger.

The good news from my point of view is that they both made a twilight appearance last night which means I'll soon be able to take some daylight shots with the long lens.

Wednesday 4 May 2011

Bird Cherry (Prunus padus) Food for a Wood Mouse ?

Every spring I give the van a once over and fix any problems ready for the annual MOT test in May.

At the beginning of April this year I had an issue with fuel contamination and the van was parked up for a few days waiting for a fuel filter.

When the filter arrived I opened the bonnet and just behind the filter housing I discovered that, what I assumed was a mouse or vole had created a food store containing fruit stones which it appeared to have been cracking open for the seeds.

These little stones were about 5 x 4 mm and upon investigation, turned out to be from last years crop of Bird Cherries.

It presented an opportunity to illustrate that the "mouse" appeared to crack them longitudinally, in much the same way that squirrels open Hazel nuts.

There is however, one small problem with this. Mice and voles don't crack, they gnaw and the only animals to open cherry stones in this way, of which I am aware are the Greenfinch and Hawfinch.
This of course raises the question of what was a Finch doing up inside the engine compartment of a motor vehicle.

Neither can I imagine that a mouse or vole would go to the effort of carrying opened stones to a food cache when they present no nutritional value.

All in all it's a bit of a mystery which I may never get to the bottom of; but if anyone has anything they can add to this I would be really pleased to hear from you.

Images on the left are:

From the top.  The cache of stones from the engine compartment.




and at the bottom are, I believe, galls induced by the larvae of a mite.

You can find much more information about Bird Cherry by visiting this "Trees for Life" species profile page

Sunday 1 May 2011

Bumblebee - Bombus monticola

Not being particularly knowledgeable about Bumblebees I'm hoping I've correctly identified this as (Bombus monticola)

If so it is an uncommon moorland species found in declining numbers in the north and north western highlands.

Often pollinating Bilberry, Cowberry and Cranberry.

I photographed this one this morning at map reference NH 30276 26364 at the margin of Pine Forest on Guisachan farm in Glen Affric.

My identification was made from information at
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This web site is about the wildlife, particularly the mammals, of the Glen Affric National Nature Reserve area in the north west Highlands of Scotland, UK; and the equipment I use to search for them, which is chiefly trail cameras.

I provide a technical support and parts service for the Ltl Acorn range of cameras and the income from this provides for the upkeep of this site and the purchase of cameras for my own surveying.

I hope you find the site useful and informative; and please contact me if you have any questions that I haven't already covered.