Sunday, 28 June 2015

An Evening on the Esk..

Coinciding with today's subliminal weather and day 28 of the Wildlife Trust's #30DaysWild campaign I decided this evening would be spent walking the River Esk, from Loch Lee to the town of Tarfside. This turned out to be one of my better ideas and today a whole host of species performed nothing short of admirably. Indeed, birds, butterflies, moths, reptiles and mammals, all were thick on the ground as I wound my way through the plentiful Birch woods of Glen Esk. 

Starting off on the shores of Loch Lee and the blissful sun had clearly worked wonders on the local butterflies. Where last few we saw next to none, this week the wildflower covered slopes around the Loch held an impressive selection of species. 6 Green-Veined Whites were noted first, followed in quick succession by 12 Small Heath and a single Small Pearl-Bordered Fritillary. The latter zipping past in the blink of an eye and giving me the run around for a good five minutes before it settled and made identification possible. Fantastic in their own right these butterflies soon faded into obscurity when a small brown butterfly loitering on some nearby Trefoil caught my attention. What was it? Having been told to "only expect the common species" something about the individual struck me as odd. Creeping closer the culprit soon revealed itself to be a Northern Brown Argus, a species I am all too familiar with having spent a summer working at St. Abbs Head NNR. The lone individual was followed in quick succession by a further 9 individuals and to the best of my knowledge this represents the first record of this species at the site. Hurray! 

Northern Brown Argus (Aricia artaxerxes)
Small Heath (Coenonympha pamphilus)

 Departing the sunny shores of the Loch I made my way into the adjacent woodland and began picking my way through the windswept, Polypore clad trunks. Moving through a patch of Bracken both Woodcock and Snipe lifted from their daylight roosts and a female Redstart dropped into the brush in search of food. Spotted Flycatchers came next with 8 individuals noted during the duration of my journey, not counting the two that are currently nesting in our kitchen wall. With the Flycatchers, a whole manner of more atypical woodland critters. Both Song and Mistle Thrush were noted in droves whilst Blackbird, Robin and my first Glen Esk Dunnock skipped about amid the Bracken and Bog Myrtle. Higher up in the trees a Treecreeper skulked about the higher branches of a rather crooked Downy Birch and both Coal and Blue Tits fed broods of extremely noisy fledged young. Stopping for a few moments by the Esk a female Goosander scooted past with an unruly mob of 9 ducklings, all of which set about fishing in the rapids only a few meters upstream, disturbing a male Grey Wagtail and sending one of the local Common Sandpipers hurtling downstream. All very nice! Further down the road a Slow Worm basked in the open on top of a rock pile, acting more like an Adder than a secretive lizard. This was only my second Slow Worm, the first found earlier today as I scratched around in a pile or refuse set to be burned later that day. This individual was promptly relocated to a more suitable abode away from the house.

Slow Worm (Anguis fragilis)
Released back into a more suitable location.
 Continuing my evening stroll I soon broke cover into an area of pasture dotted with sporadic trees. Here woodland passerines gave way to wonderful waders and 6 Lapwing milled around in the fields alongside some rather cute and fluffy chicks. The resident Oystercatchers likewise boasted fledged young though these chicks had matured to more of a grotty teenage stage, down giving way to half emerged adult feathers. A pair of Curlew were also noted here whilst a Greenfinch called nearby and a pair of Twite picked grit from the roadside. The highlight here however was certainly the singing Tree Pipit noted first by its characteristic call and then seen briefly as it picked its way through the sparse Birch trees. Tree Pipit was, on the large part an unfamiliar species for me prior to moving to Scotland. It has been great to see them on a near daily basis though the tendency for the local Meadow Pipits to perch in trees makes things altogether more difficult. Anyways, elsewhere here a male Redstart sung from the low branches of a Rowan, a Cuckoo sung from a distant crag and another Snipe drummed nearby. Such an eerie and otherworldly noise but one I have come to love during my time at Invermark. 

Starting back on the return journey a Kestrel passed overhead and set about hunting over the lush roadside verges. Further along the road a Buzzard passed overhead and a large mixed flock of Hirundines fed over the River, no doubt making use of the huge hatch of Midges that seems to be occurring at present. Before long I had arrived back at Invermark where a Stock Dove fed conspicuously amid the local Woodpigeons and some c200 Rabbits hopped around by the roadside. A jet black, melanistic individual standing out like a sore thumb among them. A final scan of the Loch and surrounding scree slopes threw up both Ring Ouzel and Wheatear whilst a Pied Wagtail and 2 Common Sandpiper fed on the course pasture outside the kitchen window. Not a bad night by anyone's standards! Plonking myself back in the kitchen and "Nibbles" the Bothy Wood Mouse put in another appearance, helping himself to a serving of Maderia Cake on this occasion. I will never understand why people see the need to trap mice? I am personally quite happy to let the little chap stay.

Spotted Flycatcher (Muscicapa striata)
Wood Mouse (Apodemus sylvaticus)

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Botany.. Slowly but Surely! #30DaysWild

Just a quick post tonight, no long trip reports or bird based blabbering. In my limited free time this week I have been trying my best to further get to grips with some of the plant life here on the Invermark estate. This has been rather successful in truth and my "Pan-Species" list continues to grow by the day. I can't quite believe that I have ignored the botanical side of things for so long. Whether this is due to blissful ignorance or fear of the unknown I can't say however. Taking part in the Wildlife Trust's 30 Days Wild campaign has certainly spurred me on towards the "leafy things" and I am thoroughly enjoying it. Of course being relatively inexperienced with plants, most things are new (and very exciting) to me thus my identification skills leave a lot to be desired. Please inform me if I have botched up any of the following IDs. 

Below is a handful of interesting plant species from the past few days, some of which were new, some of which weren't. The carnivorous plants in particular have been thoroughly rewarding though the Round-Leaved Sundew shown below required a fair amount of searching! The delicate pink Lousewort shown towards the bottom of the post is also a rather interesting find with further reading revealing that the plant is actually partially parasitic, surviving on the energy reserves of other plants which it exploits via tiny suckers on its roots. The plant itself was named due to the misplaced believe that upon consumption by livestock the plant resulted in parasite infections in the host. How interesting! 

Round-Leaved Sundew (Drosera rotundifolia)
Arctic Starflower (Trientalis europaea)

Tormentil (Potentilla erecta)
Common Butterwort (Pinguicula vulgaris)
Breckland or "Wild" Thyme (Thymus serpyllum)
Common Milkwort (Polygala vulgaris)
Woodland Germander aka Wood Sage (Teucrium scorodonia)
Lousewort (Pedicularis sylvatica)

Cloudberry (Rubus chamaemorus)