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Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Taking the camera for a spring walk

Hazy with sunny spells and comfortably warm so I resisted the temptation to be a grease monkey and decided to take the camera for a forest walk instead.

Left around 0800 with the intention of being back in a couple of hours which quickly turned into over four.

I parked the van at the bottom of the spruce plantations and set out on a clockwise circuit into the breeze on the off chance I might see Roe Deer but mostly looking for Squirrels.

Feeding signs like this are every where in the Norway Spruce (Picea abies) but although I stopped and watched for a while in several places, I didn't see any Squirrels.

The canopy is about 75% covered with dense crowns  and Red Squirrels (Sciurus vulgaris) are very good at staying out of sight.

The image left shows cone remains from ground feeding but if they see you first they're up the back of the nearest tree trunk and instantly invisible.

On the top edge of the stand was a solitary Grey Willow (Salix cineria) which was absolutely alive with Buff-tailed Bumblebees (Bombus terrestris) taking advantage of this early supply of pollen.

While I was watching the Bumblebees a small group of Great Tits (Parus major)
invaded the tree. I don't know if they were attracted by the Bees but I didn't see them take any and as fast as they arrived they were gone again.

Larch needles are developing fast now and turning the trees a bright, fresh green.

I think this is Dunkeld Larch (Larix x eurolepsi which is the hybrid between European Larch (L. decidua) and Japanese Larch (L. kaempferi).

The basic difference between the cones is that with L. decidua the scales are flat, with L. kaempferi they are out-turned, looking a bit like a rose from above, while L.x eurolepsis is somewhere between the two.

Later, I was sitting on a stump just below the top forest track, spying for Squirrels and noticed that water in a small pool not far down the bank was intermittently quivering.

Curiosity got the better of me and on investigating I found this tightly packed gathering of Common Frog (Rana temporaria) Tadpoles.

These have been out of the egg sacs for maybe a couple of weeks now and I'm not sure if it's for warmth, protection or both that keeps them together at this stage.

Further on was an open bank area covered in the dried straw of last year's grasses and crawling with what I thought were Wolf Spiders.

Not being certain I sent an email to Martin at Wildlife and Countryside Services who in turn forwarded it to Richard at who replied and I quote
  "It’s either Pardosa silvicultrix or Pardosa lugubris (commonly referred to as wolf spiders). The two aren’t easily separated – even with a preserved specimen. They can be separated by their courtship display apparently! For many years we assumed the British specimens were lugubris, but it was later discovered that most populations are silvicultrix, however the real lugubris also occurs at some locations".   
Well I did ask.

The beautifully delicate flowers of the Wood Sorrel (Oxalis acetosella) are everywhere now. 

I should point out that when I'm referring to seasonal events most things I record are at least a week or two behind similar occurrences at lower altitudes, nearer the coast or further south.

Late morning found me sitting under a Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) being serenaded by a Robin (Erithacus rubecula)

Eventually he stopped singing and, after giving me this rather quizzical stare, he turned his attentions to hunting.

Moments later he took a dive from his perch and collected an insect from nearly thirty feet away on the ground. The prey was large enough for me to see it in his beak as he returned to a perch further round the tree but I marvel at their ability to see a target in ground vegetation at that distance.

My thoughts were also turning to food at this point so I headed home.

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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.