District Field Club
We are really into summer now. It has been a great spring for flowering shrubs and trees. However the cherries and bird cherries have dropped their petals and are rapidly forming fruit and even the hedgerow roses are going over. The last of the flowering trees, the elder (Sambucus nigra), is in full flower and we have made our first batch of elderflower champagne. The major characteristic of the last few weeks has been the almost constant wind which has not been good for butterfly populations. But again the summer is really here when the butterflies we see when out walking turn brown: meadow browns (Maniola jurtina), speckled woods (Pararge aegeria) and ringlets (Aphantopus hyperantus). flying everywhere in the grass verges and hedges. Ringlets are always worth looking at more closely, if you can get them to settle long enough. Many, but not all, in the Highlands show very few if any rings on the upper wing unlike their southern counterparts. Compare the two photos taken nine days apart at Tarlogie in 2021 (both were taken on the iPhone). The upper show a classic ringlet pattern while the lower only has a hint of rings. Regrettably another characteristic of this spring has been the waves of bird flu in our local bird populations. In the winter and early spring the main species affected were ducks and geese, but as spring has moved on the populations of breeding seabirds have become the major casualties. Beaches have had large numbers of gannets, guillemots and razorbills and there have been casualties locally at the Caithness cliffs, Troup Head and the Sutor colonies at Nigg. Interestingly Bob Swann tells me there was no sign of bird flu in the Canna colonies on the west coast on a recent visit.
Birds are in the middle of moulting so now is a good time to look at feathers. In our garden the jackdaws and woodpigeons are supplying lots at the moment. If you have a hand lens it is worth pulling apart a little area of the vane to see the barbs and barbules. Of course you can then preen the feather by rubbing up between your finger and thumb and watch the vane reforming. If you find a down feather have a look at its much looser structure as well.
Balnagowan River from Milton to the Tarbat shore.
A good walk on Saturday 26th March down the Balnagowan River from Milton to the Tarbat shore. Thanks to Fay and Sue for reccing the route.