It’s almost mid-March and our garden birds are starting the dawn chorus at about 6am, with the robin being one of the earliest. Birds sing so strongly at this time of the year as they are establishing territories and trying to attract a mate. Have a listen to our Perthshire Wildlife HQ garden robin here (he isn’t looking at his best due to losing most of the feathers on his head!):
We have had great viewings of the 2 kits, the yearlings and the adults of our little beaver family on the Ericht on all our recent tours. It is wonderful to spend a couple of hours watching the family behave in a completely natural way – grooming, eating, collecting food and interacting with each other.
I can’t think of a nicer way to spend an evening and many people who have bought the Guided Beaver Tour as a gift have said what a great present it has been.
The only down side is the midges but they are great food for all the bats, swifts, swallows and sand martins that are flitting about!
We had quite a chilly spring up until a few weeks ago so I wasn’t too surprised (though a bit disappointed) not to see any damselflies (or dragonflies) in April. However, after a number of days of hot weather, the first of the season’s damselflies and dragonflies are now emerging.
The first damselflies of the season to appear are Large Red Damselflies with beautiful bright red and yellow colours. The next ones are the Blue-Tailed and Common Blue Damselflies with lovely electric blue and black stripes. The first dragonfly to emerge in this area is usually the Four-spotted Chaser which has been described as looking like a flying cigar!
Good locations to see them around Blairgowrie include Whiteloch and Fingask Loch and yesterday we had a walk through the beautiful bluebells and down to the lochs to have a look for emerging damselflies.
Dragonflies & damselflies actually spend most of their life as larvae underwater, with some species living there for up to five or six years. Golden-ringed Dragonflies live in upland burns where temperatures and food availability are relatively low, so take the longest of our dragonflies to reach adulthood. The female lays her eggs in the bed of the burn and because she needs to lay them deep in the substrate, she looks a bit like a pneumatic drill when laying them. I have seen this happen in the boats at Whiteloch! The eggs hatch into larvae, which live in the bed of the burn and feed on small invertebrates such as midge larvae, water fleas and freshwater shrimps. As they get bigger they shed their skins and grow bigger ones until it is time to emerge as an adult.
We were lucky to see Blue-tailed Damselflies flying around and Common Blue Damselflies emerging from their larval skins. The skin that is left behind is called an exuvia and the attached photo shows the damselfly standing over its exuvia while it dries out & fluid is pumped around the body and wings.
Perthshire Wildlife is running a family-friendly Dipping for Dragons event at Tullyfergus Ponds on Sun, 26th June from 2-4pm. The walk will take us to excellent wildlife ponds along ancient Drove Roads to find the local dragonflies – and find out how to tell the difference between the commoner species. We’ll have some fun pond dipping and look at dragonfly larvae and other watery wildlife too. It will be a great afternoon for all the family!
The walk is about 1 mile long, with some small hills so please wear sturdy shoes and bring waterproofs. The meeting point is halfway between Blairgowrie and Alyth and not on a public transport route. A map of the meeting point will be e-mailed on booking.
The price is £15 per family – up to 2 adults and 2 children per family. As numbers are limited, please book your tickets in advance on www.perthshirewildlife.co.uk/events Keep an eye on the website & Facebook or Twitter pages for other walks over the summer – including Foraging Food for Free, Red Kites of Glen Artney and Private Beaver Safaris!
The past few weeks have been very busy with our spring migrants arriving and winter migrants leaving.
It is always very exciting when the first osprey arrives back at Loch of the Lowes and the female who was resident last year arrived mid March, being joined by her mate a week later. They soon got down to the serious business of nest tidying and mating!
Swallows were spotted in Dunkeld and Blairgowrie about two weeks earlier than usual, and over the past few days we have enjoyed watching Sand martins feeding over the River Tay at Kinclaven and River Almond at Almondbank.
We will have to get the Perthshire Wildlife HQ garden shed ready for our swallows, who usually arrive on the 14th of April. It will need to be cat-proofed as a local cat killed a number of nestlings last year. Cats are thought to take some 55 million birds in British gardens every year, including red-listed species such as House Sparrow and Starling. Various cat deterrents can help to reduce this toll, with sonic devices being particularly effective if moved regularly to prevent cats from learning how to avoid their sensors. This and many other great hints are available from the BTO’s Garden BirdWatch team at http://www.bto.org/news-events/press-releases/helping_hand_garden_birds
Let us know when the spring migrants arrive in your garden!
Osprey photo courtesy of the SWT at Loch of the Lowes.