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.
Osprey on nest at Loch of the Lowes.
Snowdrops have been out for a few weeks now, crocuses are just unfurling and daffodils will be in flower within a few days. It’s always a special time of year - the cusp between the end of winter and the start of spring. It’s nature that tells us when spring is here – the birds start singing to establish their breeding territories and we heard our first blackbird song of the year just the other day. It was so beautiful that we uploaded a short clip on to our Youtube channel here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ta7q-mfKRp4&feature=youtu.be
It’s well worth a listen!
This year we are running our guided wildlife walks as usual – from Bluebell Walks to Red Kite Rambles to Private Beaver Safaris – along with Canoe Safaris with Outdoor Explore to see the tracks & trails of beavers in the wild, and our Wildlife Eco-tours. The Wildlife Eco-Tours can be whole or half day tours and we work out the itinerary according to which species you want to see – we will ensure you have the best day out possible!
We are running a fun, family event in the Easter holidays at The Hermitage near Dunkeld looking at Spring Unsprung – why not join us? All the details are on the Facebook page and website. We look forward to seeing you soon!
Perthshire has a bonanza of special wildlife and one of the species that we are very well known for is the European Beaver. Perthshire has a beaver population of up to 200 individuals on the River Tay catchment, which includes the Rivers Isla and Ericht and their tributaries. As well as being found on rivers, they can be found living in lochs and large ponds.
This week we had a fabulous Beaver Safari by canoe with local canoeing experts Outdoor Explore. We explored a loch close to Blairgowrie, where we knew beavers had been recently seen.
It was great fun with nice, easy canoeing and we could easily see lots of evidence of the beaver family; an amazing lodge, beaver canals, feeding stations and chewed branches!
Please get in touch if you’d like to take part in a Beaver Safari – by canoe or, of course, we continue to carry out our Beaver Safaris on foot! The Beaver Safari by canoe would include canoeing instruction, your canoe, buoyancy aid, guiding by your wildlife guide and a wee dram at the end!
Outdoor Explore have a film of the dam here: Beaver Safari by Canoe.
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In Perthshire we have had lots of rain throughout the autumn, but winter arrived with a huge dump of snow at the end of November and start of December.
We have had a flock of Fieldfares – winter migrants from Scandinavia & Russia – feeding on the apples in Perthshire Wildlife HQ garden. The blackbirds have joined in & all the apples have now been eaten, so the birds have moved on to the Cotoneaster berries.
What we grow in our gardens can make a huge difference to wildlife throughout the whole year, and the majority of our plants are native, nectar-rich, or produce berries over the winter (a combination of all three is the best eg hawthorn and dog rose). Our sister company Celtica Wildflowers grows native wildflowers from Scottish seed and offers advice on how to improve your garden or park for wildlife – drop them a line if you need some assistance with helping your wildlife! firstname.lastname@example.org
We have a few wintery guided walks coming up so please keep checking the website & Facebook/ Twitter pages for updates.