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.
Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and caldron bubble.
Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the caldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,
Adder’s fork, and blind-worm’s sting,
Lizard’s leg, and owlet’s wing,—
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.
We are pleased to report that no-one on our recent Spooky Species for Halloween guided walks thought our species were spooky!
We looked at many of the species from the witches’ spell (from Macbeth), including eye of toad (we had a live toad rescued from a roadside gullypot), stuffed and flat bats to sample the ‘wool of bat’, adder’s fork (stuffed, with a shed skin), owlets’ wings and pellets and, for the grand finale, Hugo and Tibo, the very friendly rats! We also used the bat detector to listen to Pipistrelle bats as they hunted by the Tay.
Matilda, an adult who brought along her two girls said ‘What froggy fun! Thanks again for a great spooky night!
This week I was lucky enough to be asked to run a ‘Tall Trees & Local Wildlife’ guided walk for a company running an ‘Autumn Gold’ holiday in Perthshire. We met at the Hermitage which is a top spot for tall trees, with a Douglas Fir growing close to Ossian’s Hall measuring 212ft – one of the tallest trees in the UK.
The Hermitage has many links with Perthshire’s Plant Hunters of the 18th and 19th century, most notably David Douglas and Archibald Menzies, who came from Scone and Aberfeldy respectively. As well as bringing back many new species from overseas, ultimately changing our forests and landscapes forever, they were adventurers and explorers. Imagine finding hundreds of species of plants new to the world of Western botany!
The previous day I had seen Atlantic salmon leaping up the falls at the Black Linn, which can be easily viewed from Ossian’s Hall. Salmon have been known to leap up to four metres on their migration from the northern Atlantic to the river in which they were born. These salmon had swum thousands of miles from feeding grounds close to Greenland or Iceland, into the North Sea, into the Tay at Dundee, into the River Braan at Dunkeld and then met the waterfall of the Black Linn. Once past the Linn, the salmon will find an area of gravel in well oxygenated water where the female will lay her eggs. This is called a redd. The male fertilises the eggs and the female then ensures they are hidden from predators by using her tail to cover the eggs with gravel.
The majority of fish are so exhausted by migration and breeding that they die soon afterwards, but a few survive to return to the sea.
Isn’t nature amazing?! The Hermitage is also a great place to spot Red squirrels and we found plenty of squirrel chewed cones showing they were very close by. Did you know that you can tell if a squirrel is right or left handed by looking at the way that a cone is chewed? Nobody seemed very convinced by this fact!
We are holding two Spooky Species for Halloween walks this coming weekend – in Blairgowrie on Fri 30th and in Perth on Sat 31st. This is a great family event and is one of our most popular walks – and you even win a prize for dressing up spookily! There are more details on the Walks & Bookings page – please come along for a fun evening where you can meet some real, live spooky species!