Friday, June 01, 2007

Aviemore: Birch Woodland

If it's May it's time for the annual trip up north. Back to Aviemore this year, and a week in a log cabin in the woods. Unlike the average teen horror movie this was a nice cabin, and the only eyes in the hills belonged to wildlife. The view from the cabin itself just made me want to explore. Take note of the small rock face, as we'll come back to that later.

Although I don't think it's one of the oldest woods around - few very old trees it seemed to me, and certainly less nest holes than others - the stones were carpeted by mosses and lichens .....

and the stream ticked all the right boxes, although I never saw the deer that obviously used it as a water source - just their droppings.

Amazingly in the area of the small rock face someone had managed to dump a small refrigerator and parts of a car! Incredible.

However, it was good to see nature fighting back in the form of plants and mosses growing through and on the twisted metal. Just think in another 100 years it may even all be buried.

Whilst mooching around this area I realised a pair of coal tits were hanging around, and soon found the nest in the rock face itself. You can see the hole behind the twigs in the picture below.

I've always struggled to photograph coal tits. They're bloody small, and usually flit in and out quickly, even at feeders they regularly frequent. So this gave me the chance to lie on the top of the rock face and watch them more closely. It soon became clear that one bird was bringing in caterpillars .....

(not sure what they are, but in the morning there were dozens hanging from the trees)

whilst the other bird concentrated on insects.

Eventually the feeding must have got a little harder because they mixed it up more.

A cracking way to start a day.
As I said nest sites in this wood seemed to be at something of a premium. Most unusually in my experience this robin (beautifully snapped as a blur - it was dark in there!) was nesting in what seemed to be an old rabbit burrow in the hillside. As the chicks fledged the day I took this I never got the chance to get a better picture.

The day we arrived I saw a cuckoo nearby, and they could often be heard calling on the hill behind through the morning. It was only on the last night I realised 2 or three were coming down in the evening and feeding next to the cabin. I found somewhere I could use as a hide, but the light was going, so these were sadly the best shots I managed. If only I'd had one more day ....................

The first morning I went out about 6am, and immediately saw a treecreeper. Then another. And another. And a fourth! Turned out to be two adults feeding two young.

There were tree pipits (no photos) and I saw one spotted flycatcher, although the picture below was from a wood about 2 miles away when we were up last year.

Inevitably there were greater spotted woodpeckers, but I didn't find a nest. Again the nest shots below were from Craigellachie Nature reserve last year. This is a great little spot right on the outskirts of Aviemore. As well as the flycatchers and woodpeckers there are redstarts, and peregrines nesting on the crags above, all just a few hundred yards from several major hotels with their coachloads of tourists. Apart from the locals walking dogs hardly anyone goes there.

A rabbit used a bush right outside the cabin kitchen window to rest up in the day. It was brilliantly camouflaged - I bet you can't see it even though I can promise it's in the middle of this snap.

Mind you when it did come out you couldn't really miss it!

The vole was a Kay find and photo from the bedroom - not too bad considering it was taken with a 3x zoom pocket camera.

There were various bugs around, including the deer tick that managed to attach itself to my groin (the penalty for lying down to snap coal tits?). Thought I'd got it out, but ended up having to carry out a bit of tweezer and needle surgery two days later to remove the last bit of embedded head. Now I'm waiting to develop Lyme disease!
This rather lovely beetle posed nicely for me. At first I though it was a violet ground beetle because of the colours, but the morphology is all wrong, and I guess it is from the Dor beetle family. Anyway it too seemed to have parasites, and a few more than I did.

They looked like aphids, but I'm sure they were something more unpleasant, so maybe the hills did have scary eyes after all ..........

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