With travel restrictions relaxed here in Scotland, we have been able to explore the Cairngorms in July. Being the height of summer, the countryside and wildlife that is here is thriving and there has been lots to discover and explore in the area. The green scenery has been shown off in the dappled sunshine and rain showers have boosted the growth of wildflowers.
As the bog cotton, mentioned in the previous blog disappears, the wet boglands become flourished with insects, dragonflies, and damselflies. But something small and often hidden in amongst the wet sphagnum moss of these boggy landscapes has also began to appear. The carnivorous plant of Round-leaved Sundew has spread open its leaves and grown its long flower stems, adding a pop of colour to any peaty ditch. The Sundew grow in peaty soil and have devised a way of getting nutrients by being one of only a few carnivorous plants. The tendrils shown above are sticky, trapping any passing insect in them before digesting them as food. These plants are even more fascinating by the fact they also need insects to pollinate from them to survive. For insects to pollinate without getting stuck the flower is located on the tall stems.
July has been a fantastic month for insects, around ponds, gardens, and heathland. I have been using my garden moth trap, finding some fascinating looking moths, and looking closely at them. Visiting local ponds and bogs on a sunny day has given the opportunity to watch dragonflies and damselflies, and heathland full of wildflowers packed with butterflies and moths. The Scotch Argus butterfly has just emerged and now enjoys the tall grass for shelter feeding from thistle and other flowers.
The small but interesting Bird-cherry Ermine moth were plentiful one walk when every birch tree was covered in these micro-moths as they have just emerged from their webs. The caterpillar is a pest to the bird cherry trees as they strip the trees of leaves, but also need these trees for making their webs to hatch from. These moths are interesting to look at closely and with a milder spring, their numbers are abundant at the moment.
With many birds now fledged and growing older, the Osprey is a summer visitor to the UK that has also fledged from most nests as they begin to prepare for their journey back to Africa. The Osprey is often seen over the river Spey fishing and taking food back to their nests. The young of any nest will now be fledged and they will begin to prepare their wings and build their energy to fly south in the next month. The females will leave first with the males and juveniles following on behind in the coming weeks. These fledgelings are now losing their downy feathers to be able to dive for fish and built up their strength. These young will return to the UK when they are two years old, breeding in the third or fourth year once a nest site is found.
There is still lots to explore as we head into August and the remainder of the year. If you are planning a visit to the Cairngorms, look at our website for ways you can experience our wildlife too.