Friday, 30 July 2010

Muddy Waters

We went to the Big Tent event at Falkland last Saturday, 24th July, and Gilbert passed the stall where 'Scotland Outdoors' Magazine was selling its wares. Immediately, he took issue with the title of an article they had published about the return of the beaver to Scotland that emphasised dispute and discord. 'Muddy Waters' was the title of the article and what less suitable title could there be for a piece about the beaver.

Here are some photographs that demonstrate the clarity of water in our burn at this time of year.

And here are a couple I took last November.

Of course beavers create turbulence among the sediments that their dams filter out of the water when they are working on the dam, or dredging canals, but as a rule they are clarifiers of water rather than muddiers. 

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Cloudburst - Flashflood

Heavy rain fell last night and by half past six this morning the Big Pond was full to overflowing. The photo below shows water running over the barrage. Radio Scotland was full of accounts of blocked roads.

By 11.30  the rain had eased and the flood had subsided, as the picture below shows, but not soon enough to save Aileen's cellar from being flooded.

The pools along the Burnieshed Burn were full again, as you can see from this photograph.

Despite the downpour of the night none had burst.

The gnawed sycamore tree in the middle ground has the water lapping almost as far as the gnaw marks. Compare this with the photograph that I took on the 5th July, soon after the drought had ended.

This shows the middle dam with the water gushing over it.

We are beginning to see kits. I saw one in the top pool next to the drive on Monday evening and Chris Potter saw one in the Big Pond yesterday evening.

Monday, 19 July 2010

Wood Wasps at the Big Pond

Some years ago Andrew Barbour came here with some of his family to visit beaverdom. We walked round the Big Pond - an easier matter in those days before the beavers had really got underway with their reconfiguration of the landscape.

When we reached the manmade barrage that closes the pond Andrew wondered what would happen to the pond when the spruces that grew along the top of the dam fell down. I had no answer at the time, but here is one of several possibilities:

First, the roots of the trees are drowned, as has happened in the photograph on the left.

Next, they are invaded by fungi and wood boring insects such as the Giant Wood Wasp (Urocerus gigas).

This beast, of which I was reminded last week by seeing a couple, has a symbiotic relationship with certain wood destroying fungi (Amylostereum Sp.) - see

Here is a photograph of a female Giant Wood Wasp that I managed to take with my compact camera last week. You cannot make out the long ovipositor very well from the photo, but many people find the sight of this splendid beast intimidating because they think that the spike is a sting rather than a device for inserting eggs into trees.

The trees in which Giant Wood Wasps like to lay their eggs are usually enfeebled by an already existing problem such as attack by a fungus (such as Fomes annosus), or a struggle with a difficult environment - such as poor soil conditions, flooding, or drought.

It seems that the Wood Wasp inoculates the fungus into the tree when she oviposits her eggs. By the time  the egg hatches and becomes a larva, enough of the fungus's mycelium has developed for it to become the infant wood wasp's food. The mycelium of the fungus rots the sap wood, which provides the larva with food.

In its prepared environment the larval wood wasp can crawl around, creating the  tunnels and galleries that are characteristic of it.

To go back to the barrage that closes the Big Pond: eventually the combined activities of the wood wasp larvae and fungi, weaken the dead spruce to the extent that it falls over, but without taking its roots with it, and the barrage retains its structural integrity.

If you blow up this photograph you will be able to see the exit holes of the young wood wasp when it emerges as an adult.

Wild boar break open rotting logs in search of the grubs and larvae that they expect to find within. This is an interesting added dimension of the saprophytic complex that returns living trees to soil.

Monday, 5 July 2010

The End of the Drought?

The drought that has lasted more or less from the end of March ended on Friday, I think. What is certain is that a lot of rain fell on Sunday, 4th July, particularly in the morning.

Here are some photographs to show the revived water levels in the Burnieshed Burn.

You can compare this photograph of the slide or overflow with the one I posted last week.

The little waterfall overflow is running again.
Looking upstream towards the top dam below the drive you can see how the burn has filled up again.

And here we are looking downstream. Note the beaver lawn in the foreground.

The swamp below the second dam below the drive has recovered too.
The spring barley in the field has eared. It has probably been like that for some days, but I paid attention to it properly only this morning, as the wind shook it.

The Scottish Game Fair at Scone

Early July and the calendar turns to the Scottish Game Fair at Scone.

My daughter, Sophie, grandson, Adam, and I made it along there on Sunday afternoon. Rain had poured down since the night before and we took waterproofs. However, when we arrived the sun was shining and with it a welcoming warmth, so we left our waterproofs behind in the car.

Hardly had we entered the main area of the Fair than huge, black clouds blew in from the west and towered over us. Spots of rain fell. We looked at each other and regretted our folly. No time to go back to the car though, so we hastened towards booths that looked welcoming.

Such a one was this one with its furniture made of the antlers of red and fallow deer.

Before we had reached this haven, we passed by the Game and Wildlife Conservancy Trust's main exhibition, which was the same as last year in its emphasis on the desirability of killing any animal that might like to eat birds that humans like to shoot and eat.

Adding in, as this photograph shows, animals that do things to commercial forestry. I agree that we need to control the numbers of deer so, as we have driven the native carnivores such as the lynx or wolf that did some of the job to extinction, we have to do it ourselves.

I always think that this device for luring foxes to their death is a particularly unpleasant one. Inside the plastic barrel, which must be kept shut for reasons of health and safety, are the decaying remains of other creatures that have been killed for whatever reason, and the fox is lured towards this, but has to make its way along paths on which snares have been set.
Among the Good, The Bad and the Ugly on display, I noticed this stuffed polecat (Mustela putorius).

Polecats, along with other Goodsbadsanduglies, are protected, but they belong to a species that is extending its range after being driven almost to extinction, and this is something that some shooting folk do not like.