Saturday, 21 June 2008

Abernethy Forest - National Nature Reserve, Aviemore

This week I went camping in Abernethy Forest with my friend Richard. We carried our heavy rucksacks from Aviemore to Abernethy as we weren't sure the bus would stop there. In the distance the Cairngorm peaks were still patched with snow. Exhausted, we reached a forestry plantation at the edge of Abernethy and had to set up camp as it was getting dark. As we got ready to prepare our dinner we realised with horror that we had forgotten to bring a lighter with us and were unable to light the gas stove: leaving us with little to eat and NO TEA!! In vain we tried to make tea with cold water but it wasn't happening.

The next morning I managed to get lost in the forest and couldn't phone Richard to let him know where I was (no phone reception) took nearly 2 hours to find my way back :(

Later in the morning as we set off for Abernethy Forest, we came across a Red Squirrel cautiously stealing nuts from a bird feeder.

Once in Nethy Bridge we bought supplies (and a lighter!) from the local newsagents.

Along the forest edges were flowering Kidney Vetch (Anthyllis vulneraria) and Chickweed Wintergreen (Trientalis europaea).

In Abernethy Forest we were finally able to stop for a long awaited cup of tea and a hot meal. Annoyingly persistent Wood Ants (Formica sp.); ubiquitous in Abernethy; insisted on swarming over us to investigate our food - I love them, but they are infuriating!

Four Spotted Chaser dragonflies (Libellula quadrimaculata) were zooming about a nearby bog and whilst chasing them (camera in hand) we found an huge female Raft Spider (Dolomedes fimbriatus) carrying a spherical egg-cocoon beneath her body.

Raft Spider (Dolomedes fimbriatus) female with eggs
Raft Spider (Dolomedes fimbriatus) female with eggs

Raft Spiders have a scattered distribution in the UK and are confined to boggy habitats. These spiders sit at the water's edge and dart across the water to capture insects, tadpoles and small fish. They have the ability to submerge for short periods of time when threatened.

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Raft spider feeding on fly and fishRaft spider feeding on fly and fish

We visited Loch Garten to see the nesting Ospreys (Pandion haliaetus). Peanut feeders outside the centre attract lots of Siskins (Carduelis spinus) and some very bold Red Squirrels (Sciurus vulgaris).

Striped Ladybird (Myzia oblongoguttata)

We left Abernethy the next afternoon as the weather was so unfavourable and the constant torrential rain was starting to seep through our tents (we ran out of dry clothes too). Also, at night the temperature was so low that I was unable to sleep as my toes were getting really cold (I need to get a 4 season sleeping bag for Scotland). After a frantic death-march to catch the last bus, we ended up getting the steam engine to Aviemore (great fun!).

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