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Update from the Reserve – November 2020

Written by: Stewart Borland
Published: 30th November 2020

When chill November’s surly blast make fields and forest bare (Robert Burns in “Man Was Made To Mourn”), it’s time to celebrate the amazing and varied wildlife we are fortunate to boast in our Nature Reserves. Just like in oor Rabbie’s quote, this month has brought some quietness to the Reserve. With a lot of Reserve visits being put on hold, the animals are free to roam and shelter from the elements uninterrupted. So, this Reserve Update is all about them. From impressive mammals to fascinating birds, continue reading to find out more about some of our species!


An Obvious Thief & A Mysterious One

Collage of Hope and red fox
When she first arrived, Hope would hide and keep her distance whenever Stewart would bring her food to the enclosure. She would wait patiently and steal the food when humans were no longer in sight. But now, two years later, it’s not that she can’t wait for the food but instead she doesn’t need to wait. She’s comfortable enough with Stewart being around to blatantly steal the food from him.

But this month, there was another theft – one that was considerably harder to crack. A while ago, a SpyCam and six little stainless steel feeding bowls disappeared from the Forever Home for Injured Hedgehogs. After some impressive investigative work, we are happy to announce that one of the culprits was caught on camera – just watch and see what this fox does with the empty bowls. And whilst this explains the disappearing dishes, we sadly still don’t have an answer to the missing SpyCam. However, the team at Highland Titles Italy has very kindly sponsored a new SpyCam, which will be promptly placed in the enclosure whenever it arrives. Grazie mille!



No Pine, No Gain

Stewart holding Scots Pine
We are incredibly passionate about documenting all the wonderful conservation work we do in the Reserve, and we never miss the opportunity to share the results with the Community. One of our latest video projects focuses on our native woodland restoration initiative, where we show you all the progress that has been made by planting native trees to restore the Scottish forest, like the much-loved Scots Pine.

However, and despite Stewart’s fantastic efforts to star in the video and memorise scripts, for now, all we have is an incredibly funny blooper reel of all his little mistakes. We will share the final version of the video whenever we have it. In the meantime, if you are wondering if there are Scots Pine in the Reserve, don’t miss this video.



Stags Rubbing Velvet

Tree used by stag to rub velvet off antlers
Throughout the spring and summer, a stag’s antlers grow covered by a soft, highly vascular, and protective velvety skin. The velvet supplies oxygen and nutrients to the growing bone underneath, and once mineralisation occurs, the antlers complete hardening and strip the outer velvet layer. As you can see in the picture, they often use trees to help them rub the velvet off their new shiny antlers, ready to battle in the rut.



Hoping for Whooper Swans

Pair of whooper swans
Here are some visitors we would love to see back, after having welcomed to the Reserve only twice: whooper swans! These rare birds are a winter visitor to the UK from Iceland, although a small number of pairs nest in the north. They are a large white swan, with a long thin neck, which it usually holds erect, and black legs. You can also spot a large triangular patch of yellow on their black bill. Here’s to hoping we see them again!



Clip of the Month: Red Squirrels

Red Squirrel
During autumn, people often worry that their ginger garden visitors have disappeared, but in the majority of cases, this disappearance is actually good news. This season is one of the busiest times of the year for red squirrels, as they are far too busy preparing for the winter months ahead and can’t afford to pay us a visit.


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Written by: Stewart Borland

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