Autumn Bliss

26th November 2016
Wildlifecroft Skye LR-119
October on Skye brought clear skies and warm weather with exceptional sunrises, sunny days, starry nights and aurora showing well. Highlights included a juvenile golden eagle overhead whilst out working, and listening to stags roaring in the evenings. Male Red Deer come down from the hills in late September to battle it out for the chance to breed, known as ‘rutting’. Roaring is one way the males establish dominance, avoiding the need to fight and risk injury. Our croft is deer fenced, which protects our young woodland and wildflower areas from grazing. Cover photo above by Haarkon.
This strikingly fuzzy individual, known as a December Moth, was a delight to find towards the end of the season. Successful female breeders will lay eggs which will hatch in the spring, pupate in June, and in this part of the country, emerge and fly from early October. The food plants the larvae of this species eat grow here on the croft and include sallows, oak and birch.
Phil and Effie were lucky to see a Yellow-browed Warbler on the Croft in mid October. This tiny bird (pictured right) breeds in Siberia, and winters in South-East Asia, but in recent years the number of Autumn sightings in the UK has soared. The reasons are still uncertain, but possible theories include reverse migration and range expansion. To date we have recorded 69 species of bird here on the croft. Photo by Toby Green
Some of the seeds collected and planted by Phil last winter are beginning to emerge. Some species such as Hawthorn, Holly and Ash need to be left for two winters before germinating, known as stratification. Elder and Rowan require one winter of stratification. This is required for the seeds to break dormancy and it is thought the fluctuations in temperature between winter and summer trigger this. In the spring we will plant these five species and hope they germinate. We currently have some Aspen suckers, and tiny Scots Pine seedlings beginning to show. Underplanting the trees that are here already will hopefully provide us with firewood and shelter for years to come.
India and Magnus were our guests in early November and kindly took photos of the croft and Bothy for us. When their photos arrived it was fascinating to see the Bothy through someone else’s eyes. They have written a blog which is available to read here. Reading about their experience and seeing their images has given us new ideas and inspiration to improve Stonechat Bothy for next year. Watch this space.... Photo by Haarkon.

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