Off Canvas

Abernyte Nature Watch Summer 2020
Although we are not totally locked down anymore, I think many of us have spent more than the usual amount of time around our homes and gardens and close to our village. This has been refreshing as well as perhaps frustrating, but one thing that it has really done has been to focus attention on gardens and local wildlife and local walks. It has been quite amazing how many observations have come out of this period of homely attention.

Birds and Mammals
There have been continuing sightings of Red Kite around the area, often by Iona who has had a grandstand view of our new visitor on a number of occasions. In the middle of May the Red Kites were witnessed having a tussle with a buzzard by Mike at the Beeches. A Red Kite (one or more) have been spotted in a number of different places around the area by a whole host of Abernytians, also at Ballandean and Whitehills We are keeping our fingers crossed that they might be here to stay.

Lockdown has been good news for mammals, with fewer of them being killed on the roads. Hedgehogs have been seen in a number of gardens and as they feed on beetles and worms the showery weather may have helped them in finding this invertebrate food. Of course they are very vulnerable to traffic, as are Red Squirrels, some of them have also been around visiting peanut feeders in the village in July.

Diana at Hillhouse was excited to see a very dark coloured squirrel just outside her window one morning at the beginning of August. At the end of July she saw a flock of around 20 Long-tailed Tits in the garden. When they start going around together in what is probably a large family group it suggests the nesting season is finished for them and they are moving around looking for food elsewhere.

Bats and an unusual Thistle
On 3rd August Gordon and Norma posted
“I am sure we all see bats in our gardens at dusk but having only seen the odd one or two at Infield over the past few years we were delighted this year when on one night we had 6, or perhaps more, feeding over the garden. That prompted the question of what type of bat are they? An evening spent with the bat detector answered that, Soprano Pipistrelle”. Gordon managed to take a video which is on the website, they are not easy to capture on camera!

On another walk they spotted an unusual thistle up near Whitehills. It was a White Creeping Thistle, and there is a lovely picture of it, complete with Small Tortoiseshell butterflies on the Abernyte Naturewatch Forum.

On 9th June Gordon announced that it is, be kind to nettles week! As he had just spotted a large clump of Peacock butterfly caterpillars clustered on a patch of nettles left for that very purpose. Norma has been keeping her eye on them and they are just about to emerge from their chrysalises at the moment (9th August). Around the same time, Morag also photographed Peacock caterpillars on nettles along at Little Ballo.
The beautiful adult Peacock butterfly adults were nectaring on the Buddleias and other plants in Abernyte gardens last week (beginning of August onwards) along with Small Tortoiseshells, Large Whites and other whites. When out for local walks, I also saw them on the hill enjoying the flowers on Scabious and Ragwort.

Buddleias are a great delight when it comes to butterflies, it is a pity they are not native but there are lots of varieties that will attract butterflies to the garden at this time of year. You can also grow a patio Buddleia in a large pot where it takes up less space and is still very attractive, and can be moved about.

Barry and I had some excitement when we saw a butterfly which has recently moved into our area. This is the Speckled Wood. It loves sunny glades in woodland and will come down from the trees, where it suns itself and feeds on honeydew, to the undergrowth where it feeds on flowers and fruit such as brambles. Not yet seen in Abernyte but we would not be surprised if it turns up before long!

Red Admiral will also feed on soft or rotting fruit later in the autumn when most of the flowers are over. To attract butterflies to your garden later in the year flowers like the pink flowers of Sedum spectabile and Michaelmas daisies are useful. They also love thistles but not sure I would advocate introducing these to the garden unless you have lots of space and a wild area.

The Melancholy Thistle which is spineless is also very attractive to insects and a better bet for the garden. In fact on several occasions including 20th June they attracted a couple of Hummingbird Hawkmoths which were also quite keen on the Honeysuckle. Several folk have planted their own wildflower areas, including the one at Guardswell Farm, which has been blooming magnificently with lots of Yellow Rattle, Knapweed and Yarrow. It was hooching with butterflies and other insects when we visited in late June, including wonderful Dark Green Fritillaries.

Barry was delighted when Ruth and John found one of his favourite insects, an Ichneumon wasp which parasitises the larvae of the wood wasp. The Wood Wasp is in fact a sawfly and it's long tail is for egg laying and not stinging so it is not at all as fearsome as it looks. Lucy Lacoux found the actual adult Wood Wasp in her garden. It was photographed before being released to get on with it's activities. It lays eggs in rotting wood where the larvae may later perhaps become food for woodpeckers.

I was less excited when finding a Red Lily Beetle on one of the lilies in our garden. The larvae of these can make a mess of your lilies, they eat the foliage, and they are a non-native species. The one we saw was swiftly removed. It is worth checking your garden lilies to make sure you do not have any of these unwelcome visitors on them. A pity as the beetle itself is rather attractive and certainly very brightly coloured!

Road Verges
Catherine Lloyd, of Tayside Biodiversity Forum, has been co-ordinating a focus on road verges and their value for wildlife. Road verges can provide insects with flowers for nectar and act as wildlife corridors for all sorts of wildlife. At the moment there is an online map where you can enter information about favourite road verges and the plants that they contain, and whether you think they have been cut at the right time.

During lockdown some verges were cut at a later date than normal, and council cutting of other areas including churchyards was suspended. At that time a survey was organised and as part of that we carried out a survey of an area in Abernyte Churchyard to see what effect the lack of cutting had. There were a surprising number of different species in the grass there. Perhaps looking forward we could find some space for wildlife in some of the local churchyards as well as managing the road verges for wildlife.

We have not been receiving many wildlife reports on the Community Nature Forum recently. Don’t forget that you can post your own sightings and pictures at: