Guest blog: Summer with the beavers of Knapdale Forest
On National Wildlife Day, our friend Heart of Argyll Wildlife’s Pete Creech brings us a guest blog on the beavers of Knapdale. Over the summer, they have been busy as... well, beavers!
Find out what our Norwegian guests have been up to in the lochs and wetlands of Barnluasgan, and learn more about the different species who inhabit this picturesque woodland.
Take it away, Pete!
This summer saw the main beaver family move from their lodge on Barnluasgan back to the north end of loch Coille-Bharr. Parents Bjornar and Millie, along with their 3 kits from last year, and a single juvenile from the previous year, have been hard at work making sure the new lodge is as sturdy as the old.
It’s been great to see them exploring around Loch Dubh too. Although they are not living on it, their regular visits show they have almost come full circle, back where they started from on their release into Knapdale ten years ago.
We were also excited to see our first camera trap footage, which brought great news—Millie has produced at least one kit again this year. Living space must be getting quite tight in their lodge now!
Looking for signs
Field sign survey work is about to take place over the next few weeks, in order to establish where beavers are active throughout the rest of Knapdale. This is being done with a view to releasing a few more beavers into suitable territory. We look for any signs of beaver activity, from gnawed and felled trees to scat or other marks of their passage.
It’s also been really interesting to see on our camera trap footage that the Loch Coille-Bharr family seem to be eating a lot of bracken...
Butterflies, snakes and squirrels!
Beavers are far from the only species at Barnluasgan. What a summer it has been for butterflies! From the first sightings of fritillaries along our track, to the influx of painted ladies experienced across Europe, this summer has been a fireworks display of colours.
We have also seen lots of common blue, speckled wood, peacock and Scotch Argus butterflies, and lots of cinnabar moth caterpillars on the ragwort up the sides of the track. Sadly, we have seen far fewer adders this year than normal, and fewer visitors have come into the centre reporting sightings of them. The weather has been good, but we don’t know what the cause is for this decline in sightings, we can only hope we see more next year.
Our Knapdale ospreys seem to have had another successful year. It has been fantastic to see the parents teaching their youngsters how to fish on the Add estuary. We have witnessed many fly-bys above our centre, the birds frequently being tormented by our resident raven pair.
After a quiet summer last year, the red squirrels returned to our feeders this summer. However, we have not seen them for a week or so now, presumably because the bumper crop of hazelnuts in the woodland must be ripening!
A visitor’s face when they come in and see a red squirrel out of our window for the first time is one of our favourite things to watch. A couple of weeks ago, we were even lucky enough to see a pine marten visiting our feeders during the day—a rare treat for staff and visitors alike!
Find out more about the activities happening at the Argyll Beaver Centre at the links below, and follow Heart of Argyll Wildlife on Facebook and Twitter for regular updates from Knapdale Forest.