Highland Diary

Nature’s Half Acre

Nearly seventy years ago my parents took me to the cinema to see three early colour wildlife films made by the Walt Disney studio. Two of them I can’t remember a thing about but the other was a short film entitled ‘Nature’s Half Acre’. It told the story of the wildlife inhabiting half an acre of scrubby woodland somewhere in the Eastern United States. The coronavirus pandemic has placed restrictions on all our movements. Right now access to half an acre of nature is something to cherish. Living where I do in the sparsely populated Scottish Highlands I consider myself fortunate have to access a slightly larger area without impinging on anyone else’s space. My half hectare includes the rougher uncultivated parts of our garden and a narrow strip of broadleaf woodland leading down to the shore of a shallow bay on a large highland loch. Over the next few months I hope to be able record the passage of spring in this small area of the Highlands. Much is familiar photographed many times over the last thirty years but now I will look on it with a new eye.

Since the lock-down the usual suspects, badgers and pine martens have appeared on my camera traps. Whilst photographing newly emerged queen bumblebees gathering nectar on spring flowering heather I spotted an unfamiliar solitary bee. It proved to be a Gwynne’s Mining Bee, Andrena bicolor, a species not recorded in this part of the Highlands before. Good numbers of Peacock butterflies have over wintered well and are now being joined by newly emerged Orange tips. The breeding season for woodland resident birds is now well under way and as the birch and oak come into leaf summer migrants are joining them. The deep waters of the loch are not particularly attractive to birdlife but the bay close to home is quite shallow and is a more suitable habitat.