Saurus with no Rex

If you had any interest in dinosaurs at any stage in your life, you’ll probably know that Tyrannosaurus means “terrible lizard” and Rex means “King”. Not sure that’ll help you understand the title of this post but all shall become clear…

Last Sunday was a good day, one of many good days I’ve had recently. The weather was just as good as it has been on previous good days so I suspect it has quite a big part to play in whether I have a good day or not. Also, I needed good weather on Sunday for my target to be met.

I’ll start from the beginning. At some point I shared this video of two Adders Vipera berus dancing to our course group on Facebook for my coursemates for them to see. One of my coursemates commented, saying, “Where’s that then? cos i’m up for driving,” and that was that.

Burn o’ Vat, Muir of Dinnet NNR

The first wee wander we took once we arrived at Muir of Dinnet NNR was up the Burn o’ Vat. I’d been up there before but then all I had done was just stand there in awe of how impressive the area was. Native Pinus and Betula woods with an understory of Calluna and Vaccinium, amazing glacial features and some brilliant wildlife. I highly recommend a trip to Muir of Dinnet even if it’s just for a quick stop on a journey further north or south.

I immediately got about to looking for new ferns as there are plenty species there, and quickly got sidetracked looking at the Bearberry Arctostaphylos uva-ursi, male Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea and a stunning view of Lochnagar.

Clearly no Capercaillie was going to show itself so we made our way back to the visitor centre, taking in the spectacular views of Loch Kinnord before continuing on the path to a specific location for those all-important Adders!

Ok, Adders aren’t lizards so the saurus thing doesn’t really work here, but fortunately I spotted a Common Lizard Zootoca vivipara in the Heather by the path, and just today I found a new site for them near my campus! (Also saw my first Sexton Beetle Nicrophorus vespilloides)

The walk around the Loch was actually longer than need be but we had a nice wander with some good botanising done by me throughout. I was also slightly surprised to learn that I showed my 2 mates their first Lapwings Vanellus vanellus!

Other birds included a Common Sandpiper, many Siskins, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Jay, Buzzard, Swallows, Sand Martins and House Martins, Reed Buntings and a bunch of others enjoying the warmer weather.

Once at the location, I spotted what honestly looked like a small cow pat at the side of the path. This was in fact my first Adder Vipera berus and on closer inspection, she was one of the most striking creatures I’ve ever seen. We went on to see 4 in total, including males (and a Common Frog Rana temporaria just to slightly even out the herptile playing field).

Mission successful, we ambled back around the loch and headed home. Or at least I’m sure that’s what my mates wished had happened.

Me being the naturalist and occasional collector that I am, I seized the opportunity to get a Weasel Mustela nivalis head from a trap that was at the side of a field. Long story short, my pen knife needed disinfecting and my bag smelt a bit for a wee while, but I definitely think it was worth it.


Weasel head Mustela nivalis

Slightly gruesome but at the same time (once it’s all cleaned up and doesn’t smell) it’ll be a great thing to show people, maybe even something that would capture the imagination of a small child. Or freak them out a little… Not the desired effect.

And to finish off the day, I had a little sit under the wee waterfall in the Burn o’ Vat and got suitably soaked.


To finish off this post, a brief round-up of a great Friday birding with one of the guys I ring (birds) with over winter. The Ythan Estuary didn’t produce the King Eider Somateria spectabilis (hence the title No Rex) but a ghostly leucistic female Common Eider Somateria mollisima made up for that, as did the 3 Avocets Recurvirostra avosetta (lifer!). 300+ Grey Seals Halichoerus grypus was quite a sight too. Bullers of Buchan provided some nice seabirds and Corbie Loch was swarmed with Sand Martins Riparia riparia.

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Saurus with no Rex

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