Cairnsmore Critters: a wildlife recording event

Wildlife enthusiasts, both young and old, gathered at Cairnsmore of Fleet National Nature Reserve on a showery July morning to see what they could find. The event was organised and led by staff from Galloway & Southern Ayrshire Biosphere and South West Scotland Environmental Information Centre, with the support of the site owners and managers NatureScot.

First stop was the moth trap next to the visitor centre, which had been set the night before. Despite the overnight rain, a good selection of moths had been attracted to the light and had settled in the egg boxes placed in the trap, ready to be identified and released. The star moth was probably the Garden Tiger, but there were also teddy bear-like Drinker Moths, a finely-striped Scallop Shell, a Gold Spangle with its shimmering splash of metallic gold-leaf in the Centre of each wing, as well as many of the more typical ‘little brown jobs’. Altogether, there were more than 50 species of moth recorded at Cairnsmore that day, and we lost count of the number of individuals.

Whilst the younger members of the group went off to guddle around in the burn, the rest of the party took a slow walk down to the viaduct, checking for wild flowers and insects on the way. One of the first finds was Granulated Ground Beetle, a large beetle that predates slugs and worms. Common Soldier Beetles were much in evidence, as well as three or four different species of hoverfly, but the cloudy conditions ensured that butterflies were keeping their heads down, other than the odd Ringlet and Meadow Brown. Amongst the flowers, Heath Spotted Orchids and bright yellow Bog Asphodels were much in evidence, but the more subtle white flowers of Whorled Caraway were also pointed out – a species that is quite common in wet meadows of Galloway, but very rare in much of the rest of the UK.

As we arrived at the viaduct, House Martins and Swifts were busy flying in and out of their nest sites, undeterred by the rain shower that arrived to welcome us. The weather was not ideal to search for the Adders that sometimes bask on nearby piles of stones. Some of the group decided it was more appropriate to check the pond for wildlife and were rewarded by catching several Palmate Newts. But the remainder went, very carefully, in search of Adders with two snakes being seen by those at the front, but both had slithered away under stones by the time those at the rear had caught up.

Though the rain was easing again, we decided it was time to head back to the car park. In total, almost 100 wildlife records were added to iRecord, the online wildlife recording system, where they will be available for use by the reserve managers, scientists and other wildlife recorders. And thanks to everyone who attended, it was a very enjoyable morning, despite the showers.


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