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6 Jun 2022

Summer highlights

A close-up view of star-shaped little yellow flowers, growing close to the ground. They also have small green waxy-looking leaves.
Yellow mountain saxifrage
The long daylight hours at this time of year provide a great opportunity to make the most of some wonderful seasonal sights.

Carpets of thrift

Hardy and beautiful, thrift is the pink perennial that pops up along our coastline each summer. It lives up to its name, too, given its remarkable ability to get by with very few natural resources – you can find it growing in swathes even in nutrient-poor soils or sands. Those waxy leaves at its base come together to store whatever fresh water is around, while the pom-poms of pink blossom can reach up to 30cm tall. St Abb’s Head NNR has a fantastic display of thrift, which will last until at least the end of June.

Also at: Fair Isle, Rockcliffe, Culzean Country Park, Balmacara Estate, Canna and Iona

A view of a hillside covered in pinky-purple flowers, looking down towards a blue loch and with the sea just glimpsed in the distance. On the other side of the loch, the hillside is covered in yellow gorse.
Thrift in full bloom at St Abb’s Head NNR

Nesting seabirds

Thousands of seabirds are currently to be found on the isles of Canna and Sanday, preparing for a long summer of roosting and rearing, and then returning to the waves. With huge nurseries of chicks hatching here each summer, the island air is as thick with flapping wings as it is with the smell of guano and the sound of birdcall. Whether it’s puffins rushing in and out of burrows to feed their young, or gannets returning from a long flight out to sea, or guillemots and razorbills perched precariously on narrow slivers of cliff, there’s a lot of activity at this time of year.

Also at: St Abb’s Head NNR, Fair Isle, Unst & Yell, Mingulay, Berneray & Pabbay, St Kilda and Staffa NNR

Many puffins gather on a grassy clifftop, with steep cliffs running into the blue sea in the background.
Puffins on Canna

The great midge feast

The joy of days out in the summer can sometimes be offset by the clouds of midges desperate for something to eat. But don’t let them put you off venturing out on your adventures. Invest in a good midge net and some insect repellent, and then head to Castle Fraser to watch these little biters provide a tasty treat for some of our most charming summer visitors. Midges get scooped up mid-flight by swallows, martins and swifts, which you can see hunting at low heights over the ponds, putting on a glorious show with their swooping flight, almost as a thank you for their meal.

Also at: Falkland Palace, Torridon and House of Dun

A swallow hovers in the air, its wings held high above its body. It is looking down at a grassy field.
A swallow in flight | Image: DKeith, Shutterstock

Mountains in bloom

Ben Lawers is the home of many rare arctic-alpine plants. Species like alpine gentian, rock speedwell and yellow mountain saxifrage are not easy to spot but are always worth looking out for on a high-level excursion into the National Nature Reserve. These flowers are expert at survival in high-altitude, low-temperature habitats. Most cling close to the ground to avoid the worst of the wind, some sinking their roots deep into cracks in the rock. Before taking on one of the Munros here, try to familiarise yourself with some of their identifying features or carry a field guide with you into the hills.

Also at: Mar Lodge Estate NNR, Torridon and Kintail

A close-up shot of the tiny bright blue flowers on a mountain gentian plant, growing close to the ground.
Gentiana nivalis

Mammals in flight

At certain times of year, it’s tricky to keep an eye on the local bat populations without a special piece of kit called a bat detector. Used by our teams at the Trust, this handheld machine bleeps whenever it picks up signals of echolocation – the high-pitched clicks that help to guide bats through the night sky. In summer, though, you can watch bats with the naked eye. Threave Estate is a good place to start: home to Scotland’s first ever Bat Reserve, it has eight species of bat. You can take a guided walk to find about these flying mammals and our work to protect them.

Also at: Inverewe, Craigievar Castle, Culzean Country Park and Dollar Glen

A bat perches on a stone gatepost beside a wooden fence. Its mouth is slightly open, revealing a set of very sharp looking teeth! Woodland is in the background.
A bat perched on a gatepost

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