Wildlife through the Seasons.

 

Guisachan Estate and Farm is rich in wildlife and supports a number of key habitats and species. Below you will find information on the habitats, plants and animals that you may see throughout the seasons, whilst out walking.

 

a primrose in bloom at springtimeSPRING Early animals coming out of hibernation; hungry ones looking for food; overwintering birds migrating; mating displays in breeding season; frog spawn; spring flowers....

More info ...

 

a butterfly soars in the summer breezeSUMMER A time of plenty - housemartins swooping for insects; lizards basking on rocks; butterflies and pollinating flowers; fledgling birds....

More info ...

 

a tractor gathering the autumn harvestFARMING YEAR Take a look at what happens and when on Guisachan Farm - a traditional 1600 acre Highland farm.

More info ...

 

toadstools & mushrooms galoreAUTUMN Berries; nuts; toadstools; autumnal colours; owls calling at night; red deer rutting; migratory birds flocking....

More info ...

 

a winter lead frozen in timeWINTER Tracks in snow; birds feeding; red squirrels foraging; roe deer in woods....

More info ...

 

 

biodiversity on Guisachan farm, Tomich BIODIVERSITY Key habitats & species; hedgerows, trees, scrub, woodland, wetlands, watercourses, grassland, archaeological features, sustainable farming....

More info ...

 

a squirrel gathers food for winter WILDLIFE BOX We offer a free 'wildlife box' to our guests with books, activities, walks, spotters guides, binoculars etc.

More info ...

 

SPRING

There is huge wildlife activity in Spring. Early on animals such as hedgehogs, stoats, weasels and bats come out of hibernation. Hungry animals are out looking for food. Overwintering birds such as Whooper swans, Barnacle, Pink footed and Greylag geese migrate north, calling overhead. You may also see mating displays of various birds, red squirrels, rabbits and 'mad march' hares.

 

Farmland birds start breeding; Look for birds with beaks full of nest material or insects to feed their young. Birds nest in hedges (Dunnock, Blue Tit), trees (Song Thrush), grassland (Skylark), in buildings (Swallow, Barn Owl), wetland (Snipe, Redshank) or ploughed fields (Lapwing).

 

From February onwards look in ponds and ditches for frog spawn and tadpoles. In April swallows and house martins start returning from Africa: listen for the first cuckoo call.

 

Spring flowers are delicate; celandine, primroses, violets appear along hedges and banks, bluebells & wood anenome in woods. Trees burst into leaf, blossom appears on wild cherry and rowan trees, hedgerows may be white with hawthorn and blackthorn blossom.

 

Back to top ...

 

SUMMER

A time of plenty, but animals are more ghidden in the undergrowth. Swallo, house martin and swift feed high when the weather is fine, low in damp conditions and swoop for insects over watercourses. Watch lizards basking on rocks in the sun and bats emerge from roosts in eaves of buildings at dusk.

 

On warm days, look for butterflies such as red admiral, small tortoiseshell and painted lady on knapweed, nettles and cuckoo flower and watch dragonflies and damselflies darting over marshy areas. Meadowlands and wetlands can be a riot of colour as flowers bloom to attract insects to pollinate them. Look out for orchids, birds' foot trefoil, harebell and ragged robin.

 

Young birds and mammals are becoming more independent; Look for fledglings trying out their wings or calling to parents for food. Keep dogs on leads to protect chicks hidden in grassland. On warm evenings you may see rabbits, hare and deer grazing in grassland.

 

Back to top ...

 

AUTUMN

Berries on rowan, hawthorn, elder, blaeberry and bramble provide valuable food for birds. Nuts on hazel trees and acorns on oaks supply food for red squirrels, jays, field mice and voles, both now and to store for the winter. Autumnal colours are exceptionally vivid, especially on the turning leaves; look out for the wonderful displays of colour from aspen, our native poplar. Listen for woodpeckers drumming on tree trunks, searching for insects and tawny owls calling at night.

 

This is when fungi appear in woods and fields; the fruiting bodies of underground mycelia. Parasols, field mushrooms, inkcaps and puffballs grow in grassland, bracket fungi on trees and dead branches, the large boletus grow on the woodland floor together with russals and the distinctive and poisonous fly agaric. Try not to destroy fungi and never pick or eat them unless you can positively identify them as edible - some are lethal.

 

Back to top ...

 

WINTER

Tracks in the snow or soft ground; Muddy riverbanks might reveal a paw print of an otter, deer or fox. An otter's print has 5 toes, often with webbing visible between the digits, whereas a fox track is much more compact and dog-like.

 

Birds such as bullfinch, tree sparrow and yellowhammer feed on seed bearing plants such as grasses, thistles, linseed and oats. They often congregate around livestock feeding sites on spilled grain or in stubble fields. Set-aside land and bird cover crops offer valuable winter refuge and food source for mammals and birds.

 

Winter is a good time to see red squirrels as they do not hibernate and are out searching for seeds in woodlands. Also roe deer in woods are easier to see at this time.

 

Back to top ...

 

THE FARMING YEAR

SPRING About 100 cows and calves are brought onto Guisachan after calving and once sufficient grass is available. The cows remain on the farm until mid-December when they return to their wintering farm. About 200 sheep are lambed outside from mid-April to mid-May - a great time to visit Tomich. Grass fields are prepared for the new growing season by harrowing, fertilisation or manure spreading to optimise the growth. Rolling is particularly important for silage and hay fields, where stones or bumps in the ground could break machinery. On occasion fields are ploughed and new grass pasture is sown.

 

SUMMER The sheep are clipped (sheared) around the end of June (weather permitting). The wool grows vigorously at this time, making it easier to clip - and the sheep are relieved of their woolly coat ready for the warmer weather. The wool is rolled and packed before being sent away for processing. Dosing, drenching and footbathing of sheep is carried out as needed, to prevent problems such as worms, flystrike and footrot. Cows with calves at foot, graze the fields on rotation. At this time a bull runs with the herd and it is hoped that all cows will be in calf by the end of the summer. Silage is cut in July and stored in plastic wrapped bales. Hay is also made when weather permits. Forage crops such as stubble turnips and kale may be sown in July and establish throughout the summer and autumn ready for grazing from October / November. Rush cutting takes place from mid-August as a means of creating a variable mix of rushes and grass, which proveds excellent habitat for farmland wading birds such as snipe and curlew.

 

AUTUMN Lambs are taken off the farm by October and are sold for breeding purposes or to finishers who prepare them for abbatoirs and butchers. Ewes, now without their lambs, are dipped to remove parasites such as ticks and maggots. Calves are taken to market in mid to late October and sold as replacement heifers and to finishers who fatten them ready for abbatoirs and butchers.

 

WINTER Ewes are put to the tup (or ram) in mid November. Sheep are 'flushed' for a couple of weeks before tupping, to bring them into good breeding condition, by moving them to fresh pasture or offering feeding supplements. The condition of the tups is very important as they are 50% of the breeding flock. The gestation period of sheep is 5 months so a rough guide is that a sheep tupped on December 5th should lamb on May 1st! Tups are usually fitted with a coloured marker so when they mate, the ewe's back is marked. This helps keep track of when ewes have been mated so they can be grouped for lambing. Cows, now in calf, return to their wintering farm, where thay are housed and fed in preparation for calving in the the early spring. Sheep feeding commences in January. Ewes are scanned to enable those carrying twins or triplets to get extra food. In the lead up to lambing, ewes are usually fed concentrates. Feet are trimmed against footrot before lambing.

 

Back to top ...

 

BIODIVERSITY

The term "Biological Diversity" encompasses the rich variety of life that surrounds and sustains us. It includes animals, plants and microbes and the habitats in which they live. Guisachan supports the following priority habitats identified within the Local Biodiversity Action Plan: Acid grassland; marshy grassland and rough pasture; purple moor grass and rush pasture; upland meadows; rivers and streams; species-rich rush pasture; wetland margins; wet heath; dry heath; wet woodland; wood and scrub pasture and scrub woodland. Some of the key local species which may be found at Guisachan and in the surrounding areas include: BIRDS - Redshank, lapwing, snipe, curlew, woodcock, yellowhammer, goldfinch, twite. PLANTS - Ragged robin, yellow rattle, devil's bit scabious, bird's foot trefoil, common eyebright, knapweed. MAMMALS - Pipistrelle bat, red squirrel, brown hare, otter, water vole. FISH - Brown trout, atlantic salmon. INSECTS - Great yellow bumblebee, northern brown argus, small pearl bordered fritillary.

 

HEGDEROWS. Good hedgerow management improves the habitat for a wide range of insects, birds and mammals and increases the food available for many species. A significant area of hedgerow is well established on Guisachan and can be found on either side of the the track between the Courtyard Cottages and the main road. These hedges contain mixtures of trees and shrubs, including beech, hawthorn and hazel and have already become a valuable source of food and shelter for wildlife on the estate.

 

TREES, SCRUB & WOODLAND. These are all vital in providing food for birds, mammals and insects, as they provide pollen, nectar, foliage, buds, fruit, seeds and decaying wood. Trees also support a variety of fungi and lichens. Well-structured woodland with a variety of tree ages, heights, species and open areas provides the best wildlife diversity. Native woodland is an important part of the landscape at Guisachan, particularly on the river and burn margins, where alder predominates with ask, rowan, birch and beech or varying ages. Above all the visitor cannot fail to admire the fine mature oak, sycamore and aspen which form a series of old tree lines following the estate roads. Nearby Glen Affric and Glen Strathfarrar contain one of Scotland's largest remaining Caledonian forests. These woods are of internaional importance and provide a last stronghold for Capercaille and a vital habitat for crested tit and the scottish crossbill.

 

WETLANDS & WET GRASSLANDS. In years gone by many wetlands areas were drained and improved for agricultlure, but they are now preserved as an important wildlife habitat. The river Abhainn Deabhag forms part of the western boundary of the estate and is fringed with alder woodland and many other trees such as ash and birch. The river and its margins provide good habitat for otters, brown hare, water vole and a variety of wildfowl. A large farm pond has been created in a wet rushy area near the end of the road providing excellent habitat for invertebrates such as damsel fly and a haven for wildfowl. A number of smaller burns and ditches run through the farmland and they also provide good habitat for aquatic invertebrateas, wildfowl, water-loving mammals and wildflowers.

 

GRASSLAND. Unimproved or species-rich grassland is that which has not been re-seeded nor had large inputs of artificial fertilisers. The best of these areas may be commonly know as wildflower meadows. Guisachan supports unimproved grassland on areas which were historically less intensively managed, including margins of watercourses, banks, verges and rough parks. Colourful displays and wonderful fragrances can be enjoyed from an array of wildlflowers such as lady's bedstraw, ragged robin, devil's-bit scabious, eyebright, yarrow, birdsfoot trefoil and knapweed. The vigourous activity of bees and other insects make these areas a joy to behold.

 

HISTORIC FEATURES. People have been living in Scotland for almost 10,000 years. Traces of these earlier inhabitants from both the distant and more recent past may still be found on farms today. Guisachan was the traditional home of the Frasers of Culbokie and for centuries the estate held a significance in romantic episodes of history such as the Jacboite Risings and the religious struggles that seized the Highlands. The long family line ended in 1864 when Lord Tweedmouth was said to have bought the estate for 60,000. It was he who built the now ruinous Guisachan House, the present farm steading (home to Tomich Holidays), the Victorian Dairy and the model village of Tomich. He also set about relocating the indigineous population of the Glen from their crofts to the new village, where he provided housing, a school, a brewery, a meal mill and stables. Croft houses were then demolished. the land improved for farming and grand parkland was created with ornamental trees and paths. The Lord Tweedmouth era was indeed an industrious and very influential period at Guisachan, though the way of life in the glen was changed forever.

 

Back to top ...

 

WILDLIFE BOX

This is a great resource for guests wanting to discover more about Tomich's animals, flowers and environment. Inside the wooden chest you will find wildlife spotting cards, suggested walks around the Estate, OS maps, binoculars (10 deposit), our biodiversity report, species ID books, farming year calendar, children's activity sheets and a wildlife spotter's visitor book. If you would like to use this whilst on holiday, simply tick the wildlife box on the online booking form and you will find it in your cottage upon arrival or visit the office once in Tomich. It is issued free of charge on a first come, first served basis.

Back to top ...