It seems I have a lot of catching up to do with my blogging (It’s been a busy summer) and so I thought I’d at least make a start by writing about my birthday last month. Better late than never?…

This year, my birthday happened to fall on a volunteer day run by my local John Muir Trust group, which I regularly attend. We spend our time carrying out “hands on” conservation work in one of the most beautiful places I know – Glen Tanar. A rarity perhaps – an estate with an abundance of raptor species, actively working to conserve upland habitat and wildlife.

From the Shepherd’s Bothy looking up the Glen to Mount Keen

Based at the Shepherd’s Bothy in the above picture, our task was to cordon off a lekking site used by black grouse. Surrounding the lek is a high deer fence which is difficult to see and poses a threat to birds flying to and fro. Deer fences are important however, as the eviction of grazing red deer allows the regeneration of native woodland. The rangers at Glen Tanar overcome this conflict of interests by tying lengths of bright blue rope along the top of the fence at regular intervals – It frays in the wind and highlights the perimeter to any passing grouse.

It seems i’m a lot better at cutting rope than cutting down trees – I think I’ve found my volunteering talent…If only it were more useful…
John and Alan typing on the rope

Sadly the task at hand was cut short by an unfortunate miscalculation in the length of rope… However, being a beautiful day and my birthday there was plenty of time for cake!


There is always something interesting to see at Glen Tanar and in the afternoon we happened upon a couple of these striking caterpillars. This pleased me greatly as I have a particular fondness for them! These caterpillars feed on heather and bilberry and will eventually become Fox moths. I decided to take one home to join my other caterpillars for rearing to the adult stage.

Fox Moth Caterpillar “the birthday caterpillar”

Luckily this species will also feed on brambles, which are currently in abundance around my allotment. The caterpillar has now grown quite large (they can reach 7cm) and looks very different to the above picture. Since molting it has become orange and developed long black and white hairs. I find this species particularly interesting as they hibernate over winter as caterpillars and wait until spring to bask in the sun and pupate.

Post Brambles

So another beautiful weekend in my favourite place with volunteering friends – I can’t think of anywhere else i’d rather spend my birthday! Tomorrow we will return to complete the job – hopefully with more rope this time…

View from Shepherd’s bothy

If you’d like to volunteer with a JMT work party find out more here



  1. Hi Apithanny,

    Ah, Happy Birthday but more importantly, you’ve found a red-listed Cuckoo food source right there, if I’m correctly informed. You’re doing your bit to look after those caterpillars and the rest of the wildlife right there.

    Best Wishes

    Tony Powell and naturestimeline


    • Hi Tony,

      Many thanks for the birthday wishes. You’re right – Cuckoos do enjoy a hairy caterpillar. As it happens i’ve seen and heard a good few Cuckoo at Glen Tanar this summer, which is great. I’ll be taking this caterpillar (Or moth I should say) back to the glen when it emerges next spring.
      All the Best

      Liked by 1 person

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