What a fantastic week it’s been. Blue skies , warm days, and cool nights… the frost light has come on most mornings this week but has been a laughable memory by mid-morning. It’s one of the most beautiful times of the year, with all the flowers still out and the trees in their fresh green finery- they won’t look this good again til autumn! We’ve been busy with visitors and I’ve been asked several times this week about “this flower, looks like a wood anemone, but it’s pink”. Well, it’s a wood anemone too…they come in a range of colours, from ice-white to a quite deep purple…and various shades of pink in between. It’s just down to minor genetic variations in the plants.
Some of our visitors were a student group from the SRUC. They visit us annually to look at different types of management on the reserve. We take them to Parkin’s Moss and talk about ditch damming and the great things it does for peat bogs, from promoting carbon capture to creating new habitats for wildlife. Of course, as soon as you say how good the wildlife is in an area, that’s usually a cue to see…nothing. Zip. Zero. A big fat wildlife desert. But not this week- we had deer, and cuckoo, and the dragonflies and damselflies were extremely obliging. You can see why this dragonfly is called a four-spotted chaser…his four wing spots are obvious in the picture. We even proved the point about the dammed ditches being good for wildlife by seeing loads of tadpoles swimming around!
We also go up onto the heath and Gus, who’s blogs you may have read from Loch Leven, soon spotted this lesser twayblade lurking in the heather.
As the spring moves on, different plants come into flower. this bird cherry is at it’s best just now…but the grey aspen in the background haven’t even put on leaves yet.
The forget-me-nots are in flower too. They are blue when they’re freshly out but can fade to a pale pink colour later on. Another plant that seems to like confusing us!
The lapwing chicks are growing fast. They need to…when you’re that little, you’re on everything’s menu. They are already starting to lose the cute fluffball look and develop the slightly gawky, lanky look that all adolescent waders seem to have.
While setting up a camera trap (we’ll let you see anything good we capture on it) Karen was lucky enough to have a close encounter of the crossed-bill kind. A pair of crossbills (or crossies, to some birders) were drinking at a puddle on the path, then proceeded to hop around really close to, in a pine tree, apparently curious as to what Karen was. She got some lovely photos and you can really see the crossed bill on this male.
One of the odd things about crossbills is that they can be “lefties” or “righties”. Just like us with our hands, they will prefer to use one foot in preference to the other when pinning down a pine cone…and they rarely swap, just as we wouldn’t when writing. Their bills can also be “lefties” or “righties” with the upper part of the beak either crossing to the left or the right of the lower part of the beak. The male here is a “rightie” but his female is a “leftie”. Scientists don’t really know why this happens (and have expended a great many words saying so) …but it doesn’t seem to give the birds an advantage or disadvantage either way…so you get leftie and rightie crossbills.
Even if you aren’t lucky enough to get a stonking view of something like these crossbills, you often know wildlife is there by its track. So here’s a puzzle for you…who’s toes are these? I know what I think….they’re right beside the burn and have 5 toes…who might leave a track like this? answer in next week’s blog.
And finally…if you go down to the woods today…help us make sure there are some woods tomorrow please? Much of Scotland is covered by a high fire risk warning right now…we haven’t had much rain for weeks and a lot of the vegetation is very dry. So, wherever you are…please don’t light any fires, leave disposable BBQs in the grass and make sure any cigarette ends are out too. You may think it’s ok, but fire is fickle stuff and the weather even more so…and one gust could whip something hot onto a dry bit of ground and, whoosh! half the hillside’s up in flames. Besides, it’s glorious weather- enjoy the heat of the sun – and make sure that’s as hot as it gets.