The melt continues! Almost all of the snow has gone now but the compacted ice is still hanging on in a few shady places. It’s hanging on in the lochs too – that much ice takes a while to melt.
There have been some cracking reflections in the melting ice. When there’s a thin sheet of water on top of the ice, it doesn’t get ruffled by the wind the way water normally does, and the reflections are pin-sharp. Sometimes, it’s hard to know which way up the picture should be!
The ice has offered an opportunity of an easy meal for some of the predators but has spelled trouble for the geese. They roost out on the lochs but foxes can creep out onto the ice at night and grab them. The only signs of these night raids is a sorry-looking pair of wings left on the shore.
The goldeneye are displaying furiously now there is some clear water and their ‘zip-zeeeow’ calls can be heard all round the loch. But it’s not all displaying, there needs to be some time out to have a bit of a preen…and, sometimes, all you need is a really good stretch!
It’s been so mild this week that the snow has gone really quickly. It’s stayed dry too, in spite of some spectacularly blue-black skies. I was just waiting to get soaked on Tuesday but somehow it never came on!
When the snow goes, it can be a bit depressing. Not just because everything looks a bit soggy and sorry, but because it exposes all the things people hide under it. If you’ve scraped snow over it, well, it can’t be seen and it’s okay now…isn’t it? I had to tie up and abandon the rubbish bag half way round the loch (for later collection) as the smell of dozens of bags of dog poo was making me feel ill, but I think the poo smell was trumped by decomposing rodent. Discarded bottles are a death trap -literally -for small mammals. They climb into the neck of the bottle then can’t get out and this one beer bottle accounted for at least 3 mice. Such a shame.
The rabbits have been hungry in the cold weather. They can do a lot of damage in hard winters as they resort to browsing on the bark of trees. Aspen and rowans seem to be the most likely victims of the bunnies, with even large trees being ring-barked to around 75cm above the ground.
We had a bit of surprise on Wednesday, when we nearly ran over a woodcock in the truck! Woodcock are beautifully camouflaged, shy, nocturnal bird and spend all day sitting on the ground, not doing a lot and just being as invisible as possible. They never move until the last minute (in case you hadn’t seen them and movement would give them away) and I’ve had I don’t know how many frights from nearly stepping on them over the years. But this is the first time I’ve ever encountered one while in a vehicle and, unusually, it just scuttled to the side of the track and stood there being as camouflaged as only a woodcock can. You can’t see me. You can’t. oh yes, we can!
We finished the week with a couple of days heather burning. Most heather burning is done to provide shoots for grouse but we burn small patches of the heather to maintain our internationally-important bearberry heath. Tall, leggy heather can shade out other plants, including bearberry, so burning off small areas of dense heather allows bearberry, cowberry, mountain everlasting, St Johns wort, wintergreens and bitter vetch to regenerate. It’s never a stress-free day and I’m always relieved when the fire is finally out!