Spring….well, maybe…

A very varied week on the reserve this week. It stayed wet and the lochs are at a very high level, so much so that bits of the path are only passable in wellies. This meant more ditching but, in some ways, it’s exciting to see the changes the water brings. What fantastic wetlands we have right now! People say its good weather for ducks, but this week saw one of the lowest ever counts of mallard on the lochs. In fact, there are hardly any ‘dabbling ducks’ on the lochs right now, probably as the water is too deep for them. Dabbling ducks feed in shallow water (they’re the ones that up end, with their bums in the air) but the lochs are too deep for them to reach the bottom. They’re probably in wet fields just now.

In the woods, the birds are starting to sing on the odd fine day. The great tits are the most vocal right now, a repetitive “teacher, teacher, teacher” call, a bit like a squeaky bike pump. The wrens are also singing, short ,explosive bursts of song that are of a loudness out of all proportion to their size. They have a ‘machine gun’ rattling alarm call and it amuses me the way a bird about 3 inches long will pop up and rattle indignantly at  at you as you walk past! Wrens really have more character than their size can contain.

Wren

Wren

But there are still flocks of other birds in the woods that don’t appear to be thinking about breeding yet. These Bullfinches were concentrating on eating a few remaining dried up rowan berries.

A treeful of bullfinches

A treeful of bullfinches

Male bullfinch, eating dried- up rowan berries

Male bullfinch, eating dried- up rowan berries

We also played host to a group of budding young photographers this week. These teenagers were the winners of a local photography competition and their prize was a day’s workshop with professional SNH photographer Lorne Gill. Unfortunately, the weather gods did not smile on us and it was grey and damp all day – but that teaches you to look for subtle colours and patterns. It’s amazing the things you can see if you look really closely!

Photography competition winners at the Vat

Photography competition winners at the Vat

Water patterns on the wall of the Vat

Water patterns on the wall of the Vat

Friday was a lovely day. It was actually warm and that meant that one of our shyest residents was thinking about getting up and about after a long, wet winter.  Adders, like all snakes, are cold-blooded and spend all winter underground, but emerge in the early spring sunshine. This is the first adder of the year and it seemed to be enjoying basking on a south-facing bank. The sun must feel wonderful after a winter more-or-less asleep. After the winter we’ve had, I think humans and wildlife alike are equally gratefully for a bit of sun.

The first spring adder of 2014

The first spring adder of 2014

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