Out Like a Lion?

There’s and old saying about March, that if it comes in like a lamb, it’ll go out like a lion, meaning that if the weather was good at the start of the month, it’ll have broken by the end. This week’s been a wee bit like that….definitely colder and the first rain we’ve had for 16 days on Thursday. But most of the days have been bright and cold, and the spring wildlife is making the best of it.

We saw the first wood anemones of the spring this week. They were a couple of rather sad specimens; the rabbits had been burrowing nearby and had half buried them! But they are lovely little flowers and it won’t be long until the woods near New Kinord are carpeted in white flowers.

the first wood anemones of spring

the first wood anemones of spring

We spotted these as we were putting up some bird boxes prior to the migrant birds coming back. One of our volunteers is a bird ringer and she plans to monitor these nest boxes to see if birds use them, what species they are and how many young they raise. She’ll also ring the youngsters, as ringing data is one of the best ways of mapping bird movements. A great citizen science project.

Bird box

Bird box

The greylag geese have been making their presence felt on the reserve this week. The wintering flock is breaking up into pairs. Some of these will stay to breed here on the reserve but other will move higher into the hills, up the likes of Glen Gairn. The geese that are planning on staying are horrendously noisy and, if you walk by the loch just now, prepare to be sworn at in goose!. Some wild geese have lovely voices but not greylags – it’s a  hysterical hoarse honking cackle – and they shout at everything at this time of year….each other, visitors, dogs and (it seems) passing clouds. They’ll shut up when they’re actually on eggs- it doesn’t do to draw attention to yourself then- but will get really noisy again when they have young.

A pair of greylag geese

A pair of greylag geese

The goldeneye are still displaying to each other as well. They’d better get a move on though –  many of the females will be egg laying very soon. They’ll lay eggs over the period of about a fortnight until the clutch is complete, but won’t sit on them until then. After she starts incubating, the eggs won’t be able to be left for long or they’ll chill and die, but they can handle it before incubation starts.

A pair of goldeneye displaying on Loch Kinord

A pair of goldeneye displaying on Loch Kinord

We peered very closely at Loch Kinord this week, as sand martins have been spotted just a few miles away. At the time of writing this, we hadn’t seen any yet but they must be arriving very soon. We also saw our first bumblebee of the spring here this week, but it wouldn’t pose for a picture!

Loch Kinord

Loch Kinord – there will soon be sand martins hawking for insects over it.

The adders are becoming a regular feature of the blog. They’re still getting warmed up for the season but I’ve noticed a change come over them in the past few days. They seem shyer and more ready to hide, but looking at some close-up pictures reveals the possible reason. Can you see it? These are three different adders but can you see the one thing out of the ordinary on them all?

Adder one

Adder one

Adder two

Adder two

Adder three

Adder three

All of these snake have milky eyes – they look like an old dog with cataracts. That’s a sure sign that they’re pretty close to shedding their skins. When snakes shed their skin, they shed all of it, including a special ‘scale’ that covers the eye. Before shedding the eye fills with fluid (giving it that milky appearance) to help the skin come off. But the snakes can’t see so well at this time and may feel threatened- hence the shyness. I’ll be on the lookout for shed skin but I suspect they’ll all shed in the dyke, where it’s humid and there are nice rough stones to help rub the old skin off.

 

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