New Life on the Reserve

We’re already seeing new life on the reserve. Several bird species, like the ducks and geese, mistle thrushes and lapwing already have young. Some of these have quite a high “awww” factor- they are very cute and fluffy when they hatch. But nature is no respecter of cute, and they need their protective parents to stop them becoming lunch for something else. The greylag geese are very protective and noisy parents, and they all join in to protect the youngsters. Mum is probably the goose nearest the brood but several others are giving them safe escort across the loch.

A brood of goslings, with their protective escort

A brood of goslings, with their protective escort

And the birds and animals will have to look out for predators. We spotted this heron hunting in the field, probably for frogs….but it wouldn’t say no to a duckling if it found a brood.

Flying heron, hunting for frogs in the field

Flying heron, hunting for frogs in the field

A very young duckling, like this fairly newly-hatched brood would make a nice beakfull for a heron!

Female mallard and chicks.

Female mallard and chicks.

The whole reserve is looking beautifully green just now. Almost all of the trees are now in leaf except for the aspen, oak and ash. These three species are usually last to come out and there’s an old saying “Oak before ash, in for a splash, ash before oak, in for a soak”,   meaning more or less rain depending on which tree comes out first. Can’t say I’ve noticed if there’s any truth in it though! But the one thing I wish I could put in the blog is the smell of a birch wood in springtime. It’s a sweet, rich, green, growing smell, that makes you breathe deeply and enjoy every scent-leaden breath. The trees look beautiful too, glowing with new green leaves.

The reserve has turned green! The view from the viewpoint in spring.

The reserve has turned green! The view from the viewpoint in spring.

The migrant birds are pretty much all back now. The end of last week marked the return of the cuckoo, the one bird everyone can identify by call! Another noisy summer visitor is the common sandpiper. These unassuming wee waders are very easy to overlook until they start calling and they can kick up a surprising racket for such a small bird. Old names for them are summer snipe or willy-wicket, after their call.

Common sandpiper

Common sandpiper, on the shores of Loch Kinord

More spring flowers have also come out this week. There are patches of glowing yellow marsh marigolds or kingcups, around the loch. They usually come out around Easter time and, in the past, were taken into churches as decoration. The name “marigold” comes from “Mary’s Gold” as they were often placed by statures of the Virgin Mary. Out in the wild, you’ll find them in wet places, often even growing out of the water.

Marsh marigolds, growing at the edge of Loch Kinord

Marsh marigolds, growing at the edge of Loch Kinord

Marsh marigold

Marsh marigold

The adders continue to get harder to find and I wonder how much longer we’ll be seeing them for. There were a couple basking after a wet morning but they’ve been scarce this week….and the ones that are there have been very hard to spot. Can you see them in this picture?

Can you spot them?

Can you spot them?

You can just see one of them, lying horizontally. Find the squint fencepost in the middle and look below it, beside the white-ish dead gorse sticks. There’s actually two snakes there but you’d never know from the picture, so here they are closer to.

....and in close up - two adders

….and in close up – two adders

We also had a lovely view of a treecreeper this week. These are rather odd, small brown birds, that hunt for insects on tree bark. They only ever work their way up a tree, and, if they want to go down, fly to the bottom of a neighbouring tree …then work up again! It’s to do with the shape of their feet, they have 3 toes pointing forward and one back, so it’s easier to go up and up.  However, woodpeckers are what’s called “zygodactyl”, meaning they have two toes pointing forward and two pointing back – which means they can go up or down a tree trunk. Thanks for Rachel from Forvie for this and the mallard pictures.

Treecreeper with insect

Treecreeper with insect

So why not head out this weekend and see if you can spot some new life in the countryside? Or, failing that, breathe deep and enjoy the scent of fresh birch trees in spring!

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