It’s been another busy week on the reserve; lots of visitors, lots of wildlife and the grass is growing like the blazes! Much as I hate to admit it, the paths are going to need cut soon, and then every three weeks thereafter until autumn. The wildflowers are loving the mild, damp weather though, and there is a spectacular display of germander speedwell at New Kinord.
The wildflowers aren’t the only thing growing. My old enemy, the bracken, is growing fast, and it won’t be long until the fronds unfurl and parts of the reserve disappear under a green forest of the stuff. It’s not the bracken’s fault, really, it’s just very, very good at what it does…but unfortunately, not a lot can grow under it when it’s out, it’s far too shady.
In places, where we have thinned the bracken, there is a much higher density of wildflowers, including this bugle. The butterflies and bees love this as a source of nectar, and you often see the cuddly-looking honey-coloured carder bees feeding on it.
There are still lots of fledglings appearing all over the place. There are heaps of young chaffinches, robins and wrens around at the moment. We spotted this big, fat chaffinch fledgy sitting in a tree, waiting for mum or dad to provide his next meal. He greeted their appearance with wheezy, excited squeaks which you felt sure must attract every predator for miles around. They had to stuff him full of grubs pretty quickly to shut him up!
Anyone with hay fever would have been in no doubt that the pines are shedding their pollen this week. The male flowers are often found low down on pine trees, where you can flick them and watch them release a little puff of pollen. However, when it’s windy, lots of pollen is released in one go and you can sometimes see it hanging over pine woods like yellow smoke. You can certainly see it on your car or on the edges of puddles.
Other highlights this week were running a moth trap with the Cairngorms Junior Rangers. By far the most spectacular capture was this small elephant hawkmoth….and no, no-one had photoshopped any of the colours! They really are that fantastic cerise colour.
One of our prettiest and most delicate-looking flowers also appeared this week. The chickweed wintergreen is probably most closely related to the primrose and is relatively common in this area. However, it has declined and is missing in much of England, and several of our half-term visitors from down south have asked “what’s the little star-shaped flower?” as it’s one they don’t see at home.
Still one big adder basking in the usual spots but look closely- the eyes are going milky. Readers of our blog will know that it’s a sign that it’s going to shed its skin fairly soon. Female shed their skins about a month later than the males but a snake that eats a lot can shed its skin up to five times a year- though twice to three times is far more common.
Even though we’re hardly into summer yet, already some signs of autumn are creeping in. A few fungi are popping up already as the growing conditions are good just now- mild and damp. You can also see that the gean trees are starting to form cherries, which will ripen through the summer and feed birds at the start of autumn. It’s one of the lovely things about watching the seasons, how quickly they turn…and learning to spot the first little signs of times to come!