Cold December Days

As soon as December has arrived, it’s felt like winter. The temperature has finally dropped- it’s been minus 3 Centigrade overnight this week – and we’ve had a few cold, clear days. It’s been lovely to see the sun and the mornings are a great time to be out on the reserve- it is so quiet and the changing light is fantastic.

A hazy morning over Loch Kinord

A hazy morning over Loch Kinord

Low sun through the trees

Low sun through the trees

Sunrise over Old Kinord

Sunrise over Old Kinord

The cold mornings also mean a rimed and be-frosted world as the light comes up. All the leaves and twig have a coating of ice crystals which, looked at closely, are quite beautiful.

Frosy leaf

Frosty leaf

Frozen fronds - frosty bracken

Frozen fronds – frosty bracken

Frosty grass - tufted hair grass outside the office.

Frosty grass – tufted hair grass outside the office.

But the cold weather has meant that life has suddenly become a lot harder for the wildlife. In some ways, this is good for us humans – it makes things far easier to spot! Made bold by hunger, small birds will often allow you much nearer than normal and you can get some great views of normally flighty birds. This flock of redpoll didn’t seem in the least bit bothered by me standing at the bottom of their tree and watching them. They were feeding on birch seeds and there was a constant “rain” of debris floating gently out of the tree.

A treeful of redpolls

A treeful of redpoll

Redpoll

Redpoll

Some birds which always seem to be shy, no matter the weather, are bullfinches. I often hear these, or see them flying off, but rarely get the chance to observe them closely or for long. Not so on Tuesday, when I was sitting quietly doing a duck count, and a small flock these came to visit. Like most finches, they are seed eaters and spend most of their time in the trees hunting for foods. But when the weather gets colder, they have to forage a bit wider and you often see them dropping into the heather to feed on the seeds there. I didn’t want to move with the camera, so as not to startle them, but did manage to snatch this shot of a female bullfinch having a good feed on heather seeds.

Female bullfinch feeding on heather seeds

Female bullfinch feeding on heather seeds

One bird that always amazes me is the goldcrest. How these survive the winters, or, like some, manage to cross the North Sea, is beyond me. A healthy goldcrest, and bear in mind that’s a well-fed one, weighs about 6 -7 grams. That’s about the same as a 10p coin (if you’ve got one handy, have look at it and weigh it in your hand. Then imagine a bird that weight flying across the North Sea.) They really are tiny miracles of nature but have to forage constantly to find enough food to survive.

Goldcrest

Goldcrest

The cold weather has also meant that the peanut feeder is THE place to be for the local tits. Not even the presence of the other peanut lover, the red squirrel, puts them off for long.

They're MY peanuts!  A bold coal tit nips in to steal a few from under the squirrel's nose.

They’re MY peanuts! A bold coal tit nips in to steal a few from under the squirrel’s nose.

Although there isn’t any snow on the reserve yet, the tops of the higher hills around it are starting to become dusted with white. Morven, which overlooks the reserve, has had a white cap this week. Wonder if next week will actually bring snow to the reserve itself?

Snow on the tops - a white cap on Morven

Snow on the tops – a white cap on Morven

There have also been some lovely sunsets, with the light dropping quickly into the west. It’s a good time of year to see this- you can watch the sunset and still be home in time for tea, as the sun disappears over the hills about 15:20 here!

The last of the light over Loch kinord

The last of the light over Loch kinord

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