Happy New Year!

Hello and a happy new year to everyone! Hope you have a happy and healthy 2015. If, like me, you’ve resolved to work off the turkey, beer, chocolate, nuts, beer, mince pies and beer you’ve consumed over the festive break, what better way to do it than with a walk on one of our great NNRs? We can offer you lovely sunrises like this one – if you wait ‘til about twenty past nine!

A late sunrise over the reserve

A late sunrise over the reserve

The weather has seen a mix of cold days and mild wet ones. This could be worse for the wildlife – it’s often prolonged periods of snow that are the real killers. There were patches of ice lingering in the bays of the lochs early in the week but these went quickly with the wet, windy weather. These mallards had to find somewhere else to hang out!

Mallards on the ice

Mallards on the ice

And where there is ice, it’s hard to resist chucking something onto it, to see how far it will bounce and slide. It’s not hard to see how curling was invented.

People can't resist throwing things onto the ice!

People can’t resist throwing things onto the ice!

Looking off the reserve towards the hills on Monday, it still seemed pretty stormy on the tops. I was glad to be well away the summit of Lochnagar at this point.

Looking west towards Lochnagar

Looking west towards Lochnagar

Although the power lines are often considered a blot on the landscape, the tree felling around them can open up nice views, like the one to Lochnagar, or this one looking north-east from the reserve.

Looking north- east towards Tarland

Looking north- east towards Tarland

With the windy weather, it has been difficult to spot wildlife in the woods. The “spotting” bit in our brains is triggered by movement – but it’s hard to see birds move when the entire wood is swaying around. Nor can you hear anything for the wind, so we were lucky to spot the treecreeper treecreeping its way up this rowan. If you watch these for any length of time, you’ll soon realise they only ever climb up  trees – if they want to get down, they fly.

A treecreeper

A treecreeper

Another good bird to see was a moorhen pottering around Loch Kinord. We don’t often see these as they spend most of their time in the reedbeds. Moorhen seems an odd name for them – you don’t tend to get them on moors – but is a corruption of “merehen”. “Water hen” is another common name for them and I saw a lovely road sign by a Suffolk pond last year “Slow you down. Baby water hens crossing”.

A moorhen- but waterhen suits them better

A moorhen- but waterhen suits them better

On the last blog, we posted a picture of the nation’s favourite bird, the robin. Well, to balance things up, here’s a contender for least favourite bird – the common or carrion crow. Like most corvids (crow family), they are hugely intelligent and adaptable, but their name conjures up grim images of when the used to feed on bodies after battles or gibbet corpses. Strangely, we didn’t seem to mind killing each other, but the poor old crow got a bad press for waste disposal! But we always reserve our deepest contempt for animals –crows, gulls, rats- that have done well off us humans over the years.

Carrion crow

Carrion crow

An animal you almost never see is the mole….but it’s impossible to ignore their molehills right now! You find yourself tripping over them everywhere at the moment. This is because the males are on the move, looking for females – and when moles move, they tunnel and make molehills with the excavated soil.

Making mountains out of molehills

Making mountains out of molehills

We’ve also seen the first sign of spring this week. The willow catkins are just starting to open – there’s a thin strip of furry catkin starting to show as the buds split. Won’t be long until the bird start displaying- we’ll keep you posted!

Willow catkins

Willow catkins

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