Sun, Snow and Storms

So, how are you getting on during this week of newsworthy weather? Variably, I suspect…some places will be under several inches of snow, while others will be wondering what all the fuss is about. We’ve had some snow here, and the winds have been pretty wild, but it could have been a lot worse.

Looking out towards Morven in the snow

Looking out towards Morven in the snow

While Morven looks very peaceful in the sunrise, the winds were whipping snow shower after shower down the valley. You could see them coming, you knew you were about to get wet….but there’s not a thing you can do about it!

The snow showers keep sweeing down the valley

The snow showers keep sweeping down the valley

And the snow was pretty thick at times – this is the viewpoint on Monday afternoon.

There's a view out there....somewhere...

There’s a view out there….somewhere…

In between the showers, it’s been relatively pleasant. The hazel catkins are starting to form on the trees- an early sign of spring.

Hazel catkins

Hazel catkins

The rest of the trees will be grey and bare for a few months yet. However, with no leaves on them, you can really see the shape and form of the trees. I always enjoy seeing the contrast between the gnarly birches, and the tall, straight aspens.

Gnarly birch and elegant aspen

Gnarly birch and elegant aspen

The weather has been making a bit of work for us. There were a couple of trees down – it had to happen in the winds, really- so they needed clearing up.

Before...

Before…

...and after.

…and after.

Fallen trees weren’t all that needed cleared up. Here is one of my pet hates, abandoned fishing line. It’s horrible stuff, it tangles up wildlife and cuts right into the flesh of anything unfortunate enough to get tangled. And it’s nigh on invisible – so this piece, strung between two trees, was a hazard to people as well. In the second photo, it’s on the lowest right-pointing branch of the tree in the foreground….but can you see it?

Now you see it...

Now you see it…

....now you don't.

….now you don’t.

We also make a point of removing any trees that have died and are very close to the paths. Dead trees don’t tend to fall over in one go- usually, the crown snaps out a few metres at a time. And, given that 4 or 5 metres of tree landing on your head from ten metres up would fairly spoil your walk in the country, we take them down before they have a chance to do this. Here’s one being sized up for the chop….thanks Daryl, for your chainsaw skills!

Sizing up a dead tree for felling

Sizing up a dead tree for felling

In the cold weather, the birds have been really hungry. Daryl went to fill up the peanut feeder and was suddenly the most popular guy for miles around. This cheeky coal tit didn’t even with for the feeder to be filled- it perched on the edge of the cup and pinched a peanut!

Who's your friend?

Who’s your friend?

And the squirrel couldn’t wait for him to push off so it could tuck in too. You can just see it peeping out of the woodshed. Yes, it is only about 3 feet from Daryl.

Spot the squirrel?

Spot the squirrel?

We’ve also been lucky enough to help out with another wildfowl and wader count at Forvie. This is done at low tide when the birds are feeding on the lovely expanses of mud in the Ythan estuary. Not every species is counted every time- there isn’t enough time – but this time we had 504 teal (very high numbers; probably frozen off inland waters), 410 curlew, 143 shelduck , 451 wigeon, 188 mallard, 131 knot and 367 dunlin, as well as small numbers of pintail, bar-tailed godwit, sanderling and goldeneye. Counting these can be a challenge, especially with birds like curlew that often blend right into the background.

Curlew, blending into it's background

Spot the curlew

Ythan estuary

Ythan estuary

Mud, mud glorious mud...nothing quite like it for giving us grub...

Mud, mud glorious mud…nothing quite like it for giving us grub…

The mud also reveals other visitors. This is an otter track. You can see where he was walking at first, with the footprints either side of the line where the tail has dragged. Then, half- way out, he’s flopped onto his belly and ‘mud-slid’ the rest of the way, pushing himself along on his tummy.

Otter track in mud

Otter track in mud

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