Seeing as it’s Burns Night at the weekend, let’s have him describing the weather this week…
“The wintry west extends his blast,
And hail and rain does blaw;
Or the stormy north sends driving forth
The blinding sleet and snaw”
…although we pinched this week’s title from another poem by Lonnie Hicks. The reserve office is in a fairly shady spot and some days, the temperature has managed to struggle up to a balmy -1oC. Not warm but the snow and ice has made the reserve look beautiful.
Both the lochs are frozen apart from tiny patches of open water. On Kinord, I’d estimate that the open water area is about the same as two cars parked nose to tail. This patch had 26 mallard, two mute swans and a goldeneye that would have to be awfully careful where it surfaced after diving. Diving ducks do drown in icy conditions if they lose track of where the holes in the ice are.
There was a little more open water on Loch Davan….but not much more. Into this tiny patch were crammed around 250 mallard, 50-odd teal, 40 wigeon, 2 swans and about a dozen goldeneye. It was impossible to count the ducks any more accurately because they were so tightly packed together.
The ducks aren’t the only ones being forced into odd behavior by the cold. Although it’s not best -suited for the job, this robin was so hungry it was willing to attempt hanging onto the feeder, rather than forage underneath. It was actually getting on pretty well!
The cold weather has decorated the Vat with wonderful, abstract ice sculptures…a true “icicle kiss”. Every rock and twig in the splash zone of the waterfall or stream has a thick coating of ice and everywhere water normally flows is covered with ice.
The snow, as always, reveals overnight visitors. There were a whole series of roe deer tracks along the paths one morning. Animals will often use “our” paths- they are, after all, the easiest way to travel through a wood – so they are a good place to look for tracks. This is a classic roe deer track, with a small, neat, cloven hoofprint. There are two hoofprints together as deer do something termed “indirect register” when walking. Most four- legged animals with all their legs roughly the same length walk like this and it involves placing a right- hind foot in the print made by the front- left foot and, on the other side, left-hind in front-right. Foxes and cats “direct register”, where the prints will fall directly on top of each other, while deer “indirect register” and produce two overlapping prints.
You can tell all sorts of things from a clear track, including if it’s a male or female deer. I’m not good enough to do that, but I can tell that this deer was running- the toes are widely spread and the dew claws are showing at the back.
Oh course, some signs are a lot easier to read. Here, you can tell someone with a sense of humour stopped to look at the view.
And they weren’t the only ones…here a squirrel has made use of one of the benches to shred a pine cone!
It’s definitely a lot milder today (Friday) so hopefully that will make things easier for the wildlife – and those of us who have to drive on icy roads!