It’s been a bit of a mixed week on the reserve this week. One minute, it’s lovely sunshine, the next the snow showers are sweeping in from the hills. The lochs are still partly frozen and the bushes at their edges have ice “stalagmites” where water has dripped then frozen.
The ducks are all still concentrated in small areas of open water. With all the teal being frozen out of the reedbeds, we had a really high count of these this week. Usually I get about a dozen to twenty on a count but I know there are more in the reeds, because I can hear them. They’ve all been forced onto the open water and we had 141 teal this week. Teal are lovely little ducks but their small size makes then extra- edible, so they prefer lurking in cover.
And, yes, we did get them counted just before the weather arrived…the sky was inky black before the snow came on!
But it cleared really quickly- this is the same view 15 minutes later.
Fortunately, the weather eased off by the next day, which allowed us to carry out a little bit of controlled heather burning. It always seems a counter –intuitive thing to do for conservation – burning, is, on the face of it, a destructive thing to do. However, it is necessary to maintain our area of bearberry heath in good condition.
Burning knocks back any tree regeneration and strips off the long, dominant heather. This allows the light to get in and other plants, like bearberry and intermediate wintergreen, to thrive. We only burn small patches of heather and no more than once every 12-15 years.
It can be a nerve –wracking experience, once a burn gets going. However, we watch it carefully and have firebreak, beaters and a fire tender to control it. We need to make sure it’s properly out before we go home, so we hose down any smoky hot-spots.
We didn’t get much of a break in the weather though. It started gently, with the odd flake from what seemed like a clear sky…then it hit with a vengeance…all the snow in this picture fell in not much more than 10 minutes.
The cold weather will be hard for the small birds. We found this wren’s nest, right next to a path, which looks like it is being used. Obviously, it won’t be used to raise young right now but may be used by wrens to roost overnight – a nice, snug, mossy nest is probably a good option in minus temperatures. Wrens often roost communally, as several tiny feathery bodies are warmer than one.
The icy roads forced me away from the reserve at the end of the week- so here are some pictures from the wonderful Forvie NNR instead!