Snow and Signs of Spring

“That’s not Dinnet!” I hear you cry. No, it’s not, but I was turned back by icy roads on Monday and wound up working out of Forvie for the day. Still, I caught this lovely moonset over the Ythan estuary. 

Moonset over the Ythan Estuary

Moonset over the Ythan Estuary

 Later on, it was lovely to see the tree sparrows on the Fovie feeder. A real change from my coal tits, although they argued just as much.

Tree sparrows

Tree sparrows

Tree sparrow scap

Tree sparrow scrap

Also caught up with a more unusual visitor to the estuary. This American wigeon has been hanging around with the local wigeon for quite a while now. He’s on the wrong side of the Atlantic, so he’s teamed up with the birds that look most like he does. They were grazing on the saltmarsh near Waterside car park….until a buzzard caused mass panic and they all headed onto the river. 

Spot the odd one out? American wigeon from Waterside

Spot the odd one out? American wigeon from Waterside

Buzzard, on the lookout for a meal

Buzzard, on the lookout for a meal

We're outta here! The wigeon made a dive for the safety of the river.

We’re outta here! The wigeon made a dive for the safety of the river.

After the weather, and the roads, settled down a bit, we did make it back to Dinnet. The snow was revealing a few overnight visitors….would you know these tracks if you saw them? 

Rabbit

Rabbit

Dog prints

Dog prints

Squirrel prints

Squirrel prints

Roe deer print

Roe deer print

It also looks like we’ve had giant and extremely neat moles along the Vat trail. These are actually piles of path surfacing, waiting to be spread out and compacted….but the weather has scuppered this and the piles are now frozen hard. Watch out for these if you come and visit us- we’ll get them sorted out as soon as possible. 

Giant moles? no, it's pathwork on the Vat trail

Giant moles? no, it’s pathwork on the Vat trail

The snow is starting to melt but the lochs are still partly frozen and, once again, all the ducks are concentrated on the growing patches of open water. Actually, the ducks seem to like hanging out on the ice at the edges of the water. You’d think their feet would freeze but ducks have a heat exchange system with the blood vessels in their feet. Warm blood coming from the heart is cooled by exchanging heat with blood vessels returning cold blood to the heart. This means ducks’ feet don’t freeze, nor do they get hypothermia when cold blood goes back into their bodies.  

Chilling out on the ice.

Chilling out on the ice.

Take off!

Take off!

You can see how tiny the teal are when they are standing next to the mallards.

Small, medium and large. Teal, wigeon and mallard, Loch Davan.

Small, medium and large. Teal, wigeon and mallard, Loch Davan.

Mind you, it’s still a bit too icy for this heron. The lochs are still frozen at the edges- so he’s not getting much fishing done.

Heron sulking up a tree because the lochs are frozen

Heron sulking up a tree because the lochs are frozen

The snow had also melted enough for us to measure up one of the Parkin’s Moss dams for a bit of maintenance. The dam is bulging- it’s holding too much water for it to support- and needs reinforcing. The next stage will to be to get some wood to build a support. 

Parkin's Moss dam

Parkin’s Moss dam

By Friday, there were some periods of quite warm sun. And, in among the snow, are the early signs of spring. The snowdrops are up and out – but a bit later than on the coast. I saw these out at Forvie in mid -January- but it’s a lot colder here inland. 

Snowdrops in the snow.

Snowdrops in the snow.

Snowdrops near New Kinord

Snowdrops near New Kinord

The celandines have also put out a few leave in preparation for the warmer weather. 

Celandine leaves

Celandine leaves

We also had a brief visit from my favourite birds, whooper swans. A lucky thirteen of these dropped onto Loch Kinord on Thursday night. Although these are winter visitors, their presence here at this time of year is also a sign of spring. These are probably birds just starting to move back north. They will gradually work their way up Britain and “jump off” for Iceland from the far north in a couple of months’ time.

P1010424

Whoopers on Loch Kinord

Whoopers on Loch Kinord

P1010422So keep your eyes peeled for the first signs of spring if you’re out this weekend…it’s coming!

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