This week began at Forvie, not Dinnet, due to some essential maintenance of the loos. Rather than be toilet-less for a couple of days, we helped out with putting up the tern fencing at Forvie. This involves fencing predators out of the terns’ preferred nesting area on shingle near the mouth of the Ythan estuary. The terns will arrive back in about a fortnight, hopefully to find a nice, peaceful, fox-free place to nest. But some much smaller birds kept us company while we were fencing- we were shadowed by snow buntings all day.
These lovely little finches breed high in the mountains of Scotland but these may have come from even further north. They often winter in coastal areas and are easier to see here than climbing to the high tops …unless they’re after sandwich crumbs in the ski centre car parks!
The guys at Forvie do a great job with the fences. It’s a daunting prospect- all these piles of net and rope and poles need to be converted into a fence that will keep out the sly old fox. There are all sorts of things to consider- like cutting down the grass so it doesn’t short out the electric current- and laying matting so it doesn’t come back. But it’s been worth it with the tern numbers at their highest ever on the reserve.
It’s pretty harsh out on the dunes but the hardy nettles are growing already. And they sting already, as my knees will testify.
Back at Dinnet, it’s always amazing the changes you see in the reserve if you’re away for a week.. And in that time, spring fairly seems to have arrived, with birds singing and the early plants starting to grow (nettles again). This dunnock was in full voice from the top of “his” bush.
Although he is a rubbish singer compared to the dunnock, this yellowhammer knows that his yellow costume will have people coming into the visitor centre and saying “Could I have just seen a canary….?”
We also manage to catch up with the archaeology students working on the reserve. They’ve been gathering samples of organic matter, to try and carbon-date some of the earthworks and structures on the reserve. No luck in this trench but maybe in the next one…
Out on Black Moss, the tree felling has started on the bog. Trees dry out bogs and, to maintain a bog in really good condition, the trees have to go. Peatlands are hugely important as water and carbon stores, and this work will help preserve the bog for future generations.
Down on the lochs, it’s a hotbed of sex and violence. The goldeneye are displaying furiously, swimming low in the water, head stretching and even bending right over backward in an attempt to impress the ladies. They look utterly comical to our eyes but we’re not female goldeneye…maybe they like the ones with the bendiest necks?
And as for the violence…well, the coot is the bird for that. I’ve often though coot live life in a baseline state of grumpiness, and only get worse from there. When they’re holding a territory, they’ll take on all comers, including much bigger stuff like swans. But there’s nothing a coot likes better than a scrap with another coot. Firstly, both pairs will circle one another, heads down to show off their white face shields, and bums in the air to make themselves look bigger.
In some birds, this ritualised posturing can go on for ages. Not coot. Within a very short space of time, it’ll degenerate into a full-on fight. The males usually go for one another, while their wives have a private scrap on the side. And the losers better get out of there quickly- those beaks are sharp!