Spring, Showers, Snakes and Sunshine

 

It’s really starting to feel like spring on the reserve. It always does when the first flowers burst into bloom. We saw our first primroses this week, on a sunny slope just off the Vat trail.

Primrose. The "prima rosa" the first "rose" of spring.

Primrose. The “prima rosa” the first “rose” of spring.

They weren’t the only flowers coming out. The first celandine appeared this week too. It won’t be long until the woods at New Kinord are yellow with these.

The first celandine of spring

The first celandine of spring

The daffodils are also coming into bloom. Although not native to Scotland, I find them a slightly poignant reminder of the people who used to live and work here long before anyone had ever heard of “nature reserves”. Planted by people long-dead to brighten their gardens, they tend to grow around the ruins of buildings scattered across the reserve. There is something both sad and comforting in their cheerful resilience to the changes that have swept away much of rural population over the years.

Daffodils near Bogingore

Daffodils near Bogingore

The sap is rising elsewhere too. This birch tree fell over last winter and we tidied up. But it doesn’t know it’s dead yet and the stump is soaking with newly-risen sap.

The sap is rising

The sap is rising

We haven’t had the first migrant birds back yet, although we’re expecting the sand martins any day now. The only migrants we saw this week were birds which wintered here but are now northbound for the summer. A flock of six whooper swans dropped onto Loch Davan for a break on their way back to Iceland.

After landing, the whoopers always seem to have a stretch and a flap.

After landing, the whoopers always seem to have a stretch and a flap.

Mind you, it took them a couple of goes to get a wee bit of peace and quiet. The two pairs of resident mute swans took grave exception to these visitors and the whoopers were chased from one end of the loch to another until they wound up in a neutral patch of water.

One of the resident mute swan, in full display mode.

One of the resident mute swan, in full display mode.

Get out of here! The resident mute swan (far left) chases off the whoopers.

Get out of here! The mute swan (far left) chases off the whoopers.

 

Take off! The whoopers need to run across the loch surface to get up speed to get airborne.

Take off! The whoopers need to run across the loch surface to get up speed to get airborne.

Winter visitors heading north- whooper swans

Peace and quiet at last – neutral territory.

The work on Black Moss is nearly complete. Although tree felling can look very extreme in the short-term, in the long-term it’s vital to ensure the peatland doesn’t dry out.

Felled trees at Black Moss

Felled trees at Black Moss

These sphagnum mosses absorb and hold rainwater in the bog.  They can be a surprising variety of colours at this time of year. When they die, their partially rotted remains make up the bulk of the peat.

Colourful sphagnum moss and lichens

Colourful sphagnum moss and lichens

And, although spring is coming, they’ve had plenty of rainwater to absorb! It’s been a week of sun, showers, rainbows and puddles.

The reserve is the gold at the end of the rainbow!

The reserve is the gold at the end of the rainbow!

Once the showers have soaked everything,  the raindrops glisten like jewels in the sun

Once the showers have soaked everything, the raindrops glisten like jewels in the sun

The adders have been dodging the showers as well. There were nine basking at one point this week, but at least five of those were last year’s babies, which have made it through the winter. You can see how small one of the females is by the nest of lichen she’s basking in.

Baby female adder. The brown leaf by her head is no more than an inch long.

Baby female adder. The brown leaf by her head is no more than an inch long.

Three of last year's baby adders.

Three of last year’s baby adders.

The adult females are also starting to emerge, including this slightly greenish one we recognised from last year.

Greenish female adder- the first adult female of the year to emerge.

Greenish female adder- the first adult female of the year to emerge.

The sun has also made at least one of the local lizards feel brave…or stupid…or invulnerable. It seemed determined to run almost over one of the adders…and lizards are one of their favourite foods. Maybe it had read that adders aren’t supposed to eat before shedding their skins…but I’m not convinced the adders have read that… and I wouldn’t have chanced it!

Mission Impossible lizard!

Mission Impossible lizard!

The daredevil lizard, sneaking up on the adder.

The daredevil lizard, sneaking up on the adder.

Made it past- just. It ran from the pink rock on the left right in front of the adder.

Made it past- just. It ran from the pink rock on the left right in front of the adder.

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