Spring is springing even more on the reserve. We can hardly keep up with the season – the leaves are coming out, the wild flowers are in full bloom and migrant birds are arriving from Africa all the time. The primroses on the Vat trail are turning a sunny bank yellow with a lovely display of flowers. Rather more unwelcome are the first fronds of bracken uncurling after the winter!
The first wood sorrel have opened, too. At first glance, these look like the commoner wood anemones but are easily identified by their three- lobed clover-like leaf and more drooping head.
Mind you, wood anemones can droop, too. They seem to go to sleep overnight, closing their petals and nodding their heads, but a few hours of sunshine soon wakes them up.
The trees are all coming into leaf too. The birch are bursting and it won’t be long until the woods are green again, rather than their winter brown.
Some trees and shrubs put on blossom before their leaves. The blackthorn, or sloe, bushes are in flower just now. Confusingly, they are sometimes called “whitethorn” as well, because of their blossom!
A cousin of the sloe, the wild cherry or gean trees, are also coming into flower. On a hot, still day you can fairly smell the blossom.
And we’ve had a lot of hot, still days. The lochs are flat calm and everything is dust -dry. There is still a high fire risk across much of the east of Scotland.
I don’t think this toad was liking the heat much. He’d retreated into this rabbit scrape for some shade.
The heat has made the adders harder to spot. They don’t need to bask to warm up and are moving around with incredible speed and grace. We were lucky to snatch a shot of these two fine-looking males hunting in the grass.
Migrant birds are continuing to arrive from Africa. The latest arrivals this week have been redstart and common sandpiper. Even if you don’t see them, you usually hear both of these species from the north shore of Loch Kinord. The common sandpiper, for such a tiny bird, has a surprisingly loud voice and one of their nicknames “willywicket” come from this call. You also hear them called “summer snipe” occasionally, probably because they are often found in similar habitats to snipe- but only in summer!
Another migrant to arrive is the wheatear. We see these almost annually on passage migration (ie passing through, not staying to breed) but this one was singing. He was probably just practicing for when he gets up into the hills, but he was attracting a lot of attention from some of the local birds…who didn’t seem to know quite what to make of him! They have a white rump when they fly and their name “wheatear” is a corruption of “white rear”. Their original name was “white arse” but there is a (probably apocryphal story) locally about Queen Victoria, pointing to one of these and asking “what’s that bird?” To which the reply was “oh, that’s a white ar…um…a white…emmm…a white REAR! Yes, that’s what it is …a white rear!” And so “wheatear” came about.
Meanwhile, arrived migrants and local bird are setting up territories and nesting. The meadow and tree pipits are all displaying furiously. It’s a good job their songs are vastly different as they’re not easy to tell apart!
While watching meadow pipit, I nearly trod on this fine fellow. He’s a tiger beetle and is as fierce as a tiger if you’re an ant…that’s their main food.
This coal tit must be in the process of nest building. He or she seemed determined to collect a ball of fluff as big as he was…goodness knows how it could see where it was flying!
Some of the other residents have got a lot further than nest building. We had our first babies of the year on Thursday this week- a newly-hatched brood of mallard ducklings! It’s always a real landmark in the year, the first young animals, so keep your eyes peeled if you come and visit us this weekend.