This week has been a mostly nice one to finish the school holidays with. On a fine day, the reserve is idyllic first thing in the morning- calm, cool and silent. But the mornings are fairly starting to feel autumnal- they are turning cool and dew is soaking the grass. The first hints of autumn are also showing in the trees- the tips of some of the branches have just started lose their green colour.
I must admit, I won’t be sorry to see the back of the holidays. There are days that (in common with most folk who work with the public) that we don’t like people very much. Which is a shame, because 99% of folk we speak to are lovely, really nice people. However, we had a group who badly littered the reserve last weekend- they were clearly partying and stupidity and alcohol is a bad combination. They left two fires (one of which was still smouldering the next day), five black bags worth of rubbish (mostly broken or empty drink bottles), six arm-thick live trees hacked down, about 15 yards of soiled toilet roll, three carrier bags of undrunk alcohol and a box of straws scattered up 100 yards of path. After spending a few hours clearing that up, we were definitely feeling misanthropic!
Thanks goodness for the wildlife to cheer us up! Paul has been getting some fantastic close-up pictures of plants, mosses, liverworts and insects. Here are some for you to enjoy!
The most obvious insects around just now are the Scotch argus butterflies. These are the small, dark butterflies that get up out of the side of the path almost anywhere you walk on the reserve just now. They emerged about a fortnight ago and are at their height right now.
Keep your eyes peeled for speckled wood butterflies on the reserve too. They are becoming far more common in this area- possibly a sign of climate change.
Down on the bogs, on a sunny day, you are likely to see dragonflies. The smallest of our dragonflies, the black darter, is also the commonest. But be wary- just because they’re called “black darters”, it’ doesn’t mean they are necessarily black- the females are a lovely golden colour.
The common blue and emerald damselflies are also still plentiful. Seen up close, they are the most vivid blue and green colours.
One of our larger dragonflies is the common hawker. They rarely sit still but we managed to get a couple of pictures this week. The female is ovipositing (egg laying) in the ditch at Parkin’s Moss. Dragonflies lay their eggs underwater, where the hatch into voracious predatory larvae, which can live for a few years underwater….but once they hatch into adults, they only live for around six months at most.
This time of year can have an odd mix of new life and autumn signs. There are still fairly young birds down on the lochs. The moorhens were teaching their youngster to “lily trot”- to walk across the wide water-lily leaves- but it kept falling in!
And new flowers are still coming out. The heather is just about a week off being in full bloom, and the lovely devil’s bit scabious are easily spotted by the sides of paths. It’s also almost the last chance to see the water lilies on Loch Kinord- they’ll soon be finished flowering.
However, in the woods, most of the birds have given up on breeding and have formed into mixed flocks for protection. These will often consist of great, blue, coal and long-tailed tit, chaffinch, treecreeper, goldcrest, willow warbler (before they depart to Africa), wren and even woodpeckers. Most of these birds are looking pretty scruffy by now- the hard summer has taken its toll of their plumage. The coal tit was at least trying to keep its feathers in order! They are all frantically stocking up on food already, trying to fatten up for winter.
The wild cherry crop has been a real bonus for the local birds- the tree outside the office has been full of thrushes, blackbirds, blackcaps , jays and bullfinches all enjoying the ripe cherries.
It’s been easier to spot the adders recently. The colder mornings mean they are taking longer to get going first thing and need a bit of basking time to warm them up. Sounds like an ideal start to the day to me….lounge in the sun for a couple of hours!