Bogs and Bare Trees

It’s been a busy week on the reserve. Folk often think our winter months are quieter…I wish! They are quieter for visitors, that’s true, but it’s our time to catch up on all the jobs we can’t do in the summer, either because it’s too busy or we’d be disturbing breeding birds. First up was Parkin’s Moss.

Colourful sphagnums on Parkin's Moss

Colourful sphagnums on Parkin’s Moss

This area of bog was drying out and has a couple of big ditches through it. These were dammed back in 1997 but some of the dams have done their job so well they are bulging under the weight of water and need supported or replaced. So (and with thanks to Simon Duncan and Daryl) we have tidied these up a fair bit and more water is being held up in the bog. This will favour species like sphagnum mosses, which will gradually form peat over the years and help capture carbon- which, with rising global temperatures, can only be a good thing.

Damming materials- plastic piling

Damming materials- plastic piling

A giant rubber mallet is the tool for knocking in the plastic piling

A giant rubber mallet is the tool for knocking in the plastic piling

The plastic piling going in

The plastic piling going in

Reinforced dam

Reinforced dam

Duncan has also been doing a sterling job in removing old fences from the NNR. These can be a menace, once their usefulness is over- the wire can catch and kill wildlife, especially deer or owls. So we’ve been removing these bit by bit. Its hard work- the fences were built to last—and barbed wire is deeply unpleasant stuff to handle. You need very thick leather gloves, ideally thick clothing, safety glasses and an up-to-date tetanus injection…because, no matter what you do, you’ll get pranged! Even the rolled up wire is dangerous- given half a chance, it’ll uncoil and come after you like some sort of evil killer slinky!

Wire removed by volunteers

Wire removed by volunteers

Out on the reserve, the trees are looking a lot barer- and that’s before Abigail came to visit! There are still a few yellow trees out there but the reserve in increasingly becoming the brown, grey and green colours that are its winter dress.

Autumn leaves in the rain

Autumn leaves in the rain

One of the last golden birches

One of the last golden birches

Going brown for the winter

Going brown for the winter

....just the odd tree among the care ones.

….just the odd tree among the bare ones.

The aspens are bare now

The aspens are bare now

But you see the odd bizarre thing like a still-flowering foxglove, which was popular with any late-flying insects.

Late flowering foxglove

Late flowering foxglove

Mind you, as the leaves come off the trees, the wildlife gets easier to spot. There were a flock of 7 lovely bullfinches feeding on the heather seeds and they were really obvious when they flew up into the bare birch trees.

Bullfinch feeding on heather seed

Bullfinch feeding on heather seed

Male bullfinch

Male bullfinch

And birds like this great tit are usually really easy to see- largely because the scold at you when you walk past and you realise they’re there. If they kept quiet, you’d often not see them.

Great tit

Great tit

The winter thrushes have been easier to spot too. But they are wild and wary- as soon as you spot them, they’re off. These fieldfares didn’t like to the look of me- and I was a few hundred yards away!

Fieldfares are very shy- they took off before I'd even got the camera focussed.

Fieldfares are very shy- they took off before I’d even got the camera focussed.

Bailing out of the tree

Bailing out of the tree

Down on the lochs, we had a brief visit from some whooper swans, passing through on their way south. But they were sleepy and had their heads under their wings- which makes them hard to tell from the local mute swans. Can you spot which are which?

Swan ID challenge...

Swan ID challenge…

The great white egret is still about. But it’s taken to lurking deep in the reeds- and once again, I marvel at how quickly a 5-foot tall, pure white bird can vanish!

The great white egret- honestly!

The great white egret- honestly!

We also had some seed collectors on the reserve from Kew Gardens this week. They are collecting seed from all over the UK as part of the UK National Tree Seed Project. This seed will be used for research into important issues like disease resistance and some will be stored against horrible eventualities like a species going extinct.

Birch seed

Birch seed

We also had our reserves get-together at Caerlaverock this week. This is the one opportunity in the year for all the SNH reserve staff to get together and discuss issues which affect our management of the reserve. These are invaluable to staff as we get to hear about how things are done in other areas, pinch ideas from each other and talk over common issues (we also benefit the local economy in the evening by the consumption of alcohol). I hadn’t been to Caerlaverock for years and had forgotten what a wildlife spectacle it is. The NNR there is huge- about eight times larger than Dinnet- and provides wintering grounds for enormous numbers of wildfowl and wading birds. The SNH NNR and the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust reserve border each other, providing a large protected area for birds and the WWT centre provides close –up viewing of waterfowl during their swan feed. So we’ll leave you with some pictures of Caerlaverock- I’d recommend visiting if you are down Dumfries way.

Caerlaverock

WWT centre, Caerlaverock

Green- winged teal- Chuck!

Green- winged teal- the one with the vertical white streak- nicknamed Chuck by the local birders!

Barnacle geese

Barnacle geese

Swan lake

Swan lake

Super whooper!

Super whooper!

Barnies flighting pst the sunset

Barnies flighting past the sunset

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