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