Sunrises, Swans and Snow

So, it’s “Black Friday”. I must admit, I watched with horror the news reports last year- frenzied masses, assaulting each other for some non-essential electrical goods. Why would you want to go anywhere near the shops when we can offer you a sunrise like this?

Sunrise Loch Davan

Sunrise Loch Davan

The trees form a striking alleyway against the pink clouds.

The sky through the trees this morning

The sky through the trees this morning

As the sun came up, you could see and hear the birds getting more active out on the loch. Stationary silhouettes come to life; heads untuck from under wings and there’s a sudden increase in whistling from the wigeon, prop-proop-proop-ing from the teal and quacking from the mallards.

Sleepy ducks in the sunrise

Sleepy ducks in the sunrise

And there were other voices on the loch this morning, too. A group of 12 whooper swans had been overnighting it and decided to get up for a quick wing-stretch. They only circled a couple of times before landing again.

Whoopers flighting off Loch Davan

Whoopers flighting off Loch Davan

We often have small gangs of whoopers on the lochs over the winter. The resident mutes don’t take kindly to the interlopers and sail over, in full threat display. But the poor whoopers are often so tired they just land and go to sleep, heads tucked under their wings. The mutes don’t seem to know how to handle the lack of attention- they’re supposed to be scared of us, dammit- and will often resort to duffing one another up to relieve some of their pent-up aggression.

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

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

Although I have a soft spot for whoopers, all our swans are lovely looking birds. They spend a lot of time preening, making sure their feathers are in tip-top, waterproof condition.

A male mute swan

A male mute swan

Preening swan

Preening swan

Gotta get those feathers nice and clean...

Gotta get those feathers nice and clean…

....really get in there!

….really get in there!

Well, they’re maybe not all quite so lovely. This summer’s cygnets are looking a bit piebald as they moult into their first white plumage. Remember this very cute photo from the spring? It could be one of these scruffy-looking adolescent swans.

Cygnet snuggling into mum for warmth

Back in the spring….

Big cygnets

…almost all grown-up now

Weather wise, it’s been a mixed week on the reserve. We’ve had sun, sleet, rain, snow, sub-zero temperatures and damp double -figure ones this week. The sunrises may have been spectacular, but we’ve had some stormy skies too.

A story sky over Loch Davan

A stormy sky over Loch Davan

Snow on Morven

Snow on Morven

The trees are almost all completely bare now.

Bare trees, Kinord

Bare trees, Kinord

Kinord reflections

Kinord reflections

Bare trees, grey skies....a very wintery- looking scene.

Bare trees, grey skies….a very wintery- looking scene.

It makes it easier to spot birds in the trees. But you’ll rarely spot the fieldfares before they spot you…then they’re off.

Fieldfare

Fieldfare

It’s shame they don’t hang around as they are really smart birds. Here’s one from earlier in the year, guarding a rowan tree from  redwings.

Fieldfare, tree guarding

Fieldfare, tree guarding

Lots of geese move over and around the reserve, especially morning and night as they decide where they’re going to feed or roost that day or night. Feed up by Logie Coldstone? Or down by Coull? Roost on the Dinnet Lochs? Auchlossan? Or in a flooded field? These can be life-or-death decisions for a goose!

Greylag geese

Greylag geese

Even now, as winter tightens its grip on the countryside, there are signs of spring on the fine days. The trees have next year’s catkins and, if you watch the ducks closely, some are getting into practice for next year. There has been an upswing in goldeneye numbers and some of the males seem to be holding territories. There has certainly been some head-down threat behaviour going on between males. But the best entertainment has been the juvenile males. Now they have got the odd flash of white in their plumage, they want to play with the big boys….but get seen off in short order. So they’re practicing “torpedoing” one another- a tried –and-tested goldeneye territory defence. Dive and surface under your opponents tummy with a peck- it’ll fairly put them off!

Male goldeneye displaying, Loch Kinord

Male goldeneye displaying, Loch Kinord

 

 

 

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