December Greys

Well, whaddya know? It’s nearly Christmas and so far the autumn/ winter has been mild and pretty wet. Again. It was so grey and miserable one day we were just forced to put up the Christmas tree to cheer ourselves up. 

The tree's up!

The tree’s up!

Still, at least it’s not been nearly so bad here as down south. You feel so sorry for those folks flooded out of their homes. Here, you can see the extra water in the loch levels – these trees aren’t normally in the water. Wetlands like these play a hugely important but largely overlooked part in mitigating flooding. Yes, the loch may be on a path here but that’s no big deal- the water being stored here isn’t winding up in someone’s living room further downstream. 

the lochs are high just now

The lochs are high just now

And grey skies promise a bit more rain. 

Getting wet again

Getting wet again

Rain over Morven

Rain over Morven

At least the mild weather has meant some more of the path resurfacing has happened….the hardcore isn’t frozen into one large lump any more.

Newly resurfaced path

Newly resurfaced path

While out picking up litter, we were closely investigated by a pair of buzzards wheeling overhead. They were probably hoping we’d do something useful, like die, so they could eat us! Buzzards are great disposers of carrion and it wasn’t long before they decided we looked too healthy and turned their attention to a nearby dead rabbit. 

Turning and turning in a widening gyre...

Turning and turning in a widening gyre…

Spinning slowly in the sun

Spinning slowly in the sun

We’ve had fairly threatening-looking clouds most of the week. They make for some dramatic skies. 

Westerning sun over Kinord

Westerning sun over Kinord

Stormy sky

Stormy sky

A glimmer of sun is most welcome….it brings the colours to life. 

Aspens and birch in a glimmer of sun

Aspens and birch in a glimmer of sun

An unexpected patch of chanterelle provided an splash or orange colour. We didn’t expect to see these this late in the year, and assumed they were litter until we got close up. 

Unexpected chanterelles!

Unexpected chanterelles!

The wet hollows in the wood are full of Polytricum or star moss. It was used by our ancestors to make string and rope…some was found preserved underwater in the remains of a crannog on Loch Tay. It’s not hard to see why if you pull a wee bit up- it has massively long, tough and pliable stems.

Polytrichum or star moss

Polytrichum or star moss

My, what long roots you have....

My, what long stems you have….

....all the better for making string with!

….all the better for making string with!

Most of the reserve is now in its winter dress of grey and brown. But it’s the best time to appreciate the trees- you can really see their shapes and forms when they lose their leaves. 

The pale bark of the birches is striking against a grey sky

The pale bark of the birches is striking against a grey sky

Bare birches

Bare birches

Bare birch tree

Bare birch tree

The bare trees mean it is much easier to spot birds in the trees. The mixed tit flocks haven’t been all that confiding, up until now at least- it’s been fairly mild so they haven’t been as bold as they are when the conditions are really tough. But that may be changing- today was the first really good views I’ve had of a mixed flock this winter. 

Coal tit

Coal tit – lots in the woods, easier to photograph on the feeder!

 

Blue tit

Blue tit

It’s not just the tit flocks either- the cormorants on Castle Island are easy to see now, too.

Cormorant preening on Castle Island

Cormorant preening on Castle Island

Most surprising was being able to get some pictures of long-tailed tits. They are lovely little birds- but are constantly on the move, so you rarely get time to focus and snatch a shot. They have (as their name suggests) very long tails….their tail is usually even longer than their body! 

Long tailed tit

Long tailed tit

Long-tailed tit

Long-tailed tit

Long -tailed tit

Long -tailed tit

Even some normally shy bullfinches were semi-approachable. 

Three male bullfinches in birch tree

Three male bullfinches in birch tree

And….as it’s getting closer to Christmas….we’ll leave you with a “Christmas-y” picture. One of the reserve’s few holly trees is in full berry right now and looks gorgeous. She’s only a small tree but is weighed down with beautiful scarlet berries.

Holly with berries

Holly with berries

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