It feels like winter has arrived this week. It’s been cold and mostly clear….and no rain until Friday! That’s noteworthy at the moment- no rain for 6 days! The reserve is still pretty wet though, but a lot of the water has turned to ice. The ice is forming tidelines on trees and edges of the puddles so you can see that the water is dropping…honestly!
In places, I’d reckon the water had dropped about 18 inches horizontally and 6-8 inches vertically. Unfortunately, that’s not quite as good as it sounds , as quite a lot of that water will now be tied up in the ice. When that all melts, the water levels will rise again….although we’d hope not to their previously heights.
The Vat was full of icicles until the weather changed on Friday.
One of the black rabbits has obviously managed to survive the winter and the myxomatosis outbreak earlier in the year.
The paths around Loch Kinord is still impassable. The water is going, but with ice now covering the paths, it isn’t safe to walk on – the ice isn’t thick enough to support anyone’s weight and will break, dropping you into several inches of icy water. Not to mention how slippery it is….
But you can see that it’s dropping. This is the same waymarker a week apart.
We’ve had a slight dusting of snow this week. Everything is lightly frosted with a dusting of fine, icy snow. It gives people the chance to express their feelings in the snow!
The cold weather has produced some wonderful, transient, abstract art. The ice has been making some odd, almost Rennie Mackintosh-esque patterns on the paths. What we think has happened is that slowly-formed, large ice crystals have grown across the surface of puddles, but the entire surface of the puddle hasn’t frozen before the water has dropped. This has left the ice crystals suspended across the rut in the path with no water under them…which looks decidedly odd and like some sort of weird artwork.
The lochs are mostly frozen, but both still have small clear patches of open water. These are a magnet for the ducks and their movement in the water will help keep it open. The small area of water on Loch Davan was holding over 200 mallard, 180 teal, 80-plus wigeon and miscellaneous goldeneye, swan, coot and cormorants. The open water on Kinord couldn’t have been much larger than a decent-sized garden but still had 43 mallard, 17 goldeneye and 2 goosander on it.
The cold weather is hard for the ducks, but does provide some opportunities for other wildlife. Sometimes foxes will sneak out onto the ice to grab a roosting duck and something (although it could just have been the cold) had killed a mallard out on the ice. These carrion crows had landed on the ice and were taking advantage of a free duck dinner.
As most of the reserve was still frozen and/or under water, we helped out at Forvie NNR again this week. I’m always fascinated by the shapes and patterns that the weather makes in the sand dunes –maybe I’m a Philistine, but I will always prefer natural sculpture to any amount of marble Madonnas or sandstone sphinxes.
It was also nice to see some of the Forvie beach runners…sanderlings…and the oystercatchers have already lost their white winter collars.
And it was a real bonus to see a little group of snow buntings on the beach. These birds breed in the high Cairngorms but winter on our coasts. They are lovely little birds but we can’t assume they are Scottish birds- they could have come from Greenland or Scandinavia. So even if you can’t get out to Dinnet for the water and ice, Forvie is well worth a visit!