Water, Water, Everywhere…

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!

Ice tidelines

Ice tidelines

Ice tidelines on a flooded bit of path

Ice tidelines on a flooded bit of path

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.

Ice at the edge of Loch Davan

Ice at the edge of Loch Davan

Frozen loch Kinord looking over to snowy hills

Frozen loch Kinord looking over to snowy hills

The Vat was full of icicles until the weather changed on Friday.

Ice in the Vat

Ice in the Vat

Ice in the Vat

Ice in the Vat

One of the black rabbits has obviously managed to survive the winter and the myxomatosis outbreak earlier in the year.

At least one of the black rabbits has survived this far!

At least one of the black rabbits has survived this far!

But he wasn't hanging about!

But he wasn’t hanging about!

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….

Loch Kinord path under water

Loch Kinord path under water

But you can see that it’s dropping. This is the same waymarker a week apart.

You don't need the waymarker to tell you it's flooded...

Waymarker last week

The water has gone down since last week- but now it's frozen!

The water has gone down since last week- but now it’s frozen!

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!

Snowy heather

Snowy heather

We love Dinnet too! Someone has drawn a snow heart on a boulder.

We love Dinnet too! Someone has drawn a snow heart on a boulder.

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.

No straight lines in nature?

No straight lines in nature?

Ice crystals do abstract art

Ice crystals do abstract art

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.

Over 400 ducks were crammed into a tiny patch of open water on Loch Davan

Over 400 ducks were crammed into a tiny patch of open water on Loch Davan

Ducks on the only unfrozen bit of Loch kinord

Ducks on the only unfrozen bit of Loch kinord

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.

Attempted murder? Some carrion crows have found a dead mallard on the ice

Attempted murder? Do five crows count?

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.

Forvie beach

Forvie beach

Looking out onto Forvie beach

Looking out onto Forvie beach

Sand dunes forming

Sand dunes forming

Sand ridges

Sand ridges

Sand dunes

Sand dunes

Forvie dunes

Forvie dunes

Sand dunes

Sand dunes

It was also nice to see some of the Forvie beach runners…sanderlings…and the oystercatchers have already lost their white winter collars.

Oystercatcher

Oystercatcher

Sanderling

Sanderling

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!

Snow bunting

Snow bunting

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