Spring or Snow?

It’s the time of year where you start to feel spring hovering in the background. More of the birds have started singing- we’re up to at least three singing mistle thrushes now, plus singing chaffinch, blackbird, robin, great tit and coal tit. We’ve also seen a frog but no frogspawn yet. But the weather is still mixed- we’re getting cold, often snowy nights followed by either rain surprisingly warm sun….or all of the above in one day. Looking across to Morven, you can see the snow lingering in the background- and it’s been down to the loch sides some days. You can see the birches in the picture starting to go that lovely purple-brown colour they get in the spring as the sap starts to rise. 

Looking across the reserve toward Morven

Looking across the reserve toward Morven

Loch Kinord

Loch Kinord

 The lochs are still high. Davan, especially, is holding a fair bit more water than normal. 

The lochs are still high

The lochs are still high

 And there are still lots of wet patches in the woods. These calm, quiet pools reflect the trees beautifully. 

Reflections of a rowan tree

Reflections of a rowan tree

 We’ve had a nice group of 13 whooper swans on Loch Davan this week. Although it’s still early, it’s possible that these are the first of the birds starting to drift back northwards towards their breeding grounds in Iceland. Often, whoopers will gradually work their way north over a month or so, then make the final jump across the north Atlantic from north-west Scotland or the northern isles. 

Whooper swan. Heading north?

Whooper swan. Heading north?

Mind you, not everyone’s been enjoying the whoopers. The resident mutes are starting to get territorial and have been in full display mode. Not that the whoopers have paid them any attention- they’ve been concentrating on feeding. 

The resident mute swans aren't happy about the whoopers dropping in

The resident mute swans aren’t happy about the whoopers dropping in

Bottoms up!

Not that the whoopers are bothered. Bottoms up!

The tufted ducks seem to have suddenly reappeared on the lochs. We usually have plenty of tufties but they’ve been in short supply this winter. The males are looking very dapper in their black-and-white breeding plumage. 

Male tufted duck

Male tufted duck

Incoming! Tufted duck, head on.

Incoming! Tufted duck, head on.

Goldeneye males are lovely dapper-looking birds too. Well, right up until they display, that is. Then they look endearingly daft…but, hey, if the ladies like it….  

Goldeneye in full display. Roughly translated, get your coat, you've pulled!

Get your coat, you’ve pulled! Goldeneye in full display mode.

 Up the hill, in the woods, the smaller birds are still travelling around in mixed flocks- they haven’t split off into breeding pairs yet. We had a cracking flock of about fifteen redpoll, seven treecreepers, ten goldcrests, ten long-tailed tits, six great tits, three blue tits and eight coal tits all feeding around us above the Burn o Vat. Often, if you sit quietly in the wood, they’ll more or less ignore you and come really close. It’s magical when this happens –you can hear all the soft calls they make to one another to keep in touch, the rustle of wings and even tiny nails and beaks scratching on the bark. 

Long tailed tit

Long tailed tit

Treecreeper

Treecreeper

 Golcrests are so tiny they can even hang off lichens on the ends of branches- they only weigh as much as a 20p coin. 

Goldcrests are so tiny they can hang off the lichens

Goldcrests are so tiny they can hang off the lichens

Goldcrest feeding in the heather

Goldcrest feeding in the heather

Goldcrest on lichen-y birch

Goldcrest on lichen-y birch

 As their name suggests, redpolls have a red “poll” – a red crown on their head. Except when they don’t, just to confuse matters! Most redpolls will show the red crown but not all – these are probably first-winter birds (last year’s chicks) who haven’t developed the red head yet. 

Redpoll with red "poll" or head

Redpoll with red “poll” or head

Redpoll

Redpoll without red poll

We had another exciting spring “first” this week – the first adder of the year. We had a frosty night Sunday into Monday, but, by about midday, the temperature rose briefly into double figures. We didn’t really expect to see any adders- it still seemed too early in the year- but this big male was up and basking. 8th February is the earliest I’ve ever seen adders here…the 12th was the earliest I’d seen before this week. But he’ll have had to get back underground again- it has turned fairly nippy in the northerly wind and the snow’s back. Snow or spring? Watch this space….

The first adder of the year

The first adder of the year

Seem up close, he's still a bit dusty from his winter hibernation

Seen up close, he’s still a bit dusty from his winter hibernation

 

This entry was posted in Muir of Dinnet NNR and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.