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.
The lochs are still high. Davan, especially, is holding a fair bit more water than normal.
And there are still lots of wet patches in the woods. These calm, quiet pools reflect the trees beautifully.
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.
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 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.
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….
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.
Golcrests are so tiny they can even hang off lichens on the ends of branches- they only weigh as much as a 20p coin.
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.
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….