What a busy and mixed week it’s been! Monday was bitterly cold – that damp cold that goes right through you- so we were hugely surprised to see an adder “basking” that day. I’m a warm-blooded mammal and I was freezing, so what a reptile was doing up and about, goodness only knows. We checked the thermometer when we got back and it was only 5 degrees- brrr!
The lochs were still partly frozen but the ice was melting. On the more exposed Loch Kinord, the wind had driven it into piles around the edge of the loch, where it squeaked and chattered with the waves.
The more sheltered Loch Davan had more ice and the by-now stroppy swans were chasing each other onto the ice…and it wasn’t working very well. I’m firmly of the opinion that watching wildfowl trying to do anything on ice- walk or land- is an instant cure for depression and they slip-slide everywhere in their webbed feet. This swan was intending to be all aggressive and assertive but kept landing on his bum!
The cold weather has made all the wildlife hungry. It’s one of the hardest times of year for wildlife- right at the end of winter, just before the new growth starts. Any fallen branches are quickly nibbled by rabbits after any nutrition they can get from the bark.
The Burn o Vat path is now repaired after the flooding. It’s taken 28 tonnes of hardcore but it’s looking good.
And then, for complete contrast, Tuesday was lovely. This was a day you’d expect to see adders, and we weren’t disappointed. Not one, not two, not three…. but six male adders, all basking in the sun. I’m always struck but how different some can look- they range from almost black, to brown, to olivey-green. They differ in character too….some are very shy- the palest one is very wary and goes as soon as you see him… while others just lie there, looking at you. They know you’re there, but, provided you stay back several feet, they aren’t bothered. I wonder if these have been around for a few years and are old hands at being photographed!
Wednesday was an “away day” for us, helping to put up the tern fence at Forvie. Forvie has one of the largest “terneries” in the UK, with around 2500 pairs of terns and a further 1800 pairs of black-headed gulls nesting on the reserve. Pretty much all of these nest within the tern fence- as ground nesters, terns are extremely vulnerable to disturbance and fencing predators and people out is the only way to protect this internationally-important bird colony. The fence goes up now, about 3 weeks before the first terns arrive back from Africa, so they have a safe place to nest when they arrive. The Forvie team have a lot of work to do, to carry the equipment to the site (over sand, which is leg-killing to walk through!) and erect over a kilometre of fence, so everyone mucks in and helps. We were lucky enough to get the help of student volunteers too- many hands make light work- and it was even more appreciated when the weather broke and it snowed on us for the last hour of the day. Not photos of the fence up, I’m afraid, we all legged it for the vehicles.
Back at Dinnet, we spotted this female crossbill feeding on pine cones. at first we thought she was a youngster, given how streaky she looks, but the vivid yellowy-green on the rump means it’s probably an adult bird.
The goldeneye are continuing to get frantic on Loch Kinord. They are gathered in tight groups, displaying furiously to one another.
When not displaying, the males spend a fair bit of time preening and bathing- got to look good for the ladies! They bathe with real vigour and what looks like pleasure, too. Keep an eye out for them if you come for a walk here this weekend!