Getting Ready for Spring

All the wildlife is getting ready for spring. For some, the breeding season is in full swing already….the greylag geese are pairing up and establishing territories around the loch. And, boy, are they noisy! They really do have the most un-melodic honk going!

Greylag pair

Greylag pair

A gathering of greylags

A gathering of greylags

Meanwhile, other geese have been passing us by. We’ve seen several flocks of pink-footed geese, heading north, almost too high up to spot….but you hear the “wink-wink” calls as they compare the way to Iceland.

Pink-footed geese heading north

Pink-footed geese heading north

The pinkies are heading north so high up you can hardly see them

The pinkies are heading north so high up you can hardly see them

We’re still getting the odd frosty morning- but some days have been warm and beautiful. It was very warm on Wednesday and Thursday last week- but Tuesday started with a frost.

Frosty leaf

Frosty leaf

Feeling warm....sixteen degrees!

Feeling warm….sixteen degrees!

The reptiles have approved of the warm weather- we’ve seen our first common lizard (though it eluded the camera) and the adders have been getting on with some serious basking. However, they’re still not getting up all that early in the morning, especially on the colder days. I sympathise – it’s harder to get get going those days for us humans too!

Tasting the air...they do this more if you are upwind of them

Tasting the air…they do this more if you are upwind of them

The pale, shy adder....taken from a long way away so not to scare him.

The pale, shy adder….taken from a long way away so not to scare him.

One of the brown adders

One of the brown adders

The warm weather has also triggered frog and toad orgies in many of the pools across the reserve. You can hear them on a still day….a low, burping rumble of amorous amphibians.

You hear the frogs before you see them!

You hear the frogs before you see them!

The frogs are either mating or fighting

The frogs are either mating or fighting

Needless to say, they’re laying their spawn in pools that look in imminent danger of drying up. It’s always a gamble for the frogs- lay in a permanent pool that might attract ducks which will eat the spawn- or try for a transient pool that might dry up. I have a horrible feeling we’ll be reporting the Great Spawn Rescue in a future blog….

Frog spawn

Frog spawn

The thrushes continue to be the dominant voices in the dawn chorus. The song thrushes are getting especially strident- but can be easily distracted by the prospect of something to eat (again, I sympathise!).

MIstle thursh

Mistle thursh

Song thrush, singing from a fencepost...

Song thrush, singing from a fencepost…

...but he's been distracted by something edible in the grass!

…but he’s been distracted by something edible in the grass!

The whoopers on Loch Davan have moved on. They were there at the start of the week but gone by the weekend. Good luck to them on their way north.

Whooper swans, Loch Davan

Whooper swans, Loch Davan

Now there are fewer swans on the lochs, the local mutes are a wee bit more relaxed. Yes, they’re still duffing each other up regularly, but they seem to be spending more time feeding. Bottoms up!

Bottoms up!

Bottoms up!

We regularly see cormorants on the reserve- not many, but there are often between one and five hanging around. They are in breeding plumage too- the white patch on the thigh is a sure sign of this- but they don’t actually breed on the reserve and may move on soon. In the meantime, they are “whitewashing” the trees in Castle Island – if it stays dry for a few days, the trees can look dramatically white under the favourite perches.

Cormorant in full breeding plumage

Cormorant in full breeding plumage

Cormorant "whitewash"

Cormorant “whitewash”

We’ve also had a mystery ant eater on the reserve. While out on the hill, we found several anthills that appeared to have been burrowed into.  It was surprising how neat the holes appeared – I’d have expected the nest to be ripped apart by any hungry predator.  We also found some poo left beside the ant nest, which, on closer inspection, was made up entirely of ant exoskeletons. I’m pretty confident it’s bird poo- it has the white stuff (uric acid) in it that you find in bird poo. The poo looks a bit like grouse poo, and it’s big, so I’m wondering if we’ve had a hungry capercaille on the reserve- they do eat quite a lot of wood ants.

Something has been having a good feed off this anthill

Something has been having a good feed off this anthill

Who's been eating our anthills?

Who’s been eating our anthills?

Who's poo?

Who’s poo?

On an anthill that hadn’t been damaged, the ants were just getting up for the day. They swarm out of the nest in huge numbers and there must have been thousands on this one nest.

Ants getting up in the morning

Ants getting up in the morning

We’d also like to dedicate this week’s blog to David, our as-of-Friday-former Area Manager. David has retired after around 30 years with SNH, and before that, the Nature Conservancy Council. Over his long and varied career, he has been a good friend to the NNRs and has helped us build up the reserves to where we are now. We’d like to wish him a long, happy and plant-filled retirement- enjoy it David, you deserve it!

Davids cake topping - 18 mar 16

 

 

 

 

 

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