Squirrels and Spawn

What a busy week it’s been on the reserve! We’re hoaching with people today- it’s Good Friday, the schools are off and it’s sunny. So where better to be than Dinnet? The frogs and toads are certainly enjoying the warm weather and it’s making the toads feel extra amorous. We’re tripping over “toad balls” on the paths, where several males all try to mate with one very long-suffering female. Even the most debauched days of the Roman Empire were never this bad! 

Toads mating

Toads mating

heads and tails- they male toads grab the female any old way

Heads and tails- they male toads grab the female any old way

Toad ball

Toad ball

How many toads?

How many toads?

 And we were right- we have had to stage a frogspawn rescue this week. One of the pools, by Old Kinord was drying up and the spawn was starting to form sad, sticky puddles away from the water. It wasn’t nearly as bad as previous years- we probably only moved 20-30 litres of spawn as opposed to the 60-odd litres last year. 

Drying out frogspawn

Drying out frogspawn

Rescued frogspawn

Rescued frogspawn

Relocating frogspawn to wetter area

Relocating frogspawn to wetter area

 The adders are approving of the warm weather. We’ve seen several, mostly basking in the bracken. They are very hard to spot and we’d advise not wandering through sunny, bracken-y banks on the reserve- or letting your dog do so- as the adders really are beautifully camouflaged.  

Adder in bracken

Adder in bracken

Well hidden. There are two adders in this shot.

Well hidden. There are two adders in this shot.

The end of this week has marked the first hint of change in the adders. On Friday, we noticed a couple of adders had just the start of a cloudy eye. This is a sure sign that skin shedding is approaching- they usually shed 10 days to a fortnight after the eyes go cloudy. After that it’s mating time and then they feed. 

Some of the adder's eyes are starting to go milky

Some of the adder’s eyes are starting to go milky

And the common lizards better watch out! They are one of things an adder will be happy to eat. 

Common lizard basking

Common lizard basking

I was asked this week why adders are called adders. Is it anything to do with counting the zig-zags on their back? That’s such a great idea but sadly isn’t true. “Adder” comes from the Old English “naeddre” or “nadder”. But, because of the way English works, it’s easier to say “an adder” than “a nadder”, so nadders became adders. No sums involved! 

A pile of adders

A pile of adders

 In the Old Kinord fields, the lapwings are tumbling and “peewit-ing” at one another. They have a lovely display, where they soar, then tumble from the sky, wings thrumming. Thanks to Edward for the pictures- my attempts to photograph this were resulting in about one-third of a lapwing in shot plus a lot of sky. 

Lapwings tumbling

Lapwings tumbling

The great tits are also singing from the tops of trees. Listen out for “teacher-teacher-teacher”. 

great tit "teachering" in birch tree

great tit “teachering” in birch tree

One singer heard much less commonly is the crossbill. We have plenty on the reserve and you often hear then flying over, giving their “chip, chip, chip” calls- but you don’t often hear them sing. I wouldn’t say I’ve ever heard them sing more than a dozen times in the 10 years I’ve worked here. But this absolutely cracking male was trying his voice from the top of a pine tree.

Cracking male crossbill

Cracking male crossbill

Male crossbill

Male crossbill

The woodpeckers are drumming steadily, especially in the mornings. Listen out for really tinny sounding ones- they’ll be on the aluminium bits of the telegraph poles to make them sound louder. Just remember, it’s not what you’ve got that counts, it’s what you do with it! 

Great spotted woodpecker

Great spotted woodpecker

 We’ve had a group of archaeologists on the reserve this week, excavating (with all the correct permissions and everything!) trenches at the Old Kinord round houses. They are trying to date these buildings- perhaps Iron age- perhaps several built on top of one another- and are looking for charcoal or anything organic to radio-carbon date. They are also looking at how these round hoses and associated souterrains were built…so this tree root had to go. 

removing roots from the archaeology. Going.....

Removing roots from the archaeology. Going…..

...going...

…going…

...gone!

…gone!

Archaeologist excavating souterrain near Old kinord

Archaeologist excavating souterrain near Old kinord

The sap is rising- you can see it leaking from any injury on trees, especially the birch trees. The squirrels will take advantage of this to get a sweet treat by knowing into the bark, then licking up the oozing sap. I’d read about it but had never seen one doing this until this week. That’s the good thing about this place- you always see something new!

Squirrel licking sap from birch tree

Squirrel licking sap from birch tree

Red squirrel

Red squirrel

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