April Snow Showers

Don’t you just love Scotland in springtime? April certainly has been the cruellest month this year, with plenty of showers- but they’ve been snowy ones. We’ve had the most snow we’ve had almost all winter this week. The one up-side is that at least it’s not lying long.

Snowy Morven

Snowy Morven

Burn o Vat, Tuesday morning

Burn o Vat, Tuesday morning

Greylags in the foreground....snow in the background!

Greylags in the foreground….snow in the background!

Robin feeding in the snow

Robin feeding in the snow

Frosty grass

Frosty grass

Snowy sign, snowy walks

Snowy sign, snowy walks

Snowy trees

Snowy trees

Snowy trees, Tuesday morning

Snowy trees, Tuesday morning

It’s been a bit bizarre this week, coming to work and hearing willow warblers and chiffchaffs in the snow. These are spring and summer sounds, and not ones you associate with slipping about in the white stuff.

Willow warbler

Willow warbler

The cold has made the peanut feeder very popular again, as birds stock up on easily accessible free food. We’ve hardly ever seen siskins on the feeder but they have rather taken over the feeder, even queuing up to take their turn. It’s nice to see them here in good number as they’ve been rather scare this past winter.

Siskins on the peanut feedeer

Siskins on the peanut feedeer

A queue of siskins!

A queue of siskins!

Some of the other migrants must be struggling in the snow. The hirundines – swallows, and martins and house martins – catch insects in the air. and there aren’t many because it’s so cold. When it does warm up a bit, the sand martins have been hunting for insects on the woodland edge. It’s amazing to watch them- they skim right past you, at eye level, swerving and dodging as the weave in and out of the trees in pursuit of anything flying they can eat. They’re far too fast for me with the camera!

Sand martins feeding on the warm edge of the wood

Sand martins feeding on the warm edge of the wood

Sand martins are wonderful fliers

Sand martins are wonderful fliers

The trees and flowers have been really slow to come out. Given the buds stared to burst about a fortnight ago, you’d expect the woods to be in full leaf by now. But no…the trees have wisely decided to hold back on coming out further. They can’t really afford to get their new leaves frosted as it could badly affect them for the rest of the year.

The trees are almost coming into leaf

The trees are almost coming into leaf

But some of the birds are on a schedule of their own. Some of the ospreys will be on eggs and their mates will need to provide them with fish…not easy when the lochs are so choppy you can’t see fish below the surface. We’ve had up to three ospreys at a time trying but failing to catch anything this week.

Osprey over Loch Kinord

Osprey over Loch Kinord

Osprey hovering

Osprey hovering

Osprey over Loch Kinord

Osprey over Loch Kinord

It looks like the swans are sitting on eggs now, almost completely hidden in the rushes.

This swan seems to be sitting on a nest in the reeds

This swan seems to be sitting on a nest in the reeds

With the leaves being so slow to come on the trees, you can sometimes spot nests that would normally be hidden by now. We think this is a chaffinch nest in a birch tree.

Chaffinch nest

Chaffinch nest

Another bizarre sound has been redstarts singing in the snow. These are probably our most spectacular-looking migrant bird, with a vivid red front and tail and an ash grey back. This male was holding territory near the Celtic cross and was not letting the occasional blizzard put him off!

Male redstart

Male redstart

Lovely male redstart

Lovely male redstart

The adders have not been happy this week- and who can blame them? It’s freezing! And for a cold-blooded animal, this can have a big impact on their lives. We haven’t seen any mating this week- they’re just too cold to be in the mood. One of the males did seem to be “mate guarding” – staying close to a female, in the hope he’d be first in the queue to mate- but he didn’t have any competition as none of the other males were moving to search for females.

You can see how wet and cold the grass must be for an adder

You can see how wet and cold the grass must be for an adder

Male and female adder curled up together

Male and female adder curled up together

Male" mate guarding" female adder

Male” mate guarding” female adder

A particularly brightly-coloured male adder

A particularly brightly-coloured male adder

But we do have some great picture of last week’s adder action to share. Pete Barden, a wildlife film-maker, has kindly sent us these dramatic shots of two males dancing on a warmer day last week. A big “thank you” to Pete for these wonderful pictures.

Adders dancing

Adders dancing

The dance of the adders

The dance of the adders

The male rise up as the try to wrestle their opponent to the ground

The male rise up as the try to wrestle their opponent to the ground

dancing adders. the colour difference makes it easy to tell them apart

Dancing adders. the colour difference makes it easy to tell them apart

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