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