What a week! It’s been glorious here, with the temperature in the 20’s every day. It feels like spring has finally arrived lots of new life on the reserve.
The greylags have lots of goslings. We’ve seen at least 20 on Loch Kinord and another dozen or soon Loch Davan. They must have sat tight through all the cold and snow we had a couple of weeks back. They are very cute- but the parents are even noisier than usual, defending them.
The barnacle goose and at least one of its hybrid offspring from last year are still on the go. They were helping with babysitting duties for the new goslings. The geese “crèche” their young into big groups and all the adults help out with looking after them…and honking loudly at anything they don’t like.
They’re not the only ones with young. The Burn o Vat car park has been resounding to the shrill squeaks of newly fledged song thrushes since Monday.
But cutest baby prize definitely goes to the goldeneye ducklings. Ducklings obviously can’t fly, so half swim, half run–on-water to move quickly and they more or less aquaplane away across the surface of the loch. But these three seemed to be missing mum- a bit worrying as they’re too wee to be on their own.
Fortunately, she appeared out of the reeds, grunting at them to round them up. They didn’t seem all that bothered by us watching them- in fact the whole family went to sleep!
The lapwings have hatched young this week too. Peer closely at their fields- sooner or later, you’ll spot mini fluffballs-on-stilts wandering around. Like all wader chicks, they are very cute- but please don’t upset the parents by getting too close- they were even protesting at me standing at the gate watching them.
There are signs of other new life on the reserve. Lots of birds are carrying food just now, for nestfuls of hungry youngsters tucked away in the bushes. This long-tailed tit wasn’t going near its nest until we left.
The trees have finally stopped sulking and burst into full leaf. I was away from the reserve for a few days, on a first aid course, and everything seems to have gone green in just those few days. That’s good for all the young birds- leaves feed caterpillars, which mean dinner for all the hatchlings.
Unfortunately, nature isn’t nice in some respects, and all these young animals will mean food for something else. The buzzards have already had a few goes at these nicely bite-sized baby bunnies.
Some birds are still trying to attract mates. This reed bunting will have to rely on his dapper dress, rather than his song, methinks- it’s one of the most boring birdsongs going.
Willow warblers have a much drabber plumage- but a much better song.
While other birds don’t sing at all. Woodpeckers rely on their drumming ability to attract a mate…..and do so like the electricity or telephone poles to drum on!
We’ve even seen and heard green woodpeckers this year. That’s quite exiting as they’ve been pretty much absent from Deeside the past few years. Maybe they’re making a comeback.
One of the mornings this week was foggy, and that soon shows up all the cobwebs in the grass. I always think of this as an autumn thing- dewy mornings and cobwebby heather- but the sun soon burnt off the morning haze.
The adders are starting to disperse after mating. And it’s getting so warm in the mornings, they’re up and about before we are! We’ve only seen one male this week- they move off to hunt after mating- but have seen up to 6 females catching up on some basking now the males’ attention has gone elsewhere.
It was nice to see a couple of last year’s young adders too. They’re about the thickness of my little finger and about 8 inches long, but are such perfect replicas of the big adders it’s hard to judge size. They’ll only eat around about now after being born last September.
We seem to have a big bachelor flock of mute swans hanging on this year. Usually, Davan is only home to between one and three pairs of mute swans, depending on how stroppy they are feeling. But this year, there are about 20 “bachelors” hanging on. These are mostly adult males that aren’t breeding- maybe they can’t find a mate- or youngsters who aren’t mature enough to breed yet.
They are entertaining to watch- there’s usually some argument or another brewing in swan-world. But something startled them this morning- what’s going to scare a swan?
Whatever it was, made a big splash! Then a dark head appeared- an otter surfaced in the middle of the flock. Otters will eat ducks- I’ve even heard of them taking cormorants- so this arrival from below rather panicked the swans. But the otter wasn’t interested- it already had its mouth and paws full with a huge, still-flapping fish. Not that the swans knew that- they followed it to shore and watched the bank where it disappeared for ages.
Near New Kinord, the wood anemones are at their best. It’s well worth getting out for a look at them if you have the chance- they are all open now with their faces turned towards the sun. Keep your eyes to the skies too- there are lots of ospreys coming and going on fishing trips right now. In fact, there’s something happening everywhere you look!