Green and Growing

Everything is green and growing fast. Now we’ve had our first rain for about 10 days, you can practically see the grass grow. Depressing if you’re the one who has to cut it, but great for wildlife- all the green stuff is food for insects, which are, in turn, food for birds. And, boy, do they need it- there are young birds appearing all over the place just now. 

Newly-fledged baby robin

Newly-fledged baby robin

This young robin seems to have been spent a lot of time poking around for food under the landrover. Perhaps he feels safe as it’s an enclosed area? 

The young robins seem to like poking around under the landrover

The young robins seem to like poking around under the landrover

Some birds are still in the process of breeding. We found this very well-hidden chaffinch nest in a pine tree this week. If it hadn’t been for the young birds squeaking, we’d never have spotted it. 

A well hidden chaffinch nest

A well hidden chaffinch nest

While, with some birds you never seem to see their nest. This is true of the great crested grebes. They usually tuck their nest so deeply in the reeds, you’re never even sure if they’re breeding until they turn up with a chick. We’ve only been seeing one bird this year, so hopefully that means there is a female sitting on eggs somewhere. 

great crested grebe

great crested grebe

There are still around 20 “bachelor” swans on Loch Davan. They are pretty nosy- if you go down to the shore, they swim over and, while holding a safe distance offshore, check you out. It’s actually a way to say to a predator “we’re spotted you, no point trying anything. So on yer bike, mate!” But being nosy can get you into trouble. This young swan has strayed onto the boundary of two resident, rival males’ territories and is in trouble. He’s going to get duffed up whether he turns left or right! 

No swan's land- this young mute swan has got caught between rival males' territiories

No swan’s land- this young mute swan has got caught between rival males’ territiories

Greylag broods are still appearing on the lochs. These chicks are much smaller than the ones that appeared a couple of weeks back. 

Greylag brood

Greylag brood

Cute!

Cute!

Chicks do grow up very quickly. They need to, before something eats them! The lapwing chicks are easily double the size they were last week. 

Lapwing chick, growing up fast

Lapwing chick, growing up fast

We found the remains of something that had been eaten down by the loch. It was just a pile of mystery feathers. A lot were small, smoky grey ones, a bit like a pigeon, but these strikingly mottled feather were there too. They’re too big for a woodpecker, being 13-15cm long. We have a theory as to what they are….but, if anyone can tell us for sure, that’d be grand.

Mystery feathers

Mystery feathers

We’re hoping this spotted flycatcher might join us to nest at Burn o Vat. They have nested here before, on a small platform above the back door. The flycatcher did seem to be checking it out again. 

Flycatching off the gutter

Flycatching off the gutter

The swallows were taking a break from their aerial activities and having a good old preen on a dead tree at old Kinord. 

Swallows having a rest and preening on a dead tree

Swallows having a rest and preening on a dead tree

We were lucky enough to get the chance to help out with a an eider count at Forvie this week. Forvie is famous for it’s eider ducks but their population is in trouble…not just on the reserve but across the whole of northern Europe. And we don’t really know why…so a lot of research is going on trying to work out what’s going on. This count forms part of that. research. But the eiders aren’t all Forvie has to offer- check out some  of the other wildlife here too.  

Eider drake in all his finery

Eider drake in all his finery

Meadow saxifrage

Meadow saxifrage

Predated herring gull egg. Probably taken by a crow.

Predated herring gull egg. Probably taken by a crow.

Cormorant colony. You smell it before you see it!

Cormorant colony. You smell it before you see it!

Cormorants. Gloriously prehistoric looking birds

Cormorants. Gloriously prehistoric looking birds

Cormorant on nest. Note all the plastic in it- marine litter is a big problem as birds and animals can get tangled- or eat it.

Cormorant on nest. Note all the plastic in it- marine litter is a big problem as birds and animals can get tangled- or eat it.

Sea campion

Sea campion

And zoomed in. If you look at the first pic, find the bit of white driftwood in the foreground. About 2cm above the left and end of that, there's a dark spot. This is her!

And zoomed in. If you look at the first pic, find the bit of white driftwood in the foreground. About 2cm above the left and end of that, there’s a dark spot. This is her!

Cowslips- or false oxlips- I need to check the book!

Cowslips- or false oxlips- I need to check the book!

Hare, flattening down to hide just outside Forvie centre

Hare, flattening down to hide just outside Forvie centre

The adders haven’t let the fame of appearing on the BBC’s “Highlands” series last week go to their heads. They are getting on with some serious basking, in preparation for skin shedding. All the males seem to have moved off now they’ve mated and shed their skins- but the females haven’t got a new set of scales just yet. It won’t be long now though- at least two of the females have very cloudy eyes. 

Female adder with milky eye

Female adder with milky eye

A different adder also away to shed her sin

A different adder also away to shed her skin

female adder

female adder

Almost all of the trees are in leaf now except the aspen and the ask. These, along with the oaks, are always the last to come into leaf. There’s an old saying “Ash before oak, in for a soak. Oak before ash, in for a splash”. Well, as the oak trees are out first, does that mean it’ll be a dry summer? Or does it just mean that we can expect rain regardless? 

Oak leaves

Oak leaves

The gean trees are in full flower just now. walk past one and it’s humming with bees. Maybe there will be a good cherry crop this year….mmmmm.

Gean blossom

Gean blossom

The gean trees are a splash of white against the green woodland

The gean trees are a splash of white against the green woodland

If you want to catch the wood anemones, you’ll have to hurry- they’ll be going over very soon. I’ve been asked several times what the wee flower is, the one that looks like a wood anemone, but isn’t because it’s purple. Well, it is a wood anemone- most are white, perhaps with a pinkish tinge on the back of the petals, but some can show a surprisingly dark pink or purple form. They can also look very different, depending on whether they are fully open or closed and drooping. Compare these pictures- they’re all wood anemones. Or, even better, come and visit us and see them for yourself!

wood anemone

wood anemone

Some wood anemones have a quite strong pink or purple tint

Some wood anemones have a quite strong pink or purple tint

Pink- purple wood anemones

Pink- purple wood anemones

The wood anemones can look very different

The wood anemones can look very different

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