Well, that’s June here. Where’s the year going? We’re only three weeks off the longest day and there’s definitely a more summery feel about the reserve- except for the temperatures! A steady north wind has kept it cool all week….but there are lots of young birds around and the trees are darkening from their vivid spring green to a deeper summer shade. The lochs look stunning in the early morning sun.
But it has been cold! After counting ducks on Thursday, I was blowing on my hands to warm them up and muttering darkly about alleged summer in Scotland. Still, I forgot all about my cold hands when a high pitched churring heralded the arrival of a family of long-tailed tits in the trees above me. You can tell the youngsters by their smudgy, dark faces and slightly shorter tails.
There are lots of baby birds around just now. Another brood of cygnets, 8 this time, has appeared on Loch Davan and the swans on Kinord have a brood of four. The Kinord swans were keeping their babies tucked well into the side, as out of sight as possible, and moved off when visitors with doges appeared. As they swam away, one of the youngsters cheekily scrambled onto mum’s back to hitch a ride….but none of the others could keep up to get on board!
Prize for “mum of the week” must go to this female goldeneye. She had 20 small ducklings in tow and was being very attentive to them. It’s unlikely that they are all hers, but goldeneye will adopt ducklings from other broods (sometimes forcibly, chasing off their real mother) or she may have been sitting on an “egg dump”. Goldeneye will lay their eggs in each other’s nests, the idea being that if their own nest is taken, some of their genetic offspring will survive elsewhere. However, sometimes a female will “dump” her entire clutch in someone else’s nest and not sit on them at all- or several females may also have laid in that nest- and this female has wound up with a huge brood. She at least seems interested in them- goldeneye are like people in the respect that some are really good mums and some don’t seem at all worried where their offspring are or what they’re up to.
The water lilies will be out towards the end of this month. Already the bays in the lochs are filling up with their leaves. All this aquatic vegetation is great for the goldeneye as it harbours the invertebrates they eat.
A less-often seen resident of the loch was making its presence felt this week. If you hear a strange whickering sound in the reeds, it’s probably a little grebe. I didn’t see it at first and was getting exited- there was a big crowd of swifts hunting over the loch, and little grebe sounds a lot like alpine swift. So I was frantically looking for a swift with a nearly two-foot wingspan and a white tummy (we birders always live in hope), when up popped the grebe! It didn’t stay up for long though-it was diving all the time
The lapwing chicks must be almost on the wing by now. They are easily 3/4 the size of the adults.
We were also lucky enough to get prolonged views and even a couple of pics of a jay this week. Jays are the most colourful member of the crow family but they are also very shy. Usually, my only view of them is as a white rump disappearing into the trees or you only hear their scragging, scraiking call deep in the woods. This jay didn’t spot us and kept feeding, finding something to eat on the ground then hopping up into the tree to consume it.
There haven’t been many adders about this week. One of the females still hadn’t shed by Monday but she disappeared later in the week- so she may have shed and be off hunting.
Some animals your never see. I’ve been seeing quite a lot of pine marten poo recently but have never managed to connect with the actual animal at Dinnet- even in spite of baiting a trail camera with jam and peanuts- all we got was roe deer, red squirrel and a great dane.
The common blue damselflies have emerged in numbers this week. Suddenly, they’re flicking ahead of you as you walk through the grass on a warm day. They’ve even started mating, though I was surprised to see the female appear to attempt to egg-lay on the underside of a bit of heather….damselflies usually lay their eggs in water. Keep your eyes peeled for these little flying jewels if you visit the reserve this weekend!