There’s a Tree on the Toilets…

….and other stories from Muir of Dinnet NNR! We were away for a week “down south” at a family wedding (congrats, Katie and Nigel) and came back to find a note from the cleaner “Hi, welcome back. Hope you had a great break. There’s a tree on the toilets.” Now, we don’t usually take time off during the school holidays, but that’s because we’re busy with visitors, not because we expect the weather to wreck stuff in August! (January, you half-expect it). So, out with the ladder and winch and chainsaw (not all at the same time, I hasten to add) to carefully remove the snapped birch leaning on the toilet roof. Fortunately, doesn’t seem to have damaged the roof, so the loos are reopened and there is no longer a tree on the toilets!

There's a tree on my toilets....

There’s a tree on my toilets….

Winching tree off toilet roof

Winching tree off toilet roof

Half way down

Half way down

Tree down.

Tree down.

This was just in time for our ever-popular wild food walk.  We had a really nice bunch of folk join us for an afternoon’s wander around the NNR, looking at the plants our ancestors used to use for food and medicine. Then it was back to the Burn o Vat for a taster session of candied angelica, dried cep, chanterelle, elderflower cordial, nettle “beer”, nettle soup ….and pancakes like grandma used to make with wild strawberries in!

Wild food walk taster sessions

Wild food walk taster sessions

With being away for a week, you don’t half notice how the season is moving on when you come back. Compare these pictures of rowan berries from the last three weeks.

The rowan berries are forming

Three weeks ago

Ripening rowans

10 days ago

Ripening rowans

Ripening rowans this week

The bird cherry berries are ripening too. In the spirit of the wild food walk, you can use these, once ripe, to flavour gin and make sloe gin-like drink. Useful to know in this part of the world where sloes can be hard to come by!

Bird cherries ripening

Bird cherries ripening

And the young birds are growing up fast. The great crested grebes seem to have lost one chick but still have three large and healthy-looking ones. The adult appeared with a huge fish and there was a sprint swim by the youngsters to see who’d claim the prize.

3 GCG chicks

3 GCG chicks. Distantly, in the rain.

Grebe with huge fish

Grebe with huge fish

Steaming in...one of the chicks has spotted the adult has food

Steaming in…one of the chicks has spotted the adult has food

Grebe family

Going down- the chick on the left claimed the fish but took a bit of time swallowing it.

This young woodpecker has discovered the peanut feeder. You can tell it’s one of this year’s youngsters by its red cap (the adults don’t have these) and vary pale pink under tail area. This will be red in an adult bird.

The juvenile GS 'peckers have discovered the peanut feeder

The juvenile GS ‘peckers have discovered the peanut feeder

But the biggest change has been in the swallow babies. I had my first hint of that when I opened the door…who’s been pooing on my doorstep????

Who's poo?

Who’s poo?

Before we left, all we’d seen were two small yellow beaks sticking up for food. And now look at them!

There's not two, there's four!

There’s not two, there’s four!

They are practically bursting out of the nest and looked ready to fly any day.

Only three? has one gone?

Only three? has one gone?

Feeding time

Nope. Feeding time and there’s still four

Unfortunately, “any day” turned out to be Thursday, when it poured rain for most of the day. First one, then two, then three, then four appeared on the roof round the back of the visitor centre, chattering and “vit-vit-vit”-ing  at one another in the hammering rain, while the adults swooped around trying to encourage their offspring to fly some more.  I don’t think the babies were convinced though and it was a good couple of hours  before they  headed off again. But it only took until Friday until the whole family were zooming around the visitor centre, calling to one another and practicing flycatching. They’ll be off to Africa in a month or so enjoy them while they’re here!

The first fledged swallow

The first fledged swallow

fledged swallow calling for a feed

fledged swallow calling for a feed

And then there were two

And then there were two

And then there were two

Oooh. Wobbly landing!

There are 5 swallow in this shot- but one is just a blur!

There are 5 swallow in this shot- but one is just a blur!

 One of the parent swallows

One of the parent swallows

Bedraggled baby swallow

Bedraggled baby swallow

Soggy swallow

Soggy swallow

Wet & dry. The lower one is out of the rain

Wet & dry. The lower one is out of the rain

The dry one....this baby swallow had the wit to get under the eves. Or crash landed and hasn't moved!

The dry one….this baby swallow had the wit to get under the eves. Or crash landed and hasn’t moved!

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