….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!
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!
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 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!
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.
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.
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????
Before we left, all we’d seen were two small yellow beaks sticking up for food. And now look at them!
They are practically bursting out of the nest and looked ready to fly any day.
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!