The May…and Mid-August

I’ve had the privilege of being on not one but three of our NNR’s this week. Ok, one of those days was a day trip to the Isle of May…but, if you’ve never been, go, it’s fantastic! I’ll admit, I’ve been lazy and never gone before…we’re rather spoiled for seabirds in the north-east… and I’d just never got round to it.  So, although it’s getting late in the year for the puffins, we had a trip over and a tour of the island. I’d recommend it- a great boat trip out of Anstruther with a knowledgeable crew, fascinating social history and, of course, wonderful wildlife.

Isle of May, with foghorn, Low Light and Main Light

Isle of May, with foghorn, Low Light and Main Light

May Princess in Kirkhaven harbour

May Princess in Kirkhaven harbour

The loch on the IoM

The loch on the IoM

The old engines, used to compress air for the foghorns

The old engines, used to compress air for the foghorns

The steep brae up to the lighthouse!

The steep brae up to the lighthouse!

The Beacon. It was the first lighthouse in Scotland and burned between 1 and 3 tonnes of coal per night...which had to be winched up by hand.

The Beacon. It was the first lighthouse in Scotland and burned between 1 and 3 tonnes of coal per night…which had to be winched up by hand.

The ammonite-like Main Light stairs

The ammonite-like Main Light stairs

The view from the top

The view from the top

IoM from the lighthouse

IoM from the lighthouse

The ruined priory with the visitor centre in the background

The ruined priory with the visitor centre in the background

Bye bye IoM

Bye bye IoM

Back at Dinnet, it has been starting to feel like autumn. Oh, we’ve had some wonderful days- the temperature has mostly been above 20 degrees daytime- but the mornings have just felt…well, autumn-y.  The mist was hanging in the valley several days this week and often too until 9 or 10 am to clear.

The mist has been hanging in the valleys this week

The mist has been hanging in the valleys this week

The reserve is under there!

The reserve is under there!

The dew is soaking the cobwebs in the mornings too.

The webs catch the dew on the misty mornings

The webs catch the dew on the misty mornings

The toads are liking the damp mornings. We’re starting to see lots of tiny “toadlets” going around. These will have been tadpoles (toadpoles?) earlier in the year but have now grown up to the point they can leave the water. You can see how tiny this one is by my size 5’s next to it!

A tiny toadlet

A tiny toadlet

Tiny toadlet with my size 5's for scale

Tiny toadlet with my size 5’s for scale

And the adders are getting slower at getting up in the mornings as well. We’re starting to see more of them again- five on Tuesday- all looking freshly shed. They are probably well-fed snakes indulging in a bit of late season basking….any hungry adders won’t be hanging about, they’ll be on the hunt!

Two basking adders

Two basking adders

Back end of an adder, doing the "I can't see you, therefore you can't see me" thing. It's not quite working, is it....?

Back end of an adder, doing the “I can’t see you, therefore you can’t see me” thing. It’s not quite working, is it….?

A young adder, less than 3 years old. The sticks are a lot thinner than a pencil, for scale.

A young adder, less than 3 years old. The sticks are a lot thinner than a pencil, for scale.

Getting up. Adder emerging from dyke

Getting up. Adder emerging from dyke

They’d better watch out for the buzzards. There are several young buzzards flying over the reserve just now, “keeee-ow-ing” in a very wheezy tone of voice. But it won’t be long until they learn to hunt for themselves and an adder can make a decent, if rather risky, meal for a buzzard.

There are lots of young buzzards soaring over the reserve just now

There are lots of young buzzards soaring over the reserve just now

It won’t be long now until we won’t see any redstarts until next year…they’ll be joining the swallows in heading for Africa very soon. They are one of my favourite birds…so might as well enjoy them ’til then!

Male redstart looking a little faded

Male redstart looking a little faded

Another bird that will be heading south soon is this young cuckoo. The adults will all have headed away in July but their young…who never see their parents and are raised by non- migratory meadow pipits….will follow them in the next few weeks. It’s one of the miracles of nature, that these birds can migrate several thousand miles on instinct alone. Having said that, the meadow pipit “parent” of this cuckoo will be better off when its “offspring” leaves. These small birds run themselves ragged trying to keep up with the huge and voracious appetites of the cuckoo chick…but the parenting instinct is so strong, they just have to feed it, even if it should be obvious that it’s not a meadow pipit!

Young cuckoo with meadow pipit foster parent

Young cuckoo with meadow pipit foster parent

Demanding food from the m'ipit

Demanding food from the m’ipit

You can really see the size difference between the cuckoo and its "parent"

You can really see the size difference between the cuckoo and its “parent”

Being mobbed by other meadow pipits

Being mobbed by other meadow pipits

The Scotch argus butterflies are taking advantage of the late-season flowers. One of their favourites is the devil’s bit scabious. Look out for these on the purple flowers if you do visit the reserve.

Scotch argus on devil's bit scabious

Scotch argus on devil’s bit scabious

….and, if you do visit, and fancy a bit of sunbathing, you won’t be the only one! This robin had a bath in rainwater caught on top of the trailer tarpaulin, then had a good sunbathe to dry out!

Sunbathing robin

Sunbathing robin

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