It’s been sunny for the second week running – the first time it’s done that since June! On the calm days, we’ve had some gorgeous reflections in the lochs – you can barely tell which way is up!
It is turning into a proper Indian summer….a late period of warmth when it should really be coming into autumn. It’s obviously a known phenomenon as lot of languages have their own term for it – “old women’s summer” in Germany, “poor man’s summer” in Bulgaria or “little summer” in South America (where autumn happens in May). Centuries ago, it’d have been “St Luke’s summer” or “All Hallow’n summer” here, named after October feast days. It hit just short of 27 degrees on Tuesday- that’s properly hot, for September (and too hot for strimming!)
Whatever you call it, the dragonflies are enjoying it, (as, unfortunately, are the mosquitos – itchy bites this week) and some are still mating and egg-laying.
But the warm weather is drying out the trees. It looks like they will turn yellow early this year, with some already well on the way to losing their leaves.
At least it’s killing off the bracken too- it is finally going brown.
The adders are enjoying the late warmth. We’re still not seeing many basking but we suspect they are getting going early in the morning, before we are here. It won’t be long until they have their babies- I wonder if we’ll see any this year?
If you visit the reserve, you’ll notice there are a lot of dead rabbits just now. Another outbreak of myxomatosis is doing the rounds and killing off many of the rabbits. They are a sad sight to see in the latter stages of the disease and, even before they die of it, are easy prey for buzzards, foxes and dogs.
The woods are largely silent at the moment – unless a tit or finch flock goes by. In spring, all the birds are shouting about territories and, not too put too fine a point on it, sex. But, by this time of year, they usually aren’t singing (robins are the exception) and most of the calls you hear in the woods are communication calls. These are a flock’s way of keeping in touch – a constant cheeping, churring, muttering that lets the other members of the flock know where they are and that all’s well. Listen out for this if you encounter one of the large siskin or redpoll flocks that are feeding in the tops of the birch trees right now.
They are feeding in the birch just now as the birch catkins have ripened and are full of seeds. These seeds are tiny….but siskins and redpolls aren’t very big either. They use their fine, pointed beaks to delicately pick the seeds from the catkins.
The mixed tit flocks call constantly too. They often have willow warblers, robins, chaffinches and wrens all following the flock- the more eyes there are, the more likely someone is to spot a predator. The tits will feed high in the trees, while the robins feed more at a medium height, and wrens and dunnocks pick through the understory. This wren was constantly disappearing in and out of the drystane dyke, earning its Latin name of “troglodytes” or “cave dweller”.
The edges of the Vat trail are purple with the devil’s bit scabious flowers. They produce lots of late nectar for the butterflies.
Even more swallows are gathering on the lines this week.
And, finally- if you come out to the reserve this weekend, have a look round and think differently. Ellie, with the aid of a clever app, has taken these rather different views on the reserve. Enjoy!