Cold Nights and Gold Trees

When you’ve been away for a fortnight, you fairly see the changes in the reserve when you come back. I stepped out of the car on Monday to the first frost of the year and to the high, shrill “tsreeep” of redwing calls. The winter thrushes are back!

Redwing

Redwing

There seem to be a moderate number of redwings and black-beaked (probably continental) blackbirds on the reserve. Redwings are a favourite of mine but I never seem to get a decent picture of them. They are wild, shy, wary birds- and usually see you before you see them, so you just see a lot of flocks flying away from you! However, this one sat tight just long enough to grab a couple of shots.

Redwing

Redwing

Redwing

Redwing

Possibly a continental blackbird- the black beak can be a giveaway.

Possibly a continental blackbird- the black beak can be a giveaway.

The trees also seem to have turned a lot in the last fortnight. It’s been quite breezy, so a few are looking rather bare, as they are losing their leaves as soon as they have turned yellow.

A lot of the trees are losing leaves in the wind

A lot of the trees are losing leaves in the wind

However, some other trees in more sheltered spots are holding their yellow leaves longer and are looking lovely and golden.

Yellow birch leaves

Yellow birch leaves

Golden birches

Golden birches

From the viewpoint - looking autumnal

From the viewpoint – looking autumnal

The bracken looks lovely in autumn

The bracken looks lovely in autumn

Bogingore

Bogingore

The aspens are one of the later trees to “turn” and are only just starting to yellow.

The aspens are later in going yellow

The aspens are later in going yellow

The rowan trees are still heavy with fruit- but the thrushes are already starting to make a dent in it already. If there is a big arrival of redwing and fieldfares mid-October, as there often is, it will all go in a surprisingly short space of time.

Bending under the weight od fruit

Bending under the weight od fruit

Red berries, blue sky

Red berries, blue sky

There are still a lot of rowans around

There are still a lot of rowans around

We had an unexpected visitor in the office this week. A movement seen out of the corner of my eye was found to be a tiny toadlet! How it had got in, we don’t know, but we gently evicted it on an old events poster. It’s best not to handle frogs and toads if you can avoid it, as a) (the altruist’s reason) the oils on your skin can irritate them and b) (the vested self-interest reason) they pee on you in self –defence.

We had to evict this toadlet from the office!

We had to evict this toadlet from the office!

Down on the lochs, the grebes seem to have disappeared. We don’t normally see them during the winter, so I’m assuming they’ve fledged and moved on. But the geese are using the lochs more, roosting there overnight. They are great entertainment to watch, as are most social animals with a pecking order (literally, in the case of birds). They are always bickering and jostling but still need to be part of the flock ( a bit like people,  really). They are fun to watch landing too, with their big pinky-orange feet acting as air brakes as they come in to splash down on the lochs.

Greylag geese flighting in to Loch Davan

Greylag geese flighting in to Loch Davan

Flaps down - those big feet are good air brakes!

Flaps down – those big feet are good air brakes!

Landing gear down...

Landing gear down…

Splashdown!

Splashdown!

Winter also marks a change in our work on the reserve. Now is the time we start doing “tree work”, taking down anything near paths that has died over the summer. Some trees are easy, some are a pain. This one was firmly in the latter category, having snapped and hung up – but we got it down, slowly and safely.

Felling dead trees

Felling dead trees

Snapped dead tree- too close to path.

Snapped dead tree- too close to path.

The fungi are a good indication that the tree is dead or dying

The fungi are a good indication that the tree is dead or dying

Taking down dead tree

Taking down dead tree

On it's way over

On it’s way over

Stump of felled tree

Stump of felled tree

With the colder weather, the peanut feeder has been much in demand. Coal tits are the smallest bird and bottom of the pecking order- but do okay due to sheer numbers and persistence! Then blue tits, then great tits, who usually give way to chaffinches…and top bird is the woodpecker. But the squirrel trumps all of these and you often see the other birds hanging around, scolding, waiting for the squirrel to go. Except for the coal tits- who nip in right under squirrel’s nose!

Red squirrel

Red squirrel

Tucking in

Tucking in

Red squirrel on feeder

Red squirrel on feeder

Two tails. A coal tit has nipped in for a feed right below the squirrel

Two tails. A coal tit has nipped in for a feed right below the squirrel

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