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!
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.
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.
However, some other trees in more sheltered spots are holding their yellow leaves longer and are looking lovely and golden.
The aspens are one of the later trees to “turn” and are only just starting to 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.
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.
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.
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.
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!