Well, it had to happen sometime. Autumn has finally shown its teeth, with colder days and blustery, easterly winds. We’ve had lots of winter thrushes blown in from the continent, with the fieldfares arriving on Tuesday. By Friday, we were seeing flocks of 160 strong- those rowans won’t last long!
They’re not the only once tucking in. There have been little groups of bullfinches hanging around near Burn o Vat all week, stuffing down rowan berries. Some of these are this year’s youngsters, still missing their black cap. They’ve had a good breeding season judging by the number of young we have seen recently.
It hasn’t been all cool, grey and windy days. We’ve had a couple of lovely afternoons, with the sun making the woodland shine like gold. The birches are at their best just now, every one a golden shower of leaves.
The lochs have looked beautiful on the fine days, reflecting the turning leaves.
Some of the other trees, like the geans (wild cherries) go much redder. This is caused by chemicals called anthocyanins being produced in the leaf towards the end of summer. These are the chemicals that cause the deep, firey red you sometimes see in trees like cherries. They can be produced in spring too and account for the reddish- bronze tint you sometimes see in spring leaves.
Even the bracken looks lovely at this time of year. You’ll never persuade me to like it but even I must admit it does give the woods an extra golden glow.
We’ve been getting on with a bit more clearing of dead or damaged trees near paths…..but only on the not-too-windy days. The cooler weather is much better for chainsawing, the trousers and boots alone weigh about 5 pounds – so it’s awfully hot work. It’s funny how people always say “what a great job you must have” on fine days when you are counting birds…but never say it on wet days when you look (and smell) like something the cat has buried for a week, then dragged in…..!
Speaking of counting birds, the numbers of ducks on the lochs continue to rise as more waterfowl start to winter here. Tufted duck have been our most numerous duck on the last couple of counts, usually it is mallard. The males are almost moulted back into their finery and look rather dapper in their smart black-and-white suits.
We’ve had lots of geese roosting on the loch this week. They’ve been a mixture of “pinks” (pink-foot geese) and “greys” (greylag geese) and there must have over 1000 on Tuesday morning. Unfortunately, they took off just as I got there, so the number is something of a guess – but there were more than I’ve seen so far this winter. Here’s hoping they stay around for a bit longer- they really are a fantastic sight and sound.