This week has flown by. Suddenly, we’re into November and we have to start thinking about changed clocks, frosts and fireworks….and hope no-one fills the car parks with firework debris or nails any onto signs this year (yes, people do that. No, of course you shouldn’t. Yes, we get annoyed and yes, it does damage the signs). But it’s not winter just yet- there is still enough colour in the trees to tell ourselves it’s autumn for a bit longer.
We’ve had a few cool, misty mornings this week. The lochs have looked moody, brooding quietly under the slowly clearing mist.
We still have a good crop of rowans. The trees are bare of leaves now but the berries are still hanging in glowing blood-red clusters.
Most of the birds we have seen this week have been spending at least some time in the rowan trees. Fieldfares, also here from Scandinavia, seem to have replaced redwings as the most numerous and obvious thrush on the reserve. They are larger and greyer than the redwings, with a rattling chack-chack-chak call. Like all the other thrushes, they are gorging themselves on the berries before they go. Gotta feed up before winter strikes in earnest!
We also caught these resident blackbirds mid-scoff. All of the thrushes swallow the berries whole and can eat far more rowans that you’d think they could fit in their tummies!
Bullfinches, however, break up the berries to eat them. Like many finches, they sort of “mumble” their food, manoeuvring it around in their beaks to find the best bits, be it seed kernels or fruit pulp.
We’ve been seeing other birds in the rowans too. This robin seems to be practicing his pose for Christmas cards ….only 50 days to go….
And the blue tits and goldcrests were foraging for insects in among the berry clusters and on the bark.
However, the redpolls prefer birch trees. Their fine beaks are ideally suited for winkling out tiny birch seeds.
It was something of a surprise to trip over a very late- blooming bluebell in the grass near the Celtic cross…we thought the frosts would have finished off any flowers.
Down on Parkin’s Moss, we had a day with volunteers and a large rubber mallet attempting to put in another dam across the ditch. Two of the old dams don’t seem to be holding water any more, so the intent was that the new dam would replace these. However, we ran into problems in the shape of unrotted pine tree roots buried in the bog. There is no sign of the trees now, they will have fallen over and rotted away over 1000 years ago, but their roots, buried in the peat, have been well preserved…. and you can’t bang plastic piling through them! Needless to say, it was almost the last pile that wouldn’t go in and we couldn’t shift the others. The word “dam” was said quite frequently…and not meaning to block water either! We’ve had to leave some of the piling sticking up until we get a big pinch bar to try and break through the roots.
This week was marked by a steady whooper swan passage through the reserve. I always find it hugely exciting to first hear and then see the first whoopers of the season, freshly arrived from Iceland. Yes, I’ll admit they are one of my very favourite birds- their whooping calls are swan music to me and, in my head, epitomises wild places and wild birds. It’s amazing that a bird that weighs up to 11 kilos can fly pretty much non-stop for hundreds of miles over the north Atlantic to get here. And that’s with no map, no compass, no sat-nav- I think most humans would do well to find the right continent, let alone the right country!