There seem to be a lot of unhappy and bewildered people on the reserve this week. We’d like to think it’s not our fault though, more, shall we say, election–related. Events in the wider world are making people uncertain – so they seem to turn, as they often do, to simple pleasures- something uncomplicated and beautiful, like a walk in the country. Speaking for myself, I find that it helps clear my head and makes me forget about bigger issues – it’s harder to worry when the sunrise is so gorgeous through the trees.
You also find you have other things to think about- like seeing the first snows whitening Morven and watching a buzzard disappearing into the mist. It’s easy to underestimate how much these things can mean to people and how much they get from nature, probably because we can’t quantify it. How can you put a price on the smile you smile at something like beauty, or the heart lift you get from seeing a wild animal in its own world?
It has been a week of cold and contrasting weather. Early in the week, it was clear on high ground but the freezing fog took a long time to clear away from the lochs.
On these cold mornings, every blade of grass is picked out in white. Even the spiders’ webs are rimed with frost.
And it was an odd experience, sweating while loading old fence wire into the land rover- but still having painfully cold feet!
The reserve is still playing host to good numbers of “winter thrushes”- redwing and fieldfare. We are still seeing flocks of dozens of birds feeding in rowan trees.
They will need all of the energy they can get from the berries to keep warm. It turned damp later in the week and the damp cold always feels much colder and more draining than a dry cold. But it always amazes me how even the smallest glimmer of sunshine can brighten up the reserve and bring the late autumn colours to life.
It’s been wet enough to make the lochs high again. Not as high as last winter, fortunately- but as high as they’ve been for 7 or 8 months.
The wildfowl don’t seem to mind the wet weather- they’re well adapted for it. We have been seeing a few families of mute swans on the lochs. The youngsters, this year’s cygnets, are starting to moult into adult white feathers- but it’ll be another couple of years before they are old enough to breed.
And then, on Thursday, winter arrived for a couple of days. We had a couple of inches of extremely wet snow that turned the reserve into a monochrome winter wonderland.
But a little bit of snow doesn’t stop us from getting out on the reserve and chopping down a few more dead or dying trees near the paths! Fortunately the snow wasn’t too deep to do this – it’s not safe if it is – but it was very wet, as lumps of half-melted snow dropped off the trees. And they always seem to fall, with unerring accuracy, right down the back of your neck…..brrrrrrr!