Winter is Coming – Muir of Dinnet NNR

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.

Sunrise at burn o Vat

Sunrise at burn o Vat

Sunrise

Sunrise

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?

Morven through the mist

Morven through the mist

Buzzard in the fog

Buzzard in the fog

Winter is coming....Morven has a snowy cap

Winter is coming….Morven has a snowy cap

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.

A frosty, misty morning looking over Davan

A frosty, misty morning looking over Davan

Misty trees

Misty trees

The sun is just visible through the mist

The sun is just visible through the mist

A misty sunrise over Little Ord

A misty sunrise over Little Ord

On these cold mornings, every blade of grass is picked out in white. Even the spiders’ webs are rimed with frost.

Frosty web

Frosty web

Even the spiders' webs are frozen!

Even the spiders’ webs are frozen!

And it was an odd experience, sweating while loading old fence wire into the land rover- but still having painfully cold feet!

Old fencing wire, rolled up and ready to go

Old fencing wire, rolled up and ready to go

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.

A tree full of thrushes- fieldfare flock in birch tree

A tree full of thrushes- fieldfare flock in birch tree

Fieldfare, always alert.

Fieldfare, always alert.

Fieldfare

Fieldfare

Rowan guzzling redwing

Rowan guzzling redwing

redwing and fieldfare in the same tree. Briefly...

Redwing and fieldfare in the same tree. Briefly…

....before they all took off.

….before they all took off.

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.

The bracken is golden in the watery sun

The bracken is golden in the watery sun

The sun brings a grey woodland to life

The sun brings a grey woodland to life

Loch Davan. Looking grey.

Loch Davan. Looking grey.

What a difference a glimmer of sun makes

What a difference a glimmer of sun makes

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 lochs are high with all the recent rain

The lochs are high with all the recent rain

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.

Mute swans, adult and youngster

Mute swans, adult and youngster

Mute swans- this year's cygnets

Mute swans- this year’s cygnets

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.

Snowy birch

Snowy birch

The road to snow-where....

The road to snow-where….

Snowy larches

Snowy larches

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Snowy rowans

Snowy rowans

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!

It's got to go...this snapped tree is too close to the path

It’s got to go…this snapped tree is too close to the path

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