Windthrushes and Winter Days – Muir of Dinnet NNR

A lot of people think that we wind down a bit on reserves over the winter. There’s nothing to do and no wildlife to see. To which we say “Mwahaha-ha-ha-ha!!! Aha-ha-ha-ha! Ahem.”  Sometimes I wish we did wind down, but we just get busy with other things, like tree work or ditching. And winter is actually one of the best seasons for wildlife watching. …you get spectacles like geese coming in to roost or huge flocks of winter thrushes. Sunsets and sunrises are at a time of day you can actually see them, not the middle of the night. And there aren’t any leaves on the trees, which makes spotting birds a lot easier too. We’ve been treated to the most wonderful views of fieldfares feeding on rowans in the winter sun.

Fieldfare in rowan tree. the highest berries always get eaten first

Fieldfare in rowan tree. the highest berries always get eaten first

Fieldfares in rowan tree

Fieldfares in rowan tree

Fieldfare, almost hanging upside down to get at the rowans

Fieldfare, almost hanging upside down to get at the rowans

Fieldfare, scoffing rowans

Fieldfare, scoffing rowans

We’ve also been seeing their “winter thrush” cousins, redwings, along with the fieldfare flocks. The redwings are slightly smaller than the fieldfares, browner in colour and have a prominent pale “eyebrow”. They are known as “windthrushes”- a lovely, evocative name- in the Northern Isles as they always blow in on the first storms of the autumn.

Redwing. You can just make out the red underwing.

Redwing. You can just make out the red underwing.

Winter thrushes, fieldfare top, redwing bottom

Winter thrushes, fieldfare top, redwing bottom

Redwing and blackbird feeding on rowans

Redwing and blackbird feeding on rowans

We had an insanely warm start to the week- it got up to 17 degrees on Monday…which was 20 degrees warmer than the minus three degrees that we arrived to on the previous Friday! Just after we published the blog last week, we saw a couple of lovely roe deer, browsing on bog myrtle in the snow.

Snow roe- roe deer in the snow last week

Snow roe- roe deer in the snow last week

Then, by Monday, all of the snow had gone from the reserve. There were only a few patches left high up on neighbouring Morven.

Nearly all of the snow is gone this week

Nearly all of the snow is gone this week

Virtually all of the trees have lost their leaves now. The aspen look sombre, standing in straight grey ranks along woodland edge.

Aspen in their grey winter dress

Aspen in their grey winter dress

Only a few willows and the oaks are hanging onto some leaves – and it won’t be long until these fall too.

Some of the willows still have a few golden leaves left

Some of the willows still have a few golden leaves left

The oaks still have leaves in December

The oaks still have leaves late in the year

We didn’t catch the “supermoon” on Monday night – it was cloudy- but did manage a brief view of it setting behind Morven on Tuesday morning.

The "supermoon" setting over Morven

The “supermoon” setting over Morven

We’ve had a few very still days this week. Sound has been carrying for miles across the reserve – you can hear a whooper swan on Loch Davan from the Burn o Vat. And the lochs have been like glass, reflecting the bare trees.

Autumn reflections

Autumn reflections

Loch Kinord, flat calm

Loch Kinord, flat calm

It's hard to know which way is up when the loch is this still

It’s hard to know which way is up when the loch is this still

There have been some beautiful sunrises this week. We’ve had those amazing crystal clear days that you sometimes get at this time of year, when the light makes everything glow. It’s even worth getting up early for- honestly!

Sunrise over Loch Davan

Sunrise over Loch Davan

Sunrise over Loch kinord

Sunrise over Loch kinord

Reedbed sunrise

Reedbed sunrise

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