Warm and Cold Winter Days -Muir of Dinnet NNR

It has been a week of contrasting temperatures this week. In fact, that’s putting it mildly – the thermometer has practically been bouncing all over the place. It started cold and frosty, with yet more wonderful sunrises. 

Sunrise in the frosty woodland

Sunrise in the frosty woodland

Yet again, thick hoar frost coated all the trees around the lochs. The reedbeds looked amazing, all winter-white in the first light. (By the way….hoar frost is a thick frost that forms from water vapour in the air. It is nothing to do with a word that sounds the same but does not appear, ever, in this blog, even if it has a commoner usage than “hoar”.Spell checker keeps suggesting I change it!).

Frosty reeds by Loch Davan

Frosty reeds by Loch Davan

 Even every blade of grass and every piece of vegetation was coated in ice crystals, from trees down to the dead heads of summer flowers like devil’s bit scabious.

All the grass near Old Kinord was covered in frost Monday morning

All the grass near Old Kinord was covered in frost Monday morning

The shady hollows stay frosty all day

The shady hollows stay frosty all day

Frosty birch

Frosty birch

 Tufted hair grass

Tufted hair grass

Frosty rowan tree

Frosty rowan tree

Frosty birch tree

Frosty birch tree

frost flower- a devil's bit scabious head covered in frost petals

Frost flower- a devil’s bit scabious head covered in frost petals

 And then, quite suddenly, on Wednesday the temperature rose. And not by a little either, by a lot – it was 15 degrees Celcius here on Wednesday and you didn’t need a jacket to work outside. That’s 21 degrees warmer than the minus 6 of Monday morning! Goodness knows what these bouncing temperatures feel like to the wildlife, but a break from the cold must have been a relief for the birds and animals. They use up so much energy, just staying warm enough to stay alive, that they are very hungry and can be quite confiding. The normally shy and retiring winter thrushes were feeding right beside the car park at Burn o Vat – and not flying away from people much either.

Fieldfare, guzzling rowans

Fieldfare, guzzling rowans

Fieldfares

Fieldfares

They are great entertainment to watch. The rowan berries grow right on the end of the branches, which are really thin. And thrushes are a reasonable-sized bird. So, if they land close enough to the berries to feed, the branches will hardly hold their weight. You often see them, swaying furiously, trying to keep their balance- and not always succeeding! 

Fieldfare toppling over after berries...

Fieldfare toppling over after berries…

....going....

….going….

....going....

….going….

....gone!

….gone!

While it is always a privilege to see a wild bird or animal this closely, we have to be careful not to disturb them. They have enough ado, staying alive, without wasting energy flying off because someone has got too close with a camera. Think of it as “Countryside Manners” – just respect their space. Then you can watch wildlife with the warm, fuzzy feeling of knowing you’re not making life harder for it!

There are a few redwing scattered through the fieldfare flocks

There are a few redwing scattered through the fieldfare flocks

One member of the local wildlife certainly hadn’t noticed us – but we noticed him. It didn’t take too long to track down where the tapping, pecking noise was coming from.

Great spotted woodpecker

Great spotted woodpecker feeding on invertebrates in a dead branch

It’s not just the wildlife that has taken advantage of the warmer weather. About 3 weeks ago, we wrote about not being able to complete a dam at Parkin’s Moss. This was just before the hard frost and it delayed the work a fair bit – the whole surface of the bog was frozen and we couldn’t get a spade into it, let alone dam piling. But we got it finished yesterday, in spite of 6000 year-old tree roots that kept stopping it from going into the peat.I sometimes wonder, if, in another 6000 years, some archaeologist will wonder what all these dams were for….

Replacement dam. Parkin's Moss

Replacement dam. Parkin’s Moss

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