Welcome to the shortest day of the year. It’s the winter solstice today and the year turns after tonight, with the sun gradually starting its long climb back to 21st June. To be honest, I don’t mind the dark days when I’m not working – they’re a pain when you are – but I like a lie-in and cosy down in front of the fire. And you can still enjoy a sunrise without getting up too ridiculously early. We’ve had some lovely mornings on the reserve this week, with the sun rising pinkly over Loch Davan.
Even the pine trees glow in the early morning light.
It has been reasonably mild this week. Not warm – it is the middle of winter, after all –but there isn’t (or wasn’t yesterday, there may be by today) a speck of snow on Morven.
The milder weather has meant the lochs are ice-free. This is great for the ducks, sometimes they are frozen off the lochs for months if we get a hard winter. Ice is very risky for diving ducks- surface in the wrong place and you’re trapped under the ice and drown. So the goldeneye, tufted ducks and goosander are taking full advantage of the open water and feeding furiously. They have even started to get in a little displaying – the year does turn today, after all!
Unusually, we spotted a flock of 80-100 lapwing circling Loch Davan on Tuesday. We often have odd birds dropping in but it is unusual to see so many. In spite of watching them for a while, they didn’t settle but headed off towards Tarland.
There have been quite a few swans on the lochs as well, much to the disgust of the resident pair. The male has been steaming from one end of the loch to the other, chasing the interlopers of “his” patch. Not that they go far – they just move around him and reform into a group elsewhere on the loch. And off he goes, again….
It’s probably a good job that a flock of visiting whoopers picked Kinord, not Davan to settle onto. He’d have been apoplectic, with eighteen new swans to chase! Especially as whooper swans’ attitudes to an aggressive mute swan can often be summed up as “Yeah, whatever. Look, mate, we’ve just migrated 600 miles across the North Atlantic in a screaming gale. You think we’re going to get too uptight about you? Push off and bother the other mute swan and leave us to preen and sleep in peace”. Funnily enough, ignoring him often seems to work – he knows how to handle fear or aggression – but indifference seems to confuse him and he will, indeed, go back to chasing the other mute swans around the loch.
With the winter solstice passing, it means Christmas is just days away. Now, I unashamedly love Christmas. I like seeing the lights on the way to work- it really brightens the dark days, I love putting up a tree, I even like the cheesy Christmas songs on the radio. I also like that fact that, even briefly, we remember we’re human beings among other human beings, and people are nicer and chattier just now than they are the rest of the year. We’re all stuck on this mad, stupid, wonderful planet together…so let’s enjoy it and look after it. Have a lovely Christmas and all the best for 2017.