New Year, New Storms

Hello and a happy new year to you! This is the first blog for a while, a combination of Christmas holidays and flu had put us out of commission for a while. But the reserve’s still here and still a great place to visit – though I might leave it a day or two until this wind eases off! The weather started to get changeable early in the week, with snow showers blowing through on an increasingly bitter north-westerly wind.

Sun over Morven....

Sun over Morven….

....and barely 5 minutes later, with the snow starting to roll in

….and barely 5 minutes later, with the snow starting to roll in

A few whooper swans were sheltering in the corner of Loch Davan. Most of the birds were tucked in out of the wind and hard to see.

Whoopers bathing

Whoopers

Before the snow came, and you could actually see the ground,  Parkin’s Moss was looking wet- nice to see the dams are doing their job.

Parkin's Moss looking wet

Parkin’s Moss looking wet

When the snow came, it arrived in short, heavy, wind-driven bursts. One minute sun, then you could barely see the other side of the car park.

Snow's on

Snow’s on

In fact, it was so rough we’ve been helping out at Forvie for a couple of days. An eider duck count found more than just eiders- some numpty had paintballed the sign at the bird hide….grrrrr! The only plus to this was that it was water-based paint and washed off with a handful of grass and a couple of buckets of unpleasantly-cold estuary water. It’s fair to say we weren’t impressed.

What's happened to the sign?

What’s happened to the sign?

Paintballed sign

Paintballed sign

There were a couple of splatters on the hide itself, so it was with some trepidation we opened the door. What sort of mess were we going to find? Well, none mercifully- and not only that, but some lovely person had pinned up a heap of bird posters in the hide! it was the perfect antidote to the stupidity outside.

Posters in the Waulkmill bird hide

Posters in the Waulkmill bird hide

Pimp My Bird Hide- someone has added some smart posters to the bird hide!

Pimp My Bird Hide- someone has added some smart posters to the bird hide!

The eiders themselves are looking fabulous just now. They are already gathering in rafts and showing off to the females  (and they’re a right pain to count in these tight, active groups). The males look gorgeous, with their green neck, blushed-pink breast and contrasting black-and-white plumage… and their “wooo-ing” call will always make me think of the Ythan Estuary, where I first saw these ducks up close as a young YOC (remember that?) birder.

The male eider are already showing off to the females

The male eider are already showing off to the females

Eider drake in all his finery

Eider drake in all his finery

Another sea duck was also present in good numbers during the eider count. There were plenty of red-breasted mergansers hanging about the estuary. While the eiders look very dapper, the mergansers or “mergs”, look odd, bordering on scruffy. Both males and females have a spiky “punk” hairdo, with a crest on the back of the head, and when this is being blown around the mergs can look quite comical.

The mergansers' crests were blowing about in the wind

The mergansers’ crests were blowing about in the wind

Red-breasted mergansers

Red-breasted mergansers

Tucked in with the mergs were a couple of sleepy scaup. They never lifted their heads the whole time we were there.

Sleepy scaup

Sleepy scaup

The wind was picking up fairly steadily and this cormorant was barely able to keep its balance on the post. It gave up soon afterwards and flopped into the water.

Cormorant

Cormorant

Even if it is too windy to see many birds, you can still spot Forvie’s biggest resident, the grey seals, lounging on the beach at the estuary mouth. These are best seen from the south (Newburgh) side of the river…you can park close by, near the golf club , and see the seals just across the river. It’s not such a good idea to try and see them from the north- you have a long walk-in (a lot of it on sand, which is extra-hard work) and, if you get too close, you’ll scare them. But, from the south, they know there is a river between you and them and feel quite safe- so you can view them just behaving naturally and being seals. If it’s too snowy inland this weekend, a trip to Forvie is definitely worthwhile!

Grey seals hauled out

Grey seals hauled out

We're just checking they put up the fence properly.

Grey seals

 

 

 

 

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