Hello and apologies for the lack of blog last week. Life gets in the way, sometimes, and so does a ton of fencing wire! That’s how much we took to the tip on Friday, finally getting rid of the huge pile of wire Duncan has accumulated over the past couple of years. It’s a relief to see it gone- these old fences can catch deer and especially owls, which hunt in the dark and are never going to see fencing wire until they fly into it.
The robin was extremely pleased we were moving the wire. As far as we were concerned, we were disturbing the ground for him to root around for insects. We all love to see the robin following us when we garden, and are flattered by their confidence. But we might be less flattered to think we’re fulfilling the same role as wild boar did for robins, long before we put spade to soil!
It is the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology in 2017, and this week’s blog contains a mere 400 million years of history! We had a day away from the reserve, doing a wee bit of maintenance at Rhynie Chert. Now, this is the least likely-looking protected site you’ll ever see- what’s so special about a field? Well, nothing, on the surface, but a metre underneath the grass lie some of the best- preserved fossils from millions of years ago. Nothing big and dramatic like dinosaurs- they didn’t appear for another 200-ish million years – but rather early land plants and invertebrates. About 410 million years, a volcanic spring covered these plants and animals and preserved them in such fine detail that you can, under a microscope, still see individual cells within the plants. There’s even an extinct genus of plants called Rhynia in honour of the site.
Much of last week and early this week was fairly cold- the lochs have been partly frozen for about a week. The ducks don’t mind though, and seem to actively enjoy loafing around on the ice by the edge of the unfrozen patches. It’s often the best time to spot the teal- they usually lurk in the reedbeds and you can hear, but not see, them. When they are standing on the ice, you can really see how much smaller than the mallards they are.
Even a couple of visiting whooper swans were wandering around on the ice. It won’t be long until we start seeing groups of these, moving back north for summer.
Speaking of summer, it looks a bit odd to see the gorse coming into flower already. Gorse blooms almost all year round…and there is a saying that when gorse is in flower, kissing is in season!
Yet again, the frosty mornings have turned the reserve into a winter wonderland for a few hours- until the sun comes up. Perhaps that’s part of what makes it so beautiful, it’s a transient thing, to be enjoyed before it melts away.
Late winter is a hard time for wildlife- a lot of the food is gone, but it’s still at least a couple of months until any new growth or new food comes along. The redpoll flocks are growing increasingly bold with hunger, and feeding right over your head if they find a tree with a good crop of birch seeds. Their fine beaks are ideal for winkling the tiny seeds out of the catkins.
We also said farewell to a faithful servant this week- the old reserve Land Rover has been replaced. But it served us well- we never got stuck anywhere in 12 years!
We also had a trip into a school this week, talking about ancient Scotland. Dinnet is a place great to see some archaeology – but the artifacts in the Forestry Commission’s Archaeology resource box are a lot more fun to handle! The children were surprised that flint was genuinely sharp….and just how hard it is to grind barley by hand!