Frosty Nights, Burning days

Spring is definitely in the air. The snowdrops around old, ruined houses are in full flower and a lot of the birds are in full voice. The snowdrops look striking under the straight, grey trunks of the aspen.

Snowdrops and aspen

Snowdrops and aspen

But the nights are still very cold. It’s been down to minus five a few nights and the adders have been slow to get up in the mornings. They often bask on the bracken rather than the stones of the dyke early in the day. I suppose it’s warmer on the tummy!

Basking adder

Basking adder

Snakes alive! There's two of them!

Snakes alive! There’s two of them!

We had a glorious day for an “away day”, helping to put up the tern fence at Forvie. Forvie has some of the best sand dunes in the country, making for an almost desert-like landscape down by the estuary and the terns love it – they have one of the largest mainland tern colonies in the country there, all tucked within about a mile of electrified fencing. This keeps predators out and has to be put up in early March, about 3 weeks before the terns arrive back. All going to plan, there can be up to 4000+ pairs of birds all tucked safely within the fence. Although it is a lot of work to put up,  it is absolutely vital for the preservation of the tern and gull colony.

Ythan estuary

Ythan estuary

What are they doing? The seals were curious about or fence making!

What are they doing? The seals were curious about our fence making!

Enclosing the shingle area

Enclosing the shingle area

Just upright- still needs guyed up

Just upright- still needs guy-ed up

The terns like the sand and shingle areas in the dune. Tern eggs look like stones so it’s good camouflage for them.

The terns like to nest on shingle and snad

The terns like to nest on shingle and snad

The low sun makes for long shadows in the dunes. Even the crushed mussel shell, regurgitated by eider ducks, casts a shadow on the sand.

Mussel shell fragments

Mussel shell fragments

Occasionally you can spot small pieces of worked flint in among the shingle. There were people here thousands of years ago, making tools from flints found in the shingle and it’s always a thrill to spot these chips of stone that may have last been handled by a person 3000 years ago.

You occasionally find chips of flint among the shingle

You occasionally find chips of flint among the shingle

Back at Dinnet, the breeding action is hotting up down on the lochs. the goldeneye are almost turning themselves inside out in an attempt to impress the females. They look utterly daft to our eyes but it clearly means more if you’re a duck.

More displaying

More displaying

Displaying

Displaying

Goldeneye displaying, with head tucked right back onto body

Goldeneye displaying, with head tucked right back onto body

And the swans are getting stroppier and stroppier. They’re even taking to the air now to see off rivals and chasing each other between the two lochs.

The swans are chasing each other between the lochs

The swans are chasing each other between the lochs

Even the reed buntings are getting in on the act, singing from bushes or dockans down by the loch. Well, for a given value of “singing” – reed buntings have a repetitive, nasal trill which gets marks for persistence, if not singing ability.

Male reed bunting

Male reed bunting

We had yet another glorious day for heather burning. It’s been the first one this year when the heather hasn’t smoked sullenly, then gone out….but that means you need to be extra careful that you can put it out! We burn small patches each year to allow other plants, including bearberry, to grow under the deep heather which would otherwise shade them out.  Many thanks to Daryl and Richard  for their help with the fire- and, more importantly, putting it out.

Lighting up

Lighting up

All going to plan so far...

All going to plan so far…

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Muirburn

Muirburn

Heather burning

Heather burning

 

 

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