It’s been a busy week for us. And the wildlife is getting busier too. You can’t walk down by the lochs just now without hearing the “tsip- dzzzzoo” of the goldeneye displaying. The males are going all out to impress the females right now, with a series of head-flicks, feet-splashing and head-down displays.
They are great entertainment to watch. The head-bob, foot splash is an “I’m showing off” move.
But the head-down display is more likely to be a threat to rival males. I’ve never seen two males actually come to blows but you do see a lot of posturing. They have a very good idea of where the invisible lines are on the loch that mark the boundaries of each other’s territories. And there is a lot “sabre-rattling” on these boundaries – getting close enough to annoy the resident male but not close enough so he beats you up. The favoured technique seems to be to dive and try and torpedo your rival from underneath- so, if one goldeneye dives, they both do.
You can see that the females are in prime breeding condition right now by the pale tip to their beak. You only see that in spring in adult females.
The mallards are displaying too, with rather more sedate head-bobs than the goldeneye. However, it won’t be long until they get completely carried away, and it’s not uncommon for female mallards to be drowned by over-enthusiastic males trying to mate with them.
The adders had a slow start to the week, with it being too cold on Monday for them to poke their heads up. But they did get some basking in on Tuesday and Thursday- and on Wednesday, between the heavy showers.
Other birds are starting to pair up, too. This pair of oystercatchers were investigating a shingly bit of the loch shore. You tend to know if there are oystercatchers around; their call isn’t exactly subtle and has led to an old country name of “skirlie wirlie”.
Last year’s mute swan cygnets seem to be the only birds that aren’t interested in displaying right now!
Well, not quite all of them. The cormorants spend most of their time “wing drying” on Castle Island, looking rather reptilian and prehistoric. They spend a fair bit of time perched there, as evidenced by the “whitewash” underneath them!
Many of the willow trees around the lochs are in full catkin now. They are irresistibly soft and strokeable!
It stayed dry enough for us to get some more heather burning done this week.
With spring starting to come in, it is easy to forget this can be a really hard time for wildlife. There aren’t many new leaves or insects yet and most of the winter food has run out. The robins soon appear looking for any insects if you as much as kick over a log.
And the deer have been munching on this birch bracket fungus. Usually, these are too high up for deer to reach but this one has grown on a fallen birch. But please don’t be tempted by them…they are useful for stropping razors, or making plasters or even mounting moths….but not for eating!