Muir of Dinnet NNR – Snakes and Sunshine

Snakes and sunshine are two things we’ve had plenty of this week. The adders have finally started to shed their skins and are looking freshly minted. I can never get over how vibrant they look, like freshly-enameled jewels.

Lovely blue shed male

Compare this shed male with how he looks earlier in the week. He’s one of these two, the top one we think, and looks a totally different animal.

Sharing warmth

Newly shed male adder

Shed adder skin

The longest skin we’ve found this year -63 cm straightened out.

This male adder hasn’t shed yet- his eye is still cloudy. And, if you look closely, just behind his head, you can see his skin starting to split.

Let’s split. Unshed adder, but look closely- his skin is starting to split.

The male adders will now be on the lookout for females. We’ve only spotted two females so far this year- but we don’t have forked tongues to scent them out!

Male and female adder.

Other reptiles have been enjoying the sun, too. This slow worm was basking on the path- and was most unwilling to move until I gently ushered him into the long grass. Unfortunately, the middle of the path, with walkers, cyclists and dogs isn’t the safest place to bask.

Slow worm on path

The sun is fairly bringing on the new leaves. The birches haven’t burst- yet- but the hawthorns and larches are fairly starting to go green.

Larch bursting into “leaf”…well, needle.

It’s bringing out the flowers, too. We’ve seen our first wood anemones this week.

Wood anemone

The damp mornings, when it’s still dew-soaked, are the best time to spot the toads that are still on the lookout for mates. The number you see on the paths is dropping off a bit now but you do still come across amorous couples making more toads. The females are usually much larger than the males.

mating toads

In fact, everything is getting it on right now! The list of things we’ve seen mating this week include geese, lapwings, chaffinches, dunnocks, toads and robins….all full of the joys of spring.


The migrant birds continue to arrive. We saw, or at least heard, our first willow warbler last week and an osprey was reported fishing on Loch Davan.


We’ve also had our first wheatear passing through the reserve. They don’t breed on the reserve but you find loads on the  west coast- look out for a small bird with a white bum flying away from the car!  These are cracking wee birds and the only small passerine bird to cross an ocean on migration…the northern race of wheatear can migrate from Canada to Africa via Greenland and Europe…and some may even take a more direct route across the Atlantic. All bird migration is an amazing story of survival against the odds- and this is one of the best!

Male wheatear




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