Muir of Dinnet NNR – Spring Flowers and April Showers

We’re right in the heart of spring just now. All the fields are full of lambs, no longer gamboling unsteadily on new legs, and the daffodils are just starting to go over. Here on the reserve, the wild flowers are just coming up for being at their best, with new ones opening every day. The woodland by New Kinord is carpeted with wood anemones and celandines.

Wood anemones

Wood anemones at New Kinord


The violets are coming out, too. We first spotted these when litter picking….but it turned out to be a purple flower, not the well-known purple wrapping of a popular chocolate bar!


And, in sunny, sheltered spots, the primroses have burst into flower. In some countries, it was believed that the first young woman to find the first primrose of the year would marry that year. It’s up to you whether you want to give this method a try….


The migrant birds continue to trickle in. And they have been trickling in- often, we have lots of willow warblers in full voice by now but there still aren’t many singing on the reserve. It’s likely that the cool and often blustery north-west wind this week has held up the migrants- birds don’t like flying into a strong headwind. It’s bad enough walking into a headwind, let alone trying to fly between continents when you’re the size of warbler or tree pipit! But we have had a couple of new arrivals this week, with swallow on the Monday (10th) and tree pipit on the Wednesday (12th).


The first tree pipit of the season.

I always find this an exciting time of year, as every day can bring something new. It can be migrants leaving for the summer, like these whooper swans bound for Iceland, or an arrival from the south, or new plants bursting into life.

Incoming! Whooper swans on final approach….

The trees are just starting to flush green. The hawthorns are always the  first to put on leaf, then it’s a race between the birches and the other trees. The birches are just starting to come into leaf now.

New birch leaves, being blasted in NW wind!

And the hazels have burst, too. No signs of life from the oaks , ash or aspen just yet, though – they’re always later.

New hazel leaves

Another sign of spring is the “disappearance” of the adders after skin shedding and mating. They’ve spent the last two months basking and not doing a lot – but now they have shed their skins and mated, they are on the move and much, much harder to spot. We were lucky to find a couple for a photojournalist from the Guardian early in the week…but they did pose beautifully for some pictures

Watching you, watching me.

The graylag geese have become a fair bit quieter lately, probably as some are now sitting tight on eggs. The geese not on nest duty are often seen feeding in nearby fields, grazing the new grass.

Greylag goose feeding in fields

The wagtails are back in force, too. Grey wagtails have appeared back around the lochs and look like they’re prospecting for nest sites….although it’s more usual to see them by running water in places like the Vat gorge.

Grey wagtail

And the pied wagtails have been feeding in the car park most mornings.  As  their name suggests, they “wag” their tails constantly …but by bobbing up and down, not from side-to-side. Their old nicknames include “washtail” or “nanny dishwasher”, probably because of their association with water. I remember an old lady telling me her father used to say she “had a tongue like a dishwasher’s ass”…and didn’t find out until many years later that it meant it was always wagging!

Pied wagtail, foraging in the car park

Speaking of grazing, some creatures eat things that are utterly disgusting to us. One morning, after a brief April shower, all the slugs came out in the damp. Now, slugs get a bad press – they decimate your daffodils, hammer your hostas and ingest your irises. But not all of them – the big black ones aren’t plant-munchers, they eat dead organic material. And this includes poo. But if they, and other creatures, didn’t eat up all the stuff we think of as yukky, we’d be knee deep in it. So, if you’re gardening this weekend, at least leave off squashing the black slugs!

Slug eating pine marten poo














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