Muir of Dinnet NNR – Frosts and Fine Days

It’s been one of those weeks where you can practically feel spring advancing. Yes, it started cold- very cold- and we had minus 4 and frosty on Monday. The grass was white and the newly-emerged nettles were covered in frost.

Frost nettle

You’d also have thought freezing to death would be off the agenda by mid- April. but, no. The frosts evidently caught out the slugs and we found several frozen to death on the paths around the reserve.

Frozen slug

Fortunately, there still seem to be plenty of insects around for the birds. (I know, I’ll not be saying that in a month’s time once the midges are out). Admittedly, it’s not a very good picture, but you get the idea just how many sand martins were zooming around flycatching at Loch Davan. There must have been well over 100- and one swallow.

It’s also lucky that frost hasn’t destroyed the cherry blossom. A late frost can do that, it can “burn” the delicate petals on any flower. But the cherry seems to have survived unscathed.

Gean blossom

Gean blossom

We’ve seen yet more comings and goings on the reserve this week. There has been an almost constant passage of pink-footed geese overhead, high up skiens of geese all heading north.

Heading north

Some of the other winter visitors haven’t departed quite yet. We were slightly surprised to spot a small flock of fieldfare on Monday. These winter thrushes are probably just passing through on their way north. They will soon “hop” the North Sea and head for their breeding grounds in Scandinavia. There they will nest in large, noisy colonies, which they will defend vigorously by pooing in any invaders. Seriously, that’s what they do -repeated pooing on by fieldfares destroys the waterproofing in a predatory bird’s feathers and can lead to it freezing to death!

Fieldfare

That’s not a mistle thrush….

Freezing may have been on the agenda early in the week but now, Thursday afternoon, it’s 18 degrees. the wam weather is fairly bringing on the trees- I’d say the dominant colour of the reserve has just shifted from brown to green in the past day or so. The birches are all at least starting to open now.

Going green

Some of the less obvious flowers on the reserve are coming out too. If you look closely at the blueberry and bearberry, you’ll  see their flowers. They’re not obvious like the wood anemones, but are pretty in their own, quiet way.

Bearberry flower

Down on the lochs, things are still fairly quiet. We haven’t seen any goslings yet -any day now, surely- but we did find some broken goose eggshell. Either there has been a hatching and the parents are  keeping them out of the way, or something has eaten the eggs.

Broken goose egg shell

Some of the other ducks are still thinking about mating. These 4 mallard drakes were following the every move of the duck.

Four male mallards chasing one female. The goldeneye in the background is displaying to a female goldeneye just out of shot.

mallards

Other birds are singing to attract mates. The jangling song of this male redstart gave away his presence. He’s a new arrival, just back from Africa this week, and is probably our best-looking spring migrant.

Male redstart

By complete contrast are the meadow pipits. These are the archetypal “little brown job” and are the cannon fodder of the bird world- everything eats meadow pipits. But they’re good at what they do- in spite of the fact everything eats them, they’re one of the commonest birds on the open ground. So, if you’re out this weekend, and see one, spare it a kindly thought- they’re quite pretty in a subtle sort of way, even if they lack the glamour of a redstart!

A meadow pipit…up a tree.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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