Muir of Dinnet NNR -The Cruellest Month

“April is the cruelest month” wrote TS Eliot, “drawing lilacs out of the dead land, mixing memory and desire, stirring dull roots with spring rain”. Boy, did he know what he was talking about! The winter tyres are still on the car and the frost light has been on almost every journey this week. A sudden, heavy dump of snow on Monday and Tuesday turned the hills white, with snow even at the Burn o Vat.

Snowy Morven

April snow

Dinging snow in April!

The cold weather on the hills has resulted in some localized movement of birds. We had several flocks of up to 40 meadow pipits feeding in the Old Kinord fields, pushed there by snow on the high ground.

Meadow pipit

And, in spite of the cold, most of the birds are still singing. This willow warbler was giving it his all from the top of a birch tree.

Willow warbler warbling

The redstarts were singing too. Unlike a lot of other birds, they often don’t sing from an obvious perch at the top of a tree, making them hard to spot. You can hear them- a distinctive jangly song- but where is he?

Singing from in the middle of a tree

Fortunately, he did pop out into the open for a few minutes. He really is a cracking-looking bird.

Male redstart

Male redstart

At least six of the lapwing are sat tight on eggs right now. They disappear into the long grass very easily but their mates, pottering around feeding, are a lot easier to spot.

Lapwing in Old Kinord fields

They are a bird of many names – lapwing, peewit, peesie, green plover, flapwing, flopwing or flapjack are all names for the lapwing. Which one do you like? I prefer “peewit” after their call….but green plover suits them too.

Flapwinged lapwing

Most of the trees are well into leaf just now. I love seeing all the different greens at this time of year. The birch are a vibrant, glossy green, while the willows have a grey-green sheen. The aspens (when they finally come out), will have a bronze tint, while the young rowan leaves (tasting of bitter almonds) are a pale silvery-green. But it seems strange, seeing the new green in front of the snow-covered hills.

Spring greens with a snowy backdrop

Willow trees

The aspen are still leafless

We had a cracking view of an osprey on Wednesday, circling over Loch Kinord. Didn’t see him catch a fish though!

Osprey overhead

Osprey circling over the loch

Last week, before it turned wintery, one of our ranger colleagues Helen was out on the heath looking for Kentish Glory moths. I’m delighted to say they found some of these elusive moths. They are a rare species and, in spite of the fact the males are large and day-flying, are very hard to spot. They need young birch for their caterpillars – they can’t manage to eat older birch, there are too many protective chemicals in the leaves.

Kentish glory moth on young birch

Kentish glory on lure

The spring flowers at New Kinord are at their best, with primrose, wood anemone and violet all in full flower. You can even still find the odd celandine if you look carefully. Mind you, the anemones have been rather sulking about the weather this week….nodding their heads mournfully rather than fully opening up.

Spring flowers- violet, wood anemone, primrose

Closed wood anemones

We also found signs of new life appearing in the snow this week. We’ve found bits of blackbird eggshell and this- which I suspect may be mistle thrush eggshell, as it’s slightly bigger than a blackbird’s. But, if you know different, we’d be pleased to hear from you!

Who’s eggshell?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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