Muir of Dinnet – A Soggy Start

Flaming June? Aye, right. I’m driving to work and suddenly there’s a warning light on the dash. Agh! The car’s broken! Oh, hang on, no. It’s just the frost light come on. In June. It’s been a helluva cold, soggy start to the month, with more rain on Tuesday than we had in the whole of May!

Rain on pine needles

Raindrops and ripples

This has made the wildlife pretty hard to spot. A lot of birds will have been tucked away, trying to keep youngsters dry. A wet start to June can be especially bad for things like game birds, as small, fluffy chicks get wet and chilled. The birds which got started early are more likely to breed successfully this year- fledged young, like this speckly robin, are a lot more weatherproof than really small ones.

Newly-fledged baby robin

The ducks don’t seem to mind the rain, even with youngsters. We surprised this mother teal when we were going our to set a camera trap by the bog. Given they are the smallest duck, she was a feisty one- she splashed and  “mock attacked” us to distract us so her brood could get away. Never underestimate a mother- and never threaten her babies!

Who’s just dived?

Mama teal and babies

And the amphibians actually like the rain. It keeps them nice and moist so they don’t dry out.

Toad in the hole

Although the wildlife can be harder to seen in the rain, sometimes it can work to your advantage. The rain masked our approach to this roe deer. We just stood quietly by the bushes and watched it for ages before it finally clocked we weren’t just a funny-looking tree!

Back view

She hasn’t spotted me yet – the ears aren’t on full alert.

What are you?!

Don’t like the look of you!

As well as being a wet week, it’s also been National Volunteer Week. Now, anyone who works on nature reserves anywhere in the world (and in a lot of other professions too)  will tell you that the place would fall apart without volunteers.  We genuinely couldn’t run or maintain the reserve to the standards we do without volunteers. And we’re sooooo grateful to the folk who give their time to help. So here’s a word from Duncan, one of our volunteers- who, very modestly, doesn’t mention that he’s removed over a ton of wire off the reserve.

When I offered to help Catriona at the centre, the outcome was not what I had anticipated. I was a person with good physical fitness but had little knowledge of nature. I had grown to love the Muir of Dinnet nature reserve and regularly visited it.

 I had anticipated my jobs would be occasional litter collection with some path cleaning and restoration. Shortly after joining, she asked me to map out collapsed fences. For a few days, Catriona led me to corners of the reserve I would not have found on my own. I was given a pair of wire clippers and gloves and for the next few months, I took down broken fences and coiled the wire as a means of protecting low flying birds.  Birds like owls, which hunt in the dark often fly into fences. They can kill deer too, if they get tangled.

 In additional to enjoying the physical element of removing fences, I have surprised myself that I am noticing wildlife and fauna whilst I am working. The birds come and keep me company, and despite my colour blindness, I can now recognise Pipits, Willow Warblers and Redstarts. The Whooper swans swim within a few feet of me and vipers bask in the warming sun. These are all things that would have passed me by as a Hill runner and climber”.

And here are a few pics of volunteers helping out at Dinnet.

Old fencing wire, rolled up and ready to go

Duncan’s wire pile, getting loaded up for removal.

Volunteer relocating frogspawn which was drying out

Volunteers clearing debris from path after flood.

The unglamorous side of reserve work!

Volunteer with the pond life tank at our Fun Day




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