Adding up to Spring – Muir of Dinnet NNR

It’s spring! We’ve finally had the first adders of the year on Monday this week.

the first adder of 2020!

Adder on the wall

Thanks to the heavy snow last week and the stormy conditions this year, the adders have been late in waking up. I can’t remember the last time it was into March before I saw one, they usually emerge in the last fortnight of February. But they’re up in force now and we saw 5 on Tuesday.

can you spot 3x adders in this picture?

Adder basking

Two basking adders

The storms haven’t left the reserve totally unscathed but we’ve had remarkably few trees blown down onto the paths, given how windy it has been. this birch had snapped off and its topmost branches were now dangling at head-height over the path. Many thanks to Neville for his help in clearing it up …and for taking the pictures while I poked at the tree with the chainsaw.

Tree snapped, overhanging path

Tree down

Cleared path

The snow here is almost gone now, with only a smattering remaining in shady places.

Snow going off the fields

Snow nearly gone from Parkin’s Moss

But the hills around the reserve are still pure white. We had a spectacular view over towards Lochnagar on Tuesday…. there’s still plenty of snow up there.

Lochnagar from top of reserve

And the puddles are all frozen. the patterns in this one reminded me of a surrealist-drawn face – Picasso or Dali – in one of their odder moods.

Ice patterns – like a surrealist face!

Even in the cold weather, you find signs of life. This lichen is producing red spores, earning it the nickname of ‘devil’s matchstick’. It’s one of the Cladonia lichens…but you need a book, a microscope and a lot more patience than I have to tell them all apart.

Devil’s matchsticks

And this fungi is quite happy, growing through the winter, feeding off dead wood.

Fungi on dead birch

Unfortunately, the shrike hasn’t reappeared but it was great to see a green woodpecker her eon Monday. I used to hear, if not see these, pretty regularly until about 2012, but, since then, have only seen the odd one. This one was, for a green woodpecker, remarkably confiding (I actually got a view and a picture of it rather than the usual view of it disappearing into the trees).

Green woodpecker

Meanwhile, other wildlife is on the move. There have been a steady trickle of whooper swans passing through the reserve, arriving, staying for a day or two and moving on. They will gradually congregate in the north-west of the country before making the journey across the north Atlantic to their breeding grounds in Iceland.

Swans can be hard to see in front of a snowy hill!

Coming closer …

…and right overhead.

We also had an away day this week, helping put up the Forvie tern fence. That, and the adders, mean it’s definitely spring! Let’s hope the more settled weather continues for a bit (though it doesn’t look like it from the forecast) so we can all get out there and enjoy some sunshine!

Tern fencing




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