Going Viral – Muir of Dinnet NNR

No, not the staff, but the blog (I wish!). However, following government advice, I’m afraid our office, visitor centre and public toilets are closed until further notice. While most of us should be ok, unless we all starve to death thanks to overly selfish stockpiling, we are staying at home and playing it safe for the sake of our staff, their families and the wonderful NHS. Mind you, it was only on Wednesday morning last week we closed, that didn’t stop me having to unblock a toilet on Monday first thing. Coronavirus may be the new kid on the block, but fecal coliforms and e-coli are old, old friends when you have public toilets to manage. But after cursing and plunging the blockage out, I had the delight of walking out of the toilets and seeing a ‘golden cock’.

Golden cock crossbill

I know, the mind boggles, doesn’t it? But ‘golden cock’ is the term given to a male crossbill whose dominant plumage colour is yellowish rather than the usual red. Compare the bird above to the one below, a more typical red male. These crossbills have been singing since before Christmas and are often very easy to spot when they sit right on top of a pine tree.

male crossbill.

The sun has made for good basking weather. We’ve seen up to 5 adders out in the bracken, soaking up the sun.


They often snuggle up together early in the morning, for extra warmth. These two seem to be particularly good pals and I’ve seen them curled up together more often than not.

A pile of adder!

And the flatten their bodies out to maximise the amount of sun they can soak up.

Flattened to get maximum sun

We’ve also seen the first lizards of the year. Thanks to Maggie for the picture, they eluded me and the camera  last week!

Common lizard

The frogs and toads are out and about too, and, as of a week ago, frogspawn was starting to appear in quantity in the pools by the paths.

Mating frogs


The trees are starting to show signs of life, too. Where we’ve had to cut damaged trees over the winter, the stumps are not oozing sap.

The sap is rising

And, after last year’s unusual flowering of the aspen trees, it looks like only one tree will flower this year. Aspen don’t usually flower in any numbers -in fact, last year was the first time I’d ever seen it – but the odd tree may do so, often in response to stress. I suspect this is the case with this tree – it has snapped off years ago and rot is now probably reaching the living part of the tree. A lot of plants or fungi will attempt to seed or spore in response to stress- quick, breed before you die!

Aspen catkin

Damaged aspen

As we mentioned at the start of the blog, the reserve office and toilets are shut. We have also taken in the dog poo bin as we won’t be there to empty it. While it’s best to exercise close to home to, if you do visit the countryside, please take all your litter away – don’t assume anyone will clear it up after you. Okay, this should be the case anyway, but it’s especially important just now – none of us wan’t our beautiful country messed up by a few selfish folk. Stay well, stay safe and we will all see each other out and about soon!


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