Swirling Swallows and Calling Cuckoos

I think we have finally made it folks. Our Birch forest is in leaf, our wild Cherry are groaning with blossom and we have lots of little gaggles of Goslings . So its raining for sure but at least its a warm rain! I could see our wildflowers and tree’s enjoying having a drink today in the steady drizzle. So the midges are out. All the more to eat for the Swallows and Martins. It could just be Spring!

Birch in leaf
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The vast cover of our Silver birch forest can be seen best from the moorland on the south of the reserve.
Birch forest provides a light, open canopy, providing the perfect conditions for grasses, mosses, wood anemones, bluebells, wood sorrel and violets to grow.
Wild Cherry Blossom. The wild cherry not only has beautiful blossom but also a bounty of bright red fruits. The second part of its botanical name – avium – refers to birds which play a vital role in the tree’s continuation by eating the cherries and dispersing the seed. The leaves form the main food for caterpillars of many moths, including the cherry fruit, the orchard ermine, brimstone and short-cloaked moth.

There is an old adage of “Swallows (and Martins) flying high – staying dry”. If you have been watching the Martins and Swallows swooping low over Loch Kinord recently you know that this rings very true.

Something about the raindrops on the water seemed to push these birds into a feeding frenzy.

One thing these birds have in common is that they feed on the wing, swooping and diving to pluck insects from the air. On fine days, when air pressure is high, tiny insects are swept up high on warm thermal currents rising from the ground, forcing birds to head upwards in search of their lunch. I have seen groups of over 500 vortexing high over Loch Kinord. When air pressure is low, and rain is more likely, as in the last week, there’s a greater chance that swallows and Martins will find tasty morsels of crunchy winged snackettes buzzing around closer to the ground.

The call of the male cuckoo has now become the background sound of the reserve, and the repetitive call of “cu-coo, cu-coo, cu-coo, cu-coo” can slightly haunt you as you walk around.

This surprisingly penetrating call is quite difficult to get a fix on as it’s a sound that really travels and seems to surround you.

I finally tracked this male down to the Old Kinord fields. As the spring progresses this double-note tends to change: In June I change my tune.The female’s bubbling call is very different and often said to resemble the sound of bath water gurgling down a plughole.

To end on some gratuitous cuteness now. Here are our Goslings and a baby bunny (who is probably partly responsible for the sorry state of the bluebells’ leaves above). Does it stop you saying ahhhh. I didn’t think so. Me neither.

Baby Bunny

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