Golden Trees and Wandering Windthrushes – Muir of Dinnet NNR

We’re well through October now, and, this week, the Hunter’s Moon was riding high in the sky. By it’s light, and, more importantly, navigating by the stars, came a rush of windthrushes, redwings freshly arrived from Scandinavia.


And they came in their thousands. A colleague on the coast reported 800 over their house by the time they’d finished breakfast, but that pales into insignificance with the 13,500 counted passing over and through the Isle of May. But, while they pass over these coastal site, they usually don’t linger here. Bar a bush to crash into for a brief post-North Sea-crossing rest, there usually isn’t all that much to eat, and certainly not food to feed thousands of hungry thrushes. But they do find that here at Dinnet! There are lots of their favourites, rowan berries, hanging thick on the trees and the reserve is covered in raiding parties of redwings. All this week, the soundtrack to our days has been the high- pitch ‘tseeep!’ of their call – or and alarmed ‘chack’ if you get too close.

Redwing, posing beautifully in holly tree

But getting close isn’t easy. These are wild, wary birds, blown in from the wild northlands, and they will see you long before you see them. By the time you register, oh, there are redwing in that tree, they’ll be off. And there are always far more than you’d ever believe could be tucked into one tree – I swear they can turn invisible! You might think there are half a dozen, or maybe a dozen birds – then eighty erupt out of the tree!

Redwing in rowans

As well as the redwing, we’ve been hearing the soft ‘ dzeee’ of brambling passing overhead. These colourful finches are a northern equivalent of our chaffinch and are surprisingly easy to overlook unless you hear their call.



It’s always an electric atmosphere on the reserve when the ‘winter thrushes’ arrive in large numbers. Every berry-tree is alive with them, and a white noise of calls marks the position of every flock and raiding party. The berries don’t last long in the face of this onslaught but that’s how winter thrushes work – strip an area clean then  move on, usually south-west. When you run out of UK, hop to the continent!


Mind you, we’ve not had a massive amount of time to appreciate the redwings. The autumn and winter are the time to do all the habitat and maintenance tasks on the reserve, so the redwings were a soundtrack to various bits of pathwork we were doing on the Burn o Vat trail.  Many thanks to Mark, Daryl and Patrick for the work required to move some large rocks into the right place to revet the path and prevent it slipping.

Buildin up path edge


Although it was a hard day’s work, I’m hoping the sheer beauty of the reserve compensated for the mucky knees and  hard work!  The autumn colours are glorious right now.

Autumn leaves

Autumn colours

Autumn rowan leaf

Looking over Loch Kinord

Autumn-y Kinord

The aspen, especially are the most wonderful golden colour. But they are very variable, with some trees already being completely bare.  It takes such a short time for them to exchange their gaudy autumn gowns for a sombre, stately winter grey.



Bare and leafy aspen

Some of the aspen are totally bare

But, in the meantime, what a show they are putting on. Both the aspen by Kinord and the the handful at the entrance to the Vat are the most glorious golden colour.

Aspen by Vat


Aspen leaves


Any trees that haven’t ‘turned’ yet will do so soon now that the nights -and days -are getting colder. Temperature drop is one of the main triggers of leaf change and it has become much colder now. Morven had it’s first dusting of snow this week, so our advice is this – if you come out to see the autumn colours this weekend – wrap up warm!

Snow on the hills

First snow of the winter on Morven


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