It’s been yet another week when the weather can’t quite decide what it’s doing. One day sunny, the next raining solidly. Spring is starting but not quite getting there yet…not that the mistle thrushes have been admitting that. Even on the rainy days, they keep on singing, which has earned them the old name of “stormcock”.
The great tits and robins are singing too, and the woodpeckers have been drumming incessantly. There have been three woodpeckers around the visitor centre and you get the impression none of them like the others very much. It’s getting to the point where breeding is much more interesting than the peanut feeder! You’d think it would always be that way, but in the cold weather, hostilities are at least partially suspended as everything gets on with the business of just surviving.
Great spotted woodpecker, on the lookout for rivals.
We’ve managed to dodge some of the worst of the weather this week by having school visits or being at meetings. Monday was a show-and-tell at an Aberdeen primary school, looking at ancient Scotland and using the brilliant Forestry Commission archaeology resource box.
Copper and tin ingots. These were traded across Europe to make bronze
Using a bow drill
A selection of artefacts from the Forestry Commission Archaeology Resource box
We also attended a meeting about saving Scotland’s native flora by controlling the rather un-snappily named invasive non-native species. There are lots of these in the Scotland, from ring-necked parakeets to the much-despised giant hogweed. Three of the worst plant species are the unholy trinity of giant hogweed, Japanese knotweed and Himalayan balsam. Hogweed is well-known for being dangerous to people as its sap burns, but all of them pose a real threat to our native plants. They out-compete them and result in a real loss in the diversity of other plants, insects, birds and mammals. It was nice to attend a meeting about this which could highlight some success stories (like the mink removal from much of northern Scotland) because I’ve controlled non-natives before and, frankly,it often feels like spitting into the wind…they always come back from neighbouring land and it’s an ongoing job. So it was reassuring to hear of cases where it’s really working.
Himalayan balsalm. We’ll be pulling it up come June.
Unlike some of the species we were talking about on Wednesday, the snowdrops are always a pleasure to see. They are late this year- they are often over by now – and provide a much-needed patch of brightness on a soggy day.
The snowdrops are out late this year
The rain has flooded lots of hollows on the reserve, which will make for good frog and toad spawning grounds. Spawn is starting to appear, as are mating toads…you really have to watch you don’t tread on them on the paths, as they are utterly absorbed with other business and don’t pay any attention to their surroundings.
Toad-ally absorbed with one another!
I just hope the pools don’t dry up too soon. We don’t want a repeat of The Great Spawn Rescue of a few years back, when myself and a volunteer shifted over 60 litres of spawn from a drying pool.
There was even frog spawn in the drains!
The adders have been out on the warmer days again….which, so far, has only been Monday. There were at least a couple, soaking up the rays on the bracken. No signs of the female adders yet, but with April just days away, it won’t be long until the lazy ladies start to emerge too.
We’ve popped up a couple of signs waning folk about adders. People are unlikely to get bitten but dogs running around off the path are at risk.
When spring comes around, I always think it’s easy to spot the new stuff…the first buds, the first migrant birds, the first adder…but one of the signs of the turning year is the disappearance of species we’ve grown used to over the winter. I haven’t seen a whooper swan this week and suspect they have all moved on. The pink-footed geese are on the move too, with flocks passing northward over the reserve, bound for northern Scotland and thence the long jump to Iceland.
Geese flying north
But, while the pink-feet are heading north, our resident greylags are setting up territories around the loch. You’re left in no doubt about that fact, as they have a tremendous honking and clattering as they compete for the best spots. Although everything is late this year with the cold weather, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of them are on eggs by now.
A pair of greylag geese
Speaking of birds being on eggs, we’d like to politely remind our visitors that, from 1st April all dogs should be kept on a lead or at heel across the nature reserve. Actually, when a dog is attempting to eat some of the wildlife, we’d occasionally like to impolitely remind the owner of that, but that sort of approach isn’t acceptable and doesn’t help things in the long run. Rather, we explain that a lot of birds do nest on the ground here and keeping your dog close is one of the ways you can really help the birds. It’s not the dog’s fault- they’re just being a dog- but we humans know better and we genuinely appreciate the folk who do keep their hound at heel. Thanks, folks-nature is being squeezed out all over the place, so respecting the reserve really helps.
But, even though it should be spring and the birds should be nesting, the snow hasn’t quite gone yet. There’s still quite a bit up the Vat gorge and on high, shady ground.
There are still patches of snow on the high, shady parts of the reserve
It was even getting topped up on Thursday! And Friday was just as bad. In fact, I think it was worse. It only stopped raining to snow, so massive respect to those folk who made it to the bushcraft event. It was so could outside we wound up inside- but I think most folk enjoyed themselves and learned some new skills.
Okay, I like a proper winter and don’t mind snow…but, by the end of March, I’m really looking for spring and kind of object to getting soaked through with wet snow by now. Let hope the forecast “mini Beast” doesn’t materialise over the Easter Weekend…and we may even see you at one of our events next week…details are below if you fancy it!
Snow. At the end of March. It just not funny any more…