Although many of you have not had the chance to visit the area for obvious reasons, we hope these blogs keep you up to date and excited about your next visit to the area. March has been an unseasonably mild month with blue skies for days, plenty of signs of spring appearing and birds singing from treetops in the Speyside area. Even staying close to home, walks to local lochans and through our varied woodlands, wildlife has been active and stopping me in my tracks to admire and photograph.
A favourite local lochan that has been frozen solid for the past 3 months finally thawed, allowing the Goldeneye, Teal and Little Grebe to return and begin their courtship displays. The Goldeneye mating ‘dance’ is fascinating to watch and recently caught on a live Facebook stream. The males with their black and white plumage dip, dive and dance to impress the females, seen in this photo as brown with the golden eye. The male will stretch its neck forwards, up in the air and tossing its head violently touching the tops of its back. Their display call is unusual, almost like a child’s duck noise toy, a croaking “bee, beep.” Once the male has impressed a female, they will lay their eggs in nests in tree holes near water. Known for being a rare breeder in Scotland many RSPB reserves have provided Goldeneye nesting boxes on riverbanks, lochside to give them the best chance.
Walks along path and roads this month have been like a maze, as frogs and toads begin breeding and moving to water sources to lay their spawn. Paths carpeted with pine needles are optimum camouflage with the skin of the amphibians, so before every step, you had to make sure not to stand on any of them. Lochs that are usually quiet turned into vibrating choruses of frog and toad calls and watching the frog’s eyes on the surface of the water and swimming across the water was mesmerising. A lot of spawn was seen too, mostly in shallow areas of water near running water like ditches and loch edges. Remember to report frog or toad spawn sites if you find any this Spring.
If you are out enjoying nature, remember to look closely and especially at trees at this time of year. For trees to reproduce they have male and female parts like catkins, buds or flowers that will self-pollinate and create new trees every year. Two examples are the two shown, the Hazel flower and the European Larch flower. The hazel flower is smaller than your pinkie nail resembling a bud with pink stigmas that catch pollen. If they successfully fertilise with the male catkin particles, they will produce the hazelnut that is foraged in autumn. The European Larch tree has an equally stunning flower, in this crimson, pink colour looking like a cone. Looking closely at the lumpy larch branches you will see the bright green needles emerging, male productive buds and the female flowers.