The Lockdown List

Without wishing to put a jinx on things, it’s beginning to look like there may be light at the end of the lockdown tunnel. With everyone having been more or less confined to their own homes for the past two months – including Forvie staff – it’s fair to say that we’re all looking forward to things returning to some degree of normality in the coming months, however long this takes. In the meantime, there are far worse places to have been stuck than on the doorstep of Forvie NNR. Here’s a selection of local patch wildlife highlights of the spring – the Lockdown List.

Mammals – 11 species seen

These have included some very common terrestrial species (Rabbit, Wood Mouse, Brown Rat, Short-tailed Vole) as well as some rather more specialist ones seen offshore (Grey Seal, Harbour Seal, Harbour Porpoise), and indeed one flying one (Pipistrelle Bat). Two of the usually-shy species we’ve been seeing regularly around our home are Fox and Brown Hare, which have been giving uncharacteristically good views.

Brown Hares

One of the recurring themes in the lockdown period has been the frequency of Roe Deer sightings. Perhaps it’s because fewer people are out and about, or because those that are have been keeping their dogs under closer-than-normal control, but either way the deer seem much more phlegmatic than usual, often allowing a close approach. This has certainly brought a lot of pleasure to the local folk here in the past few weeks.

A handsome Roe buck at dawn

Butterflies – 6 species seen

Admittedly a fairly meagre total, but it’s still quite early in the butterfly season yet! Those species we have encountered have comprised the three Whites (Small, Large and Green-veined), Small Tortoiseshell and Peacock, while this week has produced the first Small Copper of the year – a tiny gem of a butterfly that’s a personal favourite of mine.

Small White in the garden
Small Copper – photo (c) Helen Rowe

Birds – 129 species seen

Birds are my personal specialism (such that I have one) in terms of interest and knowledge, so it’s unsurprising that they’ve scored quite highly. But the high species total also demonstrates the diversity of our local area, with its mix of salt and fresh water, heathland, grassland, dunes, cliffs, scrub, gardens and agriculture. Plus we’re on the east coast migration route, with lots of species passing through on their way north for the summer, from waders to Wheatears.

Wheatear – a typical spring migrant

Particular highlights have included a fine male Ring Ouzel, which spent a few days in a neighbour’s garden, a Grasshopper Warbler singing its strange ‘reeling’ song from the scrub at the end of our road, and a Black Redstart that popped up in the garden one evening, causing me to spill my supper all over the floor.

Ring Ouzel on neighbour’s fence!

Even the weekly shopping trip has produced some interesting records-in-the-passing, like Ospreys fishing over the estuary, and a magnificent Great White Egret, a rare visitor from the south, spotted from the car window one morning.

Great White Egret

Finally, the most bizarre addition to the Lockdown List here was a Ring-necked Duck – a vagrant from North America – which dropped in by Sand Loch one April afternoon. He didn’t stick around, and after half-heartedly mixing with the local waterfowl, he presumably carried on trying to find his way back home to the New World!

Howdy, how y’all doin’? – Ring-necked Duck

Amphibians – 3 species seen

These comprise the ‘triple crown’ of local residents – Common Frog, Common Toad and Palmate Newt, all of which occur in and around the garden pond, and occasionally wander onto the footpaths or the roads. So watch your feet if you’re out for a walk around wetland areas!

Palmate Newt away for a walk

Also of note…

Worth an honourable mention is the St Mark’s Fly, which is abundant in the local area at the moment. These harmless insects get their name from their annual date of emergence, which often falls around 25th April, known as St Mark’s day. They are somewhat ‘lazy’ fliers, and often crash-land on you if you walk through a swarm of them. As well as being a herald of the latter half of the spring – often coinciding with the onset of fine weather – they’re also a great source of protein for anything that eats insects. Even so, I would recommend keeping your mouth closed when you’re out for a walk just now.

St Mark’s Flies (the name has nothing to to with St Mark’s trousers)

So that’s a quick rundown of some of the comings and goings of the last few weeks at the north end of Forvie NNR. It’s certainly a busy time of year for wildlife just now, with lots to take in wherever you happen to be. So until things return to normal, keep safe and keep spotting, and we’ll keep you posted from Forvie.