Springing into Action – Forvie NNR

It’s spring! Though, as we commented in the last blog, yes, it is blowing a hooley and the weather is coming downward in a steady, heavy, wetting drizzle. But it stayed dry for getting the tern fence up- hooray- and the week has provided us with a mixture of hard work and wildlife treats. The first of these came on Monday, when a high-water bird count revealed the presence on an American visitor on the estuary.

Green-winged teal
Green winged teal (left) with teal and wigeon

Although only subtly different to our local teal, the vertical white stripe on his flank marked this handsome fellow out as a drake green-winged teal from North America. Ducks are great travellers and can easily turn up on different continents. Sometimes they will make their way back home but other times, they will take up residence in an area and even try and mate with females of the nearest equivalent species (the king eider being a case in point). We’ll see if this chap hangs around as spring progresses.

Green-winged teal

Another wildlife treat this week was the presence of eight pintail on the Sand Loch. In spite of being one of the commonest ducks in the world, these are never a plentiful winter visitor here and are possibly the most elegant of all ducks. Even in flight, they have a rakish, fighter-jet like profile and the males put you in mind of a smart gentleman in pinstripes. They were certainly thinking it was spring, and we saw them mating and a bit of argy-bargy between competing males. At first glance, it looks like they are snuggled up in a friendly fashion, but this breast-to-breast posture is actually a pushing match. While they look serene on the surface, their feet are frantically churning, trying to push the other male away and, if this doesn’t work, things will descend into a full-on, pecking, splashing, flapping fight. Not so elegant!

Pintail pushing match
Pintail pushing match

The weather on Wednesday – appropriately for the first day of spring – was glorious. There was a real warmth in the sun, and a bit of south in the wind, the kind of day that makes you look to the skies for returning sand martins or terns, even through you know it’s still 2-3 weeks too early. But, under your feet, some of the first spring flowers are stirring, with both daises and dandelions in flower. We haven’t seen a bumblebee yet but at least they will have some flowers to feed upon when they emerge.

Dandelion

Having said that, normal service has been resumed for the rest of the week, with a keen, searching wind making tern fencing day more than a little chilly. As regular readers of the blog will know, our tern and black-headed gull colony is reliant on an electric fence to keep predators out. We need to get the fence up before the birds arrive in mid-late March and need the help of many hands to do so. A big thank you to everyone who turned out to help put up the fence on a finger-nippingly cold day. The largest mainland colony of terns in Scotland thanks you for your efforts ….and so do we!

No fence yet…
Flat pack fence
Getting the fence up

We’d take forever to get the fence up without help; twenty rolls of mesh, guy ropes, pegs, staples to pin down the fence and warning signs all need to be transported over 1000 metres of rough ground, unrolled, stood upright, and basically turned into a fence. It’s a lot of work but well worth it to maintain the tern colony here. There are so few undisturbed places for wildlife these days that those that remain are extremely precious and this is reflected in the success the birds have had here over the past 15 years. Long may that continue.

Putting the fence up
We hope it will look like this in 3 months time!

Another job is was good to see ticked off the list was the replacement of the bird hide windows. A combination of vandalism and age meant all of these needed replaced and, after a couple of costs of paint, they were ready to go. It’s nice to have them all refreshed and hopefully there will be some good birds to spot from the hide this spring!

Painting hide windows
Anything good through the new windows…???