It's been another hectic week. The list of jobs needing done doesn't seem to get any shorter, but fortunately many hands make light work and all that - though it may only be me who really enjoys floundering through bog searching for spruce trees to cut down (exotics). Yesterday (Tuesday) we spent much of the day heather burning (muirburning) on part of the reserve. Burning patches in the heather benefits grouse and can also help with tree regeneration - more seeds 'take' when they fall on shorter / barer ground (this depends on not burning any young trees that are already there!). Anyway yesterday was dry enough to burn and when it's dry enough to burn it's always a target to try and get out and burn - you never know if there will be any other suitable weather before the end of the burning season. Overnight it rained - so today it was back to the exotics!
Jayne checked on Rothes' movements yesterday - so the map will already be updated - though as she's still on Ilha de Unhocomozinho there's not much else to say about her. She obviously isn't ready to drag herself away from her island idyll.
The feeder webcam is still down. Ian's been trying to sort it, but hasn't had a breakthrough yet. Re the comments about how the osprey nest is looking - we're due to reinstall the osprey nest cameras in March which is when we'll 'fix' anything up there that needs fixed - but it's looking pretty solid and undamaged by the winter, which is good.
That's all for now.
It's been another busy week here at Abernethy. Our internet and email went down last Friday and we didn't get it back up and running until Yesterday (Wednesday) - hence the slightly later in the week than usual update. Having no emails to deal with is a fantastic motivator to get out and work through some of the other jobs on the list - I've been busy checking fences (which are happily all still there, if needing the odd minor repair), the goldeneye nest boxes are nearly all ready for the upcoming season and the volunteer accommodation has passed it's annual inspection. There was time to get out with a few volunteers and continue with our exotic removal programme - we've reached an area of bog I usually walk to from the other side - so it feels like we're really getting towards the end of the area. And today it's sunny and springlike (so typically I'm back in the office - though only temporarily!)
Rothes is still on Ilha de Unhocomozinho. So not much to report from her. I would like to thank Sue C for her helpful comment pointing out the deliberate mistake in last week's data entry - being told exactly which point is wrong saves a lot of time when you go back to correct it. It's amazing the effect that leaving out a decimal point can have! Hopefully I've not made any mistakes with the data entry this week.
The webcam is back online - though out of focus - we're still trying to resolve this. It's not actually that the camera is out of focus, but I think the blurryness is caused by a lead being plugged into the wrong place and so is causing interference (hopefully I sound like I know what I'm talking about!).
That's all for now, more next week.
It's been another busy week. Exotic removal has been continuing apace with myself and a hardy group of volunteers venturing out reguarly in spite of blizzard conditions to takle a particuarly boggy section of ground. It's amazing where spruce trees turn up - though it often seems to be on the far side of particuarly wide and deep ditches!
Last week we had some pretty impressive gales - gusts of up to 150mph were apparently recorded at the top of Cairngorm. This may be the cause for the feeder webcam problems that we are currently experiencing. I'm sure many of you will have noticed that the camera on the website is not working - thanks to everyone who let us know. I spent a bit of time up and down ladders and following the maze of cables that seem to snake through the Osprey Centre from one 'box' to another. We've worked out that the problem is the camera side of one 'box', but I'm afraid that's as far as we've got. We're working to resolve it, but Richard is away, and has taken his expertise with him, so it might not immediately be resolved - so sorry about that.
Speaking of Richard - he sent me a text over the weekend saying 'Osprey over Panama Canal' - so you can guess where he is - and more importantly he's obviously getting excited about the upcoming osprey season, getting his eye in, so he can spot EJ as soon as she returns.
I'm glad to hear that Rothes' recent meanderings on Ilha de Unhocomozinho are now all showing on the map. Jayne updated the map today, and she's still there - possibly waiting until the map was working before making her move north (or possibly until we stop getting so much snow...).
It's all season's in one day here at the moment as the weather swings from the vestiges of winter (hopefully!) and yet heralds the on-set of Spring. As I type, it is absolutely glorious sunshine outside, with a touch of warmth in it now too. Yet the wind still bites and we had a blizzard albeit briefly this morning. We, as well as the weather are betwixt & between too. In the coming weeks, the reserve's winter management programme edges towards a close as we prepare for the spring & summer duties ahead. It's also a time to refresh, in so many ways too.
For example it's training refresher-time. Various staff here have been through their regular refresher regimes for chainsaw use, tractor driving and All-Terrain-Vehicle use (ATV) - all important skills to keep up to date to enable us to carry our the reserve habitat management work. On the chainsaw front, Ross and Alice trained in the skills required to fell medium sized trees, this to enable us to scale-up our deadwood creation work. They are out there right now putting this newly aquired training to use, felling medium to large exotic spruce trees. These larger specimens need to go because they are acting as seed sources for the myriad of spruce seedlings & saplings that we spend spend time up-rooting as part of our exotic conifer removal, to restore the native forest. The chainsaw training also included how to deal with wind-blown and snow-damaged trees at road and tracksides. The tractor re-training will be put to use in March as we undertake further forest-edge prescribed burning to remove areas of long rank heather and stimulate the return and spread of blaeberry, so favoured by capercaillie and black grouse amongst other much wider biodiversity. Similarly, we use ATVs to transport fire-fogging and other safety equipment out onto the open hill to help us control the burning. So, all essential skill to have and keep current.
Alice did the rounds last week, of the reserve's goldeneye nestboxes in readiness for the breeding season ahead, removing duck down nesting material and hatched eggshells from last year, and refreshing the sawdust bed on which the ducks will lay their eggs in late March & April. Once Loch Garten thaws, male goldeneye will be back on the water ready to woo & court the females. This would have begun by now but for the ice, but in days if not weeks to come the drakes will be conducting their head-throwing courtship display accompanied by their bizzare kazoo-sounding calls. It'll be a while yet before the females go to the boxes to lay, but it doesn't stop the males making an early start.
Goldeneye are relatively new breeding birds to Britain, starting here in Strathspey back in the 1970's, enabled by the provision of boxes which tempted the birds that come here in winter from Scandinava, to stay to nest. They are one of a select few species of duck that forsake marshes, fens and other freshwater margins in which to nest, to nest in holes in trees instead. Though not equipped to make their own hole, they utilise natural nest holes when available, but when not, then large boxes do just as well. As if a hole nesting duck wasn't bizzare enough, the concept of box-nesting ducks is even more weird. In other parts of their range in northern Europe, they utilise holes hammered by black woodpeckers, a large, almost jackdaw-sized bird that smashes a five inch hole in dead trees in which to nest, and when the 'peckers aren't using them, goldeneye move in. We do not have the black woodpecker here in Uk, so box provision has served the same purpose. Our creation of standing deadwood can only help provide future sites for nesting goldeneye and many other cavity-nesting species.
On the bird front, not much to report this week. Those signs of spring mentioned last week are gaining momentum added to which is some black grouse activity. Though early in the year yet for them, frosty mornings so reminiscent of those in April, seem to spur the blackcock to prepare for their annual lekking time, when males gather to spar for dominance amongst them, to catch the eye of their female prosepctive mates. No girls yet seen in attendance, just the boys going through their paces. I was out on the Rez last week with two friends and we stumbled upon a gathering of nine blackcock. Where? On a patch of rank heather that we burnt a few years ago that has since recovered with blaeberry. Result.
Rothes? Still biding her time. I'm afraid there's nothing to report other than she's still on Il ha de Unhocomozinho.