Off Canvas

Our signs of Spring started on 12th January when snowdrops were starting to come out by the burn at Southfield bridge.  John and Irene also had some snowdrops starting to come out in their garden. 

Desperate for flowers of any time at this time of year, we had a posting about the Gorse on Abernyte Glebe, which was certainly flowering well over Christmas and \new Year. It has the reputation of flowering in every month of the year, but this year it was particularly prolific.  The old rhyme goes something like “when Gorse is out of blossom, its branches bare of gold, then kissing’s out of fashion, said country folk of old”.  No chance of that this year! 

The Botanical Society of the British Isles did a New Year’s Day survey to see how many plants were flowering on New Year’s Day 2015, and came up with an amazing 368 species.  Check their website if you want to know what they all were. 

On 22nd January Barry had noted that despite the snow and ice, the Great Tits were singing their spring song. You know the one - it sounds like someone sawing with a very squeaky saw! He had not heard that call through the autumn and winter. The same week he heard the first Great Spotted Woodpeckers drumming from the hill. Even more  interesting for me was to hear the yaffling call of a Green Woodpecker from the hill. Despite the weather, the birds thought that  spring was on the way. We need that hope in the cold weather. But on the 22nd January we had Redwing and Fieldfare around the village, and even Ravens have been around. Its pleasing to know that I’m not the only one who takes pleasure in hearing a bird that we used to only expect to see in the craggy parts of the Angus Glens. 

Spring at Hill House was enlivened by the white spotted “Snowy Robin” whose photo appeared later in the Courier.  This Robin was around the bird feeder for some weeks, before disappearing.  Birds with white markings in their plumage are not uncommon and when all white are termed “leucistic,” for example blackbirds which have some white feathers.  The Snowy Robin was a most attractive little chap or chap-ess. 

On 9th February it was evidently warm enough for the first Bat of the year to be spotted having a flight outside.  There were some insects also coming out then, so hopefully it knew what it was doing.  A week after that, on 16th February, Gordon heard the Oystercatcher for the first time.  That is a sign that they are starting to think about moving inland in preparation for the ground being soft enough for them to probe with their bills, and later to set up a nesting place in an open field.

Barry noticed frogspawn in our pond on 9th March, when the minimum night temperature had been well above freezing, and the days were warming up.  Each year the spawn is deposited in the same part of the pond.  We have not heard from anyone else when they had their first frogspawn.

On the 2nd April we saw our first butterfly of the year, and both Peacock and Small Tortoiseshell were about shortly afterwards. 

The Comma butterfly made an appearance at Stuart and Morag’s Garden in Knapp – it must like it there because they have it every year, it is clearly over-wintering. Diana saw her first bumblebees out at Hill House at about the same time. On the 7th of April the large buff-tailed queen bumblebees were out in force, looking for nesting places. A beautiful Comma butterfly also surprised Diana on her patio as she had not seen one before. This butterfly is gradually becoming more frequent in our area. It is unmistakeable with its deeply scalloped gold-coloured wings with dark markings on them.  The lovely Orange-Tip Butterfly was seen at Flawcraigs on 20th April and in Abernyte on 23rd April 

Yes, Summer can formally be declared in Abernyte from 9th April.  Swallows were seen on that day and House Martins were close on their heels.  The weather was really warming up.  They must have been some of the first as on checking the British Trust for Ornithology’s“migration watch” page, we could see that there were virtually none in Scotland 4 days prior to this. 

We saw our first swallow swooping past the front of the cottage at about 6.30 pm on 9th April just as we were speculating on when they might put in an appearance, with John , Helen and Sam.

Stephen at WhatsOn Abernyte has been receiving many reports of Swallows and House Martins around the area, and compiled the results which were:House Martins were seen on 10th April (East Newton) and Swallows on 9th (Abernyte). Ten days later a lot more of them were around. They were seen at Stockmuir on the  22nd and Pitkindie on the 18th.  Folk at Rait and Tulloch Ard were also delighted to see their Swallows returning. We hope some of our Abernyte Swallows were not too dismayed to find the barn where some of them have nested in previous years, gone. If you have suitable swallow nesting places please make the swallows welcome, they may be looking for a new home! 

I like to end with Good News, and good news is that the Cuckoo has returned! It was heard on Friday 8th April near Rait, a very welcome sound.  Let us know if you have heard one too! 

Later, Barry  had a walk across the Glebe and was serenaded by the song of Blackcap, Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff. If you are a little rusty on your warbler calls, either search the "Tweet of the Day" archive on the BBC radio 4 web site or go to the RSPB web site. Many of our summer warbler visitors are much easier to find and identify by sound than any other way. 

If you have wildlife sightings to report, please post them on the Abernyte Forum, Nature Watch.

By this means we can all go green with envy (or white with fear!) at your reports, like the thread started by Gordon:enjoying Spring in Florida with Mockingbirds nesting in the garden, Red Cardinals perching, not forgetting the Southern Black Racer Snakes which spiced up life for the nesting birds! Picture on the website.