Saturday, December 16, 2017

WINTER IS COMING

Sadly the end of summer has been and gone but now the geese are winging their way over the Sidlaws and singing out across the autumnal landscape. “We’re back, we’re back,” they say to us!  We saw a flock of at least 300 Pink-footed Geese flying over during the day on Tuesday 20th September. However that was not the first report of Geese.Marion in Kilspindie had a definite sighting of Pink-feet on Tuesday 5th September. Heather in Abernyte also saw a flock of geese on the same morning. 

Other movements of the resident Canada Geese (you can tell them from Pink-feet by their barking cry) were heard at about the same date. Now we are seeing more regular flocks of Pink-feet flying over, The Long-tailed Tits have also been making regular trips through our garden in small flocks.  Bird ringers in our garden have caught several of them recently.

With the much cooler temperatures over the last few weeks of October conditions apparently favoured the arrival of migrants. We heard from Tim at East Newton that he had a flock of Fieldfares near his place on 12th/13th October. Good to hear that they are around. Then on Sunday 16th a Brambling, another migrant from Northern Europe where it breeds in Alpine Birch Forest, appeared in our garden, where it was ringed and sent on its way by bird ringer guru Alan.  There was another on Sunday 6th November. I did not know that the lovely male Brambling has the most gorgeous deep yellow underwings which are not usually visible unless you can see their underside as they fly off.  We were able to see one in the hand and fully appreciate the plumage colours.  They are also distinguished from the rather similar chaffinches by a pale rear end visible on flight. 

There is still (27th October) a good crop of Rowan berries out in the countryside around

Abernyte, including on the Glebe where they were planted for the millennium. A lot of the red Rowan berries in our garden were scoffed as soon as ripe by Blackbirds and Song Thrushes. We noticed the return of noisily raucous Mistle Thrushes to the garden from weekend of 23rd October. They seem to like to defend a tree of white or pink berried Sorbus from any other birds that try to steal from them!  In addition, we are now getting daily visits from the cheery little Long-tailed Tits, groups of tiny Goldcrests hunting for insects on the apple trees and lots more Coal Tits than we saw over the summer months.

HEDGEHOG ALERT

Trefor communicated to say that he noticed a newly squashed hedgehog on the High Carse Road by the cottages at Craigdallie at 15.00 on 25th October. It was the only hedgehog he had seen this year. Jane and Trefor were even more dismayed to see yet another squashed hedgehog in almost the same place on the evening of 29th October. It had obviously been hit by a vehicle about 100 yds east of Craigdallie.  We also saw a rather small hedgehog running along the road there on night of 3rd November.  It was just outside George and Estelle’s house so a quick phone call to Estelle arranged for emergency food supplies to be made available.  Thank you Estelle! 

If you see any small, thin hedgehogs around then putting out food in a suitable place where it can be sniffed out by hedgehogs (but not by cats) could help these endearing animals to survive the winter.  As the ground becomes cold and frozen, the usual invertebrate food becomes less available for them.  Sometimes hungry hedgehogs even come out during the day as they do not have sufficient fat to survive the winter. Hedgehog numbers are declining generally so do what you can to help them survive, particularly by taking care on the roads. It can be difficult to see them when driving in the dark, as they scurry amongst fallen autumn leaves.  Go slowly down our country lanes to give yourself sufficient time to spot them.

Any ideas what we could do to help hedgehogs?  If there is a particular hotspot (or blackspot for hedgehogs) would a road sign work?  Also check garden bonfires before setting light to them just in case a hedgehog has hidden inside the woodpile.

You can record any hedgehogs (and other mammals) that you see, dead or alive, by going to the Mammal Society website where they have an ongoing Hedgehog Watch Survey.  In order to understand the decline they would like to know when and where you have seen a hedgehog this year.  Find out about it at www.mammal.org.uk Contact Sandy Boyd at Wormit Hedgehog Rescue if you find a hedgehog that is in a really bad way.   

LATE GARDEN BUTTERFLIES

Enjoying the gorgeous dry autumn weather in the garden on the 30th October, we still had a Red Admiral butterfly feeding on the yellow-flowered Buddleia. Most of the Red Admirals, according to the books, should be making a more southerly migration to S Europe as the weather cools down. They are not able to survive the winter up here.

We also saw a few bumblebees feeding on Fuchsia and Buddleia flowers, including the Common Carder and a Buff-tailed Bumblebee.

Ivy flowering along the Church Road has been a magnet for Hoverflies and wasps - the late flowering ivy flowers make them a useful nectar source for insects in the autumn.

Trefor and Jane in Kinnaird were lucky enough to see a Comma butterfly on Bramble flowers in their garden at the beginning of October.  And, despite 6 nights of overnight temperatures of 1 or 2 degrees C, some insects including bumblebees were still about as I write this on 6th November-.  No butterflies seen on the 6th but a Winter Moth has been at the window.

Enjoy the rich colours and sounds as autumn goes into winter in the Braes of the Carse!  

thistle