Watch out for Migrants!
The autumn has been wet, wet & more wet! Storm Babet, which lasted for 3 days. from 19th-21st of October. brought run-off pouring onto the B953 in Abernyte and flooding to the rest of the Carse. Unfortunately, the soil was already saturated by earlier rainfall! The road up through Lochton was temporarily blocked by fallen trees, one of them a large beech and there were other trees down elsewhere. Another victim of the storm seems to have been a Cormorant which was photographed looking rather sad and in poor condition in a field near Knapp. Storms make life testing for many sea-birds which can be driven inshore up and down the coast
Rain can be very dreary, but at least today, 6th November, the weather has become clear, cool and sunny enabling us to see a wonderful tapestry of autumnal shades of ochre, auburn and orange-red in the tree canopies, colour which has been developing almost unseen under the clouds.
The bird migrants do not miss a trick. The most obvious of these, the Pink-footed Geese - which are our regular autumn visitors - were here by 12th September. I heard my first geese on that morning, flying high over the village. They were by no means the first to arrive however, as several thousand were already at Montrose basin. Then on a visit down at the Errol reed- beds early on the morning of 14th September, there were more of them, flying up off the Tay, skein after skein, perhaps going off to feed elsewhere.
Fieldfares and Redwings are migrants from Scandinavia. I saw my first Redwings of the autumn at Little Ballo on 17th October. There are both Redwings and Fieldfares around now– a flock of more than a hundred Fieldfares were by Southfield early in November. Their hallmark call is a coarse “football rattle” sound. They love apples, so leave a few windfall apples in your garden for them – and these will be equally enjoyed by the blackbirds. There is yet another migrant, this one not belonging to the “thrushes”. That is the Waxwing. Waxwings are an object of desire amongst bird-watchers! Some years they arrive in larger numbers than usual, so could 2023 be one of those years? It seems possible as there have been several sightings of them already, although not in Abernyte as far as I know. One good way of seeing them is to listen out for a little “trill.. trill..” as a flock of Starling sized birds fly overhead. If you hear that sound there is a good chance that what you have heard is Waxwings. I was lucky enough to see a small flock of them near the university in Dundee on 4th of November. They will often settle in a Rowan tree, or other trees bearing berries. Even if the light is bad, you can see their crest silhouetted which tells you what they are. If you are even luckier, then you will see the bright red and yellow in their wings. They really are magnificent birds and worth keeping an eye out for. Particularly common places to spot them are supermarket car-parks or roadside Rowans around Dundee.
Birds are not the only visitors to our gardens in Abernyte. Red Squirrels have been visiting local gardens over the summer and autumn. Claudia at the Farmhouse was a little surprised to discover a Red Squirrel occupying her bathroom when she came in from the garden! A little later there was possibly the same one hiding in our greenhouse and we heard that Mairi and Stephen had also been visited by an inquisitive squirrel! The Red Squirrels are still around, and thankfully no greys have been noticed recently. The Pine-martens which are rapidly colonising the area are said to be partial to Grey Squirrel.
Birds were not the only migrants this autumn. There was a great influx of Red Admiral butterflies noted by folk in their gardens. These are the dramatically marked Red, black and white butterflies that enjoy fallen fruit, often plums. They feed on the sugary syrup as well as on late flowers in the garden. You can attract them to the garden with Michaelmas Daisies, Sedum spectabile with its pink flowers and one thing which they particularly like are the flowers of ivy. If you can encourage a bank of flowering ivy in or near your garden then you will be doing a great favour to lots of wildlife, including bees, butterflies and birds some of which feed on the berries later.
We have two “new” butterflies in our area. The Holly Blue butterfly has been seen North of the Tay for the first time, having worked its way up through Fife. Later this summer it turned up in Invergowrie, so who knows where it will have got to by next year? The Holly Blue lays its eggs on Holly in May and Ivy in August. Churchyards and large sheltered gardens are good places to find suitable habitat. The other relative newcomer is the Speckled Wood, which I have written about before. Over the last few years this has become more established around Abernyte, appearing in several gardens from Kinnaird to Abernyte (including High Rising and Hill House), and also at Rossie Estate. It is a lovely butterfly which is associated with the sunny edges and glades in woodlands. My attempts to find it on the Glebe, which looks a really suitable place for it, have so far failed but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there! Have you seen any new butterflies around Abernyte? With climate change in mind, it is a quandary whether we should be celebrating or feeling worried about such rapid changes in our local fauna, but it is difficult to be sad when seeing such beautiful butterflies here for the first time.