Late Winter or Early Spring?

Recently, things were almost starting to feel a bit ‘spring-like’. Wishful thinking, I know! The herons on castle island were mending and building nests, the skylarks were singing as were the chaffinches and the ducks were all displaying to one another.

Heron next to its nest (c) Jeremy Squire

This changed last week however, a blast of cold wind and snow has halted the approach to spring and sent us back into the depths of winter. Thankfully it only lasted a few days. I checked on our herons and they have stopped building momentarily and have been laying low… I don’t blame them in the winds we have been having! It is quite common to have herons on eggs in late February, but no luck so far!

There has been *some* heat in the sun recently.

Occasionally in February I would see my first butterfly or bumblebee of the year, my first reaction was of pure joy, but I would soon think about how this butterfly or bee would soon inevitably be facing some pretty cold late winter/early spring weather and would hope that it would find a spot to hunker down and survive for a few more weeks! Normally its a fleeting glimpse of a fly-by butterfly (usually peacock or small tortoiseshell) looking for the very few nectar sources that are out at the moment – snowdrops or daffodils mainly.

It’s been nice watching the Short-eared Owls at Kirkgate in the evening. I hadn’t seen any here until mid-January. They have been putting on a good show quartering over the point hunting for voles and mice.

The photos below show West Lomond 3 days apart…. no wonder the loch levels have risen so much over the last week with all of the snow melt and rainfall.

The rise in water levels mean that our numbers of duck on the loch have dropped. Dabbling ducks (Mallard, Wigeon, Teal, Pintail etc.) prefer shallower water for feeding. The loch has raised a couple of feet meaning these birds will prefer to feed elsewhere. Our diving ducks (Tufted Duck, Pochard, Goldeneye, Goosander, Red-Breasted Merganser etc.) wont mind too much about the water levels as they can live with a little bit of fluctuation. Was really nice to see 25 Greater Scaup using the loch.

Other signs of spring include….

Oystercatcher numbers are steadily building
Robins ‘geein it laldy’
Lapwing calling and shimmering in the late winter sun

Next week we will be into meteorological spring, then shortly after that we will start to see our first Sand Martin and Osprey – I am getting too far ahead of myself now….

About SimonR

I am a keen naturalist/wildlife conservationist from North-East Scotland. I work at Loch Leven National Nature Reserve as a Reserve Officer and have a deep interest in conservation and wildlife management in Scotland. Keen Birder, naturalist and practical habitat management enthusiast.
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1 Response to Late Winter or Early Spring?

  1. Anne says:

    Wonderful photographs to accompany your narrative.

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