February update: Early Signs of Spring

I hope you have all been enjoying the super moons over the last few weeks, cloud permitting. As well as having bright moonlight at night from the two full moons during January, it is amazing just how quickly the days appear to be drawing out.

At this time of the year we start to see changes in behaviour to plants, insects, birds and animals. This has little to do with the weather or temperature and all to do with the lengthening hours of daylight. Sights and sounds of spring are already around us here at Lowes. Have you noticed the changes?

When we open up the hides on these cold mornings we are now noticing birdsong starting to echo around the woodland, with the distinctive see-saw call of great tits bringing a very spring like sound to an otherwise wintery landscape. We have started hearing the great spotted woodpeckers drumming to establish territories. They have also been very active at the feeders.

Great Spotted Woodpecker at Loch of the Lowes

It is lovely to see snowdrops gleaming in the undergrowth and the promising tips of other spring bulbs pushing their way through the winter weary old grass and fallen leaves: the next season is already creeping over the countryside.

Over the last few days on the loch, we have seen wigeon, teal, pochard and goldeneye as well as a flock of greylag geese, little grebe and a host of mallard returning. The freezing temperatures over the past month meant that much of the loch was covered in ice, preventing most of the ducks and swans from feeding.

Greylag geese at Lowes by Doris Mclean
Lowes frozen and covered with snow

Interestingly, today, 3rd February, male goldeneye have been treating visitors to delightful courting displays. This curious ritual consists of the males throwing their heads back and then stretching their necks upwards to point their bill to the sky, while sometimes splashing with their feet.

At the feeders we have a few brambling appearances which was great to see. A number of woodpeckers are regularly feasting on the peanuts feeders, with one using its beak get peanuts out the bottom of the squirrel box feeder. The smaller tits and the blackbirds often manage to snag one before the plastic falls down again.

Brambling at Lowes

The staff and volunteers have been busy preparing for the ospreys return and we are all, as I imagine you are, filled with anticipation. Last year the male (LM12) returned on the 17th of March and this date is slowly creeping up on us. We are always looking for new volunteers to help out so if you are interested in helping with Osprey Watch or volunteering in the visitor centre ask a member of staff for more details.
Jim Crumley: Nature Writer
We have a great event coming up with nature writer, poet and journalist Jim Crumley on the 17th of March. You may have read some of his work in the Courier or The Scots Magazine or perhaps one of his books on the natural world such as his most recent ‘The Nature of Winter’. You can book your tickets here.

Preface

I hope you have all been enjoying the super moons over the last few weeks, cloud permitting. As well as having bright moonlight at night from the two full moons …

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