Hey guys! I'm really sorry to see it has been more than a month since my last post! You could be forgiven for thinking that nothing much is happening on-site - and that is all our fault for not keeping you up-to-date! :-(
So, lets get cracking and see what is new! :-) The first thing to mention is that the snow-drops are out in force all along the banking at the car park! I love snow-drops :-) For me they are the herald of the spring but with a wee remembrance of winter to warm the cockles of your heart! ;-) The bright green of the stems beautifully show off the crisp white of the flowers and they sway like little bells in the gentle breezes we were enjoying until this week! :-) I like the fact that they are nestled within the trees that mark the right-hand edge of the car park (as you stand looking down from the steps up to the top of the dam wall). They brighten the brown earth between the bare trees and make you realise that before too long the air is going to be thick with perfume and you are not going to be able to see a hint of bareness anywhere at all! :-)
Unfortunately the right hand edge of the access road has taken another beating in the recent heavy rains as it curves into the car park, so there has been a fair amount of debris washed down over the road. It makes things a litte dicey for the old car, so take your time as you come down around the corner, and make sure you check your brakes as you leave the reserve once your visit is over.
Another good reason to slow down as you come around the bottom bend in the access road, and regular readers will know I say this often, is that you never know what you might find at the filter beds. Picture it - you are minding your own business, sun-bathing on a rock, or hunting for rodents or small fish, and suddenly this massive hunk of metal comes belting into your existence, squealing and growling for all it is worth! What are you going to do..? Take off like the clappers - that's what! ;-) So, now imagine that you are once again engaged in your own activites, and you gradually become aware of a low growling noise, approaching quite slowly. You will certainly pause for a moment to try to identify the sound. You might even come out of cover a little to get a better look at whatever this new predator is. But you will most certainly delay the moment of flight for longer than you would have! And that, guys and girls, is the whole point! :-)
Grahame and I make it our habit to approach the filter beds as quietly as possible, whether we are driving or walking, and that is why we are occasionally treated to seeing some of the more shy creatures that call Cullaloe home. We have lost count of the number of deer, wildfowl and smaller mammals such as foxes we have spooked in that area of the reserve. Recently it seems to be the turn of a rather sleekit beastie - the mink. There have been a couple of occasions that a single mink has been spotted at the edge of, or within, one of the filter beds. Sightings have also been made at the spillway. The presence of mink would certainly explain the apparent down-turn in young on the main loch this year and we are keen to gauge the levels of them we might have, so if you should happen to spot a small weasel-like creature with dark brown/black fur, please leave a comment on this blog, letting Grahame and I know where you were, where it was and when it was! :-)
Other than the possible mink, something you definitely will be able to spot at the moment is the sheer number of birds who are singing their feathery little hearts out! :-) The feeders are being so well-used that Grahame barely gets the chance to hang the filled feeders back on their hooks before the cheeky blue tits and coal tits starting feasting away again! :-) The great spotted woodpecker has been spied regularly coming in from the direction of Cullaloe Lodge, and I have had yellowhammers pointed out to me by Grahame on at least 4 occasions in the last couple of weeks! :-) Now, I can recognise quite a few birds these days but the Yellowhammer is one that I just can't seem to get in my mind. I usually find though that if I say it out loud, or tell someone else, their description normally starts to stick - so I'm going to jot it down here as a memo to myself and hopefully it will help you all find them too! :-) They are about the same size as a house sparrow and from the neck down they are a little similar in pattern. There are dark lines that flow down the wings and back towards the tail in the same way as a sparrow has. However, as the name suggests, the yellowhammer has much brighter colour about him than a sparrow. The male has a sunny yellow coloured head and the yellow mingles with brown going downhis back in those stripes I already mentioned. The female has more brown on her body and head than the male, but is still yellow enough to be disingushed from other small brown-coloured birds. I hope that helps! :-) And for all of those who want to be purist about it - I know that the patterning of the sparrow is a little different, and it has a white stripe running cross-ways on the wing that the yellowhammer doesn't - but I just think it helps to have something that is well known to compare an unknown bird to. It helps me - and it might help others! ;-)
I do have one piece of cracking good news for all of us who like to go to Cullaloe though :-) Something that might make the experience a little more rewarding for all of us... :-) You may know that we were hoping to receieve funding towards the replacement of the viewing screen situated at the main loch... and we are delighted to say we have been successful! :-) The viewing screen will be of different construction this time to try to persuade vandals not to cut pieces of of it, and also in the hope that it may last a little longer this time! We are still sourcing funding for a noticeboard to accompany the screen, or be placed down at the car park, so we can share interesting sightings or put up adverts for events that are due to be held, but that funding is yet to be agreed. I'll keep you posted though! ;-) Out of interest... if you think it would be useful to have a notice board, please comment and let us know why! :-)
Anyway, that's it for now. I will come back and let you know of developments as they happen in due course! Happy spotting! ;-)