By Dr Dave Parish, Head of Scottish Lowland Research Project
Today seemed to be the first chilly day, heralding the approach of winter: gloves were needed for the first time! I had some fieldwork to do at GWSDF Auchnerran, planning for some imminent, and some not so imminent, experiments, and decided to have a walk round much of the farm.
The weather was fantastic – chilly but sunny – and the farm was alive with activity.
It seems to have been a good year for berries as both rowan and hawthorn bushes are laden with them almost to the point of collapse.
This, in turn, is attracting large numbers of blackbirds and song thrushes, plus their Scandinavian cousins the fieldfare and redwing that have joined us for the winter.
There were hundreds of them today in mixed flocks flying from tree to tree – and some of the rowan are already near-stripped of their berries.
It is often thought that a bumper berry crop is a harbinger of doom, forecasting a bad winter ahead. I’m not so sure. I think it is more an indication of excellent pollinating and fruit-setting conditions earlier in the year. Here’s hoping anyway…
Another group apparently enjoying the weather today were the raptors. As I walked round I counted one sparrowhawk, two red kites and at least nine buzzards. We have quite healthy populations of raptors at Auchnerran, no doubt supported by the abundant rabbits and, at the moment, the visiting hordes of thrushes. They were certainly looking well-fed!
Interestingly, there were also many pheasants flushing from cover as I walked round. None have been released on site since autumn 2014 and there are no nearby releases now, so these were all ‘wild’ birds that seem to be doing very well too. All in all, a very pleasant day in the field.