Good afternoon, folks. I hope you are all well. Do you have sunshine? We do, and boy, doesn't it make a difference!?

This week we have a blog from Anna, one of our team who has not been furloughed, but before I hand over to her, just to let you know that although ospreys are still being seen in the area by members of staff when they are out on their fire and buildings checks, I'm afraid there hasn't been any activity noted on the nest itself. That's not to say there definitely isn't any, but in the minute or two that we're watching the nest, no activity has so far been seen. But. we remain optimistic that we may have a bird claiming the site for themselves at least. Fingers crossed.

Now over to Anna...

I started at RSPB Abernethy in February, as the Inclusive Tourism Development Officer; an exciting new role funded by the European Regional Development Fund, as part of the project redeveloping the visitor offer at Loch Garten. The aim of my job was to look at barriers people face to visiting the forest and the Nature Centre and to help to make it more accessible, so they are more likely to visit and get the benefits of connecting with nature. The arrival of Coronavirus has changed the nature of my job from a hands-on, people-facing job, to a home-working and engaging through social media job…being a techno dinosaur, this has come with some hurdles.

Naturally, I really like having structured days and therefore home-working is not my natural forte as I miss the pattern of going to work. One of my Corona silver linings has been being more engaged with nature out of my new ‘office’ window (my bedroom) and really noticing the arrival of spring: with the first leaves on the trees, daffodils blooming and the birds making their joyful spring racket.

Going on lots of walks by myself has made me tune-in to my surroundings. I have enjoyed following the patterns of spring and noticing the small changes every day.  I’m cow-mad, so I also enjoy having a wander to these beautiful cows in a local field.

These guys provide a lot of entertainment for me on my daily walks!

It’s a glorious sunny day in April, I’ve been enjoying looking at the reflections on the River Spey and the sparkle and shine it adds to my daily walks. The uncertainty of Corona makes it a stressful time, but I’ve set myself the challenge today of looking for yellow things.

The River Spey, a favourite destination on one of my daily exercise walks.

The Yellow things that brightened my day today:

Grey wagtails: which despite their name have wonderful yellow chests and their jolly wagging tails make me smile! (Yellow wagtails are another bird, but they do not migrate as far north as the Cairngorms.) Grey wagtails defend their territory by feverishly wagging their long tails, which are noticeably longer than yellow wagtails or the more common pied wagtail. Grey wagtails eat ants, midgies, snails and tadpoles and you can see them in the summer on fast flowing rivers, bobbing their tales up and down as they perch on rocks mid-stream. They nest near the water in hollows and crevices, lined with moss and twigs. One of the Gaelic names for grey wagtail is 'Briceian-buidhe' which translates as 'the yellow speckled little bird' - not so much speckled, but beautiful nonetheless.

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Males feature a bright yellow breast and black bib, with a white moustache. Very fetching!

Females are much less yellow and do not have the black bib.

Daffodils: They are a symbol of hope. Ancient Romans cultivated daffodils and believed that sap extracted from the flowers possessed healing properties.

The daffodil is the national flower of Wales, and one of the more unusual reasons Wales is known for its daffodils are the large crops grown for Alzheimer’s medication. The bulbs and flowers contain an alkaloid called galantamine which helps to treat people with memory impairments of vascular origin. 

Including hybrids, there are over 13,000 distinct daffodil varieties!

A few of the daffodils from my walk.

Weeping Willow catkins: Willows are dioecious, which means the male and female flowers are on separate trees, hence the willow trees and shrubs are either male or female, and their catkins are different. Male catkins are grey-white and oval, which become yellow when ripe with pollen, female catkins are longer and green.

Catkins provide an important early source of pollen and nectar for bees and other insects. Look out for bees and other pollinators collecting pollen from the male catkins.

Willow is a great substance for weaving with. One of my friends who is self-isolating is spending a lot of time weaving; here’s a beautiful basket she’s made. I think the inside looks a bit like the amazing patterns in a spider’s web. Corona has given many people the opportunity to get crafty - what crafting projects are you involved with, I wonder?

     

I hope, guidelines permitting, you can get out and have a walk. I normally feel like I can cope a lot better with all the uncertainty, once I’ve had my daily exercise walk. There are all sorts of reasons why you feel better, but for me it’s restarting the brain and a change of pace wakens me up a bit.

I hope you are all surviving in these strange times and managing to find a bit of time to notice the arrival of spring. The stress of Corona and the associated quarantine makes for a really trying time for all of us. I’m a creature of habit and look forward to normality returning. I’m glad this difficult time is at least in spring, an uplifting time of year filled with new beginning and hope. Also, these strange times have seen a remarkable level of community spirit and kindness bloom.

In Grantown on Spey I have also been really humbled by the level of kindness shown by others during Corona.

Julie, who was looking forward to starting another season at the Nature Centre as Retail Manager has instead turned her focus to keeping Grantown on Spey looking spick and span. Once a week Julie heads out armed with a bin bag and trusty litter picker and sees what she can find.

Julie's bin bag, full of litter picked up on her daily exercise walk in Grantown.

The person who’s put a beautiful rainbow in their window with the sign: Smiling is infectious too. That really brightens my day.

It’s a tricky time for a lot of people, I hope you can continue to enjoy spring and be kind to those around you.

 

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