During the last few weeks on the Isle of Mull I’ve spent quite a bit of time at higher altitudes monitoring the upland ecology at this hostile time of the year. Only the hardiest of species survive in these conditions and you can go for an hour without seeing any sign of bird life. Winter mode is starting to set in, with increased snow cover in the montane setting and a chilly Atlantic air-steam powering in off the sea.
Photo credit - Gary Jones
Most of the small birds which attempted to breed on these moors in the summer have left for more hospitable conditions. The Wheatears head for Africa and some Scottish Meadow Pipits could follow them. But there is one little bird I am seeing withstand the harshest winter environments in Scotland, the Wren. Their latin name is Troglodytes troglodytes, cave dweller, as they manage to find suitable cover in the bracken, heather, rocky crags, cliff crevices and scree slopes. Wrens are one of Scotland's most numerous birds, with a predicted 1.5 million pairs. Weighing the same as a pound coin, they cover a range of other habitats including woodland, farmland and off shore Scottish islands, which support 5 subspecies! The iconic Christmas Robin is famous for singing all year round, throughout the winter months, but they aren’t solo and are joined by the Wrens explosive signing voice with a sound to size ratio 10 times louder than a jumbo jet! Surely one of the most impressive Christmas songs of all time? Listen out for them around your home this Christmas, protecting their winter territories, with those powerful cascading songs. Another spectacle to look out for is a communal roost of Wrens at dusk. They huddle together to keep warm and in recent years an astonishing 62 were counted going into a single nest box!