The last few days at the reserve have been lovely.
Watching for starlings the on Tuesday evening was the perfect way to unwind after a busy day. I arrived just after 7pm and caught a glimpse of an osprey leaving the reserve. It was carrying something, but I'm not convinced it was a fish, the youngsters seem to be having trouble this year, but they are going to have to learn quickly, they should be starting their trip to Africa soon, and they need to be well fed to have enough energy to make it.
I settled in the swamp hide, listening to the lapwing calling to each other on the far side of the lochan. They were a little upset when the marsh harrier appeared, but I was delighted to see it was a female. She has yellow and green wingtags, so I am fairly confident this is the same bird that was at Kinnordy for so long earlier in the season. She has moulted while she has been away, so now has a beautiful golden head. She didn't stay over the swamp lochan long, and judging by the 21 wigeon that flew in to join the mallard and gadwall, she headed up over the main loch.
When I saw the Common gulls start to move over the reserve en route to their roosting site, and the rooks coming into the pines I knew the starlings wouldn't be long, and within a few minutes I saw them over the marsh. They quickly started to gather on the electric wires on the north side of the reserve, and every now nad then a few more would fly in and join them. I sat in quiet anticipation until about 8.15pm, when some of the birds took off from the wires and started to swirl, it wasn't very impressive, but they soon settled back on the wires, and waited for the rest to be ready. 10 minutes or so later my patience was rewarded as the whole flock took off and headed over the loch. I quickly realised I had picked the wrong hide, so headed up to the gullery hide hoping that I wasn't going to miss all the action - I didn't. They kept swirling for a few minutes before they all picked a reed stem and carfully landed on it. There are only a couple of hundred birds at the moment, but they are still impressive, and hopefully over the coming weeks this number will grow.
Another fantastic moment that I missed, but was caught on camera yesterday, was both the young marsh harriers displaying over the reedbed. The male which has been around for much of the summer has also now moulted, so his colour is much more defined, and he is a very handsome bird. It would seem that this may be a pairing, so I am hopeful that both birds will return to the reserve next year.
Now is the time to head to Kinnordy if you want to get outstanding views of Osprey fishing. With the youngsters now trying to fish for themselves there is frequent activity, and often more than 1 bird at a time. On Saturday apparently a juvenile was less than successful, eventually leaving the loch with a piece of grass - not sure how useful that would have been!
On Sunday, however, we had great views as a bird circled over the loch repeatedly looking for prey. After several unsuccessful dives it did manage to get a large fish which it took off to it's favourite perch to start devouring. There were another 3 or 4 visits during the afternoon too.
I also got clear sightings of the Marsh harrier, which is now moulting it's primary feathers (you can see 1 or 2 of them are shorter than they should be, and his colour is becoming a lot more defined as other new feathers grow in).
A juvenile peregrine came in and took a lapwing on the wing, then ate it in the open so that we could get good views of it through the telescope which was very impressive, although the 130 lapwing weren't so glad of the experience. A female sparrowhawk shooting past the Gullery hide at high speed completed my raptor experience for the day.
2 greenshank and plenty of snipe were also feeding in the mud around swamp lochan, and the mallard, wigeon and teal numbers are also beginning to build. For those wishing to practice their ID skills there are a couple of young shoveler and some gadwall scattered in amongst the mallard, and all look very similar at first glance while they are in eclipse.
It was a quiet start at the reserve this morning. There are some contractors replacing a fenceline to the north of swamp lochan, but they didn't appear to be disturbing the wildlife at all.
A flock of around 150 lapwing were still sitting on mud on the north shore of swamp lochan as the large posts were being driven into the ground not too far behind them. In amongst the flock there is still a greenshank, only one seen this morning, but there have been two around. This mud is a good spot to look for snipe, and is likely to attract other waders to stop off on their way past, so worth a look.
The mallards were also peacefully hanging about in groups, with a few wigeon and a couple of teal seen at swamp too. One of the male wigeon is quite well marked, and I notice a few of the mallard are beginning to get a splash of colour too.
The male marsh harrier was reported seen yesterday, and anytime now we could have other marsh harriers moving in from elsewhere, so please check wings carefully and if you see wing tags put as much detail as possible into the sightings book, or report it through the bto website.
There were also 2 osprey seen yesterday, and again there will be birds beginning to move around as they start migration now, so keep an eye out for large plastic rings on the left leg.