Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas.
The reserve will remain open through the Christmas period, but please remember that the carpark may be slippery. Some areas have been cleared so that there is minimal ice (close to the gates) and there is a safe path from here to the reserve trails, so please take care.
The loch, however, is still frozen, with very few water birds to be seen. The woodland was busy with bullfinch, siskin, robin, great tit, blue tit and chaffinch today though, and there were a few reed bunting around.
Best wishes for the New Year
The reserve, unsurprisingly, is still looking like a Winter Wonderland. That means there is plenty of ice around.
Volunteers have worked exceedingly hard to keep the paths open, however, please be very careful if you choose to drive to the reserve as the carpark is very icy. Compacted snow has turned to sheet ice over the last week, and it will be easy to get stuck. We have cleared space for a couple of cars near to the gate, and will endeavour to maintain a path from here round the edge of the carpark.
As you can probably imagine with the loch almost entirely frozen, there is limited birdlife to be seen on the loch at the moment. There are a few mallards sticking it out, and earlier in the week there were goosander and goldeneye in a patch of open water in the channel between the Swamp lochan and the main loch (left from the Gullery hide).
We are keeping the feeders topped up as much as possible though, and there are a variety of birds around the hides, including tree sparrow, seen on the feeders at the weekend, bullfinch and of course robins, blue tits and great tits.
When I look at the reserve now I am glad not to be a bird, it is picturesque, but with virtually everything now being buried under a foot or so of snow and the loch almost entirely frozen it can't be an enticing place for wildfowl. As if struggling to keep warm and find food wasn't bad enough, the threat from predators is also increased. This is an aspect I hadn't really thought about much until an early morning visit to the reserve on Saturday. There were only 4 mute swans, 1 greylag goose and a coot on the loch, and I became aware of them looking alarmed. As I looked in the direction they were facing I saw a fox trot out onto the ice. He stopped and looked behind him - waiting for his mate to come and join him. I was amazed as the pair walked within a couple of feet of the birds (all of whom had taken to the water) paying them nothing more than a cursory glance, and none of the birds took to the air.
The foxes headed straight for the remains of a mallard carcass that had already been well scavenged the day before by crows - if that was breakfast it wasn't going to last them long, but unfortunately if this weather stays there may be a few more meals to be found in a similar manner.
I realised as I watched them head off, stopping briefly to play fight, that they might be the reason there were no ducks around the pool, and I rather pessimistically supposed that there would be little chance of the ducks returning. I was delighted to be proved wrong this morning, there are only 3 swans about, but around 70 mallard, a few teal and wigeon had returned to loch. It may be that these birds are moving between here, where they can easily see predators approaching, and another area of open water near the road at the west end, where there have been birds feeding on water plants.
On a practical note, the car park is still very snowy, but there are a couple of cleared spaces near the entrance, and the paths are still being kept open. Please take care if you do visit, both for your own safety, but also to minimise disturbance to the birds.