Well, I am excited to report the news that we have all been waiting for . . .
I can confirm this morning (15 July) from our regular volunteer, that for the second year running, we have a Marsh Harrier family of 4 consisting of 2 adults and 2 juveniles.
They were seen towards the back of the loch, among willows far left of their original nesting area (of the loan pine tree). The juveniles are flanked by either their mother or both parents, then each would fly some short distance apart. At times, the young ones would bob about in vertical flight, with Mum perched not too far away.
I say young birds but at this early stage, they appear the size of a fully grown adult and their plumage is likened to an adult female though with a gingery-yellow head (female has a cream coloured crown) and overall dark brown feathers. Only time will tell how their colouration will develop, if they are male or female.
This years young birds have fledged it seems about three and a half weeks earlier than last years birds. So now is an exciting time for everyone to come and watch these magnificent birds over the next few months as the juveniles build their survival skills.
Vandana Lake, Residential Volunteer
It’s now Summer! However, the heaviest rainfall on the longest day of the year has done its best to fill the loch to capacity, making the ducks and swans feel even more at home.
The female and male Marsh Harriers continue to present themselves, occasionally simultaneously in food-passing opportunities. A male Osprey was hovering, legs a-dangling, over the loch, successfully fishing, eating and then flying off with his prey to feed his family.
The two broods of Mute Swan are out and about on the loch and growing well. The family of four cygnets are slightly larger and older than the family of 5 cygnets, though to look at, both are cute and fluffy!
Water Rail has been heard from Gullery Hide. Recording their call is very important as they move stealthily in the reeds, making them difficult to sight. Redshank was spotted, proudly standing on one of the land outcrops, probing for invertebrates with its orange bill. Flocks of Oystercatchers continue to pipe away loudly. There are now around 70 mixed Lapwings of juvenile and adults on the far bank from East Hide. The juveniles’ crests and back tail feathers are shorter, compared with adults. The loch is populated by a variety of waterfowl, especially a large gathering of adult and juvenile Mallards. The drakes are now in eclipse, when their brightly coloured plumage has moulted, signalling the end of the breeding season. The black drooping crest of male Tufted Ducks have been seen along with a Moorhen and Coots. Reed Bunting and Sedge Warblers continue to call among the reeds. A Buzzard has been prowling the skies around Kinnordy. An adult Barn Owl was seen at the barn building to the back of the loch. Hopefully their chicks are developing well and all are enjoying nesting in peace.
Watch out along the paths – you might inadvertently come across Common Froglets! Some are no bigger than a 10 pence piece. Through the Woodland, Blue, Coal and Great Tit chicks have now fledged the bird boxes and can be heard eagerly chirping for their parents to feed them. Bullfinches, Chaffinches and Longtail Tits are seen. The sharp clear warbles of Blackcap can be heard along the path to Kirriemuir from East Hide. Many species of wildflower are blooming along the paths.
Northern Marsh Orchid are abundant on fields towards the west end of the reserve, displaying a vibrant violet colour. Twayblade Orchid. Up to one hundred green flowers appear on a single stem which seldom flowers until they are ten years old. The grasses are growing tall and wide. In between, the golden glow of Buttercups are thriving throughout the reserve on the path to the lily pond. The small blooms of light blue Forget-Me-Nots and pale pink Herb Robert are popping up. This is excellent news for bees and butterflies who pollinate and perch on the petals. Hairy Vetch is a legume, with pink, purple petals facing downwards. Bumblebees love this flower as they can burrow up into the petal to collect pollen. When glimpses of sunshine and warmth allow, several Tortoiseshell Butterflies and many Chimney Sweeper day moths are seen. The larvae of the latter enjoy the Pignut flower, so-called because of it’s nut-like tuber that was a popular food choice for pigs! There is still an abundance of wriggling Tadpoles in the lily pond, with their hind legs now appearing, some additionally have forelimbs. The exotic-looking Water Lilies are displaying their beautiful white petals with Blue and red Damselflies hovering nearby. It’s also a great area to watch Swallows and House Martins ducking and diving above the water catching flies.
The herding Konik Ponies are healthy and continue to graze, helping to create areas of shorter vegetation and channels in the water to aid the breeding of wader birds in years to come. Curlews are seen and heard. One is defending her growing chick and both are doing well this year. Snipe are seen and heard drumming and chipping their presence in the mornings.
Successful moth traps yielded: Popular Hawkmoth and Map–Winged Swift, Golden Beautiful Y, Flame Shoulder, Middle-Barred Minor, Marbled Minor, Small Wainscot, Hebrew Character, Silver-ground Carpet, Pebble Prominent and Brown Rustic.
Things may be a little quiet on the loch though grasses at the moment though we can all look forward to more brighter days to come this Summer!
Vandana and Anna - Residential Volunteers