At the reserve we have one major topic of conversation at the moment and that it the geese and it's understandable why when there are thousands of them but they aren't the only things to see. We have 28 whooper swans on the loch, 100's of wildfowl, large numbers of lapwing and golden plover plus several greenshank and 30+ ruff. Not to mention that the very fair weather of late is bringing out lots of dragonflies and tortoise shell butterflies for us to see.
Another Autumn feature of the reserve is mushrooms and there are plenty of varieties around. I have recently taken photographs of a few and I thought I would share them with you below. The only problem is that many of them look very similar when I look in our books about them so I cannot be certain of their names and the study of them is very new to me. Is there anyone reading this who can tell me what they are?
Apologies for the lack of blog updates since the crane left on Monday. Most have the staff have been busy sleeping and eating proper meals while we recovered from the weekend!
With most of the excitement of the crane over, we've returned to our normal September/October job of goose monitoring. While it feels a bit quieter on the reserve during the day, as geese settle down and find feeding areas, we're still seeing spectacular numbers of birds coming in to roost at night. This evening Emma and I went down to the Rattray viewpoint to check for birds coming in from the south. The loch was already looking pretty full of geese when we arrived (yes, that dark smear on the water in the picture below is entirely made up of roosting geese!). Over the next two hours we counted roughly 10,000 more heading down to roost, mostly from the south. If the same number are coming in from the east then our Goosewatches in the next few weeks could be quite spectacular.
We'll be doing a full goose count on Sunday morning and we'll hopefully get a very big count this time round. Remember it's our annual Goosefair on Sunday from midday-4pm, lots of walks, activities, family fun and displays to have a look round. Entry and parking is absolutely free and we'll be running a dusk Goosewatch once the main day has finished. Places are limited for the Goosewatch so if you'd like to stay on and see our geese come in to roost then email firstname.lastname@example.org and book a place.
At midday today the crane having been sitting on the low ground for about 15 minutes took off and started to circle over the reserve steadily gaining hieght and drifting south at the same time. It was last seen a long way south of the reserve still gaining altitude and having a bit of a barny with a gull.
One of pectoral sandpipers appeared on the pools at Starnafin late morning.
The Sandhill Crane roosted on site again last night and left this morning just before 0700 when it headed off to feed in the fields close to Coralhill where it spent a fair amount of time yesterday. Even though it is a big bird it can be easily lost when the geese are up at the same time..
This photo taken by Simon Spavin shows the crane flying with the geese on Saturday - it does not look out of place does it!
Aside from the crane the Savoch Low Ground was absolutely heaving with birds this morning with large numbers of duck - mainly wigeon and teal but also several shoveler and gadwall - feeding in the grass and a nice selection of waders including 7 black tailed godwits; 4 greenshank; 1 spotted redshank and 23 ruff.
Just a quick update as the crane settles down for another night on the reserve. It spent its time today feeding in various stubble fields before returning at lunch time for a quick wash and brush up before getting back to the serious business of feeding. It returned to roost quite early tonight and was on site from about 6.30pm.
There was a good supporting cast of waders today with highlights being 1 little stint, 2 pectoral sandpipers, 16+ ruff; 1 spotted redshank, 6 greenshank and 9 black tailed godwits.
See you tomorrow!
ETA- Just to say that it's been a great weekend for visitors overall, we've not done the calculations for the visitor counter yet, but there's an awful lot of pound coins collected from the coffee machine... We've had birdwatchers turning up from Kent, Bristol, and (our record for the furthest trip) three people all the way from Belgium. I also managed to bump into a birder from my home patch who I've known by name for several years and never met in person before. Amazing who you bump into on a twitch!
As I'm sure you've all seen far too many pictures of the crane, here's a quick photo of the people behind the cameras (and telescopes) taken by Kathryn at Gowanhill over the weekend.