The first Sunday in May is traditionally International Dawn Chorus Day, and all around the world people get up to enjoy the beautiful sounds of the many birds that sing their hearts out at this time of day, declaring their territories and trying to attract a mate.
We were no exception and we had over 30 people on our dawn chorus walk this morning, with some very obliging birds to boot! Some of the highlights included great numbers of sedge warblers, willow warblers, at least 2 grasshopper warblers, blackcap, song thrush, robin, blue and great tits, drumming snipe and woodcock, treecreeper and blackbirds including our train door mimic (so for all of you out there who didn't believe me, there are now 30 other people who have heard it as well!!). After our walk, we headed back to the visitor centre for tea and a breakfast roll, kindly provided to us by Cucina Minucci in Lochwinnoch Village. A perfect end to a really nice walk!
I also made a start on this years breeding bird surveys this morning, starting with the Aird Meadow. The sedge warblers were certainly in good form, with 21 singing males recorded, and there were several reed buntings starting to claim their spots. I also had a pair of common sandpipers calling and flying past me whilst surveying the bund, which was a lovely treat, and to finish it off there was a family of mallard ducklings (1 female and 7 very little juveniles), so the breeding season is now well and truly underway!
I will shortly be heading back off to bed...4am is a little bit too early even for me to be starting work!
Just returned from the first bird survey of the Barr Loch this year, and what a fab morning we've had! Started out at 6am (starting to drop off as I type!) and had loads of great sightings all the way round. In total (numbers refer to singing birds), we had 84 sedge warblers, 18 willow warblers, 9 grasshopper warblers, 5 reed buntings, a cuckoo (first time i've ever seen/heard one there), a pair of common sandpipers, 4 lapwings displaying in a nearby field, 1 pair song thrush, 2 drumming great spotted woodpeckers, 9 wrens, 11 chaffinches and then lots of other common species, and some non-breeders such as oystercatcher, wigeon, goosander, greylag goose, teal and 26 tufted ducks. We also saw a male and female roe deer, a hare, found otter spraints and saw nests of mute swan, willow warbler, blackbird and carrion crow.
About halfway round we also started seeing some really pretty caterpillars...we must have seen around 20 in the end, and probably missed a lot more. I am going to try and find out what they will turn into, i think they might be moth ones, but will ask my lepidopterist (moth and butterfly expert) friends what they think!
A great morning for birds!
I have just returned from a trip up north and before I give an update on some of the things that have been happening on the reserve whilst I've been away, I thought i'd quickly write about some of the beautiful RSPB reserves I visited whilst on holiday.
I was lucky enough to be able to go along to the Caper-watch project at Loch Garten, this meant rising at 4.30am to get to Loch Garten Osprey Centre for 5am, but it was worth it, what a beautiful place to be at that time of day! Red squirrels running around the trees as we all eagerly queued up to go in, then the gorgeous site of EJ, the female osprey sitting on her clutch. Whilst we waited we saw a female redstart, woodpeckers, finches and tits, and although on this occasion we didn't see a Capercaillie (too late in the season unfortunately), Richard Thaxton and his team kept us all entertained, and we didn't feel too disappointed to have missed them, I will just have to get up there earlier next year! The gorgeous setting of Abernethy Forest is another place not to be missed, this ancient Caledonian pine forest is gorgeous throughout the year, and a stunning place to be on a fine spring day.
We also ventured further north to Troup Head, RSPB Scotland's only mainland seabird colony (as far as i'm aware!), from the car park, we took a walk across the fields to get to the colony, not sure what to expect but eager and excited! Now, I used to work at RSPB South Stack reserve and remember the spectacle of the seabirds, but the sounds and the smells had been forgotten and they all came flooding back to me as peered over the edge to take a look at the colony. There truly is nothing like it, the repetitive 'kitty wark kitty wark' calls of the kittiwakes, the soaring fulmars landing and greeting each other on the nest, the amazing balancing act that razorbills and guillemots seem to have to do to keep themselves and their eggs on the cliffs and finally, the huge white and yellow colony of gannets, either sitting on their nests, gliding effortlessly over the sea or flying in to greet each other. Amazing!
So, I returned to the reserve yesterday, the glorious sunshine continued to shine and during the week i'd been away, we'd had several osprey sightings, over the road, over the Barr Loch and over the Aird Meadow. We also had a possible little ringed plover, which would turn out to be a first for the reserve. The following day we'd had a ringed plover (not the little kind) and there have been lapwing passing over. A pair of greylag geese that stuck around after the winter have continued to over-summer on the reserve, which is rather unusual. A female great spotted woodpecker has been at the feeding station several times a day, possibly feeding young (?). This along with orange tip butterflies, tits, finches and much more has kept everybody entertained - oh, and I almost forgot, juvenile siskin and juvenile starlings were being fed by their parents yesterday, lovely!
Enjoy the sunshine all!