The famous hen harriers of Clyde Muirshiel Regional Park are once again live on camera for visitors to enjoy. This years pair are sitting on a clutch of 5 eggs that are due to hatch any time soon, probably within the next week. And then, once again, visitors to the centre will be able to follow the progress of the family throughout the time they are present on the nest, from hatching to fledging.
Hen harriers are one of the UK's birds of prey, and the most intensively persecuted. Once predating free-range fowl, earning its present name, its effect on the number of grouse available to shoot is the cause of modern conflict and threatens its survival in some parts of the UK. While males are a pale grey colour, females and immatures are brown with a white rump and a long, barred tail which give them the name 'ringtail'. They fly with wings held in a shallow 'V', gliding low in search of food. Find out more about the birds themselves on the RSPB website http://www.rspb.org.uk/wildlife/birdguide/name/h/henharrier/index.aspx
These spectacular birds are a delight to watch and Clyde Muirshiel Regional Park provides an ideal habitat for the birds the rear a succesful clutch. The live pictures are on show in the Muirshiel Country Park visitor centre and the friendly team of centre staff and volunteers will be on hand to answer any questions you may have about the birds as well as show you the live pictures of the birds in action.
The centre is open for viewing every day, 11am - 4pm.
To find out more about the project and receive recent updates, visit http://www.clydemuirshiel.co.uk/HenHarrier/
Male hen harrier, Andy Hay, rspb-images.com
Started the day with a great view of a grey heron sitting on the nearby pond, it then moved over to the water level marker and sat preening itself. A male sparrowhawk has visited the feeding station several times today, and was twice succesful with his catching efforts. The siskins and redpolls have been showing nicely at the feeding station, although no sign of the redpoll with a ring today along with 12 house sparrows, lots of chaffinches and several sightings of both the female and juvenile great spotted woodpeckers.
Along the Aird Meadow trail there were singing reed buntings, sedge warbers and a grasshopper warbler. Also, a family of long tailed tits and some recently fledged treecreepers. Six oystercatchers flew overhead whilst we were having a look to see what was about on the water, and on the loch itself there were 4 mute swans & 8 mallards.
A small tortoiseshell butterfly was seen sunning itself next to the River Calder and our start visitor, Gary the Biking Birder, found several stalks of broad leaved heleborine, which is just about to come into flower. All of this, and a bit of sunshine peeking through to boot!
We've had lots of frog and toad activity this week due to the damp weather. On my way in to work on Friday, it was pouring with rain so I was mostly looking at the ground anyway but suddenly noticed that the ground seemed to be moving! Lo and behold there were lots and lots of tiny froglets and toadlets hopping across the path, trying to find their own new territories and escape predators whilst they were unlike to dry out. I found myself tip-toeing for part of the trail so as to try not to stand on them!
We also had a rare sighting of a lesser whitethroat on the reserve. We often get common whitethroats but our last (and only other) record of lesser whitethroat was 20 years ago (!) so this was very exciting for us all! It was seen feeding on the plants behind the feeding station and then flew off and couldn't be seen or heard again. A great spot!
Today there have been three great crested grebes out on the Aird Meadow loch along with a pair of mute swans with 4 quite large cygnets (they must be 6 weeks old by now). Also, for the last two mornings there have been large numbers of swallows, swifts and martins feeding over the loch (mostly sand martins). Must be between 50-100 each morning, a fantastic sight to see them all preparing for that long migration...how do they manage it!
As well as the amazing wildflowers out on the meadow, I mentioned in my last blog that we had found several butterfly orchids.
These have turned out to be great butterfly orchids and we now have over 100 of them on our meadow, a very good year for them! You can tell the difference between greater and lesser butterfly orchids by the direction the pollinia go (greater points inwards, lesser are parallel).
Tomorrow, we will be taking people out to see them in groups as part of the Lochwinnoch Open Gardens scheme, so please come and ask us about them should you wish to see them.
Recent sightings on the reserve: Juvenile great spotted woodpeckers still coming to feeders, along with lesser redpolls, siskins, chaffinches, juvenile blue and great tits, goldfinches, house sparrows and rooks. On the aird meadow loch, still a family of mute swans, mallards, cormorants and tufted ducks. On the Aird Meadow Trail, robin, blackbird, coal tit, blue tit, spotted flycatcher, sedge warbler, willow warbler, reed bunting. Also, meadow brown, small white, small heath and small tortoiseshell butterflies.