Our period of interesting bird sightings has continued this week. The juvenile black terns (see image below) that were feeding between the Aird Meadow and Castle Semple loch have continued to do so, dropping down to just one for the past few days, but still very active and providing good views for our visitors. On Thursday 16th, we also had a very unusual sighting of 21 juvenile gannets all passing over the reserve (heading south west). The fifth record of gannet we've ever had for the reserve and the highest number we have ever recorded. There have also been several records in the local area of guillemots and on the15th Sept one circled over the Aird Meadow a few times before heading towards the Barr Loch and on the 17th Sept there was one present on Castle Semple loch! A very unusual record for the recording area.
Most of these unusual sightings were probably brought in by the spell of bad weather we had during the week, high winds can sometimes blow sea birds off course and bring them to inland sites.
Other sightings on/around the reserve this week have included almost 70 tufted ducks on the Barr Loch, 4 buzzards circling over the nearby conifer trees, 30 lapwing, 30 snipe & 8 curlew over the Aird Meadow (on separate occasions). Up to 16 swallows and a few house martins have been present on the reserve, along with a sedge warbler still calling (although not in full song) and there was a pintail and a female wigeon on the Aird Meadow loch on the 18th Sept.
All in all, a good week of records for the reserve, let's hope there are many more to come!
Juvenile black tern by Mike Langman, RSPB-images.com
This morning Allan and I set out to carry out a bird survey on Kilbirnie loch. The rain had stopped and it seemed like a good opportunity to go and see what was about, especially with reports of guillemots and black terns around the local area. However, we seemed destined for failure today. Firstly, I had forgotten that the road to Kilbirnie is currently closed for road works and I wasn't sure of the alternative route. We headed back to the visitor centre and checked the OS map of the area for another way in. We jumped back in the car, binoculars and telescopes at the ready, and set out on our new route. 5 minutes up the road, lo and behold, the path was full of cows that had escaped from the nearby farm! Not wanting to harass them and make them go any further up the track than they had to, we turned around (and almost got stuck in a ditch due to my poor driving skills!) and drove up to the local farm to let them know that their beasts were on the loose. By this point we had run out of time to go and do the survey, so we headed back up the road to prepare for today's Amazing Autumn event. However, all was not lost as we were greeted by a great view of the black tern, which is still actively feeding on the Aird Meadow loch and also, a spectacular fly-by of 30+ snipe. Fab!
Having just returned from holiday, I was delighted to hear about all of the interesting sightings there have been on the reserve (although a little disappointed to have missed them all!) The River Calder seems to have been a good spot to visit for the past few weeks, with regular sightings of kingfishers, dippers and grey wagtails. There have also been several osprey sightings, the last being seen on the 4th September fishing on the Aird Meadow loch.
The number of wildfowl on the reserve seems to be slowly increasing with 50+ mallards, 40+ tufted ducks and 15-20 coots on the Aird Meadow loch, along with up to five mute swans (and a cygnet), cormorants, a single teal, 16 Canada geese and several grey herons.
We have continued to enjoy the numbers of raptors being seen on the reserve, including a juvenile tawny owl heard calling along the Aird Meadow trail plus a kestrel, buzzard and sparrowhawk being seen most days.
There have been over 60 goldfinches feeding on the thistles found just behind the visitor centre feeders, we're keeping a close eye on them in case any other finches turn up in the flock, such as linnets and redpolls.
The last of the hirundines are passing through and today there have been around 15-20 swallows and house martins feeding over the Aird Meadow, stocking up their supplies before their long migration back to Africa.
And last but by no means least, two black terns have been feeding on both the Aird Meadow loch and Castle Semple loch for the last two days, they appear to be an adult and a juvenile, as one bird has been seen actively feeding the other. A good sighting for the reserve!