November, 2010


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  • Whoopers & Wildcats

    We tried to ignore it for as long as possible, but winter is definitely on its way!  We have had a few frosty mornings recently, with the Aird Meadow pond totally frozen over & a flurry of activity at the feeding station as all the wee birds feed up after a cold night.  The trees have nearly lost all of their leaves, which will be good news for our star team of practical volunteers who have spent endless hours raking leaves off the trails to keep them clear for visitors!

    But it’s not all bad news, because with the cold weather comes our exciting winter visitors! 

    Just after 4pm yesterday, as the light was beginning to fade, we heard honking and whooping outside and  we peered outside to see a family of whooper swans gliding down onto the loch, obviously coming in to roost for the night.

    Nearly 7000 of these birds will arrive in the UK at this time of year to overwinter here, having flown an incredible 500 miles from Iceland!   Whooper swans breed in Iceland and as winter sets in there, with lakes freezing over and feeding becoming difficult, they begin their long flight to the UK.  Their journey is thought to be the longest overseas flight undertaken by any swan species & the whooper swans at Hogganfield Loch in Glasgow have been recorded as doing the journey in as little as 24 hours!

    Whooper swans pair for life and travel in their family groups, with cygnets staying with their parents for the first winter.  During their winter in the UK, they will spend their days feeding on cleared beet, potato and stubble fields, and come in to roost on wetlands at night.

    The swans that you will be most familiar seeing on wetlands, parks and ponds in Scotland are mute swans, but it is quite easy to tell the two apart.  Mute swans have the beautiful curved neck and an orange bill; whereas whooper swans have a much straighter neck and a yellow bill (see the picture below).


    Ben Hall - RSPB images

    So keep your eyes peeled for any whooper swans around, they will be here in Scotland until March/ April time when they will head back to Iceland to breed again.


    As for the wildcats? Sadly they haven’t been spotted on the reserve but they will be the subject of our film show on Tuesday 23rd.

    With kind permission from the Scottish Wildcat Association, we will be showing Last of the Scottish Wildcats, a documentary investigating the disappearance of Britain’s last large mammal predator. 

    Why not join us for the evening?  Doors open at 7pm and it costs just £4 or £2 for RSPB members.  Call us here on 01505 842 663 to book your place.

    Hopefully see you then!


  • Duck-tacula!

    As we edge into winter (boo) the numbers of wildfowl on the reserve just continue to increase (yay!). Last weekends (14th November) Wetland Birds Survey gave us a good indication of what's happening on the whole reserve, with results as follows:

    Barr Loch: 2 great crested grebe, 1 cormorant, 2 grey heron, 8 mute swan, 16 whooper swan, 141 wigeon, 17 teal, 15 mallard, 83 tufted ducks, 30 goldeneye, 4 goosander, 4 moorhen, 98 coot, 158 lapwing and 43 snipe. Also, 1 each of buzzard, sparrowhawk and kestrel, 16 fieldfares, 4 redwings, a mistle thrush, a raven and 5 reed buntings.

    Aird Meadow Loch: 3 little grebe, 1 grey heron, 1 mute swan, 8 whooper swan, 8 teal, 28 mallard, 4 pochard, 67 tufted ducks, 1 scaup, 24 goldeneye, 2 goosander and 6 coot. Also, a kestrel and a roe deer.

    The feeding station has continued to be busy, with goldfinch numbers steadily increasing. The great spotted woodpecker has been coming down to feed on fat, peanuts and fruity nibbles several times a day. Other highlights at the feeders this week have included a brambling, reed buntings,dunnock, numerous chaffinches with numbers varying between 12 & 32, fieldfares and redwings feeding on berries just at the edge of the main feeders, lesser redpoll, siskins, long tailed tits, a sparrowhawk and a female pheasant who seems to have made herself at home this winter.

    Today (20th Nov) we have had a beautiful group of 2 males and 1 female bullfinches in the woodland strip by the pond dipping area, along with a small flock of redwings, long tailed tits, blackbirds and a song thurush.

    Additionally, an otter and a fox were seen on the reserve on the 15th November, so keep your eyes peeled for those too!


  • Spooky woods..

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    Another busy week here at Lochwinnoch which saw most of our volunteers diverted from their usual outdoor work and given all kinds of strange requests – Can you decorate one of the hides as the Gingerbread House?  Make a giant beanstalk?  Dress up as a goblin? It can only be Fright Night!

    Our annual Halloween event is always a highlight in the reserve events calendar, but with torrential rain coming down in the hours leading up to the event we were worried that we wouldn’t be able to pull it off.  But wellies and waterproofs came out, makeshift shelters went up, and we mostly resolved to just get wet! Surely the streaky face paint would only add to the scary costumes?!

    It was a great success with over 100 people coming along to be scared on our spooky tours, take part in our nocturnal quiz and get creative with our Halloween arts & crafts.  The picture below is one of our storytellers David,  pretty scary stuff I think you’ll agree!


    A huge thank you goes out to all of our fantastic volunteers who helped to create the sets and costumes, to those that helped out on the night with arts & crafts, and an extra special thank you to those who braved the weather to stand on the trails in the rain all evening!


    The weekend only got better from there, with the weather lifting on Saturday to provide us with fantastic views of some newly arrived wintering wildfowl.  In fact, with the rain having brought the water level up, the birds were even closer than usual.  Whooper swans were spotted on the Aird Meadow Loch, over 100 wigeon were counted on the Barr Loch, a drake Pintail was showing off close to the visitor centre, and to top it all off 6 waxwings arrived in the village! 

    With all of these unusual visitors around Gary spent Sunday afternoon as a ‘Guide in the Hide’ helping visitors to identify all of the different ducks, one group were even lucky enough to see a kingfisher fly directly in front of the hide. 

    We will be running ‘Guide in the Hide’ on the next three Sundays, so why not pop down and enjoy all of this fantastic wildlife in person?