It will come as no surprise to most that birdwatchers like to keep lists. I myself am not a list keeper (not for birds anyway, perhaps for moths...) but can see why many find list keeping so enjoyable. Earlier in the year, RSPB Lochwinnoch started it's on list, looking back through the records for the year so far, to see how many species we could record on the reserve in one year. Part of the reason for this is that many people in the past used to comment that 'RSPB Lochwinnoch is a really nice place to visit, but you don't see many birds there.' This was our attempt to prove them wrong.
It has always been our belief that whilst we might not have huge numbers of a single species, like huge flocks of geese or waders, or a particularly iconic species like white tailed eagle or osprey, you could see a larger variety of species on the site in one day than you could at many other places. Without even trying, we probably record between 30-40 species of birds a day, not including other wildlife.
So, as you've probably gathered from the title of this blog, our total for the year so far is....117 species! This has included some remarkable sightings, some firsts for the reserve and some that have been a long time coming.
Who could forget the white tailed eagle that flew over the reserve in March, prominently displaying it's yellow wing tags before flying over the main road where I myself was lucky enough to see it - it was so big that it made the jackdaws that were mobbing it look like sparrows! This was a first for the reserve and that same month, we also had another first when a flock of greylag geese landed on the Aird Meadow loch and one of our regular birdwatching visitors commented that one of them looked unusual. On closer inspection it turned out to be a Taiga bean goose, and luckily a photographer was in the visitor centre with an incredibly long lens, and captured some excellent record shots of the bird.
The cold winter brought with it many species that we probably wouldn't normally see up close, and very large numbers of brambling were recorded over the winter months. Alongside them, at the feeders, were a number of redpolls, which are pretty common most years, but in amongst them was another first - a confirmed mealy redpoll. Lesser and mealy redpolls are pretty difficult to tell apart unless you see them side by side, and to prove we actually had one, that's exactly what we needed to show. We needed a picture showing the suspected mealy one next to a lesser redpoll. Luckily again, our star photographers were on the case and managed to do just that. Mealy redpoll = tick!
More recent records to bump up the numbers have included 3 tree sparrows, who hopped down to the feeding station for a quick bite before continuing onward with their journey - our first record on the reserve for 24 years! The most recent addition to the list was a bird that is probably pretty under-recorded - the woodcock - mostly because they are very secretive and like their diminutive cousins, snipe, you pretty much have to stand on them before they will fly away. Their camouflage is their best defence from predators, but obviously it wouldn't stop them from getting trampled!
So, all of these extra special highlights combined with the rest of our records from the year leave very few species that we might actually expect to find on the reserve before the 31st December, but there are three possibles that could make the year up to 120 species, and how brilliant would that be! So, get your ID books out, wrap up warm, grab your binoculars and help us to find:
Stonechat (likely to come down onto the Aird Meadow following a heavy snowfall up in the surrounding hills) www.rspb.org.uk/stonechat
Jack snipe (very similar to snipe but with some differences in the field) www.rspb.org.uk/jacksnipe
and, would you believe it, feral pigeon - a bird we very rarely see in Lochwinnoch village or on the reserve. Who'd have thought we be hoping for a feral pigeon on our list!
For most other species we've either missed our shot of seeing them this year (i.e. African migrants) or they are coastal birds and we'd need a really bad storm to blow them inland - not impossible but much less chance of these.
So, three birds to make us up to 120 species for the year - there's a challenge if ever I heard one!
Lochwinnoch is a great place to walk and watch wildlife and though is good for families often turns up interesting birds. My one and only twitch was to see the Smew a couple of years back.
A list of the 117 would be great to see...