After a pretty dismal summer weather-wise, the better weather in August was a welcome relief! It was a great month for raptors, with osprey spotted hunting on both the Barr Loch and Aird Meadow throughout the month, a peregrine over the Aird Meadow on the 14th, frequent sightings of kestrel, and a male hen harrier over the Barr Loch on the 31st. However, the osprey wasn’t the only bird that the fish had to worry about, as a pair of kingfisher was seen in the Lochall Channels on the 25th. Common sandpiper on the edge of the channel on the 29th was another highlight.
The warm weather continued into September, and possibly our most surprising sighting of the month was the appearance of a ring-necked parakeet at the feeders on the 23rd. Although originally confined to central Asia and central Africa, the ring-necked parakeet has massively increased in its range due to escaped pet birds. It is well-known for its adaptability and resilience, with roughly 8,600 pairs living in London. Unfortunately, they are also known for forming large and very noisy flocks. Luckily the single bird who visited the reserve is just an escapee called “Elvis” who has been on the loose for several months and doesn’t seem keen to give up his new-found freedom to return to his owner! The parakeet has since been spotted several times out on the reserve – hopefully he doesn’t find a mate, but for now those of you with Suspicious Minds who are All Shook Up by our unusual visitor can rest easy.
As for native bird species seen during the month, there were numerous sightings of hen harrier, buzzard and sparrowhawk on the Aird Meadow. Our last osprey of the year was spotted on September 1st when it flew over the Aird Meadow and attempted fishing in the loch.
October proved to be a great month at the reserve for unusual birds. Gadwall were seen throughout the month on the Aird Meadow and Barr Loch, while a ringtail hen harrier infrequently appeared to hunt across the Aird Meadow. Continuing into mid-October, things began to get busier, with a male stonechat spotted at the Barr Loch, golden plover also seen flying over the Barr Loch on the 15th, and large flocks of redwing and fieldfare seen on the reserve from the 15th onwards. A little egret landed on the Aird Meadow on the 25th and spent some time there before flying off – this was our second sighting of the year, and only our 3rd record ever on the reserve. Sporadic sightings of kingfisher were a vibrant treat during the latter part of the month – they have taken to using our kingfisher perches on the edges of the pond, and have been successfully catching fish! A short-eared owl has also been spotted in October, hunting during the twilight hours of the 29th and 31st at the south end of the Barr Loch.
Now the days are shortening and winter is approaching - let’s hope the colder weather will be bring plenty more exciting bird species to round off the year!
July has been a strange month, with much more rain than is normal for this time of year. We have however had a few sunny days scattered throughout the month, and also a few exciting bird sightings!
The highlight of the month for me was the brief appearance of a little egret on the Lochall channel on the 24th (a new bird for me!). It was spotted by Norman, one of our volunteers, as it flew in across the Aird Meadow. The bird landed on the edge of the channel and then flew off towards the Barr Loch after a few minutes. Although it was a brief visit, this was a very exciting sighting for us, as it was only the second sighting EVER for the reserve (the first being in 2013). Another interesting sighting on the 24th was a female shoveler, which was spotted swimming in the channel later in the afternoon.
On the 21st there was an unexpected visitor outside the centre – a young cuckoo landed on a post and gave staff and visitors great views before flying off.
During July we have had several water rail records, with individuals heard calling on the Aird Meadow on the 24th and 25th, and a juvenile was actually caught on one of our camera traps on the 18th. This was very exciting as water rails are such shy and secretive birds and so it is generally very difficult to definitively prove breeding – so it is fantastic to have confirmation that they have successfully bred on the reserve this year.
Other interesting sightings for the month include an osprey over the Aird Meadow loch on the 1st, and fishing over the Castle Semple loch on the 14th; a kestrel over the Barr Loch on the 4th; and a whitethroat singing along the River Calder on the 11th.
On the 5th a scaup was recorded on the Barr Loch within a group of tufted ducks, and 4 common sandpipers were also seen.
It has also been fantastic to see a variety of fledglings visiting the feeders outside the visitor centre, with young goldfinches, house sparrows, siskins and great spotted woodpeckers all enjoying the sunflower seeds on offer. It was a delight to see a family of woodpeckers visiting the feeders together, with a male, female and a juvenile.
Our year list is currently at 112, here’s hoping for some interesting species passing through the reserve next month as the breeding season comes to an end!
June began with the cool and wet weather that seems to have followed us throughout spring. This unseasonable weather has meant that June was a mixed month for breeding birds on the reserve. Some species such as blue tits seem to have struggled due to the lack of available food caused by the cold, damp weather. However some nests were successful so there are still plenty of small birds around the reserve! Mallards, however, seem to be thriving on the reserve and we have enjoyed watching several different family groups visit the feeders outside the visitor centre, giving us the chance to see them growing from tiny fluffy ducklings to almost adult-sized ducks.
The month was notable for bringing several osprey sightings around the reserve, both at the Barr Loch (1st & 12th) and over the Aird Meadow loch (5th, 19th, 28th & 30th). It is fantastic to get views of this stunning bird of prey, and it’s very encouraging that they continue to return to the reserve to fish.
Other interesting sightings during June included a water rail along the Dubbs trail on the 3rd, 4 gadwall on the pond on the 10th and a dipper feeding on the River Calder on the 13th.
June also brought plenty of sightings of our summer migrant species. Whitethroat was spotted in different areas of the reserve on the 8th, 13th & 20th, and on the 29th an adult with 3 juveniles was seen on the Aird Meadow. Garden warbler was recorded on the 13th, 14th & 20th around the reserve, and there was also a record of a spotted flycatcher on the Aird Meadow on the 30th. A willow warbler with 5 juveniles was spotted near the visitor centre on the 26th.
One final very unusual sighting for June was the appearance of 4 pink-footed geese on the Aird Meadow loch on the 5th. Generally a winter visitor to the UK, this was the first sighting on the reserve since 2013 and quite unusual as generally records are simply of birds flying over the reserve rather than stopping off here.
Here’s hoping for a drier and warmer July, giving us all the chance to get out and enjoy the beautiful wildflowers blooming around the reserve!