The second half of January into February brought with it some beautiful days at the reserve so it has been even more fantastic than usual looking out of the centre for anything that might pop in to say hello.
We have, of course, been recording all sightings diligently with a view to bolster the ‘year list’ as much as possible in this bountiful time of the year and thankfully, the efforts of staff, volunteers and visitors have been rewarded with some great sightings.
Woodcock is a species that we see in winter more than other times of the year and we have had two sightings since the last blog, namely on 10 Jan at Lochlip road, on the way into the village, and secondly on 21 Jan flying over the visitor centre. It’s always a great sight to see – a bird I have only ever seen once up at Mugdock Country Park.
Woodcock, Mike Langman (rspb-images.com)
The Barr Loch has been as busy as ever with good numbers of waterfowl including 3 shoveler duck there on 17 Jan. In addition on that day there were 30 fieldfare seen in the reserve car park and a kestrel seen regularly over the road on 18 and 21 Jan, and then over the Aird Meadow on 25 and 31 Jan.
Shoveler, Mike Langman (rspb-images.com)
Scaup have frequented the reserve in the winter in recent years and specifically, Castle Semple Loch has been very fruitful for this species. Sightings were reported there on 19 Jan where there were 3 birds present. Thanks must go to Angus Murray, a stalwart of the reserve, who seems to see a scaup every time he sets up his scope! Well done Angus and thank you.
Scaup, Mike Langman (rspb-images.com)
One of the most exciting species to see ant the reserve at this time of the year is hen harrier and we are fortunate that often, at this time of year, we get a male bird hunting in front of the visitor centre over the Aird Meadow. This winter has been no different with male birds seen there on 19, 20, 26 Jan and 4 Feb over the Aird Meadow. On 21 Jan one was also reported over on the fringes of the Barr Loch.
It’s no great secret that stonechat is one of my favourite birds. I love their appearance, habits and call, and it is also one of my favourite RSPB pin badges (which I wear with pride!) Luckily, we tend to get more sightings of this charismatic species in the winter months too, and a male has been seen flitting from bulrush to bulrush on the Aird Meadow. I was fortunate enough to see the wee chap on 20 and 29 Jan, but I suppose chances are he has been there in between as well. Cracking bird.
Stonechat, Mike Langman (rspb-images.com)
One of the stand-out occurrences of this winter has been the good numbers of brambling seen on the reserve. 30 birds in Garthland Woods on 22 Jan was maintained on 24 Jan, with lots of visitors heading over to check out this beautiful Scandinavian migrant. The best was yet to come though with 130+ birds seen feeding on the Beech mast on the floor of the woods by the eagle-eyed Jason McManus. The woods provided another good sighting on 4 Feb in the shape of a nuthatch after we were treated to a real bonanza in the heavy snow on 29 Jan – notably 50 skylark and 40+ meadow pipit. A great day to be at the reserve.
Brambling, Mike Langman (rspb-images.com)
So, that’s it for now folks, the year list is currently sitting on 84, let’s hope it has crept up significantly upon reading the next issue!
Recent sightings blog Lochwinnoch 15 Dec 2014 - 7 Jan 2015
The old year finished up on the reserve with some nice sightings though there were no additions to the yearlist, the total for 2014 thus ending on 122 species. The slavonian grebe was seen again on the Barr Loch on 23 - 28 Dec with a ringtail hen harrier also there on 27 - 28 Dec, a woodcock by the River Calder on 28 Dec and 34 whooper swans were at Aird Meadow on 20 Dec.
Slavonian grebe, image by Mike Langman (rspb-images.com)
By the 7 January the yearlist for 2015 had already reached 63 species. The Barr Loch was to the fore with continuing high numbers of waterfowl still present there as had been the case at the end of 2014. Counts included 310 wigeon on 6 Jan, 216 coot and 118 teal both on 2 Jan with at least four gadwall on the same day, three shoveler on 5 Jan, 180 lapwing on 3 Jan and eight great crested grebes and three water rails both on 6 Jan. Two scaup were seen on there on 2 Jan with then presumably the same two birds on Aird Meadow on 3 Jan and Castle Semple Loch on 6 Jan. The counts for both wigeon and coot are the highest in Jan for both species on the reserve since 2007.
Scaup, image by Mike Langman (rspb-images.com)
Other noteworthy sightings this year so far include Kingfisher, dipper, kestrel, stock dove (with two by the Barr Loch on 6 Jan) and linnet (with six also by the Barr Loch also on 6 Jan).
Kingfisher, image by Mike Langman (rspb-images.com)
The proper winter finally arrived with weather to match, snow, hail, wind, rain, thunder and lightning all in the mix. Some good birds were seen though despite this with the yearlist even managing to increase by one, taking the total to 122 species, courtesy of a barnacle goose seen amongst canada geese at Castle Semple Loch on 8 Dec. The day before this two long-tailed ducks were present there, not a first for the year for the recording area with one having been seen at the start of the year though the last record prior to this year was in 2005. Castle Semple Loch held good numbers of wildfowl in the period with on the 3 Dec 86 goldeneye and five pochard counted whilst on the 5th 40 goosanders were present. The goosanders were often fishing close in just off the car park here, affording great views of this handsome duck. Similarly good numbers of waterbirds remained at the Barr Loch too in the period especially wigeon, teal and coot once again, as well as two shoveler on 4 and 7 Dec and five gadwall on 7 Dec. The slavonian grebe, present there since the 12 Nov, was last reported on 2 Dec.
Goldeneye by Ben Hall (rspb-images.com)
A scarce though almost certainly under-recorded species on the reserve, a woodcock, was at the Barr Loch on 3 Dec . Another scarce resident, water rail, once again proved to be prominent in the period with at least five different calling birds reported from Dubbs Trail, Aird Meadow and Barr Loch. At least two different hen harriers were seen between 4-13 Dec including the first adult male to be noted in the recording area this winter.
Hen harrier by Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)