It is my privilege to announce on this month’s blog that November brought with it a new species for the reserve! That’s right; on the 6 November we had a little egret perched in a tree on the western side of the Aird Meadow Loch! Very well spotted by our eagle-eyed volunteers Alan and Carol.
This time of the year, as you would imagine has been great for action on the water itself: a high count of 140 wigeon on the Barr Loch on 28 November, 65 goldeneye on the Aird Meadow on 7 November and a common scoter once again on the Aird Meadow have all added to the mix.
Little egret, Mike Langman, (rspb-images.com)
Wigeon, Mike Langman, (rspb-images.com)
Other highlights over the road at the Barr Loch have included 100+ fieldfare on a number of occasions with a high count of c. 300 birds in the woodland on the fringes of the water there, 9 separate sightings of a hen harrier between 10 November and 28 November, and a couple of really good views of a peregrine on 11, 19 and 20 November.
Peregrine, Mike Unwin, (rspb-images.com)
Some of the more memorable sightings have included a merlin very close to the visitor centre on 21 November – a pretty unusual sight, up to 4 scaup sighted on both the Aird Meadow and Castle Semple Lochs on separate days between 20 and 27 November, a calling chiffchaff near Castle Semple Loch on 28 November and a golden plover among lapwing on 2 December which is another year tick!
Scaup, Mike Langman, (rspb-images.com)
Speaking of additions to our list of birds seen on the reserve this year so far, we also had a barn owl seen at the entrance to the reserve on 29 November so our year’s tally currently stands at 125 species! The most ever! Fantastic stuff!
Well, the weather certainly has taken a turn for the fresher and the cooler and I even had to scrape the windscreen of my car for the first time this autumn today. Where does the time go? But enough of the ponderous questions....there’s far too much fantastic wildlife to see right now! Autumn has always been my favourite time of year, perhaps because I was born in October, or perhaps because of the beautiful light at this time of year, the migrants that we begin to see arriving around the UK, or maybe, just maybe because I secretly can’t wait for Christmas!
On the wildlife front there is a lot to report from Lochwinnoch reserve; recent highlights have included Jack snipe on 4th Nov giving beautiful views of its bobbing movements just across the channel from the centre. A common scoter on Castle Semple Loch 3rd Nov – the first sighting of this bird in 2013, taking our year-to-date species count up to 122. Jay seen/heard on 15th Oct and 3rd Nov respectively. A tawny owl added to the spooky atmosphere on 1st Nov during our Fright Night event; the most popular event of our year welcoming 120+ participants. A late record of a swallow flying over the Aird Meadow shocked one of our regular visitors on 1st Nov. Whooper swans continue to offer great views since their arrival in October, 6 have just flown over the reserve as I am writing this! Fieldfares and redwings have also been seen primarily in close proximity to berry-laden trees and hedges, the most notable count of the former was on 29th Oct on the eastern fringe of the Barr Loch with a count of 350+ birds. One of my personal favourite sightings came on 27th Oct with a fantastic piece of drama involving a marauding peregrine falcon and an assortment of wigeon, pochard, teal, mallard, goldeneye and tufted duck; the ducks were diving and splashing into the loch here and there in an attempt to avoid the speedy predator, a real sight to behold!
Just over the road, the Barr Loch has been turning up some really good stuff too: Short-eared owl on 15th Oct, water rail throughout recent weeks as well as frequent sightings of elusive hen harrier and fleeting glimpses of kingfisher have all contributed to kick Autumn off to a really great start. As the season continues and merges seamlessly into the cold depths of winter we hope to hang on to beautiful goosander – 28 of these elegant sawbills were seen on Castle Semple Loch today, as well as some pleasant surprises such as linnets in mixed flocks of goldfinches and redpoll as was the case on 31st Oct on the fringes of the new channel in front of the centre. We have been delighted to have had such great views of a garganey throughout October right in front of the visitor centre – this summer migrant has been challenging us all on the ID front, but the obliging bird gave us plenty of opportunities; hanging around until 28th Oct which makes it the 2nd latest record ever in the Clyde area!
Many visitors to the reserve of course hope of seeing a hen harrier at this time of year and we have been spoilt with many sightings both in the vicinity of the Aird Meadow and the Barr Loch. Today gave us the most recent sighting with a ring-tail on the east side of the Barr Loch. A drake pintail turned up on one of my days off, along with gadwall, adding nicely to the great variety of species you could see upon a visit. It seems if you wish to maximise your chances of seeing interesting birds coming in on my day off isn’t a bad ploy!
However, the most notable sighting must be the 400 snipe we had on 17th Oct spread over the islands in the pond in front of the centre along with pockets of birds scattered around the boundary of the Aird Meadow Loch. On a number of occasions I was watching the carpet of snipe moving as one when a hen harrier put many of them up. Truly one of the most amazing things I have seen in this job.
Many thanks to Richard Brooks (rspb-images.com) for this image.
Hello everyone. I hope all is well this fine afternoon. As I am writing this, my first post on the RSPB community page, the sun is shining and there are lots of familiar birds at the feeding station outside my window. Every now and then I am distracted of course as I hear the tell tale sounds and flutters that suggest a possible sparrowhawk attack, fortunately for the little birds this time, it was a collared dove.Since the last blog our work placement student Agnieszka Magierecka has sadly left us and is currently in Ecuador...lucky thing! We wish her all the best in the future with whatever she turns her hand to. I will certainly be roping her in to volunteer from time to time so it’s not goodbye forever! Emma Wilcock has also left us after her temporary contract. She will leave a big hole, and the visitor’s centre certainly won’t be the same without her. As well as a change in personnel, slight changes in the behaviour of the birds have been noticed at the reserve; willow and sedge warblers have been much less vocal although very recently willow warblers have been heard again in close proximity to the centre and on the 10th August 18 sedge warblers were recorded on the fringes of the Barr Loch.
Sparrowhawk by Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)
A juvenile sparrowhawk has been experiencing the harsh learning curve needed to hunt little birds at the feeding station and I haven’t seen any successful outings so far. Osprey sightings remain top of the pecking order throughout the summer with recent sightings on 5th, 9th, 11th, 12th, 14th and 24th August seen predominantly over Aird Meadow and Barr Lochs. We had a bird earlier in the season catch 3 fish from the Aird Meadow Loch and hang around in a tree visible from the centre all day, I watched it with a few lucky visitors in awe! Other highlights have included a marsh harrier – my first sighting at the reserve, hunting over the Aird Meadow Loch on 7th August. This bird was later identified as one of 15 juvenile birds wing tagged this summer in the Tay Reedbed area. A ringed plover on 18th August and a kingfisher on 6th and 14th August were seen around the Barr Loch – all sightings which have fallen on my days off of course. Similarly I was absent on 23rd August when two Mandarin ducks were spotted and photographed in the new channel in front of the visitor’s centre – I just can’t catch a break! But it’s not just the waterfowl that have been enjoying the cool water; roe deer have been seen on a number of occasions swimming in the Aird Meadow and Barr Lochs, a fantastic sight.
Water rail by Mike Richards (rspb-images.com)
From a personal viewpoint there have been a few sightings this month that have got me excited as they involve species I don’t have much experience of. Firstly water rail; seen on 6th, 23rd and 24th August; I have always wanted to see one and am determined to make this year the year! Second, a greenshank was heard calling over the Aird Meadow on 13th August, again, a species I would love to see at the reserve. Some of my favourite birds have made appearances this month too, namely peregrine over the Aird Meadow on 12th August and kestrel on the fringes of the Barr Loch on 4th and 6th August.This month has also presented identification challenges; both in terms of confusion such as ‘is it a juvenile rook or carrion crow?’ from the visitor’s centre, and ‘what on earth are all those ducks?’ over on the Barr Loch – where is a scope when you need one?! For your information, on these occasions the answers were A) Juvenile rook and B) Teal! – 18 of them on 24th August. We had bigger numbers still of tufted duck on the Barr Loch; the August peak being 220 birds on 6th August. However, it’s not all about huge numbers; a whitethroat visible smack bang in front of the centre’s viewing area on 14th August was a reminder that seeing someone watch a bird they have never seen before is almost as exciting as seeing a first yourself!