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The Eagles are back!
The short cold snap this weekend saw the return of White-tailed Eagles to Loch Leven, making it the 3rd year running that the birds have shown up in November; checking back, previous dates were the 28th November in 2013, and the 30th November in 2014. A single bird with a turquoise tag was seen on Reed Bower on the 21st, and was joined on the 22nd by a second bird spotted on St Serfs. These are likely to be female Turquoise H (2009 release bird) and her new mate, which is a west coast bird.
For those interested in obtaining further information on the White-tailed Eagle reintroduction program, Rhian Evans, RSPB East Scotland Sea Eagle Officer, is giving a talk at RSPB Loch Leven on the 3rd of December. There are still a few places left, so book now.
Other highlights last week included Short-eared Owl, with two being spotted on the 14th and 21st, and one on the 15th and 20th. Flocks of Fieldfares and Redwings have been decimating the large crops of Rowan berries along the verge across from the visitor centre, with one flock of 144 (or a gross for older readers) reported on the 15th in the Bumble Bee Meadow. There have been a few Hen Harrier sightings, with a male seen on the 20th and a female bird on the 19th and 22nd.On the goose front, a count on the 16th recorded 11,260 Pink-footed Geese and 527 Greylag Geese. A flock of 161 Whooper Swans visited the Carden Flood on the 21st.
Regular visitors to the reserve may have noticed that the signs have had a "freshen up", thanks to the reserve volunteers. To quote our Visitor Experience Officer, Alice, "you aint seen nothing yet" (I'm not sure whether she is actually a secret Bachman Turner Overdrive fan or not). Anyway, watch out for further developments.
Posted by Ken Brown
Despite being the "quiet" time for birds, in late June into early July, a situation not helped by the poor weather we've just had, its been an interesting time around the reserve recently.
A pair of Garganey have been skulking around the Carden Flood since the 13th of the month. An elegant little duck in breeding plumage, as can be seen below
Male and female Garganey - Roger Wilmshurst (rspb-images.com)
Unfortunately, they have now entered moult and are a bit more nondescript.
There was an Osprey present over the wetland on the 21st (with 4 being seen from Kirkgate above the loch on the evening of the 20th)
A Temminck's Stint appeared on the Carden Flood on the 23rd, and was seen again on the 24th.
Temminck's Stint (Photo - Arend Wassink)
To cap that, today (24th) there was a female Smew (Redhead) on the Flood. A real surprise, this, since it should be on its breeding ground in northern Europe at this time of year.
Female Smew (Photo - Dick Daniels)
And there's still half the week to go.
If there's one species that marks April on the reserve, it's the Lapwing. Mating, nesting, displaying, calling; they seem to be everywhere, though by far the best place to see them is from the Waterston Hide. This year is already looking good, with 13 nests identified so far, 9 up on the same time last year.
Another prominent group just now are the Black-headed Gulls. These birds are hard to miss, especially at the Carden hide, where the din they make tends to drown out the Skylarks. This small colony has continued to increase in size over the last three years.
Just recently arrived, for the third year running, is Little-ringed Plover. So far there is only one bird, first spotted on Tuesday the 7th, and it's been seen at the back margin of the Carden Flood for the past three days now.
Pairs of Pintail and Shelduck have been pretty constant visitors on the Carden Flood, and the Redshank are beginning to venture out around the margins. Earlier this week, I watched a male Wheatear in bright spring plumage on the fence over by Kirkhills
Up at the Visitors Centre, most of the the infrastructure work to spruce up the east side is now finished. It does look a bit bare , but the plan is now to plant with a selection of native flowers and shrubs.
The Chiffchaff are back, and can be heard singing around the Centre, competing with the ever-present call of the Great Tit
The Pink-footed Geese are leaving us now, as they move north, though there is still a chance to see the occasional flock on passage.
This week saw the return of the White-tailed Eagles, spotted on Reed Bower last Sunday, together with colder more wintery conditions.
The frozen pools meant fewer birds around on the wetland area, however Vane Bay remained unfrozen.
On the 26th, two female and three male Scaup were in the bay.
A female Smew has been a persistent visitor over the past few weeks, but was joined on Friday (30th) by a male. Several pairs of Pintails have also been present.
A Merlin was seen over the wetland, also on the 30th.
Those hardy souls making the trek to the Carden hide, despite the weather, will hopefully be impressed by the new benches just installed. We hope to replace the benches in the Waterston hide shortly, also.
Access to the Gilman and Waterston hides will be disrupted for short period this month, as some of the windows are replaced.
In addition, work starts on Monday at the east end of the centre beside the ramp, as the area is being remodelled, so some disruption will occur here also.
Whilst it may seem quiet, a fair bit of work is happening out on the reserve also. More vegetation is being cut to increase the areas of suitable Lapwing nesting habitat, and as Lapwings like bare earth, some areas will be de-turfed.
The Bumblebee meadow is looking a bit wet, so the drainage is to be improved.
As I sit here with the rain bucketing down outside, I'm thinking that it was only three weeks ago, I was in the Waterston hide with the door and windows open, a balmy 19°C in the bright sunshine, listening to Skylarks singing away, whilst watching Meadow Pipets, Pied Wagtails, Linnets and a family of Stonechats.
It's been a quiet time on the reserve over the last few weeks. Despite the strong westerlies, bringing the usual heavy rain, unfortunately no mega-rarities showed up. The water levels in the scrapes and the loch have risen a fair bit, which has had the effect of moving some of the wildfowl away.
There's been a female Smew hanging around the bay, off and on, since the 22nd October, amongst the Goosanders and Pochards. Amongst the swans in the bay on the 31st October, a Whooper Swan with a yellow leg ring, and a Mute Swan with a green ring were spotted by Jeremy from SNH. A Jack Snipe was seen from the Gilman hide in the west lagoon, as well as a pair of Snipe at the back of the Carden flood on the 2nd November. A male and a female Pintail were on the Carden flood today (6th).
The familiar 'wink wink' call of the pink-footed goose is with us once again - autumn is well and truly here. Large flocks of geese are moving around Loch Leven and the surrounding fields regularly providing wonderful spectacles throughout the day.
The first NNR goose count took place on Friday morning and, despite the iffy weather, the 5 people stationed around the loch counted a total of 8799 pinkies - slightly up on the same week in 2013. Greylag numbers were down by a couple of hundred, with 481 recorded in the gloom.
The geese have been very visible and very vocal in the last week and we're expecting more geese to be passing through. The 2013 peak was mid-October and peaked at just over 23,000, so we're all very excited to see what turns up this year. The next count is scheduled for the weekend of the 18th, so we'll update you with the results.
Other recent sightings have included the American wigeon, it's been about week since it's been spotted, but it's worth keeping an eye out on the loch amongst the gathering wildfowl. Flocks of lapwing and curlew continue to be seen on the loch shore and surrounding stubble fields, while a flock of around 70 linnet is moving around the reserve feeding in the disturbed areas. A small number of whooper swans have arrived, with a handful seen in Vane Bay last week, the numbers will continue to build in the coming weeks as they arrive from Iceland.
A little closer to the visitor centre, and right outside my window, 2 grey wagtails have been hanging out by the teaching pond. They've been skulking on the edge, dipping down onto the surface to feed and enjoying the easy pickings.
Posted by Vicky Turnbull
A fair bit has happened since the last blog. The modified path at the start of the wetland trail has been completed; given some snow and a tea tray from the cafe, thoughts of the luge......!
The disturbed earth alongside the trail has resulted in an abundance of wild flowers, attract Buff-tailed Bumblebees, and on the subject of bees, the bumblebee meadow has opened, the Lapwing breeding season being over.
Since the last blog, sightings have included a pair of Common Sandpipers at the beginning of June; a juvenile male Long-tailed Duck which stayed around for the first three weeks of June; a Whimbrel and a Little Egret on the 2nd June; Scaup on the 13th; an American Wigeon on the 21st; a Water Rail on the 4th of July, and a Lesser Scaup on the 9th.
It was a disappointing year for Little Ringed Plover breeding. One pair successfully hatched one chick, though this latter disappeared, presumably predated; the other pair, despite producing several clutched, failed to hatch any chicks. All the adults have now departed.
On Monday (14th) , the Glossy Ibis was showing well around the Carden Flood, feeding on the mud recently exposed by the lowered water level.This was joined in the afternoon by two Redshanks, and two Greenshanks. Two Snipe were also seen. Three Pintails were present in Vane bay. As an encore, an Osprey then appeared over the loch.
Appearing daily, we have three Swallow chicks, in the nest above the archway.
It's been a busy month for the warden, Vicky, and her delightful assistant, Tommy, as they carried out the annual survey of Lapwing breeding, by monitoring nests and chicks.
Visitors can get a taste of the effort involved, by taking part in the daily Find the Lapwing Chicks competition. No prizes, unfortunately, but lots of feel good factor. Eagle eyes and a lot of patience are required.
Lapwing Chick (image copyright Vicky Turnbull)
The Little Ringed Plovers have been very prominent on the Carden Flood. This year, we have had four birds present; two birds have nested on the island to the left of the hide, giving visitors some great close up views. The second pair have been active at the back of the flood, but no nest spotted as yet. Additionally, a pair of Oystercatchers with two chicks can be seen on the island at the back of the flood.
A pair of Pied Wagtails have nested beneath the bridge at the Carden hide, so keep a look out for young wagtails around this area.
Peeking Pied Wagtail (image copyright Vicky Turnbull)
Other recent sightings include the Glossy Ibis, still hanging around, though it has moved to the west of the reserve, along with a solitary Black-tailed Godwit; these are probably best seen from the new viewpoint.
Eleven Whimbrel were seen in this area at the beginning of the month, so it's always worth a trek along to this end of the reserve on the Heritage Trail to see what's about.
Finally, the usual reminder to visitors to the Centre at this time of year to watch out for low flying Swallows.
Over the last few days, the glossy ibis has been showing really well from the Gillman Hide and the cafe. We saw it this morning on an island in one of the pools near the Gillman Hide. Here is a picture taken by Nigel Wedge on Wednesday. (See moreof Nigel's photos at https://www.flickr.com/photos/sarniebill/)
Posted by Uwe
Grid reference: NT1699 (+2km)
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