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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.
Posted by Ken Brown
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
Finally, it's here!
The Kinross Glossy Ibis finally made an appearance for our cafe visitors yesterday. Excellent viewing was had by all those lucky enough to drop in for lunch.
** The latest news is that it is back today, in front of the Gilman hide. Good viewing over the Easter weekend has been promised. **
In addition, the extension to the Heritage Trail opens today, completing the circuit around the loch. There is absolutely no link between these two events, nor any truth to the rumour that the Ibis was released by an interested party keen to reintroduce the species to Scotland.
Our two Little Ringed Plovers have been seen regularly around the Carden Flood, and even spotted mating, which bodes well for another nest this year. The Lapwings continue to perform constantly. Nine nests have been identified, of which seven remain.
There are still largish flocks of 300-400 Pink-footed Geese around, and eleven Whooper Swans were on the Carden Flood on the 14th.
The new part of the Heritage Trail now gives visitors a great opportunity to see more of the reserve. For instance, at the large pool in the field just before the cottage, six Black-tailed Godwits in glorious summer plumage were seen yesterday.
Black-tailed Godwit Photo: Omar Runolfsson (licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License).
Also, if you are visiting RSPB Loch Leven, it is worth a walk along to the new Viewpoint feature, on the little hill at the south west corner of the reserve, which affords a fantastic view back over the whole of the RSPB reserve.
Finally, further to my blog post of 10th April, it would seem that we have been totally misled, and the new bikes for the staff to get around are bicycles; cycling proficiency tests have been scheduled!
Lapwings, Lapwings everywhere!. This species continues to hold its number one position as the most noticeable bird on the wetland; pretty much everywhere you look you'll see them. In the number two position this week is the Skylark, due to the constant background song flights of these birds, though those up at the Visitor's Centre may argue for the Great Tit that consistently calls there all day every day.
Little Ringed Plover has been very prominent, now that we know to look out for it, being seen most days on the island at the back of the flood. I say 'it', since only one has been seen at any one time, but hopefully there are two, one of each sex, or else breeding will be pretty unlikely.
Little Ringed Plover Ben Hall (rspb-images.com)
Other highlights include 9 Black-tailed Godwits, spotted by our wardens on the 7th whilst on their WebS outing. A Glossy Ibis was also spotted on the far reaches of the reserve (presumable the same bird that hung about Kinross in the preceding weeks) as well as a Greenshank on the same excursion. A White-fronted Goose of some sort (which is as specific as I am going to be) was hanging around with the Greylags this week. A pair of Red-breasted Mergansers were on the small lagoon by the Gilman hide on the 7th.
There are still some Pink-footed Geese to be seen, but you had better be quick. Redshank, Shelduck, Shoveler and Pintail Duck have all been regulars, with the occasional Pochard, amongst the ubiquitous Mallard, Wigeon and Tufted Ducks this week.
The work on the new section of the Heritage Trail around Loch Leven should be advanced enough by the end of next week to allow the new section to open for the Easter weekend, This will allow visitors to see into far side of the Reserve for the first time, as they walk along the western edge. There has been some talk of getting bikes for the volunteers to help them get around the extended area, however the jury is still out on Orange County Choppers versus Honda Goldwing tourers (I was tempted to add photos, but eventually decided against it).
Grid reference: NT1699 (+2km)
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Note: Some reserves are not served directly by public transport and, in these cases, a nearby destination (from which you may need to walk or take a taxi or ferry) may be offered.