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This week saw the first true signs of autumn, leaves have just started turning and the wetlands are becoming more and more exciting. Osprey numbers are down to the odd sighting, meaning they have journeyed south on their way to central Africa. Thank you Thomas Jolliffe for sending in this osprey photo, they are hard to capture way out on the fence posts!
Another great photo sent in this week is a marsh harrier being harassed by crows sent in by Alex Gilfillan.
Other sightings over the past few days include: lots of lapwings, a greenshank, a water rail, long tailed tits (in the larches), a buzzard, pochards, peregrines, a Slavonian grebe, pintails, a sparrowhawk, whooper swans. We've also had plenty of butterflies around; commas, small coppers and red admiral. Dragonflies have been whizzing around the centre and sunning themselves on the warm benches in the picnic area.
Whooper swans - Paul Ashcroft (rspb-images.com)
Keep us posted with your sightings by dropping into the visitor centre!
Posted by Alice O
Ospreys! The final osprey count for the day is nine, slightly less than our impressive twelve seen yesterday. We're very lucky to be the choice osprey migration route and based on previous years we expect to see them for another week, so drop by if you haven't had a chance to see them yet. We are hearing rumors that the first pink-footed geese are on the way, watch this space!
Osprey - Chris Gomersall (rspb-images.com)
This week we've also had daily sightings of; red squirrels, kingfishers, a greenshank, black-tailed godwit, sparrowhawks, kestrels, common and black darter dragonflies, a dunlin. Our warden Vicky saw 250 curlew today and also frightened twenty snipes just next to the flood!
Curlew - Alex Gilfillan (rspb-images.com)
Another exciting week for sightings here at RSPB Loch Leven as we creep into September and the heather and blaeberry look lovely.
Hundreds of Pintails have arrived from their breeding grounds in Iceland and northern Europe. A nice reminder of RSPB's first connection to Loch Leven when in 1901 special "watchers" were positioned to protect them from shooters who were keen on making them into hats. There are also hundreds of greylag geese, these are our local breeding population but the migrant pink-footed geese should be arriving late September so watch this space.
Paul Ashcroft (rspb-images.com)
We've had daily osprey sightings with four seen today, clearly visible from the visitor centre for all to see. Also seen today were two greenshanks (there were five on Wednesday), wigeons, gadwalls, curlews, two willow warblers, two kestrels, teals, a woodcock, three dunlin, seven black-tailed godwits, eight ruffs, six ringed plovers, eight shovelers, a snipe, two blackcaps and a raven over the hill. Phew!
Alex Gilfillan (rspb-images.com)
Don't forget our autumn introduction to birdwatching course is just around the corner, get in touch if you'd like to find out more.
Here is our sightings board for the week and it's pretty exciting:
It's not every week that we can say we've seen ospreys every day at RSPB Loch Leven. The record for the week is six ospreys but we're hoping we may beat last year's record of thirteen in the coming days and weeks. The last osprey reported here last year was on September 21 so hopefully we'll have plenty more opportunities to see these brilliant birds.
Other more unusual sightings of the week include a curlew sandpiper, water rails, snipes and black-tailed godwits and plenty of butterflies like these lovely small coppers taken by Paul Ashcroft.
It's been quite a week for wildlife sightings at RSPB Scotland Loch Leven so far. On the loch we've had 541 tufted duck, 54 barnacle geese, little grebes with chicks, great crested grebes with chicks, a kingfisher, over 50 linnets, curlews, wheatears, a kestrel, a water rail, meadow pipits, pochards, gadwalls, 3 ospreys next to the carden hide and also willow warblers and a young red squirrel in the wildlife garden this morning.
Photo credit: Meadow pipit - Paul Ashcroft (rspb-images.com)
As always, let us know if you see something interesting and we'll pop it on our sightings board. Pop into the visitor centre reception for the latest wildlife reports.
Spring is in the air and summer certainly feels like it's around the corner, even after the snowy cover we experienced last week at RSPB Loch Leven. It's also another great week for wildlife sightings with swallows starting to build their nests in the courtyard, sixteen goslings were spotted in one goose family and a pied wagtail has been working hard on it's nest under the solar panel.
We're on the look out for nests spots so let us know if you see any and we'll pop up one of our nestwatch signs. If you are interested in learning more about how birds communicate and how to get to know bird songs then we have a few spaces left on our Summer Birdsong course on Sunday 15 May, run by local bird expert Scott Paterson this comes highly recommended.
Big news of the weekend was the young red squirrel family which was sighted in a kestrel nest box on our hill trail, two squirrel pups were playing on the tree, biting off tree buds and having a great time, very appropriate as we had our family fun weekend. We did indeed build the biggest nest we've ever had on the reserve!
On the wetlands we have had sightings of a black tailed godwit, pochards, redshanks, little ringed plovers, great crested grebes, little grebes, common sandpipers and hundreds of tufted ducks. A yellowhammer was spotted by the 1st hide and we've had lots of wheatears reported to the visitor centre.
It's great to see lots of lapwings nesting as they are a priority for this reserve, our reserve team are keeping an eye on them to monitor the survival rate of the chicks.
Up into the woodlands we've had sightings of the short-eared owls, red grouse and also a white throat. Bullfinches and siskins have been spotted in the wildlife garden and around the visitor centre we've had swifts, swallows and sand martins swooping together and a treecreeper climbing on the wall outside the classroom.
Remember to keep us posted with what you see when you are out and about!
Photo credits: Goslings & lapwing chick - Alex Gilfillan, nestwatch & giant nest - Alice O'Rourke, little ringed plover - Paul Ashcroft
With lapwings displaying, frogs in the ponds and blossom on the trees it’s high time for a sightings update and a look forward to the season ahead.
March began with the skylarks singing on the wetland trail and frequent sightings of short-eared owls. Throughout the month bramblings have been joining large flocks of chaffinches at the cafe bird feeders and almost managing to blend in.
The first frogs arrived on 9 March and their numbers seem to be rising daily, on our Easter lapwing trail yesterday we had one team spot 23 and lots of frogspawn.
Not a day goes by without an encounter with a lovely red squirrel (or 3) in the woodlands and picnic area. Bats are starting to appear in the evenings and a pipistrelle even did a few test flights in the courtyard one lunchtime last week.
Goldcrests and treecreepers have been spotted in the woodlands and there is lots of activity around nest boxes. If you are on the reserve and see a nest being used please let us know as with over 100 boxes it’s great to have extra help with monitoring what’s going on.
Wintering pink footed geese have begun making their way back to Iceland and Greenland but there are still big groups migrating through and some groups which may decide to stay with us for the summer. The last official count on Feb 22 was 144 pinkies but last week we had over 800.
On the wetlands we are getting regular sightings of snipe, little grebes, great crested grebes, pintails and goldeneyes. Flocks of over 80 curlews have been flying over the reserve and a few are looking like they might be interested in nesting here alongside the lapwings, who have been delighting people with their tumbling displays.
Swallows are due back soon with the first ones arriving on April 15 last year, I wonder who will be the first to spot one this season...
Photo credits; "Lapwing displaying" and "snipe" - Alex Gillfilan; Frogs under the larches - Anna Jemmet; Pink footed geese - Paul Ashcroft; Swallow - David Veitch
With over a hundred bird boxes on site, it’s always interesting to see the results of the annual survey and this time we have exciting news. Ten years ago there were no tree sparrows nesting at RSPB Loch Leven and this year we had 15 nest boxes being used by tree sparrows, a great result.
In the past we had been aware of tree sparrows nesting nearby at Levenmouth but there were no known records of them nesting on the reserve. So in 2008 the warden of the time made it his mission to make homes for this red listed species and together with volunteers built over fifty additional tree sparrow boxes.
Photo: Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)
How did we encourage tree sparrows?
Wooden bird boxes have different sized entrance holes to the box encourage different sized species. A standard entrance hole is 32mm but for a tree sparrow you need a width of 28mm. Some birds, like woodpeckers, enlarge the hole to suit them so people sometimes include a metal plate in the design to prevent crafty alterations.
Positioning a nest box requires some thought. Never put them up facing south as they might over heat (hard as that is to imagine just now), a north or north-east aspect is much better. Think about potential predators, this normally means they should be at least 2m up. Giving your box a good clean after the nesting season (normally Oct to Jan is safe) is important and means you should make sure you can easily reach it. As tree sparrows like to nest in groups, the boxes were positioned in clusters around along the heritage trail, in the woodlands and close to the Gillman hide on the wetlands.
What to look out for
Most nesting takes place between April and June. Early in nesting season you can watch prospective parents checking out the boxes to see if it’s a good patch. After a while they may decide it meets the grade and begin entering with nesting materials. If you begin to see only one bird coming and going the female is probably on eggs. Soon after you may see both parents darting about with food which means there are probably young ones. Remember to leave well alone if you think there is any activity (it’s the law!).
Often it’s only when cleaning the box that you can tell it’s been used, different species have their own ways of using the nest so a bit of detective work is needed. Tree sparrows build a feathery cup then cover it over with a block of feathery down material.
Photo: Eleanor Bentall (rspb-images.com)
Help us to monitor nests at RSPB Loch Leven
Now a team of five brilliant volunteers (David G, Mark, Linda, David B and Alan) keep an eye on nest box activity and are always keen to hear reports of birds making use of the boxes. If you see any boxes in use when you are visiting, look out for the number and let us know either at the visitor centre or by email (firstname.lastname@example.org). If you are lucky enough to get a photo any of the boxes in use, please send them in!
Put up your own nest box
If you would like to put up a nest box you grab one from our reserve shop or can make your own and from time to time we do building sessions at RSPB Loch Leven. Pop along to the visitor centre this Sunday 30 January from 1pm – 4pm as part of our Big Garden Birdwatch event and make a box to take home. Earlier in the day we’ll also have a bird ringing demonstration with the Tay ringing group (weather permitting) and will be offering hints and tips about spotting wildlife and giving nature a home in your garden. For more info on bird boxes, visit our advice page.
I must say it’s been a refreshing start to 2016 at Loch Leven, with frosty mornings and trees bare the list of wildlife spotted is looking good.
Flocks of bullfinches, curlews, lapwings, goosanders and barnacle geese have been around all week. Today we’ve had over sixty cormorants and fifty coots swimming in the bay, a kingfisher spotted from the first hide along with a sparrowhawk and a kestrel sitting next to the bird feeders waiting for an unlucky small bird to drop in. Daily red squirrel sightings (or even two if you are lucky) next to the visitor centre have also been great fun. Don’t forget to let us know what you see around, it’s great to spread the word.
Our winter visiting white tailed sea eagle has been around regularly on St Serfs Island and this weekend was joined by another eagle, thought to be from the west coast reintroduction programme. Watch this space.
Coming up this month we have our first Nature Tots event where we'll be investigating footprints, Scott Paterson is running his highly recommended introduction to birdwatching course on Wed 20 (just a few spaces left) and we'll be nest box building and bird ringing with BTO as part of the Big Garden Birdwatch on Satursday 30 Jan. See our events listings for more details.
If you are interested in helping out during this year’s breeding season at Loch Leven we’ll soon be advertising for a volunteer lapwing assistant to help monitor nests, get in touch for more information. We are also offering an outdoor learning internship position, for details visit http://www.rspb.org.uk/joinandhelp/volunteering/details.aspx?id=7754
Here’s to a great 2016!
Grid reference: NT1699 (+2km)
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