First week back

 

We’re back in the office at Loch Leven NNR. It’s been a quiet start to the new year.Great to be catching up with admin and starting to plan the next few weeks of work.

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Many apologies. I’d planned to bonus blog with a few highlights from last year this week but I couldn’t get the photos so I’ll get a bonus blog on next week.

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I started off the week with a count of the ducks around the loch. This was relatively easy as the ducks were on small holes in the ice. Numbers on our side were quite low but I still picked out a drake Smew off Burleigh and a Little Egret at the factory hide.

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There is also a Greenshank hanging around the north shore. These birds are scarce in Scotland in the winter and even rarer inland. We will see up to two loosely associating with the Redshank.

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This Stonechat is one of a few pairs locally around the trail. In the winters of 2010/11 the population appeared to crash with very few seen around the reserve but they are dotted all around the trail.

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We’ll be doing the January goose count next week. It appears there are reasonable numbers out roosting on the ice.

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While we were out before Christmas we spotted this red collared Greylag Goose. We assume most of our Greylag Geese at Loch Leven are re-naturalised local stock as ‘wild’ Greylag Geese tend to stay further north in the Highlands and Orkney.

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Many thanks to Bob Swann who supplied the information about this bird. The bird was rung in Blondhous in north west Iceland in summer 2016. It is the first time this bird has been spotted in the UK.

At the time of writing the ice is slowly melting out on the loch. I dug into the archives and found some photos from the winter 2010/11 when the ice was nine inches thick in places. A combination of mild weather and storms meant the ice broke up quickly. These pictures demonstrate the power of ice on such a large water body.

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The distant white line is piles of ice visible from the other side of the loch.

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I saw piles of broken ice over 2 metres high

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The ice took out fences and caused erosion. See the sods of turf lifted off from around the loch shore.

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We lose valuable shoreline willows during these events.

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Fancy a challenge over the weekend? Go and find a Short-eared Owl around Loch Leven. The best places to search are around the north shore or hunting over St Serfs.

Happy hunting.

 

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Quick Update from around the reserve

We’ve been out of the office for a while at Loch Leven NNR. Many thanks or the guest blog from Craig Nisbet. We wish him all the best on Handa in the summer and I’m sure I’ll manage a visit and report back.

We’ve apparently had all weather thrown at us this over the holiday period and January is looking like it might be quite cold.

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In December the loch froze over. this is the first really big ice event at Loch Leven since the winter of 2010/11.

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Reed Bower was lost in the early morning mist

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The Green Isle

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This ‘Murder’ of Carrion Crows gathered on the ice for a brief noisy meeting.

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Many thanks to my mate Paul Lomas who sent me through some photos from up at Bee Craigs and West Lomond. Loch Leven is lost under the mist during a temperature inversion where the loch acts like a sink for cold air and the mist gathers over the water. Winter hill walkers can enjoy this spectacle quite often at Loch Leven.

We’ve been exceptionally busy up to Christmas around the loch.

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We’ve had our digger in, clearing the ponds and re-profiling at Burleigh. We were also removing stumps at Mary’s Knowe.

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It makes clearing ponds quite difficult when there is 4 inches of ice!

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We’ve also been round  clearing the dangerous trees around the reserve. This tree was hung up on another one. with a trunk about nearly three feet thick it took quite a lot of effort to winch it off the other trees. This saved the tree it was hung up on.

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I say this on the blog every year. Shelduck have a strange status at Loch Leven. They arrive in late December and are present until July. I describe birds at this time of year the first breeding migrants of the year followed by the first Oystercatchers which arrive in the first week of January to start defending their territories.

Start listening for Collared Doves, Mistle Thrush and Dunnocks. These birds will all be singing soon. I’ve been hearing them in Gloucestershire already.

I will be adding a few highlights from last year and we will be back in the blogging groove next week.

Happy New year to you all.

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Guest Blog – Craig Nisbet, Norwegian adventure and looking forward

Norway Expedition 2017

It’s been a while since my last contribution to this blog, but great to see that Jeremy and Gus have been keeping things ticking over nicely since my departure. A brief outline and pictures of my recent trip to Norway is what Jeremy asked for – a tricky task for such an epic expedition, but here goes…

My Dutch friends Melvin and Fiona, whom I met in Shetland during my 4 seasons up on Noss, invited me to join them as boatman on their second expedition to Arctic Norway filming Killer Whales and Humpbacks feeding on the Herring population that moves closer to shore during the winter months.

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 Craig the boatman, with Melvin behind, and Hilco to the left (Fiona behind the camera)

After last winter’s expedition they knew that the action would be further north this year, so with the help of Fiona’s parents they located fantastic accommodation on a small island called Rebbenesøya. On arrival it quickly became clear that we’d need to relocate even further north in order to get the footage that they were hoping for. So after several long boat journeys north, we found a new home in the Skjervoy area.

The relocation immediately paid off, and within half an hour we were in the midst of hundreds of Orcas and dozens of Humpbacks.

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A bull Orca

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Tail-slapping Orca

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Spy-hopping Orca

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Humpback Whales

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A diving Humpback

Each day we set off in their small, but very well equipped rigid inflatable boat (RIB) in search of feeding whales and interesting behaviour. Every day on the water brought with it new challenges, both in terms of locating the whales in sometimes challenging sea conditions, and in terms of gaining the desired footage by getting Melvin in the water with his underwater camera equipment. Other recording media included regular cameras, a drone and 5 Go Pros positioned at various locations around the boat.

 

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Melvin equipped and ready to submerge

Their aim was to accumulate good footage. They also invited a Dutch friend and documentary maker, Hilco Jansma to join them with a view to creating a documentary about the expedition. Their regular video blogs throughout the trip (primarily aimed at a Dutch audience, but with plenty of content to interest people of all nationalities) gave people an insight into the difficulties, methods and successes encountered throughout the trip. Follow the ‘Melvin Redeker Explore’ Facebook page (www.facebook.com/MelvinRedekerExplore/) to view the vlogs and to view some of the incredible underwater and drone footage that we’ve obtained over the season.

Feeding frenzies

Melvin filmed several underwater encounters with Orcas herding schools of Herring to the surface, before using their tails to stun the fish then picking them off one by one. Where the Orcas hunted, the Humpbacks were never far behind, often feeding at the surface as they lunged upwards and swallowed vast numbers of Herring that were bunched together in an attempt to avoid predation by the Orcas. During one such encounter Melvin was taken by surprise as a 15 metre long Humpback appeared from the dark water below, lunging within 2 metres of him as the camera rolled.

Fishing vessels

The whales are drawn to the Herring in the same way the Norwegian fishing fleet is, and every year both man and whale plunder the billions of fish, wherever they happen to be each season. As the winter rolled on, the whales began to turn their attention more toward the larger fishing vessels, often gathering in large numbers as the purse seiners hauled in their nets, waiting for any opportunity to mop up the escapees. This strategy has proved fruitful for them, and has resulted in conflict between fishing vessels and Orcas. As highlighted in the final episode of Blue Planet 2 recently, the Norwegian fishery is now carefully monitored and managed with a view to ensuring that the fishing fleets and whale populations are able to co-exist and benefit from the plentiful supply of food.

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Orcas surround a fishing vessel as it hauls in its nets

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A Humpback lunges into view as Orcas pick off individual escapee Herring from the net

Orca Identification

This feeding strategy resulted in many pods of Orcas remaining quite inactive during the daylight hours, as the fishing fleet waits for the Herring to rise to the surface during the hours of darkness. Whilst restricting opportunities to film interesting activity in the daylight hours, their hours of rest allowed us plenty of opportunities to attain identification photographs for our friends from the Norwegian Orca Survey (www.facebook.com/norwegianorcasurvey). The Norwegian ID Catalogue (https://www.norwegianorca-id.no) is an extensive database with over 900 individual Orcas identified using nicks on dorsal fins and scarring on saddle patches. The catalogue represents an excellent citizen science initiative that allows everybody the opportunity to contribute their sightings to the database, increasing knowledge of this population and enabling scientists develop a deeper understanding of where and on what, individual whales are choosing to feed.

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One of the easier females to identify – NKW607 ‘Froya’ showing her distinctive saddle scar

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NKW-686 – displaying distinctive scarring and an obvious dorsal fin nick

Humpback Identification

With the relatively recent arrival of Humpback Whales to the area, another citizen science project is also in place to contribute identification photos. Humpback tail flukes are like fingerprints, and individual animals can be identified using images of the underside. The North Norwegian Humpback Whale Catalogue (http://www.hvalid.no) is used to record individuals of this population, and by using these records, as well as satellite tags, it is now understood that this population migrates between the Caribbean and Norway, crossing the Atlantic each year and often frequenting British waters on route.

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NNHWC-286 – one of several successful matches obtained from the North Norwegian Humpback Whale Catalogue

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An unidentified tail fluke submitted to the catalogue

Fin Whales

Fin Whales are also known to occur as Herring come close to shore in the winter months. The second largest animal on Earth is known to reach a length of 22 metres, and our brief encounters with a pair of these giants was enough to appreciate their sheer scale and elegance. Look back through Melvin’s vlogs and you will find awesome drone footage of them surfacing for air during one such encounter.

 

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The long back of a Fin Whale

Bird life

In addition to the cetaceans, other Norwegian highlights included the birdlife. White-tailed Eagles are common in this part of the world, and watching the so-called ‘flying barn doors’ swooping down to grab fish from the surface was a spectacular sight. Seabirds were also well represented, despite being the off-season for breeding birds. Amongst the more common Herring and Great Black-backed Gulls, Glaucous Gulls were often spotted, and 5 species of auk were often seen on the water in their winter plumage, with Little Auks the most frequent. Long-tailed Ducks and Eider Ducks were also regular around the coast, but unfortunately the King Eiders eluded me on this visit. Passerines are less common in winter, but Fieldfare remain common, as well as Snow Bunting, Great Tit, Hooded Crow, Magpie and Greenfinch.

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White-tailed Eagle

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White-tailed Eagle

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White-tailed Eagle with a huge catch

Aurora

Undoubtedly one of the biggest draws to Arctic Norway in winter is the spectacular Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights. We were not disappointed during my 5 week stay, with frequent displays, and several truly spectacular moments of green and purple shimmering curtains. Photographs rarely capture the magnificence of this natural phenomenon, but Melvin’s time-lapse photography sets and videos demonstrate more clearly the movement that can be seen with the naked eye.

 

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Aurora highlights – too many to choose from!

Visit Norway!

Safe to say that this experience has been unforgettable, and the welcome we have enjoyed from the locals on Rebbenesøya during our time there has been exceptional. If you are ever keen to visit yourselves, I can thoroughly recommend the Nordhavet Guest House (www.facebook.com/nordhavetguesthouse). Marit, Tone and May-Kristin were wonderful hosts and would be delighted to welcome more visitors to their island, whatever the time of year!

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Norhavet Guest House, Rebbenesøya

What now for me?

As many of you will know, I’ve enjoyed 4 great seasons on Noss NNR in Shetland. Next season I’m moving to Handa (www.scottishwildlifetrust.org.uk/reserve/handa-island), another spectacular seabird island to the north of Ullapool, where I look forward to working for Scottish Wildlife Trust for the first time with my partner Francesca. Another beautiful corner of Scotalnd awaits, and I hope that a few of you will find the time to stop in on your travels in the New Year. Keep an ear to the ground for social media updates as Francesca and I settle in to our new role up there.

If you’d like to look back at the many photos and news I posted during my time in Norway, or if you’re interested in hearing all about our upcoming season on Handa, feel free to follow me on Facebook – www.facebook.com/craig.nisbet.31.

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Winter is here

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It’s all Change at Loch Leven National Nature Reserve. Last week it was just a cold brisk wind. Now it’s full on winter. I’m personally glad we’ve not had snow yet here.

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On Saturday a light breeze was keeping the loch free of ice with just a gentle ripple going across. Over night the loch iced over to nearly 100% coverage.

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Unfortunately we have no eagles as yet but many of our wildfowl have decided to stay. There are various parts of the loch away from the burn inlets that are being kept ice-free by the sheer number of wildfowl on site.

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There were a pair of Smew in with the wildfowl.

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We’ve had Gus back with us for a few days volunteering. Always good to have him about to catch up on the gossip.

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The cold weather froze up the strops we use to pull timber about to the amusement of our author.

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This interesting duck was spotted in an ice hole near Findatie. It looks superficially like a pochard but it’s appearance suggests there are some Ferruginous Duck genes present when you look at the headshape and bill structure. On a couple of occasions pure examples of this subtle duck from southern and eastern Europe has visited Loch Leven, but in the last 4 years we’ve just seen hybrids.

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Gus and I were watching the rats in the Kirkgate cemetery. I’m not keen on rats and watched them from afar. They appeared to be feeding in the yew pips dropped by the birds.

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This ring was handed to me by Kinross Estate staff. It’s a ring from a Mute Swan that had died on the Scart.

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This bird had been born in Beecraigs Country Park in West Lothian and was ringed as a cygnet in November 2016. It was at Linlithgow Loch from 15th April to 13th May 2017 before moving on again. Its next sighting was when it was found at Loch Leven. My ambition is to find a Mute Swan from England at Loch Leven. According to wildfowl experts,  distant cross border recoveries are few and far between and can be fogged by birds that are rescued by swan rehabilitation centres.

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While hedgelaying this week both Gus and I independently spotted this fungus growing on a stick from the hedge. Gus beat me to the ID. It’s Coral Spot fungus. It’s common in the UK and effects wood that is dead or dying.

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Anyone visiting the loch please remember ice is very dangerous. The guy on the left tried to walk out to the castle. He got over 10 metres out before turning back quickly. Even after a prolonged ice events the ice is very dangerous with the water level changing.

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Waxwings and Eagles

We’re now firmly into winter now at Loch Leven National Nature Reserve. Next week looks like being the coldest for a long while. Maybe even temperetures as low as -6 some days. Normally we’d expect the loch would freeze over. The only areas that are kept ice-free are where the water runs in.

When the loch does freeze we lose a lot of our wildfowl and if we get snow the geese have no where feed .

There’s still plenty of things to see at Loch Leven. In recent years the re-introduced Sea Eagles have been turning up now and then.

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The eagles come to the loch to scavenge for food. In the autumn trout that have spawned can die and some years many trout can be found along the loch shore. Eagles take advantage of this food source. They also like to take advantage of the sick or wounded wildfowl on the site. I’ve also seen them trying to catch Mute Swans.

When we have eagles here we are always keen to get folk onto them. The best places to see them are from the Kirkgate looking towards Reed Bower or on St Serfs. When the loch is frozen the eagles are happy to sit on the ice and are very obvious. 0af40dee-7b63-41eb-9e8b-c862867acbe6

Look out for signs they are about. If an eagle is roosting on Reed Bower, the cormorants wont be. When an eagle flies over the loch the other birds don’t like it, Crows and Ravens will chase them and the wildfowl will take flight.

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Typical view at Loch Leven.

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Sometimes we’re lucky to get close views on the loch. Keep an eye on the blog or head over to the RSPB centre for updates.

Another species, quite a different bird entirely, that pops in during the winter is the Waxwing. Some years we get lots, other years we don’t get any. Hopefully this year we’ll get some as there have been sightings across the country, but not as many as we had last year!

Last year gave us some good ideas about where they turn up. This tends to be where they can find their food: berries. They love Rowan trees, but so do the winter thrushes that have already arrived, so a lot of those are gone now. However, there are still plenty of ornamental Rowans about Kinross. One of these with pink berries was particularly productive last year.

So anywhere you know that there are berry-bearing trees, keep an eye out. Even if you don’t get Waxwings you might get Redwing or Fieldfare.

They also quite like tall trees so keep an eye out at the tops of tall trees, like the Poplars that are by the office car park in Kinross. They sit in these tall trees to digest the berries after they’ve gorged themselves. Some of the berries can be fermented which would be very bad for us but the Waxwings have very strong livers that are able to cope with them.

Whilst there haven’t been any reports locally of Waxwings, there have been some in Perthshire and Aberdeenshire. If any are reported locally then you can be sure that we’ll put the news out on here!

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A quick update on a busy week

Once again it’s been a very busy week at LOCH LEVEN NATIONAL NATURE RESERVE. It’s also been very cold.

Hope everybody had a fantastic St Andrews Day!

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The brisk north-westerly wind has stopped the Loch Leven freezing over. Parts of the trail that had been wet are iced up so be careful out there. Ice has been forming piles along the edge of the loch. We had to smash through the ice to get the boat out.

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There’s still green leaves on the Oak and Hawthorne trees even though winter is definitely here. In winter 2014/15 there were still green leave on the oak trees at Levenmouth in late December.

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Our big boat is now away for winter storage down at Queensferry. Alan and I took it back over the old bridge this afternoon. This job is always a challenge.

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We welcomed the SNH biodiversity team to Loch Leven on Thursday. We looked at education and wildlife counting around the loch.

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Wednesday saw us having another hedgelaying workshop at Loch Leven. Our volunteers were joined by RSPB staff. (More about this in a bonus blog which Neil will write)

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On Monday Neil and I were out checking the dangerous trees on the reserve. One of the trees we found round at Grahamstone had an interesting red substance on it. I took some pictures assuming it was a fungus but after consulting a few folk it transpires it’s actually a Slime mold. I belive this species to be Arcyria ferruginea but I’d probably need to analyse it under a microscope to be sure. We normally see the more common ‘Dog Vommit’ slime mould here in the early Autumn,

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The week before I found this interesting looking fungus around the reserve. It’s called Common Eyelash Fungus (Scutellinia scutellata).

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This lovely Grey Wagtail was feeding in front of the Burleigh hide. A splash of yellow brightens up these winter days.

They’ll be a bonus blog next week to give folk a few pointers on finding White-tailed Eagles at Loch Leven and Waxwings locally.

Wrap up warm folks!

 

 

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December Moths

Moths have not featured much on our blog recently. Partly because it’s too cold to trap and our trap is bust!

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December moths are a favourite of mine. They fly between the end of September and the beginning of December locally (hence the name). They are a common resident moth throughout the UK with a range extending to as far east as Japan. The caterpillars feed on the leaves of deciduous trees with Oak being a favourite food source.

Last week I received an e-mail from George Guthrie. George is one of our keen insect volunteers (see here). He regularly traps moths during the year and often brings round the interesting ones for us to have a look at.

Rarely we’ll catch a moth that deposits eggs in the pot or on the egg boxes. However This isn’t a problem. I simply let George know and he’ll come and pick them up and rear them himself. George has a greenhouse full of caterpillars that he has rescued.

Last year I caught a December Moth on the 30th September. She laid a total of 17 eggs in the pot. The eggs hatched between the 4th and 8th of April this year.

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George tried a few different leaves but the caterpillars appeared to prefer Hawthorn .

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The caterpillars timed their hatching with the Hawthorn coming into leaf.

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The caterpillars steadily grew up to about 40mm in length. They pupated at the end of August.

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A total of six survived and were released in Georges garden. What a fantastic story! I’m delighted those eggs had a chance to develop into moths.

 

 

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The blog with no name………

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The first couple of days this week have been very poor so it was fantastic when the sun finally came up on Thursday.

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Here is the scene looking west from Kinross. We saw a light overnight dusting of snow on the Ochils. In the front of this shot there is a juvenile Greenland Whitefronted Goose.

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Ever wondered what this sign is about? Loch Leven is on the Route 1 of the Sustrans cycle network. Amazing to think this route starts in Dover and ends in the north of Shetland.  It links places of interest and beauty (as well as Gillingham) and other nature reserves along the way. I’d be interested to hear if anyone had done the full 1611 miles.

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I finally got away from the office. Part of our survey work we share with the RSPB at Loch Leven NNR is to look for Hen Harriers roosting along the loch shore. Around 1998 up to 4 birds would roost on either the north or south shores. Hen Harriers are facing extinction in Scotland largely through persecution by bad gamekeepers. Any information we gather is fed back into a national survey and gives us an idea of the population and distribution.

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I saw no Hen Harriers but did see this Buzzard catch a vole just in front of me. Unfortunately he turned away to swallow the prey but if you look closely you can see it’s a vole. With the wet cold weather the last couple of days the Buzzard has probably been struggling to feed. There were also a pair of Barn Owls spotted this morning in the area.

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Remember this bird with those distinctive coded leg rings? This Little Egret spent much of the summer with us at Loch Leven either at Vane or roosting behind our office on the loch shore. It’s now on the lagoons at Skinflats. Many thanks for local birdcatcher Scott for the picture and pointing out the bird to me when I was visiting at the weekend.

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It’s not the first time birds from this part of world have ended up at Loch Leven. In July 2009 a pair of Spoonbills flew from Grangemouth up to the loch. The Snow Goose that was around with us earlier in the week had been in fields to the north of Skinflats a week or so before.

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The sharp-eyed amongst you would have spotted the bird on the other picture. It’s surroundings are arguably less picturesque than our loch. A welcome return to the circle there too!

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A big big thanks to Frances and Susan who on Wednesday stoically and carefully packed all the old tree guards away in the pouring rain ready to be recycled.

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It took all morning. Well worth a mention. I don’t think they could have done a better job fitting them in. These are picked up by a company and will be recycled. The rest of the volunteers endured the pitiful weather with Neil getting the hedge ready for laying next week.

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With the help of Radio 2 I stacked the fencing stakes. I surprised myself I managed to stick at this job. I have plans for these. Hopefully we’ll use them as tree guards with chicken wire out on the reserve. We’ve had success growing Scots Pines like that.

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Here is a close shot of the Burleigh Sands Slavonian Grebes. Many thanks to Stuart of Viking for letting me use the photo. Stuart often gets good bird photos around the loch.

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A fantastic sunset at Loch leven tonight. Looks like it’ll be a cold night. Wrap up warm. There’ll be a bonus blog on moth husbandry during the week so stay tuned.

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A week on tools

I’ve been on tools all week and been outside everyday which means I’ve collected lots of content this week. Today I was out bird counting and what an amazing amount of birds there are for the time of year. More of that to come later. Let’s start on Monday….

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Many thanks to Elmwood College who came to give us a hand this week. There was plenty to do along the trail along the south side of the loch.

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Some of the work included removing tree guards from the new planting. I’m not a massive fan of tree guards. I’d rather have had deer proof fencing. As you can see from this picture this willow has grown up straight and spindly and  will rely on the support from the guard. A bit of pruning and the tree is self standing.

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I’ve been trying to re-use the willow that’s been pruned. These short bits will be planted into the ground and will become the next generation of willow around the loch. My target is 10000 and we’ve currently got 300 whips ready to plant. A long way to go!

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The students also helped with collecting some of the bigger items of rubbish around the reserve. Anyone lost a bike?

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Seriously – what the heck is this? It was retrieved near to the hide.

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Polly did a good job retrieving the tree stakes. Many of the stakes will be re-used.

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We are finding wildlife uses the plastic pipes for housing. I presume this is a wood mouse nest. It’d certainly be nice and dry in there.

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This week we had Ryan Shaw volunteering with us. Ryan needed to do a few days volunteering for his Queens Scout award. I won’t go too much into this as I’m hoping Ryan will write us a guest blog.

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I found this Foxglove out on St Serfs today. How often do you find Foxgloves out in November? Back in 2014 I wrote this blog about winter flowers. Foxgloves did not feature. For some quality retro Squire content see here. 

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While removing overhanging trees from along the Grahamstone stretch of the path with Ryan I found this perfectly formed Wrens nest weaved into the wire. I’ve no idea whether wrens re-use their nests. Unfortunately this one will be a little exposed next year.

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This giant mole hill had almost uprooted a tree. A wise old mole catcher once told me that the large mole hills you see are often one end of a nursery burrow. I had no reason to disbelieve him and they are certainly a feature of the nature reserve right now with giant hills popping up in all quarters.

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So after a week of evicting woodland creatures, Friday came around and it was  bird count day. We were out before dawn with the RSPB to count the geese and I was out during the day counting the wintering wildfowl on the loch.

The final totals of the goose count were –

12,151 pinks
407 Greylag
6 Barnies

This is two months in a row we’ve hit 5 figures.  it certainly feels like there are a lot of geese about.

We’ll catch up with the geese again towards the end of the blog.

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It was a great sunrise over the loch this morning. It’s amazing being up with the birds. Some birds like the Golden Plovers arereturning to the loch to roost for the day while others like the Sparrowhawk are waiting next to the reedbed hoping to poach a Starling leaving the roost.

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One of the highlights over the last couple of weeks is the good numbers of Slavonian Grebes. These grebes are similar to Great Crested but are a little smaller. They breed in small numbers in the Highlands of Scotland and winter along the coast. We’ve been seeing them in increasing numbers over the last few years. Burleigh is the best place to see them currently around Loch Leven where there were six this morning.

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This Heron was stalking around the long grass outside the factory. People often tell me they see Herons away from water. This is not uncommon. They have a varied diet from invertebrates to mammals to fish and sometimes even bird! This one was probably looking for voles in the long grass.

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On my way to the little research hide on St Serfs this afternoon I flushed a Woodcock from here. If you want to see what Woodcock looks click here on the IOM blog. There is little chance I’d get a picture at Loch Leven.

And now onto the geese…….

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On Tuesday I spotted this white goose along the south shore. Some folk might have put this down as a Snow Goose but on closer inspection it lacks the black wing tips that this species has. It’s just an odd white goose. We see a few annually around the loch. Either these birds lack pigment in their feathers or have some domestic stock genes in their system. I’d not seen this bird before.

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Spot the Snow Goose. Not all Snow geese are white. Some are a dark or blue phase. I spotted this bird this lunchtime on the fields towards Cleish. Remember how in previous blogs I wrote that flocks of geese act as carriers for smaller numbers of other species? This is our second of the Autumn at Loch Leven. The other bird had a dark belly.

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Spot the Barnacles!

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The Geese were putting on an excellent show this evening. Flying in wiffling down to land and flushing at the herons and Buzzards flying over.

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It was a pleasure to be sat in the middle of a flock of 7000 Pink-footed geese.

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At 4:28 when the light had nearly gone, the Snow Goose came in. In the USA birdwatchers look for the Pink-footed Geese in the flocks of Snow Geese.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Life, lacking Loch Leven – Guest Blog by Gus Rootledge

Life, lacking Loch Leven

 

Hello there! It’s been a wee while but I’m back just briefly and only virtually, as I’m still in Aberdeen studying at SRUC. More on that later… Jeremy’s asked me to do a wee blog post on life after Loch Leven, and to be honest it’s no less brilliant. There’s just fewer geese!

 

 

So, when my placement finished on the 17th of July I did feel a little lost. Going from a whole year with something to be getting on with every day to the freedom to lie in my bed all day was a bit of a shock, but I kept myself busy by continuing to help at Loch Leven now and then, and also getting a few ecological surveys done up in Wester Ross.

 

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Despite no longer working for SNH or at a National Nature Reserve, I seem to still be lurking around them quite a bit. Whilst up in Wester Ross I had a poke about Beinn Eighe NNR which was brilliant, I’ll need to set aside some time to properly explore it. In my visits back to Loch Leven I helped Jeremy take the quadbike up to Creag Meagaidh and also helped out with the Softrak at Tentsmuir. The weather at one of these sites was very, very nice. The other… not so much.

 

 

I did eventually head back to Edinburgh to see the fam and to get ready for heading back up to Aberdeen to study, and whilst there I still managed to find things of interest. Holyrood Park is a brilliant place for wildlife, especially considering it’s so close to, or even in, the city. The botanical stuff was of particular interest to me…

 

 

Then, the day came when I had to head back up to Scotland’s Rural College, just outside Aberdeen, near the airport, to continue my studies in Countryside Management. I say it like it’s a bad thing, which is a complete mis-representation really! It’s been great and I’ve settled back into it all quite nicely. Fortunately the course encourages students to get out there and get experience so that’s what I do! Again, I appear to be gravitating towards NNRs, with a few trips to Forvie, one to Muir of Dinnet, one to St Cyrus and one to ex-NNR Dinnet Oakwood. All three are brilliant: seals, autumn trees, fungi, they have it all!

 

 

Of course, it’s about this time of year that Loch Leven is very busy with wildfowl using the loch as a place to feed and roost. Studying does not lend itself to seeing that much duck-age, or goose-age, or swan-age, so I’ve been popping down the road to Loch of Skene to get my fix! The loch is similar to Loch Leven in terms of its depth, nutrient levels, and actually in almost every way. It’s just a bit smaller. Nevertheless, I managed to count a field-full of Pink-footed Geese one day that numbered about 9750!

 

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So, to summarise, I’m keeping busy and keeping outdoors despite studying now. I also usually pop by Loch Leven on my way between Aberdeen and Edinburgh as it’s en route, so why not?

 

Cheers for having me back on the blog briefly, Jeremy!

 

If you want to follow Gus on twitter he’s on @Pinkfootedgus

 

 

 

 

 

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