On Monday both NatureScot and RSPB teams dispersed around the loch to carry out our final September WeBS, and boy is it busying up! Our duck numbers are looking solid, with 5000 teal, 2500 wigeon, 2300 tufted duck, 900 mallard, 370 pochard and 330 pintail. Coot are sitting at 3760, mute swans at 585, and we have about 70 little grebes now that they aren’t sheltering among vegetation so much. We’ve also had our first sighting of a wintering Slavonian grebe!
Thousands of pink-footed geese have now descended en-masse after a flight of approximately 750 miles. For those born this year, the journey will have been their very first migration – imagine that for a first long-haul flight! Whooper swans are also arriving, and their endearing honks and whoops can be head across the loch as friends and family re-unite after an equally gruelling expedition.
We were also treated to a lovely view of three roe deer enjoying some peaceful grazing off the Kirkgate Viewpoint, as well as being surprised by them in the Pier Car Park the next morning! It just goes to show how comfortable our local wildlife may feel now that visitor numbers have reduced in these areas.
Our Bat Walk last night was a great success, with three different Pipistrelle species heard as well as a Daubentons! A big thank you to everyone who came along and to the representatives from Fife Bat Group for lending your expertise to this event. Apologies to all those who were not able to make it too – please do keep an eye on our events page in future. This event was so popular that we are very keen to run more sessions next year to meet demand!
You may have seen va our social media that the Burleigh Wildlife Hide is currently closed. After nearly twenty years of good service and numerous patch-ups and repairs, it’s finally time to put it out to pasture. We are slowly dismantling the hide to reduce disturbance of wildfowl that enjoy hanging out in front of it, in preparation for it’s replacement with a new viewing screen. This will be modelled in the same style as the screen that can be found along the trail between Kirkgate Park and Mary’s Gate, and we hope to have it installed by December. In the meantime, we request that the public do not enter the hide for their own safety. We appreciate this may be dissapointing news, particularly when wildfowl numbers are at their best, but thank you for your understanding and look forward to welcoming you back soon.
If you were at Findatie Beach yesterday around lunchtime, you’ll have been one of the lucky few to see one of our more logistically complex management tasks underway. For many decades now, sheep have been put onto St Serfs Isle for grazing. St Serfs hosts the largest concentration of breeding ducks in Britain, and one of the largest concentrations in inland Europe! So all the management that we do out there is very much tailored towards keeping this island the safe haven it is for them, and this includes breeding habitat.
While ducks like to nest specifically within areas of longer vegetation (such as a clump of rushes or patches of meadowsweet), they want these patches to be surrounded by more open ground because ground predators (like foxes, mink and otter) can’t sneak up on them so easily. Now, we could spend a fortune of time, money, effort and fuel getting something like the Softrak over there, and then removing and disposing of all the cuttings afterwards. Or, we could employ a far more natural method. Grazing!
We would usually try to get them out to the island earlier than this, but a combination of clashing schedules and poor weather conditions mean they will likely get a shorter holiday of two months, rather than three. Still, they certainly won’t be complaing about the chance to induldge in an all-you-can-eat grassy buffet! The 60 black-faced sheep were shipped across 12 at a time in a very smooth and well practiced operation, lining up the ramp of the trailer with the ramp of the boat and gently encouraging them into the boat pen before setting sail. We will be keeping an eye on them over the next couple of months to ensure good welfare, before bringing them back to the mainland before things get too cold. By then they should have gotten nice and fat on the grasses which would otherwise negatively impact our ducks breeding success next year, so it truly is a win win!
And on a final note. Today was supposed to be our last day of insect surveys for the season. But the combination of dwindling numbers as the season ends, plus yellow warnings for wind and rain, means there is absolutely no chance that any of our six-legged friends will be out and about. Nevertheless, we have had a good season this year with plenty of species to see.
A big thank you to all our insect volunteers who have spent the past six months providing us with invaluable data on how our butterflies, bumblebees, dragonflies and damselflies are doing. The information helps to inform our habitat management, as well as being passed on to various conservation organisations which feeds into national data on how each of these groups are faring nationally.
Your dedication, knowledge and good conversation has been a pleasure, and we look forward to seeing you again next April!