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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It’s turning cold…..

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It’s getting cold here in Kinross-shire. The first hard frost came the on Tuesday morning.

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The big sun rising up behind the industrial Fife

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The coming of the frosty weather triggered to put out the winter interpretation signs

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There are plenty of birds enjoying the good crop of Yew berries at the Kirkgate.

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The winter thrushes are hanging around in good numbers. This smart Mistle Thrush was waiting for me to move on before gorging itself.

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This ring was handed to me by one of the local shooters recently. We still have little idea where are ducks come from and go to so any ringing data collected is useful and unfortunately much of that comes from hunted ducks.

I recieved this back from the Brittish Trust of Ornithology……

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Fourteen years is a grand old age for a Tufted Duck. We’re way off the record which is over 24 years!

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Whooper Swans are very noticable at the moment. They are flying from the loch early morning out to the fields.

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The Goosanders are back. In recent years we’ve had near to 500 of these fish eaters at Loch Leven. They trap the sticklebacks in the harbour. Last year we didn’t see so many. I’d recommend coming down early in the morning to watch their antics.

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I’ve been checking up on some of the planting that went in as part of the mitigation when the new lenght of path went in in 2014. I’m pleased to see over 90% of the willow survived and much of it is above my head height.

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There is the odd bit of Deer damage but the trees look healthy and good. During the winter we plan to plant many more willows along the loch shore to provide protection for our breeding ducks.

There’ll be more blogging fun next week when Gus guest blogs for us about what he’s been up to since leaving SNH.

 

 

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Inconsistant Blogging

Many apologies about the inconsistent blogging recently. I’ve been out of the office a lot. I’ll fire out a blog to catch up with some of the content I’ve collected recently.

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We were lucky with the storms recently. Normally I’m out with the chainsaw clearing up trees over the path but we got away with it this time! During the day of the big storm we had a strange cloudy day that was so dark that the security lights were coming on at mid day.

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The fog came in quickly and disappeared in quick time.

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It was completely clear at dusk!

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There were few signs of a storm apart from a lot of washed up pond snails on St Serfs.

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Lots of weed is washed up on the shoreline. In this weed is food for ducks and waders to feed on.

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Three Ruff and a Redshank. Can you spot the difference?

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It’s easy to see where the waders have been.

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We took the sheep off but we had to delay by an hour because of the fog. The boat worked excellently once again. Thanks for assistance from Steve former warden and now Ecoco life co-ordinator. We all need to keep our hours up on boats so Steve was happy to assist me.

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No worries rounding them up for the last time this season.

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The sheep go on in batches of 20 and come off in 14s. They’ve grown a lot during the summer on the rich green grass. They will be put to tup and will have lambs in the spring.

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He is a scenic shot of Steve bringing the second load back.

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I’m no great expert on fungus but I look out for this one every year. This is a Cauliflower or Brain Fungus. The only place I’ve seen this distinctive fungus around Loch Leven is at Burleigh. This one was past it’s best but was quite a large one. It’s an edible fungus but requires a good clean before you eat it!

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I phoned up wee Gus Rootledge about the fungus and he came up for a look. While he was in the car park he spotted 3 Red Squirrels and managed to capture photos of them eating a mushrooms.

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Squirrels have a varied diet. It’s remarkable to think that they know which of these shrooms they can eat. Humans need a  book or internet guide!

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Speaking of Gus. He’s now back to his studies in Aberdeen but is still managing to find to help out on Scotlands National Nature Reserves. He’s up counting birds at Forvie NNR and no doubt we’ll see him back at Loch Leven in the near future.

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Here’s a bit of a mystery. I found this Owl pellet (top) out on our boat which is normally moored out in the bay. An owl has been using our boat as a perch before carrying on hunting. I have seen owls fly across at dusk. We get both Short-eared and Tawny around the office. Not 100% sure which species it’s from but will look closely to see how much of a regular event this is. The bottom pellet is from a Black-headed gull.

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I dissected the pellets and found what I believe to be Common Shrew skulls inside. Having an owl on the boat is a great way to keep the pooping Black-headed Gulls off the boat.

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There’s certainly a lot of berries on the trees this Autumn. The hawthorns are buckling under the weight. Great news for our winter thrushes.

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Two cracking Autumn Moths. A Feathered Thorn (top) and a Mellville de joir have entered the office trap in the last few weeks.

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And finally….. The Geese are still putting on a good show at Loch Leven this autumn. A Snow Goose was spotted with them so keep an eye out for the more unusual species.

 

 

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Growing up with Loch Leven

Trout in the Classroom 2016/17

Trout in the Classroom is an ongoing project and part of the wider Growing up with Loch Leven initiative, delivered by Scottish Natural Heritage in partnership with Kinross Estate Company and Tay District Salmon Fisheries Board. The project is primarily classroom based but includes two field visits that reinforce classroom activities. The whole project is based around the life cycle of Loch Leven Brown Trout with emphasis placed upon the importance of local rivers and burns as locations for adult fish to spawn and juvenile fish to grow and prosper.

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A Loch Leven ‘brownie’

Jeremy Squire from SNH coordinated this year’s project.  The project had been run for six years by Ian Montgomery from Perth and Kinross Council, before he went on to focus on Salmon in the Classroom at primary schools in Perthshire. After that Craig Nisbet took over and successfully coordinated the project until he left to go to Noss.

In 2017 two classes from two schools participated – one P5 class from Kinross Primary and one mixed P5/P6 class from Arngask Primary in Glenfarg.  The planning phase involved Jeremy emailing out invitations and last year’s report to primary schools taking part in Growing up with Loch Leven. Once the teachers agreed to take part, dates were agreed for each of the three phases of the project.

Phase 1 – Introduction

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Tank with thermoometer, aerator and artificial redd all set to go back in the refrigeration unit

On Wednesday 1st February, Jeremy, Gus Routledge (both SNH) and Willie Wilson (Kinross Estate Company Fisheries Manager retired) visited the two participating classrooms, for a one hour introduction to Trout in the Classroom. Jeremy briefly explained to the pupils that they would be receiving trout eggs, monitoring them for one month and then releasing the young fish into local burns. Willie Wilson then talked to them about the life cycle, historical importance, and local significance of Brown Trout. With a lifetime of experience working closely with Loch Leven Trout, Willie’s ability to share his knowledge and convey the importance of trout as part of our natural heritage is a crucial part of the project, and one that was very much enjoyed and appreciated.

During this session, Jeremy also set up the necessary equipment in the classrooms, which consisted of:

• Refrigerator
• Tank
• Air filter
• Stones and metal tray
• Thermometer
• Net/plastic spoon
• Bottle of river water
• A selection of log sheets and information sheets

The tank was half filled with river water, and placed in the refrigerator to maintain a constant temperature of between 4 and 9°C. It is essential that river water is used and that the water temperature is maintained between this range, hence the use of the refrigerator. Chemicals used to clean tap water will kill eggs and fish, and temperature fluctuations may also alter their development. Once the equipment was installed, the teachers were then able to establish a rota that involved all pupils monitoring the temperature and quality of the water using the thermometer provided. The rota included at least three daily checks, and the quality of the water would need to be checked once the eggs began to hatch.

Approximately 250 eggs collected from a local fish farm were delivered to the two classes on Friday 3rd February by Jeremy and Gus. Pupils were given the chance to see the eggs (ova) before they were placed in the tank, where they settled in the metal tray among the stones. Having already established the temperature monitoring rota, it was now down to the class to maintain a constant temperature for the ova, and ensure a healthy environment for the soon-to-hatch alevins, by removing any detritus that floats in the water. This could include unhatched eggs, egg shells or dead fish.

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This year approximately 95% of the eggs in three classes hatched into alevins, after between 5 and 10 days of being in the classroom. This can vary from year to year, but is always exciting for the pupils to witness the hatching of young fish from eggs while in their care. During the first few weeks of their lives the alevins’ yolk sacs are large and provide them with all the nourishment they need to grow. It wouldn’t be until after their release that they would need to begin hunting for aquatic invertebrates for food.

Phase 2 – Release

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The first of two field visits for the project took place for both classes on Friday 10th March, and each took approximately 45 minutes on site. Buses were booked by individual schools and payment was covered by SNH, with Kinross Primary P5s visiting Golland Burn near Carnbo, and Arngask Primary visiting Hatton Burn near Milnathort.

Having successfully monitored water temperature and condition of their alevins, the pupils from all three classes were both excited and sad to be releasing them into their natural environment, where the alevins would hopefully grow into large trout before making their way down stream to Loch Leven. The visit was led by Gus and Willie.

It was explained that before the release could take place, a number of habitat quality tests needed to take place.
These included:
• Water speed
• Water temperature
• Water clarity
• Bankside vegetation cover
• Habitat assessment

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A simple worksheet was used to conduct these tests, which included an enjoyable water speed test involving throwing a ping-pong ball into the water and recording the time it takes to travel 10 metres, before retrieving it with a net. Once we were satisfied that the habitat was suitable for the young trout, the pupils were able to witness them entering the burn and disappearing under rocks where they would find shelter.

SNH’s findings

As we only had two schools taking part this year, SNH were able to have their own tank in the foyer of their office. This allowed us to gauge what stage the trout in the classrooms of the schools were at, and we could monitor our own eggs to the point of release. To give a rough idea of the survival rate of the trout whilst they are in the classroom, we started with 90 eggs and ended up releasing 65 alevins into the burn, giving a 72% survival rate. Of course, this can vary greatly depending on the care that is taken in monitoring the trout as the develop.

For example, the temperature that is maintained in the tank can affect the rate of development. Too hot and the trout will perish, too cold and they will lie dormant until conditions return to the temperature that they prefer. The average temperature in the SNH tank was 7.9°C, meaning development was quick as the temperature was towards the maximum in the range that the trout eggs will succeed in.

 

Phase 3 – Electro-fishing

The last stage of Trout in the Classroom involved recruiting the help of the Tay District Salmon Fisheries Operations Manager, Mike Brown. The electro-fishing went ahead on Friday 2nd June. Professional fisheries biologists often use electro-fishing as a way of monitoring fish populations, and in order to do so Mike is fully qualified, and was keen to be a part of this educational process which engages children in fish biology.

By passing an electrical current through the water using a probe, the fish are temporarily stunned and float to the surface, where they are caught by net and put into buckets. These fish were taken to the children so they could see how their trout had changed since they last saw them and were soon returned to the burn where they resumed their normal activities and were keen to find their hiding places in the burn. The purpose of this stage was to demonstrate the next stage in the trout’s life cycle, and from the pupils’ perspective it was an opportunity to re-visit the trout that they had personally watched and helped through the first stages of their lives.

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As well as an abundance of trout of various size and age, we were also lucky enough to catch a Stone Loach which allowed us to consider the different feeding techniques of the two species. During this visit we also conducted a number of kick samples in the burn in order to take a closer look at the abundant invertebrate population, and in doing so we were instantly able to understand why both burns are good places for young trout. The pupils were able to record a wide variety of invertebrate life, including snails, mayfly larvae, stonefly larvae, freshwater shrimp, bloodworms and water boatmen.

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Scottish Natural Heritage is very grateful to Mike Brown and Willie Wilson for their time and enthusiasm during the course of this project. Both were of the opinion that the children benefitted greatly from becoming involved with the life cycle of trout. This, in turn allowed the children to gain a better understanding of the natural world within which they are an equal part with the fish they released.

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We are also grateful for the enthusiasm of the two teachers from two schools that took part this year. It is ultimately up to the teachers how much they embrace the project, and this year Julie Hynd and Nicola Marshall both fully engaged with the project and encouraged their pupils to do the same. An example of this enthusiasm was demonstrated in the fact that the Kinross class made one of their class topics “Loch Leven” and learned about the wildlife around the national nature reserve. They also took particular interest in the bats that help to keep the numbers of midges down.

 

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A goosey breakfast and turkey sandwiches

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Although it was an early start to the week for me it never seems too much of a chore to get up and head to down the Loch because you know it’s always going to be worth it even if its impossible to predict what will actually happen.

So I was supposed to be counting geese with my allocated area being Carsehall and Orwell. I can tell I saw into the 000000’s well big juicy 0 that is. That’s not to say the geese weren’t there – because they assuredly were. The total count for the morning was 14,060 pinks not a record breaker for the reserve but a pretty good count none the less.  Most of the birds being to the east of the Loch and on the RSPB ground whilst a thousand or so were off the Scart Island. Thanks as always go to our colleagues at the RSPB for their assistance on the count.

I can tell you I wasn’t disappointed with my morning though because I still got to see and hear plenty of geese as they headed out to the fields. I probably sounded pretty ‘chipper’ despite the early start when one of our colleagues from the RSPB phoned to see how it was going and I announced I couldn’t see a single goose on the ground but there was a sparrow hawk in amongst the departing Starling roost. The sound of a few thousand Starling erupting out of the reed bed at Carsehall with a Sparrowhawk creating havoc amongst them would wake anybody up – not least the poor Starlings!!

Whilst the Carsehall starling roost is not particularly accessible the one at Kinross Pier most definitely is. I recorded this https://youtu.be/0WCzPEzT3ck video  a few weeks back from the end of the Pier beside the Boathouse. Starlings roost in large flocks in the reeds for the warmth and safety from predators which larger numbers provide.

On Wednesday we were out with the volunteers repairing some fences damaged by vandals and then we removed a few willows from the ponds there. This is to open them up as the level of shading at the moment reduces the biodiversity we hope that letting light in will improve the insect and plant life within them. We will also be clearing them out over the winter with an excavator as they are silting up and without intervention would ultimately dry out completely.

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Above pond clearance at Burleigh

 

On Thursday we had a team from Haggis Adventures out to do some volunteering for us. They were a great bunch of folk and they worked really hard. The task was open out some of the areas of willow beside the path. Cutting willow in this way encourages fresh regrowth while the brash piles we create are great habitat and we will use the regrowth for a variety of different uses around the reserve. And this is were the turkey sandwiches come in…… They brought a huge picnic hamper with them and at lunch time proceeded to haul out a mountain of sandwiches and other delights including some home baked cookies. Best catered for team I’ve worked with in a while but I can tell you they earnt it too. Thanks again to them and we look forward to their return in February.

 

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Hard grafting with the bow saws.

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The brash hedging taking shape.

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Turkey sandwiches with harissa mayo – mmm tasty

That’s all for this week folks.

 

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More geese arrive

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I’ve been out enjoying the geese over the weekend. There were over 6000 around. Hopefully the numbers will be even higher by the time we come around to count them the week after next.

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The birds are roosting behind St Serfs. Many are also grazing on the closely cropped grass on the island. The sheep have certainly done a good job this summer.

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When you start to look through the geese carefully you begin to spot interesting things within the flock. To the middle and right of the shot is a Greenland White-fronted Goose. Most years we see the odd one or two of these geese. Their nearest regular wintering site is over at Loch Lomond. They differ from the Pinkfeet by having a large orange bill, are darker overall, have orange feet and have a heavy irregular barring pattern on their breast.

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This Pink-footed Goose has been fitted with a collar with a unique code. I’ve forwarded this to the goose researchers at the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust. I am looking forward to the finding out the life history of the bird.

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Last week I wondered if I’d see an October Osprey. The answer is still currently ‘no’ but I investigated the strainer to find scales still on it. I presume these are from a trout.

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If you look quite closely you’ll be able to see a Gannet. There were two around the loch yesterday. The ducks and waders don’t know what to do when this large flappy bird flies over! They’re not sure what this alien beast is flying around and are made nervous.

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Just occasionally we se Gannets here as they are better adapted for being at Sea. My theory is birds go right up the Forth and get lost Loch Leven is the first large body of water they find when they try to reorientate themselves. In September 2004 they were all over Loch Leven with 15 counted.

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Here is the flock of Golden Plover flock. They spend the day at Loch Leven and head out onto the fields to feed at night. At dusk they get very flighty and vocal.

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This Stonchat was along the trail in the Gorse last night.

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The Starlings are putting on a good show at the pier. They are roosting in the reedbed. The sparrowhawk likes to investigate  the flock at dusk too but the Jackdaws alert them of its presence.

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We’ve been trapping a few moths recently. Nothing too out of the ordinary. A local trapper bought in this Brindled Green for us to have a look at. They’ll be more moths next blog.

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In the summer I published a picture of the Foxgloves on St Serfs. They still stand but now brown. Many seeds are produced. Hopefully there’ll be a bumper crop again the following summer as Foxgloves are biennials.

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The Red Admirals are still out in force. These butterflies are rather enjoying the Ivy in the graveyard. There are few flowers out right now. Ivy offers a decent food source for insects at this time of year.

 

 

 

 

 

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Harvest time

 

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We’ve had an exceptionally busy week at Loch Leven. So much for the blog but I’ve not been able to upload it as I’ve been away from my desk.

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At the end of last week there was still a couple of Ospreys about. Will this year be the first time I see an osprey at Loch Leven in October? This bird is enjoying the new fence on St Serfs.

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A new unringed Little Egret appeared last week. How long before these birds breed locally? When I moved up here 16 years ago this recent coloniser had just started breeding in my native Gloucestershire.

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Also on last weeks count there were two Little Stints. The birds were too far away to get a photograph so I stole this one from the Birds of Noss Facebook page. The Little Stint is on the right. This high arctic breeding wader is almost annual at Loch Leven but did not feature last year.

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We’ve been bailing  and lifting the grass from around Loch Leven. Like farmers trying to gather crops this year we’ve been beset with problems but we’ve battled through. The weather has been very much against us lifing heavy wet grass.

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The baler has been working well. We made 40 bails on the first day. We didn’t let a puncture stop us!

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I was proved wrong that the unstuckable Polaris can get stuck…..

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But was easily removable with the winch. Kerry demonstrates the size of the hole left behind!

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Working outside has the benefits of not only getting some fresh air but also finding lots of nice wildlife.

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We were quite pleased to find this 10 Spot Ladybird at Mary’s Know.

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This lovely toad was rescued form a pile of grass. A weasel run past us yesterday too.

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For the last few weeks there has been a noticeable southward movement of Red Admiral butterflies. These attractive insects are migrating to find somewhere safe to hibernate. Back in 2003 there was a spectacular migration with many hundreds heading across the loch.

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The leaves have started to turn quickly. There’ll be full Autumn colours soon.

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Many thanks to Richard Smith who with Neil led the Fungi Foray last Sunday. This year appears to be a good year for fungi about the reserve.

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I rescued this young Woodpidgeon from a Carrion Crow at Kirkgate. These birds will  breed all year round at Loch Leven. They feed their young crop milk which is produced from eating grain and seeds and do not rely on invertibrates like other birds.

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A quick reminder that on Sunday 15th October I am leading a walk to look at the Pink-footed Geese at Loch Leven. It starts at 06:45 at the Kirkgate. Pleae phone the officeon 01577 864439 to get yourself booked on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The missing blog

Unfortunately last weeks blog did not publish so I’ve had to rewrite. Here it is!

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The Pink-footed Geese returned on the 13th September. This is a fairly average date.

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I spotted this picture on the internet from WWT researcher Kane Brides. A Pink-footed Goose fitted with a GPS tracking tag that dropped into Loch Leven is marked with a dark green star. The bird had flown from Iceland and had stopped at Loch Leven but had decided not to stay and head for Norfolk. The conditions must have been good for flying. See more about the project here

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Regular birdwatching local David Douglas spotted the  large flock of Sand Martins and Swallows roosting at the Loch. Loch Leven has had large numbers of hurindines from mid August onwards.

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I’ve been watching this Lesser Black Backed Gull for weeks. It’s about a month behind all the other large gulls on St Serfs. Gulls appeared to struggle this summer in the bad weather. Birds that failed at first had a second clutch and a pair actually managed to rear the bird. The last of our breeders for the summer.

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For the last month we had the pleasure of Owen Maxwell working with us. He came from Rural Skills Scotland. He was very good with a chainsaw and helped with cutting and fencing around the reserve. He hopes to become a tree surgeon. We wish him well with his apprenticeship with Fife Council.

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There aren’t many flowers out at the moment.  I was looking at how the Amphibious Bistort and how wonderful it looked and thought I’d get some snaps but a storm came in and decimating it. I still decided to get some photos. The bistort is a good plant to have on the reserve. There are lots of insects in it. My classic summertime mental image is of a brood of Tufted Duck in amongst the pink flowers.

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There are lots of young deer about the reserve. They are quite easy to approach in the Polaris. Please don’t let your dogs chase them.

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There are some huge flocks of Goldfinches around the reserve feeding on the meadowsweet. the sharp-eyed amongst you will spot the odd Redpoll in the picture.

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This Treecreeper narrowly avoided getting it’s picture taken. There was a Red Squirrel just out of view which I was trying to capture an image of.

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And finally…. Fish don’t appear in the blog very much but this one is special. It’s not only one of the world famous Loch Leven brown trout but it’s Neil’s biggest fish to date from the loch. Weighing in at the best part of three pounds the fish was released to fight another day. Tight lines.

 

 

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