The magic behind the camera

Here’s just a few of the things that have been going on in a very busy few weeks at Loch Leven NNR.



Let’s start off with something nice. We had a lovely Red Squirrel on the office bird table. Sadly the nuts and seeds were not enough for it to return another day. It spent the morning shelling sunflower seeds.




Other mammals which we have recorded near the office include fox (above) and Otter. You rule out domestic dog from fox by drawing a line from the back of the two front claws and if the rear claws do not cross that, it is a fox.


Can you see it?


The rising temperatures mean we have got the moth trap out again which is great for padding out wildlife blogs. This species is a Pale Brindled Beauty, only recorded locally in the last few years. I’ve set myself a challenge of finding a flightless female this year. The weather looks good for moth trapping the next two weeks at least.


We spotted this covey of grey Partridge near Burleigh last week. It’s good to see this species which has declined from much of the United kingdom.


There are many thousands of Common Gulls on Loch Leven right now. These roost on the loch and fly out to the surrounding fields to feed.


There are a few Short-eared Owls about at Loch Leven right now. Classlochie and St Serfs are the best place to see them at dawn and dusk. Craig Nisbet managed to get a decent shot of one on St Serfs.



A nice surprise was this Eleven-spot Ladybird. I found it outside the office. Seven-spot ladybirds have featured regularly on the blog this year where we keep finding places where they are hibernating after last year’s influx. I don’t recall seeing this species before at Loch Leven.


Trying to get a photo of something that is probably only 2mm long proved rather challenging!


We are delighted to have the Softrak back from the Ecoco Life project. In the next few weeks I’ll be cutting around the loch. We’ll also be chipping again.


This species of fungus is called Yellow Brain (Tremella mesenterica). This is a common species. It needs no explanation why it is called this. This was growing on dead broom around the trail.


And finally… We had the pleasure of Cabinet Secretary Rosanna Cunningham visiting Loch Leven a couple of weeks ago. She was here to launch the brand new and ambitious Biodiversity Challenge fund. This is a new fund of up to £2 million to protect and enhance Scotland’s nature. Scottish Natural Heritage has issued a call for ambitious ideas to improve habitats, safeguard species and encourage increased access to nature.


The cheery bunch.



The weather was cold and the ground was hard but we still managed to plant a few trees that morning.



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More wintery pictures

We’ve been exceptionally busy at Loch Leven NNR. Lots going on. We’re conscious we’ve not blogged so here are a few more wintery pictures before we do a full update at the end of the week.


Local air temperatures dropped to -7 degrees on the coldest nights


We did not get much snow. Luckily we avoided that.


The Lomond hills hat their misty cap on





Maybe someone can explain why there was a  6 degree difference (according to the car) between Kinross and Kinesswood in the morning of the 31st. The east side of the loch was engulfed in fog yet Kinross was bright and clear.


There have been some spectacular sunsets.


Castle Island is hidden. I wonder if Mary Queen of Scots ever experienced these conditions during her time in the castle?



Nice to look closely at the ice forming on the trees.


I took a walk up Benarty to see where the ice was.



Wildfowl are concentrated in the ice free areas around the loch. Many birds are happy to sit out the cold weather and wait for the ice to melt.


The forgotten Christmas Robin is still as bald as brass.


Here is an archive picture from 2010 where the ice formed piles nearly 2 metres high. The power of the moving ice uprooted trees and removed fences.



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Celebration of winter weather


We had a tiny bit of snow at Loch Leven NNR this week. Nice to see it wintery here.



There was snow on the distant Ochils




The snow clouds were swirling in from the west on Monday night but we didn’t get any snow until Tuesday morning.

We’re expecting a little more wintery weather in the next few days. Good chance to get a few more photos.

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Goose count and a tale of three Owls



We were up early this morning at Loch Leven NNR with our colleagues from the RSPB centre. The objective was once again to count the geese as they leave the loch to feed on the surrounding fields.


The geese were roosting along the shoreline this morning. When I turned up at 7:30 they were hardly making a noise. I thought I’d have none to count again

The final count was a respectable 4469 Pink-footed and 360 Greylag Geese


Roll the clock back 12 or so hours I watched the moon rise from behind the Lomonds. I failed to get pictures of the blood moon.


While I was waiting for the geese to become more accessible there was plenty to look at. There was a loch record of four Little Egrets. Great to see so many of these southern colonists present on the loch.


I thought I’d missed my opportunity to capture on film all four as they all flew off with the Black-headed Gulls but as you can see from this shot I just about managed to get all of them. There were also 82 Greater Scaup offshore plus a Ruff, Greenshank and a Kingfisher.


There is also an Iceland Gull hanging out with the cormorants on the Scart. This gull has  a misleading name as it actually breeds in Greenland. We’ve seen fewer than half a dozen of these on the loch since records began. It’s nice to start the year with a scarce bird.



I captured these pictures ten minutes apart last week. The mist offers good opportunities to get photos. The Mute Swans carried on feeding oblivious.


Very scenic


Still finding many Seven-spot Ladybirds hibernating around the reserve. Some don’t really don’t try to find good sheltered places!


I’ve already seen three species of Owl around the reserve. A Short-eared Owl spent a day at the Kirkgate last week. A Tawny Owl flew in front of me at Grahamstone in my head torch week.



Here are some abstract photos of a Barn Owl which was hunting behind me while I was counting Geese. A bit of fun with the camera in the early morning gloom.



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2019 – A new year

A very happy new year to all of the Loch Leven NNR blog readers. I trust you all had a fantastic Christmas and Hogmanay.



The weather has been fairly calm the last couple of days. I’ve been out and about re-antiquating myself with the reserve after a couple of well earned weeks off.


I’ve been out setting trail cams to see where the wildlife is.


For the scatological amused amongst you this bird (probably Carrion Crow) was not worried in the slightest that it defecated over the sensor of the trailcam. It still worked however. I’m going to find more time this year to use the trailcam around the loch to try to unlock the secrets of what goes on at night with our wildlife.


The Little Egret is still around. Here it is roosting on Reed Bower with the cormorants. Maybe using the guano as camouflage. There are lots of Tree Sparrow, Bramblings and other finches along the south shore still. Ducks are spread far and wide round the loch.

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Latest Waxwings and other news


Waxwings still feature strongly again this week in the Loch Leven NNR blog with regular sightings.


There have been daily sightings from Kinross and Milnathort.


7th Green Road 30
8th Gallowhill Rd 10
9th Pier/Nan Walker Wynd 20
10th Pier/Nan Walker Wynd 20
11th Pier/Nan Walker Wynd 75
12th Pier/Nan Walker Wynd 35
13th Pier/Nan Walker Wynd 35
14th Pier/Nan Walker Wynd 35

They have been preferring the south end of Kinross with the Pier and Nan Walker Wynd most favorable. There are still plenty of berries in the area but they making their way through them.


Parking at the Pier and waiting for them to appears to be the best bet for wannabe Waxwing Watchers. They don’t appear until around 10am but will stay until past 3pm.




The birds are viewable from the my office window and is a regular distraction for the hot desking Darrell.


It’s been good today with a Peregrine Falcon and this hunting Kestrel.


If the Devil were to cast his net – This is the annual NNR Scotland team meeting up at St Cyrus NNR. In it we discussed all things National Nature reserve. As well as meeting the new big cheeses, we had workshops on communications, volunteering, placements and pooling resources, Updated from all NNRs and we had site visits to St Cyrus NNR and Montrose basin. Folk from Shetland to Dumfries made it to the meeting. Great to meet up with such a great group and fantastic pool of talent.



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This week at Loch Leven.


One day the weather is fantastic and next it is dismal. This is what it’s been like the last week at Loch Leven National Nature Reserve.


The local Greylag Geese are feeding on potatoes along the trail at Orwell. When closely scrutinizing birds for leg and neck rings I spotted this bird with bright orange legs. Greylags normally have pink legs. The leg colour does vary a little and I’ve only noticed birds with such pronounced orange legs infrequently. I’ve not got a straight answer from anyone why leg colour varies so much but you occasionally see Whooper Swans with yellow feet too.



On Monday there were a couple of Little Egrets dropped into Carsehall feeding in the ditches.



Nice to see the gang of Goosander in the harbor catching fry and invertebrates in there.



There are plenty of farmland birds along the trail at the moment. Linnets (top) and Reed Bunting (bottom) are in good numbers in the game crop along the south shore.



There are still plenty sightings  of Wawings from the Kinross and Milnathort area. They can sometimes be difficult to find but usually can be seen with a bit of patients they can be spotted. Here is a chart of some of the resent sightings. Many thanks to Connor Mckinnie for the photograph and getting in touch with sightings. Numbers hit three figures this week.

Date Site Number
01-Dec Wester Balgedie 4
01-Dec Gallowhill Rd 70
01-Dec Ault Mart Rd, Milnathort 35
02-Dec Wilson Court 100
03-Dec Gallowhill Rd 20
04-Dec Montgomery St, Kinross 50
04-Dec Southerland Drive 75
05-Dec Stirling Rd, Milnathort 20
06-Dec Gallowhill Rd 12


And finally we had our annual Christmas meal round at The Well in Scotlandwell. They did us proud and a good time was had by all.



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Check the cool wax


At Loch Leven NNR HQ we’ve been getting lots of positive feedback from the public about the Waxwing info we’ve been putting on here. The numbers are still growing. This weekend I hit three figures with well over 100 feeding on a single tree in Wilson Court in Kinross.


Today I nipped out on my lunch break in the electric van to get some photos in actual daylight as last weeks weather was not conducive to decent photography.


I think the Waxwings are enjoying this weather more than last week.


Today I could find a minimum of 75 to the west of Southerland Drive feeding in the Rowans behind the houses or occasionally dropping into the gardens.


There is still plenty of berries all around Kinross and Milnathort.


Unfortunately the decent light didn’t stay for long as the sun began to go down at 2pm!


There have ben sightings reported to me from all round. On Sunday they started off along Gallowhill Rd to Lathro, then to the south end of Milnathort, then to near supermarket, down to the south of Kinross and back to Gallowhill Rd. Also 4 were seen at Loch Leven Larder on Saturday. Watch this space for further sightings.

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Waxwings and how to see them around Kinross and Milnathort


Numbers of Waxwings around Loch Leven are now over 60 and many folk have been along to see our local flock.


Below is a table of some of the sightings and a the blue dots on the map show where birds have been seen.

Date Site Number
02-Nov Pier 1
03-Nov Levenmouth 7
04-Nov Pier 4
18-Nov Gallowhill Rd 12
22-Nov Gallowhill Rd 22
23-Nov Kinross house 2
26-Nov Gallowhill Rd 53
27-Nov Gallowhill Rd 64
29-Nov Milnathort 50


There is also the odd redwing hanging around joining the safety of being in a flock with the Waxwings.


I’ll keep folk updated with sightings on the blog so it gives folk a chance to catch up with these attractive winter migrants.


The rain cleared long enough for me to pop out and have a look at the loch at the Pier. It’s the first time we’ve seen the Lomonds in the last 48 hours.


We welcomed colleagues from Tayside and Forth on their annual volunteer day. The weather was too poor to go out and remove gorse so we decided to make duck nest boxes instead. These will go up shortly so they get weathered and ready for next breeding season.



I was sent north for a training course at Creag Meagaidh NNR. Though the views were not as good as they can be it was still nice to have a different backdrop.

Many thanks to local birdwatcher John Nadin for the photos of the Waxwings.

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More Waxwings

A total of 64 have been seen along Gallowhill Rd in Kinross this afternoon.
Nervously feeding in a garden on Rowans

Still waiting to see them in decent light to get photos.

They were also feeding on Ash Keys. I’ve never seen this before.
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