Geese, Sheep and Moths

The weather has been kind to us here at Loch Leven and we’ve got much work completed.


We have got the sheep off St Serfs, a little earlier than the last couple of years.


Neil was at the helm. We put on twenty sheep at a time in the spring and take off 14. Despite Brexit and the hot summer they have still put on plenty of weight and they’ll be put to the Tup in November.


I spotted this Sparrowhawk surveying the shore of St Serfs for Meadow Pipits and Waders.



The milder less wild nights have meant I’ve been able to set the moth trap every night. I’ve caught a few Feathered Thorn (above). The bottom picture is of a December Moth. I’m sure regular readers will remember the heartwarming tale of the December Moth eggs from Loch Leven last year. Click here for link.


There are many Red Squirrels around the reserve at the moment. Burleigh car park has a resident at the moment. I’ve been so busy I’ve been unable to snap one this week but I was kindly sent this picture by volunteer David Alston on one hanging off his nut feeder.


For a number of years I have been looking for this Fungi round the nature reserve. It is called Amethyst Deceiver. Though it’s quite regular throughout the UK, I’ve not been able to find it here. I found four fruiting bodies at Burleigh. The volunteers were mightily impressed. Sadly someone had stood on them when I went back on Friday to look. hopefully I’ll be able to find more.




I counted over 600 Golden Plover on my count on Monday. Lovely to see them here in such large numbers. The noise when you are near a big flock is fantastic.


There are far fewer waders about now but this lovely drake Ruff was still around on Friday.


We were all out before the crack of dawn counting geese this morning. We only counted 10443 Pink-footed Geese. At the start of the week it looked like there was going to be more so we were a little disappointed.



It was however a fantastic morning to be out. The sunrise was breath taking and there was even a Cloudbow if you looked in the opposite direction.





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Beyond Storm Ali

It seems like storm after storm has been hitting us at Loch Leven NNR but between the prolonged showers of rain and windy conditions I took time to go out and gather some content for the blog.


I even got the moth trap out a couple of time this week and trapped my first Angled Shades of the Autumn. These hardy moths can handle the recent conditions and even fly in a frost.


This Frosted Orange would not sit still and soon after this shot was taken it flew away not content with the hawthorn hedge I put it in.


There is still Marsh Ragwort in Flower around the reserve. There is also Common Ragwort out too. Plant hunting gets more difficult from now on.




There is certainly now shortage of Pink-footed Geese around Loch Leven at the moment. My conservative estimate was that there is around 25000 geese using the reserve last week with birds using fields to the north, east and west of the reserve. flight after flight were dropping in. Our first formal count of the year is this week. Hopefully many will have remained.


It’s nice to see Green JJ12 has returned to the Kirkgate for its 5th winter. This bird nests in the middle of Oslo. Maybe an excuse for a twinning visit?


There are still lots of Seven-spot Ladybirds locally but they have gone a little bit dormant in the wild weather. I found this bunch clustered in a fencing butterfly for tightening the wire.


This Stonechat was at Carsehall. These birds are usually in the uplands in the summer but now are moving through to more mild areas for the winter.


There are over 10000 Tufted Ducks at Loch Leven at the moment. This lot were seeking the more sheltered waters which made them easier to count.

Just for the record I did a search of this blog for how many times I’ve mentioned a certain underperforming third tier football team that play in blue and white quarters from the west country of England. Neil is now winning the mentions of this team 1 – 0. Maybe a secret follower? I may however have mentioned them in the Kinross Newsletter a few more times. #UTG


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Autumn action

Well Jeremy’s away for a week or so and a result you get a blog from the reserve manager instead I’m afraid there’ll be no updates on how Bristol Rovers are doing or jibes at Gillingham…. However I can tell you it’s been a  time on the reserve. We had to baton down the hatches last Wednesday as Storm Ali hit. I was able to grab some time on Thursday to get out and check the paths for any trees down and was pleasantly surprised at how little damage there was. I suspect all the tree work we have done in recent years paid dividends.


This was the biggest tree to come down and worst damage. Perth and Kinross Council maintain the trail surface so we have made them aware of the damage.

On Friday we had a group of visiting volunteers from WSP Ltd. in Edinburgh & Glasgow, a great group of folk ranging from consultant ecologists to archaeologists who gave up their time to help us with some wet grassland management. We were cutting a wet meadow by the trail, we carry out cuts like this across the reserve. The aim is two fold firstly it encourages diversity within the meadow, and the more plant species present then often other species thrive too. It also prevents the scrub and trees getting established, over time if left uncut woody species start to establish and then take over. Wet woodland is another valuable habitat but at Loch Leven we use a variety of techniques to maintain a varied range of habitats.

The range of insect species within the meadow was astonishing, during our lunch break we were joined by a host of insects. Perhaps most macabre was the shield bug which sucked the life out of a caterpillar in front of our eyes.

Shield bug

This red legged shield bug was feasting on a caterpillar while we ate our lunch.

There were spiders and ladybirds a plenty

4spot orb weaver

This four spot orb weaver spider was one I photographed in the grassland a few days beforehand. Looks just as spectacular as any rainforest tarantula don’t you agree…

They did some great work, here’s a video of them hard at work with our mini baler taken by one of their team.

With such a busy time after storm Ali we didn’t get around to actually clearing trees off the trail until Monday but I was grateful of some help from Craig – yes one of our old staff members who kindly volunteered his time having returned from the island of Handa in the far North West of Scotland.


Reserve staff clearing trees off the trail


Whilst we didn’t suffer the damage some sites did but it still took a while to tidy up after Ali.

On Wednesday and Thursday we assisted  the RSPB and  Historic Environment Scotland with the annual visit from Kinross High School first years. Always a busy day its a great opportunity for the kids to discover more about the loch its wildlife and history. So busy in fact that Jeremy has headed off to Shetland for a weeks birding to recover!


Craig and Jeremy were out with S1 students on Wednesday

While Jeremy was leading those groups I was getting trained in the use of the soft track which is a another valuable tool on the reserve which we use to cut the wettest areas of the reserve where we can’t always get cattle in to graze.


Soft track training down at Carsehall – note the skein of pink footed geese overhead.

Colleagues form the RSPB and SWT joined SNH staff for the training and many conservation sites around Scotland will be able to use this kit. The equipment and training was funded by Ecocolife . As well as the first skenes of geese which have arrived with us over the last week or so I have also noted the tseep calls of redwing overhead in the evenings and most unusual has been the two juvenile Gannets (yes Gannets!!!) which were over head as we were doing the soft track training. These, along with other seabirds  have been displaced by recent high winds and are in fact not as uncommon on inland waters as you might expect during autumn storms. I didn’t get any photos but fortunately Jeremy got this great shot of one of the four which were seen the previous day.


Thanks Jeremy for this atmospheric shot of a Gannet over Loch Leven


This Guillemot was another of the wayward seabirds spotted on the loch this week.

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Fungi Foray – Loch Leven Free Event

There is a wonderful free event happening at Loch Leven NNR on the Saturday 29th. The Fungi Foray is a popular event in the Loch Leven Diary.


Find out which wonderful species are present around the loch side woodlands.


Do red species mean the species are poisonous?


See the varied shapes the species come in.


Does this species smell?


What species can you actually eat? (Not this one)



That’s not fungus, is it?


That’s growing on a tree….


Richard Smith (Fife Council) and Sarah Eaton (pictured with a Poplar Hawkmoth) are leading the event.

The walk leaves Findatie at 2pm on the 29th September and will last for a couple of hours. It’s a great walk for all the family who can all join in searching for different species in the varied habitat.

The event is free but booking is essential. Please phone 01577 864439 or e-mail

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Pinkfoot return



We welcome back the Pink-footed Geese to Loch Leven NNR again from the 12th onwards these geese started to return from Iceland. We do our first official count on the 20th October so we’ll get a good idea of numbers then.


I’ve been around Loch Leven for 17 years but this is my first ever September duck brood. These hatchlings were of St Serfs at the start of the month.




I’ve been watching this Hare for weeks now on the track down to Carsehall. It’s never far from the wall. The other day it was in the short grass. I stealthily got near to in in the Land Rover to get some shots.


This lovely Marsh Harrier was at Carsehall. This vicious predator and skilled hunter was eating a dead juvenile Herring Gull while the Teal and Ruff largely ignored it as it fed.


This  plant is regarded as an agricultural weed. Common Fumitory grows on dry disturbed ground. This patch is growing along the edge of a potato field.



A lovely fresh Merveille de Jour was in the mothrap the other day. We catch these moths annually at Loch Leven. Oak is the host tree.


The sheep are looking huge on St Serfs. The island is now covered in rich green grass. It won’t be long before we look to take them off.


There is a lot of bird migration going on at the moment. This little group of Pied Wagtails dropped on the grass around the Kashmir factory.


There are lots of lovely Painted Ladies in the field margins along the south side of the loch.



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Flying high at Loch Leven NNR

Loch Leven has been monitored by scientists for over 200 years and on a regular basis for over 50 years. As such the results of these numerous studies constitute ‘one of the largest limnological (yep google it!) datasets for shallow freshwater lakes in the world’. And I know this statement is true because it came from a peer reviewed scientific paper published by regular Loch Leven researchers Linda May and Bryan Spears at CEH!!

It’s a privilege to play a small part in this work, staff here on the reserve and at the Loch Leven fishery value the input we receive from these researchers. Recently we hosted another international delegation of scientists which was the culmination of weeks of discussion and planning. I think I can safely say it was one of the most complex projects we’ve hosted not least because it involved the use of drones, very much a hot topic at the moment. Because of the sensitivity of Loch Leven and international importance as a Natura site, Site of Special Scientific Interest and Special Protection Area, a great deal of consideration was given to when and where to fly them and the type of drones used. With SNH reserve staff working immediately alongside the drone operators we were able to ensure no disturbance occurred. SNH has recently publicised the risks of operating drones near wildlife in this press release.

There was so much going on that I have asked the some of the scientists involved to contribute to our blog today;

MONOCLE (Multiscale Observation Networks for Optical Monitoring of Coastal waters, Lakes and Estuaries), led by Plymouth Marine Laboratory, is developing water quality observation solutions using a combination of satellites, buoys, ships, drones and hand-held devices. The field instruments range from highly accurate automated systems to low-cost sensor solutions that can be built and operated by the public.

We had a great week at Loch Leven with everything pretty much going according to plan, even the sun came out! Stefan Simis, our Scientific Coordinator and Scientist at Plymouth Marine Laboratory, was happy to see that: “Although it is still early in the project, getting the sensor prototypes out in the field provided a lot of useful data, and inspiration for the teams to further their development in the upcoming months. The support which we received on site from local stakeholders really contributed to this success”.

Drone pilot Stanislas van der Vaeren (of Sitemark) describes how: “One of the exercises at Loch Leven included flying with three drones simultaneously, to compare the sensors mounted on the drones, which meant we had to fly in close proximity to each other, all while keeping aligned with the boat drivers below. This was no easy feat!”

spot the drone

Spot the drone – how many can you see in the sky?

Initial results confirmed that low-cost consumer drones would be able to capture relevant imagery for water quality mapping. Further tests are planned in the coming years at Lake Balaton in Hungary, lakes around Stockholm (Sweden), the Danube delta in Romania and Lake Tanganyika in Tanzania, while the team improve methods for image interpretation and sensor calibration. The team will also continue to explore how local stakeholders can interact with researchers, consultants and citizens to access relevant environmental data from low-cost devices.


Simultaneous sampling from multiple platforms at the long term monitoring buoy

Using different approaches such as drone imagery and analysis of water samples from the same locations provides invaluable information, which we will use to help us interpret large-scale satellite images.


Throughout the week we also ran a Citizen Science programme, which brought together local people to learn some quick and easy ways to get involved with monitoring water quality in their local area. Steven Loiselle from Earthwatch Europe commented: “the MONOCLE field campaign demonstrated the high potential for integrating both high and low technology in Citizen Science monitoring of Lochs”.  Hear more about what Steven has to say about citizen science here. ‘


These were just some of the various gadgets and gizmos deployed during the day at Loch Leven, personally I also liked a low cost monitoring buoy made from an old plastic bottle and a couple of go pro cameras which could monitor water clarity and colour. It is hoped that the technologies tested here could be used across the globe and by local communities where high tech monitoring is just not viable, with sites like Loch Leven remaining at the fore of this research.



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A bit of Autumnal botany at Loch Leven NNR

Levenmouth is a wonderful spot for Botany at Loch Leven NNR. Before the river Leven was canalised to lower the loch in the 1830s, the water used to run through there like a kind of delta with sandy areas and shallow water. Nowadays it’s shallow pools and when all the water drains out on dry summers we get a chance to look for interesting plants. It’s not every year that happens either.


Glorious mud! Many plants thrive in this exposed mud but the deep cracks make expediting the area difficult for the many tiny frog and toadlets. Also as it dries out it becomes like drying concrete and if you stand too long you get your boots stuck.



Water Mint is a common pant around Loch Leven and is growing in large amounts on the islands at Levenmouth.


Normally I have to clamber into the water to get photos of Amphibious Bistort but it’s a lot easier when the water is lower.


Bur-reed grows round the pools. There fruiting Burs are now visible and quite eye catching close up.



This is  Mudwort. A very scarce and declining plant in the UK. It’s a plant I forget to look for. Thanks to Gus Routledge for letting me use his photo without asking him.


The very charming and tiny Bog Stitchwort can also be found.


Celery-leaved Buttercup is a rare plant around Loch Leven. I found this rather long in the tooth plant at Levenmouth.



Nodding Bur-marigold is another scarce plant around Loch Leven which only grows at Levenmouth and around the pools at the RSPB.


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Loch Leven NNR latest goings on

It’s been exceptionally busy here at Loch Leven NNR. Not only have the reserve staff been kept exceptionally busy with a range of tasks, also there is plenty of wildlife around the site too with autumn migration in in full swing.


Great news! After several years and many meetings the work has finally started on the toilets at the pier. HES have started the groundwork and they’ll be delivered very soon.


We are recycling over a tonne of tree guards. These days we look for more imaginative ways  to protect our trees against deer and rabbit damage.



The Osprey and bat Walks went very well last week. There were lots of Pippistrelle bats were feeding under the pines. We’ve got a Fungi Foray on the 30th at 2-4pm at Findatie. Please phone the office to book a place.




Last week we assisted a group of scientists from Stirling University and CEH to look at ways of water quality monitoring with drones. We are hoping to get a guest blog from them in the coming weeks. We assisted with boat work and looking at the way birds react to drones.


Anyone else noticed an influx of Six-spot Ladybirds? I’m seeing a lot in our car park. good news for gardeners but bad news for aphids.


While out looking for Himalayan Balsam in the catchment I heard a calling raptor from a plantation which I dismissed as a young Sparrowhawk. It turned out the calling raptor was a Goshawk. There were three birds in total and they had an ariel scap with the Buzzards. The Goshawk is the bird on the left. Goshawks are infrequent visitors to the surrounding area and I’ve not seen one at Loch Leven since 2007.



The Orchids are looking a bit sorry for themselves. Both the Twayblade and Spotted Orchid are going to seed.


Grass of Parnassus is in flower a Findatie right now. It’s a very attractive plant.


There are many Red Admirals around Loch Leven at the moment.


The second generation of Small Coppers are on the wing right now.


The last of the Green-veined Whites are on the wing around the loch.



There’s an increase of Dunlin around the site.


I’m getting lots of reports of the Geese arriving early. These birds are the resident Greylag Geese which are currently feasting on the spilt grain on the stubble fields. We can expect the Pink-footed Geese pretty much from any time soon. We often get a small advanced guard of geese before the big heap of birds arrive en mass.


There are many Lapwing and Teal moving through from northern Europe.

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Free Osprey and Bat walks at Loch Leven NNR this week- Still places left

There are still places left on the FREE Loch Leven NNR Bat and Osprey Walks.





The Osprey walk starts at Burleigh Sands at 6pm on Wednesday 22nd August. We’ve been seeing over 10 Ospreys hunting over the water of Loch Leven in the last few days. The weather starts poorly tomorrow but improves by the evening. Perfect timing for the walk to see a few Ospreys fishing. We saw a fish caught right outside the Burleigh hide the other day. We’ll also look of for Kingfishers.


Spot the Kingfisher!


The Batwalk is on Thursday 23rd, again at Burleigh between 8:15-10:15pm with local bat group members. We’ll bring some Bat detectors for folk to have a go with. The weather also looks good for Thursday night too.

Please phone the office on 01738 458609 or e-mail us on

All the events are free at Loch Leven NNR.

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Kinross Show 2018

On the banks of Loch Leven NNR the Kinross Show is held on the fields at the RSPB. We were once again involved with our stand. Sadly no water feature this year but maybe next year!


We did crafts for the kids (and adults) including Amee’s popular Nature Plates and the badge maker put in its annual appearance. We had limited viewing from the front of the stand but we did a little bit of bird watching from with the scope along the back of Benarty crags. No sign of the Peregrine Falcon today.



Celia (left) drew an owl on one of the nature plates.

I was quite pleased with my effort with the Nature Plate.


I also got to the most satisfying job of arranging the fury animals again. Many thanks to all the people who came to see us. See you next year!

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