Magnificent Meadows Day – Free Event

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On the 6th July we are putting on an event to celebrate the great meadows around the UK. We will be present at Burleigh Sands, Loch Leven NNR with a range of events for all the family. There will be guided walks, badge making and crafts fort the kids.

For more information see the website National Meadows Day website here.

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Bashing bracken and other such tasks

We’ve been busy this week at Loch Leven NNR. We try have a small area of Bracken to control at Findatie. It grows well on the bank there but we don’t want it covering our lovely meadow down there. Braken is good cover for birds to nest and supports some insects so we like a bit of it around the reserve.

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The meadow at Findatie is full of Pignut, Birds-foot Trefoil, Sheeps Sorrel and Speedwell. It is full of insects and a nice place to see Small Copper and Common Blue butterflies.

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Two species of Buttercup occur. Meadow and Bulbus. The main difference is that the sepals on the Bulbous point down the stem.

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There are also interesting grasses. This is Quacking Grass and only occurs at Findatie around Loch Leven. It’s seed heads are like flattened discs.

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Butterwort occurs in the wet bits. This plant captures insects in its leaves for extra nutrients.

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There is this light pink Early Marsh Orchid comes up every year within the colony at Findatie.

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We are now up to nine Coral-root Orchids at Loch Leven this year. The vegetation is growing up now making them even harder to find.

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Here is a Great Tit foraging in the Gorse. we think it is feeding on the caterpillars. Something is spinning a sort of web in the gorse. This is full of caterpillars. I’m still working out the species but I think it is Ermine Moths. See how tatty the Great tit looks. These birds are hard at work trying to feed a brood of hungry mouths and don’t spend much time looking after themselves.

Green Hairstreak

After an absence for a couple of years, it appears that once again we have a colony of Green Hairstreak Butterflies again at Levenmouth. We lost them a couple of years ago in the floods. The evr vigilent George Guthrie spotted them again.

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We’re back trapping Moths. We’ve been catching plenty of Hawkmoths. We also caught this Early Thorn. These are unusual moths because they hold their wings like a Butterfly.

 

 

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Out and about

I’ve been out and about Loch Leven NNR a lot this week. Counting ducks, removing fallen trees, removing Giant Hogweed and cutting the verges around the trail. This has given me the opportunity to point the camera at the wildlife around the reserve.

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Star of the show currently is the Coral-root Orchids. I’ve found 7 so far. These orchids are very scarce plants and so small they are often overlooked.

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Other Orchids flowering include these Early Marsh Orchids. These orchids have a very vivid colour and there are around 50 in the colony on the south shore.

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Our most common Orchid, the Northern Marsh is  beginning to emerge around the reserve. It is particularly numerous around the north shore of the loch.

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I was pleased to find some Chickweed Wintergreen flowering at Levenmouth under the pines. This plant is also known as Arctic Earthstar.

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There is some Wood Avens in flower at Burleigh near the hide.

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The Broad-leaved Dock is a scarce plant around Loch Leven. Known as Monks Rubarb it was first shown to me here by Stephen Longster in the Burleigh car park. That plant has now gone but this one which I first found in 2015 is still going strong.

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I like this patch of Yellow-flag Iris growing in an isolated island in the middle of Carsehall. The plant is now flowering in all quarters of the reserve and looks spectacular.

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We’ve started to cut the verges around the trail. It’s the second year since we took over from the council. These days road side verges are a hot topic where they are seen as a valuable wildlife resource. We like to treat our verges the same and do it in a nature friendly way. Some of the things we do include mowing round nice plants like Orchids, leaving clumps of clover for the Bees to feed on, only cut narrow strips where the path is wide, only cut one side of the path at the time and have a look for nesting birds before we cut. We fully understand that nettles can ruin a day out for a child but are also important for wildlife so we cut where we see there may be an issue.

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Examples of Red Campion colour variation where the flowers are white. This is in the verge at Grahamstone.

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We also rescued this fledgling Reed Bunting that was hidden in the verge. I think it thought we were going to feed it. We later saw the adult in attendance.

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There are many Small Copper Butterflies around the reserve. Their food plant is Sheep Sorrel. It’s nice to have a look at their underwings for a change.

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Caught in the act! These Green Nettle Weevils are all round the loch now. They lay their eggs in the nettles of which there are plenty right now.

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It’s not often Craneflies get a mention on the blog. This distictive species is a female Nephrotoma Crocata. I watched it for a while as it layed its eggs in the soft sand. It is not a sting you see at the end of its abdomen, it is the ovipositor. The black and yellow stripes are part of its defense against birds.

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I like a Ladybird in the blog. We’ve seen Striped Ladybirds before around the loch but more often wintering in leaf litter or under stones. This one landed on my neck at Carsehall.

 

 

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Wet week at Loch Leven

I’ve been away from Loch Leven in recent days. At SNH we get one volunteering day a year to do something different and last week I took my volunteering day. I was invited to count seabirds on Eileen Hoan near Durness.

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Unfortunately while the rest of the country basked in sunshine the north west was rather different with weather much like we are experiencing  down here now. It was a good week, the island had good numbers of breeding birds.

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For a reason I’m yet to work out, Snipe really enjoy sitting out in the pouring rain. This is good as it offers a good opportunity to photograph them. This one was next to the path at Orwell. Hopefully the eggs I found a few weeks ago have now hatched.

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There are lots of Reed Buntings singing around the reserve. This one liked the Yew trees at the Kirkgate.

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Here is an interesting find at Discovery Day. This Cream-spot Ladybird is a first for me round here. These Ladybirds are found in hedgerows and deciduous trees.

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I do sometimes sit at my desk looking for inspiration for stuff to blog. On these wet weeks I do not take many photos. Fortunately the inspiration came to me this time as I found this distinctive looking insect climbing up my office window. With the help of Gus Routledge and the internet , we identified it as a Two-banded Longhorn Beetle. This beetle bores a deep hole into coniferous trees to lay its eggs. The pupa take two years to grow into adults. They are pollinators and feed on nectar of plants with Cow Parsley and other umbellifers being their favourites.

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Discovery Day

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Discovery Day 2019 was a great success at Loch Leven NNR this Sunday. Many thanks to all who attended and special thanks to the volunteers and stall holders. We are now looking forward to next year.

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The day did not look promising earlier on. The weather had been disgraceful on the morning.

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The Bug hotels were very popular. We had 100 kits made up and they were all finished at 14:30!

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There was a steady stream of people throughout the afternoon.

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The Trishaws were giving rides around the park.

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INNS Week 13th – 17th May 2018

Better late than never……..

From the 13th to the 17th May is Invasive species week. It is a week where we look closely at invasive species around the United Kingdom.

An invasive species is a species that is not native to a specific location (an introduced species), and that has a tendency to spread to a degree believed to cause damage to the environment, human economy or human health.

Invasive Non Native Species (INNS) are accidentally or deliberately released animals or plants. They effect all of our habitats around the UK including our marine environments where ballast tanks have released seaweed and mussels from around the world.

At Loch Leven we have our own fair share of non natives. Here is a summery of what we have and how we deal with them.

Himalayan Balsam

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Introduced into the  wild in the south of England in the 1840, this plant from the Indian subcontinent is now widespread throughout the UK. The plant spreads its seed with bursting seed heads. We first found it around the loch in 2004. We get rid of much of the balsam by spraying herbicide, strimming and pulling. It occurs in all quarters of the loch and is present throughout the catchment. We spend approximately 400 hours of staff and volunteer time trying to keep it under control. We have been successful eradicating it from some parts of the reserve but new plants will always appear that have been washed down the burns. Recent research has shown the main seed vectors are along the North and South Queich.

Giant Hogweed

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Giant Hogweed is another widespread non native UK plant. it is a native of the Caucuses.  It is a close relative of Cow Parsley. It can grow to over 4 metres tall. It was deliberately planted around the UK because gardeners found it striking with its large white flower heads. These produce many thousands of fertile seeds that at potent for years. It poses a risk to the public as it produces a sap that causes burns to the skin. We see this plant growing up near Milnathort Golf Course and smash it down when we see it.

Skunk Cabbage

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North American Skunk cabbage is a popular plant for gardeners. It is thought that it is a common escape from gardens or has got into the environment from dumped garden waste. It produces many seeds. It grows along the burn near the doctors surgery.

Mink and Red Squirrel

We regularly monitor for these two species. We are lucky that we don’t appear to get too much of a problem with Mink. Grey Squirrel numbers have been dropping locally for a long time and Red Squirrels numbers are on the rise locally because of this.

What can I do to help?

  • Report non native species using your SMART phone – https://www.planttracker.org.uk/
  • Help us remove non-natives by volunteering in work groups
  • Report illegal activity (Fly tipping etc)
  • Think whether your own waste spread non native plants?
  • Never release pets into the environment
  • Anglers – sterilize your nets
  • Canoeists – clean your canoes

For more info please see here.

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The sun is out

The weather is much improved on this time last week better now at Loch Leven NNR.

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Last week saw many thousands of Sand Martins and Swallows visiting the loch on their migration. We more often see huge numbers in the autumn but the combination of bad weather and lots of spring food meant there we lots last week. There were also an estimated 500 House Martins. Usually it’s the other two species that make up the numbers.

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There are many flies for them to feed on. They rest on the trees when the weather cools down.

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There are lots of Green-veined White butterflies on the wing at the moment around the reserve. They like feeding on the plentiful dandelions when they are no scrapping with each other.

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There are also many Bumblebees around the reserve right now.

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Crosswort is in flower across the reserve. It’s a common plant across the UK. It has a faint smell of honey.

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We’ve been planting many willow wands around the reserve this winter to improve the shoreline willows to create habitat for duck broods and fight erosion. I investigated one part of the reserve and it appears the trees are really taking off. We require some rain during the summer to see them survive. Our volunteers worked hard planting these.

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I flushed a small bird from this hole on St Serfs. The bird gave an unusual angry alarm call. I then saw the bird to be a Pied Wagtail. I’m more used to seeing these birds nesting in unnatural places like walls and building on St Serfs. What a lovely place to have a nest.

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The swans are now on eggs but 7-10 days later than the average.

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For years I’ve been searching for a Snipe nest. We’ve long suspected that they’ve bred around the loch but due to their secretive nature we find it hard prove. I was delighted to see these eggs.

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Last week I was up at Creag Meagaidh on a course being trained about wild fire control. With the UK environment changing it is likely wildfires will become more common and we as land managers need to know how to react. Unfortunately irresponsible fire lighting goes on a lot around Loch Leven.

 

 

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Holy Grass

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I’ve been around Loch Leven NNR a lot this week. I’ve been finding Holy Grass in all of the usual places. Holy Grass is one of our star plants at Loch Leven. It is one of the few places in Scotland where it grows. It is said churches spread holy grass around the entrances of their buildings to make the place smell nice. You can see the grass in flower at Mary’s Gate, Findatie and Levenmouth.

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There is also a good showing of Field Wood-rush at the moment – one of our more attractive rushes.

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Orchid florets are just beginning to show. Common Spotted and Greater Twayblade will flower in a month’s time.

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Another nice plant which is just coming into flower is Bogbean. This is growing at Findatie and does not last very long.

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Bogbean grows near the spring at Findatie. George Guthrie assures me that the water is good enough to drink from here.

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There is also lots of Lady’s Mantle growing at Findatie.

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The Carder Bees are enjoying the White Dead-nettle.

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Sad to find plastic in so many of the goose nests on St Serfs.

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Remarkably these eggs are from the same species and highly likely the same bird. This demonstrates the variation in eggs that you get in Lesser Black-backed Gulls.

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There is a fine herd of Roe Deer at Carsehall. I regularly see them about their daily business.

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This week we welcomed Stuart and Sally from the senior leadership team to Loch Leven. They have an overview of National Nature Reserves around Scotland. We discussed all the management issues around the loch and were not put off by the bad weather.

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Green Hairstreaks

Here is a blog from five years ago. Green Hairstreaks are on the wing right now. We’ll worth looking at any local Blaeberry habitat for them.

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With the weather improving day by day we are seeing more and more insects on the wing. We’ve seen all of the commoner species of bumblebee apart from garden bumblebee so far. We’re seeing more butterflies too. Overwintering butterflies like peacock and small tortoiseshell are on the wing and can be seen almost daily if the weather is nice. We’re spotting the green-veined whites now as well.

I was tipped off the other day by volunteer insect survey stalwart George Guthrie that he had seen green hairstreaks on the wing already. The weather was nice so I headed out during my lunch break to see if I could find some.

I hadn’t had been walking very far before I found them. They like blaeberry and were happy sitting while I took photographs. I counted over 30. These butterflies are very local in Scotland and if the weather is poor they…

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Nest search on St Serfs

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At Loch Leven NNR we survey St Serfs for breeding wildfowl and waders every year. We do it in 3 phases, Mallard in April, Gadwall in May and Tufted Ducks in June. We survey one species per year. This year it was Mallard.

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We have found over 100 Greylag nests this week. We take notes on clutch size and location.

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Some Greylag Geese have started to hatch. Others have just started their first clutch.

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We’ve found half a dozen Oystercatcher nests too.

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Where we can we’ll leave birds on the nest not to disturb them.

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There are still 4000 Pink-footed Geese hanging around the loch this week. Winter is still here for some species. P1230160

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Another wintering bird is this Brambling. This was feeding on Scots Pine seeds in the compound, oblivious to the passing cars, people and dogs.

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A few more flowers are emerging around the reserve. These Marsh Violets are flowering on St Serfs. There is quite a carpet appearing. This is the food plant for the colony of Small Pearl Bordered Fritillaries that appear on the island in June.

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There are lots of lovely Bumblebees on the wing right now. This Red-tailed is one of the last to emerge. They are really enjoying the plentiful crop of Dandelions around the verges. Don’t spray them off in your garden.

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It’s that time of year there is a large hatch of flies around the reserve. The moth trap was full of them. This is worth celebrating as it shows that the loch is a healthy environment. These flies are food for ducks with ducklings and migrant birds that have returned from Africa.

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We’ve had the mothtrap out this week. This Angled Shades is the first of the year. We more often see these in the Autumn.

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George Guthrie’s been round with his moths he has caught locally. Here are female (above) and male Emperor Moths . These have been caught on Portmoke or up the hills where there is heather but I have found the Caterpillars at Carsehall so they must be here as well. The females send out a strong smell to attract the males. George rears the eggs and releases the adults back into suitable habitat.

 

 

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