Home and Away

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Since the last time I blogged I’ve been down to Gloucestershire and up to Shetland. Like Bob Dylan or Bruce Springsteen I’m continually on tour. I’ve even managed to fit in some work in between trips away.

The volunteers have been out cutting with our new toy.  Loch Leven NNR is a partnership between a number of organisations. This includes Perth and Kinross Council. They very kindly lent us a flail mower to test around the trail. This machine will do a more controlled cut and is a less fearsome sight than the teeth of an Allan Scythe.

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PKC kindly sent one of their chaps down to  demonstrate the cutter to our volunteers. So much flourescent that I needed my shades on.

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We also gave a demonstration of our Scythe to our colleagues at the RSPB. They were looking for a lightweight solution to top rushes and cut around the predator fence.

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It’s that time of year everything gets a scalp. The hedge at the Kirkgate viewpoint was cut. We’ve got a new safer and more efficient electrical hedge trimmer.

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Liz and Mary enjoy the view over the recently topped hedge.

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We’ve done hardly any moth trapping because of the weather but this Butterbur moth was a good find. They are a difficult moth to trap as they rarely go a distance from their food plant. This is the 4th we’ve caught in the last 2 years.

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This beautifully marked moth is likely to be a Svensens Copper Underwing. This moth is closely related to the Copper Underwing. the two species are difficult to separate but Svensens is more likely round here. It makes a change from Dark Arches which fill the trap in July.

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The Loch Leven team is part of a larger unit that covers the area of Tayside and Grampian. Every year we meet up for an away day. This year we met at Royal Deeside and met folk from the Invercauld Estate to discuss wildlife management on the estate and members of the Pearls in Peril team and the work they’ve done along the River Dee to help protect Freshwater Pearl Mussels.

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Here is a shot of Craig Nisbet on Noss. I popped up to see him for the weekend. He’s still summering on Shetland and has another fortnight or so left up there.

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The Gannets are still busy in the colony on Noss.

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We enjoyed a bit of birdwatching up there and were lucky enough to between us find the first Pectoral Sandpiper for Noss. This small wader has been blown over the Atlantic in the recent storms.

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Maybe we’ll see an American wader at Loch Leven in the next few weeks with all these storms stateside. We’ve seen a few Pectoral Sandpipers, Bairds Sandpiper and thie White-rumped Sandpiper on St Serfs in October 2011.

 

 

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Skies, Scenery and Birds

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Loch Leven is always picturesque but this is somewhat enhanced by the purple on the surrounding hills.

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There are plenty of birds right now. A close up of the Scart shows there are many hundreds of roosting Lapwing out there. They commute over to the Kirkgate to feed from there.

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When they fly over high they look like twinkling stars.

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There is plenty of visible migration at this time of year. These Grey Herons flew south high over the loch. I also watched a party of 30 Snipe fly over. I’d never seen that at Loch Leven before.

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Looking out behind St Serfs you can certainly see the number of birds building. By mid September duck numbers will be at their highest and there’ll be very little room between St Serfs and Carsehall.

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The weather has been interesting again this week. Owen and I were sheltering between the showers trying to get the fencing done on Friday afternoon.

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We had terrible trouble getting the sheep in last week so we had to call on new recruits. This is Rhum. He’s never been out to St Serfs before. He didn’t seem phased by the boat and we got the sheep into the pen at the second attempt.

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The Sand Martins enjoyed the feast of flies that were pushed up from the grass by the sheep.

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There are two Ospreys in this picture. There are still a good number of Ospreys feeding on the loch. There were seven together on Sunday.

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I was surprised how late into the evening they feed. This bird was still fishing after dark. I don’t know whether it’s night-time hunt was successful.

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A few shots from the last couple of weeks

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We had a great day at the Kinross Show last weekend. We saw lots of familiar faces. We put a lot of effort in with our stand. We decked it out like a woodland scene with a water feature. PC Atholl Spalding popped in for the photo and to make a badge.

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This was the water feature surrounded by Phragmites.

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Volunteer Ivor Mashford was on badge making duty. We had a telescope trained on the crags for much of the day we could see a peregrine falcon.

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Placing fluffy animals around the tent was one of the most satisfying things I’ve EVER done.

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This weekend we assisted Our Portmoak by taking them over to St Serfs on the boat. Out there they were looking at the archeology of St Serfs with David Munroe and Oliver O’Grady. Unfortunately we had to cancel the Saturday voyage but everybody got onto the island safely on the sunday. Our Portmoak are Celebrating 2017’s Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology across the Portmoak area. This event was one of many events they have been doing thoughout the year.

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For many it was an oppertunity to visit St Serfs for the first time.

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This was a storm chasing me across Loch Leven last Thursday. It caught me.

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The first Ruff I’ve seen of the Autumn was on the Scart last week.

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The Little Egret is in the Heron roost at the Pier. This bird has plastic rings on its legs. It originated from Lincolnshire.

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The pale bird in the middle is a scarce bird at Loch Leven. This is a Sanderling. The species is seen commonly around the coastline locally but only rarely comes in land. This is about the 7th record for Loch Leven. I also saw a Hobby chasing birds around the west shore on Saturday.

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This Emerald Damselfly was resting between the storms. The differing weather has made life difficult for the loch’s Odonata this year.

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This fist size Puffball was out on St Serfs.

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Busy week on and off the loch

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We’ve been busy the last couple of weeks at Loch Leven and other reserves. Last week we were operating our old friend ‘The Softrack’ at Tentsmuir. The plan is to remove willowherb from the sand dunes to help improve plant diversity. It was a fabulous day at the beach. We saw lots of butterflies including Graylings and Dark Green fritillaries.

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The upper side of a Dark Green |Fritillary

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The underside of a Dark Green Fritillary

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The following day the ever-present Gus and I went up to Creag Meagaidh to drop off  our old quadbike. While we were there we couldn’t resist a walk up the hill to look at the woodland regeneration. We also had a good pow wow with the reserve manager Rory about options for grazing the Loch Leven meadows and regenerating our own woodland.

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The path tidying continues around the loch. Most of it has had two cuts. We’ll be back out on Wednesday around Grahamstone.

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Keep an eye out for the warning signs. we’ll stop cutting to let you pass.

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We are just completing our last  brood count surveys of the summer at Loch Leven. This will give us an idea of how our ducks are doing this year. Unfortunately not all broods are as easy to find as the residents in the harbour. This Mallard started off with three and is down to two. This brood is very relaxed and didn’t even wake when I turned the boat next to them.

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The sheep are doing well on St Serfs. There is plenty for them to eat and their feet are good. We round them up every couple of weeks to check them. They have been exploring all over the island.

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We’ll be at Kinross Show this weekend. We’ve got big plans and a brand new exhibit in our tent that we’ve built from recycled materials we’ve found. Please drop by. We’ll be badge making and we’ll have moths in pots amongst other things.

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Osprey Walk Burleigh Sands 17th August 6-8pm

It’s Osprey time of year again folks. Loch Leven has plenty of these magnificent birds visiting at this time of year. Many of these splendid fishing raptors are currently around the Loch. Youngsters have left the nest which bolsters numbers and with the adults are making their way down to Africa where they will spend the winter.

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We a having our annual Osprey Walk on Thursday 17th August at Burleigh Sands from 6 until 8pm.We’ll meet in the car park and make the short walk down to the shoreline to observe these birds.

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Last year we saw over 20 birds with one putting on a magnificent performance with multiple dives before it eventually caught a small Perch.

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Please phone the office on 01577 864439 to book a place.

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Home alone

Over the last couple of weeks with Jeremy being away on leave and Gus having finished his time as a placement with us I’ve had plenty of reasons to escape the desk and to get out onto the reserve. The weather hasn’t been the best over the later part of the summer so we’ve had few opportunities to get out and see how the breeding wildfowl population on the reserve have been fairing. I’d been out doing nest surveys earlier on this year so I knew that things were looking pretty good for this year in terms of the numbers of nests but the weather we have experienced particularly in June hasn’t really been ideal for a duckling dabbling in the vast waters of Loch Leven for the first time.

A lull in the wind and the rain meant heading out bright and early (if a little bleary eyed) to do a brood count. The aim of this is to cover the whole of the loch in a day noting the different waterfowl with young on the loch, how many young and there age. This gives us an idea of productivity and adds to the picture of the fortunes of waterfowl on the site which stretches back to the 60’s.

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This Osprey had got up early too after a breakfast of Loch Leven brown trout and was doubtless more successful than any of my fishing trips are.

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The first of what turned out to be a good number of Little Grebe was feeding on fish fry in front Mill hide.

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There were also a few of the Little Grebes larger cousin; the Great Crested Grebe with young. I always enjoy seeing these birds which for many years were symbolic of human persecution purely for vanity. The crown feathers being particularly valued for lady’s hats  and the pelts being preferred as substitutes for furs in boas and muffs in the late 19th century.

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The youngsters regularly hop onto the parents backs to hitch a ride (just like in humans!!)

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All the common species were out and about. Species like this Mallard with an older brood stay close to the overhanging willows and reeds we encourage to grow all along the loch shore.

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Here a brood of Gadwall feeds excitedly, broods like this can be challenging to count particularly as in areas of prime habitat like this multiple families will feed together. They ‘rub along’ ok but there’s often a wee bit of tension between families and the occasional nip as they pass each other isn’t uncommon. In this small area I counted 4 broods of Gadwall 3 of Mallard with up to 8 young in some broods.

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These shallow bays with overhanging willows and lots of aquatic plants are great brood rearing habitat. Smaller fish love them too which is what this Grey Heron will be hoping for. That is not to say that it wouldn’t pass up the opportunity of a wayward duckling if the opportunity were to arise……..

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In the interests of keeping the blog varied that’s enough about ducks. So what else have I seen on my travels. Now I’m not one for taking my camera out with me but I’ve been trying to get into the way of doing so and I found this wee chap whilst out and about so snapped a photo to check it out back to the office. Its a Larch Ladybird not particularly rare nor my first at Loch Leven but serves as a reminder that not all ladybirds are red with black spots they are like all insects a really diverse group. But ladybirds unlike some other insects are usually easy enough to identify. I went to this website to ID mine there are so many great websites out there to help the modern naturalist with identification and reporting. I’ll perhaps try and point you in the direction of others another time…..

Well its Friday so now I’ve got all my ducks in a line as it were I’m going to head home.

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The Trees of Loch Leven

Hello! I meant to type up this blog post a while ago but never got round to it so I’ve finished it today and am posting it now… the Trees of Loch Leven, definitely a group of plants that can often be overlooked…

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Loch Leven from the Lomond Hills

 

Loch Leven is usually characterized by the massive body of water that takes up a good portion of Kinross-shire, but if you look around the loch you will find a number of habitats that are all important for wildlife.

Many of these habitats can be characterized by the trees that are found there and that’s often the easiest thing to see there. Trees are big, which helps, and they don’t move unlike the birds and bugs.

So, without further a-do, here are a few trees found around Loch Leven…

Scots Pine

Burleigh Pine, Loch Leven NNR

The Scots Pine is not only found in Scotland, but it is a tree that once covered much of Scotland. It also covers a good bit of Loch Leven NNR.

The tree pictured above is probably one that’s familiar to most visitors as it’s the pine at Burleigh Sands. Beyond this pine is the heritage trail leading around to Loch Leven’s Larder, and much of this path is lined with Scots Pine.

The habitat that these trees provide is very important on the reserve as pine trees provide food and shelter for one of the best-loved creatures that is doing pretty well around the loch: the Red Squirrel. Other animals that you may see in the pine trees include many species of finch (including the pine specialist, the Crossbill), pine weevils and pine ladybird.

Red Squirrel - Sciurus vulgaris

Pine trees are also one of my favourite trees, not only due to the Red Squirrels and other wildlife that utilise them, but also because it produces my favourite smell! If you’re ever out on the reserve on a sunny day, I can thoroughly recommend taking a walk in the pines and enjoying the smell of the hot pine needles.

Or you can go for a walk somewhere else…

Scots Pine - Pinus sylvestris

Scots Pine “flowers”

Silver Birch

Silver Birch - Betula pendula

This is another tree that’s easy to pick out on the reserve, mainly due to the colour of its bark. The Silver Birch is a tree that will grow almost anywhere but in some parts of the reserve it’s the tree that covers most of an area.

It’s also recognisable by the way its branches hang, lending it its latin name of Betula pendula, pendula meaning pendulous. In autumn the birch trees can create a lovely scene as the leaves turn from green to golden and in an autumn evening you can get some really nice pictures of the birch canopy, either from above or below.

Silver Birches turning golden

This tree is particularly important as it is one that will often colonise un-forested areas and then allow other trees to take hold as well. We don’t have many areas on the reserve like that, but we do have some well established birch woods such as at Levenmouth and the Black Wood.

In these woods you can find all sorts of wildlife. The birdlife is particularly good in Spring, as they all begin singing to attract a mate for the season ahead. Blue Tits, Great Tits, Chaffinches, Wrens, Song Thrushes, Sparrowhawks, Great Spotted Woodpeckers… the list goes on. All of them enjoy life in the birchwoods. Some of the scarcer species you might encounter are Garden Warbler, Spotted Flycatcher and the very shy Jay.

Spotted Flycatcher - Muscicapa striata

These woodlands are also great for insect life and if you’re the first one on the trail in the morning then you may be aware that they are also great for arachnids! Over night the spiders travel about the woods a good bit and often don’t tidy up after themselves, leaving long trailing bits of silk across the path, usually at the perfect height for my face to go straight through as I cycle round.

Silver Birch - Betula pendula

Willows

Goat Willow - Salix caprea

Willows are very common around the loch, as they tend to like damper areas, and we’ve got plenty of that! They form much of the habitat around the lochside and can be seen pretty much anywhere on the reserve. They are usually small, shrubby trees that don’t grow in the classic tree shape.

We have three main species of willow on the reserve: Goat, Grey & White. We also have one rarer species called the Bay-leaved Willow. The lochside habitat that they provide is often used by the waterbirds that will take shelter under the branches (much to the annoyance of anyone trying to count the broods) and they will sometimes nest underneath them as well.

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Again, willows are good habitat for breeding birds, but there are other birds that usually breed here, the two that are most often encountered (or sometimes only heard) are the Reed Bunting and Sedge Warbler. Willows also provide plenty of work for us in the winter as sometimes they start to colonise wet areas that we don’t want getting colonised as it will reduce the amount of open water for the water birds.

Sedge Warbler - Acrocephalus schoenobaenus

See here for one of our days of willow scrub removal…

Rowan

Rowan berries  - Sorbus aucuparia

The sight of these red berries always tells me we’re heading towards autumn. The Rowan is usually quite a small tree, not usually reaching the height of the pines and birches but often growing in amongst them. It can be identified by its leaves which are split into leaflets with the leaflets paired opposite to each other. It’s also a great food source for birds and insects throughout the year.

Rowan - Sorbus aucuparia

The flowers of Rowan trees can be covered in bumblebees and other pollinating insects when they come out, and can offer good opportunities to see these busy insects nice and close up.

However, the berries are what most people think of when they think of a Rowan and they are definitely a great food source for birds, especially thrushes. I’m actually trying to convince mum to replace a Lawson’s Cypress in the garden with a Rowan (it lets in more light, the birds will love it, I’ll sweep up the leaves in autumn, etc.)! Birds such as Fieldfare and Redwing will adorn Rowans come the winter months after they’ve flown across the north sea from Iceland and Scandinavia.

Bohemian Waxwings - Bombycilla garullus

But, as great as winter thrushes are, a Waxwing will always be the star prize for anyone with a Rowan in their garden! We were lucky enough to have hundreds around the reserve and Kinross last winter, see here for details on that…


Hopefully that has whetted your appetite for either trees or blog posts, and hopefully you’ll spot these trees around the reserve and know what you might spot in and around them when you’re out and about.

P.S. I know my previous blog post said it was my last but I’m in volunteering today and the weather’s not terribly good so I decided to type up a wee something for you!

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My last day…

 

This blog post is unfortunately going to be a hello… and goodbye. The reason for the lack of posts over the past few weeks is that I was in Shetland for 3 weeks and then when I returned it was summer, and everything got quite busy! Also, Jeremy said his computer didn’t let him upload his post… (excuses excuses…)

And it’s goodbye because this is my second last day, tomorrow being the last, of being the student placement at Loch Leven. After this I’ve got a few adventures planned over the summer and then I will return to Scotland’s Rural College (Aberdeen campus) to finish my degree in Countryside Management. After that… we’ll see where life takes me.

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Loch Leven from Benarty Hill

Instead of reminiscing over my entire year at Loch Leven, I’ll just stick to a normal blog post which, in a way, will reflect on my time at the loch as a normal day is what each day has been… sort of.

On Monday we had our Wetland Bird Survey to get done, and the birds are starting to change their ways already. The breeding season is coming to an end and duck broods are making their way around the edges of the loch with their parents leading the way. Non-breeding Greylag Geese are flying about quite a lot, from fields to loch to fields to loch. We’ve also seen a bit of wader passage as the post breeders make their way down through Scotland after breeding in Scandinavia and Iceland.

We’ve also got the Ospreys back to being pretty easy to see. If you pop along to Burleigh Sands and have a look out from there, there can be as many as three birds all fishing at once. These numbers will build as birds from further afield and also this year’s youngsters join in with the Loch Leven fishing.

I actually took that photo on the evening of our Burleigh botany walk, which was a very nice evening! We sauntered about for a couple of hours just admiring and identifying the flowers that were out on the grassland, by the path and around the ponds. It always helps when the weather’s nice! One of the highlights of the walk was the Common Spotted-orchid which is pictured below.

By shear coincidence, our next event is the Osprey walk which will be held on the 17th August from 6-8pm.

Speaking of orchids, after being in Shetland for a few weeks I had missed out on a few things, but one thing I really didn’t want to miss out on was the Lesser Butterfly Orchids. Fortunately I just caught them before they started looking rubbish!

With all of these beautiful plants out it’s unfortunate that there’s one plant in particular that really causes us a bit of bother. This plant is Himalayan Balsam. I suspect it’s been discussed on this blog before, but if you wish to find out more about why we dislike it so much then see here.

In order to control the spread of this non-native, invasive plant, we head out with our volunteers armed to the teeth with brushcutters, weed slashers and good old fashioned leather gloves. The brushcutter comes in handy for large areas that have been completely overwhelmed by balsam. In areas where there are fewer plants we tend to just pull them out of the ground, but in order to stop the pulled plants from growing again once we put them on the ground we either hang them in branches or put them on the path and stamp on them.

So, sorry about the mess, but it’s for the good of the wildlife that we all enjoy around the loch!

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Young Roe Deer helping with balsam-bashing

I had quite a nice first day back with the volunteers last week as we were treating them to a trip to the Isle of May. I know the Isle of May definitely isn’t Loch Leven, but I’ll just post a few pics from that day anyway… (check out the Isle of May NNR blog)

Insect life appears to have picked up a lot over the 3 weeks I was away, with loads of Ringlet butterflies in the grassland, damselflies hunting about around ponds and at the lochside, and bumblebees keeping themselves busy. We haven’t had any dragonflies at the loch yet (as far as I know) but I’ve included a pic of a Golden-ringed Dragonfly from a wee trip to Perthshire, just because it’s a stunner!

Well… I guess I should wrap it up there. But before leaving you with my last blog post for Loch Leven NNR, I’d just like to say a huge thank you to a lot of people, including..:

  • Jeremy, Neil and Lesley, the Loch Leven team who have kept me busy and learning throughout my time here, as well as Therese who was here for the first 5 months of my placement.
  • All of the volunteers; Wednesday vols, insect surveyors, and groups who have come for just a day or two. It’s been great working with you all and I suspect I’ll still be working with you as I’ll return to the loch from time to time. (And special mention to Dave as he washed my car yesterday as a farewell present)
  • Everybody I’ve worked with within SNH, from other reserve staff to the people behind the scenes in the various offices across Scotland to the people who’ve worked in the office with me in Kinross.
  • Everybody I’ve worked with outside of SNH; RSPB, Historic Scotland, CEH, Kinross Estate, and many other organisations!
  • The other student placements from Tentsmuir, Stirling, Dumfries, St Cyrus, Creag Meagaidh and Beinn Eighe. It’s been a brilliant year with you guys and I’m sure we’ll all keep in touch!
  • All of the visitors to Loch Leven who made my year interesting, rewarding and more than worthwhile!

Click here for a big compilation of photos I’ve taken of Loch Leven.

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Slightly squint horizon…

Thank you goes to you as well, the reader, for reading my blog posts. Hopefully my inconsistency in posting hasn’t been an issue. I’ll maybe manage to convince Jeremy to let me guest blog after I’ve left as I’m going to become a Wednesday volunteer.

Of course, it’s not just people that made my time here great, the wildlife is absolutely spectacular at Loch Leven. I know I said I wouldn’t reminisce… but it’s difficult not to after having worked at this incredible place. Below are a few of my favourite bits from my year with SNH at Loch Leven National Nature Reserve.

That doesn’t sum it all up but I’ll leave it there anyway. All that’s left to do now is say cheers one more time. So without further ado, cheers!

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Springwatch 2017: Part 3

Loch Leven NNR: Apologies again for yesterday’s abrupt end to the blog. Car fixed, MOT and service sorted. Back to blogging…

STOP PRESS: Before I begin, I’d like to ask that you watch Springwatch Unsprung on the 15th of June as Loch Leven will be starring!

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Where did I end with yesterday’s blog before rushing off? Ah yes, that Ruby Tiger moth. Of other recent lepitoptera (moths and butteflies) news is the first Red Admiral of the year on the wing yesterday by bridge over the Gairney Burn.

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Red Admiral on Brambles

I’ll just re-cover those last few pics as well because I really didn’t give them the mention they deserved.

So, that capercaillie. As I mentioned in the last blog post, they haven’t been present in Kinross-shire for a long time, I suspect they may have been present around Portmoak Moss but that’s really just a guess.

The grouse species we do still (just) have in Kinross-shire is the red grouse. There are a few of them still up Benarty Hill above RSPB Loch Leven as I found out a few weeks ago whilst looking for orchids.

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Red Grouse on drystane dyke

One of my favourite things about red grouse is their scientific name. Lagopus lagopus. This translates, roughly, to “rough-leg rough-leg” and that’s pretty fitting as they do have reasonably fluffy feet. I don’t actually have any pictures of red grouse feet but I do have a shot of one of their close relatives’ feet; the ptarmigan. Its scientific name is Lagopus muta, which means “quiet rough-leg” and I personally don’t think that’s a very fitting name as they make one of the best bird sounds I can think of.

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Ptarmigan with it’s fluffy snowshoe feet

Brown Hares, I’ve covered them a few times so I’ll leave those out for this post…

Newts I covered in Autumnwatch last year, see here

Now we’re back on track, so I’ll look at what they focused on last night at Sherborne Park Estate…

Those ermine moth silk bushes are pretty amazing aren’t they? Imagine seeing that happening in a wild place near you? Well (whilst not on the same scale) it happens at Loch Leven too! We have white and buff ermine moths that have this behaviour as well. As pointed out by Springwatch, these caterpillars use this as a defence against predators so the caterpillars are perhaps not so good as a food source for birds, bats and other invertebrates.

However, once they reach the adult stage, pictured below, they don’t have this defence tactic but can fly so they are that bit more difficult to catch.

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Buff Ermine

Muck. I must agree with Chris, I really do love a good bit of muck and so does the wildlife. Being a national nature reserve, we don’t really dump many piles of muck all over the place. However that doesn’t mean there are no farmland birds to be seen around the reserve! Yellowhammers, sometimes called the ‘Scottish Canary’ (although that only works in Scotland), are present all around the reserve but I’d say the best place to spot them is around Loch Leven’s Larder, and in the scrub around the fields there.

Another farmland bird that is unfortunately declining is the tree sparrow, but we have a few populations of them around Loch Leven. RSPB Loch Leven is definitely the easiest place to see them as there are nestboxes up specifically for them, although we have nestboxes up around Classlochie and Levenmouth that are also used by tree sparrows.

A tree sparrow, in case you were wondering, has a black rectangular mark on its cheek and a brown cap, unlike the house sparrow which has no black mark and a grey cap. The other species that some people get confused with is the dunnock as it is also called a hedge sparrow sometimes.

To finish off, I know I covered tawny owls in the first blog post but who could resist another pic of those fluffballs. This one was watching me whilst I carried out some Wetland Bird Surveys…

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As mentioned yesterday, we had the volunteers in yesterday, some of whom had been in on Sunday helping out with Discovery Day, here’s a pic to give you an idea of how much they enjoyed themselves….

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… a lot!

Yesterday we had several sub-groups all over the reserve. I was out with the brushcutter clearing the sides of the path; Alan, Mary and Francis were out with our big mower doing the same thing; Dave and Calum were round fixing some fencing at Classlochie; and Neil and Richard were making sure the pine that was burnt down at Burleigh Sands is safe and secure.

And a couple pics from last week in the sun…

In the afternoon we had a lovely trip out to Castle Island to see what the situation is with the Himalayan balsam. Fortunately the past 2 years of effort have paid off and there is very little left out there, which left us with a bit of time to wander about the island…

It was a perfect day for it, I can highly recommend! If you pop down to the pier in Kinross then find Historic Scotland you can buy tickets there and head out for a bit. it’s lovely out there.

One of the unexpected finds for me was an orchid that I’d never seen before: common twayblade. The name ‘twayblade’ comes from the fact the plant has two very obvious leaves (or blades). It’s sometimes called the Eggleaf Twayblade because its leaves are quite egg-shaped as well.

I feel that’s a good way to finish off today’s blog, keep an eye out for tomorrow’s blog!

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Springwatch 2017: Part 2

Loch Leven NNR: Another day, another episode of Springwatch. Once again we are going to delve into the wildlife around Loch Leven to help you find out what there is to see around the reserve and where to see it!

First, rain. Well, fortunately we wouldn’t know much about that because we’ve had such glorious weather! It’s been so dry that I was getting a bit worried for some of the animals around the reserve. As a great man once said, nothing works without rain, and this is true. The flowers, fish, birds, bugs, trees and many others will not do so well if there is such low rainfall, either because their homes dry up or because they find it difficult to find water to drink.

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Yesterday afternoon from the pier

One of the species I didn’t mention in yesterday’s blog that did sort of become one of the stars of the show was the jay. Hopefully that wee one that fell out of the nest will clamber back up a bit higher into the branches to join its recently fledged siblings.

The jay is a pretty difficult species to see really, but we do have a few pairs around Loch Leven. Again, I’m going to point you towards Levenmouth Woods as that’s where I hear them most often. There’s a pair around at Mary’s Knowe as well but I don’t hear them so often.

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My best pic of a jay, they’re very shy

The best way to locate a jay is to listen for them. They make quite a racket when people are nearby, with loud screechy calls from up in the canopy resonating through the woods when you stumble across them. If you’re lucky then you may catch a glimpse of one. They’re quite big, about magpie sized, and if you see them flying out in the open they look a bit like a huge butterfly.

One fact that always amazes me is that a blue tit chick needs to be fed about 100 caterpillars each day! To make that fact even more interesting, the slightly yellow tinge that young blue and great tits have is due to the shear number of caterpillars that they eat.

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Young great tits in a birch tree

In terms of caterpillars, I’ve seen a few about the reserve recently, if you keep an eye out on nettles in particular you are likely to find some butterfly caterpillars (small tortoiseshell and peacock probably). One species I was quite happy to find recently was a ruby tiger moth. I’ve seen lots of ruby tiger caterpillars but no adults, until recently.

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Ruby Tiger

I’m afraid I’ve just gotten back from balsam bashing and I need to pick my car up from its MOT so I’ll have to cut the blog here. However, I’ll bulletpoint a few species that you can see around Loch Leven that are somewhat similar to the Springwatch highlights from last night…

No Capercaillie unfortunately, not since the early 1900s. Red Grouse can be found up Benarty Hill though.

Red Grouse - Lagopus lagopus

Brown Hare, definitely plenty about the loch!

Brown Hare - Lepus europaeus

Newts: a few of those about the loch but no Great Crested Dragons!

Palmate Newt - Lissotrition helveticus

Really sorry for the rush but I’ll have time to do a really good post tomorrow, full of Springwatch and with a few extra bits and pieces from what I did today with the volunteers!

Sorry again!

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