Fruitful Fungi Foray

Over the weekend we had our fungi foray event, with Richard Smith leading a group of 18 into the slightly damp (would’ve been better if it had been damper!) Levenmouth Woods looking for any mushrooms, bracket fungus or slime moulds we could see.

The hunt started off well as Richard pointed out some fungi in the car park at Findatie, demonstrating a Fairy Ring of Brown Rollrims.

He also explained that certain fungi will be found in certain habitats, so it can be useful to look at the surrounding vegetation in order to identify a mushroom.

Once we were into the woods it didn’t take long before we’d found some typical species. And what could be more typical in a Silver Birch forest that Birch Polypore? If you look closely you can see all the pores that the spores come from. In other species, they have the typical gills that the spores fall from.

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Birch Polypore – Piptoporus betulinus

The next species was a slightly more typical mushroom shape: Stinkhorn, and boy does it stink! There were plenty flies attracted to this one.

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Stinkhorn – Phallus impudicus

We found many more species (I’ll post a full list at the end) but I’ll just highlight a few here with pics.

In total we had 36 species which is a very good number considering how dry it’s been recently. I suppose it helped that we had a good turn out so thanks to all that attended!

So as you’re walking about the reserve (or anywhere else) keep an eye out for the wee fungi that help to decompose everything; a key stage in the food chain. Without fungi it would take a very long time for things such as fallen trees to rot down into the soil.

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And to finish, here’s the list:

Artist’s Fungus
Brown Birch Bolete
Field Mushroom
Tawny Grisette
Honey Fungus
Common Inkcap
Hoof Fungus
Parrot Waxcap
Sulphur Tuft
Torn Fibrecap
Alder Bracket
Deceiver
Amethyst Deceiver
Rufous Milkcap
Birch Milkcap
Giant Funnel
Puffball sp.
Mycena sp.
Brown Rollrim
Stinkhorn
Birch Polypore
Velvet Shield
Butter Cap
Sickener
Ochre Brittlegill
Crab Brittlegill
Common Earthball
Turkeytail
Hairy Bracket
Grey Knight
Clustered Toughshank
Magic Mushroom
Herald of Winter
White Fibrecap
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Whoop whoop!

 

It’s been a very busy week! But the past two days probably make up for the majority of the busy-ness, as we’ve had two groups of S1s from Kinross High School in learning about biodiversity, taxonomy and wildlife recording!

Both days consisted of an introduction to the reserve, what NNRs are all about, what is biodiversity and why we need to protect it, a little starter lesson in taxonomy, and then we went on to the wildlife recording activities.

These included a good ol’ bug hunt, some sweep netting, and (most popular) pond dipping!

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Bug hunting at RSPB Loch Leven

The best catch of both days were Great Diving Beetles, caught on both days! It was particularly good to see this in the pond as it showed that the pond had a healthy enough ecosystem that it could support predators such as this one.

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Great Diving Beetle – Dytiscus marginalis

We also managed to find frogs, loads and loads of Sticklebacks, Damselfly larva, an Alderfly larvae, Whirligig Beetles, other diving beetles, Black Darter, Orb-weaver Spiders, some moths, and the list goes on!

Whilst helping with the excitement of discovering invertebrates, I did manage to keep an eye out for new arrivals on the loch. The most exciting of these were 8 Whooper Swans flying over the floods at the RSPB section of the reserve, these being the first of the season! I managed to spot 3 yesterday but didn’t have much time to give it a good look. Ospreys are still lingering, they tend to be on fence posts at the RSPB reserve.

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Whooper Swans taken through one of the scopes at Vane Farm

There’s been some Pink-footed Geese about, but I haven’t had much time to check their usual haunts so only counted 83 on Tuesday afternoon. We’re putting together plans for a Dawn Goose Watch so keep an eye on the blog and the Scotland’s National Nature Reserves Facebook page where we’ll post details of the event once it’s finalized.

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Pinkfeet flighting in to Loch Leven

I’ll finish off with a wee compilation of photos from the reserve from the past few days before I head out and find some wildfowl!

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Signs of Autumn…

Sorry again for the lack of posts over the past couple weeks, I’ve been on the Isle of May helping with various tasks that you can read about on the Isle of May blog. So, back to Loch Leven and what’s happening?

To start off with, there’s a Fungi Foray taking place on this coming Sunday (25th Sept) from 2-4pm! We’ll be meeting in the Findatie car park and then heading into the birch forest around Levenmouth to search for as many species of fungi as possible! There will be an expert mycologist attending so no need to worry if you aren’t a fungus fanatic, the event is for everyone!

As per usual it’s a free event, but please call the office on 01577 864439 to book a place.

I went out on to the reserve on Saturday just to see what was going on and managed to find these. I haven’t got round to trying to identify them yet but maybe we’ll find them again on Sunday!

If a fungi foray isn’t a sign of the changing season then surely the Silver Birch leaves changing colour is? I’m looking forwards to the beautiful view of the canopy once it’s turned that lovely golden colour, especially on cold mornings like the one we’ve had today!

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If the breakdown of chlorophyll in the leaves of birch trees hasn’t got you excited for autumn (and I’d find that hard to believe) then surely the arrival of the first Pink-footed Geese of the season will have you anticipating the colder weather!

There were at least 18 of them on the loch when I looked on Saturday, with more migrating over. I even had some fly over me on the Isle of May!

These geese will be very grateful for the food and rest that they can get at Loch Leven after flying from as far away as Eastern Greenland! As many of you will know, the numbers of geese at the loch will far exceed 18, with over 18,000 (10% of the world’s Pink-footed Goose population) using the loch and surrounding fields as their wintering grounds.

However, it’s not just the Pinkfeet using Loch Leven at this time of year. Thousands of other wildfowl and waders use the site to moult their feathers as they can’t fly when this is taking place. On Saturday I was treated to some nice views through the scope of Teal, Shoveler, Pintail, Mallard, Tufted Duck, Pochard, Goldeneye and Gadwall, and that’s just the ducks!

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The calm before the storm

We’re at the time in the year when everything is coming to the end of the breeding season and the majority of the wintering wildfowl are yet to move in from further north.

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Just a few duck and grebe broods about the loch now.

Despite this, it’s never really calm around Loch Leven, there’s always something happening! Some wildfowl are already moving in for the winter, including at least 200 Pintail and as many Tufted Ducks as you could need. This will be the first time I’ve ever been at the reserve during winter so I’m looking forward to seeing these numbers increase!

As well as ducks, keep an eye out for waders guddling about at the muddy edges of the loch and on the islands. If you go to Burleigh Hide you might be lucky enough to see a Greenshank close up, or spot a Ruff out on the island, running amongst the legs of the geese and the cormorants.

If birds aren’t your thing then there’s always something else to see. Some plants are still in flower, with Brooklime and Water-cress in the drainage ditches…

It’s also getting towards fungi season! Keep an eye out on the ground for all the mushrooms that are popping up. We’re holding a fungi foray event on the 25th of September, so whether you’re an accomplished spore seeker, or whether you’ve never taken an interest in toadstools, come along and see what you can find! Meeting at Findatie car park at 2pm, we’ll search until 4pm. Call the office on 01577 864439 for more information and to book on to the event. As per usual, it’s free!

Speaking of events, Therese and I have just finished constructing some of the display for the Dundee Food & Flower Festival. We better start tidying up now, but I’ll share pictures of the display once the event is finished (see here for more details)!

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Still some summerness

As mentioned in the previous post, Himalayan Balsam takes priority at this time of year as it is important we get rid of as much as possible whilst it’s yet to develop seed heads. This means it’s been another week of balsam bashing for rangers and volunteers alike.

However, I won’t bore you with more before and after pictures. Instead, I’ll let you know how well the Osprey walk at Burleigh Sands went yesterday (Thursday 18th August).

It started off well, with Ospreys being seen flying over (albeit distantly) but the excitement happened in the last 10 minutes of the event! An Osprey that had been drifting about in front of us (and had already failed a catch) successfully caught a fish not far from the viewers that had decided to stick it out to the end.

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One less trout in Loch Leven

Earlier in the week we had a trip out to St Serf’s Isle with Scott, the farmer, his 2 sheepdogs, and Dave, a micropalaeontologist.

Obviously, Scott was there to deal with the sheep. This time we were out in order to check the feet of the sheep for rot. Some had signs of foot rot but we put them through a wee foot bath and let them get back to doing what sheep do best; keeping down the vegetation on St Serf’s.

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Scottish Blackface sheep

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Ri, one of Scott’s dogs

 

Dave, the micropalaeontologist, had come all the way from Queen Mary University of London in order to find out whether one species of ostracod crustacean was present in the loch. Ostracods are tiny bivalve crustaceans (sort of like clams) that can be found in the sediment at the bottom of some lochs and other water bodies.

The species Dave was looking for is called Cytherissa lacustris. He took samples back with him so he could figure out whether he’d found what he was looking for, and will let us know in time whether we have Cytherissa lacustris living at the bottom of the loch!

The wildlife on the reserve has been enjoying the recent sunny weather, with Black Darter dragonflies being seen darting about, Red Admirals on the wing, Barnacle Geese in the fields around RSPB Loch Leven, and plenty of lovely flowers out soaking up the rays.

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My first few weeks

Apologies for the gap in posts, I’ve been getting settled into working at Loch Leven over the past 4 weeks. It’s great, and I’m looking forwards to my year working on the reserve and sharing the news of what’s going on around the loch throughout my time here!

To start off, there’s an Osprey Walk next Thursday (18th) from 6pm until 8pm. We’ll be starting the walk from Burleigh Sands by the car park. If you walk down the path towards Burleigh Sands we’ll be there, but don’t forget to book by calling the office on 01577864439 (it’s free to attend)!

There have been plenty of Osprey sightings from around the loch but Burleigh Sands is the most reliable place to see them from, with up to be four being seen at a time.

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Osprey over Loch Leven

Many other birds are being seen around the loch, with the first returning wildfowl gathering to moult their feathers in the safety of the open water. Greylag Geese can often be found in the fields feeding on grass shoots, and if you’re lucky you might spot a couple of unusual visitors to the reserve: Bar-headed Geese. These geese are usually found central Asia so where these two have come from is a mystery!

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Greylag Geese with 1 Bar-headed Goose amongst them

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Tufted Ducks have arrived in force

 

Volunteers and reserve managers alike have been making a difference around the loch whilst I’ve been here. The hide at Burleigh that was vandalized in my first week has now been repaired, loads of Himalayan Balsam has been pulled and slashed, and most recently, the path by the bridge over the North Queich at Burleigh has been cleared of encroaching vegetation.

Also, I suspect some of you will be happy to know that the car park at Burleigh has been smoothed out so cars are unlikely to get stuck!

One thing I’ve been involved in just about every morning has been the moth trapping. The most exciting of the moths has been a particularly bland looking moth. The Butterbur. This moth feeds on (you guessed it) Butterbur when it is a caterpillar and they rarely stray far from their larval foodplant. The closest Butterbur Jeremy and myself could find was 1.2km away so who knows what this one was doing!

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Butterbur

So, I hope to keep you more up-to-date than I have over the past month. For now, I’ll leave you with this picture of a Toadlet. Watch out for these and Froglets along some of the paths around the reserve.

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Last Week at Loch Leven

After a year at Loch Leven, its time for me to leave and hand over to Gus the new student placement with SNH. I will leave with many memories and photos and hope to visit before too long!  Thanks for all the staff and volunteers at Loch Leven who have made me feel so welcome.  I am going on to Aberdeen SRUC to continue my studies.

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Its been a busy few last days with SNH, I’ve been up at St Cyrus helping out with some nursery school age groups and teenage groups. At Loch Leven there has been repairs to be done at one of the hides due to vandalism.

This week gave me and a new volunteer the opportunity to visit Castle Island to hunt for an invasive species Himalayan Balsam, but not much was found!

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We have had the moth trap out a bit these last couple of weeks, and caught quite a few interesting specimens.

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Gus and I have also been busy helping out our regular invertebrate surveyors, looking for  bees, dragonflies and damselflies. Gus spotted our first Emerald Damselfly of the year!

We had another guided cycle around the Loch last week, despite the changeable weather we had some keen cyclists turn up on the day. There will be several more this year every Friday including the 5th and 12th of August. Also happening is an osprey walk at Burleigh Sands on the 18th of August. Booking essential, phone the SNH Loch Leven office on 01577 864439.

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Pond dipping was one of the many fun activities we did on the way round.

Here’s a few more pictures from my last couple of weeks at Loch Leven.

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Well that’s all for now, thanks for reading my blog posts, I’ve enjoyed doing them hope you have enjoyed to reading them too. Time to hand over to Gus now. I hope everyone will help Gus feel  welcome at Loch Leven NNR and help make his year here an interesting and productive time.

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New Trail Opening for Loch Leven NNR

This weekend the new trail linking  Loch Leven at the RSPB visitor center  and Lochore Meadows officially opens. There will be lots of events on at the RSPB vistor centre, click the link or  contact RSPB visitor centre on 01577 862 355 or email loch.leven@rspb.org.uk.

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The new hill trail as seen from Benarty Hill

We have had lots happening at Loch Leven. One of which was an amazing opportunity to meet bushcraft expert Willow Lohr. People who braved the heavy rain were rewarded with fascinating show and tells and were shown some useful crafting techniques, like making cordage from nettles and handcrafting sit mats.

We have also had the first of our guided cycles around the Loch and everyone thoroughly enjoyed themselves. More to come every Friday on July the 22nd, 29th July, 5th of August and 12th of August. Book now for a guided cycle in the company of SNH staff.

This Saturday on the 23rd of July at Kirkgate park we have a special event. We have young musicians from feis rois  playing at the grassy  amphitheatre. No booking required, come down and listen to some beautifully crafted songs  at 2pm and look out at the splendor of Loch Leven National Nature Reserve.  Phone the SNH office on  01577 864439 for more information on this or any other event

The weather has been mixed here at Loch Leven but there is always something interesting to see around the Loch…

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Self heal-as the name implies was often used to treat wounds

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Woundwort-as the name suggests this was used to treat wounds and apparently lessens bleeding

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Monkey flower, a non-native but pretty none the less

 

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Forget me knots

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St Serfs Island

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Reed bunting

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Peregrine falcon

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This ‘monster’ is a great diving beetles larva, it is a fierce carnivore

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Tiger moth

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Lastly I would like to welcome Gus to the team at Loch Leven. He is taking  a year out from his Countryside Management degree with the SRUC. Stop by and say hello if you see him working on the reserve.

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Gus hard at work already!

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Upcoming and past events at Loch Leven

Welcome back to the blog. Sorry for the delay since the last post but I have been up in the Outer Hebrides camping and enjoying the wildlife up there. I can definitely recommend a visit, but make sure your tent is relatively  sturdy as the wind rarely stops!

Well its a driech summer here at Loch Leven after a promising start. Our Discovery day has seen better visitor numbers  in the past probably due to the bad weather. Those that did brave the weather had a fun time by the looks of it, with plenty of activities happening on the day. These included fly-casting, bird ringing, face painting, willow weaving, story telling were among the events.

 

Thank you to everyone involved for their hard work on the days leading up to the event and on the day in rather damp conditions!

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Discovery Day

 

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Origami with the Woodland Trust-Discovery Day

 

Our volunteers have been hard at work as usual the last few weeks, but took the time to build a bug ‘hotel’ out of scrap wood lying around.

Bug ‘hotels’ are relatively easy to make and are a good way of recycling old materials. They are a good way of increasing invertebrate biodiversity in your garden and can provide a home for beneficial invertebrates which provide free services such pollination or pest control.

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Job well done!

 

Now that the school holidays have arrived many of you will be thinking of ways to keep your little ones occupied! Well we may have at least part of the answer.

This Friday the 8th of July we have the first of several ‘Really Wild Cycles’ around the heritage trail at Loch Leven.  This  family event runs from 10am until around 4pm. Along the way we  will take plenty of breaks to see the stunning scenery and wildlife around Loch Leven. We will play games along the way and stop for food, so bring a packed lunch and plenty of water. The route is 12.5 miles long so a reasonable level of fitness is required, but the pace will be slow and the gradient is generally quite flat.

The other event we have this coming weekend is on Sunday the 10th of July. It is a bush-craft event with  ‘Willow’. Willow has been practicing and teaching bushcraft for many years and  is an expert in her field. We are delighted that she can come along to Loch Leven for the day. This event like all other SHN events is totally free! The bushcraft day can be booked for a day or just half a day and will involve crafting with natural materials such as cordage and weaving. We may also get the chance to do some shelter building and even foraging, but a packed lunch is always a good idea…

One of my colleagues at SNH, Craig Nisbet and a regular former contributor to this blog has produced and published a superb little children’s book. This book which is illustrated with fabulous pictures by Amanda Bataller, is called ‘Tufty’. The book tells story of a little tufted duck at Loch Leven and the perils of long distance migration in a way that children will understand. If you are lucky to live at near Loch Leven, you could make a visit to the nature reserve. But wherever you live, some of the idea that come out in Tuftys story are just as relevant to the wildlife in your gardens they are tom the wildlife at Loch Leven.

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An illustration from ‘Tufty’

 

The book which will soon be delivered to local schools can be downloaded using the link or on http://www.nnr-scotland.org.uk/loch-leven/publications/

For more details on events at Loch Leven or the Tufty book or anything else reserve related please give the Loch Leven office a ring on 01577 864439.

 

 

 

 

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Discovery Day at Loch Leven

Discover Loch Leven with a family-fun day

One of Scotland’s most popular nature reserves, Loch Leven, is staging its fun-filled, family-friendly Discovery Day for the eleventh year.

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Hawkweed

This year, Discovery Day takes place on Sunday, 12 June, and will offer plenty of free activities, including kids’ and craft activities such as face-painting. There will also be willow-weaving for all ages, story-telling, and lots of wildlife and nature displays. As well, visitors can learn more about what Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) does to manage Loch Leven, and the work of many other organisations attending, such as the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology and the RSPB, which help make the loch a great place for people and for wildlife.

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Small Tortoiseshell

We at the SNH team at Loch Leven are delighted to be staging Discovery Day at Loch Leven for the eleventh time. We’ll have loads of activities and interesting things to see on the day, such as willow weaving, fly-casting, bird ringing demonstrations, and a treasure hunt. We hope you’ll come along, make a day of it and find out all that Loch Leven has to offer.

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Water Avens

Loch Leven is Scotland’s largest lowland loch and one of the most important sites for waterfowl in Britain. Its unique environment attracts not only the largest concentration of breeding ducks anywhere in the UK, but also many thousands of migratory ducks, geese and swans every autumn and winter, as well as boasting an interesting variety of wildlife, plants and trees.

Summer has well and truly arrived at Loch Leven and there is lots going on! On this weeks  blog there are a few pictures that I took today around the reserve. Its well worth taking a slow walk along the heritage trail to see what you can spot. If you find anything interesting or a good photo please pop into the office and show us.

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Two Azure damsel flies

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Castle Island

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Common Carder Bumblebee

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Birds Foot Trefoil

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Red Campion

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Small Copper

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Germander Speedwell

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Cow Parsely

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Blue Tailed Damselfly

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Common Carder Bumblebee

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Russian Comfrey

 

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Orange Tipped Butterfly

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Grasshopper on Bush Vetch

 

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Honey Bee

Hope to see you down at Discovery Day, its sure to be an interesting fun day. Next SNH event  at Loch Leven after Discovery Day is ‘Burleigh Botany’. Please phone the office on 01577864439 for more information and booking.

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