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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Gulls and Chronomidaes

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Welcome to another Loch Leven blog. It’s been a busy couple of weeks for our volunteers and staff,  and for the wildlife on the Loch.

Well done to everyone who did the Loch Leven Half marathon. It was a first for me. There were rather a lot of flies about on the day on various parts of the course.  These chironomids  (non-biting flies) have recently been hatching on the reserve in large numbers. These invertebrates which are so essential  for life on the reserve sustain the large amounts of birds, bats and fish which thrive in the reserve.

From a distance they may look like smoke rising from the surface of the Loch and move in massive synchronized swarms. Luckily they do no harm but it is worth wearing sunglasses to shield your eyes if your planning on cycling or running round the reserve. In Lake Victoria in Africa a similar phenomena happens.

Here is a short video and few photos of our Butterfly and Bee surveyors out last week….

 

 

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Our surveyors still managed to look cheery, and the sun was out

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The chironomidaes were everywhere!

This week we had a gull nest survey which was done in conjunction with the RSPB. This project is done every year to study long term tends in gull numbers and its relation to duck brood counts. It has been found in studies that there is more of a duck hatching success when ducks lay their eggs, which are usually well hidden, in the midst a gull colony.

 

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Our ‘landing craft’ ready for a combined operation with the RSPB

 

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Planned with military precision our team gets briefed

 

 

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Every area of the island is divided into separate squares to be surveyed

 

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When a gull nest is found it is marked and counted

 

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Beautiful

 

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Young gull chicks

 

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This wee chicks entry to the world

 

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The adult birds a mix of mainly lesser black-backed and herring gulls were not happy about our presence

 

 

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When surveying it is important to be able to hold a straight line…

 

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Time for lunch (thanks for the photo Dave)

 

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Job well done and smiles on the way back after a hard days graft (thanks to Dave for the photo)

 

A member of the public reported a young swan looking listless and ill, upon investigation it seemed to be fine, but many thanks for reporting this, as we depend on the public to be our extra ‘eyes and ears’ out the reserve.

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The young swan looking healthy

 

Well that’s all for this week , The next event coming up is ‘Wildflowers around Loch Leven’. This event is free of charge and is being run by Plantlife with local botanist Liz Lavery. Ring 01786478509 for details. Discovery Day on the 12th of June  will be held in Kinross by Loch Leven at Kirkgate Park Park.

Discovery Day is a special day aimed especially at families who wish explore the natural history of the Loch. There will be loads of interesting activities on the day, and some of our partnership organisations will be along, such as Plantlife, Fife and Kinross Bat Group, and the RSPB.

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Bat Walk

Its that time of year again where it is possible to see large flocks of  Sand Martins feasting on invertebrates over the Loch. This migrant  birds arrive as early as March and leave again for warmer climes in the autumn. Its been a windy day  when I took the picture, as you can see in the photo large amounts of top soil was  blowing off local farmers fields.

Its not just Martins that like to feast on invertebrates at Burleigh sands however…

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Sand Martins at Burleigh Sands

As mentioned on the previous post we have an upcoming bat walk on Friday 6th May 2016 at Loch Leven. This will be run in conjunction with the Bat Conservation Trust who have been very kind to lend us two volunteers and some bat detectors. Booking is essential please ring the office to book and for more information on  01577864439.

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Hopefully you can join us on the 6th of May, when we delve into the world of bats.They are the most prolific group of mammal species in the UK. 16 species have been recorded, this figure includes breeding and vagrant visitors.

Bats are often described as an indicator species, that is they show the health of the surrounding habitat that they are part of. Bats roost in dead wood and eat invertebrates so when there is a large amount of these bats will tend to do well.

Conversely when there is a lack of food for bats and a lack of suitable roosting sites bat numbers will go into decline, as they have been doing for the last few years. This has been blamed on changes in agricultural practices, with the removal of hedgerows and ponds etc.

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Bats are a protected species and it is an offense to intentionally to kill bats, to disturb them, or to damage their roost sites, including sites on houses.

Please phone the office for more details or for booking on 01577864439. Dress appropriately for the weather,  such as a waterproof jacket and boots or wellies. A torch would be useful too.

Big thank you for the photos from the  Fife and Kinross Bat Group a partner of BCT.

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Spring

Well Spring is finally here despite a damp week we have been seeing lots of summer migrants arriving at the reserve again. These have included house martins, the first swallows, chiff-chaffs, and the lovely song of willow warbler. No sign of ospreys yet at Loch Leven, but keep your eyes open as they have been spotted elsewhere in Scotland already.

I saw something rather odd on the reserve the other day it was a lamprey. Lampreys although harmless to us are rather unusual  as they have a circular mouth with rasp like teeth that acts as a suction cup.  The lampray which is a primitive parasitic fish attaches its self to another unfortunate fish and feeds directly on it. Lampreys which were once quite rare UK are a good indictor of good water quality and their numbers are increasing again.

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Lamprey

There has been a bit more color creeping back into the reserve after the monochrome winter months thankfully.

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Marsh Margold

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Great Crested Grebe

Great Crested grebes can be seen displaying right now, there courtship display is rather elaborate. The birds rise out of the water and shake their heads from side to side.

Staff and volunteers have been busy on the reserve recently. We have been doing some habitat creation, clearing willow and other growth for a an area of wet meadow.

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Alan on the mower

 

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The bailing machine

 

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Stuck in the mud!

 

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It was a three man job to pull the bailer out the mud

 

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Jeremy posing on the quad

 

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Big thank you for the hard working volunteers!

That’s all for this week, hope you can find the time to visit the reserve. Keep an eye out for events  happening around Loch Leven. The next event happening run by SNH is our Bat Walk on May 6th of May at 8pm. This will be run in conjunction with the Bat Conservation Trust who have been very kind to lend us two volunteers and some bat detectors. Booking is essential please ring the office on  01577864439.

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Wildlife Cameras

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Hare pops into view

We use wildlife cameras a lot for seeing what goes on around the reserve. It’s amazing what appears, particularly mammals when we are not looking.

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This Grey Squirrel quickly sat on watch protecting his good food supply of peanuts

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Any vantage point would do.

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This pair of Jays also have a taste for peanuts.

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The Grey Squirrel was keen to see them off.

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A Red Squirrel also was coming into feed.

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The Squirrels couldn’t stop all animals with a taste for peanuts!

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The camera was moved to the shoreline. The badgers are showing interest in otter spraints near the shore

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So to are the Otter mum and her cub. These cameras are giving us a good idea of where the otter territories are. This is one of two families along the east shore of Loch Leven.

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On my way back from setting up the cameras I spotted an out-of-place brown blob in the field.

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On closer inspection, I was not surprised it was a Hare.

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I spent a while trying to get a decent shot of the Hare in the field only to find another one closer to the road. This one sat looking at me for a while but……

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…eventually got bored and ran off showing off its lovely black centre to its tail.

 

 

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