This week we’ve seen quite incredible numbers of wildfowl at Loch Leven NNR. The first Icelandic-breeding Goose Census of the season, co-ordinated by Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, took place here on Monday morning, and we’re pleased to report 23270 Pink-footed Geese were roosting here. Whilst not quite topping our record of 28000, and still not close to the astonishingly high counts from Loch of Strathbeg, Montrose Basin or further south in Norfolk; for a local count at Loch Leven these are good times indeed for pinkies!
But geese aren’t the only ones that have got us squinting through our telescopes in disbelief this week. During our fortnightly wetland bird survey, as co-ordinated by British Trust for Ornithology, we maintain regular counts of all wetland birds, both for our own records, and in order to contribute to national monitoring efforts. We always expect the highest counts to occur in the autumn, when many species of migratory wildfowl return to the UK to winter here. An influx of ducks, geese and swans is normal, but this year even we’ve been amazed at the sheer number of birds on the loch.
Wigeon, Pintail, Tufted Duck, Pochard, Shoveler, Gadwall, Coot and Teal are all up dramatically from last year’s count, with some increasing almost ten times!
It’s hard to say exactly why numbers are so high, but it is likely to be as a result of a combination of factors, including dramatically improved water quality over recent years, unusually low water levels for the time of year, and the fact that many other water bodies are currently too dry to accommodate their regular wildfowl assemblages. It all makes for rather spectacular views over the loch at present, but don’t hang about because the high numbers won’t be around for long!
One species that is yet to reach the same dizzying heights is the Whooper Swan.
In recent years Loch Leven has emerged as one of the top wintering sites in the UK for these magnificent ‘singing’ swans. Last year we counted more than 750 individuals on the reserve. The latest count recorded a slightly more modest count of 432 Whoopers.
Whatever number there are on the loch, it’s hard not to know they’re there from their incessant whooping and hollering at one another! It’s thought that they call like this both to establish stronger family relations, and to warn off non-family members, and they can often be most vocal upon returning to the loch.