After 6 months up north in Shetland, on the truly awesome Isle of Noss, I’m now back in the fold at Loch Leven, re-acquainting myself with the locals, and welcoming some fellow migrants back to the reserve on their respective southerly movements. Pink-footed Geese are back in good numbers- an estimated 6000-8000 may be present, with large skeins passing through on their way southwards.
Many of them may end up as far south as Norfolk, but we usually expect numbers locally to reach 20000 by late October. The first of two Iceland-breeding Goose Counts (IGCs) is scheduled for next weekend, so we’ll have a more accurate figure to share with you at our fourth-coming Dawn Goose Walk, taking place on Sunday 18th October, 6.45-8.30am meeting at the watchtower in Kirkgate Park, Kinross. It’s a free event, but booking is essential, so give the office a call on 01577 864439 to book your place.
Other migrants that are now back on the loch include Whooper Swans, and their incessant ‘whooping’ to one another is a quintessential sound of winter around here. Listen out for them, particularly when venturing out around the Heritage Trail on the east side of the loch. Numbers are likely to build to as many as 800 individuals as more birds return, so their presence is unlikely to be missed!
A flock of 23 Canada Geese were spotted last week from the Burleigh Hide, with an unusual individual in their ranks- a hybrid Canada x White-fronted Goose. Hybrids occur frequently in wildfowl populations, particularly in captive collections, and often lead to identification difficulties. There’s been several hybrid Greylags in amongst the flock over the years, so scan the flock to see if you can pick them out.
Ducks are very well represented at present with thousands of Teal, Wigeon and Tufted Duck being joined by smaller numbers Shoveler, Gadwall and Pintail. Waders are well represented too, with large flocks of Lapwing interspersed with smaller numbers of Golden Plover. Occasionally individual Redshank, Ruff and Black-tailed Godwit may also be picked out among the masses, all of which will be on passage and were present yesterday.
Around the loch shore there’s also a lot to see, especially having come from an island where a Chaffinch would have been a real rarity! I’ve been surrounded by seabirds all summer, with migrant passerines passing through, most notably a Paddyfield Warbler, a Nightingale and this fantastic Bluethroat.
For a look at more pictures and news from my season on Noss, check out the Birds of Noss Facebook page!
But coming back to Loch Leven, I always find the first sight of a Blue Tit really exciting! Truly stunning birds they are, and irregular on the northern isles.
This Grey Wagtail made my day on Wednesday, sitting up very nicely in front of Burleigh Hide. There was also a flock of Goldfinch with at least a couple of Redpoll mixed in with them, and a smaller flock of Long-tailed Tits were also a welcome sight.
As much as I love the island life, the seabirds and the peace, it is a great time to get back to Loch Leven, and with the bird life truly swinging into action, it’s shaping up to be a good Autumn.