Loch Leven was not blessed by my presence last week as I was on Barra in the Outer Hebrides looking at eagles and migrant birds. Although to be honest, I could see the same at Loch Leven!
Eagles are perhaps a little less likely, but we do tend to have White-tailed Eagles (aka Sea Eagles) drop in over winter. They come to the loch to feed on the many thousands of geese (more on them in a bit) that are, as we all know, currently using the loch as their wintering grounds.
These eagles are huge, with a wingspan of up to 2.45m. A Buzzard only has a wingspan of up to 1.4m, so if you’re looking at a bird of prey and you are unsure whether it’s an eagle, it probably isn’t. My first White-tailed Eagle took me by surprise due to the size of it; they are sometimes referred to as “flying barn doors” and they really are that big!
A brief bit of goose news, we had our first Icelandic Breeding Goose Census count over the weekend. These are counts of all the geese that have flown from Iceland to winter here on the reserve. The total number of Pink-footed Geese counted were around 6,700 but it is suspected that there are around 9000 because the conditions weren’t ideal for counting.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve got my TV plan sorted for the week, Autumnwatch every night! If you watched last night’s show then you will have seen Red Squirrels with leprosy being examined. Fortunately none of our Red Squirrels at Loch Leven appear to have leprosy, but they might be being affected by Squirrel Pox. This is a disease that is carried by the non-native Grey Squirrels who aren’t affected by it.
In order to help our beautiful Red Squirrels, it is necessary to control the Greys. If you have any sightings of Greys around the loch that you’d like to report to us then feel free to call the reserve on 01557 864439. We’re aware of at least 2 in the oak trees by the bridge over the River Leven.
Another segment of Autumnwatch last night was looking at the Sika Deer rutting. We don’t have any Sika Deer around the reserve fortunately, as this is a non-native species that can interbreed with our native Red Deer creating hybrids. We don’t actually have Red Deer either, but we do have Roe Deer!
In my cycle around the loch today I saw 4 Roe Deer right by the path. At this time of year the Roe bucks won’t be strutting their stuff as they rut in July, but this doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy them! The typical view of a Roe Deer is of it’s white rear end disappearing off in to the bushes or of a distant figure standing in a field but if you’re quiet enough then you can get quite close before they bolt off into cover.
In other non-Autumnwatch related news, I was cycling along the river at Levenmouth and decided to work something out that had been on my mind for a wee while. If you’ve walked along the stretch of the path that’s tarmacked by the river, then you’ve probably noticed the Grey Herons that are often present.
There’s one particular heron that I always see right in at the bank and I’ve always wondered what it was doing in there. Today, all was revealed as I witnessed this heron pluck a Brown Rat off the bank and then proceed to swallow it! Amazing stuff and I’d certainly say Autumnwatch-worthy as well!
Fungi are still going strong with loads out in the woods around Grahamstone. I managed to find another species of slime mould too, although this one isn’t so spectacularly coloured. I’ve not managed to identify any of the mushrooms or other fungi yet but they look so nice that I just have to post them…
And lastly, I’d like to share with you what I called a “second sunrise”. This morning, the sun rose as per usual, but then it disappeared behind some pretty thick, low fog that had formed around Loch Leven today, in fact Kinnesswood was completely covered for the majority of the day!
But the sun then peaked over the top of the fog, giving me some brilliant photo opportunities as the sun turned the water orange for the second time in the morning. The mist whisping off the surface of the water was an added bonus.
Well, I’ll be trying to keep up with Autumnwatch throughout the week and suggesting ways you can experience the things you see on the TV at Loch Leven National Nature Reserve!