Loch Leven: Today’s blog post may be a little shorter as I haven’t been able to get out on the reserve much due to the weather and other commitments. Nevertheless, I’ve managed to find some Autumnwatch-relevant stuff from around the reserve. Hopefully this will inspire you to get out there and experience autumn for yourself as it is quite a spectacular season.
Last night’s show started with some spectacular footage of a Peregrine hunting Dunlin over the water. Here at Loch Leven I’ve been lucky enough to watch a female Peregrine chasing and succeeding in catching a Lapwing over Gairneybank!
Peregrines nest near the loch and do well due to the plentiful food supply. This year I also saw the juveniles flying about over the fields at the RSPB part of the reserve, chasing crows about for fun. Those juveniles have probably now dispersed from the area and can wander incredible distances in all different directions.
Spiders aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but Autumnwatch probably did the best they could at making spiders look as good as they get in the UK. What a stunning species that Ladybird Spider is. At Loch Leven we also have a spotty spider species: The Four-spot Orb-weaver. As well as being spotty and having nice, colourful markings, this is also our heaviest spider species and can also change it’s colour to match it’s environment like a chameleon!
Keep an eye out for this species in the woods around Levenmouth as that’s where I’ve seen them. I didn’t find any today but I did find some other spiders…
No matter how much you like them, spiders form a very important part of the ecosystem by controlling populations of flies and other invertebrates that would take over the world if spiders were not there to regulate them. In fact, spiders self regulate their own populations in the same way they manage populations of other flies!
Another thing you can do if you’re not ready to appreciate spiders is to appreciate their webs. Different species of spider make different types of webs. The Black Lace-weaver pictured above had a very messy web but it formed a sort of sheet that led to a tunnel that the spider was hiding in. Orb-weavers create the “classic” spider web that we all think of when spider’s webs are mentioned.
And Money Spiders make those webs that Chris and Michaela were looking at in the gorse, although it will have been a certain species of Money Spider that made those webs, as 45% of all UK spider species are in the money spider family!
There was a quick clip of a Tawny Owl shown last night, and that reminded me to be on the look-out for our first Short-eared Owl of the season here at Loch Leven. They are typically seen hunting in grassland where they will search for voles, such as the grassland on St Serf’s Island. Fortunately they also hunt at Kirkgate Point and are much easier to see there, as can be seen in this previous blog post!
The last section of the show followed David Lindo, the Urban Birder, as he explored the regeneration of wildlife in what was once a very industrial Sheffield. That story isn’t too far off what it was like in Kinross!
Kinross had lots of mills and factories that used to pollute the waterways and therefore decrease the biodiversity of the area. Chemicals from agricultural practice also had a part to play as they leached into the water of the loch and rivers feeding into the loch, such as the South Queich, which would make them very nutrient-rich, encourage the growth of algae which would then block out the light and also take oxygen out of the water when it died off.
Fortunately, due to a big partnership between land managers, companies and organisations, this is no longer the case. The water in Loch Leven is of a high quality, high enough to support the highest density of breeding wildfowl for any site in Europe! The river water is now to a high enough standard for Otters, Kingfishers, Dippers and even Lamprey to be living in!
It’s great to see that wildlife is living alongside us in towns and cities so do keep an eye out when shopping or doing whatever it is you do in a town/city (I wouldn’t know as I rarely leave the comfort of the countryside).
Going back to my post from the other day, I managed to get a picture of a lovely doe Roe Deer that was feeding just to the right hand side of the Levenmouth Hide. She’s often there, and I’d actually say that’s one of the most reliable spots I’ve seen Roe Deer from. She was also probably not use to having plenty of open ground where she could get to the juicier short grass that has been covered by all the reeds that we mowed down yesterday.
Another mammal that’s been featured on Autumnwatch that I haven’t actually mentioned yet is the Badger. The badgers around the Levenmouth area have been busy snuffling away at the sides of the path, making it look a little like a tractor has driven down the path, leaving soil exposed at the sides of the path.
When I say ‘snuffle’ I meant the badgers have been digging about in the soil with their noses, probably using their long claws to dig out worms from the softer soil by the path. I also suspect they may be after moles as well because I’ve seen a few mole hills that have clearly been dug at by something with pretty long claws. Plus, Badgers are very much omnivores and will eat anything they can get their paws on: berries, worms, small mammals, some vegetation…
Anyway, I’ll leave you with a few picture of the birds that are hanging about in front of the Factory hide, a short walk from the car park!