My year’s highlights

What a year it’s been. I felt it’s probably a good time to recap what I’ve seen as the best bits from the past year. Although that only covers up to 18th July as that’s when I started at Loch Leven NNR, however there’s still plenty to look back on!

I wore shorts?! It’s hard to imagine shorts-worthy weather at the moment but yes, we were lucky with the weather this summer. I still have a tanline where my watch has kept the sunlight off my wrist!

One of the first things I did at Loch Leven was the moth trapping and I haven’t stopped since, having found a lovely Angle Shades on the doorstep just the other day.

We’ve had another successful year of events such as the Osprey watch, goose watch and fungi foray. It’s been great meeting people and being able to show off what makes our National Nature Reserve as brilliant as it is. It would have been nice if that osprey had caught that fish before people started to leave though…

St Serf’s Isle has been a place of interesting happenings this year, with the sheep being removed by boat being a pretty memorable experience. And how can we forget our moment in the spotlight as a rare, tiny crustacean was found to be living in our waters after 126 years of being forgotten about.

Moving on to our wonderful volunteers. We would not have achieved half of the things we did this year if we hadn’t had the helping hands of our volunteers. They’ve cleared paths, fixed hides, cut grass, raked grass, baled grass, moved bales, slashed Himalayan Balsam, helped with Grey Squirrel control, and whole manner of other things that I suspect I would have been doing myself if we didn’t have our volunteers.

Therefore, a huge THANK YOU to all our volunteers; regulars and the groups who have come and helped us for a day.

Loch Leven wouldn’t be Loch Leven without all the wildfowl that come with it. The ducks, geese, swans, waders, herons and rails have all been a delight to watch and learn about, my particular favourite being that close-up view of a Shoveler’s bill!

Having counted some of these birds every fortnight and seeing rafts of upwards of 500 birds has always been incredible and I can’t recommend enough that you come along this winter to experience it for yourself.

As I mentioned before, I’ve helped the insect surveyors and carried out moth trapping. Before coming to Loch Leven I had some vague ideas about what was what but now I’m  confident when it comes to damselflies, dragonflies, butterflies and bumblebees. Moths still need some work but they’re still stunning little beasts.

One creature that I’ve particularly enjoyed seeing on the reserve has been Red Squirrels! They’re doing really well now but still need help in taking back their previous territory so we will continue to carry out the Grey Squirrel control in the hope that one day the Red Squirrels won’t need any help.

Blogging and social media has been a highlight as well because I’ve really enjoyed sharing the wonder of our National Nature Reserve with you. The Autumnwatch series went well and although it became quite difficult to fill out a blog post for 4 days in a row, it was very rewarding (1, 2, 3, 4).

You can now follow Scottish Natural Heritage on Facebook (here and here), Twitter (here and here, and me here), and Instagram (here and @stevethecapercallie, and me @gushawk_). We are all keen to share the greatness of Scotland’s National Nature Reserves with you, and hope that you will come and pay us a visit!

That’s another highlight actually, the NNRs themselves…

So, another half year for me to look forwards to at Loch Leven NNR. I have a few trips planned (Creag Meagaidh, Corrie Fee, Isle of May, maybe even Noss NNR!) and have plenty to be getting on with around the reserve once I’m back after the New Year. Anyway, I’ll finish by saying Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from the team at Loch Leven NNR!

P.S. I attended a ringing session on the reserve on Sunday and feel I had to share some pictures of some of the birds we ringed… Ringing is carried out in order to assess the movement of birds and the survival rates, as migratory birds may be caught by other ringers elsewhere in the country even abroad and we may catch a bird we ringed 5 years ago and we’ll be able to see all the information we’ve known about it over those 5 years.

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Lesser Redpolls (‘Goldpoll’ on the right)

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The tail of a Treecreeper. These feathers are rigid as they help the bird to climb up the tree by acting as a support, so the Treecreeper effectively sits back on it’s tail whilst climbing.

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And the lovely face of the bird itself. Look at that beak and those claws!

Merry Christmas!

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