Winterwatch: day 1

As I did for Autumnwatch, this week I’ll be doing some themed blog posts that relate to Winterwatch from the night before. So let’s get right to it…

One of the first segments of the show couldn’t have been better timed. Martin was out lamping for Woodcock, a seldom seen bird that has traded the usual wader lifestyle of life by the water for life in the woodlands. Being so camouflage and secretive, you’re lucky if you come across one.

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Despite this, I came across three yesterday whilst checking part of the reserve that not many people visit. They particularly like the wetter areas of the reserve, where the soil under the trees becomes a little bit waterlogged, as they can poke their long beaks in to find food.

Unfortunately, as you will have seen on Winterwatch, they are very, very flightly and only take off once you get close enough meaning there’s little opportunity for photography! Fortunately the surrounding scenes were quite photogenic.

From woodland waders to ‘normal’ waders that stick about at the edge of the wader. Avocets are a huge conservation success story, as they became extinct in the UK but seeing the numbers in Poole Harbour showed that they’ve done very well to return, all down to the hard work of various people and organisations.

Loch Leven, being as far north as we are, don’t really get Avocet visiting. However, on occasion birds do wander beyond their usual range and that did happen! Jeremy managed to see one that (he says) was present on the 12th of May for just the day. I’ve only seen Avocet once, and that was actually at Forvie NNR, where three were sifting about in the mud on the estuary.

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3 Avocet on the Ythan, 29/04/2017

There seems to be quite a big focus on birds at this point, but then they turned their attention to plants. Berries in particular, with Rowans being the main one they were looking at… and then they reverted back to birds! We had a good berry crop last year, and when the winter thrushes arrived these berry stocks soon became depleted. These winter thrushes, Redwings and Fieldfares, are now feeding on the ground and in amongst leaf litter.

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Fieldfare hiding in the top of an Alder

But who could forget the star bird? WAXWINGS! And we had a brilliant year for them here. See previous blog posts for more details on these fantastic wee birds.

Eventually we move on from birds, and on to Carrion Cam. This is something I’ve been tempted to try on the reserve, making use of a roadkill deer and moving it off the road to where animals would be safer having a snack.

I have had my trail camera in the Levenmouth Woods for a few weeks now, and I know I’ve captured one clip of a Fox, but need to download the clips so I can upload them. Along with the Fox, I’ve had Brown Hare, Badgers, Roe Deer and Jays, trail camera are a brilliant way of seeing what mammals are in an area as they tend to be shyer than birds.

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Red Fox from last week

Aaaand back to birds. We are lucky enough to have spectacular Starling murmurations at both ends of the loch, both by the pier and at Carsehall. Neither of our murmurations are quite as massive as the one they featured at RSPB Arne but they are still quite a sight to behold.

The Starlings feed on the surrounding fields, and you can see that they are well adapted for life in short grass. Long legs allow them to walk about without disappearing, and their slightly long beak lets them probe about in the soil for worms and seeds.

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Starling

Also, who needs thousands of Starlings to appreciate them? Look at the sheen on those feathers with the intricate spotted detail. Single Starlings are just as good as thousands of Starlings.

Lastly, Otters. Unfortunately I haven’t seen many Otters around Loch Leven, I saw one 3 years ago on a week of work experience, and saw one last Friday actually, but no opportunities for pictures.

However, Otters leave plenty of signs of their presence. Around the loch and on the burns and rivers that flow into the loch you may be able to spot spraint on the rocks or logs that stick above the surface of the water. These are used to mark out territories as other Otters smell them and can tell there’s another individual present. Humans can also smell them, and if you do then you may be surprised to find they smell a bit like jasmine tea. Unless you get lots of it, in which case it smells of fish, as I learnt.

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Otter spraint

Also, here’s a pawprint from Tentsmuir NNR that I managed to follow when I was there, and actually caught up with the animal itself which was nice. Still no pics though…

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Otter pawprint

So that’s that, I know this post is a day late but I was busy yesterday with various wee jobs and only got halfway through writing this up, so I’ve finished it this morning and Jeremy’s said he’ll do the blog for today! You’re getting two blog posts in a day, how lucky are you!

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2 Responses to Winterwatch: day 1

  1. Andrew Lloyd says:

    Grrr, STILL not spotted any waxing! . Still seeing the blackcaps down the railway at Milnathort.
    Enjoying your local Winter watch.

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