Winterwatch day 3

Day 3 of BBC’s Winterwatch, and we continue with another blog post comparing the wildlife seen on the TV with what you can see at Loch Leven.

It appears Arne is getting the same sort of weather as Loch Leven today, as we’ve had another hard frost and a foggy morning.

And I was thinking we were seeing the start of Spring, so much for that! Down at Arne they had been noticing that some were thinking the same as me, with even some Honeybees popping out to have a go on the gorse. Jeremy mentioned the gorse in flower in yesterday’s blog, but I managed to find a few other species in flower yesterday.

One of my favourites was the female flower of the hazel. This tiny flower can be seen growing from the buds along the twigs of the hazels, and one of the best places to see hazels is along the hedge after Mary’s Gate, where the town loop path joins the Heritage Trail.


female flower of Hazel

Hazel trees are one of the trees that have both male and female flowers on the same tree, this makes them ‘monoecious’ as opposed to dioecious like the ash. So you might be wondering what the male flower looks like. The male flower on a hazel is the catkin, which are long and green coloured. If you’re in Kirkgate Park then look at the trees on the right as you drive in, there are both hazel and alder trees there.

Alders have more purple-red coloured catkins compared to the hazel. Here’s a picture of one of the male catkins…


male catkin of Hazel

Also in flower nearby was some cut-leaved dead-nettle. This plant gets its name from being like the good old stinging nettle in its appearance, but it definitely does not sting! And the flowers are a lot nicer looking. See?


Cut-leaved dead-nettle

On Winterwatch, they also asked what the mystery animal was, those wee swarms of flies. Turned out they were the winter midge, and we’ve actually had a few of them out ‘lekking’ on the reserve in the path couple of days. If you walk around the Heritage Trail from Kinross towards Burleigh Sands, and when you get to the slow-flowing burn that disappears through a grate under the path, there have been good sized swarms floating about there.

Next up, that wonderful raven roost on Anglesey. I must say I really enjoy the many noises that ravens make, the cronks, the grots, the gurgling croaks… And to have so many in one place is pretty magical. We don’t have so many ravens about Loch Leven, but we certainly have some. This species is recovering in the area and we’re pretty sure there’s at least two nests on the surrounding hills.


Big beak

Ravens are big birds, the largest member of the crow family, and yet telling them apart from carrion crows can be difficult. They are  the same size as a buzzard in terms of wingspan and overall length (beak to tail).  One of the best things to look at is the tail, a the tail of a raven is diamond/wedge-shaped whereas a crow’s tail is fan-shaped.

Also a raven’s beak is very heavy looking, as can be seen I the silhouette shot above. Finally, listen out for those enchanting calls, listen here to get an idea of what to be listening for.

They fly about all over the reserve but especially around Carsehall, Levenmouth and over the RSPB’s bit of the loch.


Cronking from a fencepost at Carsehall

From one magical animal to another, the Winterwatch team moved on to their White Hart (white deer) that they have at Arne. At Loch Leven we do try to have everything, but we haven’t quite managed a white hart. Instead we have a semi-white hart but it’s not very local, being seen nearby in Fife.


Semi-white Hart

Also mentioned was the pale-morph buzzard that they’d had on their ‘carcass cam’. I’ve never seen any particularly pale-morph buzzards around the loch, most of them have been pretty bog-standard dark, although the bog-standard in other places may be something else.

To work out if there’s any regional variation there’s a recording scheme for reporting what colour-morph buzzards you have in your area and I’m sure they’d be grateful for any sightings. They also have a nice, clear display of the various shades that buzzards come in, so check that out.


Probably fits in the dark-intermediate category best

Water voles… I’d like to say we have water voles at Loch Leven and they almost certainly were present at one time but we’re really not sure so I’ll leave that section alone, but it was a lovely bit of filming, especially seeing the dumpy water voles scaling those willow trees!

Butterflies! How very un-wintery, but these butterflies were thinking the same thing it appeared. They just slept all the time, were quite grumpy telling people to leave them alone, and shivered a lot, much like some people I know!

The moths were far better adapted for winter weather, and we have the same moths around Loch Leven. Unfortunately we haven’t had time to put the moth trap out this winter but Jeremy’s caught Herald moths in previous years. In fact he caught one last year, here’s a pic…


Herald moth, stunning

The return of the spoonbill, it seems they can’t get enough of their robo-spoonbill and to be fair if I had one I’d be using it as much as possible too. I covered our own spoonbill during Autumnwatch and showed you it’s amazingly, specialized beak, used for filtering out the good particles of food from water.

It was of course the shoveler, a great bird to have about the loch.

Jeremy’s told me there have been 4 records of actual spoonbills at Loch Leven, so you never know what that white blob in the distance might be…

Chris’ section on making your own pond in your garden was exactly what I did in my own garden a few years ago and I now have frogs, damselflies, water skaters and orbshell cockles, which look like this…


Musculium lacustre

At Loch Leven we’ve got no shortage of water bodies, with the main loch, plenty of rivers feeding into and out of the loch, and many smaller bodies of water dotted about the shoreline. This gives us a huge range of habitats for freshwater wildlife, from the biggest mute swan to the tiniest ostracod, we’ve (almost) got it all!

So why not build your own wee pond, somewhere in your garden or even as part of a community project, to encourage some fantastic underwater life to your wee patch?

Now, I best be off, got a few things to do about the reserve such as checking the camera trap. Fingers firmly crossed for pine marten!

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