Another week has passed at Loch Leven, and boy has it been nice. Actually, not just nice, it’s been very nice, and it wasn’t just the weather…
If I’m honest, I’ve found the past few weeks somewhat uninspiring. Obviously I have still found ways to enjoy myself by keeping busy with tasks such as hedgelaying, visiting other reserves (e.g. here and here), and a few bits and pieces about the office. But, what I really like is being able to go out and look at wildlife, whether this is plants or birds or bugs or anything else that take my fancy.
The past few weeks, however, have been that part of the year where it’s still pretty wet and cold outside so the bugs and flowers aren’t really there to be seen, and the wintering birds aren’t so obvious but the spring migrants haven’t arrived yet. Sorry to sound all doom and gloom but I have still been having plenty of fun, I’ve just gotten a bit bored of the lack of flowers, bugs and birds.
BUT, things are about to change. This week we have seen some solid signs that spring is here. To start with, for the past few mornings I’ve been greeted to the office by the wondrous sound of a Chiffchaff singing its somewhat simple song. These birds don’t always migrate all the way to Africa, finding Spain suitable enough to spend the winter, and some don’t migrate at all, instead laying low in dense bushes where people are unlikely to see them.
The shorter distance to travel means that they are one of the first summer migrants to return to this area. Ospreys have been arriving back in Scotland at the moment too, such as this pair, but we’re still yet to see our first of the year at Loch Leven.
Another early summer migrant that we have seen about the loch are Sand Martins, there was a group of about 30 of them darting about the Green Isle (island of Burleigh Sands) on Wednesday. Sand Martins are often found darting about over large water bodies as they find plenty to eat flying above the surface of the water.
We actually spotted the Sand Martins whilst we were out with Rosemount Nursery who were visiting Loch Leven to learn the difference between natural and unnatural, looking at pond life and just enjoying the great outdoors! We found a few bits of litter which was good on the one hand as it showed us something unnatural, but bad on the other hand because we’d really rather there was no litter lying about our reserve.
Despite the chilly morning and icy puddles, we all had lots of fun, me included!
After Rosemount had left in the morning, Neil and I joined Jeremy, the volunteers and Torquil the hedgelayer to continue laying that hedge around at Mary’s Gate. We made a fair bit of progress and were out again yesterday. The total length of hedge that we have laid this spring, one metre more than Torquil’s guess, was 88 metres. We’ll have another session of laying in Autumn as we obviously don’t want to be carrying out any activity during the nesting season.
Please do head along to look at our handy-work, and watch as the first Hawthorn leaves pop out and the woven branches begin to grow.
I also decided to do a wee timelapse type thing, taking a picture of my bit of the hedge from the same position every now and then to show how it changes. But, we ran out of Hazel for binding along the top of the hedge so I didn’t get the final two stages. You’ll have to make do with a picture of another section of hedge.
You may notice some activity behind the hedge, and this is because some sections of the Loch Leven Heritage Trail are undergoing maintenance to get rid of erosion and puddles. Please see this map for information on where the works are being undertaken.
The section of path that was being re-done by the hedge looks brilliant now, so you can enjoy walking alongside our laid hedge, one of very, very few in Kinross-shire! I’m not even sure there will be any other laid hedges in Kinross-shire to be honest.
Plenty of machinery moving about so please do avoid using the sections that are outlined.
So to conclude, since it is now Spring (as far as I’m concerned) keep and eye out for spring wildflowers such as Lesser Celandine and Colt’s-foot, and have a scan out over the water to see if you can spot any Sand Martins, perhaps you’ll spot the first Swallow of the year… Osprey and Wheatear should be about some time soon as well. Bumblebees are definitely waking up as well, keep an eye out for those Tree Bumbles (remember, thorax to tail is orange black white).
So you may think I’ll spend next week enjoying the flowers and migrants birds about the loch, but no, I’m out to the Isle of May with the other student placements (from Tentsmuir, Stirling (covers Blawhorn Moss, Flanders Moss and Loch Lomond), St Cyrus, Caerlaverock, Creag Meagaidh & Beinn Eighe) where we will be helping to prepare the island for all the visitors (there were 12,000 in 2016) that will be coming out to enjoy the brilliantly beaked Puffins, the terns that will have a go at your head, and all the other brilliant seabirds that call the May Isle their home for the breeding season.
For updates on the Isle of May, keep an eye on the Isle of May blog. The first Puffins are returning to the isle at the moment so I’m more than looking forwards to it. You’ll have to rely on Jeremy for next week’s blog post!