Easter already?

How time flies at Loch Leven NNR… Everything looks and sounds like it should be Easter, it even smells like it should be Easter, but it all came about so fast! It doesn’t feel that long ago that I was walking through Levenmouth Woods with the bare branches blowing about in the wind, with nobody else on the path. That definitely hasn’t been the case this week!

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Volunteer, Jock, at Levenmouth

The sun was shining (most some of the time), the bees were bumbling, the birds are busy, and so were the volunteers! Unfortunately their 2 day trip to the Isle of May to help out with tasks out there was cancelled due to high winds, but fortunately for them we had plenty of work lined up!

The main task of the day was to get some of the grass off Levenmouth as we had cut it a couple of months ago. The reason for cutting the grass is that this area has great potential to be a good example of a dry heath, a very rare habitat in Kinross-shire due to the fact it tends to occur on sandy soils, such as around the coast. The soil around Levenmouth is perfect for this as it was once the bottom of a river so it is very sandy.

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This excavation, either carried out by a badger or a fox, shows you just how sandy it is.

However, in order for it to be a proper dry heath, we need more heather. Therefore, cutting the grass and removing it, and trying to disturb the ground, should encourage some more heather growth. We used Polly (the new Polaris) for this job; it was her first big job and she handled it like a champ despite us already forgetting to plug her in to charge overnight…

Whilst on the dry heath we could clearly see how diverse it was in life. There was one character who wasn’t too pleased with our activity on Wednesday though… In fact there were a few. The grass that had been left in piles for the past few months had attracted toads and frogs as they held plenty of moisture and the heath provided them with plenty to eat!

And here’s a compilation of all of the insects and arachnids that I managed to pluck from the grass, or photograph on the grass.

That last one there, the Common Red Ant, is the favoured food of the Green Woodpecker and I was actually lucky enough to see one fly over this area last weekend. If you’re down at Levenmouth then bare in mind that you might hear the ‘yaffling’ call of the Green Woodpecker, quite a noise!

If you go to nearby Portmoak Moss then you are very likely to hear them. Here is a link to the call of a Green Woodpecker. Pretty unmistakable.

 

Elsewhere on the reserve, the summer migrant birds continue to stream in, with our first Common Sandpiper of the year deciding to pitch up right next to the Mill Hide in Factory Bay whilst I was in there on Friday. Blackcaps have also become a lot more obvious with their slightly disjointed song resounding from every clump of shrubs.

I also spent a fair bit of time trying to get a good shot of a Sand Martin as there were hundreds playing above the fields and the water at Burleigh Sands, but I failed, so you’ll have to come along and watch them yourself! We’re still yet to spot the first House Martin of the year to if you spot any white-rumped martins at Loch Leven, do let us know.

I was round at Burleigh doing some monitoring and had 3 hours on that section of the trail, then another 3 hours around Findatie/Levenmouth. So, I took the opportunity to check out all of the flowers that are out around the loch. Here’s a slideshow of 18 them, you’d be surprised at how much colour there is to be found this early in the year!

We have the Burleigh Botany event again this year so keep an eye out for the events schedule which should be out some time very soon! Posters, Facebook, Twitter, on the blog, MyPark Scotland website, maybe even Instagram! I’ll be surprised if you miss it.

So, to recap, when out at Loch Leven NNR in the coming weeks, keep an eye out for bugs, flowers, nest-building and chick-feeding birds, migrant birds, and us! We’re always happy to have a chat if you bump into us around the Heritage Trail, as are the volunteers.

To finish off, a wee clip from the Facebook page of a pair of Great Crested Grebes that have begun building a nest outside the hide at Burleigh Sands. Hopefully they do alright here but it’s quite an exposed site, best of luck to them is all I can say!

And as an added bonus, I had a nice view of a drake Red-breasted Merganser and a  drake Goosander right next to each other, so you can see the difference between the two. I hope you had a happy Easter weekend where ever you were and that you took some time out to enjoy some of what nature has to offer at this time of year.

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Red-breasted Merganser left, Goosander right

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