Springwatch 2017: Part 3

Loch Leven NNR: Apologies again for yesterday’s abrupt end to the blog. Car fixed, MOT and service sorted. Back to blogging…

STOP PRESS: Before I begin, I’d like to ask that you watch Springwatch Unsprung on the 15th of June as Loch Leven will be starring!

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Where did I end with yesterday’s blog before rushing off? Ah yes, that Ruby Tiger moth. Of other recent lepitoptera (moths and butteflies) news is the first Red Admiral of the year on the wing yesterday by bridge over the Gairney Burn.

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Red Admiral on Brambles

I’ll just re-cover those last few pics as well because I really didn’t give them the mention they deserved.

So, that capercaillie. As I mentioned in the last blog post, they haven’t been present in Kinross-shire for a long time, I suspect they may have been present around Portmoak Moss but that’s really just a guess.

The grouse species we do still (just) have in Kinross-shire is the red grouse. There are a few of them still up Benarty Hill above RSPB Loch Leven as I found out a few weeks ago whilst looking for orchids.

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Red Grouse on drystane dyke

One of my favourite things about red grouse is their scientific name. Lagopus lagopus. This translates, roughly, to “rough-leg rough-leg” and that’s pretty fitting as they do have reasonably fluffy feet. I don’t actually have any pictures of red grouse feet but I do have a shot of one of their close relatives’ feet; the ptarmigan. Its scientific name is Lagopus muta, which means “quiet rough-leg” and I personally don’t think that’s a very fitting name as they make one of the best bird sounds I can think of.

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Ptarmigan with it’s fluffy snowshoe feet

Brown Hares, I’ve covered them a few times so I’ll leave those out for this post…

Newts I covered in Autumnwatch last year, see here

Now we’re back on track, so I’ll look at what they focused on last night at Sherborne Park Estate…

Those ermine moth silk bushes are pretty amazing aren’t they? Imagine seeing that happening in a wild place near you? Well (whilst not on the same scale) it happens at Loch Leven too! We have white and buff ermine moths that have this behaviour as well. As pointed out by Springwatch, these caterpillars use this as a defence against predators so the caterpillars are perhaps not so good as a food source for birds, bats and other invertebrates.

However, once they reach the adult stage, pictured below, they don’t have this defence tactic but can fly so they are that bit more difficult to catch.

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Buff Ermine

Muck. I must agree with Chris, I really do love a good bit of muck and so does the wildlife. Being a national nature reserve, we don’t really dump many piles of muck all over the place. However that doesn’t mean there are no farmland birds to be seen around the reserve! Yellowhammers, sometimes called the ‘Scottish Canary’ (although that only works in Scotland), are present all around the reserve but I’d say the best place to spot them is around Loch Leven’s Larder, and in the scrub around the fields there.

Another farmland bird that is unfortunately declining is the tree sparrow, but we have a few populations of them around Loch Leven. RSPB Loch Leven is definitely the easiest place to see them as there are nestboxes up specifically for them, although we have nestboxes up around Classlochie and Levenmouth that are also used by tree sparrows.

A tree sparrow, in case you were wondering, has a black rectangular mark on its cheek and a brown cap, unlike the house sparrow which has no black mark and a grey cap. The other species that some people get confused with is the dunnock as it is also called a hedge sparrow sometimes.

To finish off, I know I covered tawny owls in the first blog post but who could resist another pic of those fluffballs. This one was watching me whilst I carried out some Wetland Bird Surveys…

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As mentioned yesterday, we had the volunteers in yesterday, some of whom had been in on Sunday helping out with Discovery Day, here’s a pic to give you an idea of how much they enjoyed themselves….

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… a lot!

Yesterday we had several sub-groups all over the reserve. I was out with the brushcutter clearing the sides of the path; Alan, Mary and Francis were out with our big mower doing the same thing; Dave and Calum were round fixing some fencing at Classlochie; and Neil and Richard were making sure the pine that was burnt down at Burleigh Sands is safe and secure.

And a couple pics from last week in the sun…

In the afternoon we had a lovely trip out to Castle Island to see what the situation is with the Himalayan balsam. Fortunately the past 2 years of effort have paid off and there is very little left out there, which left us with a bit of time to wander about the island…

It was a perfect day for it, I can highly recommend! If you pop down to the pier in Kinross then find Historic Scotland you can buy tickets there and head out for a bit. it’s lovely out there.

One of the unexpected finds for me was an orchid that I’d never seen before: common twayblade. The name ‘twayblade’ comes from the fact the plant has two very obvious leaves (or blades). It’s sometimes called the Eggleaf Twayblade because its leaves are quite egg-shaped as well.

I feel that’s a good way to finish off today’s blog, keep an eye out for tomorrow’s blog!

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