Home alone

Over the last couple of weeks with Jeremy being away on leave and Gus having finished his time as a placement with us I’ve had plenty of reasons to escape the desk and to get out onto the reserve. The weather hasn’t been the best over the later part of the summer so we’ve had few opportunities to get out and see how the breeding wildfowl population on the reserve have been fairing. I’d been out doing nest surveys earlier on this year so I knew that things were looking pretty good for this year in terms of the numbers of nests but the weather we have experienced particularly in June hasn’t really been ideal for a duckling dabbling in the vast waters of Loch Leven for the first time.

A lull in the wind and the rain meant heading out bright and early (if a little bleary eyed) to do a brood count. The aim of this is to cover the whole of the loch in a day noting the different waterfowl with young on the loch, how many young and there age. This gives us an idea of productivity and adds to the picture of the fortunes of waterfowl on the site which stretches back to the 60’s.

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This Osprey had got up early too after a breakfast of Loch Leven brown trout and was doubtless more successful than any of my fishing trips are.

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The first of what turned out to be a good number of Little Grebe was feeding on fish fry in front Mill hide.

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There were also a few of the Little Grebes larger cousin; the Great Crested Grebe with young. I always enjoy seeing these birds which for many years were symbolic of human persecution purely for vanity. The crown feathers being particularly valued for lady’s hats  and the pelts being preferred as substitutes for furs in boas and muffs in the late 19th century.

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The youngsters regularly hop onto the parents backs to hitch a ride (just like in humans!!)

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All the common species were out and about. Species like this Mallard with an older brood stay close to the overhanging willows and reeds we encourage to grow all along the loch shore.

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Here a brood of Gadwall feeds excitedly, broods like this can be challenging to count particularly as in areas of prime habitat like this multiple families will feed together. They ‘rub along’ ok but there’s often a wee bit of tension between families and the occasional nip as they pass each other isn’t uncommon. In this small area I counted 4 broods of Gadwall 3 of Mallard with up to 8 young in some broods.

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These shallow bays with overhanging willows and lots of aquatic plants are great brood rearing habitat. Smaller fish love them too which is what this Grey Heron will be hoping for. That is not to say that it wouldn’t pass up the opportunity of a wayward duckling if the opportunity were to arise……..

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In the interests of keeping the blog varied that’s enough about ducks. So what else have I seen on my travels. Now I’m not one for taking my camera out with me but I’ve been trying to get into the way of doing so and I found this wee chap whilst out and about so snapped a photo to check it out back to the office. Its a Larch Ladybird not particularly rare nor my first at Loch Leven but serves as a reminder that not all ladybirds are red with black spots they are like all insects a really diverse group. But ladybirds unlike some other insects are usually easy enough to identify. I went to this website to ID mine there are so many great websites out there to help the modern naturalist with identification and reporting. I’ll perhaps try and point you in the direction of others another time…..

Well its Friday so now I’ve got all my ducks in a line as it were I’m going to head home.

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