Is it…….Spring?

This week admittedly has felt much more spring like! Okay, yes it is still pretty chilly in the mornings but I can certainly feel a heat in the sun. I haven’t spotted any Butterflies or Bumblebees yet, but I have friends and colleagues who have seen Peacock Butterflies, Small Tortoiseshell Butterflies and Early Bumblebees (Early is a species of bumblebee with two yellow stripes and a red/orange tail – it’s normally one of the first seen in Spring – hence the name).

Spring weather!

Earlier in the week I carried out our second last WeBS (Wetland Bird Survey) of the winter. Numbers are starting to decrease as we enter the spring/summer period. Most of out wintering ducks have headed north & east for the summer. Highlights of the count include a cracking drake Smew!

The white bird in the centre at the back…… yes, its a Smew…

As you can see my photos dont do it any justice! Unfortunately the bird was quite far out, but we tend to see these stunning ducks annually on Loch Leven. These birds breed in the taiga forest in northern Scandinavia and Russia but spend winter further west in the baltic and black sea. The UK has a small wintering population of around 100-200 birds depending on their movements. The drakes (males) are unmistakable with their dazzlingly white plumage and black eye markings. One of the finest birds on the planet! The females are a bit more inconspicuous with a chestnut coloured head, white cheek patches and a grey body. It was a treat to see one in amongst the Goldeneye. I last saw one on the Loch on 15th March 2021 – so they are obviously using Loch Leven as a stop off point while migrating back north-east in early spring.

Illustration of a drake Smew (c) RSPB
Illustration of female Smew (c) RSPB

It was nice to get some more views of Scaup on the Loch – again March seems a reliable month for Scaup. Last year seeing a fantastic count of 66. I only managed 24 on Monday, but that is still a good count. These birds are fairly scarce with around 5000 birds wintering in the UK – most of which are found in England. Again, these birds breed in higher latitudes – Iceland, Finland and Russia.

We spent a little time this week collecting the last of the tree tubes around the reserve. Over the years, various planting schemes have gone on around the loch. It is only now that we have finally (almost) managed to catch up with collecting in the tree tubes. We need to take the tree tubes off as it can alter/restrict the growth of the tree in some occasions – and its plastic that we don’t need rotting down into the environment. Luckily, these tree tubes can be recycled – so they will all get collected for recycling shortly.

These tree tubes are well past their usefulness for the trees and are now becoming a problem

While out and about, I have noticed a few wildflowers popping out – a bright flash of yellow against the winter vegetation caught my eye as I was travelling past. Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) is usually one of the first wildflowers of spring to pop up. This beautiful, radiant little flower has long been a part of history. It has known medicinal purposes and was well used for the remedy of sore throats and coughs. It has various local names including ‘Disherlagie’, ‘Tushies’ and ‘Cleats’. In Scots, its known as ‘Tushylucky’ which refers to its latin ‘tussilago’; tussi meaning cough.

Brightens up an early spring day!

Just a quick note to mention that the path between the pier carpark and the mill will be closed for two weeks due to the re-building of the hide. Thanks to the amazing fundraising efforts we will be able to have this hide rebuilt by April. A diversion round by the motor auction has been put in place.

We are looking forward to welcoming everyone to the ‘Phoenix Hide’!

About SimonR

I am a keen naturalist/wildlife conservationist from North-East Scotland. I work at Loch Leven National Nature Reserve as a Reserve Officer and have a deep interest in conservation and wildlife management in Scotland. Keen Birder, naturalist and practical habitat management enthusiast.
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1 Response to Is it…….Spring?

  1. Anne says:

    As always, this has been an interesting read.

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