May beginnings

It’s the first week of May already – where has the time gone?! This is an exciting time in the natural world with our summer visitors arriving, many butterflies back on the wing, and wildflowers popping up all over the reserve. This week also marks about a month since I started at Loch Leven for my second season! It’s been so good to be back out on the reserve, and especially at this time of year as the seasons change from Winter to Spring (and even sometimes feeling like Summer – too soon?). We’ve had lots of nice summer migrants arriving, and this Sunday was a very exciting day for me as we had our first Osprey of the year! I spotted it from the beach at Kirkgate, high in the sky but unmistakable as an Osprey! It’s always worth keeping an eye out for them during the summer months – I find they are always an exciting encounter to have!

A very welcome sight, an Osprey!

One thing I’ve really been enjoying lately is the sounds of our migrant warblers. The Sedge Warblers, Grasshopper Warblers, Whitethroat and Blackcap have now joined the Chiffchaff and Willow Warblers, and they are sounding beautiful along with our resident songbirds around the reserve. This is the perfect time of year to get out and listen to birdsong, especially if you can pull yourself out of bed at dawn to hear the wonderful dawn chorus. Not only are they sounding amazing, they look amazing too! This is a good time of year to spot birds as they sing from high branches, as soon the trees will become fully green and they become hidden in all that vegetation. I managed to record this (rather shaky) video of a Willow Warbler at Burleigh last week, as it was bursting it’s little heart out in song.

A very showy Willow Warbler.

Another amazing bird spectacle to witness at the moment is all the Swallows, Sand Martins and House Martins (all of the family Hirundinidae) – they are truly out in force at the moment! If you’ve walked around the trail recently you may have noticed the amount of flies buzzing around, and hopefully these are providing a nice food source for our migrating Swallows and Martins. We’ve also had our first Swift of the year fly past our office this week! These are not Hirundines like Swallows and Martins, but have lots of similarities, sometimes making them quite difficult to tell apart… or maybe that’s just me!

A sight to behold!

It’s not just the birds that are indicative of the changing seasons here at Loch Leven, as more and more wildflowers are also popping up around the reserve. I have especially been enjoying the Red Campion and Cowslip which can be seen at various spots around the reserve.

And with the wildflowers, come the butterflies! It’s been amazing to be out on the reserve on a calm, warm, sunny day and see species such as Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock, Green-veined White, and my personal favourite – the Orange-tip! I always delight in seeing that flash of orange from the male Orange-tip during a wander through the reserve, but that underwing is equally impressive too!

I also saw my first damselfly of the year on Sunday – a Large Red Damselfly by the Burleigh ponds. However, our insect volunteers spotted 5 at Burleigh meadow on Friday! Apparently this is on the earlier side of sightings for Large Reds here, but they can be seen anytime from late April to early September, so it’s worth keeping an eye out. I’m excited for our other damselfly species to emerge and once again make our ponds at Burleigh come alive!

A Large Red Damselfly stopping for a photo (c) Simon Ritchie

But before I start convincing myself that Summer is upon us, I will continue to enjoy all that Spring has to offer here at Loch Leven – it truly is my favourite time of year!

About Julie McDonald

Seasonal Nature Reserve Officer at Loch Leven NNR
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