The first couple of days of this week have been great for birding as most birds are gearing up for the coming season; Spring, and this means lots of displaying and singing! Obviously, they display and sing to attract a mate but it also makes them a little more conspicuous, helped by the fact the leaves haven’t come out yet.
This of course means that woodland birds are particularly easy to see, compared to summer, that is. If you go out into the woodland around the loch, listen out for the calls and songs. Great Tit sounds like it’s saying “tea-cher, tea-cher, tea-cher”, whilst Song Thrushes will repeat the same phrase 3-5 times before moving on to another phrase. They tend to have favourites and will come back to those now and then.
If you look a little lower down then you may be lucky to catch sight of one of our smallest birds. What it lacks in size it more than makes up for in number and noisiness! The Eurasian Wren is our most common breeding bird with a whopping estimate of 7.7 million breeding territories across the UK.
Since it’s such a small bird, many can live in a relatively small area as they don’t need much to feed on. I’ve seen Wrens in some really remote places, such as the Isle of May, in Coire Ardair at Creag Meagaidh NNR, and 800m up a munro in Wester Ross. It’s diminutive size may also have you thinking it can’t be very loud… listen here to find out just how loud they are!
Sometimes you don’t even need to look very high up, I came across a couple of male Bullfinches and a Song Thrush this morning just feeding by the path at Levenmouth.
If you’re in Levenmouth Woods then I can highly recommend that you pop in to the hide to see what’s there. The pools have filled up recently and the ducks are loving it. I’ve managed to spot 7 species of waterfowl so far, 5 of those being different species of duck. See if you can name all of them by looking at the pictures…
There’s been some other waterfowl about Levenmouth but they are just off the reserve. Swans are feeding on the fields around the Portmoak area. This has meant I’ve been able to check for rings on their legs which would give us an insight into where our Whoopers are visiting from!
But, the only rings I found on the Whoopers were metal rings that are very difficult to read without getting very close to the bird. Frustrating. There was a colour ring on one of the Mute Swans though…
Unfortunately, this isn’t the type of ring that is used to identify the bird in the way we want to. This ring was most likely put on the swan to identify it whilst it was in care at a rescue centre, probably the SSPCA one in Fishcross, Clackmannanshire. So we do know that this bird has been in Fishcross at some point. Not really what we wanted to know but I’ll keep an eye out for proper rings!
One proper ring we have read recently was on a Coot that has been hanging about the pier by Kinross. It has a white ring with the code CF4 on the left leg, and a red and blue ring on the other leg. Turns out this is the first time it’s been seen since it was ringed as a juvenile at Linlithgow Loch on the 17th of February 2015.
The only other thing I want to cover in this post is what I found on the trunk of a Goat Willow in Levenmouth Woods. I was actually trying to work out what sort of tree it was at first, thinking it was a very strangely placed Ash (there are no Ash trees in those woods) but it was just a particularly tall and straight willow. Looking closely at the bark I noticed the signs left behind by an animal…
Could it be a Pine Marten? A particularly arboreal Badger? Perhaps we have a big cat prowling the woods… No, it’s just our friendly local Red Squirrels playing games as they chase each other about looking to pair up for spring.
Here’s a picture to show the scale of the claw marks, just to make sure the big cat conspiracy theorists have nothing to say about the matter! And I’ve thrown in a backlit fly for good measure.
We’re currently trapping Grey Squirrels and aiming to trap American Mink on the reserve in order to protect our native species such as the really ravishing Red Squirrels and the Water Vole. Water Voles haven’t been seen around Loch Leven for a few years now so it’s very important to control the mink population as they are a major factor in the decline of this charismatic species, as well as being a threat to ground-nesting birds.
The RSPB kindly reported a mink on the River Leven giving us even more of a reason to start trapping again. If you have any sightings of American Mink then please do report them to us by calling the office on 01577 864439. The same goes for Grey Squirrels, mainly if you spot them anywhere other than Levenmouth and by Kinross.
If you aren’t sure what to look for then have a wee look on the Wildlife Trust website.
*STOP PRESS* There’s just been a new post on the Scotland’s Nature blog about why we intervene when it comes to non-native species, worth a read!