Loch Leven NNR: Aaand we’re back again. Sorry for the long wait folks, it’s a busy time of year and unfortunately the blog has been off my mind recently, plus I’ve been elsewhere other than the reserve.
But I’m back now (until next week when I head off to Shetland for 3 weeks!) and Springwatch is here, so once again Jeremy and I will aim to bring you the best of what we have to offer at Loch Leven NNR, relating to what’s been happening on Springwatch the previous night.
Something that occurred to me recently is that they start Springwatch with an intro to the presenters but I never really gave myself an introduction when I started at Loch Leven last year so I’ll do a quick one now (as I am sort of the presenter of this blog post).
I don’t always look like this
Often dressed like this
So, if you didn’t know already, I’m Gus and I’m the student placement/reserve assistant at Loch Leven with SNH. I completed my first year of my Countryside Management degree at Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) in 2015/16 and now I’m on a year out whilst I work at Loch Leven, gaining masses of experience and enjoying life! I’ll be finishing up at Loch Leven on the 17th July and then back to SRUC at the end of September.
My interests lie in birds, botany, bugs, mammals, fungi, lichens… pretty much anything that isn’t too small to look at with the naked eye. This includes habitats as well, I do love a good pine forest! Of course, it’s not all about nature as I love encouraging people to go out and enjoy nature as much as possible as well.
Enough about me though, lets get on to what you came here for…
Loch Leven NNR
This Springwatch, as always, we are based at the stunning Loch Leven National Nature Reserve, filled to the brim with brilliant wildlife for everyone to come and see! From the thousands of wintering wildfowl to the rare flowering plants found around the loch to the array of dazzling insects, we’ve got enough wildlife to keep any naturalist occupied for ages.
Loch Leven itself covers 1300 hectares of land, reaching a maximum depth of only 26m, with the NNR covering a further 625 hectares of land around the loch.
Nest boxes going up
As is the case at Sherborne Park Estate, we also have loads of nesting birds around the reserve. Blue tits, we certainly have plenty of those plus many other song birds. This year we’ve put up another 40+ nestboxes for small songbirds such as Blue Tits all around the reserve.
Swallows also nest around the reserve, one of the best places to watch them is around at RSPB Loch Leven where they nest in the tunnel under the road and in the rafters of the visitor centre. Who knows where these swallows have come from or what they’ve seen on their travels, all I know is I’m grateful for their return each year!
House Mouse from the Isle of May
Like Sherborne, Loch Leven is a pretty good place to look for mammals, we in fact have about 25 species on the reserve (I say ‘about’ because I can’t think how many bat species we have). From the enigmatic red squirrel which is managing to repopulate areas it once lived in, to the very shy water shrew.
One of the best places for mammal spotting is around Levenmouth Woods. Here you have a mix of habitats: woodland for roe deer, red squirrel, and badger; the open area of dry heath is good for listening out for the rustling of small mammals in the low vegetation; and Levenmouth pools can be a good bet for otter if you’re there early enough in the morning.
Tawny owl chick
Whilst we do have barn owls at Loch Leven, they are remarkably difficult to see given how white they are, you’d have thought they’d stand out a lot! Recently I was involved with another of our owl species, the tawny owl. This is the owl that makes the classic ‘owl noise’ that we learnt as children.
We were putting rings on the legs of a couple of broods of tawnies so that they can be identified if anybody else has a chance to look at the ring on their leg, letting us build up an understanding of the life history of the bird, and also to look at survival rates and movement patterns.
At the time of ringing the chick didn’t look like it was even considering going anywhere though…
That Hairy-footed Flower Bee was quite the charmer, eh? Funny wee thing. It’s amazing being able to see that sort of bee-haviour up close like that, but you can do so too! In fact there’s the perfect opportunity to do so at our event this Saturday, the 3rd June. We’ll be looking at all sorts of fantastic beasts from 2-4pm, meeting at the Burleigh Sands car park.
We might even come across some solitary bees such as the one above, which I believe is a chocolate mining-bee (that’s its name, not what it tastes of)!
Given the amount of water on the reserve, you’d expect there to be mayflies here, wouldn’t you? Well, fortunately, there are. Watching them spawn is amazing, although it takes a wee while. I haven’t noticed any big mayfly emergences around the loch yet this year but there have been some about.
The trout and swallows here enjoy feeding on them as they dance about above the water’s surface as well. It’s amazing the contrast between watching a trout feed (quite relaxing and easy to watch) and watching a swallow feed (frantic and difficult to keep up with).
From the dainty dancing mayfly to this, the worlds fastest animal and one of the most impressive birds in Britain…
Yes, the peregrine falcon. This bird is capable of reaching blisteringly fast speeds: up to 240mph! It’s the extremes like this that make nature even more interesting. Of course, they don’t just do this for fun, it is so that they can catch their prey in the air, hitting it before it knows what it’s being hit by.
Prey for a peregrine can include pigeons, waders and ducks, of which there are plenty at Loch Leven NNR meaning that there is at least one pair nearby using a natural nest site as opposed to the tall skyscrapers in the metropolis that is Kinross…
That tawny owl chick again, because why not?
Sooooo that’s it for this post, tune in again tomorrow when I’ll be going over what happens tonight on Springwatch which I hope you’ll all be watching!
In terms of what’s happening on the reserve now, we’ve got the volunteers in tomorrow so we’ll be tidying up things from Discovery Day which happened yesterday and was a HUGE success so thank you to everyone who came along; organisers, organisations and general public.
One thing that I don’t look forward to at this time of year is the Himalayan balsam, an invasive plant that shades out our native plants and can take over large areas if not controlled. However, sometimes amongst the balsam lurks a wee jewel in Loch Leven’s crown; the coralroot orchid.
This is a very rare plant, and is very difficult to find mainly due to the habitat you find it in and the fact that it hides so well. See if you can spot it in the picture below, it’s light green and about 9cm tall…
Did you spot it?
It doesn’t look very impressive from there but I assure you, after searching for 2 hours, getting prodded in the face by low branches, stung around the ankles by nettles and snared by brambles, spotting this wee orchid made my day. Here’s a slightly closer photo.
I’ll be back again tomorrow!