Saturday, 29 September 2007

Large Influx of Birds

Since we began lowering the water level on the reserve, the bird numbers on or around the loch have more than doubled. Just today we had 60 teal, more than 30 wigeon, more than 40 mallard, 20 coot, 20 moorhen, the swans, a heron and several crows on or around the loch all at the same time! That's a huge difference from just a few days ago. In some cases the numbers have actually trebled!
Attached are some photos of the loch each day as the water level is lowered. I'd strongly recommend clicking on the images to see the full sized pictures, otherwise the difference may not be too noticeable. The water level in itself has dropped by more than two feet and it was still going this afternoon!

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

I am a little surprised that even though we've had a huge influx of birds to the site, i've so far not seen any waders. I would have at least expected to see a curlew or two, since they had been flying over the loch the previous few days. Oh well, there's still time yet! I've no idea how long the water level will be lowered for (still got to discuss that with the boss) but i suspect it will be for at least a month. If you're in the area at all during that time, it should be well worth a visit!

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

The lowering of the Loch

On sunday, me and my friend Janie had agreed to carry out some work on the reserve. We had agreed to prune back the willow tree next to the screen to allow a better view of the feeders and we also set out to work on removing some of the willow trees which were blocking the view of the loch from the screen.
When we got there, there was someone else there. It seems he's a relatively regular visitor to the site and has had some interesting sights on the reserve. It appears that earlier on in the year there was a Garganey on the loch. This is a great find and a great sighting for the reserve!
The work was carried out by myself and Janie in just over two hours on Sunday afternoon, and i have to say that the difference it makes is truly amazing. Regular visitors to the reserve should be pleased with the results!
Whilst carrying out the work on the willow, we noticed a Common Hawker Dragonfly flying over the loch. This is the first time we've seen one of these on the site, and at over four inches long, they really are stunning!
On Tuesday i started the process of lowering the water level on the loch. This is done annually to allow for the Mudwort plant to seed and establish itself. It also has the additional benefit of exposing mud which may be of interest to passage waders.
The whole process of draining the water should take approximately three days, and i hope to update this blog with photos from each day so that readers can see the difference in water levels each time. Already the spillway has run dry!
Whilst in the process of releasing the gate to lower the water in the loch, I saw approximately 100 pink-footed geese flying overhead. A sure sign that autumn is here! Another tick to the list of sightings from the reserve, too.

Tuesday, 18 September 2007

Exciting Developments

It's all been happening on the reserve over the past week or so. So many interesting developments to tell you all about. I had my first advisory group meeting as the convenor of the reserve on Tuesday 11th September. I have to admit, it was very interesting. It felt good to be a part of the reserve, a part of the team that decides on future plans. The water level is to be lowered n the next couple of weeks, when i get the key from Ross, the previous convenor. That should be interesting as we should see some wader interest in the sight. We're already getting Curlews flying over on a daily basis looking for places to land, so it's a safe wager that we'll have plenty of wader activity once the water level is lowered!
The most interesting thing that happened at the meeting had absolutely nothing to do with the meeting itself. Not long after starting the meeting a bird flew across the reserve. My initial thought was that it was a heron. It only took me a few seconds to realise that it was way too big to be a heron. Out came the binoculars, and lo and behold, it was a White-Tailed Eagle! 15 of these had been released in Fife in August as part of a re-introduction scheme between the RSPB and SNH and this was the first sighting of one for everyone in the group. It landed in the field opposite the reserve, sat there for a few minutes then flew off to perch on a fence post at the far end of the field.
After submitting a report of the sighting to the RSPB, including the wing tag detail (In this case, the bird was tagged 'H') i've received word that this bird is a young male, released on the 10th August this year. I was also asked if i could put up some submission forms on site in case the bird should return or anyone make a sighting, so i've added a few of them which can be taken at the willow screen.
I also found out that the male bird in our resident pair of Mute Swans was ringed. After some work between a few of us during the meeting, we got the ring information. Allan, from Fife Council called someone in the know and it appears that the bird was ringed as a cygnet just outside Edinburgh and has since been seen at several locations nearby. It really is good to know where the birds on the reserve are coming from.

On the subject of ringing, it was agreed that Mark, who was at the advisory group meeting would do some bird ringing on the reserve. I got an email from him advising that he would be on site on Friday morning to ring the birds. I took a walk down, when i eventually got up (I'm not really an early morning kinda guy) and he was there with the mist net, collecting and ringing birds. In total throughout the morning he ringed the following:

  • 1 Great Spotted Woodpecker
  • 2 Robins
  • 1 Long-tailed Tit
  • 5 Coal Tits
  • 15 Blue tits
  • 35 Great Tits
That's a total of 59 birds ringed! Quite impressive for a morning's work. I was particularly happy that he got the woodpecker. The woodpeckers on the reserve feel like their my babies, since the introduction of the peanut feeders to the site.
I've included a couple of photos below to show some of the ringed birds.

Great Spotted Woodpecker

Long-tailed Tit

With several plans to be implemented for the reserve in the near future, i'm sure i'll be kept busy and there will be plenty of updates on the site. As we're coming into the winter months, more work can be done on the site than would be possible during the breeding season, and everyone is taking advantage of this.

Saturday, 8 September 2007

Missed Opportunity

I went down to the reserve this afternoon to see what was about. It is a truly lovely day today, so i had high hopes of good butterfly opportunities. When i arrived, there was another car parked in the car park, so i knew someone else was about. On the way along to the screen i bumped into a man who had been on the reserve for a couple of hours with his DSLR camera. He showed me some photos of something rather spectacular for the reserve. This morning there had been an Osprey fishing on the reserve! This truly is a great find for him, though a missed opportunity for me. The Osprey was successful in catching a small fish, too. A great sighting for the reserve, and one i'm happy to add to the list! The osprey was pretty much certain to be on passage to their wintering grounds and just decided to stop in for a snack. It's good to know they visit all the same!
I did spot a couple of curlews circling the loch looking for a place to land, but not finding anything and flying off. Once the water level is lowered, they should be a pretty regular occurance on the reserve.
New species this past week has been the addition of some passage wigeon, which stopped off on the loch for a couple of days before heading on. We're obviously getting the start of the autumn migrants through now, so we should be adding to the list a fair amount over the next few weeks. At least that's the theory!