Wednesday, 31 October 2007

New birds to the reserve

We've had a couple of new bird species to the reserve for the year. In the past week or so, I've seen Jay flying across the reserve and when going to fill up the feeders, I've flushed a Snipe out from the undergrowth!
There used to be an area on the reserve called the Snipe Bog, which used to have breeding Snipe in it, but unfortunately it has become heavily overgrown with willow scrub in the past few years. We are planning on clearing a lot of the scrub away to try and bring the place back to it's former glory. I'd love to be able to say that Snipe were nesting on the reserve again!
I've spoken with the local Air Cadet Squadron about the possibility of helping out on the reserve with litter picking, clearing of the spillway and potentially even with the coppicing work. They seem quite enthusiastic about the idea, and it will be great to have them on board to help out in the winter months. Hopefully by the time spring comes around again, the reserve will be a changed place, but in a good way. Hopefully we'll be able to get back some of the old habitat without impacting too much on the new habitat.
We've also had a large influx of Siskin on the reserve over the last few days, particularly at the trees by the car park. It seems that there's been quite a large irruption of them in the UK this year, so don't be surprised if you see them at your bird feeders this winter! They really are gorgeous little birds and it's great to see so many of them on the reserve.
We're still sitting waiting on the berry eating birds to arrive to feed off the laden plants, but there has been no sign yet. With the strong westerly winds right now, i doubt much will be coming over from the continent. There have been reports of early waxwings up north, near Inverness in the past few days. Hopefully this year will be a good year for them, too!

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Increases and Decreases

It's been a couple of weeks since I've updated the blog. The main reason for this is because I've spent most of last week on the isle of Skye on holiday.
On my return from holiday, it seems that a fairly decent number of Black-headed Gulls have taken up residence on the loch with the ducks. We're seeing approximately sixty gulls making use of the loch at one time right now. This is in addition to the large duck population, so the loch really is getting quite busy.
With regard to waders, there still isn't as many as I would have expected. There's been a few Curlew seen at the edge of the loch and several Lapwing, but nothing besides that. There's still time yet, though!
Elsewhere on the reserve, things have gotten a lot quieter. We've gone from having to fill the peanut feeders every four or five days to now only filling them once every two or three weeks. A big difference! (And it's good for my wallet, too!). That's not to say that there are no birds about. They're still there and we're still getting regular visits to the feeders from the Great Spotted Woodpeckers. There's also been an increase in sightings of Long-tailed Tits. Small groups of these are seen most days right now.
Robins are in full voice just now while they establish their territories, with at least five or six territories claimed. The Wrens are very active on the reserve just now, too. Some of the best views I've had of these tiny birds have been within the past couple of weeks.
Surprisingly, a lot of the berry trees and bushes are still quite heavily laden. I would have expected winter thrushes to have arrived by now, such as Fieldfare or Redwing to make use of these, but to date there have been no sign. Hopefully there will be some in the near future, though!
We're going to be using the winter months to get some work done on the reserve to try and do some clearing out, set up some new things before spring, etc. Hopefully by the time spring comes round and the summer migrants begin to return, the reserve will be a better place, both for the migrants and for visitors.

Sunday, 7 October 2007

Lots to see

There's still a whole lot to see on the loch right now, with average bird numbers in the region of 200 to 250. On Friday i managed to count over 100 Teal in a single visit, we've had over 70
Wigeon and over 60 Mallard on site, too. That's not including an average of 15-20 of both Coot and Moorhen each day!
On a couple of days in the past week we've had flocks of Lapwing on site, too. The largest flock I saw was approximately 60 birds, though only about 20 of them landed at the edge of the loch.
We're still waiting on serious waders arriving. No sign of them yet! Annoyingly, I've seen both Curlew and Oystercatchers in the nearby fields, yet still they haven't found their way to Cullaloe.

It isn't just the loch that's full of life, though. One of the filter beds has been getting cleared out by the SWT conservation team. Now that the dust has settled a bit, you can clearly see a whole lot of activity in the water, from small sticklebacks and minnows to large aquatic beetles and pond skaters. It just goes to show the diversity of species that the nature reserve supports. It also shows that the water quality must be relatively high for all these species to thrive.
There was a point during the week when i was watching a Heron on the loch and it caught a fish at least 6 inches long. It was rather amusing watching it struggle to swallow it, I have to say! Good to see, though, and another good sign of thriving water life.

The butterflies appear to have finished up for the year now, with none being seen in the past week, despite lovely weather for them. I guess it's just getting a little cold for them now. The dragonflies are still about in force, though. Several pairs have been seen to be laying both at the filter beds and at the edge of the loch itself.

There's also plenty of smaller birds about just now, too. The goldfinches have developed a small flock of 10-15 birds, which is really quite nice to see when they fly past or onto a nearby tree. The bullficnhes are still about and are seen daily, there's tits everywhere, including a regular flock of long-tailed tits right now and of course, the woodpeckers are still seen regularly at the feeders!

It really is a great time to be visiting Cullaloe right now! Well worth the visit.

Just to note, this afternoon I'm going to be on site picking up a lot of the litter which had been dropped by the illegal fishermen. I'm also planning on taking a walk around the edge of the loch to see if i can find and photograph the Mudwort. It may result in a large loss of birdlife on the loch as a result, so today may not be the best day to be visiting to see the birds!