This time last year a visitor came along to our Bluebells and Birdsong walk. Afterwards she wrote a beautiful piece about her experience here and you can read it below.

Photo by Bob Shand

Bluebells and Birdsong at RSPB Scotland Loch Lomond By Diana Treffry

The path winds down through the wood leading us among a haze of bluebells and wafts of their sweet scent. In places the path edge is threaded with stitchwort. There are seats carved with owls, squirrels and, on each, the name of a tree species in English and Gaelic.

At the edge of the wood there are some pines and a large hawthorn, but mostly the alders have been coppiced in the past so the multiple stems are not thick and the canopy is still light enough for the bluebells to flourish and show us that this is an old, long-established, long-worked wood.

Before we even left the hub, a spotted woodpecker swooped in on the peanut feeder and a bullfinch was feeding off food handily placed on a fence post. In the wood, however quietly we walk, wrens scold loudly. A burn snakes through the wood, the path crossing and recrossing it, as both lead down towards the orchid field. It's too early for them, but in damp places there are lady's smocks and in a patch of mud, bird prints and the slots of deer.

On the topmost branch of a large hawthorn we see a tree pipit. It flies up with a wing motion like a lark and then, wings spread, parachutes down, and despite the gusty wind, comes back to the same high perch. We can see his streaked breast.

In the grass there's blue speedwell and pink lousewort and green-veined white butterflies cling to grass blades, warming up in the sun. At the field margin there's still coconut-scented gorse and already the firework spurts of broom. There's the slightly musty smell of cow parsley. On the bird cherry trees there are fingers of white flowers and some leaves are curved over and gauze-wrapped to protect ermine moth grubs inside so that they can grow into caterpillars.

Germander speedwell by David Palmar (photoscot.co.uk)

Next we cross the bridge over another burn into yet another kind of habitat - the fen - a wide open space, once a meadow the villagers cut for hay, now a damp area filled with different grasses and some open water. There's a raised path through grass, nettles, horsetail, edged in places with willows, alongside a waterway. In the boggy area beyond the reserve a swan is sitting on the nest, her mate on the water in the fen.

We hear the scratchy sound of a sedge warbler; see in the distance a roe deer browsing at the edge of the wood; high above the wood a buzzard circles on the thermals, and then an osprey. There's the two-tone vibration of a faraway cuckoo.

Sedge warbler by David McCulloch

At the far edge of the fen we're back briefly into bluebells, before entering another wood. Here the trees are much bigger - great beeches in a line, planted probably more than a century ago, to protect the crop within, the oaks. Here the ground is smothered bronze with last year's beech leaves, while this year's are still tender green. The combination of oak and beech is the preferred haunt of the redstart and we hear one call from high in an oak.

Slowly we retrace our steps, back to the dipping pond, where last year for the first time I heard a grasshopper warbler. A magical way to spend a May morning.


This years Bluebells and Birdsong walk in on Saturday 18 May 9am - 11am. Please email loch.lomond@rspb.org.uk or call 01389 830670 to book a place. Cost £6.50, £5.50 for RSPB members.

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