Volunteer Sam Buckton is still scouring every ditch and inch of fen at RSPB Scotland Loch Lomond on the hunt for new species records! He's up to an extraordinary 458 new species for the reserve. But where has he been finding them all...?
Strictly speaking, the farm buildings at RSPB Scotland Loch Lomond are for accommodating humans. But humans are in fact vastly outnumbered by the diversity of other wildlife that visits.
Three pine martens have been frequently spotted in the garden. They appear to be youngsters, and aren’t much perturbed by our presence. They’re particularly fond of the strawberries in the front garden. I tried imitating their shrill cat-like calls out of a window and one of them stood up on its hind legs below the window to see what the fuss was about!
An inquisitive pine marten (photo: Sam Buckton)
The garden would hopefully get Adrian Thomas’ seal of approval. It contains lots of rough unmown grassland as well as shrubs and pollinator-friendly flowerbeds. Bistort and bramble flowers seem to be particularly popular with bees, hoverflies and other pollinators. The star plant species are the wild orchids, including common spotted orchid and greater butterfly orchid.
Two large spikes of common spotted orchid (photo: Sam Buckton)
Greater butterfly orchid (photo: Sam Buckton)
An RSPB garden wouldn’t be complete without birds. The stars are a pair of willow warblers which successfully fledged six young from their beautiful mossy nest. The Assistant Warden Luke has an impressive list of birds seen or heard from the farm buildings: he’s currently up to 68 species, including hen harrier, spotted flycatcher and Greenland white-fronted goose.
We often moth-trap around the farm buildings. The trap contains a bright light that attracts moths and other invertebrates, which are identified the following day before being released. Some of the summer catches have been huge. On 26 June we caught over 130 moths of 54 species! A particularly special species caught in the trap this year was the Brussels lace moth, which was new to the reserve and the first record for the county. Moths which elude the trap might fall prey to the soprano pipistrelle bats which roost in the roof of one of the farm buildings.
Brussels lace, an unusual moth (photo: Sam Buckton)
Indeed, our farm buildings and garden have added an impressive number of species never previously recorded on the reserve. So far this summer, the moth trap has yielded 29 new species for the reserve (many of them caddisflies); the garden, another 29 new species; and we've even found 9 new species inside the buildings! Many of the new species found inside are spiders, including the daddy long-legs spider (Pholcus phalangioides), common zebra spider (Salticus scenicus) and comb-footed cellar spider (Nesticus cellulanus), which is rarely recorded in Scotland. One of the most surprising finds was a palmate newt!
Some of the more unusual species have come from the brick wall at the side of the farmhouse. Several insects have utilised or created little holes in the brick for their nests, including the patchwork leafcutter bee, which is scarce but probably spreading in Scotland. Females cut out sections of leaves which they use to build cells for the larvae to develop in. I also noticed a stunning little ruby-tailed wasp called Chrysis ignita, a species rarely recorded in Scotland, flitting around the wall on a sunny afternoon. It is also known as a ‘cuckoo-wasp’ due to its parasitic tendencies: its larvae eat the grubs of mason bees, which are presumably also present.
Chrysis ignita, a stunning bejewelled ruby-tailed wasp (photo: Sam Buckton)
Staff and volunteers carry out administrative work in a set of portacabins. A substantial number of species have flown into the office while I’ve been working there and many others have been recorded on the exterior portacabin walls or the ground outside the office. In total, 33 species new to the reserve have been noted in and around the office this summer. One of my favourites so far has been a little solitary bee called the white-jawed yellow-face bee, a rare species in Scotland, which I noticed buzzing around by a window inside the office. Two other species which are scarce in Scotland are the plant bugs Rhabdomiris striatellus and Dryophilocoris flavoquadrimaculatus (quite a mouthful!), which were found on the outside of the portacabin. Both bugs are associated with oak, and had presumably dropped down from the oak which overhangs the office.
All in all, RSPB Scotland Loch Lomond is a shining example of giving nature a home alongside humans, and demonstrates that you don’t need to look far afield to find interesting species. They might even be sharing your office desk.
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