RSPB Scotland's Jenny Tweedie shares five facts about RSPB Scotland's Loch Leven reserve.

Five things you should know about… RSPB Scotland Loch Leven

A new accessible underpass has opened to the public at RSPB Scotland Loch Leven this autumn. The new underpass is accessed by gently sloping paths that are suitable for wheelchair and mobility scooter users, cyclists and families with pushchairs. This amazing project makes it much easier for everyone to get from the reserve’s visitor centre and car park to the loch side hides and trails, and also connects to the Loch Leven Heritage Trail, an accessible route that runs around the entire loch. To celebrate, here are five things you should know about RSPB Scotland Loch Leven.

1. The RSPB bought Vane Farm, as it was then known, in January 1967. Unlike many reserves, the site wasn’t just earmarked for protecting wildlife or creating new habitats; it was always intended to have education and learning at its heart. The reserve was officially opened to the public in October 1967.

2. RSPB Scotland Loch Leven is home to plenty of fantastic wildlife, from red squirrels and pink-footed geese, through to tree sparrows, small copper butterflies and lapwings. Little ringed plovers bred on the reserve in 2014, and many more rarities are seen just passing through, like the ferruginous duck that paid a visit in 2018. But the most unusual bird sighting at the reserve of all time… was a flamingo. 

3. In 2008, the reserve opened the world’s first bumblebee sanctuary! Created in partnership with the Bumblebee Conservation Trust and Scottish Natural Heritage, the beautiful flower-rich meadow attracts thousands of bees, including rare and threatened species, such as the blaeberry bumblebee, but also hoverflies, butterflies and other pollinators. The meadow is at its best in the summer months, and can be enjoyed from the reserve’s Wetland Trail.

4. Loch Leven hosts one of only three RSPB shops in the whole of Scotland, and it’s very popular. Last year, the shop sold 26 tons of bird seed – that’s the same weight as an adult sperm whale! And, if you put every suet ball sold last year end to end, they would be over 3km long! (Yes, someone actually measured a fat ball to work this one out…) 

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5. The new underpass at Loch Leven is already proving popular with visitors, but it took many months to construct. An entire section of the B9097 had to be removed and the traffic diverted onto the reserve itself to allow the 17 concrete sections of the underpass to be lifted safely into place. But that’s not all. To build the new sloping paths, over 3,600 cubic metres of earth had to be excavated, creating a temporary hill in a nearby field. It wasn’t all about concrete, however. New habitat was also created, with 600 trees planted, and 30kg of wildflower seed sown, much of it by volunteers.

 Olympian Eilidh Doyle and RSPB Loch Leven Senior Site Manager Yvonne Boles at the underpass opening. Credit: DCT Media

There’s something to see at RSPB Scotland Loch Leven all year round. It has a shop and café, and runs regular events. The reserve also now hosts a mobility scooter that can be hired for free. To find out more visit the website www.rspb.org.uk/lochleven

Header image credit: Ronald MacLean

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