Hello again to everyone in Blogland,

It has been a month since we closed the doors to the Osprey Centre but, far from being our “quiet season”, we have in fact been very busy at Loch Garten over the past few weeks. In early September I spent a couple of days with Peter from Carnyx as he worked on our feeder cam. I’d love to say I helped but I think that would be pushing it somewhat! Effectively, I sat and watched as he put up a new camera and completely changed the angle and field of view to create a much more interesting image. His addition of a natural looking perch and the fact that the camera is now much nearer to the feeder itself provide really nice views of the forest birds as they queue up for peanuts! There have even been a few visits from red squirrels. You can view the webcam here - I'm sure you’ll agree that the new set up gives a much better view.

Are you looking at me? The new feeder cam at Loch Garten.

I’ve actually been spending a lot of time working at the Centre itself, gradually emptying it of anything that might suffer from exposure to the cold and damp of winter or be particularly tempting to nibbling rodents. I’ve also taken the opportunity to refresh some of our activity chalkboards – this year we’ve left some self-led activities out on the path for visitors to enjoy throughout autumn. So, if you visit Loch Garten soon, please feel free to build your own osprey nest, take on the “Thunder Rock Challenge” and channel your inner pine marten on the balance beam. All while admiring the very pretty handwriting on the chalkboards, please…

Just one of our lovely chalkboards!

Our Wednesday Pinewood Wanders have also been continuing for longer than in previous years. Traditionally, they have ceased as and when the Osprey Centre closed but this year we’ve decided to carry them on throughout October. So far, this has proved a shrewd move! The weather has (one yellow-warning aside) proved to be very good and sightings have been plentiful. Those who have joined me on the walks have been treated to a variety of forest wildlife and have contributed interesting conversation and fascinating facts themselves, meaning the walks have been great fun and a fantastic way to spend a morning! With only three Wednesdays left until they finish for the year, get yourself booked on one…NOW!

Pinewood wander...part of our guided walk route.

While busily beavering away at the centre, I’ve been amazed by the number of visitors we are still receiving. With the ospreys gone and their fellow summer migrants not far behind, it would be easy to assume that there’s not much to see on the reserve. This couldn’t be further from the truth and there’s actually some incredible wildlife still around. As I’ve stated many times before, autumn and winter tend to offer up the best crested tit sightings. In fact, just the other day, I had four “cresties” on and around the feeder at the same time and I could hear at least one more up in the canopy. Whereas the coal tits will happily come and take seed right out of your hand (seriously, you should come and try it!), I’m yet to coax a crested tit to do the same…they seem to naturally be a little bit warier. I’ve spent a bit of time creating a mini visitor centre at the shop entrance. When a member of staff is on site, this will be a place where visitors can shelter from the weather, grab a cup of tea or coffee and have a thoroughly interesting chat (or maybe not if it’s me working that day)! Keep an eye on our Facebook page for news on when this facility will be available.

Our "mini" visitor centre.

As well as the crested tits,over the last week or so I’ve also seen a red squirrel leaping at least 6 foot between two branches, watched great spotted woodpeckers chase each other around and around a tree trunk, helped a fat toad across the path, listened to great flocks of geese descend onto the loch, witnessed a sparrowhawk in full attack mode and almost been hit on the head by pine cones dropped by feeding crossbills. A visit to Abernethy is never dull and right now, with the birch and rowan leaves beginning to explode into their Autumn colours and the greylag geese performing their sky-high serenade, the reserve offers a sensory rush like no other time of the year. Come and see (and listen and smell) for yourself!

Autumnal colours abound at Abernethy!

Talking of noisy geese…one of my ongoing tasks is planning for the upcoming Goose Roost event on Saturday 20th October. From about 5:30pm, we’ll be gathering on the shore of Loch Garten to witness around two thousand geese tucking themselves in for the night. These geese (mostly greylag but with a good smattering of pink-footed and the odd whooper swan) have arrived in Scotland from their breeding grounds further north, perhaps Iceland or even Greenland. They come here to escape the really cold weather (imagine that)! During the day they spend their time on the local fields and hillsides, feeding on grass, and then at night, they come to rest in the middle of lochs, such as Garten and Mallachie, relying on the water to provide safety from predators. To stand on the loch shore as darkness falls, with thousands of geese, sometimes in groups of a few hundred at a time, flying in just above the trees, honking away in a cacophony of noise, is a pretty amazing experience and one not to be missed! Come and join us on the 20th if you can (as if the whole thing didn’t already sound amazing enough, there’ll also be soup, tea, coffee, biscuits and stimulating chat to keep you going).

Will you get a glimpse of a gaggle of geese at Garten? Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)

Well, that’s it from me for now. I’ll write again soon to tell you all about the Goose Roost event and more of what’s been happening at Loch Garten. I hope you all have a lovely Autumn and keep watching that feeder cam!