RSPB Scotland Loch Leven's writer in residence Anita John brings us the latest sightings from the reserve and is helping to gather stories as part of the 50th anniversary celebrations. Anita writes:

RSPB Scotland Loch Leven was officially opened 50 years ago this month, on 29 October 1967. Here are some highlights from the past 50 years - a taster from our photographic timeline which will be on show at the reserve throughout October. It includes stories and memories from past and present staff, volunteers, friends and the local community and has been compiled by Alice O'Rourke, our Visitor Experience Officer.

Founding the reserve in 1967

On the 1 January 1967 the RSPB purchased the land at Vane Farm for £35,000 with the intention of creating the first nature centre in Britain to protect and promote wildlife and to educate the public via an education centre. The reserve, known originally as Vane Farm, was officially opened on 29 October 1967 by 6th Earl of Mansfield with 300 people in attendance.

The official opening of RSPB Scotland Loch Leven in 1967

There were none of the hides that we have today but there was an observation room with “high-powered binoculars” to see the newly arrived geese.

The first warden of the reserve was Jack Swan and over the next few years there was a £30,000 renovation of the old farm buildings. The visitor centre and classroom opened on 31 October 1971 and school visits began with the first field teacher Bridget Gray (nee Moore) inspiring many children during her time.

Bridget Gray inspiring schoolchildren in 1971

In 1971 car parking cost 5p per car and there was an honesty box for payment. In the first year 2,148 cars paid for parking and 1,755 nature trail guides were sold.

RSPB Scotland Loch Leven car park in 1971

In 1972 the army helped to build the first lagoon which signalled the beginning of efforts to recreate the wetland habitat to make it more suitable for birds such as lapwings to nest. The 1980s saw further development of the wetland habitat and more education visits under the wardenship of Graham Burton from 1979-1984.

Schoolchildren visiting the reserve in the early 1980s

During Graham Burton's time, the first volunteer-run café began which served tea and homemade cakes to die for!

The first tea and cakes at RSPB Scotland Loch Leven, early 1980s

In 1982 the underpass and first hide were created. The original Waterston hide was located where the Gillman hide is now (it moved in 1997).

Creation of the original Waterston Hide in 1982

Volunteers created the teaching ponds in 1983 ...

... and pond dipping became a favourite activity during school visits - as it still is today!

Pond dipping in 1983

Between 1984-5 the woodland trail was built and nest boxes installed. There are now over 150 nest boxes at RSPB Scotland Loch Leven!

Installing nest boxes at RSPB Scotland Loch Leven, 1984-85

The 1980s were also busy with youth groups like the YOC and there were interactive exhibitions in the visitor centre and on nature trails. From 1987 the visitor centre began to open daily.

YOC children making nest boxes during the wardenship of Jim Stevenson

In 1988 the accessible ramp to the visitor centre was opened.

Opening of the access ramp to the visitor centre, 1988

In 1990 the RSPB bought East Brackley Farmland, extending the reserve westward by 110 hectares.

Pedal for parrots took place on August 17 1991, a sponsored 14 mile cycle ride around Loch Leven to highlight the RSPB campaign for a ban in trade of wild birds and in particular the trade in some of the world's most endangered species - parrots.

Pedal for Parrots, 1991

In 1996 the old Waterston hide was replaced with the new Gillman hide. From 1996- 1997 the current Waterston and Carden hides were created and the visitor centre underwent a major refurbishment including a new education room, coffee shop, volunteer accommodation, centre interpretation, shop and observation room. The car park moved to its current location. Trees were removed from the wetlands to restore the wet bog habitat.

Major refurbishment of the visitor centre 1996-1997

In 2006 the Growing up with Loch Leven SNH partnership project started and continues to this day. It enables local schools like Portmoak, Kinross, Milnathort, Cleish, Blairingone, Arngask, Fossoway and Benarty primary schools to visit regularly and get the opportunity to "grow up" with the reserve.

Portmoak School visiting RSPB Scotland Loch Leven, November 2009

In 2012 the Kinross Agricultural Show moves from the grounds at Kinross House to the reserve and has been held here since.

In 2013 Little ringed plover bred on the reserve for the first time.

In 2014 the completed Loch Leven Heritage Trail opened on 18 April; it now provides a complete off-road loop of 13 miles around Loch Leven National Nature Reserve.

Opening of the RSPB Loch Leven Heritage Trail, 2014

In 2016 the Sleeping giant trail and leafy loop opened thanks to Living Lomond Landscape Partnership.

Red Squirrel Carving as part of the Sleeping Giant Trail, 2016

The local art club, KADAC, is also celebrating their 50th anniversary this year have helped to mark the occasion by gifting a carved wooded bowl and sketchbook of fifty paintings of the reserve and the wildlife found here. Copies of this sketchbook are available in the shop along with limited edition golden pink-footed goose RSPB pin badges. Also on display are photos documenting Kinross high school’s fifty challenges to help wildlife at RSPB Scotland Loch Leven which they completed earlier this year.

 Come and see the full exhibition throughout October during visitor centre hours and join us in celebrating our anniversary on October 29 from 11am – 3pm. We’ll have history walks on the hour, free family activities for all ages and talks and cake at 2pm. Hope to see you there!

  • What a wonderful potted history of the reserve. I have visited over the years, as I have friends who live not too far away, and have seen a few of the changes. A lovely place to visit, and a good place to see my favourite raptors, osprey and white tailed eagles!