RSPB Scotland Loch Leven's Writer in Residence Anita John brings us the latest sightings from the reserve and writes: The territorial fights and flights are in full swing at RSPB Scotland Loch Leven as the breeding season advances apace.

Twenty seven lapwing nests have been counted on the reserve so far and the chicks are already out and about in the Bumblebee Meadow. Venture too close and you may be startled by the parents rising suddenly to the sky, piercing the air with their cries and trying to distract you from the chicks with their aerobatics. And so begins their annual battle with the crows, gulls and anything else that threatens their eggs and chicks - including humans!

From the Carden Hide there was a great cacophony of black-headed gulls to be seen on the floating island. On high alert for predators, these small gulls were able to fend off an adult mute swan who happened to approach too close to their nesting site. The gulls were quick to dive-bomb the perceived threat and persistent enough to drive the swan away. Appropriately named Chroicocephalus ridibundus (laughing colour head) the black-headed gulls were the noisiest of the wetlands birds on the reserve today and could be observed bringing additional nesting materials to the island - dried grasses and such like - to enhance their nests. 

Many species have separated into pairs and couples of mallards, tufted ducks and shelducks could be clearly watched from the Carden Hide. Two pairs of shovelers vigorously harassed a persistent lone male, eventually seeing him off - with a great kerfuffle - first across water and then into the air. The paired males were leaving nothing to chance!

The tufted ducks were striking with their yellow eyes and slate beaks, the end tip of the beak shining black with a thin white line between the two colours. Riding the waves into the wind, the tufted ducks reminded me of cantering ponies on the plains of Montana, their manes streaming out behind!

If the black-headed gulls were to win the prize for noisiest wetland bird, then equally noisy, but more melodious were the willow warblers to be heard on the Woodland Walk, where the leaves of the rowan and silver birch were just opening. Despite the lack of leaves to hide behind, this tiny warbler was almost impossible to spot but not impossible to hear. Perhaps the nightingale of the north?

And, of course, always a joy to see, the swallows are back and nesting in the courtyard, which means that summer has finally arrived!

Photo credits: Lapwings, Shoveler, Black-headed gull, Swallow, all by Alex Gilfillan; Tufted ducks and Willow Warbler by Paul Ashcroft.

NEW UNDERPASS

Work has now started on our new underpass which will create an accessible link between the RSPB Scotland Loch Leven reserve and the Loch Leven Heritage Trail and Fife Core Path Network. The underpass will make a huge difference to many visitors and will put the whole area at the front of disabled access in Scotland. During the works the reserve will be open as usual for business. For more information click here.

CROWDFUNDING

We're running a crowdfunding appeal to help raise a shortfall of £19,000 for our new underpass project. There are some fantastic rewards for donations and you can find out more here or watch a video on the project and the crowdfunding campaign here or donate here. All donations appreciated, no matter how large or small! Many thanks for reading!

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