RSPB Scotland Loch Leven's Writer in Residence Anita John brings us the latest sightings from the reserve and writes: So wonderful to be welcomed back by the plentiful chatter of goldfinches, chaffinches, coal tits and blue tits from the front garden and by a crystal clear sighting of a young roe buck once down at the Gillman Hide.

All ears and eyes and scenting nostrils, the young buck was sometimes alert to my presence but confident enough to spend thirty minutes grazing on grasses at the water's edge, in front of the hide and moving unhurriedly towards the left perimeter fence. Wildlife is so much more confident since Lockdown!

From the Gillman Hide the unmistakeably huge wings of two grey herons also flew in to land within good viewing distance. The grey herons are looking particularly striking at this time of year with their elegant mixture of black, white and grey feathering contrasting sharply with their bright yellow beaks and feet.

They are not, however, appreciated by our resident little egrets, which moved away quickly as the grey herons approached. Six little egrets have been sighted at the reserve this autumn, compared to the solitary little egret often sighted when I first started visiting in 2015. On this visit I was lucky enough to see two of these small white herons.

And how small they appear when viewed alongside the grey heron. Though unmissable because of their bright, white colour, the little egrets' wingspan is only half that of the grey heron. Whatever their wingspan though, it's great to have both species now residing at the reserve both winter and summer.

Moving on to the Carden Hide, I was treated to a small party of goosanders feeding really close to the bank. So close I could see the pink of their webbed feet and the pink of their beaks before they dived into the still waters which reflected the snow sky's stormy colours of grey, pink and blue. A whole host of colours in one small frame. I wished I had my camera to hand.

Goosanders really are beautiful diving ducks when seen close up - the dove grey of their plumage (female and juveniles) contrasts starkly with their brightly coloured beaks and chestnut heads. About 10 of them were busy diving into the water to feed just below the Carden Hide. I watched, mesmerised by their closeness, before they slowly moved out towards deeper water.

Many mallard pairs had taken up residence on the islands created to encourage our black-backed gulls to breed. Teal and a small flock of 12 wigeon were also resting and feeding close to the grassy banks. Other wildfowl seen during my visit included mute swans, cormorants (towards St. Serf's), tufted ducks, pochards, great crested grebes, little grebes, one moorhen and one coot; and one buzzard. All in all a huge variety of bird-life to be seen.

I started my visit with the chattering of goldfinches and ended with the chattering of goldfinches - a flock of 30 or so moving ahead of me as I walked back from the hides, resting on the fence wires and flittering through the trees in flashes of russets and reds, whites and gold. Another beautiful bird, full of colour, to match another wonderful day spent at RSPB Scotland Loch Leven.

Hope to see you there soon!

Photo credits: Roe deer - Stuart Gillies; Grey herons - Paul Ashcroft; Two little egrets - Rob Ford; Little egret flying - Adrian Plumb; Goosander - Paul Ashcroft; Pochard flying - Paul Ashcroft; Goldfinch - Paul Ashcroft.

Anonymous