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 is a great place for mute swans and other waterfowl to gather for their annual moult. On my last visit there were 50 or so Mute Swans on the loch, including a dam with her six cygnets. It usually takes about four weeks on average for the swans' new feathers to grow in, (25,000 in total!), during which time they cannot fly. So now is a good time to come see these beautiful creatures before they are on their way again!

Among the drift of swans on the water there were also 250 pochards with tufted ducks mixed in, all in one large group and all in their eclipse plumage. From the Gillman and Carden Hides shovelers, wigeons, pintails, teals and gadwalls were all to be seen in their eclipse plumage too. As this is much duller than the breeding plumage (below) it is much harder to spot the males from the females at this time of year!.

Two sightings to take your breath away in recent weeks have been the marsh harrier, seen from the Carden Hide, hunting over the wetlands...

.... and our resident kingfisher.... who has been seen most days on his/her favourite branch opposite the Gillman hide. Look closely and you can even see the fish in the kingfisher's mouth!

The ospreys too continue to delight visitors and can be seen most days flying high above the loch searching for fish or sitting on the fence posts eating them! The most counted so far on a single sighting has been ten - last year's was twelve but we still have time for the count to be beaten - the ospreys will probably be here until the end of September.

If you're not able to come along to the reserve to see them for yourself take a look at this video of an osprey taking a bath. and watch out for the surprise appearance of another Loch Leven resident!

And that's not all! Other sightings at the reserve in recent weeks have included sparrowhawks, kestrels and buzzards; many of the warblers including blackcaps, whitethroats and willow warblers; two charms of goldfinches (with 30 to 40 birds in each flock), spotted flycatchers, linnets, meadow pippits, reed buntings and grey wagtails. Not to mention our little egret has returned for the time being and this time with a friend. Also, large flocks of curlews and lapwing have been seen and a small flock of blacktailed godwits.

No wonder RSPB Loch Leven has been described as a 'haven for wildlife' and a great day out for all the family!

Photo credits: Marsh Harrier (Alex Gilfillan); Osprey (Alex Gilfillan); Kingfisher (Keith Simpson); Mute Swans (Paul Ashcroft); Gadwall (Alex Gilfillan); Blacktailed Godwit (Paul Ashcroft)

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