Pee-wit, Kiebitz, Tofsvipa! Just a few of the onomatopoeic names for the lapwing from around Europe. At RSPB Scotland Loch Leven we are lucky enough to hear this iconic, yet indescribable call as they display along the wetland. We already have multiple nests, so watch this space for chick updates!
Wandering along the wetland trail after successfully seeing the lapwings call, display and tumble through the air, you might come across another recent arrival displaying overhead. Taking off from the ground and shooting up into the air, the meadow pipit has a short moment of calm as it glides to the apex of its display flight. The call starts with evenly spaced notes before it rapidly flutters its wings and “parachutes” down to ground, increasing the rate of its call before falling silent as it lands again.
One of the first migrants to return this year were the sand martins. After their long journey from Africa, they have been busy feeding on the emerging insects over the fields and wetlands, showing off their agility. Small and stocky but with pointed wing tips and tail feathers that cut through the air, they are perfectly adapted for quick changes of direction as they hunt, narrowly avoiding grazing cattle. Related to the house martin, sand martins breed in colonies on sandy banks. If it has a brown collar and is missing the white rump of the house martin, you know you have seen a sand martin!
Some of the other summer visitors to have recently returned are the blackcaps and chiffchaffs. The chiffchaff can easily blend in to the background with it’s less musical chiff-chaff, but nothing says “spring” more than the first rays of warmth through budding trees to the backing track of a chiffchaff!
Like the chiffchaff, the more songful blackcap has been serenading visitors around the woodland. Usually a little easier to see than the chiffchaff, look out for a grey warbler with, as the name suggests, a black cap! But why has that one got a brown cap? Like many song birds, the blackcap is sexually dimorphic, which means males and females look different. In blackcaps, the female has a brown cap.
As we say “hello!” to our summer arrivals, we must also say “safe travels!” to our wintering pink-footed geese. The numbers have been steadily climbing from the mid-winter lull (1800 at the last count) as the geese congregate and prepare for the 1000km hop across the North Atlantic to their breeding grounds in Iceland.
We are still expecting many more visitors, so keep your eyes to the skies! Ospreys have been spotted over the loch and we are eagerly awaiting the screeching of swifts as they take part in their feathered grand prix. There is an exciting couple of months ahead and we hope to see many fluffy young chicks all over the reserve!
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