RSPB Scotland Loch Leven's Writer in Residence Anita John brings us the latest sightings from the reserve and writes: The air was full of the wild trumpeting calls of whooper swans on my recent visit to RSPB Scotland Loch Leven as I watched six of these snow-white swans sail past with such ease and grace of wing that I had to stop and stare. They landed on the flood by the Carden Hide to join a flock of ten before the air was filled with the loud paddling of feet and the hiss-beat of wings as two swans then prepared for take off!
There are several family groups of whooper swans to be found on the reserve right now and the sixteen I saw comprised a mixture of adults, with their beautifully creamy yellow beaks, alongside a number of juveniles with their silvery beaks and pale grey backs. The juveniles will over-winter with their parents at Loch Leven and leave together as a family unit when they start their 600 to 800 mile journey back to Iceland come March or April next year.
Interestingly, family groups are generally faithful to their winter sites and I wonder if the group of sixteen I saw this time were from the same group of twenty whooper swans I saw back in 2017 (see here (scroll down).
The pinkies are also delighting visitors at Loch Leven and, at last count, just under 7,000 pink-footed geese were sighted on the loch. The highest count so far this winter has been 14,886 in October, (the highest count in five years), although many of these birds will have been passing through to overwinter further south.
Also sighted on the loch were small groups of goldeneyes (29 in total!) with a few pairs of pochards mixed in, the latter clearly identified by their chesnut heads; several great crested grebes; around 200 mute swans with accompanying juveniles; and numerous teals. The teals always bring excitement when the sun picks out their vibrant colours on the water as they turn their heads this way and that. And in flight, their emerald green wing flash is as fast and fleeting as the bolt of a kingfisher.
Our Little Egret has continued to be sighted on a daily basis at Loch Leven and last week was joined by another Little Egret. This small heron can usually be seen from the Carden Hide and, like all herons, is often stationary for long periods of time, but, unlike the grey heron, the bright white colour makes our Little Egret easily visible among the dark rushes and reeds.
Also spotted recently on the flood have been tufted ducks, goosanders, grey heron and flocks of curlew returning for their winter stay at the reserve. Up to 150,000 curlews overwinter in the UK (including 68,000 UK breeding pairs), many of them choosing to overwinter in Scotland.
These waders are in serious decline across the whole of the UK and are one of the RSPB's priority species when it comes to land management. Re land management, you are invited to come along to the reserve during December to read and comment on our land management priority objectives over the next five years. There will be an exhibition on display in the Visitor Centre so please do come along and have your say!
And, FINALLY, we're delighted to have gathered night-footage of two otter kits (youngsters) playing close to the loch-side by the Gillman Hide and you can view their night-time antics here:
Yet another reason to come pay us a visit over the dark winter months!
Photo credits: Whooper Swans - Paul Ashcroft; Pink-footed Geese - Alex Gilfillan; Teal - Paul Ashcroft; Little Egret - Paul Ashcroft; Curlew - Paul Ashcroft.
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