RSPB Scotland Loch Leven's Writer in Residence Anita John brings us the latest sightings from the reserve and writes: A glorious day of sunshine at RSPB Scotland Loch Leven! The verges are ablaze with flowers, butterflies and bees and there is a heady thrum of insect sound - the idyllic sounds and sights of high summer! Butterflies abundant among the vibrant splash of grasses and blooms include the common blue, the meadow brown and the ringlett butterfly. The ringlett butterflies seem particularly fond of the oxeye daisies on the reserve ...
... as do the common blue of the meadow buttercups!
Wild flowers to be seen include red campion, rose-bay willow herb, oxeye daisies, meadow buttercups, common bird's foot trefoil, ragwort, knapweed, cow parsley, foxgloves, thistles, forget-me-nots, and white and purple clover to name but a few! Great food for the butterflies and bees!
The flood waters are also alive with colour and sound thanks to an abundance of wildfowl and their young. From the Carden Hide several great crested grebes can be seen, easily identified by their elegant heads and the fierce flash of orange from their crests as they turn into the sun. At least one pair has chicks and great crested grebes have the particularly charming habit of carrying their youngsters on their backs.
Other colourful chicks include those of the coots, whose bright red heads are strikingly dissimilar to the white heads and shields of their parents. There is probably an evolutionary advantage to the jarring colour of the chicks' feathers: indeed research shows that female coots concentrate their feeding and preening activities on the chicks with the brightest plumage. Those with the brightest plumage are, presumably, those in the best of health and therefore most likely to survive.
Recently, the coots have been gathering on the flood waters in coverts of 28 or more - certainly a sight to be seen.
Less colourful, but equally charming, are the young of the resident greylag geese. On your visit to RSPB Scotland Loch Leven you are almost guaranteed to see rafts of these geese and their growing chicks out on the bay, or along water's edge. They make regular outings onto the water and on my latest visit to the reserve there was a flottila of 200 plus greylag geese with their young ones enjoying the sunshine.
Likewise you are almost always guaranteed to see mute swans (at the moment with cygnets), and lapwings, whose young are growing rapidly and becoming increasingly independent.
And summer, of course, wouldn't be summer without the swallows flying low over the long grasses of the bumblebee meadows, and high over the waters of the reserve. The first young have now fledged and can be seen, swooping and diving for flies with the adults, or resting on fence post and gate. It is a joy to see their progress and to hear their twitterings merge with skylark song, the buzz of insects, the honk of geese and the ever-present raucous cries of the black-headed gulls and their young. Sounds and sights to lift the heart and a perfect time to plan a visit to the reserve!
Photo credits: Ringlett Butterfly and Flowers (RSPB staff); Common Blue Butterfly (Alex Gilfillan); Great Crested Grebes (Alex Gilfillan); Coot with chick (Alex Gilfillan); Greylag Geese (Alex Gilfillan); Swallow Juvenile (Paul Ashcroft)
Events to Look Out For: BioBlitz!
We are delighted to welcome TV presenter and naturalist Chris Packham to RSPB Scotland Loch Leven on Saturday, 14th July as part of his UK BioBlitz - Nature Reserves are Not Enough! This is a free event and you are invited along from 10am to help record any wildlife seen on the reserve - from beetles to blackbirds and beyond! Chris will be on site from 12 noon to 1pm to lend a hand and inspire us all to nurture nature more than we do! Please come along early on the day as we anticipate our car park will fill up very quickly. For more information see here.
Events to Look Out For: Festivals Players!
The Festival Players will entertain us with an Open Air Theatre Production of The Winter's Tale on the evening of Thursday 26 July. This is a popular event and perfect entertainment for a summer's evening. Tickets can be booked here.
Events to Look Out For: Big Wild Sleepout!
And our annual night of camping under the stars is scheduled for the weekend of 28th/29th July. Join in with bat and moth walks, enjoy wildlife and bushcraft activities and toast marshmallows on the fire! To book and for more information see here.
Work to develop our new accessible underpass is going well and remains on plan. We are looking forward to seeing the end result! During this time the Heritage Trail will be diverted via the Wetlands area of the reserve free of charge, however please be aware there is a small charge for visiting the hides during this period of £3 per adult (free to RSPB members and children). We would like to say a massive thank you to the public for both their support and patience during this time.
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