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:

Autumn is in full swing at RSPB Scotland Loch Leven - elderberries and blackberries are heavy on the branches while the rowan berries and wild raspberries have mostly been eaten. Butterflies can still be sighted as can many dragonflies, including this splendid black darter dragonfly recently seen on the wetland trail.

Autumn brings much activity to the reserve as birds begin to gather to feed and, for some, to make their migratory journeys south. Charms of goldfinches have been reported and flocks of curlews and lapwings are frequenting the fields and flood area. Interestingly, the collective nouns for these wading birds are a 'herd' of curlews and a 'desert' of lapwings although I prefer the misapprehension of a 'head' of curlews and a 'deceit' of lapwings.

The cry of the curlew, according to John Buchan (author of The 39 Steps), "was the true voice of the wilderness - pooeeli -pooelli - kirlew - wha-up. It was eerie, fantastic, untameable." (1) These birds are a delight to see in the wetland wilderness of Loch Leven.

The pink footed geese and whooper swans are back in force and have been creating an amazing soundscape on the wetlands. More on them next week when we start to get an idea of numbers. 

Also a delight to see at the reserve is our little egret who has been sighted every month this year except June, although only once in April and once in May. Where did he/she disappear to in June? If anyone has any suggestions we'd be delighted to hear them.

Also sighted regularly over the past few weeks has been a large flock of 100 plus tufted ducks, distinctive even in eclipse plumage with their tufted heads, slatey beaks and bright yellow eyes. There are estimated to be between 16,000-19,000 breeding pairs in the UK and, according to The Birds of Scotland, Loch Leven holds the largest breeding population in Britain (2).

Tufted Duck in their breeding plumage: male (above); male and female (below).

As well as its plumps of wildfowl, RSPB Scotland Loch Leven is also plentiful in its numbers of garden birds. The front wildlife garden is still full of birdsong and the persistent 'seeps' of birds can be heard on the Heritage Trail. It is difficult to spot the garden birds among the browning leaves at this time of year but I stood and listened to a call which sounded like stones or spoons being lightly tapped against metal - and eventually spotted a robin among the leaves. The robin is present all year round but strange how we seem to notice him most at this time of year.

And autumn would not be autumn without its fungi! Our Reserve Manager Uwe Stoneman recently counted 42 different species of fungi on the Woodland Walk and snapped many of these strange and intricate designs including the ones below.

Why not come along to RSPB Scotland Loch Leven this coming weekend and see how many fungi - and how much wildlife - you can spot!

Photo credits: Black darter dragonfly (Paul Ashcroft); Curlews (Alex Gilfillan); Pink footed geese (Alex Gilfillan) Little Egret (Alex Gilfillan); Tufted Ducks (Paul Ashcroft); Robin (Paul Ashcroft); Fungi images (Uwe Stoneman).


(1) From Memory Hold the Door by John Buchan, 1940

(2)  From The Birds of Scotland, the Scottish Ornithologiest Club 2007, ed Ron Forrester & Ian Andrews.