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:

The pink-footed geese have swooped in from Iceland and Greenland to return to their winter feeding grounds at RSPB Scotland Loch Leven. Six thousand "pinkies" were sighted on St Serf's Island in early October and large numbers have been feeding on the wetlands each day. The first official count is happening on Monday 23rd October so watch this space.

The whooper swans too have returned from their breeding grounds in Iceland and 20 or more of these "whistling" swans have been seen feeding on the loch in the company of mute swans. It is estimated that 4,000 whooper swans will make Scotland their home during the winter months. (1)

Recent wind and rain brought in large mixed flocks of wildfowl, all sheltering in the lee of the bay, close to the Gilman Hide. There were pintails, shovelers, gadwalls, wigeons, teals, mallards, tufted ducks, pochards and goldeneyes. The pintails are one of the first to emerge from their eclipse plumage and the stripe on the necks of the males is vivid white once more.

The wigeons too are beginning to look spectacular once again with their bright yellow-buff foreheads catching the sun each time they turn to the scope. 

Some species are in their winter plumage for the time being - like the great crested grebes spotted on the loch with their slender beaks, sliver-grey bodies, white necks and black-crested heads. No courtship ruff as yet (as in the photo below) but these feathers are sure to develop in time for the breeding season!

Of the birds of prey, the migratory osprey was last sighted here on 27th September but our resident buzzards and kestrels can regularly be seen patrolling the reserve. I was lucky enough to glimpse a kestrel descend in all its glory into the grassy verge just outside the Bumblebee Meadow. It missed its prey but I watched it rise on the wind for a second attempt and was close enough to see the sandy brown buff of its wings and its pale undersides as it passed overhead. Yet another special moment at RSPB Scotland Loch Leven!

Other species recently seen at the reserve include approximately 100 goosanders in Vane Bay; over 100 curlews on the wetlands, many greylag geese and even a single barnacle goose! Three roe deer are also regularly to be seen from each of the Hides.

But for the next few weeks it will be the pink-footed geese who steal the show. It's a joy to see our Nordic migrants return - to hear the shortening days in the whump of their wings and the whink-whink-whink of their calls. Get along to RSPB Scotland Loch Leven to see them if you can!

Photo credits: Pink-footed Geese (Alex Gilfillan); Whooper Swans (Paul Ashcroft); Pintail (Paul Ashcroft); Great crested Grebes (Alex Gilfillan); (Kestrel (Alex Gilfillan).

References: (1): Five Facts You Need To Know About Whooper Swans: see here.