It’s a new year at the RSPB Lochwinnoch reserve and with it there has been plenty of wildlife to see around the reserve. The sighting that has caused the most excitement this month was a white-tailed eagle spotted at the south end of the Barr Loch on the 10th of January. The reason why it is so fantastic to have one of these birds visit the reserve is because they are an international conservation success story. They became extinct in Britain in the early 1900s but a reintroduction programme that brought chicks over from Norway to the Island of Rum has saw their numbers start to rise again. They make an impressive sight, and they hold the title for the largest UK bird of prey, fourth largest in the world!

There have been some wonderful sightings of hen harriers flying over the reserve this month. These stunning birds of prey are on the red list in the UK as persecution has led to a dramatic decrease in their numbers over the years although thankfully conservation efforts have been helping to reduce this. Female hen harriers and juvenile males are hard to distinguish between and are often referred to as ringtails due to the distinctive banding on their tail. They are well known for their beautiful displays during the breeding season where the males will pass food to the female in mid-air in a spectacular performance known as skydancing.

Ringtail hen harrier flying over the reserve, Photo by Len McDonald


The smaller birds have also been making themselves known on the reserve with stonechats spotted on the Aird meadow. Male stonechats are striking birds with black heads and orange-red breasts while the females lack the males black head. They live up to their name with their sharp loud calls that sound like stones being tapped together. There has also been lots of tit species around the reserve including blue tits, coal tits, long tailed tits and great tits. The great tit is the largest UK tit and it makes for a beautiful sight with its green and yellow colouring and glossy black head. Great tits have become well known for adapting readily to man-made habitats and have become a regular sighting in gardens. In the winter, tit species join together to form roaming flocks to search for food.


Great tit on the Aird Meadow, Photo by Rachel Reid


Other sightings on the reserve include 150 greylag geese and 250 Canada geese. There has also been over 100 lapwing counted around the reserve. The drake smew has been spotted frequently on the Aird Meadow and has occasionally been joined by the female with some signs of displaying between them. There has also been over 50 goldeneye counted on the Barr Loch.


Drake smew on the Aird Meadow Loch, Photo by Len McDonald