We are fully into spring here at the reserve and the change in season is evident with all the new arrivals. Lochwinnoch is full of the sound of birdsong and much of it is coming from the warblers, grasshopper warblers, willow warblers and chiffchaffs can be seen and heard around the reserve. Willow warblers are small birds with grey-green backs, a yellow chest and throat and a stripe above the eye. They are often mistaken for the very similar chiffchaff but the two can often be distinguished from each other by their very different songs. Willow warblers in Britain have been steadily declining over the last 25 years which has made them an amber list species.  Another small bird species which has arrived at the reserve this month is the lesser redpoll; these tiny finches can be easily spotted by the red patches on their head. They were recently split from the larger common redpoll as their own separate species. The lesser redpoll is a bird of high conservation concern, they have undergone drastic declines since the 1990s when their food sources became scarcer due to agricultural intensification.


Lesser redpoll, Photo by Janis Smith

The scrape has become increasingly popular with a wide variety of different bird species and has attracted some very exciting newcomers. The black-tailed godwit was again spotted enjoying the scrape this month as well as the little ringed plover. Large numbers of curlew have also been making use of the scrape. On the 24th of April a whimbrel was spotted on the scrape. The whimbrel is a large wading bird with a distinctive long bill which curves near the end. It can be recognised in flight from the white V shape up its back from its tail. Whimbrels will pass through areas of the UK in the spring and autumn on their way to and from areas in Africa where they spend the winter months. Whimbrels will only nest in the far North of Scotland, Shetland, and Orkney. Another exciting bird species spotted on the scrape this month is a male ruff coming into its breeding plumage. Male ruffs can take on any colour from black, ginger, and white. These bright and unique colours make for a spectacular sight and males will make good use of their appearance at a lek where they will compete with each other to win the attention of the female. The ruff was once a widespread breeding species in Britain, but their numbers have drastically declined since the 19th century which means they are a species of high conservation concern.


Male ruff spotted on the scrape, Photo by Anita Brown

Although there has been an abundance of different bird species on the reserve this month, there has also been an increase in non-bird life. Different species of butterfly have been seen around the reserve signalling the change in season and weather, this has included orange-tip butterflies and peacock butterflies. Orange-tip butterflies are widespread in Scotland and the males are unmistakable with their bright orange wing tips. The peacock butterfly has a beautiful pattern of eye spots which evolved to help them confuse predators, peacock butterflies are strong fliers which allows them to range far and wide throughout the countryside to find their preferred habitats.


Orange-tip butterflies mating, Photo by Lauren McLean.

Other sightings on the reserve this month have included osprey flying over the reserve. A pair of shovelers were spotted on the Aird Meadow loch. The swallows have also started to arrive at the reserve. There have been over 100 tufted ducks counted on the Barr Loch and 250 pinked legged geese flew over the reserve on the 14th of April.


Osprey flying over the reserve, Photo by Janis Smith