It's been a while since our last update, so our volunteer Elke has kindly put together this sightings update for us.

"We’re nearing the end of the month with one last rainy and quite windy October week. The trails are still open, and plenty of keen visitors have been going on walks despite the colder weather. 

We’ve had quite a few interesting bird sightings in the past few days, with a visit from a wood duck on the 21st. This little guy has been in the area for a couple of months now and is likely to be an escape from a private collection, but still looks very smart now he’s in full adult male plumage. On the same day we also had a great white egret flying over the reserve, which is the first record for this species here. Hopefully not the last, as these birds are continuing to expand their territory northwards.

 Wood duck (Robert Conn)

(Wood Duck, by Robert Conn)

On the picturesque Barr Loch, a slavonian grebe (a red listed species in the UK). When looking for it, look for a dark plumage above and white one below – unlike their black and brown colouring with golden-yellow crest tufts in the summer, the Slavonian grebe’s plumage becomes mostly black and white in the winter. 

Slavonian Grebe (RSPB Images, Ben Andrews)

(Stock photo. Slavonian Grebe, by Ben Andrews RSPB Images)

On Barr Loch we also had a good count of wigeons during one of our Wetland Bird Surveys (WeBS) – 354 so far! – along with other wildfowl including shoveler, goldeneye, tufted duck, pochard, little grebe, whooper swan, mute swan, goosander, canada goose and greylag goose species. Kingfisher and hen harriers have also been putting in an appearance. Otters are present on the reserve, and while normally extremely elusive they have been spotted out in the open giving some fantastic views. When it gets colder, these mammals become more solitary and nomadic on the hunt for food as it becomes scarcer. Otters don’t hibernate in winter - the hairs in their underfur form air spaces to prevent contact between their skin and the cold water, an adaptation to their largely aquatic lifestyle. Around the edges of the Barr Loch we’re getting an increase in winter birds such as redwing and fieldfare, taking advantage of this year’s berry crop. 

We’ve had quite a few sightings in the Aird Meadow area: around the loch we’ve had 30-40 mute swans, 29 whooper swans in flight, cormorant, mallard, goldeneye, tufted duck, common gull, black-headed gull, lesser black-backed gull, great black backed-gull, teal, little grebe, grey heron, canada goose, greylag goose and both adult male and ring-tailed hen harrier. Grey herons are regular here and often get taken a little for granted, but we think they’re particularly beautiful in this foggy, grey weather – what do you think? 

Grey Heron (Ben Andrews RSPB Images)

(Stock photo. Grey Heron, by Ben Andrews RSPB Images)

On the Aird Meadow trail through the woodland the common species are all present, with nuthatches raiding the feeders to cache food for the winter. Keep your eye out for the roving flocks of mixed tits and finches that form at this time of year – this behaviour gives them more eyes to look out for predators and also extra food supplies, but also makes them easier to stop. Long-tailed tits are often the most vocal members of these groups, but if you’re lucky you’ll see many other species such as goldcrests tagging along. And perhaps even a yellow-browed warbler, which is a scare Autumn migrant but a delight to see.

While it’s not breeding season anymore, some birds still sing in the autumn - in the case of the robin it's because they hold territory throughout the year, but in other species it can be young birds or adults doing what is often called subsong, which is part of the song-learning process.

This year there’s also been record numbers of pink-footed geese in Scottish wildlife reserves, matching Icelandic record numbers, and here at Lochwinnoch we’ve seen hundreds of these birds flying overhead. Particularly in bright, clear days with high pressure (such as next week), keep your eyes and ears peeled for skeins of geese passing overhead, and if you can hear their characteristic high-pitched ‘wink-wink’ calls they might be ‘pinkies’. 

Other sightings included a bank vole just at the viewing screen, roe deer out on the Aird Meadow and grey squirrels in the woodland."