It's been a very exciting month for wildlife sightings at the RSPB Lochwinnoch. A couple of woodcock have been spotted a few times flying over the Aird Meadow. These large bulky wading birds have a very long straight tapering beak and are mostly nocturnal spending most of the day hidden under dense vegetation. In the autumn, woodcock will move to the UK from Finland and Russia to spend their winters here. The breeding population has been in decline over the last few years which could be to do with there being less suitable habitat for them to breed in. There has been large variety of waterfowl spotted this month at the reserve with over 60 tufted ducks and over 100 wigeon counted on the Aird Meadow loch. There has also been some teal seen on the Aird meadow loch, male teal are very distinctive with their chestnut-coloured heads and broad green eye-patches. In the winter these birds will travel to low-lying wetlands in the south and west of the UK, many travelling from around The Baltic and Siberia. The UK is home to the majority of the Northwest European wintering population which has led to its status as an Amber List species.


Teal on the Aird Meadow loch


The smaller birds cannot be forgotten with large groups of very social long-tailed tits continuing to delight visitors on the trails and have been spotted multiple times using the feeders. There has also been sightings of treecreepers along the Aird Meadow trail, these small, active birds live in trees and are very distinctive with their long, slender, downcurved bill which are used for extracting insects from crevices in the tree bark.


Long-tailed tits using the feeders


There continues to be wonderful sightings of hen harriers flying over the reserve this month and there was also a sightings of a sparrowhawk. Sparrowhawk are very spectacular small birds of prey. They are now one of the most widespread birds of prey in Britain but until a few decades ago they were mostly extinct in many eastern countries due to persecution and pesticide use in agriculture therefore it is always a wonderful experience to spot one on the reserve.


Hen Harrier flying over the reserve, Photo by Richard Bennett


Other sightings on the reserve this month include over 100 lapwing enjoying use of the scrape in front of the visitor centre. There has also been plenty of fantastic sightings of both the drake and the female smew on the Aird Meadow Loch.


Drake smew spotted on the Aird Meadow loch, Photo by Ken Ramsay


On the 26th we had around 14 curlew visit the reserve which was a wonderful surprise. The curlew is the largest European wading bird and has a long downcurved bill which allows it to probe into the mud looking for prey. They have a very recognisable call that sounds like "Cur-lee".  The UK's breeding population of curlews is of international importance as they are estimated to represent more than 30% of the West European population. There have been alarming declines of Curlews throughout most of the UK. There have also been some exciting sightings of other wildlife on the reserve this month with the stoat being spotted on the Dubbs trail and the otter being spotted in the Aird meadow loch.


Otter on the Aird Meadow loch, Photo by Richard Bennett


Written by Rachel Reid - Volunteer