This weekend sees the passing of the “Winter Solstice” – the astronomical phenomenon which brings the shortest day and the longest night of the year, when the sun’s daily maximum elevation in the sky is at its lowest.
Around the world this event is interpreted in a myriad of ways, but many cultures regard it as a time of rebirth, involving holidays, festivals, gatherings, rituals or other celebrations around that time.
At Loch of the Lowes we will be marking the occasion with our Winter Solstice Family Fun Days. Throughout the weekend there will be a whole host of children’s activities and quizzes highlighting how the darkest days of winter affect wildlife. The event is FREE with all activities provided as part of the normal visitor centre admission charge (£3.50 Adult, £2.50 Concession, £7 Family, Children & SWT members FREE)
It has definitely felt more like winter on the reserve over the past week or so as temperatures dropped and we had the first snowfall. Bird activity at the feeding station has increased significantly and we’ve been seeing large flocks of Siskin & Long-Tailed Tits flitting about in the tree tops beside the hides. We’re still waiting for the first Brambling to arrive; they’re unusually late appearing, perhaps in response to the relatively mild conditions we’ve experienced so far this winter (and in Scandinavia where they come from?). Much to our delight we’re also beginning to get more regular sightings of our red squirrels which have been largely absent over the past couple of months due to a glut of natural food sources (particularly beech mast).
The Visitor Centre is open over the weekends after Christmas and New Year (but not the Fridays) so if you’re wanting to get outdoors for a nature fix after days of overindulging and watching telly then head down to Loch of the Lowes. There’s plenty to see and you’re always guaranteed a warm welcome.
As one of the UK’s 47 Wildlife Trusts we have a long-standing relationship with birdfood supplier Vine House Farm. Vine House grow many of the crops which go into making their products on their conservation award-winning farm and because Vine House Farm is committed to reducing its impact on the environment, as much produce as is possible is sourced from within the UK.
Wildlife Trust shops & visitor centres stocking their products benefit from a Wildlife Trust discount on wholesale prices and every year Vine House Farm donate 5% of their takings to The Wildlife Trusts. Learn more about our relationship here
Vine House have always tried to keep their prices competitive, bearing in mind the high quality of their products. This winter due to a reduction in production costs they have been able to reduce their wholesale prices across virtually all products (average saving 12%) and at Loch of the Lowes we are delighted to pass these savings on to you!
Here are some of the biggest savings:
- Sunflower Hearts 25kg – (was £52.50, now £39.50 = 25% off)
- Mixed Seed 6kg – (was £13, now £10 = 23% off)
- Sunflower Hearts 13kg – (was £30.50, now £24.50 = 20% off)
- Peanuts 25kg – (was £55.50, now £48 = 15% off)
- Niger Seed 25kg – (was £41.95, now £37 = 12% off)
And remember, Scottish Wildlife Trust members benefit from an extra 10% discount on top of these great savings!
Loch of the Lowes Visitor Centre is open every weekend, Friday-Sunday from 10.30am-4pm so come along and stock up on your winter birdseed supplies!
The visitor centre team will be out and about over the next few weekends attending some our our local Christmas markets.
This coming Saturday, from 9-3 we will be running a stall at the Craft Market on King Edward Street in Perth, selling a range of festive wildlife-themed gifts including Christmas cards, calendars, books & animal adoptions. If you’re in Perth why not pop down and say hello?
On Saturday 13th December we will just down the road from Loch of the Lowes in Dunkeld at Santa Day. Santa Day is recognised nationally as one of the best Christmas events in Scotland, and this year is celebrating its 25th anniversary. As well as the community market which we will be part of, Santa puts in a special appearance at 1pm, pulled by his herd of reindeer and then sets up a grotto for the rest of the afternoon so that children can meet him! A certain famous squirrel has also been known to drop by on Santa Day so come along and see what all the fuss is about!
Tomorrow evening we are hosting a talk in the visitor centre by Claire Smith from the RSPB on Black Grouse conservation in Perthshire and how you can get involved in helping to monitor their numbers.
Black Grouse populations across Europe have been in decline since the latter half of the 19th Century, largely driven by land use changes. Once a common sight throughout the UK, including southern and central England, they are now confined to Scotland, the Pennines and upland areas in Wales.
Targeted habitat management has helped to reverse this trend in certain areas. Claire will inform us about some of the work that the RSPB have been doing to help Black Grouse recover in Perthshire, and how you can contribute to the conservation effort.
It should be a fascinating talk so please come along if you can. There is no charge for attending but donations are encouraged.
Staff and volunteers at Loch of the Lowes have been celebrating the awarding of the inaugural Scottish Tree of the Year title to “Lady’s Tree” since the announcement was made last Thursday, prior to the presentation ceremony at the Scottish Parliament that evening.
I was lucky enough to be invited along to attend the presentation, which was sponsored by MSP Jim Hume, on behalf of the team at Loch of the Lowes, along with the Scottish Wildlife Trust Chairman, Robin Harper and Chief Executive, Jonathan Hughes. Below are a selection of images from the evening…
The trophy, which has been attracting many admiring looks from staff, volunteers and public alike, was lovingly designed and created by Angus Clyne , a professional woodturner based in Ballinluig, near Pitlochry. The base is made from Burr Elm whilst the circular top section is Turned Oak. Given that it was sculpted in Highland Perthshire it seems very fitting that it should stay in the local area.
It will have pride of place in our visitor centre glass display cabinet for the next 12 months so you can come and see it for yourselves. Hopefully come next spring we can add the European Tree of the Year trophy to the collection – voting opens in February!
A HUGE thank you once again to everyone who voted for us – we couldn’t have done it without you! Thanks must also go to Woodland Trust Scotland for organising the competition and to the People’s Postcode Lottery for supporting the event.