Wildlife Diary 22nd August

There is a real taste of autumn in the air here in the highlands despite it still being August. The nights are decidedly chilly and  the sound of geese arriving is filling the air. They local Canada goose population has started congregating on the lochs (today’s count 180) and they will soon be joined by other wildfowl arriving from the north. Loch of the Lowes will host many artic breeding species such as Tufted and Goldeneye ducks and Pinkfoot and Greylag geese for the winter.

Canada Goose by kind permission of Ray Leinster - copyright.

Canada Goose by kind permission of Ray Leinster – copyright.

I was asked last week why I described our ospreys as having left on “Autumn” migration, when it’s still summer. Many of our migratory species actually begin to move on migration  as soon as the summer business of rearing a family is over, and spend more than half the year in their non breeding areas. Perhaps rather than wintering grounds, we should refer to these destinations as the “off duty zones”.

The last confirmed sighting of our male osprey was last Saturday the 16th on flat top tree. Since then there have been no appearances by the birds at the nest, though there have been visiting birds dropping into the loch and sitting on some of the further perches- including one today on Skeleton tree.

Our woodlands are busy with fallow deer with young calves at foot- the females often choose the quiet woods around the visitor centre to have their calves and keep them safe for the first few weeks, before joining the larger herd come the autumn.

Lastly, a note about our Blogs. Now that the osprey season is over, there is still lots to see and do on our Perthshire reserves, so we will keep the blog up to date twice a  week during autumn. Over the winter ( October to February) we will be on skeleton staffing so this will be just once a week -but don’t worry, if anything extra exciting happens we will let you know. Thanks for all your kind comments about the blog and the incredibly supportive feedback we’ve had about it- its been much appreciated. Don’t forget you can still send your osprey questions to: ospreys@scottishwildlifetrust.org.uk

Ranger Emma

Posted in Diary 2014 |

We’ve all gone batty at Loch of the Lowes: 21st August

Whilst the warm weather may be stirring clouds of midges that spoil waterside picnics for some, for bats it has created an all you can eat buffet! With a single Pipistrelle bat able to consume 3000 midges in one night, the bats here at Lowes have been seen making the most of this plentiful food supply.

Having previously worked in bat consultancy myself, alongside other experienced staff and volunteers we have made it our goal to better our knowledge of the bat species present on our reserve, and boost the profile of these fabulous mammals. A special staff bat training night was held, equipping all with the basic knowledge to conduct our very own bat surveys. We have all been busy putting these skills into practice, patiently watching the buildings and bat boxes for emerging bats and using our detectors to identify the species found.

There are nine species of bat living in Scotland, ranging in size from the Common Pipistrelle weighing in at less than a £1 coin, to our biggest bat the Noctule which is still small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. Despite the popular myths of all bats being blood sucking animals, all British bats are insectivorous and catch their prey either by hawking (capture in flight), gleaning (hovering to pluck insects from trees or bushes) or gaffing (grabbing insects from the water surface).  So far we have identified four species here at Lowes, the Common Pipistrelle, Soprano Pipistrelle, Daunbenton’s and an exciting rare Noctule sighting.

bat event pic

If you are lucky enough to have bats in your area, you do not need a detector to be able to enjoy the spectacle of bats in flight. Between March – September, go for a walk around dusk, and if you know where to look you might be surprised by how many bats you find. Common and Soprano Pipistrelles are the most common bats found in urban and rural spaces. They like to roost in cracks in buildings and in gaps under roof tiles, and frequently feed in gardens, parklands and woodlands. Emerging soon after sunset, a walk along a woodland or field path should be rewarded with a view of a frantic, zig-zag flight pattern of a Pipistrelle. However if you live near a slow flowing river or loch, you may catch a glimpse of a Daubenton’s bat, with its distinctive low figure-of-8 flight just centimetres from the surface, perfect for picking insects from the water. This species likes to roost in old masonry structures, and I’ve found canals and lochs with nearby stone bridges excellent spots to watch these bats in action.

Watch this space for more information on what you can do to attract bats into your area. If you would like to find out more about these fascinating mammals, join us on Monday 25th August to celebrate National Bat Night. We will be learning all about bats, with a range of craft activities for children of all ages and a guided walk where you can try your hand at bat detecting. Booking for this event is essential, please call 01350 727 337.

Charlotte Fleming, Volunteer Assistant Ranger.

Posted in Diary 2014 |

10 things to Look Forward To

10 things to look forward to in the coming weeks at Loch of the Lowes this August/September:

  • Migrating ospreys dropping by to visit us and fishing in our lochs- every visitor can help contribute to osprey research by looking for leg rings on these birds.
  • Watching all our fledgling birds learning the ropes : young woodpeckers and woodland birds, , ducks, swans  and more- can you spot the ‘teenagers’?
  • Frantic activity from our Red Squirrels as the shortening days prompt them to start storing food for the lean months ahead.
  • Dawn and Dusk wildlife watching becoming easier as the days shorten- the best time for Otter and Beaver spotting- we’ve had lots of good sightings recently from our lochside hide.
  • The best time of year for Deer watching- our fallow and roe deer have new fawns at foot just now and within weeks the autumn courtship will begin, with the stags roaring in the woods around the loch.
  • National Bat night event August 25th , 7-9pm. Learn all about Bats and try your hand at Bat detecting- small charge, booking essential . Suits all ages.
  • Get creative with our “It’s Our World Weekend” , part of a national project to capture the essence of the countryside – write a poem, paint a picture , take a photo- what does it mean to you? A free event all weekend 30th-31st August.
  • Tremendous Trees guided walk- talk a stroll in the early autumn woods and learn how to ID trees species and some of their fascinating stories and uses. Saturday 20th September  1-3pm. Booking recommended
  • Super Squirrels family fun weekend- learn all about our famous Red Squirrels and our work to protect them. Sat 27th and Sun 28th September. Free with VC entry, fun crafts and quizzes for all the family.
  • Autumn Itself ! Visit to see the colours change in the woods and the autumn migrants arrive on the loch- ducks and geese arriving from breeding grounds further north massively swell our numbers  of waterfowl, and surprises often turn up.
Autumn at Loch of the Lowes- copyright SWT

Autumn at Loch of the Lowes- copyright SWT

So although Osprey season is over, there is still lots to see and do on our Perthshire reserves.

Ranger Emma

Posted in Diary 2014 |

Calling all budding conservationists!

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Osprey Visitors 11th August

Great exciting on the Loch of the Lowes osprey nest this morning just after 9.30am when two ospreys landed on the nest- but it was immediately apparent from the birds body language that it wasn’t our normal pair.

One of the birds was clearly our male , who arrived with a half eaten fish , and  then frantically mantled on the nest -a  classic defensive posture with dropped wings. This meant he was very clearly not happy with the visitor and was defending his territory ( and his breakfast!) as you can see below:

Intruder Bird AJ1 on the Lowes nest 11th August 2014- copyright SWT

Intruder Bird AJ1 on the Lowes nest 11th August 2014- copyright SWT

The second bird was not our female- she has left already last week on her journey southwards to her wintering grounds. If she had been around the loch there is no doubt she would have showed up in response to the provocation of another female on her nest!

A quick check of the birds legs revealed she was ringed and thanks to our great HD camera Jonathon was able to zoom in a capture some good shots of the Darvic ring which read Blue AJ1 .

Blue AJ1- copyright SWT

Blue AJ1- copyright SWT

With some nifty help from Roy Dennis, we were able to establish that this bird was ringed by Bob Swann near Dornoch on 24 June 2012.  It was one of three chicks in a nest, and is now a two year old female. How great for Bob to know she has made it back to the UK safely as a two year old, and let’s hope she settles to breed somewhere next year- good luck AJ1!

This highlights two things: firstly how exciting and useful it is to report Darvic rings on birds-it reveals fascinating stories of survival and science. Secondly, just how much our knowledge of ospreys is till improving all the time- we have previously all underestimated how many 2 year old birds make the migration to the UK as they don’t nest in their first year back, but have a good old ‘practise run’ .

So keep your eyes open folks and report those rings!

Ranger Emma

 

Posted in Diary 2014 |

Osprey Diary 8th August

Well folks, it looks like there is no longer any doubt our beloved female osprey has left on her autumn migration as we haven’t seen her on the loch now since Monday. We all wish her a safe and swift journey to her wintering grounds, and a most welcome return next spring if she’s able. There is every possibility she will make it back to Loch of the Lowes in 2015- is she does it will be a truly remarkable 25 years for her at this nest! What change that 25years has seen- and how far and well the osprey population has recovered in that time too! What a great symbol she is of this conservation success story- truly inspiring I am sure you’ll agree.

This time of year is an exciting one for all osprey watchers- there are young birds and transiting birds in the skies all over the UK. Everyone can help with osprey research science and conservation in a very practical way during migration times- here’s how:

  • Anytime you are near any water in the UK spring and autumn, keep an eye out for ospreys , even if it not a know nesting site- they often drop by on route.
  • Look closely through binoculars or telescopes and see if you can see coloured leg rings ( known as a Darvic ring) or satellite tracking device aerials on the birds:
A satellite tracking aerial on a young osprey- SWT

A satellite tracking aerial on a young osprey- SWT

  • Take photos- lots of photo’s! Digital photos can often be enlarged and enhanced to read leg ring numbers not visible to the naked eye.
  • Every leg ring sighting is valuable- it helps us know which birds survive, which routes they take and where they end up!
  • Submit your sightings to your local osprey project, or to ospreys@swt.org.uk or to websites such as: www.roydennis.org  or the European wide EURING scheme at http://blx1.bto.org/euring/main/

We are of course desperately hoping that someone somewhere in the UK (or in France/Spain/Portugal) will spot one of our young ospreys this autumn, such as Blue YD or even Blue 44- they could well be out there so eyes to the skies folks and let us know!

It is always sad when the Scottish osprey season draws to a close , and we all feel a little bereft without our favourite birds, but we can start looking forward to next year now!

Ranger Emma

Posted in Diary 2014 |