February Sightings

February brought in mild weather, with the occasional dusting of snow. This has made our feeding station a popular spot with many of the usual birds.

Snow on

Loch of the Lowes © Chris Cachia Zammit

Two greenfinches were spotted in the feeding station, a bird that has become rare in the area due to repeated outbreaks of trichomonosis. Two flocks of yellowhammers made an appearance at the feeding station on the 5th and 10th. What a sight! The sparrowhawk was very active on the 5th, swooping after the small birds in the feeding station. Our local red squirrels continue to be regular visitors to the feeding station, feeding on peanuts.

A juvenile peregrine falcon was spotted perched high on a dead tree, feathers fluttering in the chilly breeze from the hide. Goldeneye were observed doing their courtship display on the loch so it seems that spring is in the air for them at least!

Two cormorants have taken up residence and were spotted fishing. Coots and moorhens were also present; interestingly two of the coots seemed to be hanging around with the wigeon. Perhaps they were suffering from an identity crisis!

Cormorant ©  Chris Cachia Zammit

Cormorant © Chris Cachia Zammit

At least two great crested grebes were spotted – the first for months, and a little grebe was seen on the 8th.

Chris Cachia Zammit 

 

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Yellow Hammers Brighten a Rainy Day!

It’s a grey, chilly day here today. Low cloud shrouding the surrounding hills darkening the sky, while rain showers fall onto soaked grass, splashing where puddles fill hollows. There’s a Scottish word to describe this kind of day: dreich.

Despite the weather, the red squirrels, chaffinches, great, coal and blue tits are busily stocking up on energy in our feeding station. There were a few moments of panic among the small birds as they fled for cover when a sparrowhawk swooped in and perched for several seconds beside the feeders, After surveying the still, empty scene, the sparrowhawk took to the wing again and sped off towards the loch, expertly weaving between branches, before gaining even more speed over the open water to hunt further along the reserve.

Happily, the woodland birds soon returned and we were treated to a rare sight: 13 brilliantly coloured yellowhammers flew in as a flock. A welcome, sunny spectacle to brighten the day.

Yellowhammer © Chris Cachia Zammit

Yellowhammer © Chris Cachia Zammit

Whether rain, shine, snow or frost, the feeding station is always a hive of activity.

Snowdrops are flowering and other signs of Spring are appearing all around us. Have you seen snowdrops yet? Will we have more snow before the winter’s out? Will there be ice on the loch when the ospreys return this year? It won’t long, Osprey season starts next month when everyone’s eyes are to the skies to see what the year will bring!

We are open Friday, Saturday and Sunday until the end of the month and then, from 1st March, we’ll be open 7 days a week.

Cherry

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Importance of Loch of the Lowes

Today is World Wetlands DayWorld Wetlands Day, a day dedicated to raising awareness of the international importance of all wetlands, from peat bogs to marsh lands, and highlighting the threats that they face.

Is-Simar Nature Reserve ©Nadja Tschovikov

Is-Simar Nature Reserve ©Nadja Tschovikov

Wetlands are a magnet to a variety of wildlife, from insects to mammals. Along many bird migration routes they provide safe havens for birds to rest and refuel before continuing their long journeys. Examples include such places as Ghadira and Is-Simar Nature Reserves – two wetland reserves on the island of Malta, managed by Birdlife Malta which are frequently used as a stopover for birds like spoonbills, grey herons, little egrets and other avian species.

 

Loch of the Lowes is also an important ecosystem that offers a refuge to a wide variety of wildlife. The loch is a SSSI (Sites of Special Scientific Interest), designated amongst other things for the presence of a small aquatic plant, slender naiad (Najas flexilis). The loch is one of the few remaining lochs in the UK where one can find this rare plant.

The loch is also home to beavers – an important species, which help to restore wetland areas and improve the biodiversity of the area.   At Loch of the Lowes we’ve seen the positive influences that beavers can have on woodlands. They help bring new life to older woodlands by felling trees that naturally coppice and regenerate, with this fresh growth providing food for others.

Beaver hiding at Loch of the Lowes © Charlotte Fleming

Beaver hiding at Loch of the Lowes © Charlotte Fleming

Loch of the Lowes is also well known for its variety of bird life and the first bird that comes to everyone’s mind is the osprey. Ospreys first re-appeared on the loch in 1969 and breed successfully in 1971.  One of the most famous ospreys in the UK, “Lady” called Loch of Lowes home for 24 years, from 1991-2014. She successfully raised 50 chicks during her life time. Apart from ospreys a number of other waterbird species breed on the loch, including great crested grebes and goosanders.

Great crested grebe and chicks ©Marion Moore

Great crested grebe and chicks ©Marion Moore

During autumn and winter, wildfowl such as goldeneye, tufted ducks, wigeon, pink-footed and greylag geese roost and feed on the loch. Large numbers of black-headed and common gulls also use the loch as an overnight roost. Whooper swans use the loch as a stopover before continuing their journey.

The loch also has a healthy population of perch and pike, providing the ospreys with a regular food source during the summer months.

Successful fishing by Lowes male osprey and very surprised Canada Goose! Photo copyright Lisa Waters

Successful fishing by Lowes male osprey and very surprised Canada Goose! © Lisa Waters

Scottish Wildlife Trust is working in partnership with SNH (Scottish Natural Heritage), SEPA (Scottish Environmental Protection Agency) and our neighbours to protect this important wetland ecosystem. Loch of the Lowes is a low nutrient environment, which can be adversely affected by nutrient runoff from surrounding farmland. We work closely with surrounding landowners to minimise nutrient runoff into the loch and carry out monthly water samples to monitor changes in nutrient levels.

Chris Cachia Zammit 

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January Sightings

The mild weather continued to persist into mid-January and then temperatures dropped. This has brought in a big number of chaffinches to the feeding station, with a peak count of 50+.  Yellowhammers are still making a presence, with the highest number being 4.

Winter scene

Winter scene © Chris Cachia Zammit

On the 20th, two bramblings where spotted feeding among the chaffinches and they were very obliging to the visitors watching the feeding station. An ermine stoat was spotted from the feeding station viewing window, climbing up and down trees, what a sighting! Other birds spotted were; blackbirds, dunnocks, blue tits and great tits and the local great spotted woodpeckers.  

Our local red squirrels continue to be regular visitors to the feeding station, feeding on peanuts.

On the 27th a male smew was spotted on the loch. What a bonnie bird!

 Chris Cachia Zammit 

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Beavers want your vote!!

Please vote beaver! We’re delighted that the successful reintroduction of European beavers to Scotland has been nominated for Wildlife Success of the Year in the 2017 BBC Countryfile Magazine Awards.

Voting is open until Tuesday 28 February.

beaver tile

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Come and volunteer at Loch of the Lowes!

Are you looking to do something totally different and highly rewarding this year? How about volunteering for Scotland’s largest charity dedicated to protecting our incredible native wildlife?

There are lots of opportunities to volunteer with the Scottish Wildlife Trust wherever you are in the country and Loch of the Lowes is no exception to that.

We have a number of different volunteering roles for you to choose from depending on your particular skills, experience and interests.

Do you enjoy talking to people and sharing your enthusiasm for wildlife? Are you a born sales person, who is good with numbers and has a keen eye for presentation? If you answered yes to either of these questions then Visitor Centre volunteering could be for you! Come and help us man our four-star rated visitor centre and gift shop.

Loch of the Lowes gift shop ©Scottish Wildlife Trust

Loch of the Lowes gift shop ©Scottish Wildlife Trust

Alternatively, are you more of an outdoorsy person? An experienced wildlife watcher; confident with using telescopes and binoculars and able to interpret animal behaviour? If so perhaps you would enjoy being an Osprey Watch volunteer or one of our Guides in the Hide? Our 24 hour Osprey nest protection watch runs during April and May each year, with “Guides in the Hides” provided year-round.

Team Osprey Watch ©Scottish Wildlife Trust

Team Osprey Watch ©Scottish Wildlife Trust

Or maybe a hard day’s physical work is what really appeals to you? Getting stuck in, removing non-native plant species and making a practical contribution to nature conservation? Coupled with the opportunity to gain wildlife survey skills and an understanding of nature reserve management? If this sounds more like your thing then consider becoming a Reserve Conservation Volunteer.

Conservation volunteers carrying out survey work at Balnaguard Glen ©Scottish Wildlife Trust

Conservation volunteers carrying out survey work at Balnaguard Glen ©Scottish Wildlife Trust

Volunteering can be a great way to meet people, utilise and build upon your existing skills and experience, make a positive contribution to society and the environment, and most importantly have fun at the same time!

But don’t just take my word for it – here are a few comments that current volunteers have made about what they’ve gained from their volunteering experience :

“The satisfaction of meeting people with similar interests to my own.”  George (Visitor Centre Volunteer)

“A chance to use my skills, knowledge and enjoyment of Nature within a knowledgeable and enthusiastic team.”  Brian (Guide in the hide and Osprey Watch Volunteer)

“It’s a great way of learning about what is all around us!”  Yvonne (Osprey Watch and Reserve Conservation Volunteer)

If you want find out more about volunteering at Loch of the Lowes send an email to lochofthelowes@scottishwildlifetrust.org.uk or call in to the visitor centre and have a chat with one of our staff members.

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