January Sightings

Hope you all having a good new year. The year at Loch of the Lowes started with very mild weather, this brought in a lot of activity in the feeding station, birds like chaffinches and coal tits are still high in numbers. Yellow Hammers are making a comeback, with a male frequently visiting the feeders almost on a daily bases. Tree creepers were spotted on the trees around the feeding station. A single long tailed tit was spotted feeding from the fat balls. Squirrels are also taking advantage of the mild weather and indulging in peanuts, with, so far, the highest number being three squirrels at one go.

On the loch, we had a big number of wigeon visiting and resting. A great crested grebe in winter plumage was spotted and two cormorants constantly fishing on the loch. Other birds spotted on the loch are tufted ducks, goldeneyes and resident swans.

Male Wigeon - ©Aron Tanti

Male Wigeon – ©Aron Tanti

 

Chris Cachia Zammit

Posted in Diary 2017 |

Highlights from 2016

As 2016 comes to an end, here are the highlights of the year

January, February

These two months saw us busily preparing activities for the events for the coming season.

March
In March we had two events, ‘Spring equinox – family fun’ day on the 19th and 20th and a successful beginner ID course about bird-watching taken by Scott Paterson.

There was great excitement on the 18th which saw the arrival of our female osprey (LF15). She set about cleaning and arranging the nest, and then the male (LM12) arrived on the 25th!

April
During this month we had two family fun days, ‘Awesome Ospreys’ and ‘Happy Hopping’, both well attended.

Also n April, LF15 laid her three eggs on the 12th, 15th and 18th. Both LM12 and LF15 took it in turns to incubate the eggs.

May
A dawn chorus walk was led by the ranger, and Alan Stewart came over to Lowes to talk about his long and distinguished career on the front line of tackling wildlife persecution.

This month we saw our three osprey chicks for the first time. First egg hatched on the 18th, second on the 20th and last one on the 23rd.

It wasn’t just the ospreys who were busy, the great crested grebes, built a nest among the water lilies within clear view from the hides.

Great Crested Grebe on the nest at Loch of the Lowes @ Chris Cachia Zammit

Great Crested Grebe on the nest at Loch of the Lowes @ Chris Cachia Zammit

June
In June we held two family fun days ; ‘Nuts about Squirrels’, for the activity, Ken Neil from Saving Scotland’s Red Squirrel, was talking about red squirrels…. and Wildlife at Midsummer, both activities were jam packed with children quizzes and trails.

July
This month, the topics ran from pollinators to wildcats. We were visited by Sandy the Squirrel for our ‘Nuts about the squirrel’ family day. Hebe Carus, from Scottish Wildcat Action group, gave a very interesting talk about Scotland’s most endangered mammal and what’s being done to save them from extinction.  To celebrate the 150th anniversary of Beatrix Potter’s birth, Lindsey Gibb read the famous stories with lively enthusiasm.

The chicks started to fledge this month. First one (KP0) fledged on the 11th, KP1 on the 12th and after more ‘helicoptering’ KP2 fledged on the 16th.

On the loch, young great crested grebes were spotted with their parents protecting them.

Newly ringed chicks © Keith Brockie

Newly ringed chicks © Keith Brockie

 

Garry at Perth

Garry at Perth Museum

August
On a blazing hot day in August we set up a stall at Birnam Highland Games and had great fun with games like ‘Pin the tail on the squirrel’ and ‘build your nest’.

On another day Perth Museum ‘Go Wild’ activity with loads of colouring in, quizzes and games. This month, the ospreys started to depart on their migration. The first bird to leave was the female LF15, on the 13th, followed by the three chicks (KP0: 22th, KP1: 25th and KP2: 29th). After making sure that all the chicks left, the male set off (on the 30th) on his migration.

September

September marked the end of the osprey season, with thousands of visitors coming through the visitor centre doors, greeted by our friendly volunteers.

October
For October, we joined with the Birnam Arts Centre to hold a very interesting and well attended talk by Charlie Philips about the UK’s only resident population of bottlenose dolphins.  We also had a visit by Robert Law, from Mills Observatory in Dundee, talking about the night sky, followed by star-gazing on the reserve.

More and more wintering birds, mainly pink footed geese and greylags, were seen on the loch. A goldcrest was spotted peeking into the visitor center window, wondering why we are amazed!

November

© Chris Cachia Zammit Red Squirrel at Loch of the Lowes

Red Squirrel at Loch of the Lowes © Chris Cachia Zammit

We took a stall at Perth Market welcoming people and telling them as much as possible about Loch of the Lowes.

Rosanna Cunningham came to the centre for a meeting with Charlotte the Perthshire Ranger and Scottish Wildlife Trust CEO Jonny Hughes. Shortly afterwards we were delighted to receive the outcome of nearly 20 years of hard work – beavers are officially welcomed back as a native species.

 

November brought a good number of red squirrels into the feeding station, all collecting peanuts (and rob others) and stash them into their hidey holes under the leaves. These hidey holes make easy pickings for carrion crows and jays who keep an eye where the squirrels are hiding them.

December
We attended the famous Santa Day market down in Dunkeld. Sandy the Squirrel joined us for this activity and received loads of cuddles from children.

December started off with a male smew on the loch. The weather was mild, and this gave a great opportunity for birds and squirrels to stock up on food.

We would like to thank all the members, volunteers and visitors for their great support and now we’re looking forward to 2017!

Chris Cachia Zammit

Posted in Diary 2016 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , |

Latvia’s Beavers

You may remember that back in September I got the chance to go to Latvia and learn all about their culture and conservation practices. With the recent news of the success of the beaver reintroduction project and the Scottish Government’s decision to reclassify the species as a native species to Scotland, I thought I would share some of my knowledge that I learned in Latvia about their beavers.

Beavers in Scotland became extinct in the 16th Century while those in Latvia died out in the 1830’s, as the population of Eurasian beaver fell to as low as 1200 animals worldwide by the late 19th Century. This was a result of pressure from humans, such as hunting for its fur, as well as for its meat and oil. In Latvia they were first re-introduced in 1928 using beavers from Norway. In subsequent years the populations were bolstered by additional re-introductions in 1927 to 1952 and again from 1975 to 1984.Since then Latvian beavers have been very successful in re-establishing throughout Latvia, in both wild and urban areas.

Currently there are around 100,000 beavers found within Latvia. It is theorised that the current population increased due to large amounts of irrigation ditches and altered waterways. However we learned that there had been some conflict between landowners and beavers, especially in rural areas. This seemed to be remedied by allowing a quota of beavers to be hunted every year between August and April to help reduce numbers in areas of conflict.  Kits are usually born between April and June meaning that this hunting season would avoid the possibility of leaving young kits without parents when they don’t have the ability to fend for themselves. Strict regulations are in place in Latvia to monitor which species and the quantity of animals hunted. The small numbers of beavers hunted in Latvia have little impact on the overall population.

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Throughout the trip through Latvia we had seen signs of beaver activity, from their tooth marks on trees to walkways into the water and branches strewn across the river beaches. It wasn’t until the last night in Latvia that we encountered a beaver.

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Our last night was spent in Riga and whilst walking around the city, we found ourselves strolling along the edge of a stream within the city. Movement drew my eye to the water just as something dived. Fascinated, the whole group stood watching in the darkness, only to see a brown shape pull itself onto the bank. Lo and behold it was a beaver, right next to the city centre. It was not phased by passersby, dogs or even cyclists, only retreating down the slope by a few feet when passed by.

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Another beaver caught my eye entering a drainage tunnel nearby. We continued to walk along the river bank for a little way before coming across yet another beaver, this time swimming in a small pool. Seemingly unaffected by a passing rowing boat, or by the loud music played on one of the banks and a motorbike gang on the other. After watching this beaver for a while we saw some movement on a bank where a kit pulled itself out. Walking around to get a clearer view we spotted a cat, no less than 10 metres from the youngster. Our evening was finished by watching the kit nibbling the grass from less than a metre away.

 

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The only obvious measures we spotted to dissuade any unwanted beaver activity were tree guards, similar to those used for deer, albeit with a larger diameter. These guards appeared to be put in place to preserve tree cover within reach of the stream. This goes to show how amazingly adaptive animals beavers can be and their co-existence with humans is possible.

 

If you would like to read more on my trip to Latvia the group’s reports can be found here, http://archnetwork.org/category/reports/latvia-net-2016/

Melissa

Posted in Diary 2016 | Tagged , , |

Update on FR3: 15th December 2016

Our young satellite tagged osprey from 2015, FR3, has been settled back into his “home territory” near Bulok in the Gambia for over two months now, having ventured eastwards towards Kassagne and the Bintang Bolon for a period from late July to October.

From the latest satellite data you can see that FR3’s movements are largely restricted to a core area of mangrove swamp to the north of Bulok.

FR3's activity between 5th and 11th December 2016

FR3’s activity between 5th and 11th December 2016

This has allowed winter human visitors to the Gambia to find and observe FR3 relatively easily, allowing for the challenges presented by the terrain and landscape in this area.

Most recently, our friend Chris Wood who volunteers on the Rutland Osprey Project, caught up with FR3 and provided the following brief account. It sounds as though FR3 has some unwanted company at the moment!

“…Great views of FR3 today albeit we were going to get closer after he caught a fish and took it to one of his favourite perches, but an intruding Osprey that he chased off about 10 mins earlier returned and after a lot of shouting and alarm calling he took off to chase it again.”

FR3 near Bulok - 10 December 2016 ©Chris Wood

FR3 near Bulok – 10 December 2016 © Chris Wood

FR3 in flight near Bulok - 10 December 2016 © Chris Wood

FR3 in flight near Bulok – 10 December 2016 © Chris Wood

If you’re wondering why there has been no mention of this year’s chicks, KP0, KP1 and KP2, that’s because they weren’t satellite tagged so we have no way of knowing how they are getting on. We hope of course that they are faring well and their darvic colour leg rings should allow them to be identified if they are sighted anywhere in the years to come.

We’ll bring you more news of FR3 as and when there are any developments.

Posted in Diary 2016 | Tagged , , , , |

December Sightings

December started off with a banga male smew in eclipse plumage, was spotted on the loch swimming close to the hide.  An exciting sighting indeed!

Chaffinches and coal tits are still visiting the feeding station in good numbers and feasting from the food provided in the feeding station. The mild weather has given the birds a window of opportunity to be better prepared for the cold.

It’s not just birds that are profiting from this window, even red squirrels are quickly taking advantage of the warmer weather and stocking up on peanuts.

On the loch there are still good numbers of widgeon, tufted duck and goldeneye. Flocks of pink-footed geese are still visiting the loch to rest. Tawny owls can be heard in the evenings hooting away in the woodland near the osprey nest. Signs of recent beaver activity have been spotted close to the hides.

Tufted Duck. © Chris Cachia Zammit

Tufted Duck. © Chris Cachia Zammit

Why not come and see for yourselves what’s around at the moment? The visitor centre is open Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 10.30am-4pm and the hides and woodland trail are accessible 24/7.

Chris Cachia Zammit

Posted in Diary 2016 | Tagged , , , |

Buzz in the Visitor’s Centre

Still looking for that special gift? How about one of these handcrafted dragonflies?

At Loch of the Lowes we are selling dragonflies for £9.99 each, beautifully created by our Visitor Centre Assistant, Melissa Shaw. They can come in these different colours:

  • Bronze
  • Purple
  • Green
  • Yellow
  • Lilac
  • Red
Handmade Dragonfly

Handmade Dragonfly. ©Richard Cachia-Zammit

You can order them by phone on 01350 727337 or email lochofthelowes@scottishwildlifetrust.org.uk  and collect them from the centre. Limited stock. Or commission one specially created with colour combinations of your choice.

Posted in Diary 2016 | Tagged , , , , , , , , |