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SWT Loch of the Lowes

The blog for ospreys, red squirrels, pine martens, and more.

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SWT Loch of the Lowes

SWT Loch of the Lowes

Loch of the Lowes Visitor Centre and Wildlife Reserve covers 98 hectares near Dunkeld. From early April to late August, the star attraction is a pair of breeding ospreys, which nest just 150 metres from our observation hide.

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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 

 

Original author: jonathan
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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

Original author: jonathan
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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 30 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 

Original author: jonathan
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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 

Original author: jonathan
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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

Original author: jonathan
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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.

Original author: jonathan
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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

Original author: jonathan
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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

Original author: jonathan
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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.

p1450213-1

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.

p1460276

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.

 

p1460347-2

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

Original author: jonathan
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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.

Original author: jonathan
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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.

Original author: jonathan
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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.

Original author: jonathan
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Christmas will soon be upon us… are you still looking for that special gift for a loved one?

Then look no further! At Loch of the Lowes we have the perfect presents for you.

Why not a photo of our ospreys?…

Supplied with an easy to use hanging kit, these stunning images have proven to be extremely popular and would make an excellent addition to any room in your house, allowing you to enjoy the magnificent sight of an osprey all year round.

Orders can be collected from Loch of the Lowes or if it’s more convenient, delivered directly to your home/work address. Order by the 20th of December to be sure that it arrives for Christmas

Fishing osprey                                                                                                        

40cm x 40cm – £50 (+ standard UK delivery – £5.95) 60cm x 40cm – £75 (+ standard UK delivery – £6.95) 80cm x 60cm – £90 (+ standard UK delivery – £6.95)
Fishing Osprey ©Chris Cachia Zammit

Fishing Osprey ©Chris Cachia Zammit

Chasing ospreys

30cm x 20cm – £30 (+ standard UK delivery – £4.95) 40cm x 30cm – £45 (+ standard UK delivery – £5.95) 50cm x 40cm – £70 (+ standard UK delivery – £6.95)
Chasing ospreys ©Chris Cachia Zammit

Chasing ospreys ©Chris Cachia Zammit

Intruding osprey

30cm x 30cm – £35 (+ standard UK delivery – £4.95) 40cm x 40cm – £50 (+ standard UK delivery – £5.95)
Intruding osprey ©Chris Cachia-Zammit

Intruding osprey ©Chris Cachia-Zammit

Or maybe a red squirrel photo?…

We are now also offering for sale, canvas prints of our adorable red squirrels…

 

© Chris Cachia Zammit

© Chris Cachia Zammit

Squirrel feeding 

40cm x 60cm – £75 (+ standard UK delivery – £6.95) 50cm x 75cm – £80 (+ standard UK delivery – £6.95) 60cm x 80cm – £90 (+ standard UK delivery – £6.95)

 

 

 

 

 

© Chris Cachia Zammit

© Chris Cachia Zammit

Squirrel  – Close up

40cm x 60cm – £75 (+ standard UK delivery – £6.95)

 

 

 

 

 

© Chris Cachia Zammit

© Chris Cachia Zammit

Squirrel enjoying a peanut 

40cm x 40cm – £50 (+ standard UK delivery – £5.95) 50cm x 75cm – £80 (+ standard UK delivery – £6.95) 60cm x 80cm – £90 (+ standard UK delivery – £6.95)

 

 

If you would like to order a canvas, or for more information telephone Loch of the Lowes on 01350 727337 or email lochofthelowes@scottishwildlifetrust.org.uk

Original author: jonathan
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Ferns with frost. Photo taken by Chris Cachia Zammit

Ferns with frost. Photo taken by Chris Cachia Zammit

November has been mild but still cold, with temperatures sometimes dropping below zero. The cold conditions have increased the number of chaffinches and coal tits visiting the feeding station, due to lack of naturally available food in the countryside. The local great spotted woodpeckers have made daily visits to the feeding station feasting on peanuts.

Red squirrels are still gathering peanuts and burying them in their hidey holes among the leaves around the feeding station, while being watched by the carrion crows who are eager to pinch an easy meal.


On the loch a good number of duck species
were recorded in high numbers. These include; wigeon, goldeneye, mallard and tufted duck. At the end of November a female longtailed duck was spotted, an unusual sighting for the loch.

Up to five great crested grebes were regular spotted on the loch. Four whooper swans came for a short break and then continued their journey to warmer places.

Four whooper swans on the loch. Photo taken by Chris Cachia Zammit

Four whooper swans on the loch. Photo taken by Chris Cachia Zammit

Flocks of pink footed geese were seen and heard flying over the loch, with some spending the evening on the loch and leaving early morning. Black headed gulls and common gulls are also gathering in large numbers to roost on the loch.

Chris Cachia Zammit

Original author: jonathan
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Loch of the Lowes has been home to charismatic species including ospreys and red squirrels for decades. Recently a more unusual species took up residence at the reserve when two beavers, part of the wider Tayside population, moved in.

The first unmistakable clues were found here in 2012. The felled trees and nibbled branches were clear evidence left behind by only one species. Further investigation soon led to the discovery of a breeding pair of beavers who quickly settled down in the ideal habitat provided by the reserve.

And for the past three years I’ve had the pleasure of watching these amazing creatures raise multiple young and interact with some of our other species, and witness first-hand the number of benefits they can bring.

I can clearly remember the very first time I set eyes on a beaver at Lowes. I had only been working at the reserve for a few weeks when I caught my first glimpse of a pine marten and thought nothing could ever beat it. But seeing my first beaver was something else, a magical and surreal experience and I’ll never get bored or tired of watching these incredible mammals. We’re very lucky at Loch of the Lowes to have two wildlife hides situated right on the water’s edge, providing the perfect place to watch beavers in their natural environment without disturbing them.

Beaver at Loch of the Lowes © Charlotte Fleming

Beaver at Loch of the Lowes © Charlotte Fleming

Every spring and summer, a great number of people come to our reserve to watch ospreys close up and they are never disappointed. This year in particular evening visitors were often treated to a very unexpected and thrilling surprise. The woodland surrounding the loch is a great feeding ground and the beavers can often be seen swimming gracefully across the loch, sometimes just a few feet from the hide. Or if you are really lucky, you might witness the beautiful sight of a beaver drifting on its back, munching contentedly on a water lily.

Even for people who have been wildlife watching for years, there is something very unique and incredibly captivating about these creatures. It’s a real honour to be able to share such special moments with visitors and watch their reaction as they see these beavers back where they belong.

With their scaly tail, webbed feet and unique feeding methods, at first everything about beavers seems unusual. But these are native mammals that were once widespread across the UK until they suffered the same fate as many other species; over-exploitation and persecution. Now, several hundred years later they are back. In some areas the habitat will feel as if time has stood still, in others it has changed beyond recognition. But one thing that hasn’t changed is the many important roles beavers play in their surroundings and the number of benefits they provide to other wildlife, their environment and to us.

Beaver hiding at Loch of the Lowes © Charlotte Fleming

Beaver hiding at Loch of the Lowes © Charlotte Fleming

As a keystone species, their impacts improve the habitat for many others by restoring vital wetland areas that provide a home for many insects, fish and birds. At Loch of the Lowes we’ve seen for ourselves what positive influences they 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. There is no doubt that in certain areas beaver populations will need to be managed, but in the right places the positive effects they have on their environment is undeniable.

The Scottish Wildlife Trust has welcomed the milestone decision to allow beavers to stay in Scotland and for further information please follow this link to the latest blog from our Chief Executive Jonny Hughes.

I am really looking forward to welcoming more visitors to the reserve next year to witness for themselves what wonderful animals beavers are and to see why these creatures deserve their place back in Scotland.

Charlotte,

Perthshire Ranger.

Original author: charlotteranger
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The Loch of the Lowes changes constantly with every season. Here are some photos of the loch in different seasons.

Panorama of the Loch in early Spring. Photo taken by Chris Cachia Zammit

Panorama of the Loch in early Spring. Photo taken by Chris Cachia Zammit

Loch of the Lowes in Summer. Photo taken by Marion Moore.

Loch of the Lowes in Summer. Photo taken by Marion Moore.

Autumn colours at Loch of the Lowes. Photo taken by Chris Cachia Zammit.

Autumn colours at Loch of the Lowes. Photo taken by Chris Cachia Zammit.

Morning mist rolling down the hills at Loch of the Lowes. Photo taken by Chris Cachia Zammit.

Morning mist rolling down the hills at Loch of the Lowes. Photo taken by Chris Cachia Zammit.

Winter-y sunset at Loch of the Lowes. Photo taken by Cherry Bowen.

Wintery sunset at Loch of the Lowes. Photo taken by Cherry Bowen.

 

Chris Cachia Zammit

Original author: jonathan
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As winter approaches more and more red squirrels are visiting the feeding station,

Squirrel stashing peanuts Photo by Chris Cachia Zammit

Squirrel stashing peanuts
Photo by Chris Cachia Zammit

frantically collecting peanuts and hiding them in safe storage spaces for the lean months to come.

It’s fascinating to watch them scampering about all over the feeding station, digging little stashes under the fallen leaves and filling them up with peanuts. These hidey holes make easy pickings for carrion crows and jays who keep an eye where the squirrels are hiding them.

In autumn, food is plentiful for red squirrels as they can feed on a wide variety of other food items such as berries and fungi, when nuts are not available. This abundance will help them to gain weight so that they can withstand the harsh winter and hopefully keep females in good condition to bear up to two litters the following year.

Red squirrels’ coats also start to thicken and the ear tufts become more prominent at this time of year. Whilst in spring they start moulting from the head down, the sequence is reversed in autumn.

Many people believe that the squirrels hibernate during winter. In fact, squirrels will keep on foraging for food in the snow, even though they have already stored food for the winter.

Chris Cachia Zammit

Original author: jonathan
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As the temperatures are falling lower and lower, increasing numbers of wintering bird migrants are coming to Loch of the Lowes. Sizable flocks of pink footed and greylag geese can be heard flying over, with some stopping off at the reserve for a short break. Redwings and fieldfares can still be seen in the woodland, flying from treetop to treetop in search of berries.

The cold also brought in two whooper swans that were spotted flying over the loch. Other species that have been seen over the last month include; wigeon, tufted duck, goldeneye, goosander and mallards. A kingfisher was even spotted darting past the hide.

Whooper swans in flight - (Hiyashi Haka/Creative Commons)

Whooper swans in flight – (Hiyashi Haka/Creative Commons)

The young peregrine is still hanging around and a marsh harrier was spotted over the hills in the distance. In the evenings, tawny owls have be heard hooting away in the woodland around the Visitor Centre.

With winter setting in, food becomes more and more scarce. This makes our feeders an oasis for the small birds. Numbers of coal tits and chaffinches have increased markedly in recent days and our local great spotted woodpeckers are making their daily visits to the feeders, feasting on the peanuts and peanut butter which we provide for them.

With prey comes predators, up to two sparrowhawks were spotted, with several breath taking mid-air hunts witnessed at the feeding station viewing window.

Male sparrowhawk - (Andy Morffew/Creative Commons)

Male sparrowhawk – (Andy Morffew/Creative Commons)

Red squirrels are now making a come back into the feeding station, and there are a couple of new squirrels in the area which still need to figure out how to open the peanut feeders, but for now they are more preoccupied by keeping away from the local red squirrels!

Fallow deer have been rutting for the last few weeks and large herds have been seen in the woodland and wandering about in the visitor centre car park.

Chris Cachia Zammit

Original author: jonathan
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Autumn colours at Loch of the Lowes. Photo taken by Chris Cachia Zammit

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!! From the Loch of the Lowes team.

Reminder that from the 1st of November (tomorrow) we start our winter hours; open Friday, Saturday & Sunday 10:30 till 16:00.

Regards

Chris Cachia Zammit

 

Original author: jonathan
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Two closely related species lay a claim to the title of the UK’s smallest bird – the goldcrest and the firecrest.  However only one of them, the goldcrest, is seen with any degree of regularity in Scotland – the firecrest having a breeding range restricted to SE England.

These tiny warblers are a common sight in their natural pine forest habitat but will also venture into deciduous woodland and gardens in autumn and winter, often amongst flocks of other small birds. Weighing a mere 6.5 grams when fully grown, goldcrests are known for their high energy performances – behaviour more akin to the tit family than warblers.

However in shape and appearance they are very much warblers, having buff white breasts, olive upper parts and dark wings with double white barring .

Male goldcrest (Creative Commons/Clement Caiveau)

Male goldcrest – (Creative Commons/Clement Caiveau)

The characteristic crown stripe found in adult birds and which gives them their name is orange to orange-yellow in males and yellow in females.

Female goldcrest - CJ Hughson

Female goldcrest – (Creative Commons/J Hughson)

The first indication of a goldcrest’s presence is often its high-pitched sweet sounding song, or “sii” communication call, which is used to keep groups together. Unfortunately, because of the high pitch many people find in later life that they are unable to hear them.

At this time of year the resident goldcrest population is swelled by the annual movement of large numbers of birds from across the North Sea. These winter migrants tend to be from the Scandinavian countries but ringed birds originating from as far away as Russia and Poland have been recorded in the UK. Amazing to think that such a tiny bird could survive such a journey!

We had our first goldcrest sighting of the autumn here at Loch of the Lowes on Thursday afternoon. Why not pop along to the reserve this weekend and see if you can spot one for yourself?

Jonathan

Original author: jonathan
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