The loch is still frozen so not much wildfowl around just now but the mallards trying to walk on the ice, slipping and sliding all over the place, is hilarious!
We’ve had a few goldeneye hanging around throughout the cold weather. The males are beginning to display to the females which involves sticking their heads up in the air and stretching their necks while chasing the females. Although as yet the females don’t appear ready to breed as they are running away from these displays just now. We do have artificial goldeneye nest boxes on the reserve so these are positive signs that breeding may occur this spring. Goldeneye actually nest off the ground usually in a tree hole so our artificial nesting sites are boxes positioned about 3 meters off the ground. This is great for predator avoidance but means the chicks have quite a leap to make before they reach the water. Interestingly, goldeneye females will actually evict other females from a water body and ‘chick-nap’ their chicks to join their own brood. This may seem strange but it is thought they do this so that if a chick does get predated, say by a pike, it is less likely to be one of theirs.
The wigeon have been missing since the loch froze but one of our dedicated volunteers who carries out a count covering the whole loch managed to find three wigeon, so they are on their way back. Greylag geese are also visiting the loch in very large numbers, thousands are arriving as the sun is setting.
Our feeders are still busy as ever and we’ve had a couple of firsts on the feeders for Loch of the Lowes. Up to 7 long tailed tits have been visiting every day for the last three weeks and we’ve even had a redpoll popping up on the Niger seed despite receiving such a hard time from the siskins for trying to share their feeder. We’ve been seeing brambling everyday since the start of January so they’re fun to try and spot mixed in with the 200 or so chaffinches. In the last couple of days our yellowhammer male has also returned and is certainly looking ready to breed with his bright yellow, spring plumage.
If you want to see red squirrels, in particular are two late autumn babies Tiny Tim and Bruce Lee, the mornings are the best time. Anytime before about 2 o’clock almost guarantees a squirrel sighting and we are really pleased to see the babies having a real good gnaw on the antler we put out for them to improve specifically their calcium levels which can be low on a diet of just peanuts. One other interesting, mammalian sighting is regular appearances from our resident bank vole. It lives directly outside the offices and is very bold as he can be seen busily scurrying around all day long.
All this evidence that spring is springing means it’s nearly time for the return of our ospreys. If our male and female manage to survive the 5000km journey from West Africa and breed successfully this summer it will be our females 20th consecutive year raising young at Loch of the Lowes which is an incredible achievement. So all our fingers are crossed and we will be expecting her to appear around the end of March.