Winter has well and truly arrived at Loch of the Lowes, after our unusually mild November. Snow has been falling for two days now, and whilst not deep, it has turned the woods and loch into a beautiful scene- white hills and snow dusted woods reflecting in the weak winter sunlight in the loch waters. As yet, it is only down to minus three overnight, so the Loch remains unfrozen, which is good news for the wildfowl- Mute swans, Goldeneye, Wigeon and Tufted duck as well as Great Crested Grebe and Canada geese this morning.
The woodland birds too need access to unfrozen water for both drinking and bathing to keep their feathers in good condition, so don’t forget to help your garden birds by putting out some warm water each day in freezing weather- we top our bird bath here with the kettle each morning!
I will be out and about all the reserves this week doing some snow tracking, as it is an excellent surface to read the movements of all sorts of animals. I am especially interested in the movements of our resident mammals, so many of whom are nocturnal, and easiest verify by tracks and scats.
A keen eye for detail, a camera and very warm socks are all you need to have a go at snow tracking- you can even try it in your own garden. Look out for bird footprints, which differ in shape dramatically, as do signs of their foraging in the snow (Blackbirds turn and toss over leaves, whilst pheasants scrape and flick large amounts of snow and leaf litter) . Do you have hedgehogs or badgers or foxes crossing your garden whilst you are asleep?
If you fancy learning more about tracking all sorts of wildlife, why not join Ranger Emma on one of our ranger led events next year? During our monthly guided walks, tracking is always discussed, and in August we will be running a weekend event on how to be a Wildlife Spy.
Other exciting sightings here at Lowes over the weekend included, Brambling, Redpoll and large numbers of Siskins on the feeding station, and four wonderful Red Kites over the Loch on Sunday.