What a mixture the last week has been at Loch of the Lowes, with winter and spring both felt, sometimes on the same day, and a temperature range of minus 5 degrees to eight degrees above!
The milder weather in January prompted some of our wildlife to begin behaving in a very spring like ways, especially since many species are stimulated by daylight length rather than temperature. Some birds such as Tawny Owls are at the height of their courtship and at their most vocal around the reserve just now. Herons too are already courting and will soon be nest building- they are amongst our earliest breeders every spring. We have also been hearing Great Spotted Woodpeckers drumming call in our woods here, which is another sign of territoriality and courtship starting.
We also saw a red squirrel this week with mouthfuls of fresh nesting material – a sure sign of dray renovations in preparation for breeding going on. Below ground right now local badgers will be heavily pregnant and getting ready to give birth, though we won’t see the cubs above ground for at least another two or three months. Brown hares are also often seen in February chasing and boxing in arable fields nearby- actually courtship in action and entrancing to watch.
Conversely most of our winter wildfowl are still around, and as most are arctic summer breeders we should be enjoying their company right through until April at least. So for now the Loch contains Teal, Wigeon, Goldeneye, and Tufted Duck, Greylag geese and Whooper Swans amongst many others.
With the sudden onset of colder weather again, many of these birds have clustered around the two loch inlet burns where the water is still unfrozen- making viewing easy. The loch is now frozen side to side, and the ice is about 6 inches think as your Ranger found out when she tried to get a routine water sample today! The cold weather brings more and more wildfowl to these scarce open water areas, and more and more birds to our woodland feeding station too, such as Siskins and Redpoll.
Please accept our continued apologies for the absence of a webcam link to the feeding station- we are still trying to source a reliable, high quality and affordable web streaming host for our cameras. We hope to have good news for you soon- thanks for your patience.