This week for the first time the blog has been entrusted to the very capable hands of the new residential “Winter Wildlife Assistants” Kirstin and Emma- Hi there. We have been living at Loch of the Lowes for the past six weeks and have just passed the half-way point of our placement. Time is flying and we both love the experience. We are gaining knowledge daily and have been privileged enough to see an amazing array of species. Our time is split roughly 50/50 between helping prepare posters and exhibits for upcoming visitor centre events and assisting Emma the ranger with reserve work such as keeping the daily counts of the birds visiting both the feeding area and on the loch, as well as digitising the Osprey diaries of behavioural data from last year’s successful breeding season.
We are quite glad that the recent unseasonably warm weather has come to an end because it seems to have been signalling breeding cues to some of our confused residents. The male Goosander are very handsome in their breeding plumage and our resident Greater Spotted Woodpecker pair are drumming to each other for all they are worth in the prelude to courtship.
The recent change in the weather has seen Lowes this week shrouded in snow and this is showing the wildlife off to dramatic effect. We have had visits from colourful winter migrants such as Redpoll to our feeder station and large groups of Wigeon on the loch. The cold snap has definitely increased the visitor centre bird’s appetite and we are finding ourselves topping up the feeders throughout the day to support them and the Red Squirrels through this tough spell, when foraging is a bit more difficult.
The snow has been a great excuse to hone our snow tracking skills and we strongly encourage everyone, especially families to take advantage of the forecast snow over the weekend. Get out and about and see for yourselves just how many animals have been active when your back is turned. It is truly extraordinary the way in which tracks in the snow can bring the hidden world of animals to life. Animal superhighways suddenly emerge all around you and you may be lucky enough to find evidence of some of our more elusive or nocturnal species such as Badger and Otter. In and around Lowes we have found Red Squirrel, Roe and Fallow Deer and Otter tracks.
Stay tuned for more from Kirstin Mair and Emma Castle-Smith