At Loch of the Lowes, visitors are drawn in by the promise and allure of the breeding ospreys, but wildlife of all shapes and sizes is here to greet you as soon as you arrive on site. On the path between the car park and visitor centre, interesting invertebrates can often be spotted in the meadow such as the common blue damselfly or the green veined white butterfly, and on closer inspection the edges of the pathway are often used by small frogs, toads and bold squirrels en route. In the woodland adjacent to the path, roe and fallow deer can be see wandering through and stopping to graze, and Lowes is even visited by a few white (leucistic) deer. A not so common passer-by is the weasel, but their playful nature makes them easy to spot bounding through the grass in the woodland. Keeping your eyes peeled as soon as you set foot out of the car will ensure you don’t miss the less conspicuous residents of the reserve.
The visitor centre feeding station provides an up-close encounter of some beautiful birds such as the Great spotted woodpecker, Yellowhammer and Siskin among the more common passerines, and if by chance you witness a sudden fleeing from the feeders then you might be lucky enough to see a swooping Sparrowhawk on the hunt. The station also attracts one of our most charismatic residents, the Red squirrel, which can be seen bounding through the tall grass between trees, cracking open nuts provided on wooden walkways or squeezing headfirst into the feeders to ensure nothing has gone to waste. Acrobatic pheasants can also be seen to utilise the aerial food sources, balancing precariously on the much-too-small bird feeders which provides an amusing photo opportunity.
From the hides overlooking the loch, the skies may be dominated by the osprey family but they will be soon ready to make their migration southwards to overwinter in Africa. However, the space won’t be left empty as the reserve is often visited by other resident or travelling raptors, such as the buzzard and the red kite. At this time of year the shrieks of fledglings of other species can be well distinguished from that of our ospreys, so keeping an ear as well as an eye open will ensure you don’t miss the other inhabitants. Taking a closer look over the water reveals the diversity of birds that rely on the loch, often requiring patience to keep an eye out for diving species such as the Great crested grebe or Goosander. A keen eye through the telescope or a good pair of binoculars will also ensure you aren’t mistaking a Tufted duck or Goldeneye for a Mallard at a distance.
The two-story hide open 24/7 is the perfect place to experience the more inconspicuous wildlife to visit the loch after hours, with the local male otter often spotted darting around the reeds when the night sky starts to set in, and small mammals swimming along the shoreline are intriguing to the staff here as they may well be the rare water shrew. Daubenton’s bats fill the skies around the hides as they emerge for feeding on the water surface, and a bit further inland Pipistrelles can be seen flying among the tree tops.
Whatever the time of day, there is always plenty to be seen at Lowes even if it’s not obvious at first. The key to making the most of the wildlife here is remaining discreet and giving the animals time to settle after the initial disturbance of you entering their environment- the visitor centre and hides make this unobtrusive viewing pleasure easy and if in doubt, volunteers can point you in the right direction. So pay us a visit, and immerse yourself in all that Lowes has to offer!
Assistant Ranger Intern.