Trip reports

Field Trip - RSPB Loch Leven Reserve

View along hillside woodland trail at the RSPB Vane Farm nature reserve
RSPB Image

Saturday, 27 April 2019

The final field trip of the season was by coach. Fourteen of us met at 8 am at the North of Scotland Regional Office, where the first birds of the day were the usual urban suspects, herring gull, jackdaw and wood pigeon. En route to Loch Leven, we saw a satisfying variety of birds, including buzzard, common and black-headed gulls, pheasant, and a solitary whooper swan on a small lochan beside the A9. At the roadside in various places were rook and oystercatcher.
When we arrived at Loch Leven, we were met by, the reserve's Visitor Experience Officer, who told us of some of the highlights that could possibly be seen that day, and pointed out the recently arrived barn swallows now searching for nesting places. Other new arrivals seen were singing blackcap and willow warbler. Loch Leven is a reserve of two halves: a hilly woodland section and the three waterside hides. The woodland section held robin, chaffinch, blue tit, song thrush, and a great tit feeding two juveniles almost the same size as itself, suggesting very early breeding, probably in the warm spell at the end of February.
The Loch Leven Heritage Trail, which circles the whole of the loch, runs through the reserve, and following this beyond the confines of the reserve we found chiffchaff, grey heron, and a first-year plumage male red-breasted merganser.
The three waterside hides gave a superb variety of waders and wildfowl. Tufted duck was probably the most numerous of the duck species, but in amongst one of their flocks was a single scaup. As well as the inevitable mallard there were shelduck, shoveler, and a pair of gadwall. Moorhen and coot were present, and geese were represented by both greylag and pink-footed geese.
Much of the management of RSPB Scotland Loch Leven is focussed on providing safe breeding grounds for lapwing, and there were great views of these birds both on the ground and in their beautifully chaotic flight patterns. However, the wader highlight of the day was undoubtedly the black-tailed godwit in summer plumage in full view of the Carden Hide.
We had had a very satisfying day's birding, with the total species seen between the 14 of us amounting to 60.