Bird watch

Bird watch

We have an extensive record of birds that inhabit the loch and surrounding grounds.

Our monthly bird watch survey and report sadly came to an end in March 2015, after 5 years worth of bird count, photos and information.  One of our Bird Watch team, Danny Wallace has moved away from the local area and could no longer continue his surveys.  The Ecology Centre and website readers would like to say a huge thank you to both Danny and Rena who have put so much work into keeping us all updated over the past 5 years.  The existing reports and bird count numbers will remain on the website. 

Survey March 2015

The Swans are nesting on the Barley Straw raft and Coots are already on nests, doubtless with eggs beneath them.  I counted five pairs of Great Crested Grebes around the Loch recently looking to find nest sites themselves.  Some of these may have been here before as three pairs were poking around the areas utilisted last year.

Female Mallard are beginning to disappear leaving mostly males left at the jetty.  Watch out for pairs of Tufted Duck that may also attempt to breed on the Loch.

In the woodland, several birds are singing out loudly; Song Thrush, Chaffinch and Dunnock for the most part, but also Chiffchaff.

Who will be first to hear a Willow Warbler?  Also watch out for Sand Martins......Swallows will not be far behind.  Yes, Spring has very much arrived but look out, for Winter's likely to have a last say yet.

I have now completed five years worth of data on the birdlife on and around the Loch and alas, it seems the birds are not along in migrating north, as I too plan to move on to pastures new and when I do, the thing I will miss the most is a simple days bird watching at Kinghorn Loch and the wonderful people you meet there.

Danny Wallace

Photographs:  Female Mallard, Chiffchaff, Dunnock & Great Crested Grebe

Female Mallard Website March 15Chiffchaff Website March 15

Dunnock Website March 15Great Crested Grebe Website March 15

Survey 17th February, 2015

316 Birds spotted in total and 37 different species recorded including Five Red listed namely Herring Gull, Tree Sparrow, Song Thrush, Redwing and Starling. The weather was cold with a moderate westerly wind and occasional showers.

Oddly, no sign of Tufted Duck but they are never far away. Cormorant numbers were up again. A few days after the survey the Great Crested Grebe were seen on the loch and before the end of February two pairs were seen doing courtship type displays/dances.

The Kingfisher never showed during the survey and subsequent visits suggest sightings are dropping off quickly. Perhaps it is too busy for them near the hide but I’m sure they won’t be very far away provided there is fish for them on the loch

Redwing were heard and sighted in woods west of the hide indicating the Winter Thrushes are about.

Redwing, Cormorant, Great Crested Grebe & Song Thrush

Great Crested Grebes Website Feb 15Redwing Website Feb 15

Cormorant Website Feb 15Songthrush Website Feb 15

Survey 19th January, 2015

448 Birds spotted in total and 36 different species recorded including  Three Red listed namely Tree Sparrow, Yellowhammer and Starling. The weather was cold with a light westerly wind.

The Coot, Tufted Duck and Cormorant numbers were up significantly.  The Goldeneye have returned.  The freezing parts of the loch had now thawed.

The Kingfisher is showing daily and is often seen fishing in front of the hide.  The Water Rail occasionally shows at the same location.

We have two new species this month.  A Common Snipe has been seen at the east shore of the loch.  Rooks were seen near the allotments.  This is the first time since 2010 that a Rook has been spotted at this location.

Photographs :  Yellowhammer, Tree Sparrow, Goldeneye & Tufted Duck

Yellowhammer Jan 15 Tree Sparrow Jan 15

Goldeneye Jan 15 Tufted Duck Jan 15

Survey17th December, 2014

794 Birds spotted in total and 35 different species recorded including  Five Red listed namely Kingfisher, Tree Sparrow, Herring Gull, Song Thrush and Yellowhammer.   The weather was cool and fair with a light south-westerly wind.   This month’s count was the highest since 30th December, 2011(808 of which almost 600 were gulls).

The Cormorant numbers are down again.  Perhaps the cooler spells of weather recently have affected fish activity.  However we have seen more activity from the Kingfisher which is fishing successfully on the west shore, both near the hide and in the south west corner.

The numbers of waterfowl remains high on the loch and was again supplemented by large numbers of gulls during the survey.  There was a noticeable increase in Tufted Duck.  No Goldeneye nor Pochard present but I have no doubt we will see them in numbers soon.

During the survey a lone Woodcock was disturbed in the woods to the west of the hide.

Photographs :  Cormorant, Kingfisher, Tufted Duck, Black Headed Gulls

Cormorant Dec 14 Kingfisher Dec 14

Tufted Duck Dec 14 Black Headed Gull Dec 14

Survey18th November, 2014

598 Birds spotted in total and 37 different species recorded including  Five Red listed namely Kingfisher, Tree Sparrow, Herring Gull, Fieldfare and Yellowhammer.   The weather was mild and fair with a light south-easterly wind.   Generally the numbers of water fowl on the loch are beginning to approach winter levels.

The large numbers of Cormorant suggest good fish stocks.  Numbers of Little Grebe support this but so far, no sign of Great Crested Grebe since the end of the breeding season.  Mallard typically pair up at this time of year in preparation for next year’s breeding.  Coot numbers usually swell significantly over the winter.  We also see the return of Pochard and Goldeneye ducks.

The Cygnet Mute Swan is now as big as the cob and all seem in harmony with the geese at this time of year.  Sooner or later we expect the cygnet to be chased away by the parents.

The Kingfisher was perched in willow in the training bay near the water wheel and made off anti-clockwise around the loch.  There’s a possibility the bird fishes from this location if there is nobody about but a stealthy approach would be needed to see it do anything other than fly off. 

Woodland birds were fairly scarce except for a pocket of activity in the avenue.  With a recent sighting of Redwing near the hide and now Fieldfare and Mistle Thrush in the avenue and gorse up by the allotments, I think it’s safe to say the winter thrushes have arrived from Scandinavia.   

Photographs :  Cygnet Mute Swan, Goldeneye, Fieldfare & Kingfisher

Cygnet Mute Swan Goldeneye

Fieldfare Kingfisher

Survey 14th October 2014

347 Birds spotted in total and 30 different species recorded including  Three Red listed namely Tree Sparrow, Herring Gull and Yellowhammer.   The weather was mild with a light north-easterly wind.

A very short report this month in comparison to last month.

Mallard and Coot numbers are substantially higher than usual.   We also have a larger than usual number of Goldcrest.   All our summer migrants appear to have gone as there is no sign of them.

Photographs :  Yellowhammer, Mallard, Coot & Goldcrest

Yellowhammer Oct 14 Mallard Oct 14

Coot Oct 14 Goldcrest Oct 14

Survey 16th September, 2014

252 Birds spotted in total and 38 different species recorded including  two Red listed namely Tree Sparrow and Herring Gull.   The weather was mild with a light easterly wind and the odd sunny spell.   We have a new species for the counts namely a Whinchat.

The Mute Swan cygnet is looking pretty mean and feisty and was having a go at the geese recently.  It was also engaged in a “friendly” with one of its parents, chasing one another in a tight circle.  It seemed liked a training exercise to me. 

The Kingfisher has been reported by carp fishermen on the east shore lately and right enough I saw one on the survey – twice in the space of a few hours.  I returned the following day and got another sighting.  At present the east shore is the place to spot one but they are clearly circling the loch so keep your eyes open for the low flier.  One has also been spotted from the Hide in recent days.

On the same note there appears to be a lot of fish activity with a lot of big carp being caught and small fry leaping.  This bodes well for fishing species visiting the loch this winter.  I expect we may see a lot of Cormorants again and maybe Otter.  Yes it is rumoured we have one visiting again.  I do wonder why the Grebes’ breeding wasn’t as successful as in 2013, and why they appeared to abandon second brood nests all of a sudden – could it be another Otter ?

Watch out for the lone Wigeon near the jetty.  It appears to be either a juvenile or moulting male as it doesn’t quite have the usual plumage, still you cannot miss the orange/chestnut plumage and round head, compared to Mallard.  Mallard ducks are moulting and probably account for most of the feathers around the jetty area.

In the woodlands watch out for Treecreeper, Goldcrests and Long-tailed Tit all very high pitched calls.

Check out the Wagtails on the jetty, not all are “Pied”.  On the day after the survey there were two “greys”.  A bit of a misnomer considering the large dose of yellow about the lower body in particular.  Tip: watch out for the Wagtail with a particularly long tail with short legs.

We are still hanging on to most of our summer migrants even though we are past halfway in September.  Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Blackcap, Swallow and House Martin are all still present.  Whilst I cannot confirm it I believe I saw a Whitethroat.  Of course they may not be our summer residents but perhaps birds on passage from further north.

I have not spotted any Flycatchers this year at Craigencalt but they have probably been here none the less.

Photographs :  Grey Wagtail, Goldcrest, Treecreeper & Whinchat

Grey Wagtail Sept 14 Goldcrest Sept 14

Treecreeper Sept 14 Whinchat Sept 14

Survey 20th August, 2014

279 Birds spotted in total and 39 different species recorded including  two Red listed namely Tree Sparrow and Herring Gull.   The weather was decidedly cool with a moderate westerly wind and sunny spells.

The Mute Swan and domestic Geese seem to have a cease fire situation.  As for the mystery surrounding the loss of a cygnet, I am reliably informed that the adults appeared to abandon the other cygnet for reasons unknown.  They certainly haven’t abandoned the other one and it is almost as big as the parents.

Also from a reliable source there was at least one Kingfisher, probably two, opposite the hide at approximately 4.30pm on Friday 15th August.  I have made a few visits since but no sightings.  Please notify myself, Ron or Rena should you see any.  I last saw one on 15th April.

The Tufted Duck nest has been predated but one brood of two has survived this year.  The ducklings don’t seem to be very successful here and though we have seen Seagulls attacking, there is a theory that Pike take more than a few.

No Great Crested Grebe remain on the loch. At least one pair tried for a second brood, nesting in the open on bistort weed and laying two eggs.  Predators made short work of this.  Another bird appeared to be nesting near ;the hide  also in the open on bistort, and this disappeared about the same time (though this “nest” was never examined for contents).

The cool weather during the survey reminds us that summer migrants will soon commence the long trek south, however Whitethroat, Blackcap, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, House Martin and Swallows are still with us yet.

The Little Grebe have successfully bred in the bay opposite the waterwheel.  However something was predating their nest just prior to hatch as they lost three out of five eggs.  Since hatching I have seen one adult feeding two youngsters though on the survey only one chick was evident.

During the week commencing 18th August Rena spotted a white duck swimming in the pools beside the now removed waterwheel several days running.  There is no sign of it now.

Photographs :  Mute Swan youngster, Tufted Duck with young, Kingfisher, White Duck visiting

Mute Swan Aug 14 Tufted Duck Aug 14

Kingfisher Website Aug 14 White Duck Website Aug 14

Survey 17th July, 2014

276 Birds spotted in total and 32 different species recorded including  four Red listed namely Tree Sparrow, Linnet, Herring Gull and Yellowhammer.  The weather was warm though cloudy with a moderate wind.

The Mute Swans have lost one of their young and the remaining cygnet is quite large now. 

The Tufted Duck have re-laid six eggs in the previous nest on the east shore.  Another brood of three ducklings are present on the loch indicating another nest site elsewhere on the loch.  A Gadwall duck was sighted on the loch on Monday 14th July.  Not present on day of survey.  It was a lone female and hopefully she will return.

The Coot continues to nest and several appear to be looking to produce a second brood.   The Great Crested Grebe young are now getting quite large and I expect the adults may leave them to their own devices soon.   The Sedge Warbler is still singing on the east shore.   The Little Grebe has now begun to have some breeding success and we can expect a few nests at least around the loch.

Many woodland birds are difficult to spot and few are singing or calling making an accurate count impossible.  It is believed many may be in moult.

Photographs :  Tufted Duck, Mute Swan with cygnet & Little Grebe

Tufted Duck July 14  Mute Swan July 14

Little Grebe July 14

Survey 16th June, 2014

338 Birds spotted in total and 36 different species recorded including  five Red listed namely House Sparrow, Tree Sparrow, Linnet, Song Thrush and Yellowhammer.   The weather was warm and fair though cloudy with little wind.

The Mute Swan has two young from a minimum of five eggs.  Perhaps the difficulty was in the nest construction on a barley straw raft possibly causing difficulties in incubation.  The Cob has been very aggressive towards the domestic geese attacking both adult and juveniles.  The three domestic geese young have now disappeared and it may be that the Swan is responsible.

The Tufted Duck nest is now empty and there is no sign of young on the loch suggesting the nest/young succumbed to predation.

The Coots seem to have had a very successful breeding season so far and continue to nest. 

The Great Crested Grebe have also been successful in breeding this year.  The three broods total eight young.  Their nests had as many as five eggs therefore predation or other loss is a factor.  

Three Grey Herons were present and may be attracted by the presence of so many young birds.

The highest number of Blue Tits recorded during a survey with a total of twenty two birds.  Many of these were juveniles.   No sign of the Blackcap and Garden Warbler but they are likely to be still present.

Watch out for the Spotted Flycatcher which have historically made an appearance in July.   Previous sightings have been at Tree Tops Walk, nearby Rodanbraes and near the “polly tunnel”.

Photographs :  Mute Swan with young & Great Crested Grebe by William Dickson, Coot & Spotted Flycatcher

Mute Swan & Young June 14 Great Crested Grebe June 14

Coot June 14 Spotted Fly June 14

Survey 18th May, 2014

235 Birds spotted in total and 42 different species recorded including  four Red listed namely Tree Sparrow, Herring Gull, Starling, Skylark.  The weather was cool and cloudy with a light westerly wind.  Visibility was good.  Not recorded on this actual survey but we have three juvenile Long-eared Owls sighted near the entrance to Craigencalt.  We have identified a possible nest site and will give the area some attention next spring with a view to getting some images.

Thirteen Great Crested Grebe were on the loch during the survey and two were displaying a courtship dance.  A recent survey disclosed five nest sites but there are likely to be more in the near future.  The female Mute Swan is still sitting and refuses to move.  Hopefully she’s alright but I would be concerned if they don’t hatch before the end of the week.  Since survey two cygnets seen swimming with parent birds.

The domestic and hybrid Geese are also nesting with two sites.  The bird visible on the roadside bank has seven eggs and the one on the barley straw raft has six eggs.  That would increase their numbers to twenty nine after two losses this year.

The Swallows are beginning to arrive now.  We are also being visited by Swifts and Martins.   A male Tawny Owl was heard hooting during the survey today.  It must be somewhere on the south side of the road.   More Warblers are active.  Sedge and Garden varieties, Blackcap, Whitethroat are all in full song.  The only migrant yet to return is the Spotted Flycatcher.

Watch out for the Starling chicks being fed in the wall opposite the Ecology Centre toilets, and in an old woodpecker hole on the telegraph pole east of Tree Tops walk.   The sole Cormorant was spotted eating two large fish at the west end of the loch during the survey.  A somewhat massive breakfast.  He/she sat down for a rest after that, and no wonder.   Meadow Pipits seen and heard in the field behind the allotments.   Very few Little Grebe seen.  Possibly nesting ?

A recent boat survey chanced upon a Tufted Duck nest containing five eggs.  A rare find due to their skill at hiding a nest.

Photographs :  Sedge Warbler, Tufted Duck, Blackcap & Whitethroat

Sedge Warbler May 14 Tufted Duck May 14

Blackcap May 14 Whitethroat May 14

Survey 11th April, 2014

245 Birds spotted in total and 36 different species recorded including  five Red listed namely Tree Sparrow, Herring Gull, Starling, Skylark and Yellowhammer.  The weather was cool and cloudy with a light westerly wind.  Visibility was good.

An Otter has been found dead along the roadside.  It appears to be a female, probably young and consistent with the size captured on camera recently visiting the Mink Rafts on the loch during the night.  Otter numbers are dwindling and one of the factors is the number of animals killed crossing roads.  This appears to be the cause of our Otter’s demise.  The discovery last week of a half eaten 22lb carp suggests it at least had a good feed before it died.

The Water Rail has finally showed itself again after an absence following being savagely attacked by a Moorhen.  It seems the Rail is staying on for the breeding season.

Five Great Crested Grebe were on the Loch during the survey.  The odd number suggests there may be a bird on a nest somewhere?  We also have several Coot, at least one Moorhen and a Mute Swan already nesting.  It may be time for a survey by boat, weather permitting.

The low numbers of Coot and Mallard suggests that many are nesting out of sight.

The female Mute Swan is currently sitting on five eggs and is well protected by her male partner.  She may have laid one more by now and will incubate for about 35 days.

The Geese are more frequently moving in smaller groups and no longer dominate the two resident Mute Swans.  The geese appear to be suffering from the loss of two males recently: one being the dominant/exclusive breeder.  It seems unlikely any breeding will take place until a new leader establishes himself.

No Warblers nor Swallows as yet, though some Sand Martins have arrived in Fife and may be seen at any time.

A Great Spotted Woodpecker heard drumming.  The sound could have been coming from as far as Tree Tops Walk area.

Photographs :  Great Spotted Woodpecker, Mute Swans, Mute Swans flying & Great Crested Grebes

Great Spotted Woodpecker April 14Mute Swans April 14

Mute Swans Flying April 14Great Crested Grebes April 14

Survey 16th March, 2014

289 Birds spotted in total and 33 different species recorded including  four Red listed namely Tree Sparrow, Herring Gull, Starling and Yellowhammer.  The weather was cool and cloudy with a strong westerly wind.  Visibility was good.

No further sign of the Otter.  Good video footage of the Otter had been obtained until the theft of one of the trail cameras between 6th and 7th March. Any information that may be linked to the stolen “Bushnell” wildlife camera would be greatly appreciated.  The Theft has been reported.  

Cormorant numbers are much reduced.  The Water Rail usually seen near the hide has not been seen since it was attacked by a Moorhen on 10th March.  It was a vicious attack and suggests the possibility of a Moorhen nest nearby.

Three pairs of Great Crested Grebe are on the Loch and displaying courtship rituals.  We can expect nesting activity soon.   There is no sign of the Canada Goose and her hybrid gosling.  She has been known in previous years to depart in the spring and return later in the year.  

During the survey I heard what might have been part of a Chiffchaff song near the hide, but not enough to confirm it at the time, however, on the following two days two independent reliable sources have reported hearing Chiffchaff song in the same area and therefore I include this sighting.  This appears to be the first of the warblers arriving in the area.

Another sign of spring is the return of the Lesser Black-backed GullCoot numbers have decreased to breeding season levels.  The Mallard have been reported in the fields near the Loch suggesting they are into their nesting season now.  Egg laying most often begins at the end of February.

Several species are singing now but cover remains thin for nesting purposes.  Blackbird numbers are down.  Numbers are supplemented over the winter by visitors from the Continent.  The next species likely to return to us are Sand Martins.

Photographs below:   Canada Goose      Chiff Chaff       Coot

Canada Goose March 14  Chiffchaff Website March 14

Coot website march 14

Survey 16th February, 2014

413
Birds spotted in total and 33 different species recorded including  three Red listed namely Tree Sparrow, Herring Gull and Yellowhammer.  The weather was cold and sunny with a light westerly wind.  Visibility was good.

Alison Greggans of The Ecology Centre has responded promptly to the report of Mink/Otter presence and has identified Otter footmarks and spraint (poo) on the Mink Rafts provided by Forth River Fisheries Trust.  It is unknown if the Otter will remain on the site but it currently seems to be availing itself of small fish, probably Roach.  On the plus side, it will probably deter any Mink from doing likewise.  Otter is a protected species, is nocturnal, less able to climb and less likely to focus on attacking nesting birds.  American Mink on the other hand is an invasive species.  It is illegal to release them into the wild.  They kill for fun and have a potentially devastating effect on natural inhabitants (especially waterfowl and small mammals such as Water Vole).

We continue to attract a number of Cormorant.  These will also avail themselves of fish stocks on the loch.  As a wild bird, they are also protected.  You will often see Cormorants hanging out their wings as though drying them.  A commonly held theory for this habit is that their wings aren’t waterproof and must be dried after swimming, however, this seems unlikely.  As to why they have suddenly appeared in such numbers, and why we are noticing the previously unrecorded presence of an Otter, we can only speculate.  My theory is that there has been a bloom of Roach fry over the summer.  Roach apparently breed most actively in sunny weather and we had plenty of that last year.  They also benefit from weed cover that would also afford fry more food.  In winter they are less active and combine into large dense shoals on the bottom and presumably lose a lot of that weed cover too. They are potentially easy pickings for wintering predators?

Goldeneye and Pochard ducks are still frequenting the loch of late.

The Water Rail has not been seen as often but then the bird feeders have lain empty for a week or two, which helps discourage rats from gate-crashing the feast.  The feeders should be replenished soon and our Water Rail will no doubt make a more regular showing.

Another occasional visitor that is becoming a regular feature now is the Oystercatcher.  A flock of a dozen or so are regularly feeding in the Cow field adjacent to the road in to Craigencalt Farm, or, on the grassy bank of the east shore.

Coot numbers have increased significantly again.  One theory is that the colder it gets, the more Coots appear unless it is so cold that the loch freezes entirely and no food is available.

Mallard numbers have decreased but we are into the nesting season now.  Egg laying most often begins at the end of February but don’t be surprised if you find a female sat on eggs about now.

A pair of Kestrels have been regularly putting on a show above the orchard at Craigencalt Farm and this survey was no exception.  The courtship displays are quite spectacular with the male dropping out of the sky in mock attacks on the female.  This often takes place to a proposed nest site.  They don’t make much of a nest but lay eggs in March.

The first male Chaffinch that I’ve heard singing this year was on 16th February.

Photographs below:  Pochard, Kestrel & Mallard duck

Pochard Feb 14 Kestrel Feb 14

Mallard Feb 14

Survey 19th January, 2014

404 Birds spotted in total and 33 different species recorded including two Red listed namely Tree Sparrow and Song Thrush.   The weather was cool, cloudy with occasional showers and no wind.   It was fairly quiet in the woodland. 

Uncommonly a large number of Cormorant (competing with a larger than usual contingent of anglers) recorded on the loch.  The maximum number of Cormorant recorded on any one survey since January, 2010 has been three.  It is now eleven and these numbers have been present for at least one week.  Today a Cormorant caught a fish about six inches long, probably Roach. The Carp and Pike fishermen had no such luck, however they did report sighting a mammal in the water apparently chasing waterfowl.  This had occurred at dusk on Friday 17th January.  Our eye witnesses (Carp anglers) suggest  it was either a small Otter or a large Mink.  An email will be sent to Alison Greggans at The Ecology Centre to check the Mink Rafts for signs.

The Goldeneye ducks were displaying at the roadside part of the loch.  No Pochard seen during the survey but one male has been present recently.

One Water Rail has been regularly making an appearance opposite the hide, sometimes competing with the Moorhens for crumbs from the feeders and sometimes taking natural food out of the muddy ground.  This is one of probably just a few sites in Fife where you can regularly get a glimpse of this undergrowth skulking bird.  My usual visits to the hide are mornings or lunchtime and if I am present for more than half an hour it usually shows up.  The best season to see Water Rail is winter/spring as the lack of vegetation gives a better chance of spotting one. 

Another Hybrid Goose has disappeared and is likely to be the white carcase semi-submerged nearby the inlet from the water wheel stream.  Their numbers are now seventeen as opposed to the original nineteen.  I suspect this is another one of the original three male domestic Greylags which were of significantly great age, leaving just one old boy in the group.  It should be interesting to observe the breeding habits (if any) of the remaining hybrids this year.

Coot numbers are again high mostly gathering in open water near the east shore.

Attached photographs :  Cormorant, Water Rail & Bullfinch

Cormorant Water Rail March 14

Bullfinch March 14

Survey 18th December, 2013

475 Birds spotted in total and 33 different species recorded including two Red listed namely Tree Sparrow and Herring Gull.   The weather was seasonally mild and fair with a light southerly wind.

The Woodland was fairly quiet.  Several Mistle Thrush spotted near the allotments but otherwise no sign of winter Thrushes.  Even Blackbird numbers seem below par for the time of year.  This is probably due to the unseasonably mild weather.

Two Great Crested Grebe recorded on the water.  In previous years they have left by October at the latest.  Again probably down to mild weather so far this winter but there may also be some significance of fish availability ?  Certainly other fish eaters such as Little Grebe, Grey Heron and Cormorant are also present but then records show they usually are, even at this time of year.

Two Goldeneye Duck but no Pochard recorded.  The Tufted Duck “invasion” is possibly migrants from Iceland.  We had a large flock of over 300 in January, 2010.  I don’t recall the weather at that time and hopefully this isn’t a harbinger of poor weather to come.

Eighteen hybrid geese present as opposed to the usual nineteen.  Most of the juveniles are now full size and some are difficult to distinguish from the original three male domestic Greylags, however, I believe the missing goose may be the dominant breeding male.  If so, it may prove interesting to monitor hybrid activity during next year’s breeding season.  The absence of a dominant male may also have an impact on the relationship of the geese with our two Mute Swans that in the past has resulted in the Swans occasionally being chased off by the three male domestic geese.

The Coot numbers are lower than the previous month, though they were mostly gathered in the overgrown margins at the west end as opposed to being in open water near the east shore as before.

The Mallard numbers are much higher than at any other time this year, certainly enhanced by birds visiting the loch.  This is the highest number recorded in the past four years.

Attached photos: Grey Heron, Female Mallards, Male Mallard & Hybrid Geese

Grey Heron Website Jan 14Mallards Website Jan 14

Mallard Website Jan 14Geese Website Jan 14

Survey 21st November, 2013

469 Birds spotted in total and 34 different species recorded including  three Red listed namely Tree Sparrow, Song Thrush and Herring Gull.  The weather was cold and cloudy with a light wind but fair.

There has been a significant increase in sightings of Blackbird and Goldcrest recently.  Some are likely to be winter migrants.

The Water Rail was spotted near the hide.  This is quite a small bird even by Rail standards and this is the first year we have seen this individual.  It has adult markings and is believed to be the individual photographed in mid October.  Previously they were seen in early April which is about the time they start to lay eggs so the jury is out on whether Rails are breeding on the loch.  We will try and solve this mystery next Spring and Summer.

A Goldeneye duck has been sighted recently but not spotted on the day of the survey.  Goldeneye are winter migrants.

Pochard ducks are regular visitors to the loch but on the day of the survey where present in larger numbers.  They often favour the road side of the loch making them more difficult to see.

Cormorants were back on the loch.  They were last recorded in March.

Attached photographs :  Water Rail, Goldeneye & Bullfinch

Water Rail November 13 Goldeneye Nov 13

Bullfinch Nov 13

Survey 24th October 2013

341 Birds spotted in total and 36 different species recorded including  three Red listed namely Tree Sparrow, Song Thrush and Herring Gull.  The weather was of a moderate temperature with a westerly wind and fair.

The Woodland birds are active but there are no longer any sign of the summer migrants.

Great Crested Grebe are still frequenting the loch.  The Little Grebes are more active and visible.  One bird was seen recently sitting on a nest but the cooler weather seems to have changed its mind about such a late nesting attempt.

Large gatherings of Gulls have been seen on the water recently.

The Water Rail was sighted near the Hide on the 13th October.  As the vegetation  is dying back at this time of year it is easier to see secretive birds like the Water Rail.

The Coot numbers continue to increase.

Attached photographs :  Water Rail, Great Crested Grebe & Song Thrush

Water Rail Website OctoberGreat Crested Grebes Website October

Songthrush Website Oct

Survey 17th September, 2013

293 Birds spotted in total and 31 different species recorded including  two Red listed namely Tree Sparrow and Spotted Flycatcher.  The weather was cold in a strong westerly wind but was fair and overcast.

The Woodland birds were fairly scarce.  

A Spotted Flycatcher was seen in a bush at the start of the Rodanbraes path viewed from the Tree Tops Trail.  These birds are long haul nocturnal migrants wintering south of the equator.  This bird was probably stopping briefly en-route.

There was no sign of any Willow Warblers which have probably started their migration. Chiffchaff are still in the area and some may over winter here though most will be off to north Africa / southern Europe.  

A few Swallows are still about and many will be moving south, usually departing the UK by October.   The Great Crested Grebe are still frequenting the loch although the juveniles are now reaching adult size.   Coots are still to be seen in large numbers similar to last month’s numbers.

Attached photographs :  Spotted Flycatcher, Willow Warbler & Chiffchaff

Survey 14th August, 2013

380 Birds spotted in total and 34 different species recorded including two Red listed namely Song Thrush and Herring Gull.  The weather was warm in a light westerly wind. The birds were less shy than they were last month making it easier to count.

Thirteen juvenile Pied Wagtail spotted at east side of the loch between the jetty and east shore near the raft.

One pair of Little Grebe have young located in the bay opposite the water wheel.  If you sit on the bench by the wall and watch for the adults returning with fish you will see the youngsters pop out of the cover of the willows to get it.  Two more Little Grebe territories are apparent.  One east of the hide appears to have a nest but a freshly predated egg was found on the bank during the survey.  The damage suggests an avian culprit.  The other territory is in the south west corner.

We still have two broods of Great Crested Grebe but the brood of four has now reduced to three.  The young of both broods are large and almost ready to fend for themselves.

The Coots are in large numbers again, most have adult appearance but the immature are pretty grown up looking.

The Tufted duck broods seem quite big now.  There is one brood of four and one brood of six.  This is a first since surveys have started as in the past they have succumbed to predation.

The Whitethroat were feeding young in the alders near the pond.  Listen for a faint rasping call.

There was no sign of the Tree Sparrows but I think this may be normal at this time of year.

Three Rats were seen below the Bird Feeders and a couple of them had climbed up to near the top of the willow near the big feeder!

Photographs:  Little Grebe, Piedwagtail, Whitethroat & Tufted Duck

Little Grebe.Piedwagtail

Whitethroat.Turfted Duck

Survey 17th July, 2013

282 Birds spotted in total and 38 different species recorded including four Red listed namely Song Thrush, Herring Gull, Spotted Flycatcher and Tree Sparrow.  The weather was warm with a light westerly wind.

It is very difficult to accurately count woodland birds at this time of year due to the thick greenery.  A boat survey was also carried out on the 19th July to count the broods of young on the water.

There was not much activity from the Little Grebe but two pairs of Great Crested Grebe each have young.  There are also two broods of Tufted Duck present.

A Spotted Flycatcher was seen at the bottom of Rodanbraes near the Tree Tops walk.  A Serge Warbler (possibly breeding) was spotted near the slipway on the east shore. 

Photographs :  Great Spotted Woodpecker and Great Tit, Moorhen trying to climb tree to reach feeder, Tufted duck with young & Spotted Flycatcher

Great Spotted Woodpecker & Great TitMoorhen

Spotted Fly Tufted DucksSurvey 18th June, 2013

292 Birds spotted in total and 38 different species recorded including four Red listed namely Yellowhammer, Starling, Song Thrush and Tree Sparrow.

The weather was warm in a light easterly wind and cloudy with sunny spells.

Numerous nest sites are about the loch, mainly Coot.  At least two pairs of Great Crested Grebe spotted but more are suspected.  There are three visible nest sites though one of these cannot be checked, another contains four eggs and the third previously contained two eggs due to hatch after 13th June.  We are now five days past this estimate and an adult remains on the nest.

Coot numbers seem quite high due to the increase from new juveniles.  Some Coots with limited success appear to be making a second attempt.  One pair was seen nursing a massive brood of ten young.

The Little Grebes also appear to be more active and a nest was discovered close by the north shore containing two eggs.  A Mallard was on the loch on the day of the survey with a brood of nine recent hatchlings.  The only other known brood was on the jetty and these ducklings are almost the same size as their mother who still attends and keeps a watchful eye.  A boat survey in the near future would provide more accurate data on young and nests.

The hybrid Greylag has abandoned the nest on the barley straw raft sometime after the 23rd May and canoeists reported an egg on the raft, whilst nothing remains of the nest which has most likely sunk through the netting of the raft as anticipated.  The Canada Goose has returned accompanied by the same gosling it brought with it last year.

One Black-headed Gull was seen on the jetty on 21st June.

The Moorhens do not appear to be as active as in previous years with the exception of the pair that produced five young in spring.  The surviving young are almost adult size now.  This pair have produced even more young which can occasionally be glimpsed at the hide.

Predations continue on the loch and woodland but the numbers of young birds suggests nothing but normal activity.

Watch out for a Whitethroat on the road adjacent to the allotments that will admonish you loudly when you pass its nest.  Please don’t be tempted to try and find it as it will likely be below knee height and very well hidden, and you have an excellent chance of tumbling down the steep bank in the process.

 

Photographs :  Mallard ducks, Coot with young, Little Grebe with young & Whitethroat    

Mallard DucksCoot with Young

Little Grebe with youngWhitethroat

Survey 14th May, 2013

600 Birds spotted in total and 36 different species recorded including four Red listed namely Starling, Herring Gull, Song Thrush and Tree Sparrow.

The weather was cool in a very strong south west wind and cloudy with sunny spells.  For the second time this year the loch was subjected to strong winds sufficient to generate a significant swell on the east shore.

There are numerous nest sites about the loch, mainly Coot.  There are four pairs of Great Crested Grebe with at least one pair known to be breeding.  The hybrid Greylag persists on a nest discovered on the barley straw raft on 4th May.  Based on Greylag data, the earliest hatch would be 2nd June, providing the adult can maintain the condition of the nest over the next few weeks as the straw is sinking into the raft.  There is some sign of predation of waterfowl and woodland birds but there is nothing yet to suggest this is out of the ordinary and is probably due to lack of good cover this early in the season.  Judging by the reaction of Mallard and ducklings to the sudden appearance of a Grey Heron at the hide, I would say the Heron is a significant predator of young water fowl.

As regards offspring, we have had some hatches of Starling, Robin and Goldfinch.  Tits are beginning to lay eggs in the nest boxes so we can expect adults to be frantically delivering food to some of these boxes within the next fortnight.

Swallows are on the loch in large numbers, easily surpassing the largest gatherings recorded since surveys started in 2010.  They are also accompanied by some Swift, House Martins and Sand Martins.  Only one Swift recorded on Survey but eight seen at the same location two days previously.

The first Whitethroat of the season was singing madly at the top of the allotments.  Serge Warblers have been seen at the Tannery pond nearby.  The only migrants still to show are the Garden Warbler and Spotted Flycatcher.

Photographs :  Coot with chicks, Swallows,  Greylag on nest, Grey Heron

CootsSwallows

Grey HeronGreylag

Survey 18TH April, 2013

229 Birds spotted in total and 33 different species recorded including four Red listed namely Starling, Lesser Redpoll, Song Thrush and Tree Sparrow.   The weather was cool in a strong south westerly wind but fair.  The Loch has recently been subjected to strong winds sufficient to generate a significant swell on the east shore.

Several nest sites on and off the water are present but seem surprisingly few for the time of year.  This could be due to the low temperatures and lack of cover from new vegetation.  Known nests are Coot at the east shore and this nest contains at least two eggs.  However the site appears to be suffering from a heavy swell.  An adult Coot is present but not apparently incubating.

A Greylag Goose has been sitting on a nest on the south shore since early April.  A large white bird has been seen on another possible nest site on the south shore.  Though it’s head was hidden from view, it is believed to be one of the hybrid goslings.

A Moorhen nest was discovered on 5th April with five young.  They were last seen on 11th April when two young were spotted and at which time they were able to leave the nest.   We have had no further sightings and may not see them again until they are larger juveniles.   Sightings of Coot, Little grebe and Moorhen are quite low.  The reason is unknown.

Lesser Black-backed Gulls, Swallows, Sand Martins, Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers are all back at the Loch.  The Chiffchaffs and Lesser Black-backed Gulls have been here for a fortnight but the others have appeared in the past week.

The Great Crested Grebes are much in evidence on the Loch this month.   An unusual visitor to the feeders was photographed namely a pheasant.   Look out for the male Lesser Redpoll which visited the feeders near the hide during the survey.

Photographs :  Chiffchaff, Great Crested Grebes, Red Poll & Pheasant on feeder

ChiffChaffGreat Crested Grebes

RedpollPheasant

Survey 12th March, 2013

280 Birds spotted in total and 30 different species recorded including three Red listed namely Yellowhammer, Starling and Tree Sparrow.  The weather was cold and fair with a light northerly wind.  The loch was frozen in margins but thawed by the end of the survey.

The Water Rail previously sighted on 6th and 7th March was seen near the hide.  We think it has been attracted by The Ecology Centre feeders and it joins the Chaffinches, Blackbirds, Mallards and Moorhen “hoovering up” the spillages of feed.  It only appears if the two domestic geese are not present.  There have been numerous sightings of this particularly skulking bird.  Watch out for the occasional appearance of the Great Spotted Woodpecker at the feeders.  Also look out for a Sparrowhawk that you might see, also feeds on the feeders.

Red Breasted Mergansers appeared on the loch on 21st and 25th March.  Great Crested Grebes are now commonly seen on the loch frequenting areas used for nesting last year.  This bodes well for the coming season.  Lesser Black-backed gulls have also returned from migration and were sighted on the water on 25th March.

Goldeneye duck are still present in significant numbers and displaying.  They will leave us soon to nest further north.  Pochard ducks have also been seen occasionally during the month.

Winter Thrushes including Fieldfare have been spotted near Craigencalt Cottage.  Watch out for the Song Thrush chapping snails against stones in the woodland near the hide.

On the negative side there is a possibility that American Mink may be in the area though we have been unable to confirm this as yet.  Please report any sightings or possible activity to Diana Neil at the Farmhouse, Danny Wallace or The Ecology Centre.

Photographs: Red Breasted Merganser, Water Rail & Pochard Duck

Red Breasted MerganserWater Rail

Pochard Duck

Survey 15th February, 2013

275 Birds spotted in total and 39 different species recorded including fi