Red Squirrels, Loch Leven and an Aquatic Stoat

Wednesday, April 18, 2018 Adam Tilt 0 Comments


P1140079 - Red Squirrel
Words and images from 25/03/2018

Of all the things I’d expected from this trip a slightly tender forehead was not one of them. And can you really blame me? Barely a week ago we’d been battling through blizzards and now sun-cream and hats were order of the day. Not that I was going to be complaining as with another glorious morning underway more of the same was promised. Once again the Pink-footed Geese were feeding out in the fields and this time we managed to get to them just before the farmer, at least a hundred birds looking resplendent in the morning light.

P1140087 - Pink-footed Geese

P1140094 - Pink-footed Geese

P1140107 - Pink-footed Geese

Perhaps unsurprisingly the Geese were incredibly wary and didn’t stick around for long before relocating as one. From relative calm the air was at once filled with the sound of calling birds and wing beats, an incredible spectacle and one which I don’t think I’d ever tire. The fields here will be a much poorer place when they finally move on.

Other birds up and about on this fine morning included a couple of Oystercatchers and a male Yellowhammer perched on overhead cables whilst back in the garden it seemed that yesterday’s brief Red Squirrel encounter was about to be usurped. The first couple of visitors were incredibly wary, running along the garden wall before pausing to reconsider and then heading back the way they’d come. Fortunately the third proved much bolder and spent a good ten minutes or so clinging to the peanut feeder. I was even able to get a door open and peak my camera out giving me my best Red Squirrel photos to date. All we need to do now is set up a hide and I reckon we’d be on to a winner.

P1140085 - Red Squirrel

P1140079 - Red Squirrel

P1140067 - Red Squirrel

Breakfast eaten we headed the short distance to Findatie on the shores of Loch Leven from where we’d be walking to the RSPB reserve. As with yesterday there were still patches of snow clinging on here and there, mainly in shaded areas, but elsewhere there was a definite sense of spring in the air. Birdsong abounded and although the Daffodils here are a little later than back at home it was nice to see Snowdrops once again. Out on the slightly choppy waters of the loch itself waterfowl numbers were impressively high with Tufted Ducks and Goldeneye probably the most numerous species present. The latter were clearly feeling a little frisky with several males in full on, head whipping display mode. Indeed it was while watching these antics that a male Long-tailed Duck popped up in my field of vision, a double take necessary to confirm that I was indeed not seeing things. Diving regularly it was not always easy to keep tabs on but in the end everyone in our party got eyes on, the second lifer in as many days for our hosts.

P1140109 - Loch Leven

There was even more action to come from the RSPB hides including Great Crested Grebes, Goosanders, Wigeon, Curlew, Gadwall, Shelduck, Teal, Little Grebe, Shoveller and Lapwing. The latter breed here and although still relatively early in the season we could still see territorial displays breaking out all over. It was also interesting to observe Lapwings harassing the Black Headed Gulls only to have both team up to chase off an inquisitive Carrion Crow (no Hoodies this far south) moments later. Perhaps the best species though were two winter visitors, a trio of snoozing Whooper Swans and at least forty Barnacle Geese. It was also good to pick out a couple of Common Snipe having spent the previous hour or so pondering on their presence here. The views weren’t bad either.

P1140116 - Loch Leven

P1140117 - Loch Leven

Some delicious cake consumed we retraced our steps before heading into woodland over Leven bridge. Here a pair of Grey Wagtails were feasting on a pile of manure whilst above our heads hoards of Coal Tits seemed to be calling from every tree. We also got good views of a female Great-spotted Woodpecker before Emma somehow managed to locate a Long-tailed Tit nest hidden deep within a Gorse bush. Its construction was a thing of beauty, almost perfectly round and coated in its entirety with lichen. Both residents were in attendance so we kept our distance and left them to it.

P1140121 - Long-tailed Tit nest

Another hide here looked over a large reed lined pool which held three Pintail as well as more Common Snipe, Teal, Gadwall and Shoveller. There was also a male Goldeneye for the briefest of moments before he must have realised that he’d missed the loch ever so slightly and was soon on his way once more. Then came our most unexpected encounter of the day in the shape of a Stoat which we watched swim from one end of the pool to another. The fact that we’d spotted it at all was virtually a miracle as with just its head visible above the water it could quite easily have been overlooked. In all the traversal took at least five minutes before we lost it amongst the reeds. A fascinating observation and one we’re unlikely to see repeated any time soon.

Back at the house we got to enjoy the sight of gathering Pink-footed Geese once more before an impressive sunset brought to a close our time in this part of Scotland.

P1140122 - Sunset

We will definitely be back.

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