Clearing things up

Hello? Anyone there? Hopefully you’ve all been following my progress on the Loch Leven NNR blog, and if you haven’t then you can see those on this blog now (I’ve reblogged all my posts for LLNNR).

On that blog, however, there are certain things that I can’t post up due to being either not relevant to Loch Leven or… well that’s the only reason really. Although now that I think about it, I haven’t done much other than enjoy my time at Loch Leven. (I’ll litter this post with some random nice pictures to try and make it a little more readable, also, this isn’t a rant. I’m just trying to make things a little clearer 🙂 )

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One thing I have found is that people don’t appear to know or understand what it is I do, or what Loch Leven NNR is all about. I shall explain…

I secured myself a year-long internship with Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), as a Reserve Assistant at Loch Leven National Nature Reserve (NNR). This involves pretty much doing anything I’m asked/told to do around the loch. Everything I do is either on the blog or on the NNR Facebook page.

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Scottish Natural Heritage is the governmental organisation responsible for:

  • promoting, caring for, and improving Scotland’s natural heritage
  • helping people enjoy nature responsibly
  • enabling greater understanding and awareness of nature
  • promoting the sustainable use of Scotland’s natural heritage

At Loch Leven, SNH manages the whole reserve, although RSPB do manage a chunk of it, as can be seen by the map found in the reserve leaflet.

Working for SNH means I don’t work at Vane Farm/RSPB Loch Leven. One of the RSPB lot that I know said someone was asking for me at the cafe? If that was you, then head back round to Kinross where our office is and try in there!

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I think that’s everything that needed clearing up…

So, yesterday I decided to climb Stob Binnein, a munro that isn’t too far from me (I’m staying with my gran in Dollar as it’s free accommodation). Obviously there was more planning than that, I had decided last week that I wanted to bag a munro. Given the current season, I realised my equipment wasn’t really up to a sufficient standard to allow me to climb a munro in winter conditions.

I headed up to Perth to visit Tiso in order to buy myself some proper walking boots that would allow the use of crampons, plus an ice axe. After trying on many boots (I actually have blisters on my thumb and index finger from tying so many laces) I eventually found some that were within my price range and fulfilled the purpose that I needed them for, plus bought crampons and an ice axe.

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Using my ice axe to gauge the size of these bird footprints

The climb up Stob Binnein is hellish at first. Really steep for the first hour or so. However, once you get over the top of Creag Artair it’s pretty easy going and gives brilliant views. I was planning on doing Ben More as well but with daylight hours so few at this time of year, I felt it would be best if I just headed back down to the car.

What next? Who knows, perhaps I’ll do Ben More next, or Ben Vorlich and Stuc a’Chroin. But looking forwards, next year I have a few nice excursions planned. The Isle of May NNR for at least a week (maybe two, 1 with SNH and possibly 1 with the bird obs), Creag Meagaidh NNR for a week to experience the management they use on that NNR,  and hopefully Noss NNR for a week. It’s going to be good!

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Isle of May NNR

Otherwise, not much to report I’m afraid! I’ll maybe get back into using this blog, perhaps for any weekend trips that I have. But if I don’t blog here, then check the Loch Leven NNR blog, the NNR Facebook page, my Twitter, AND I now have Instagram so you can follow me there too!

Right, I better go and have dinner, then it’s time for Planet Earth II, the best thing on TV!

 

Clearing things up

Wintry water

Loch Leven National Nature Reserve

Loch Leven has certainly been showing off the best things about winter this week.

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This morning was no exception as the loch has finally frozen in some places, plus everything around the loch has a nice crisp coating of ice. The ducks now tend to huddle in the non-frozen areas of the loch, and if you’re lucky you’ll maybe be able to have good views of them.

I was at RSPB Loch Leven today having a look for the White-tailed Eagle that has been seen in recent days. It’s been using the trees on St Serf’s Isle but we don’t think it’s one of the usual visitors from previous years as they tend to sit in the trees on Castle Island and Reed Bower. If you see a huge, dark silhouette sitting in a tree, or see what looks like a barn door defying gravity then do let either us…

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Guest Blog: Ostracods!

Loch Leven National Nature Reserve

Today we’re going to look back at some slightly warmer days in August, when Dave Horne of the Queen Mary University of London paid the loch a visit. I’ll let him explain further…


I have been working through some samples I collected in Loch Leven in August, picking out specimens of ostracods, which are tiny crustaceans, typically around one millimetre long that live in all manner of aquatic habitats. Why am I doing this? The fossil remains of ostracods (their calcium carbonate shells) can tell us a great deal about past environments and climates. I use them to reconstruct the winter and summer temperatures experienced by early humans in the British Isles, focusing on archaeological sites spanning the past million years or so. To do this I need to calibrate the temperature ranges of living ostracod species by comparing their geographical distribution with a climate model in a GIS (Geographical Information…

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Midweek Update

Loch Leven National Nature Reserve

I’m afraid today’s post is going to be short as I’m in the office quite late and it’s dark and I need to pick up some stuff from the shops on the way home!

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We’ve been out today, the volunteers and I, repairing the hide at Burleigh. It’s currently out of action as the boardwalk still needs to be put back together and needs a lick of paint added but it was a good day of work, despite the rain, hail, wind, cold and mud!

Before the week started, I was out at Tentsmuir NNR having a wee look around and can confirm it is very much worth a visit. Seals, shorebirds, sand, sea… it’s not Loch Leven, but it is very nice so do pop out. It’s one of the closest reserves to us here in Kinross-shire.

Back to Loch Leven on Monday and everything feels very…

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Winter rears it’s pretty head

Loch Leven National Nature Reserve

We’re certainly feeling the colder weather that’s moved in, with our first proper, hard frost this morning and snow on the surrounding hills over the past couple of days. However, you can’t freeze all the action at the loch, even if it did reach -3 degrees C last night!

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The volunteers were kept warm this week as some finished up baling in front of the Levenmouth Hide, and the rest pulled out a fence that will be replaced after some work has been done. The best part about fence removal is the satisfying job of rolling it all up!

The wildlife continues to act appropriately given it’s winter now. Waxwings are definitely still present. Jeremy found 30 in Springfield Park on the 10th Nov, and I spotted 5+ this morning sat atop a conifer at the end of Mavisbank. Always keep an…

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Seeing Red and Yellow

Loch Leven National Nature Reserve

Well, we had our first wee frost yesterday with puddles frozen along the path through Kirkgate Park. This was clearly taken as a warning by the local squirrels as I saw plenty of them whilst taking the cutter around to Mary’s Knowe in the morning.

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This is definitely the best time of year to be seeing the Red Squirrels on the reserve as they feed up on berries, beech mast, pine seeds and horse chestnuts, whilst cashing even more for the winter ahead. I managed to see 3 Red Squirrels (2 Kinross House grounds, 1 Kirkgate Cemetery) plus a couple of Greys were making a racket as well.

I’ve made a very quick, rough map to show where you stand a good chance of seeing Red Squirrels, just listen for things crashing about in the branches above you. You might be lucky enough to see them leap between trees.

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The reason I…

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Can ewe guess who?

Loch Leven National Nature Reserve

Just to really mess with my internal clock, on top of the fact the clocks have gone back I was also at work yesterday so today feels like Tuesday (but it’s Monday)! Nevertheless, it was a nice day to be out on St Serf’s Isle working with some very, very helpful volunteers.

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These volunteers have been working tirelessly since the spring, out on St Serf’s Isle every day since they were taken out there on the boat. They’ve worked on the grassland habitat on the island by keeping down any trees that try to take over the grass. This benefits the breeding birds that are out there, such as ducks, throughout spring and summer as their nest sites remain in place so they can continue to breed on the islands.

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We also worked with a couple of farmers who brought a couple of their dogs along to help…

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