Friday 10 June 2016

Lochan Lodge

This year we had another holiday at Lochan Lodge near Cromdale, peace and tranquillity loaded with wildlife. Nobody goes to Scotland for the weather - it has to be for the wildlife. However, the country was divided into two halves, the west coast was having flag-splitting sunshine and the east coast was suffering under a northerly airstream giving cool days and even cooler nights. So we divided our time staying local for the birds and going west for the butterflies.
Fast dropping temperatures in the evening gave us several spectacular mists.
Of course the lochan attracts the star of the show - Ospreys. Last year we had "Osvaldo" who visited most days and put on a spectacular show. This year we had to wait but finally we had a total of three separate  Ospreys making five visits.

More Lochan Lodge Osprey shots can be found here and here
Ground nesting waders were present in good numbers, we counted a maximum of 44 Oystercatchers inhabiting the lawns. None of the birds are really shy and some of them nest in the most obvious places, still they manage to evade all the predators and the end result is "salt 'n pepper" Lapwing chicks and Redshank young that comprise of more than 50% legs. This year the Oystercatchers hadn't hatched before we left.


I hasten to add that these photographs were taken from the car as we drove up and down the track, going "off piste" as it were meant that you had to look where you were putting your feet.

Mallard numbers increased too but I have a suspicion that most of the ducklings ended up as Black-headed Gull  food and the two Grey Herons that frequented the lochan probably had a share.

This holiday I have discovered a new method of spending vast amounts of time and creating huge numbers of photographs to be discarded in the recycle bin. The Curlews and the Common Snipe perform some entertaining flights above their nesting territories. The Snipe "drum" and it was this I wanted to capture.

Drumming  is a sound produced by Snipe as part of their courtship display flights. The sound is produced mechanically by the vibration of the modified outer tail feathers, held out at a wide angle to the body, in the slipstream of a power dive.


The bird feeders in front of the lodge were visited by all the usual suspects but it was the Siskins that gave the most pleasure, once I put some sunflower hearts in the tray the population went from 1 to 7 almost overnight. These birds showed no fear of humans and they allowed a very close approach - far too busy consuming those delicious sunflower seeds of course.


Chaffinches were numerous too, disputing ownership of the feeders with all and sundry.

Hirundines were plentiful, we saw Sand Martins, Swallows and at least three pairs of House Martins were nesting on the lodge itself.

We saw several Roe Deer and their barking was often heard, other mammals were skulking in the grass but there was no sign of "Sid" the Stoat, given the number of rabbits available he wouldn't have to roam far when hunting.
"Hiding Hares"

"Wascally Wabbits"

The Scots Pine wood adjacent to the lodge is always good for some different wildlife. Two Red Squirrels which were using the peanut feeder that was attached to a tree trunk provided entertainment but were rather shy, drifting away when we approached. This was the first time we had spotted them, hope they hang around.
Flocks of Crossbills announced their presence with their distinctive calls, we counted a maximum of 12 in one flock, very flighty, but this female obliged by coming closer, looking for a drink from a pool in the wheel ruts of the track. Several bright red males were high up in the tops but impossible to photograph, the best indication that they were about was the clunk of the discarded pine cones hitting the ground.

Another bird that was hard to nail was the Spotted Flycatcher, at home they tend to have a favourite branch from which they dart out and snatch a passing insect. Here they were much more mobile and it was hard to predict where they might turn up. Never mind, I managed a couple of record shots.


The Treecreeper was easy to find but difficult to photograph, light being at a premium under the canopy.

Finally, it wasn't just the Ospreys that liked the tasty trout, we had a brace and they were delicious. For the record the flies were a dry Greenwell's and a tadpole imitation.  When we arrived the margins of the lochan were inhabited by thousands of tadpoles or "pollywoggles" and the trout found them irresistible, gliding into the shallows and hoovering them up. By the time we left potential frog numbers had decreased significantly.

 Another cracking holiday at Lochan Lodge and we shall return Deo Volente.

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