Posted by: cullaloelnr | July 9, 2009

Update

Hey folks,
I know it’s been a long time since either Janie or me updated the blog. We’ve both been crazy busy recently, mostly working on material for the reserve open day on 2nd August!

I can, however, give you all a brief update on what’s been going on at Cullaloe. Don’t be expecting the flowery speech and long stories that Janie gives you, though. I’m not nearly that exciting!

The screen has now been completed, and if you go along, I’m sure you’ll agree that it makes a huge improvement on the old one! We’re definitely finding that the wildfowl are beginning to get that little bit closer, so better views are definitely to be had.

Butterfly season is in full swing on the reserve, with butterflies absolutely everywhere. The most common one right now is the Ringlet, though other species are also present, including the occasional Dark Green Fritillary!
An absolutely gorgeous butterfly, i’m sure you’ll agree!

The march of the froglets has begun over the past week or so, so keep an eye on your footing when on the reserve. The little froglets are everywhere, and it’s quite easy to stand on them – in fact, you’re probably better off if you don’t look down!

If any of you have been along in the past month or so, you’ll have noticed that the bird feeders had been left empty. Never fear, as of last weekend, they are now kept with food in them!

Finally, just to let you all know, we’re having an event on Saturday afternoon (11th July), with members of the local branch of the Scottish Wildlife Trust coming along and sharing their expertise with us. The main theme is on bugs, but you can be sure we will be touching on butterflies, birds, plants – anything that’s there, really!
It is open to all, so if you’re free on Saturday afternoon from 2pm, please do feel free to come along

Hopefully it won’t be quite as long between updates now. I know, we say that every time, but this time it might just happen! πŸ™‚

Posted by: cullaloelnr | May 14, 2009

News Update – Screen Clean!

Just a quick update for our regular blog-watchers! The screen replacement works have finally begun at Cullaloe main loch! Grahame and I are very pleased to announce that Dave Blair and his Conservation Team have been hard at work since Tuesday, taking down the old willow withy screen that had become so battered and vandalised in recent years, and replacing it with something much more hardy and user friendly! πŸ™‚

I haven’t seen it personally but Grahame has taken a wander along and reports back that the Team started working from the end that is farthest away from the loch. The first section looks much like you would expect a standard 6ft garden fence to look. It is made up of vertical fence boards set side by side with small gaps between. The screen will continue in much the same way, but with sight-holes at varying levels for all the visitors to be able to peek through and see what our water based birds are up to! πŸ™‚

If you happen to take a walk along to the loch in the next few days, keep your eyes peeled for our magnificent swans! They have recently become the proud parents of 7 cygnets! πŸ™‚ Grahame and I have some concern about the loch being big enough to support that many young, and there is always the chance of one or two being lost to predators along the way, but we are hopeful that the bulk of them will successfully reach maturity! If you have never seen a cygnet before, don’t be expecting a miniature version of their beautiful snow-coloured parents! Oh no! Think back into your childhood and the story of the Ugly Duckling. That ugly, grey, scruffy little duckling was actually a beautiful, graceful swan, just waiting to grow up! πŸ™‚ They may not look like much when you see them, but if you keep coming to visit, you will gradually see the changes take place until eventually they will look like proper full-grown swans wearing dirty jumpers! πŸ˜‰ They don’t get their white feathers until they are a full year old, by which time they will already have taken flight away from Cullaloe.

Other birds are also having their young, so keep looking for ducklings and coot chicks as you scan the loch. Don’t forget to look above the surface of the loch too for the swallows who are busy chasing the insects that fly above the water! πŸ™‚ They like to swoop and twist and swirl in the air in mesmerising patterns – very entertaining to watch! πŸ™‚

Hope you are getting out there and enjoying the long-awaited sun! Just don’t forget to wear sun cream as the heat can be deceptive when it is so windy!

Take care all!

Janie
Reserve Warden

Posted by: cullaloelnr | April 26, 2009

BIG BIRD NEWS!

Hey there πŸ™‚ Welcome to the beginning of summer at Cullaloe! πŸ™‚ How do we know that it is getting to be summer at long, long last? The arrival of migrants has begun! And boy are they making their presence felt!

But first, the big news about a big bird! No… not the 8ft tall yellow one from Sesame Street… πŸ˜‰ We are talking Osprey here! Yes, here – at Cullaloe! πŸ™‚

There are a couple of very regular visitors to the reserve (human this time) and one of them very kindly text Grahame yesterday to let us know that they had spied an Osprey making for our loch in search of a wee afternoon appetiser! This is brilliant news as we regularly make trips up to Loch of the Lowes (SWT Reserve) and Loch Garten (RSPB Reserve) to see these magnificent birds of prey! πŸ™‚ For anyone who doesn’t know their osprey from their buzzard, the osprey is similar in size to a buzzard, but it is essentially black and white all over. The top of its head is white with some speckled areas, the wings are black and the chest is white again, with a speckled bib at the front. The osprey also looks like a bit of a punk with a funky spike going on at the back of its head! πŸ˜‰ If you are wondering what the buzzard looks like now – first suggestion is to visit the reserve and take a gander up the gorse slope towards the telegraph poles, where you can see one personally 9 times out of 10! πŸ˜‰ If you can’t make it along, buzzards are a very rich milk-chocolate brown all over, with some gold-brown mixed through. They have a black curved beak in the usual bird of prey style, but with a yellow nostril-cover that makes it look quite distinctive.

Although Grahame and I were obviously disappointed not to see the osprey personally, we were chuffed to bits that Ian and his wife took the time to let us know that the appearance had been noted. Thanks very much guys and we’ll see you on the reserve again soon!

Now, apart from an Osprey making a pit-stop at the Little Chef that is Cullaloe Loch, we also have a new stream of more long-term visitors arriving. They are mostly of the LBJ (Little Brown Job) crew, but they also have their own distinctive features. First to arrive was the Chiff-Chaff which can be heard all over the reserve, but likes to hang out at the side of the loch nearest the sheep pasture mostly. Next arrival was the Willow Warbler (Grahame’s favourites!) and they can be heard and seen every step of the way through the reserve! They are one of the most melodic singers of the LBJ crew – very beautiful indeed. We are also playing hosts to swallows as of the tail end of this week. These cheeky chappies are swooping about over the filterbeds, the loch and most of the areas in between! Best chance of sighting these is basically to look upwards! This morning was the turn of the first whitethroat of the year which has taken up residence as usual in the trees around the filterbeds! πŸ™‚

So, getting to be a busy wee place, with birds of all shapes and sizes moving in to their summer addresses. Make sure you take time to go and check them out before they check out of Hotel Cullaloe! πŸ˜‰

Take care!

Janie

Posted by: cullaloelnr | March 10, 2009

Long time, no blog

Hey guys! I’m really sorry to see it has been more than a month since my last post! You could be forgiven for thinking that nothing much is happening on-site – and that is all our fault for not keeping you up-to-date! 😦

So, lets get cracking and see what is new! πŸ™‚ The first thing to mention is that the snow-drops are out in force all along the banking at the car park! I love snow-drops πŸ™‚ For me they are the herald of the spring but with a wee remembrance of winter to warm the cockles of your heart! πŸ˜‰ The bright green of the stems beautifully show off the crisp white of the flowers and they sway like little bells in the gentle breezes we were enjoying until this week! πŸ™‚ I like the fact that they are nestled within the trees that mark the right-hand edge of the car park (as you stand looking down from the steps up to the top of the dam wall). They brighten the brown earth between the bare trees and make you realise that before too long the air is going to be thick with perfume and you are not going to be able to see a hint of bareness anywhere at all! πŸ™‚

Unfortunately the right hand edge of the access road has taken another beating in the recent heavy rains as it curves into the car park, so there has been a fair amount of debris washed down over the road. It makes things a litte dicey for the old car, so take your time as you come down around the corner, and make sure you check your brakes as you leave the reserve once your visit is over.

Another good reason to slow down as you come around the bottom bend in the access road, and regular readers will know I say this often, is that you never know what you might find at the filter beds. Picture it – you are minding your own business, sun-bathing on a rock, or hunting for rodents or small fish, and suddenly this massive hunk of metal comes belting into your existence, squealing and growling for all it is worth! What are you going to do..? Take off like the clappers – that’s what! πŸ˜‰ So, now imagine that you are once again engaged in your own activites, and you gradually become aware of a low growling noise, approaching quite slowly. You will certainly pause for a moment to try to identify the sound. You might even come out of cover a little to get a better look at whatever this new predator is. But you will most certainly delay the moment of flight for longer than you would have! And that, guys and girls, is the whole point! πŸ™‚

Grahame and I make it our habit to approach the filter beds as quietly as possible, whether we are driving or walking, and that is why we are occasionally treated to seeing some of the more shy creatures that call Cullaloe home. We have lost count of the number of deer, wildfowl and smaller mammals such as foxes we have spooked in that area of the reserve. Recently it seems to be the turn of a rather sleekit beastie – the mink. There have been a couple of occasions that a single mink has been spotted at the edge of, or within, one of the filter beds. Sightings have also been made at the spillway. The presence of mink would certainly explain the apparent down-turn in young on the main loch this year and we are keen to gauge the levels of them we might have, so if you should happen to spot a small weasel-like creature with dark brown/black fur, please leave a comment on this blog, letting Grahame and I know where you were, where it was and when it was! πŸ™‚

Other than the possible mink, something you definitely will be able to spot at the moment is the sheer number of birds who are singing their feathery little hearts out! πŸ™‚ The feeders are being so well-used that Grahame barely gets the chance to hang the filled feeders back on their hooks before the cheeky blue tits and coal tits starting feasting away again! πŸ™‚ The great spotted woodpecker has been spied regularly coming in from the direction of Cullaloe Lodge, and I have had yellowhammers pointed out to me by Grahame on at least 4 occasions in the last couple of weeks! πŸ™‚ Now, I can recognise quite a few birds these days but the Yellowhammer is one that I just can’t seem to get in my mind. I usually find though that if I say it out loud, or tell someone else, their description normally starts to stick – so I’m going to jot it down here as a memo to myself and hopefully it will help you all find them too! πŸ™‚ They are about the same size as a house sparrow and from the neck down they are a little similar in pattern. There are dark lines that flow down the wings and back towards the tail in the same way as a sparrow has. However, as the name suggests, the yellowhammer has much brighter colour about him than a sparrow. The male has a sunny yellow coloured head and the yellow mingles with brown going downhis back in those stripes I already mentioned. The female has more brown on her body and head than the male, but is still yellow enough to be disingushed from other small brown-coloured birds. I hope that helps! πŸ™‚ And for all of those who want to be purist about it – I know that the patterning of the sparrow is a little different, and it has a white stripe running cross-ways on the wing that the yellowhammer doesn’t – but I just think it helps to have something that is well known to compare an unknown bird to. It helps me – and it might help others! πŸ˜‰

I do have one piece of cracking good news for all of us who like to go to Cullaloe though πŸ™‚ Something that might make the experience a little more rewarding for all of us… πŸ™‚ You may know that we were hoping to receieve funding towards the replacement of the viewing screen situated at the main loch… and we are delighted to say we have been successful! πŸ™‚ The viewing screen will be of different construction this time to try to persuade vandals not to cut pieces of of it, and also in the hope that it may last a little longer this time! We are still sourcing funding for a noticeboard to accompany the screen, or be placed down at the car park, so we can share interesting sightings or put up adverts for events that are due to be held, but that funding is yet to be agreed. I’ll keep you posted though! πŸ˜‰ Out of interest… if you think it would be useful to have a notice board, please comment and let us know why! πŸ™‚

Anyway, that’s it for now. I will come back and let you know of developments as they happen in due course! Happy spotting! πŸ˜‰

Posted by: cullaloelnr | February 2, 2009

Willow? What Willow?

Hey Blog-watchers!

Its been a while since I last updated you, which I apologise for! The weather hasn’t exactly been fantastic recently and I’m afraid many of the trips to Cullaloe have been entirely for work purposes, in as much as they have been quick stop-overs to fill feeders, count birds and generally check the place over.

One of the most recent visits,though, was as much about enjoying a day outdoors with like-minded people as it was about hard work. The cadets from ATC 859 Squadron (Dalgety Bay) were welcomed back to the reserve for their second visit of this year, to continue the willow coppicing they have been doing such a brilliant job of. Anyone who has had the pleasure of visiting the reserve since Christmas can’t have failed to notice the impression the cadets have been making on that pesky water-sooking willow on the Snipe Bog (to the right of the path as you walk to the loch). Where once there was willow standing as thick as the hedges around Sleeping Beauty’s castle, there is now a sandy-coloured sea of bog vegetation, spinging up to fill the space that has been created πŸ™‚

The cadets were last on-site on Sunday 24 January 2009 and we set them to work at the left-hand edge of where they had last been cutting – and boy did they cut when they were let loose! Grahame and I were very pleased to note that 12 cadets had pitched up ready and willing to work, accompanied by 4 adult supervisors!! πŸ™‚ What a show of support!! πŸ™‚

I am going to focus on the cadets themselves on this blog entry because I really do think that they have come a long way since their maiden visit on 02 December 2007! πŸ™‚ Some of the group on 24th January this year were newbies to the reserve, but don’t think that held them back! No Sirree Bob! Given a pair of branch lopers or a bow-saw and pointed in the right direction, it wasn’t long before they could be seen breaking off into groups of 2 or 3 with more experienced cadets and taking the willow down as if they had been doing it all their lives! πŸ™‚

As well as the newbies, some of the cadets have been coming to the reserve on each scheduled visit since the start of our volunteering sessions with them and it has been a pleasure to see how self-assured they have become – and how justifiedly proud they are of their ongoing achievements! πŸ™‚ And seeing as 24th January was marked as being the date of the first ever drawing of blood when the cadets have been on site (a very small slip involving a thumb and the business end of a bow-saw – all very accidental and never to be repeated!) the cadets can actually say they have given both blood and plenty of sweat to the project! πŸ˜‰ Joking aside, it is an achievement in itself tthat we have managed to go more than a year before having even the smallest of accidents with the coppicing tools, and that is testiment to the mature way the cadets have gone about their work – even if one or two of them (you know who you are guys) like to challenge themselves by thinking of taking down the bigger trees that perhaps we might be wanting to save! πŸ˜‰

For anyone that is concerned about the taking down of the willow – and may perhaps be wondering if it is the best thing for the reserve – please don’t worry. The willow warblers, white thoats, and other little brown jobs (“LBJ’s”) like them will still have many perches around the Snipe Bog area in the shape of mature trees of species other than willow. The Snipe, who until now have never been known to nest on the site, but are regular visitors, will almost certainly prefer the more waterlogged conditions in the Snipe Bog, and you dear Cullaloe walker, bird-watcher or bug-spotter, will have more chance of seeing some of the larger animals that inhabit the reserve, and may see the reed dwelling birds and insects we have to offer more easily too! πŸ™‚ I’ll tell you this much – I wouldn’t suggest venturing off the path onto the Snipe Bog without a good pair of wellies any more! It is very muddy and wet over there – which is just what we were hoping for! πŸ™‚

Anyway, I’ll round off this post by letting you know that the cadets will be back with us on Sunday 07 February between 12pm and 3pm, where they will be sweeping in an easterly direction through what remains of the willow on the Snipe Bog. We will also be taking wee tours around the reserve to show the cadets what else can be found in and around the area, so if you see us about, please don’t hesitate to come and have a blether! Tell us what we may have missed while we have been up to our knees in mud! πŸ˜‰

Till next time!

Posted by: cullaloelnr | December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

Hey there folks,

Just a quick one to wish everybody who reads this blog a merry Christmas. I hope it was a good one for you all, and i hope 2009 is an eventful year for wildlife.

2009 will definitely be an eventful year for Cullaloe. You may remember me mentioning a couple of months ago that we’d put in for funding for various bits and pieces on the reserve. I’m happy to announce that the funding has been approved. As a result, there will be plenty of improvements happening on the reserve over the next two years.
In particular, in 2009, look out for a replacement viewing screen at the loch (very much needed, i’m sure any visitor to the reserve will agree) and a pond dipping platform at the filter beds.
There will also be events on the reserve throughout the year, from moth trapping evenings to guided walks and then to the open day in August. Once dates for these are confirmed, i will be sure to add them to the calendar.

I look forward to seeing you all on the reserve in 2009.

Posted by: cullaloelnr | November 25, 2008

Blooming Campion, it’s cold!

Hello Blog-watchers and welcome to a chilly day on the Cullaloe Blog. Grahame and I headed over to the Reserve earlier this week to catch up on a bit of survey and seed maintainance, so I thought I’d jot down a few thoughts on what we, and nature, were up to! πŸ™‚

It was with some intrepidation that Grahame and I first descended the access slope into the Reserve as the roads leading to Cullaloe itself had not exactly been pleasant following the recent cold snap Fife had been plunged into. However, about half-way down we noticed that the crisp white snow had been broken by tracks of some kind – and tracks always get our interest levels rising! πŸ˜‰ I admit that we were actually a little disappointed that at 10.30am on a Sunday, we were the first visitors to the Reserve of the day… we would really love to have found tyre tracks leading to the disabled parking bay (situated outside the Reserve gate) and human footprints disappearing off towards the Loch, but alas on this particular morning it was not meant to be… 😦 You do come to the Reserve sometimes… don’t you Blog-watchers…? Drop us a comment and let us know! πŸ™‚

Where was I… Oh, yes! Tracks! πŸ™‚ They ran down the middle of the access road, and around the bottom corner, before disappearing over towards the far back corner of the car park. Grahame and I parked up and took a look. To begin with we wondered whether perhaps the Lodge’s resident German Shepherd had taken itself on an early morning walk, but we quickly established that our track-maker had in fact been a fox! πŸ™‚ As we crossed the car park we encountered another set of tracks, belonging to a bird this time. They were pretty big – about 8cm long, and we noticed that every once in a while they were joined by another set of tracks that were similar in size. We didn’t have any identification books with us, but can be reasonably sure that the tracks belonged to a couple of pheasants. The really interesting part was that the fox tracks seemed to mirror the location of the pheasant tracks – almost as if we were seeing the memory of the fox slinking along behind them, thinking about lunch! πŸ˜‰ This was backed up by the fact that in some places, the fox’s tail had also made contact with the snow as it walked, perhaps as it hunkered down to get a good old nostril full of the pheasant’s scent! πŸ˜‰

Both the fox and pheasant tracks ran up the slope and along the pathway to the Loch, and this is the way that we walked as we undertook the most recent Birdcount Survey (details posted on the survey results section of the blog). There were two birds that particularly stood out for me in terms of their numbers and “stage” presence – the Robin and the Greater Spotted Woodpecker. We saw around 4 Robins and 2 Woodpeckers. Both birds are extremely beautiful in their own way. First the Robin, regularly assuming that well-loved Christmas Card Pose of perching on the top of fence-posts, his brilliant orangey-red chest puffed out as far as it will go and his beady eyes shining as he monitors with chirps of encouragement your progression along the path towards the Loch. Then the Woodpecker with his black and white striped plummage, chevron style on the wings, thicker strokes across his back, and a bold splash of scarlet across the back of his head and lower abdomen, who clings with effortless ease to the most precarious of tree trunks and branches while he decides which direction to go darting off in next! πŸ™‚ I know – I get a bit poetetic over nature – but it really is beautiful guys! πŸ˜‰

The whole Reserve was blanketed in about an inch depth of snow which sparkled in the comparatively bright sunshine of the morning, making everything look very pretty and at peace. Here and there tufts of grass penetrated with touches of green, reminding us that winter is just a passing fancy and Spring would be coming around the corner before we knew it. Around about half-way towards the Loch, a long line of deer tracks joined that of the fox and pheasant. These were interesting as they progressed towards the Loch steadily for a while then abruptly stopped – and started up again a good 4 feet further forward and around a foot and a half to the left of the original track-line! I have often heard of animals such as deer, hares, etc making a flying leap to one side in an effort to evade a predator, and it was lovely to see tracks that suggested such a move had taken place. The Loch itself was partially frozen, although not to any great depth. There were the usual selection of Teal, Widgen and Swan with one or two Moorhen and Mallard popping in and out. Grahame and I re-filled the seed and peanut feeders (having to put the peanut feeders back on their hooks while we were at it – thanks Mr Squirrel!) and took down the empty coconut halves that had been filled to the brim with a tasty mixture of lamb-fat and seeds just a couple of days before! Grahame and his mum have been making the fat cakes themselves and I will be adding a separate blog entry with the recipe for anyone who would like to put a tasty treat in their own garden for their winter visitors. We are hoping to make a deal with a kindly butcher to receive regular donations of fat to help keep the cost of feeding the Reserve birds down. As Grahame and I pay for most of the seeds and peanuts, and all of the feeding equipment, ourselves, this is a very necessary consideration! But we know that it is appreciated by visitors πŸ™‚

As we continued down the slope towards the spillway, we saw the first of a few Reed Buntings we recorded on our Birdcount, which was a pleasure as they are not often seen on the Reserve at this time of year. The spillway itself was covered with snow the same as everything else and the water was crystal clear as it flowed through the pipes embedded within the concrete bridge. This is about the only time you could expect Grahame and I to say that actually we would prefer it if the water was significantly more silty. If you take a look at the spillway, you will see the water tumbling down the concrete run-off slope, then disappearing BETWEEN the stones forming the gabion mattress that replaces the previous black liner we all disliked, and then running out of the bottom again to meet with the Dour Burn further across the Reserve. Its the “between” part that is the problem – but one which will be naturally overcome by the gradual building up of layers of silt, swept downslope by the water. This is Scotland – it won’t take long for a few healthy downpours to do the work that is required! πŸ˜‰

We continued on along the Reserve path towards the sheep-field and beyond, noting as we did so that Dave Blair and the Conservation Team have been doing an absolutely sterling job of taking down the more mature willow that occupies a large proportion of the area to the right of the path. Grahame mentioned, from reading past survey records, that this area of the Reserve was often found to contain significantly large numbers of Jack Snipe (smaller than Snipe, slightly shorter beak, makes a bobbing motion when feeding). It is hoped that this bird may make a return if the correct conditions are made available. We will certainly be keeping an eye out for them!

The path leading along-side the sheep field presented us with more tracks. This time the track-makers were rabbits, leaving little pockets of 4 prints, followed by a gap, 4 more prints, gap… and so on πŸ™‚ It was thought for a while that perhaps rabbits didn’t appreciate the goods on offer on the Reserve as we had never spotted any – but the tracks have put paid to that! Obviously they are just very good at hiding in the undergrowth! πŸ˜‰

Once you get beyond the end of the sheep-field, the vegetation starts to take over a bit, and as the path is on a downward camber to the right, it can get a little awkward for walking along. The ground itself was quite wet where the watery sunshine hadn’t quite managed to penetrate. It was along here that we found a little gem of a flower, still turning its face to the sky, and bringing a touch of pink to the never-ending green and brown canvass – Red Campion. This delicate little flower can be found from one end of the Reserve to the other during the summer months, but it seems to have found a lovely sheltered winter foothold at the far end of the Reserve. Well worth the walk to get there on a cold, bright morning like the one we had! πŸ™‚

Well, that’s my round-up from our most recent trip to the Reserve. We will be dropping in a bit more frequently over the next few months to keep the bird food topped up. We will do our best to keep blog-watchers topped up while we are at it! Don’t forget to say Hi” if you see us around. Take care all! πŸ™‚

Janie

Posted by: cullaloelnr | November 3, 2008

Whoop-di-do!

I thought I’d drop in and post about some of the changes that have taken place now that Autumn has started to spread it’s multi-coloured cloak over Cullaloe πŸ™‚

The trees are looking resplendent in shades of green, gold, crimson and amber – well worth bringing your camera with you to the reserve to capture a few shots of mother nature at her creative best! And with the crunch of newly scattered leaves underfoot and the crisp, fresh (and admittedly cold) air rejuvenating puffed-out lungs, the whole experience is like a re-birth into the world of nature! Watch out for the slippy wet leaves though – they can plant the unwary walker on their behind faster than you can say “Whooper Swan”! πŸ˜‰

And talking of Whooper Swans… guess which reserve has been playing host to a group of 5 of the birds for the last few days?! Yes, that would be our own Loch at Cullaloe! πŸ™‚ As you know, we regularly have Mute Swans on the Loch, but for the last few days there have been a few battles of the bands as our 2 resident Mutes have attempted to scare off the 5 interlopers. They don’t seem to have been successful yet though, so if you hop to it you might get to see them before they head off elsewhere. Mute Swans and Whopper Swans look quite different, so spotting who-is-who is fairly easy. As a quick guide, the Mute Swans have an Orange bill, whereas the Whooper’s bill is Yellow with a Black tip. The way the birds hold their neck is also different, with the Mute Swan having the very graceful, and typical, S-shaped neck, whereas the Whooper holds its neck much more upright and straight.

One more thing – both the Mute Swans AND the Whooper Swans will bark loudly at each other in an attempt to frighten each other away – so don’t be fooled by the Mute Swan’s name and think that the only noisy ones are the Whoopers! πŸ˜‰

While you are at the Loch, take time to scan around the muddy edges. We have been treated to visits by a Redshank for the last few days. Grahame has now “put the plug back in” at the screen end of the Loch to allow the water level to rise again, so the mud will not stay exposed for much longer, but hopefully long enough for a few visitors to catch sight of the odd wading bird. If you do spy anything that we haven’t mentioned, please feel free to use the “Comment” facility at the end of the blog to let us know πŸ™‚

Now that the year is gradually slipping towards winter, we have started filling up the seed and peanut feeders again. They are attracting a good amount of use already and have encouraged a few old friends to come back out into the open, such as the great spotted woodpecker. For those visitors who are new to the reserve, or for those who might have forgotten since summer, the peanut feeders are located on the dead tree to the left of the screen as you stand facing the Loch, and the seed feeders are on a dedicated stand to your right as you walk down the slope towards the spillway.

One last thing to draw to your attention is that the cadets from 859 Air Cadet Sqdn (Dalgety Bay) will be donning their clumpy boots, working gloves and hard hats, and grabbing their branch lopers all over again to help with the willow scrub clearing in the Snipe Bog! Work re-commences on 23 November 2008, so we’d like to say a big shout out to the Cadets for offering their help again this year! Thanks guys – we are looking forward to getting stuck in! πŸ™‚

Hope to see you down at the reserve whenever you take the notion. Take care all! Janie

Posted by: cullaloelnr | October 11, 2008

Update and winter plans

Hey folks,

Sorry it’s been a while since I’ve posted. I’ve been really rather busy of late. I’ve just started my second year of my college course and I’ve recently changed shifts at work, so things have been a bit hectic.

Quite a lot has been happening on the reserve over the past few weeks, though. The mess that was the paths appears to have cleared up now. The paths are certainly more accessible than they have been for a while. There’s even been some regrowth… we’ve got grass growing where a few weeks ago there was just mud!

As i’m pretty sure Janie mentioned on her last mammoth blog post, the water level has been lowered on the loch. This exposes mud at the loch edges, giving various plants and animals all sorts of opportunities. Just last week, we had our first Redshank visiting the reserve. An excellent sighting! We’ve hopeful that over the next couple of weeks, as the autumn migration continues, we’ll maybe get a few more interesting sights.
The valve is due to be sealed at the end of this month, to allow the water levels to come back up.

Now, onto the plans for the winter months.
It’s going to be a busy period from now till March. This is when most of the maintenance work is carried out on the reserve, when there is no chance of disturbing nesting birds, etc.
We will be having the local Air Cadets on site again this year to assist with several tasks. The main task, like last year will be the clearing of the willow scrub at the Snipe Bog.
This is done to try and bring the area back to boggy conditions, which are more favourable for the Snipe and some other bird species.
The cadets will also be helping clear out the weeds on the spillway.
The other task they will be performing is not a fun one for them, or for us. They will be helping us clear the litter from the reserve, in particular from the pool that is used by illegal fishermen.
I can confirm now that 6 fishermen have been charged for illegally fishing on the reserve by the police. As a result, i can only assume as an act of reprisal, the fishermen have cut down the ‘No Fishing’ sign at the entrance to the pool. Unfortunately, the wildlife trust does not have the funds to replace it at this time.
In honesty, it was probably the most stupid thing they could have done. The lack of sign does not prevent them from being charged when fishing on the reserve. In fact, after discussions with the local police, it will now be the case that all of their fishing tackle will be confiscated if they are caught fishing – if any fishermen are reading this – You’ve been warned!

The SWT conservation team will also be working on the reserve over the course of the winter on various tasks. They will also be taking part in coppicing and willow scrub clearance, but more importantly, SWT have managed to secure funding to replace the viewing screen at the loch.
The conservation team will be erecting the new screen at some point during the winter (It’s still in the design stages, but as soon as we know exactly how it’ll look, you can be sure we’ll pass the information along here!)

Dates have yet to be confirmed for most of the work being carried out this winter, but once they are, they’ll be added to the calendar (link to the right).

Posted by: cullaloelnr | August 22, 2008

Walking in Mudfields (to the tune of Walking in Memphis)

I put on my walking boots, and
Drove to Cullaloe today.
The view of the car park gave me the Blues,
In the middle of the pouring rain!

Water and mud and puddles,
crowding all around me,
Yeah, I wanted a new spillway lining,
But I`m as blue as a butterfly can be.

Chorus
Then I`m walking in Mudfields…
Walking with my feet slipping, sliding away.
Walking in Mudfields…
So is there anything else to say?

Saw the tracks disappearing,
Along the reserve path.
Followed them up to the screen at lochside,
Then I watched them start on past.
Now the heron he did not see me,
He just fixed his eye on fish.
But there`s a fine flock of coots.
Waiting for the brave.
Down on the loch today!

Chorus
Then I`m walking in Mudfields…
Walking with my feet slipping, sliding away.
Walking in Mudfields…
So is there anything else to say?

We’ve got bees on the flowers!
We’ve got bird-song in the air!
And Grahame and Janie’d, be glad to see you…
If you’re willing to take care!

So, please, take care in our Mudfields!

Now, workers will be at the spillway,
Every day at this till they’re done.
And I’ll pop in occasionally,
Coz Grahame asked me if I would…

Do a bit of recording?
And I said I’d do my best.
But I’m thinking,
β€œTell me, am I a miracle worker? What will I…
Spot in this mess?!”

Chorus
Then I`m walking in Mudfields…
Walking with my feet slipping, sliding away.
Walking in Mudfields…
So is there anything else to say?

I’ll put on my walking boots, and I’ll
Head for the reserve.
But I’d suggest to the populace,
That they give the place the swerve.

Or you’ll be Walking in Mudfields!

Ok – I’ve had my fun now! πŸ™‚

As you can tell from the above – even if you are struggling to fit the words into the song music – the situation at Cullaloe is looking a little muddy right now. Ok – I’ll rephrase – a LOT muddy right now! 😦

The contractors appeared on-site yesterday (Thursday 21 August 2008) to begin working on the new and improved lower spillway – and boy have they made an impression! Sadly we all knew that it would be virtually impossible for the reserve to remain unaffected while this work was being carried out but even Grahame and I were a little dismayed at what we found on arrival today.

The car park is getting to be a real concern with flooding problems after all the wet weather we have been β€œenjoying” recently, but the arrival of the necessary heavy machinery has brought the extra worry of mud on the entrance road. We would normally ask reserve visitors to exercise a certain degree of caution when driving down the slope to the car park in case they disturb unsuspecting wildlife, but we are reiterating that caution warning for your own safety this time. The mixture of water and dirt from the soft verges is turning into a truly awful paste on the road and traction is a bit of a distant memory if you are travelling at any great speed. Once you reach the car park, please navigate carefully around the hardcore deposited by the contractors. This is unsightly, but essential to the works being carried out.

It is only when you start walking along the pathway to the loch that the real problems begin to leap out at you. Grahame is quite concerned about how the butterfly transect results are going to fair following the obliteration of a couple of feet of grass verge on either side of the path by the to-ing and fro-ing of the mini-digger 😦 And as you crest the slope leading down to the spillway, the path peeters out after 20-or-so feet into what can only be described as a soup of vegetation and mud. Grahame and I strongly advise any visitors to consider turning back after they have checked out what is on the loch, because the terrain down the slope is virtually impassable at the moment.

I would just like to say at this point that I am not at all criticising the contractors for their contribution to the changed landscape at Cullaloe. In fact, to give credit where credit is due, they appear to be keeping a very tidy ship as far as their machinery and building materials are concerned. It is clear that they have tried as far as possible to keep within their own tracks along the paths to minimise damage and allow some hope of being able to take a walk to the screen. There is also evidence of them trying their best to counteract the effects of the torrential rain by packing some of the hardcore intended for the spillway into the mud soup at the bottom of the slope to ensure a more stable surface for their vehicles. These are measures that are greatly appreciated by those of us who volunteer on the reserve and are to be applauded.

Now as I’ve said, parts of the reserve are just not negotiable at the moment, but I will be braving the slippery slopes to take a few photographs of progress being made and plan to post these to the blog as soon as possible. The eagle-eyed of you will notice that I have posted the blog all by myself this time and that is because Grahame is taking a well-earned break in Cumbria to catch up on some spotting of his own. So I’ll just ask everyone for a bit of patience to let me work out what I need to do to load on photos! πŸ˜‰

Ok – enough doom and gloom! It isn’t all bad news on the reserve! We are nearly at the end of August now and as I said in the last post we have opened the sluice-gate for the lowering of the loch. All the water gushed out… and the water fowl were flushed out of their cozy reeds and grasses to sit all exposed on the open water! πŸ™‚ Who knew that there were so many coot and moorhen hidden in all the nooks and crannies?! And Grahame spotted a female Teal out on the water on Sunday, so the loch will soon be a very busy place with Widgeon also expected to return shortly! There were also a couple of swans sunning themselves on the bank during a very brief sunny spell!

I know I mentioned concern about the butterfly transect earlier, but we have already seen the Common Blue, Large White, Green-Veined White and a Red Admiral, so we know they are out and about and just waiting to be spotted! πŸ™‚

One good outcome to the mess that’s been made, I guess, is the possibility of getting the Scottish Wildlife Trust Conservation Team, and our brilliant volunteers from Air Training Corps 859 (Dalgety Bay) Squadron back on board to help tidy things up again and recommence essential maintenance works in mid-September! You always have to focus on the positives! πŸ˜‰

Being realistic, it is going to be a while before the reserve regains its air of peace and tranquillity, and for now Grahame and I are verging on suggesting people might like to consider alternative wildlife spotting locations. But, I know that sometimes it can be interesting to see change as it happens and monitor for yourself the effects of them, so the reserve will remain open throughout the spillway works. All we ask is that everyone takes safety precautions in terms of wearing sturdy food-wear, even if you plan on sticking to the paths, and staying well back from the edges of the lower spillway.

Thank you for your kind attention on these matters – and I’ll update you with gorey photos soon! πŸ˜‰

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