Thursday, 24 January 2008


Hi everyone! Its Janie here, the Reserve Warden for Cullaloe. I thought I would give everyone a little change and do a blog entry for the first time! I’ll apologise now if it isn’t as polished as Grahame’s have become! ;-)

Well, hasn’t the weather been awful the last few days? Thank goodness Grahame and I decided to take advantage of a lull in the rain on Sunday and head along to the Reserve to have a nose around and see what we could see! I know what you are thinking… don’t we do that fairly often anyway? Well, it’s true that Grahame can be found on site most days, me a bit less so, but we don’t normally go far off the beaten track so every once in a while we go exploring! ;-)

Thank goodness most of the flooding has drained from the car park now – although if you are planning to visit make sure you wear sturdy shoes as the mud that has been left behind can get a bit slippy! The filter beds are looking rather dull just now as the water looks a little reminiscent of a weak cup of tea, but there are still plenty of insects and fish going about their business, as evidenced by the occasional break in the surface.

The walk along to the Loch was punctuated by a buzzard swooping around above the rise on the east of the Reserve, great tits alarm calling and a robin who was bobbing along ahead of us, encouraging us to follow him in a charming way. The Loch itself gave its usual bounty of coot, mallard, mute swan and a few teal, and I enjoyed a little entertainment when a heron that had been feeding in the rushes near to the screen startled and rose up into the air right in front of Grahame who hadn’t even noticed it! Admittedly, neither had I, but I didn’t jump the way Grahame did! ;-) It just goes to show that sometimes us bird-watching types need to keep the binoculars on our chests to see what is right there in front of us!

On the way towards the spillway, the chaffinches were out in force in the trees to the left of the path, whereas the feeding area on the right was dominated almost entirely by great and blue tits. Although there has been a lot of rainfall recently, the spillway is still dry from the ledge a third of the way along its length coming from the direction of the Loch. I have to admit that I am starting to wish it would refill now – and I’m sure it will once the valve to the overflow has been closed once more. This wish is partly because I love creeping along that portion of the path and popping my head up just above the tops of the plants to see what I can catch unawares (how else do you spy a kingfisher? ;-)), but also because I am finding it a little frustrating to be counting more than a hundred birds on the Loch one moment and seeing them all rise in a panic the next, only to find someone standing in the middle of the dried up spillway with their binoculars or a scope out! Having only mediocre binoculars myself, I can completely understand the urge to get a little closer to whatever you are trying to identify, but please allow the birds their comfort zone as well. It is much more enjoyable to be able to watch the various waterfowl as they drift sedately around on the Loch before gracefully rising as one into the air in their own time, I’m sure you’ll agree.

Anyway, as I said, the purpose of Sunday was pretty much exploring and our route took us into some of the more-out-of-reach areas of the Reserve. I have to be honest and say that this was one time that, for me, the journey was more productive than the destination as we were constantly stopping to identify birds, prints in the mud or droppings! However, sight was not the only sense being used as Grahame picked up the strong musky odour of the fox at one point (we’d already photographed his print as Grahame’s photograph shows), and there was also the unmistakable sound of prey being turned into dinner for a sparrowhawk as we picked our way carefully along part of the Dour Burn.

The highlight of the day for me though was the sighting of a family of goldcrest in one of the more mature trees just beyond the sheep pasture at the east end of the Reserve. Grahame spotted one first and tried to draw my attention to it as I’ve never seen one but –in the way they do – by the time I’d gotten my binoculars up and tracked it to another tree, it was well hidden! Then Grahame turned his attention to something else sitting in the same tree as the goldcrest had been and I managed to spot another two flitting about from branch to branch! :-) Now, if I do many of these blog entries, you will soon realise that I am not big on the LBJs (little brown jobs – warblers, sparrows, buntings – that kind of thing). I just find them a little difficult to identify. But I don’t think even I’ll manage to forget that gorgeous little flash of gold on the head of the goldcrest in a hurry! Definitely worth the wait and a pleasure to watch.

So, I guess the moral of this story is that even though the Reserve may look a bit bare and even untidy in places right now – there is still a fair bit to be seen if you have a little patience, some warm clothes and some spare time on your hands! Don’t forget that you can comment on our blog entries, so if you see something of interest and want to encourage others to take a look, please let us know! :-)

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