I’ve wanted to visit the Loch of the Lowes since I was a little boy. I must have passed near the reserve hundreds of times in the past, enroute to Pitlochry or back home to Forfar, but it wasn’t until today that I finally visited it.
The Loch of the Lowes is famous as one of the two reserves where Ospreys returned to breed in Scotland in the late 1960s and has had breeding success there ever since.
The current breeding pair have successfully raised three chicks this year, and at this point in August all five birds are still present and active on the reserve. The young birds are now fully-fledged and are preparing for their first migration to Africa around the end of this month.
On walking from the car park to the Visitor Centre I was met by the ‘greeter’, a Red Squirrel which was perched on the fence post in front of me. I was able to fire-off a few shots of it before it disappeared into the undergrowth. This was a good start to the day and was my second Red Squirrel in two days.
In the Visitor Centre there is a huge panoramic window which looks out onto a woodland area with lots of bird feeders just outside the window. Almost the second I arrived at the window someone shouted-out that a Great Spotted Woodpecker had alighted on a tree just to my right. A few more frames ‘in the bag’ and I realised that today was shaping-up well so far!
There are two hides at the Loch of the Lowes; both are within spitting-distance of the Visitor Centre. One is a double-decker hide. That’s the one I chose to visit first.
I mounted the stairs and opened the door of the upper portion of the hide to find a number of visitors already present. Three spotting scopes are permanently attached to the bench at the front of the hide, and the one I sat down behind was already trained on two young Ospreys sitting in a tree directly in front of me, and about 200 metres away. The spotting-scopes gave an excellent view of the young birds as they preened themselves, getting their flight feathers in good condition ready for learning to fish on the loch, and for a life on the wing. The birds looked virtually indistinguishable from adult birds, having rapidly matured by eating lots of the trout from the loch already.
In a tree over to my left I noticed the nest, complete with one bird which I took to be an adult, sitting atop the great pile of assorted twigs and branches which comprised the huge nest platform.
As I watched, the bird on the nest took off and joined another bird flying overhead. Over the next twenty minutes or so I watched spellbound as the two birds chased each other through the sky and performed a number of close passes, all within 100 metres or so of my position in the hide. Fantastic!
The second hide – the Crannog Hide, is a circular hide down near the water’s surface. I could well-imagine that this hide will be an excellent vantage point in the Winter months when the loch plays host to huge numbers of over-wintering birds including Whooper Swans and Pink-Footed Geese. I made a mental note to return in December or January.
The Loch of the Lowes is a truly remarkable reserve and I’ll definitely be back before long!