When we came to Scotland two years ago we visited Osprey Haven at Loch of the Lowes in Dunkeld. Haven, yes. Osprey, no. We were three days too late. This time I am hoping that the jinx that we seem to have on local wildlife might have been left at home. We drive along the edge of Loch Tay and are now in Perth and Kinross; one of the many whisky distilling areas of Scotland. We take a slightly different route from the one recommended by the sat-nav with no ill effects and arrive at Loch of the Lowes Wildlife Reserve. If you decide to come here don’t expect extensive public areas. There are a couple of hides and a viewing window overlooking multiple bird feeders but it is well worth the journey. We begin with a visit to the ‘rest room’ where a notice instructs users not to put ANYTHING apart from toilet paper down the toilet. Ummm, how is that going to work then?
This year more than makes up for the disappointments of our previous visit. The adult ospreys arrived in March from their winter home; they spend the season in places such as Senegal and Gambia. They are taking it in turns to sit on three eggs and ‘nest cam’ provides a great view. The eggs are due to hatch tomorrow. I take a rather grainy photograph of the nest cam screen and one on full zoom (which on my camera isn’t very full) of the nest itself from the hide. I am almost as excited to see reed buntings as I am the ospreys.
We return to the viewing window where a gala performance is in progress. Two red squirrels who stay around long enough for a photo call and numerous birds including yellowhammers and a greater spotted woodpecker. I get some photographs that, considering I have a pretty basic camera and am taking them through glass from a fair distance, come out quite well; some are even in focus. I was somewhat disconcerted to overhear one of the volunteers telling a group of secondary school pupils that they were looking at a ‘yellow tit’ but maybe she was taking the proverbial. Note to overseas readers – there are no yellow tits – blue tits are predominantly yellow (confusing I know) but definitely no such thing as a yellow tit.
We walk for a mile or so along Fungarth Path towards Dunkeld. The ‘fun’ is provided by ‘talking posts’, which play recorded information when you press a foot pedal. The instruction is to ‘keep pumping’, so I pump continuously and rapidly for a few minutes before realising that I have heard the same thing three times. It is jolly hard work all this vigorous pumping so I am please to work out, by post three, that it is, in fact, possible to pump half a dozen times and then stop, whilst the voice keeps going.
We are rewarded on this walk by vast, wooded hillsides misted in bluebells. The Scottish ones seem darker than ours and we learned on our previous visit that there is a move to get these recognised as a separate variety. Framed as they are by birch trees and beeches with their newly unfurled and unspoilt waxy lime green leaves, it was truly magical. No hardship on this walk to have to retrace our steps back to the car.
We take a slightly longer route home, via Perth, in order to buy fuel at a sensible price. Then it is along the A85 through Crieff and back to the van just in time to stop our laundry getting re-washed by the rain. There follows and evening of limbo dancing under wet washing in order to reach our on-board toilet.