Loch Leven is the largest loch in the Scottish lowlands
and the biggest body of water in lowland Britain. The
loch was declared a national nature reserve in 1964.
Leven - a great range of seasonal wildlife|
home to more breeding ducks than anywhere else in inland Europe, the Loch is situated
between the Ochil, Lomond and Cleish hills and attracts thousands of wildfowl
from many different countries every year.
With 13 square kilometres of open
water, an average depth of just four metres and a host of great nesting places
on the Loch's seven islands, Loch Leven is an ideal habitat for the 15,000 Pink-footed
Geese who stop over here during summer.
Look out for Lapwing, Oystercatchers,
Redshanks and Sandpipers wading on the shoreline.
Mallard, Shoveler, Teal
and Gadwall can be seen in the shallows, with diving ducks such as Tufted Duck
and Pochard in the deeper water.
During late summer and the onset of autumn
the water level in the Loch becomes low, revealing a huge expanse of mud flats
which provide a rich food source for migratory waders from Iceland, Norway and
Species including Golden Plover, Dunlin, Greenshank, Redshank,
Black-tailed Godwit and Curlew are normally found on the coast but can often be
seen on the edges of the, loch picking small invertebrates out of the mud with
North, south, east, west
are various things to see according to which area of the Loch you visit, although
there are many different vantage points situated around the Loch providing excellent
views no matter which one you decide on.
On the southern side is an RSPB
reserve, while on the northern edge of the loch is Burleigh Sands, where a fantastic
bird-watching spectacle can be seen.
One of Britain's biggest birds of prey,
Ospreys are often seen here during the summer and are easily identified by their
massive wingspan of around five feet.
They're here because of the plentiful
supply of fish - Loch Leven is famous in particular for its Brown Trout, 40,000
which are caught every year and shipped around the world.
The Loch is also
abundant in Rainbow Trout, Perch, Sticklebacks, Minnows and Pike, and as the Osprey's
diet consists exclusively of fish, it's the ideal spot for them.
talons - two facing forwards, two facing backwards - are perfect for grabbing
fish out of the water in a stunning aerial display.
can also enjoy watching Buzzards competing with the Ospreys for food, while Swallows
scavenge on the shoreline for small stones to help them digest food.
are also a few pairs of Mute Swans whose numbers grow to almost 600 during the
summer when Whooper Swans from Iceland and Bewick Swans from Russia join them
on the Loch.
However, visiting the Loch in summer isn't without its downsides
- it's bang in the middle of the moulting season, when many species shed their
old feathers, resulting in a fluffy, slightly tatty appearance.
where you stand on the shoreline, you're sure to find natural woodland with Birch,
Willow and Alder populating the wetlands and Scots Pine growing in the drier areas.
Birch woods also provide a good habitat for plants and fungi including Ink Cap,
Fly Agaric and Bracket fungi, which all grow on dead and rotting timber.
immediate shoreline is heavily populated with reeds and willow, while the lagoons
feature beds of Yellow Flag Iris and the shocking pink Amphibious Bistort, among
other colourful plants like the Lesser Butterfly Orchid, Marsh Cinquefoil and
the oddly-named Bogbean.
Keen horticulturists should also look out for Holy
Grass, with is only found on a handful of other sites in Scotland and is of national
Isle be damned
Leven also has seven islands, one of which houses Loch Leven Castle where Mary
Queen of Scots was once held captive before she managed to escape.
seven islands also provide great bird watching opportunities, with St Serf's in
particular being a great place to point your binoculars.
The largest of
the islands, St Serf's is home to around 500 pairs of Tufted Ducks and several
hundred pairs of Mallards.
The birds make their nests in the safety of the
tall grass and under the watchful eye of a nearby black-headed gull colony, which
help chase off any egg-thieving rooks flying overhead.
St Serf's is also
home to a small number of Short-Eared Owls, which occasionally nest there and
feed off the many short-tailed field voles which live on the reserve.
water-loving mammals often spotted along the shoreline are Otters, Water Shrews
and Water Voles, as well as Roe Deer plus Mink and Brown Rats on the mainland.
Then there's the aptly-named Castle Island, which is home to Daubenton's
and Pipistrelle bats.
It is also where held Mary, Queen of Scots was held
captive while she was forced to abdicate in 1567, before she later escaped in
chick copyright and courtesy of the Forestry Commission.