Over the glorious Easter bank holiday weekend we had this year I went to visit the Loch of the Lowes and its rare inhabitants. The Loch of the Lowes is in Perthshire, Scotland and is run by the Scottish Wildlife Trust, they have created a haven for some rare wildlife.
From the large window in the visitors centre you can sit on some benches and watch a whole array of birds eating from the feeders. I’ve never seen a yellowhammer in the UK before, let alone many of them, and I enjoyed the ducks sat below the feeders just hoovering up all the tasty morsels dropped by the little birds. Whilst I was here a pair of pheasants wandered through, and the whole scene was very tranquil.
Then appeared the stars for this part of the visitor centre, the red squirrel. I’ve seen a couple of red squirrels in my life, but always in a zoo, I’ve never seen one in the wild before. They do look quite different to our invaders the grey squirrel. Or, if you live near me, they also look very different to the black squirrels that have overtaken the grey population near Letchworth. The red squirrels have super tufty ears and quite a fine fluffy tail. There were several of them wandering around the feeders and they kept the audience entertained for ages. After improving conditions for the red squirrels here, and the control of the grey squirrel population, the native red squirrels have prospered and can now be seen as far out as the local town of Dunkeld.
I then moved onto the hides to see the nesting Osprey. I certainly timed my visit well as I got to see both Osprey that have made their nest here, both on the nest and flying around. When I got to the hide the female was sat on a branch preening, as she is in molt, and the male was sat on the nest incubating their 3 eggs. After a while they swapped places and the male flew off, we assume to go fishing. They are certainly magnificent birds and it was sad to learn that by the early 20th century there were no osprey nesting in the UK. However, by the 1950s a few of them had come back, and for over 40 years the Loch of the Lowes has been hosting their annual return.
Much to my relief they had provided us some Viking spotting scopes in the hides, so we could see the birds in all their glory. You were close enough to see them with the naked eye, but not in the glorious detail the spotting scopes allowed.
A spotting scope is a small high-power telescope, with some additional optics to put the picture the right way up. Normally spotting scopes have objective refracting lenses 60 to 100mm, which determines the resolution of the spotting scope. There is some way to put the image the correct way up, Porro prisms possibly with a mirror prism or relay lenses. Finally, there is an interchangeable eyepiece, which sets the magnification by the eyepiece.