Flora & Fauna
Because it is situated immediately to the south of the Highland Boundary Fault, the geological frontier between highland and lowland Scotland, Menteith is inhabited by a remarkable cross section of wildlife. The focal point is always the Lake of Menteith, a loch which is clearly lowland in nature but which has a distinctly highland backdrop.
The Lake is one of the most popular trout fisheries in Scotland and therefore, its teeming waters attract a wide variety of birds. During the summer months, ospreys are perhaps the most exciting pursuers of the residents of the lake, diving spectacularly into its waters to dramatically snatch those fish that lurk near the water’s surface. Herons too may be seen patiently waiting to strike with deadly purpose, around its fringes. And although they offend the keen angler’s eye, cormorants, more usually associated with the marine environment, also plunder the lake for its fish.
More intent on catching smaller fry, the great crested grebes are resident for most of the year, their curious courtship rituals a fascinating spectacle during the spring. But even when summer draws to a close, there is still much activity with the arrival each autumn of thousands of pink-footed geese, fresh from their journeys from Greenland and Iceland. They join the growing, resident flock of Canada geese and a whole host of other waterfowl, amongst them mallard, tufted duck, pochard, wigeon and teal. Goosanders also are often seen in late winter and early spring.
Mute swans glide across the lake’s surface and in winter, migrant whooper swans may also roost here as do many gulls. Only during those winters when temperatures dip abnormally low and the Lake freezes are these feathered residents banished and even then their absence if merely temporary.
Menteith is well wooded and so there is a plethora of woodland birds and animals. In spring and summer the songs of many warblers are familiar, together with the music of many of our native songbirds, prominent among them are members of the finch and titmouse clans and the ubiquitous redbreasts. The rapid tom-tom beat of great spotted woodpeckers echoes through woods where sparrowhawks and even goshawks lurk. By night, the haunting hooting and screeching of tawny owls is a familiar sound whilst ghostly barn owls float out across nearby fields in their search for small rodents. The darker, denser conifer forests also provide shelter for increasing numbers of red deer.
Roe deer graze the woodland edges, at night badgers tramp through the woods and the arrival of pine marten in recent years has expelled grey squirrels and enabled our native reds to re-establish themselves. The hedge-lined farmland attracts curlew, lapwing and oyster-catcher whilst otters inhabit the Lake and nearby rivers and burns. Buzzards and red kites circle lazily over the patchwork of fields where brown hares lope. Where the land rises abruptly, ravens kronk noisily from the crags, peregrines swoop and just occasionally a rare glimpse of a stray golden eagle may set the pulses racing.
The passage of the seasons is most vividly illustrated by the ever changing flora with hazel catkins among the first signs of new growth early in the year whilst the hillsides are soon glowing golden as gorse or whin bursts into flower. Spring is truly heralded by sun seeking primroses and nodding, golden daffodils, which bring new life and colour especially to the island of Inchmahome. As spring advances towards summer, hedgerows froth with hawthorn and blackthorn and soon new carpets of blue in the shape of bluebells appear in the woodlands and bring another hue to that isle of rest. Stately foxgloves salute the days with their colourful bells.
In the hedgerows sprout all manner of wild flowers as summer intensifies and soon the first heathers are blooming on the hills, bell heather in July, ling in August. And as summer declines and autumn begins to steal across the landscape, so do the colours strengthen as trees turn yellow, then gold and red. Serried banks of rosebay willowherb fill the verges with their purplish, pink flowers, red rowan berries glow and luscious, black brambles and red rose hips offer a natural harvest to match the golden man-made harvest now being reaped in the fields.
This really is a haven that offers exceptional opportunities to watch a wonderful array of vibrant, colourful wildlife.