Places to Visit in Scotland
- Lochwinnoch RSPB Nature Reserve, Renfrewshire
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) pursues a number of strategies to achieve their aims and a significant element is to create wild life reserves where birds can feed and nest in safety. But along with that is the important aim of education. So although the birds have to be protected, the public are encouraged to visit these reserves. Some of the locations are in remote parts of Scotland (and in the rest of the UK) but the Lochwinnoch Nature Reserve is within easy access of Glasgow and the towns of central Scotland.
Set in the beautiful Renfrewshire countryside, Lochwinnoch RSPB Nature Reserve is suitable for all ages, from the casual visitor to the enthusiastic birdwatcher. It is one of the largest remaining wetlands in the west of Scotland.
Seeing the Birds
The first opportunity to see birds at Lochwinnoch Nature Reserve is from the visitor centre's ground floor viewing area and tower. It is fully equipped with telescopes but you don't really need any aids to see the birds which come to the feeding station in front of the windows. A variety of woodland birds, including the great spotted woodpecker and the goldfinch (illustrated here) are unperturbed by the humans peering at them through the glass! Seating and refreshments are available to make this a relaxing visit.
Of course, as Lochwinnoch is based around a number of small lochs, it is waterbirds which can be seen in the largest numbers - in autumn and winter, wildfowl flock to the reserve, including whooper swans, greylag geese and goosanders. At other times there are the ubiquitous mallard ducks and the more unusual great crested grebes.
Spring brings the chance to see and hear many varied songbirds. In summer, you can enjoy seeing breeding waders and an array of beautiful wild flowers. Watch butterflies, dragonflies and damselflies over the marsh and meadows and otters are occasionally seen. Of course, while there is plenty to see, don't expect large flocks of birds to be on view all the time.
The stretches of water in the reserve (at Aird Meadow Loch - shown here - and Castle Semple Loch) are reached from the visitor centre by means of woodland paths and nature trails. You can't really get lost but the visitor centre provides you with a map. There are hides overlooking Aird Meadow Loch which enable you to view the wildlife on the water. The hides are great for views over the loch - and have bench seating which is helpful if you are bird watching for any length of time.
One word of caution - the paths through the woods are near marshland and can be somewhat muddy in places, so make sure you wearing appropriate footwear.
Location, Location, Location
Lochwinnoch RSPB Nature Reserve is very accessible but for that reason it does not have a wild and remote ambience. It was a surprise, while walking along the woodland path, to see the trains from Glasgow to Ayr passing by and Castle Semple Loch is shared with the local sailing and canoe club for watersports. The birds and the humans seem to co-exist quite well though!
Children Made Very Welcome
Children particularly love the free explorer backpacks, interactive displays and the quizzes on the Birds CD-Rom. There is a program of school visits throughout the year and activities include pond-dipping, habitat mapping and minibeast hunting.
A program of events runs throughout the year. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for monthly events updates.
The shop sells a wide variety of gifts, birdcare products, and claims to have the best range of optics and natural history books in the West of Scotland. The enthusiastic RSPB staff there are particularly friendly and helpful. Other facilities include binocular hire, a picnic area, a wildlife garden and bike racks.
How to Find Lochwinnoch RSPB Nature Reserve
The reserve is easy to get to, being south-west of Glasgow, off the A737 Irvine road between Paisley and Largs. There is free carparking adjacent to the centre. The National Cycle Track is only half a mile away and the railway station is immediately opposite the reserve with regular services. For a detailed location map, see StreetMap UK. (Note that you can access a larger scale map of the area via that Web page).
The Reserve itself is open at all times. The visitor centre is open daily 10am-5pm (closed only on 25, 26 December and 1, 2 January). There is free entry for everyone to the visitor centre and shop. There is a small admission fee for hides and nature trails - free to RSPB members.
For more information, see the Lochwinnoch RSPB Nature Reserve Web site and also the Lochwinnoch Village Web site.
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