How to watch wildlife: Wildlife is vulnerable everywhere but especially in a well-visited spots with many different activities taking place. There are a few simple ways in which you can enjoy the wildlife in, on and around the loch without harming it and causing upset and annoyance to others. The first of these is to move quietly and slowly. There are amazing amounts of wildlife here and quiet, steady movement will reveal much of it. Birds and mammals are all spooked by noise, sudden movement and dogs. Your faithful friend is undoubtedly a paragon of virtue, but not all dogs are, and most wild species will not stay to find out. Keep your dog on a short lead or under close control at all times. Secondly, stick to the paths, especially during the breeding season. The woodland strips around the loch are very narrow and hold a surprising amount of wildlife. As soon as you move off a path you are invading somebody’s territory and, in spring or summer, this may mean eggs or young being deserted. Do not plough through the reed beds or allow your dog to do so, and please do not damage or remove any standing or lying dead wood. It may look like a few old branches to you but it is someone’s home.
The bird hide, disabled viewing platform at Vendace Bay and the viewing platform at the car park on the Lockerbie road, were carefully sited to give good views of the loch. If you approach the hide and viewing platforms quietly and slowly you will get some excellent views of the wildlife that Castle Loch offers. As well as birds, otter are regularly seen from all three of these vantage points.
Photography is an increasingly popular pastime and some photographers will use a bird call to lure less common species such as willow tit. Using a lure to survey for these species is sometimes acceptable but only if it is used sparingly. Please be aware that if you use sound lures to attract birds like this, it is highly likely that you will cause them to desert the nest and prevent them breeding. If you want advice on how to photographs birds, and other wildlife, without causing harm then please ask an expert.
Rubbish can be a problem at Castle Loch, so please take any litter away. There are plenty of bins in Lochmaben and, as well as being unsightly, rubbish also causes harm to wildlife.
Finally please consider helping to protect the wildlife at Castle Loch by submitting records of what you see. This can be done by sending records to firstname.lastname@example.org; by texting your sightings to 07792-142446; or by downloading, completing and then returning the record form (see Wildlife page).
If you are new to identifying wildlife then why not come on one of the free ID days that take place at Castle Loch from time to time (check the Events page).
Andy Riches, County Mammal Recorder, January 2014