RSPB LOCH LOMOND BIRD RESERVE, the shores of Loch Lomond below Gartocharn.
ACCESS : Take the road off the main road in the direction of Loch Lomond east of Gartocharn. off the Old Military Road (A811). The turn-off is very well signposted with large blue RSPB signs. (Don't take the caravan park road). You will soon arrive at the RSPB carpark. From there you have options of a short or long walk. Car park is open 9am - 5pm.
https://w3w.co/cheaper.stalemate.clouds - Carpark
https://w3w.co/chestnuts.chugging.daily - Turn-off.
ALTERNATIVE ACCESS # 1 : An alternative route to the reserve that is appropriate out of normal opening hours. Good birding is after all best in the early morning or late evening. This is from the parking at the Millenium Hall in Gartocharn. From there you can walk down to the shore through farmland and via the Aber Right of Waywith. There is currently a walking diversion in place due to a damaged bridge on this route.
https://w3w.co/regrowth.areas.alcove Millenium Hall parking.
ALTERNATIVE ACCESS # 2 : This route is suitable for walkers or cyclists, but has no dedicated parking area. Take Ross and Aber Road or San Makesson Road which come off the Old Military Road (A811) and skirt Gartocharn in the direction of Loch Lomond. From this there is a branch road, actually a continuation of San Makesson Road to the shore. This point has a small grassed traffic island and signs to the reserve. Unfortunately parking here is almost non-existent. You will need to park further up the road.
See here for the map. index.asp?pageid=732142
The reserve area is very varied with woodland, wetland, grassland and the Loch itself. A lovely walk takes you to this part of the southernmost shores of Loch Lomond and this is where you will find the Bird Reserve. The path takes you through mature trees alongside the shore. As you get towards the end of the path it loops back on itself. You are by now very close to Endrick Water and farmland with Conic Hill in the distance.
At the point at which you reach the Loch shore there is a path westwards towards some farmhouses. You can also find a small beach here. The water at this point is shallow and a nice place for a dip.
The bluebells in May are absolutely stunning. But there are lots of other flowers to see - marsh marigolds, cicely, daisies, hawthorn, cuckoo flowers and many others - if you pause to contemplate.
Butterflies abound in spring as do a variety of bugs. The RSPB has erected several explanatory signboards.
But it is probably the birds that drew you here. With sucha a varied environment, there will also be a variety of birds. Keep a sharp lookout. The time of day, the season and the weather could all influence what you see. You may hear more than you see. Some are quite secretive - such as the tree creeper. Look above you and you may see the ospreys.
To quote the RSPB who manage it :
The Nature Hub opens seven days 10.00am-4.00pm (11.00am-3.00pm in winter)
RSPB Scotland Loch Lomond is a special place for wildlife. Located on the south-east shores of the loch, the site has a variety of habitats from ancient woodlands to wildflower meadows and swampy grasslands. RSPB Scotland has been managing the site in partnership with Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park and Scottish Natural Heritage since 2012 to make it an even better home for nature.
The Airey woodland trail winds through the woodlands, past a small pond and out into a field nicknamed 'Orchid Field' because of the amount of orchids found here in the summer. The Viewpoint Path is fully accessible and leads to views of Ben Lomond and Surrounding Hills while overlooking the fen and woodlands of the reserve. The Nature Hub is open 10.00am – 4.00pm (11.00am – 3.00pm in Winter) seven days a week. [RSPB].
Watch the RSPB website for events that range from Dawn Chorus to Wild Food Foraging. Booking is essential. Flyers are available at the hub.
The reserve in May and the bluebells are amazing.
An amazing mix of blues and white below the trees.
Flowers are opportunists.
The flower lined path
Through the woods
New bracken starts to emerge from the dried fronds of last year.
A white butterfly settles on a bluebell
And a chaffinch calls from the branches of a tree.
A coal tit foraging in the moss on a tree trunk.
A fledgling down on the path tweets for help; its fate uncertain. A thrush? Is human intervention in a wilderness reserve appropriate?
The marshy wetlands are an intriguing exosystem in their own right. Were we see horsetail regroing in spring.
The boardwalk over the marshlands.
The distant hills and Inchmurrin ahead and Inchcailloch to the right from the water's edge.
The small beach.
Conic Hill beyond.
The wetlands of Endrick Water where it enters the Loch with some happy cattle. The path stops short of this, but you should be able to see various wading birds there.
Low water in spring shows evidence of bank erosion from lapping water exacerbated by boat wakes.
Benches at the lochside viewpoint ensure that you will always see birds.
GAROCHARN.ORG website which has further RSPB information : https://gartocharn.org/rspb-loch-lomond