Visitors asked to avoid water sports at Loch Leven to protect birds

27 September 2023

Visitors are being asked to avoid taking part in water sports on the loch at Loch Leven National Nature Reserve (NNR) to help protect internationally important water birds.

Scotland’s nature agency is reminding people that from 1 September to 31 March, people are advised not to use canoes, kayaks, paddle boards, rowing boats and similar craft. This is because huge numbers of birds - more than 40,000 at peak times - are present across the loch and they are easily disturbed from their rest and feeding after their long migrations.

The local access guidance has been in place since 2006 and has been working well, but with an increase in numbers of water sports enthusiasts, many of who are new to the activity, it is important to remind people why Loch Leven is so special and how visitors can help look after it. The loch also has a year round restriction with no access at any time for motorised or sail craft.

Loch Leven is an internationally important site for water birds, with huge flocks of wintering wildfowl gathering each autumn. In October, around 10% of the world’s population of pink-footed geese arrive at the loch.

At this time of year, there is so much for visitors to enjoy from the loch shore. Autumn is the perfect season to take a walk or cycle around the loch and experience atmospheric misty mornings, the honking of geese as they fly overhead and of course the beauty of the leaves changing colour. Heading into winter, visitors can watch one of Scotland’s greatest wildlife spectacles as thousands of geese take flight at dawn or return at dusk.

Jeremy Squire, Loch Leven Nature Reserve Manager said: “We want everyone to enjoy visiting the reserve, but we're asking people to remember that Loch Leven is a National Nature Reserve, where we work to protect wildlife.

“In recent years, we’ve seen a sharp rise in the number of people going out on the water, and cumulatively that can cause significant disturbance for the birds as they are attempting to rest and feed.

“We hope that visitors will understand and help us to protect nature at this special place by following the guidance in place at this important time of year for birds. By being responsible, people can help preserve what makes Loch Leven so special.”

NatureScot is asking visitors to follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code when visiting the reserve.

Find out more about Loch Leven National Nature Reserve.