Loch Lomond Bird of Prey Centre takes pride in customer care. Operating as a fully licensed zoo, the centre has a responsibility to educate members of the public on native species, and the global plight faced by many birds of prey. Where possible, each visitor is given a guided tour. The tour ensures our visitors are educated about each species, more importantly, they learn about the individual character and history of every bird.
So why not come in and meet our feathered companions, get up close, have a photograph taken, or just wander around. Visitors always leave enlightened, having learned a great deal more about birds of prey. Most are surprised at the number of species there are. All visitors comment on how close they can get to the birds, and appreciate their size and power. Above all, visitors recognise the passion of those who care for the birds.
Visit Scotland has granted Loch Lomond Bird of Prey Centre a “Three Star, Visitor Attraction” award. The daily operations within the centre are subject to inspection by the Scottish Government’s Zoo Licensing Authority, and West Dunbartonshire Council, Environmental Health Department.
How to get here
The Centre is located one mile outside Balloch on the A811, Stirling Road, within the Loch Lomond Homes & Gardens Centre. By train, to Balloch, then taxi, or a fifteen minute walk. The local bus service, the 309 to Balmaha, passes the entrance to the centre.
Flock to Scotland’s largest lowland loch, where spring wildlife abounds
The migratory flocks may be preparing to call time for another winter, but like all the best watering holes, Loch Leven has its regular clientele. Ducks rule the roost here; the tiny islands, reedy shoreline and shallow margins of the loch, nestling below the protective shoulders of the Lomond Hills, are home to more breeding pairs than any inland watercourse in Europe. Tufted ducks and mallards dominate, while gadwalls, burrow-nesting shelducks and a handful of rare breeders such as pochard and shoveler jostle for space on the water.
Sightings of Britain’s largest bird of prey – also known as the sea eagle – are increasingly common. In 2007, as part of an ongoing reintroduction programme, chicks were released in neighbouring Fife. Young white-tailed eagle roosts are frequently found near the mouth of the Gairney Water and on Reed Bower and Castle islands. The birds chase ducks and compete with buzzards and foxes for carcasses.
Each winter, thousands of pink-footed geese, flying south to escape the Arctic chill of their breeding grounds in Iceland and Greenland, converge upon the calm and comparatively warm waters of Loch Leven. In late autumn, numbers can reach 20,000, and they remain regular visitors right through to spring.
By day, the geese scavenge food from surrounding fields before returning well fed at dusk to roost by the water.
The largest of the loch’s seven islands, St Serf’s, is home to between 400 and 600 breeding pairs of tufted duck. Well protected from predators, the resident population swells during the winter months as their northern cousins arrive from Iceland and Scandinavia. Smaller than a mallard, tufted ducks have distinctive black and white patterning, a small crest and yellow eyes. They like deeper water, where they can dive for food.
Vane Farm has two nature trails for you to enjoy. The short wetland trail has three hides, all near the visitor centre, while the mile-long woodland trail climbs through birchwoods, home to willow warblers, tree pipits and great spotted woodpeckers, to a viewpoint on the summit of Vane Hill. While there is no optical equipment in the hides, you can hire binoculars from the RSPB shop at Vane Farm.
While water shrews and water voles live in many of its ditches and streams, the largest mammal found on Loch Leven is the otter.
A semi-aquatic fish-eater, it inhabits dens in the riverbank known as holts. The best places to spot them are around the mouths of the various watercourses flowing into the loch, particularly the River Leven. Keep an eye open for tracks in the muddy banks.
The ruins of the 14th-century Lochleven Castle stand on Castle Island. The castle has a turbulent history. Besieged by William Wallace and used as a prison by Robert the Bruce, its most famous resident was Mary Queen of Scots, held here from 1567 to 1568. A small boat ferries visitors to the island from the fishing pier.
David Marshall Lodge offers ranger led events, which occur throughout the year. These include guided walks and talks and seasonal activities for families and visitors. Waymarked paths start from the visitor centre and range from a gentle half-mile wander to a 4-mile trek. The Lodge links to the National Cycle Network route 7 and there is a popular outdoor children?s play area. The wildlife viewing room offers the opportunity to see Ospreys setting up their nest and rearing their young. There is information, exhibits and an expert on hand to answer questions.
Live footage of woodland birds feeding is also available.
The new Red Squirrel hide offers an exciting chance to view these rare creatures in their natural habitat.