ending: 31st January: Strathclyde Country
This week, due to poor weather and COVID
restrictions, I managed only a couple of walks, each
time in Strathclyde Country Park. The first was on a lovely, sunny but
cold Monday morning with a
snow-covered Ben Lomond just visible to the north. There were only a
few edges of the Loch that
were ice-free. One of these was by car park 4 just to the north of the
Watersports Centre. My
immediate attention was drawn to an unusual bird which at first I
thought was a Greylag hybrid,
but later I confirmed it was in fact a hybrid of a Mallard and a
Moscovy Duck - a surprising
coupling given the difference in size between the two.
|Mallard x Moscovy Hybrid
Some Mute Swans flew in, sending the ducks and Goosanders splashing
their way quickly to the
sides of the temporary pool in the ice.
were very active, mobile and probably very hungry since they are
piscivores. They mixed it with the much larger Swans and Geese whenever
bread was thrown.
The Ring-billed Gull was standing by the edge of the ice, occasionally
having a sip of water but it
didn’t take flight in the time I watched it. Near it was a
ringed Black-headed Gull. I’m still trying to
trace its records. Also on the ice was a lovely Common Gull. Note the
ring on the bill - this leads
to confusion when looking for the Ring-billed
Gull . Now compare its eye colour (black) with
the yellow eye of the Ring-billed. Sorted.
The black plumage of the Jackdaws contrasted beautifully with the white
and light blue
environment. The Tufted
Ducks are usually much further from the shore but
conditions brought them as close as several metres. I snapped a drake
that was sporting a
particularly prominent tuft. I also managed to get an image that shows
the iridescence of its
The Greylag Geese were also very mobile. I got a nice clear shot of a
“squadron” as it circled past
the car park.
One Greylag was standing one-legged on the ice, obviously feeling the
cold on its feet. Most
though were in the water, avoiding the many passing dog walkers.
The following day I explored the opposite end of the Loch starting at
the Roman Bridge.
I passed a guy who was taking his splendid-looking pet Long-eared
Owl for a wee walk (as
you do). I spotted a group of Fieldfares in the tree tops. They landed
there only briefly and were
disturbed by a flock of Starlings. Below them was a tiny Blue Tit
working the leafless twigs and
A couple of walkers were eating a snack on a bench beside the woods.
They threw a few crusts
onto the grass that were snapped up by Carrion Crows. As I walked
through the woods I came
upon a small flock of Long-tailed Tits. They’re tricky to
photograph but I managed a few successful
shots. Just as I returned back to the Roman Bridge, a skein of Geese
passed high overhead, too
far to identify.
My final shots were of a Magpie that had discovered a crust that was
left by the couple. It carried
it off, away from the gaze of the crows, to be consumed in a safe
Jim’s Garden - progress report:
My observations were limited to just a few hours due to the
poor weather throughout the week. During that time the majority of
birds seen were House
Sparrows. I have added two new feeders, one with nuts and the other
with sunflower hearts. As I
expected, the birds have been reluctant to use these new feeders.
I’m hoping that their popularity
will grow in the coming weeks, and that other species of bird will be
Week ending: 24th January 2021: Strathclyde Park,
Haugh, Jim's Garden
Thursday am: Barons Haugh
The main highlight of my brief visit down the Haugh was 20 minutes
watching a Kingfisher catching
Minnows close to the (thankfully vacant) Marsh Hide. Despite dodgy
light I managed
some satisfying shots
I also saw a Little
Grebe on the pond, but, unlike last week, I
didn’t see Teal or Wigeon or
Little Egret. I did see a wee Robin
in a field on my walk to the Causeway Hide. The view
from there was dominated by a large Canada Goose flock (~50). There
were also a few Teal.
I noticed Turkeytail
fungi on a tree outside the Hide. They’re very common and
medicinal uses. When I left the Causeway Hide, there was a pretty Grey
the puddles that lined the field. To the left of the same field a Crow
and a Jay were foraging. The
Jay flew off with what looked like a large snail. I
next snapped some shots of an obliging
Wren that was in the scrub at the edge of the field.
|Turkey Tail Fungus
I had a wee check of the River Clyde where I saw a Goosander and a
Goldeneye on the water.
And to cap a good visit, on my way back to the car I passed a Kestrel
that was sitting on
low bushes, albeit in worsening light. A Great Tit greeted me as I
entered the car park (It was
actually telling me to pass quickly so it could use the Wardens feeders
that were hanging in the
Friday, Saturday: Strathclyde Country Park
The following day was much brighter so I decided to make the most of it
by making a very brief,
COVID-safe visit to Strathclyde Loch. My first shot was of a Carrion
Crow soaking up the sun as it
perched on a riverside tree. On the lochside, by car park 4, there were
many birds gathered to take advantage of the many slices of bread being
tossed their way. I quickly snapped shots of
Greylags, feisty Goosanders
and Canada Geese - all revelling in the sunlit feeding
Several Common Gulls were circulating, occasionally pursuing the small
Black-headed Gulls for
their hard-won morsels. There were also Mallards in the mix, although
their time was split
between courting and feeding. Occasionally a female got fed up with the
attention of the drakes
and winged it, pursued by its most persistent suitors.
Mid-Loch there was a big flock of around 25 Cormorants sweeping their
way northwards, diving for
fish as they went. The spectacular sight went largely unnoticed by the
passing walkers, which is a
I returned to Strathclyde Country Park the next day. Discouraged by the
large numbers of folk in
the region of the Loch, I explored the much less-well-known footpaths
of the woods to the east of
M&D’s Theme Park. I heard Woodpeckers but
couldn’t see them but did come across a spot where
a flock of Long-tailed
Tits were flitting across the low branches of trees.
were foraging in the leaf litter. Closer to the theme park I spotted
and photographed some Bullfinches
feeding on seeds in an Ash tree. The saw me, but tolerated my presence
short time I took to bag some images.
In the younger wood just north of the Alona hotel I was taunted by some
Great Tits tweeting
Teecha-Teecha (my former profession). A small flock of Goldfinches were
singing in the treetops
high above them. I got a nice shot of a pair of Jackdaws perched in
branches overlooking the
footpath. They were probably waiting until I passed to continue with
their search for food on the
floor of the wood. My final picture was of Irpex lacteus, a
wood-devouring white rot fungus.
Jim’s Garden - progress report:
I spent a three afternoons watching the bird activity from my back
window. This yielded some nice
shots of Herring Gulls and Sparrows in flight. A solitary Robin showed
up during one of the
greyest of days. However, there was little else happening. I have
another bird feeder on order as
my current seed feeder is actually meant for peanuts. So by next week I
should have 3 feeders - fat ball, seed and nuts. Hopefully the latter
will encourage the tits and finches I sometimes see
passing overhead. Fingers crossed
Cycle Herring Gull
Week ending: 17th January 2021: RSPB Baron's
Haugh Dalzell Estate,
On the only decent sunny day predicted this week, I had to make the
most of my visit to Barons
Haugh. Once again my main objective was to get in some badly needed
exercise to counteract
the inactivity imposed by the COVID restrictions. I started by passing
through Dalzell Estate. My
first snap was of a Jelly Ear fungus that was growing on a rotting log.
On my descent of Easter
Braes I came across a wayward Grey
Squirrel and a Jay
sitting in a distant Oak tree.
On the edge of the Estate I was attracted to a group of red Alder tree
I passed through the metal kissing gate into Barons Haugh onto the path
that runs parallel to the
River Clyde. On the far side of the river, a pair of Goldeneye were
moving past a couple of Mute
Swans. A wise-looking Magpie watched me from midway up a Silver Birch
before my eye caught
sight of a small Treecreeper foraging
low on the trunk of a Hawthorn tree. Further along the
path I ran into a small flock of Long-tailed Tits migrating their way
randomly across the treetops.
Near the Phoenix Hide I found a clump of Velvet
Shank mushrooms sprouting from a small
tree stump. A Robin posed for a photo at the plastic seat that
overlooks the bend in the river near
badly eroded riverbanks. It is quite clear that the footpath is likely
to by washed away at the next
spell of heavy rain. There were Mallards on the river and a juvenile
Grey Heron on the opposite
|Juvenile Grey Heron
The picture below is the view over the Haugh taken from the side of the
Phoenix Hide. You may
notice that the Haugh is still predominantly covered in ice. Only
Black-headed Gulls and a few
Mute Swans were on the small area of ice-free water.
Just before I turned away from the Clyde and onto the path to the
Causeway Hide, I spotted a
pair of Little
Grebes trying to dive for fish on the fast moving
river. They soon passed out of
view. A female Blackbird checked me out briefly before resuming her
raking of the leaf litter. Near
the hide I was checked out by another bird, a wee male Chaffinch. On
the same field hedgerow
there was a dozing Woodpigeon nestling in the lower branches.
The Causeway Hide was fully occupied so I gave it a miss. However,
there were about twenty
Greylag Geese grazing in the adjacent field. I moved on to the Marsh
Hide from which I was lucky
enough to capture a picture of a Little
Egret with a catch, probably a Toad. The pool was
packed with birds - Black-headed Gulls, Wigeon, Teal and Mallards. I
also managed a shot of a
Moorhen as it moved across the smaller pools to the right of the hide.
In a hidden channel to the left of the hide a pair of Kingfishers
were active. Unfortunately (*)
the hide started to fill with birders, so I beat a hasty retreat.
However, as I passed the fields I got
an interesting shot of a Magpie flying past with a beak full of
It was unfortunate that news of the presence of the
Kingfisher and Little Egret was passed on
to the nation via social media. We must remember that we are in
lockdown. The consequence
was that eager twitchers descended on the Marsh Hide hide, making
As I ascended the steepish path to the car park I got a nice flight
shot of a passing Feral Pigeon
and also I caught a wee Robin low in the branches of pathside bushes.
My final sighting was of a
well-lit female Kestrel
on a Birch tree just before the car park.
Jim’s Garden - progress report:
My attempt to attract birds to my garden continues. House Sparrows
remain the most common
birds at the feeders. A couple of Dunnocks
patrol the ground below the feeders aided by
Feral Pigeons. I’m very pleased that a pair of Blue Tits
visit daily. I hope that continues and they
attract other birds such as Tits and some finches.
Flight shots are quite fun, especially when the feeders are quiet.
Feral Pigeons, Crows and Herring
gulls pass by fairly often, and, in the past I have also seen raptors
such as Buzzards, Kestrels and
Sparrowhawks. Hopefully they’ll return. The anticipation is
all part of the entertainment.
Week ending: 10th January 2021: Strathclyde Country
This week’s blog is a bit shorter than normal. This is due to
the most recent COVID restrictions
that allow only a short period of daily exercise. Indeed, to be more
fully compliant, I have only
taken only a couple of brief walks this week.
Wednesday: Strathclyde Country Park, Motherwell
The paths of the park were still ice-covered and careful steps were
needed. The route I took was
very quiet and I was glad not to have passed a soul all the time I was
there. I’m also glad I did
meet a few birds. The first was a Robin
at the edge of woods behind the Theme Park.
Around the toilet block in the nearby car park there were a couple of Song
Thrushes and a
Crows . A female Blackbird
was busy making the most of a bread roll
that was dropped in the middle of the road.
A male Blackbird bossed the female out of the road to get his share of
the roll. As I passed
through the vacant Theme Park car park I got a couple of shots of a wee
Robin that had found some food scraps probably left for them.
Friday: Barons Haugh, Motherwell
The area was still covered in ice and snow, as shown by the view of
I got off to a fine start with a snap of a Buzzard
that I caught flying over the River Clyde.
Soon after that I noticed a wee Blue
Tit busy on a branch of a pathside tree. There were
half dozen Whooper
Swans on the river. I later found out why they
weren’t on the Haugh,
as probably the same birds attempted to land on the Haugh only to find
that it was almost entirely
covered in ice. What little exposed water there was was rammed with
birds ( and out of sight from
the Causeway Hide, due to the long reeds).
The view of the Haugh from the side of the Phoenix Hide.
With most of the Hawthorn berries gone, eaten mainly by Thrushes, the
Blackbirds were to be
found foraging in the leaf litter. Long-tailed tits were active in
several spots on my circuit although
those nippy movers were difficult to photograph. A good bit easier to
snap were the Magpies, of
which there were many.
I made a brief visit to the Marsh Hide (which was vacant) where I saw a
Lapwing and lots of Wigeon. They were all dabbling around the pond
edges. Small groups of
Wigeon were occasionally taking flight, doing a circuit of Haugh and
landing again on the pond.
That was probably their best option given that the Haugh was ice bound.
I’m pleased to report that the few people I passed on my 50
minute circuit seemed keen to
observe social distancing rules - a change from my previous experience
over the months.
Saturday: My garden
I’ve been recovering my bird feeders from their summer
storage (I don’t believe in feeding wild
birds in the summer). The birds have been discovering them gradually,
and approaching them
cautiously. The Feral Pigeons seemed not to have seen them but as they
usually feed on the
spillage from the feeders they may not fancy pecking in the snow. The
House Sparrows have been
the first to taste the fat balls. A juvenile Herring Gull on a
neighbour’s chimney stack was my final
capture of the weekend. I’ve seed on order for next week.
Hopefully these measures will
encourage more species to turn up around my garden to help
compensate for my reduced
nature-watching further afield.
|1st Cycle Herring
Week ending: 3rd January 2021:
Tuesday am : RSPB Barons Haugh, Motherwell
My first outing of the week found me watching Teal from
a very cold Marsh Hide. They were
paddling about in what was a big hole in the ice that
covered 90% of the Haugh. The cold snap
was just a bit too late for a White Christmas. The snowscape made nice
viewing for me, but
imagine being a bird in such an environment. From the Phoenix hide I
could see Whooper Swans
having a bit of difficulty moving from the water onto the ice.
The wider view shows the birds crowding a water-hole in the ice -
Whooper and Mute Swans, Teal,
Wigeon and Canada Geese.
Outside the hide I noticed a wee Bullfinch
managing to find some icy seeds on a Dock
stem. Nearby, Gorse
flowers seemed to glow through the snow. They made me yearn for
the Spring when we’d see wild flowers again.
A large flock of Lapwings
were populating the ice sheet to the left of the hide. It must be
difficult for wader in such freezing conditions.
There were no creatures in obvious view from the Centenary Hide,
however the vista made up for
To avoid the crowded and narrow Chestnut walk I finished my brief
circuit of the Haugh with a
slight detour up Easter Braes, then through Dalzell Estate, where I met
a bold and very
Squirrel that was pleased to show me the winter food he was
Wednesday: Strathclyde Park, Motherwell
The next day I visited the edge of the woodlands behind the
M&Ds Theme Park. There was hardly
a cloud in the sky and it transpired that there were plenty of birds to
be seen. A pair of Bullfinches
were nibbling on Silver Birch seeds and a cheeky Robin
played hide-and-seek as I trained
my camera on it. There was a moment of excitement as I photographed
some Redwings that were scouring the leaf litter, when a Sparrowhawk
swooped through the tree branches and made off
with one unfortunate bird. Sadly it was all to rapid for my ageing
reactions and I didn’t get
It didn’t take too long for birds to return to the leaf
litter, such as a female Blackbird. Further along
the path I noticed a Song
Thrush that was sitting quietly in the branches of a Silver
near the toilet block. In the woods close to the “Roman
Bridge” I came across a Birch Polypore
fungus on a tree trunk, and not far from there a male Blackbird was
searching around the bases of
tree trunks for any invertebrates that would help see him through the
Where the path crossed a burn I snapped another Robin that was sitting
in bushes. Close to the
fairground, I heard the familiar twittering of Goldfinches high in an
Ash tree. They were beautifully
lit by the midday sun. Joining them was an acrobatic Blue Tit. I made
my way back to the car -
but I wasn’t done. I spied a Buzzard sitting on a tree beyond
the Theme Park car park. After a few
stealthy moves I managed a satisfactory shot, without disturbing the
birds, of course.
Friday: Strathclyde Park
It was just a short stroll on Friday, when I followed the same path
I’d followed on Wednesday -
with fewer sightings - “just” a close encounter
with a Buzzard and yet another Robin. Still, the
weather was poor.
Saturday: Dalzell Estate, Motherwell
I spent the next morning in better weather in the woods at the top of
Easter Braes. I managed a
sightings, a shot of a Robin in flight and pictures of some of the many
and Great Tits that were active in and around the conifers.
I was surprised to see a gathering of birds at the top of the
horse’s field, near the access path to
the Baron’s Haugh car park. That path was very busy with
parents taking their excited children for a walk. However I found a
spot about 5m from where they were passing and tried to get shots of
the birds. I managed pictures of a Blackbird bounding the ground
between trees, a Song Thrush
that settled on a low branch just a few metres away and a Redwing
exploring the field hoping to
find some food. My final shot of the visit was of a noisy Magpie, one
of three that were cavorting
on the roof of a bungalow near the Estate entrance.
Saturday pm: Strathclyde Country Park, Motherwell
The following afternoon I visited car park 4, a popular place to get
your car near the Loch. The
weather was fine and the light was low and golden - excellent for
photography. It seemed that
most of the Loch’s birds were gathered at car park 4. It was
one of only a few parts of the loch
that wasn’t iced over. Prominent in the flock were Greylags -
some of which were hybrids. I
enjoyed seeing a Campbell Duck out of the water in such nice light.
I snapped a pair of Mallards as they pursued a female hopefully across
the crowded pool.
I was taking pictures of some of the very many gulls, such as the
Herring Gull and Common Gull,
when I noticed the Common Gull was being overtaken by a group of
Greylags that were
attempting to land on the ice. I have to say, for such big birds, they
landed with very little
slippage. Well done to them - but it would have been a nice shot had
they not managed it so
elegantly. Just as I had decided to leave I got word of the presence on
the Loch of the Ring-billed
Gull. The sun though had just about set so I decided that I’d
look for it on Sunday.
Sunday: Strathclyde Country Park, Motherwell
The weather on my return trip was gloomy, although Ben Lomond could be
glowing to the north.
Gull was pretty easy to find. It helps if you ask
birders who had been
looking for it for some hours before. I’d have seen it anyway
since it was standing on its own, only
100m from the edge of car park 4. I waited for it to come to bread
thrown by kind people who
turned up with loaves of bread. Sure enough it did take the bait and I
did get a couple of decent
shots. A nice way to end the week.
- January 2021
We present last month’s
gallery of my favourite pictures I’ve taken during January
2021. They are
not listed in the order they have been taken, but according to a series
of themes. I’ve kept
commentary to a minimum, preferring to let each picture talk for itself.
|Common Gull -
I SEE YOU
|Male House Sparrow
IN THE BRANCHES
|Juvenile Grey Heron
|Male House Sparrow
ON THE WATER
COLD FEET ?
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