Archive - January 2021

Week ending: 31st January:  Strathclyde Country Park Jim's Garden

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.

The Goosanders  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.

Ring-billed Gull
Black-headed Gull Common Gull

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 the extreme 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 plumage.

Tufted Duck

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 branches.

Long-eared Owl
Fieldfare Blue Tit

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.

Carrion Crow
Long-tailed tit Geese
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 place.


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 attracted in.

House Sparrow

Week ending: 24th January 2021: 
Strathclyde Park, Baron's 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.

Little Grebe Robin
Canada Geese Teal

I noticed Turkeytail  fungi on a tree outside the Hide. They’re very common and have know medicinal uses. When I left the Causeway Hide, there was a pretty Grey Wagtail  working 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 Grey Wagtail
Jay Wren

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 bushes).

Goldeneye Drake Goosander
Kestrel Great Tit

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 opportunity.

Carrion Crow Greylag Geese
Drake Goosander Canada Goose

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.

Common Gull Mute Swan
Female Mallard Drake Mallard

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 shame.

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. Also, Blackbirds 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 for the short time I took to bag some images. 

Long-tailed Tit Female Blackbird
Bullfinch Female Bullfinch

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.

Great Tit Goldfinch
Jackdaw Irpex lacteus

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

Herring Gull  1st Cycle Herring Gull
House Sparrow Robin

Week ending: 17th January 2021: 
RSPB Baron's Haugh  Dalzell Estate, Jim's Garden

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 flowers.

Jelly Ear Grey Squirrel
Jay 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.

Goldeneye Magpie
Treecreeper Long-tailed Tit

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 bank.

Velvet Shank Robin
Mallard Drake 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.

Little Grebe Female Blackbird
Chaffinch Wood Pigeon

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.

Greylag Geese Little Egret
Black-headed Gull, Wigeon ,Teal Moorhen

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 carrion.

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 social distancing impossible.

Kingfisher Magpie

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.

Feral Pigeon Robin

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.

House Sparrow Female House Sparrow
Dunnock Blue Tit

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.

Feral Pigeon Herring Gull
Carrion Crow Female House Sparrow

Week ending: 10th January 2021: 
Strathclyde Country Park, RSPB Baron's Haugh  

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 few Carrion Crows . A female Blackbird  was busy making the most of a bread roll that was dropped in the middle of the road.

Robin Song Thrush
Carrion Crow Female Blackbird

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 Dunnock  and a Robin that had found some food scraps probably left for them.

Blackbird Robin

Friday: Barons Haugh, Motherwell

The area was still covered in ice and snow, as shown by the view of Easter Brae.

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 a 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).

Buzzard Blue Tit
Whooper Swan

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.

Female Blackbird Blackbird
Long-tailed Tit Magpie

I made a brief visit to the Marsh Hide (which was vacant) where I saw a few Teal, a lone 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.

House Sparrow
Feral Pigeon 1st Cycle Herring Gull

Week ending: 3rd January 2021:  Strathclyde Country Park, Dalzell Estate, RSPB Baron's Haugh

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.

Teal Whooper Swan

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.

Bullfinch Gorse

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 that.

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 accommodating Grey Squirrel that was pleased to show me the winter food he was gathering.

Grey Squirrel

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 pictures.

Robin Redwing

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 Birch 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 winter.

Female Blackbird Song Thruch
Birch Polypore Male Blackbird

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.

Robin Goldfinch
Blue Tit Buzzard

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.

Buzzard Robin

Saturday: Dalzell Estate, Motherwell

I spent the next morning in better weather in the woods at the top of Easter Braes. I managed a few Nuthatch  sightings, a shot of a Robin in flight and pictures of some of the many Blue and Great Tits that were active in and around the conifers.

Nuthatch Robin
Great Tit Blue Tit

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.

Blackbird Song Thrush
Redwing Magpie

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.

Greylag Goose
Campbell Duck Leucistic Greylag Goose

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.

Herring Gull Common Gull
Greylag Geese

Sunday: Strathclyde Country Park, Motherwell

The weather on my return trip was gloomy, although Ben Lomond could be seen positively glowing to the north.

The Ring-billed 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.

Ring-billed Gull

Highlights - 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.


Black-headed Gull Buzzard
Carrion Crow Common Gull - Black-headed Gull
Feral Pigeon Goosander Drake
Greylag  Geese


Female Blackbird Male Blackbird
Robin Song Thrush
Wood Pigeon Wren


Female House Sparrow Male House Sparrow
Mallard Drake Treecreeper
Mute Swan Goosander Drake


Blackbird Bullfinch
Carrion Crow Juvenile Grey Heron
Male House Sparrow Long-tailed Tit
Long-tailed Tit Long-tailed Tit
Magpie Nuthatch
Treecreeper Leucistic Greylag Goose


Greylag Goose White Morph Female Mallard
Tufted Duck Wigeon


Black-headed Gull Female Blackbird
Dunnock Ring-billed Gull


Greylag Geese
Ring-billed Gull
Long-tailed Tit Mute Swan

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