Archive - November 2020

Week ending: 29th November:

Hillend Reservoir, Strathclyde Country Park, Greenend Moss, Baron's Haugh and the Dalzell Estate.

Wednesday am - Hillend Reservoir:

Poor weather kept my cameras in their bag until midweek, when we had our first sight of the sun for a few days. It was more of a reconnaissance mission since Hillend Reservoir, near Caldercruix, is very unfamiliar to me. I had intended walking around the Loch but the days of rain had left that path impassible in too many places so I had to abandon the idea. I’ll keep it for another day when the weather is drier. I did manage a few shots of birds, the best of which were of a female Goosander and a female Goldeneye. The other birds were rather distant.

Female Goldeneye Female Goosander

Wednesday pm - Strathclyde Country Park:

It seemed a shame to let the nice sunny weather go to waste so I ventured down to Strathclyde Park mid-afternoon. The low sun was casting amber light on the north end of the Loch where I was pleased to see that there were lots of birds gathered. Greylag Geese were grazing on the rowing starting area. On the surrounding trees, a sizeable flock of tiny Siskins were quietly feeding on Alder trees, and on the Loch a Cormorant was fishing close to the shore.

Greylag Geese Cormorant

Near the geese, a few Lapwing were nervously swopping positions, ever-watchful of approaching menace, while on the grass, a Moorhen pecked, seemingly without such concerns.

Greylag Goose Moorhen

Thursday - Greenhead Moss Community Nature Park, Wishaw

It was a gloomy start to the day at my second unfamiliar location of the week. The COVID travel restrictions have certainly made me explore my local county. The relatively new nature reserve was very promising. I did see a fair number of birds, such as various Tits and Finches, Crows and Magpies. However, I had a technical problem with my camera lens that kicked in after I’d snapped a Bullfinch and a Redwing on my way into the site. I will return though, on a sunnier day, with a fully-functional camera.

Bullfinch Redwing

Friday - Strathclyde Country Park:

I walked a circuit of Strathclyde Loch on Friday. Once again the sun was hiding behind grey clouds. My only publishable shots were of a pair of Greylags and of a Grey Squirrel sitting up a tree munching an apple.

Greylag Geese Grey Squirrel

Saturday am - RSPB Barons Haugh:

At last a decent sunny day! It started well with a sighting of a Jay  in the woods close to the car park. I followed this with a shot of a bolder than usual female Blackbird as it didn’t fly away as I passed it.

Jay Female Blackbird

I avoided the Marsh Hide because it was full of birders. Instead I tried the Causeway Hide and found it empty. I was impressed with the antics of the Teal as they cavorted around a female by the reedbanks to the north of the hide.

The early mists had yet to fully clear as can be seen from the shot of juvenile Cormorants perched on tree stumps. I managed a pleasing flight shot of a Mute Swan as it flew across in front of the hide.

Juvenile Cormorants Mute Swan

I was disappointed that I couldn’t see a reported Shoveler , even when I moved to the Phoenix Hide. The view was nice though.

I captured an image of what looked and acted like a Marsh Harrier , though it was quite a way off to be sure. I spent some time by a bench overlooking the River Clyde. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky when I observed three fly-pasts one after the other. A rogue motorcycle on the reserve footpaths had put them up - a Cormorant and a female Goosander followed by some Mallards. The Goosander showed what she thought of the biker.

Raptor Cormorant
Female Goosander Mallards

Next I snapped a Grey Heron that was perched at a bend in the river, before moving on the the Centenary Hide where I tried unsuccessfully to get a picture of an elusive female Reed Bunting. I did though get a fairly decent shot of a Goldfinch on some dried vegetation. I also noticed a Carrion Crow scanning its domain atop a tall tree. I was surprised but delighted to catch a few shots of a Little Egret flying up the Clyde.

Grey Heron Goldfinch
Carrion Crow Little Egret

I nipped back to the car for a spot of lunch but on entering the car park I could see in the distance a Kestrel  perched on a Silver Birch tree. I nipped swiftly nearer to it and got some shots of it, including when it swooped onto and carried off what looked like a Vole.

Female Kestrel

Saturday pm - Dalzell Estate:

After lunch I made a brief visit to the adjoining Dalzell Estate to check out the Thrushes  I’d seen last week. As can be seen below, they didn’t disappoint. I managed to photograph three of the family, a Fieldfare, a Redwing and a Song Thrush dining on red berries - a super end to brilliant visit, and not a bad week really.

Fieldfare Redwing
Song Thrush

Week ending: 22nd November 2020: Hogganfield Loch, Drumpellier Country Park, Dalzell Estate

Due to the current COVID travel restrictions my Sunday expeditions have been seriously curtailed so I’ll be using these blogs to bring to you highlights of my whole week. As I am retired I am able to take my cameras out for a walk nearly every day to places where I can watch and photograph nature. This week I managed three such walks, and here are the highlights:

Wednesday - Hogganfield Park LNR:

Late Autumn is the time to get very close sightings of the Whooper Swans that spend the winter at the Loch. They seem to be fewer this year. I don’t know why. Goldeneyes  return from their summer stay in the Scottish Highlands at around the same time. The permanent residents, such as Coots, don’t seem to be affected much by these arrivals, then why should they as they have different diets and there’s more safety in numbers.

Whooper Swan
Goldeneye Coot

Goosanders disappear during the summer months to breed in upland rivers. They are feisty characters and can hold their own in the chaotic feeding frenzies at the car park whenever the motorists appear with bread.


Greylags  are another periodic species at Hogganfield while, about 10 miles to the south at Strathclyde Park, the Greylags seem to be there throughout the year. A skein passed overhead briefly but didn’t land on the Loch, sadly. I was pleased to see a bird that is, perhaps surprisingly, not a frequent visitor to the Loch, a Herring Gull . Just why they are rare at Hogganfield is perhaps due to the large presence of Lesser Black-backs. No such problem with the ubiquitous Mallards.

Greylag Geese Herring Gull
Drake Mallard Female Mallard

I kept an eye out for a couple of infrequent visitors that were on the Loch the day I visited. That certainly didn’t include the the lovely Moorhen I snapped in fine, low autumnal light. But nearby I spotted the Red-headed Smew (or more simply the female Smew ). It was fishing some 40m from the lochside, and occasionally followed a Goldeneye for no apparent reason. I had to make a circuit of the Loch before I spotted the other rarity, the Red-necked Grebe. It was diving among a group of Tufted Ducks and was illuminated by a low, dim amber sun. As I was tracking the it, one of the Loch’s colony of Cormorants flew past, low over the water.

Moorhen Female Smew
Red-necked grebe Cormorant

Thursday - Drumpellier Country Park :

The next day I took my exercise in a beautiful area of Coatbridge, Drumpellier Country Park. It has a very interesting history and the Lochend Loch and adjacent woodlands are rich in all sorts of natural delights. As I followed a route through the woods I came upon a section along which a previous walker had planted wee piles of birdseed on the footpath. It was shooty-in then when it came to photographing Blue, Coal and Great Tits, not to mention a big Woodpigeon that was hogging one particular pile.

Blue Tit Coal Tit
Great Tit Wood Pigeon

In one of the clearings I was pleased to find a pair of grazing Roe Deer. Later I saw quite a few bold Robins. These were obviously used to walkers, probably as they saw them as a food source. I left the shady woodlands and walked around the Loch. Unfortunately its narrow paths were mobbed with families so I didn’t get a chance to safely photograph the many birds I saw there (mostly mallards, Tufties, Little Grebes, Goosanders and various types of Gull). I’ll save that for a future visit. I did though, at a rare unoccupied spot, snap a handsome Moorhen and also a white hybrid Mallard  (probably crossed with a Moscovy Duck).

Roe Deer Robin
Moorhen Mallard Hybrid

Saturday - Dalzell Estate:

I managed a wee hour at Dalzell Estate in Motherwell. It too was jammed with walkers but I am very familiar with the woods there and I know places off the paths where I can observe birds in peace. I found one such spot that was particularly rewarding in photo-opportunities. The Nuthatches were very active and I was lucky enough to snap one as it foraged in nearby tree branches. High on another tree was another bird that scoured the tree bark, a Treecreeper. It had a mouthful of what looked like a Cranefly. A Great Tit appeared for a few seconds, long enough for a shot and overhead a calling Buzzard spiralled its way across the woodlands

Nuthatch Treecreeper
Great Tit Common Buzzard

A half-dozen noisy Song Thrushes descended on a red berry-rich conifer, probably a Yew tree. They started feeding vigorously on the berries and were joined by a large, nervous flock of Redwings. My final picture is of a fairly common bracket fungi, Birch Polypore, that I found deep in the woods, on a rotting fallen tree trunk.

Song Thrush
Redwing Birch Polypore

Well that concludes my first weekly highlights blog. It was a fairly quite week mainly due to the inclement weather and of the restrictions on travel. Still, I feel it wasn’t a bad haul of sightings for 3 short visits.

Week ending: 13th November 2020: Barns Ness

On Friday this week I managed a couple of hours at Barns Ness, a few miles east of Dunbar. My last visit there was back in August, so it was about time I revisited. Sunny weather was predicted so I was looking forward to bagging a few nice shots. I started my circuit at the shore nearest the car park. The tide was high and there weren’t many walkers about so I managed to capture shots of several birds in quick time: a Redshank, a pair of Carrion Crows and a Starling, all feeding on beached seaweed. Just offshore a female Eider  was hunting for crabs with some success.

Redshank Carrion Crow
Starling Female Eider

I walked along the shore-side path towards the Barns Ness lighthouse. I could see many birds were gathered on the wave-lashed rocky edges of the bay. At first I thought there were only Cormorants there, but on closer inspection, I realised that Ringed Plover , Dunlin and Redshanks were nestling between the rocks.

Below is a expanded image of these. There were also other birds on the rocks: Curlew, Oystercatchers and Herring Gulls.

While I photographed the mixed colony of birds on the rocks, I became aware that there were birds much closer to where I was standing. A pair of Rock Pipits tweeted onto the scene searching for invertebrates between the rocks. A quarrelling pair of Black-headed Gulls flew past and I then accidentally disturbed some unseen Linnets. A large rock pool contained a half dozen Mallards, and as I edged closer to them, I put up more unseen birds, a small flock of Turnstones, and about twenty Starlings. I’ll really need to be more careful.

Rock Pipit Black-headed Gull
Linnet Mallard
Turnstone Starlings

As I rounded the lighthouse, a Cormorant flew past. I also managed a snap of a Common Gull. I checked the area around the “wreck” and found a foraging Rock Pipit in some nice light. I prefer to walk from east to west along the east beach in order to keep the sunlight behind me so I walked along the path at the landward side of the dunes towards an opening through the dunes. On the way I spotted a wee Stonechat lurking in the shade of a low bush.

Cormorant Common Gull
Rock Pipit Stonechat

When I eventually got onto the beach, looking back towards the lighthouse, I could see trains of sea waves were piling onto the beach.

The many Black-headed Gulls assembled in the water were being carried nearer the sandy beach by the incoming waves. They were there to snap up invertebrates escaping from huge amounts of seaweed that lay rotting on the sand. When they got too near the shore they took flight and settled again at a safer distance. There were also a few Common Gulls and passing Herring Gulls.

Black-headed Gull
1st Cycle Common Gull Herring Gull

I could see large numbers of Redshanks and Turnstone on top of the piles of seaweed. Passing walkers put them up occasionally but the birds returned once there were no people nearby.

Redshank Turnstone

Next I left the beach and crossed to the west boundary wall, which leads through scrubland and woods to the old campsite area. I spotted a Peregrine Falcon  passing high overhead and managed a shot as it moved over the quarry. Large bushes of yellow Gorse blooms were certainly and impressive sight as I entered the scrubland. I was pleased to see a bluebottle, Calliphora vomitoria, sunning itself on the grass beneath some conifers. On short grass by the same conifers I photographed the fungus, Lyophyllum fumosum.

Peregrine Falcon Gorse
Calliphora Vomitoria Lyophyllum Fumosum

Sad to say that I didn’t see any birds at the old campsite, probably due to the darkening sky. However, I did see some wildflowers. It was nice to see a beautiful blue Common Periwinkle, as well as a few Brambles that were still around this late into Autumn. A few small pink Herb Robert flowers and yellow Oxford Ragwort were still in bloom brightening the otherwise sad-looking and decaying wild garden.

Lesser Periwinkle Bramble
Herb Robert Oxford Ragwort

My circuit was completed when I returned to the beach near the car park. The female Eider was still catching crabs. As I was leaving I heard the sound of passing Pink-footed Geese  moving west. I quickly and carefully parked the car and fired off a few shots into the gloomy sky to get the record shot shown below.

Female Eider Pink-footed Geese

I was very pleased with my two-hour stint at Barns Ness. I managed to observe a decent number of birds and plants and the weather was sunny for most of the time.

Week ending: 8th November 2020: RSPB Baron’s Haugh and Dalzell Estate, Motherwell

This week I spent some hours at my nearest RSPB reserve, Baron’s Haugh  and Dalzell Estate . The map of the reserve shown below is reproduced from the website  of a recently deceased RSPB member, the much-admired and sadly missed Jimmy Maxwell.

From the reserve car park it is a 5 minute downhill walk along a woodland road to reach the first of 4 hides, the Marsh Hide. There had been a lot of rain and the water level on the wetlands was fairly high. The only bird visible from the hide was a long-legged Grey Heron that was feeding on the edges of the pond. However, I was more successful when I scanned the trees close to the hide and, with autumn leaves falling like rain, I was able to photograph a wee
Blue tit , a Dunnock and some Long-tailed Tits.
Grey Heron Blue Tit
Dunnock Long-tailed Tit

As I walked to the next hide I came across a male Blackbird gobbling Hawthorn berries at the edge of Area 1. I was delighted to see a juvenile female Kestrel  sitting atop the hedgerow between the fields, although the light was poor at the time.

Female Kestrel

I got a pleasing panoramic view from the north of Area 1

I was also slightly disappointed at the Causeway Hide to find fewer birds than I’d seen there recently. This was probably due to the raised water levels. There were though some Whooper Swans that had arrived recently from Iceland. There was also a couple of indigenous Mute Swans and a small Teal flock that emerged from behind the tall Reed Mace in front of the hide. A large Lapwing flock raised my spirits further when they descended on the site from the south.

Whooper Swan Mute Swan
Teal Lapwing

As I walked along the “causeway”, a cheeky wee Robin drew my attention. As I photographed it I became aware of the high pitched tweets of Goldcrests  and with patience I managed a couple of shots. I also could see through the bushes to the far side of the Haugh where I noticed a Grey Heron on the water’s edge. On inspecting the photo I wondered if it was standing on a vacant Swan’s nest that contained an unhatched swan’s egg (see the picture below). In any case, when I returned to the hide to get a slightly closer shot I got a wee bonus when a Wren appeared on the reeds and posed for a quick snap.

Robin Goldcrest
Grey Heron Wren

Next I made my way to the Phoenix Hide where it was also very quiet, apart from a solitary Little Grebe  diving for fish. On the wooded bank adjacent to the hide I discovered my first fungus of the day, a Clouded Funnel (aka Clouded Agaric). Overhead, the young Kestrel I’d seen earlier swooped past.

Little Grebe Clouded Funnel ( Agaric)
Female Kestrel

I pressed on towards the last hide, the Centenary Hide. It’s not uncommon there to hear the call of a hunting buzzard as it spirals across the sky. In the Autumn the Hawthorn bushes that line the paths are loaded with red berries, a favourite food of many birds including Thrushes . I was lucky enough to be able to watch and photograph one such thrush, a Redwing, as it plucked and swallowed some of the red berries. Near the Chestnut Walk I snapped a nice shot of an unusually relaxed Grey Squirrel, tucked up the branches of a Hawthorn, nibbling berries (I think).

Buzzard Grey Squirrel

Near the squirrel, a Treecreeper was doing as its name suggests up the trunk of a tall  Sycamore. It’s a welcome sight to see birds, such as a pair of Mute Swans, on the relatively new ponds in Area 4. On Chestnut Walk I found a Blushing Bracket  fungus growing on a tree stump by the path. While examining it, a pair of Roe Deer dashed down the hill from the Dalzell Estate onto and across the path.

Treecreeper Mute Swan
Blushing Bracket Roe Deer

Chestnut Way marks the eastern boundary of RSPB Barons Haugh. Area 6, at the southern end of Dalzell Estate, contains a shallow, historical curling pond (recently renovated) which often attracts birds such as Mallards, Grey Herons and even Kingfishers.


The wooded estate offers chances of seeing and, more often, hearing Nuthatches as well as a variety of Tits and Finches. Autumn is a good time to watch and photograph Grey Squirrels as they gather food for their hibernation. It is also a good time to discover fungi. As I searched the forest floor I disturbed a Mistle Thrush that had been perching in a tall Cypress.

Nuthatch Great Tit
Grey Squirrel Mistle Thrush

I was pleased to find a pair of fungi growing on decaying wood. The first was the delightful Angel’s Bonnet  and also the more sinister-looking Candlesnuff Fungus

Angel's Bonnet Candlesnuff Fungus

The weather had been a mixture of light and shade but at least it stayed dry. It was good enough though to allow me to record a pleasing set of photographs.

Week ending 1st November : Birds Of Hogganfield Loch
Part 1

My favourite city nature reserve has to be Hogganfield Park LNR in the northeast of Glasgow. I’ve visited there countless times over a good number of years, and I’ve collected literally thousands of pictures of birds I’ve seen there. So, after my recent “Birds of Strathclyde Park” blog, I now present the next in the series, “Birds of Hogganfield Park LNR, Part 1”. The park (see below) comprises a (very) roughly circular Loch and, to the east, a smaller area of marshland with a small pond. My starting point is usually in the car park (the big black dot) situated at the northwest of the Loch accessible from Cumbernauld Road. There is usually a large number of birds congregated on the Loch edges at the car park, waiting for the car occupants to emerge with bread and other tasty delights. Wintering Whooper Swans  and, all-year-round regulars, Mute Swans  are usually first in the queue, although in recent years there have been a fair showing of Greylag and Canada Geese in the feeding melee.
West Loch from car park

West Loch:

Whooper Swan Mute Swan

Greylag Goose Canada Goose

Feisty Goosanders , that usually prefer fish, can usually be seen scrapping for their share while Starlings and Feral Pigeons are always on hand to peck up the scraps around the feeders’ feet (although the pigeon shown below somehow ended up in the drink).

Goosander Starling

Feral Pigeon

Also present are the pond birds that are less interested in bread, but who certainly enjoy “safety in numbers” such as Tufted Ducks, Moorhens and Coots.

Male Tufted Duck Female Tufted Duck

Moorhen Coot

As well as the Goosander, there are several other piscivores ( birds) amongst the bird population. A juvenile Red-breasted Merganser turned up about four years ago. Another irregular, visitor, and piscivore, seen this year, was a Slavonian Grebe. It is a bonny wee bird, even in its winter plumage. Its summer plumage is truly stunning. Every year, during Spring and Summer, Goldeneyes  can be seen making repeated dives for small fish and invertebrates. Cormorants too dive for fish and sometimes they appear with them at the surface.

Red-breasted Merganser Slavonian Grebe in Eclipse

Goldeneye Cormorant

The bushes around the car park are home to the Dunnock, a small sparrow-like bird. A small member of the crow family, the Jackdaw can be seen foraging the grassy lochside all around the Park, but especially around the car park. Another, smaller forager is the Pied Wagtail. It is very flighty but it is usually possible to get decent shots. About three years ago I was watching ducks that were mulling around the artificial islands at the SW of the Loch when a Common Sandpiper  darted into one of the “cages” that protect the plant from being trampled or eaten by the large birds. It stayed there for enough time for me to snap away to my heart’s content.

Dunnock Jackdaw

Pied Wagtail Common Sandpiper

If you like gulls  (and I do), but you find the frantic feeding at the car park is too hectic, then the South side is an excellent place to watch Black-headed and Lesser Black-backed Gulls. These gulls make up the majority of the gull flock.

Black-headed Gull Black-headed Gull 1st Cycle

Lesser Black-backed Gull Lesser Black-backed Gull 2nd Cycle

Gulls seen less often include Herring, Great Black-backed, Iceland and Common Gulls.

Herring Gull Great Black-backed Gull

Iceland gull Common Gull

South Loch

The South Loch is also an excellent place to watch Great Crested Grebes  and Little Grebes  diving for fish. I really enjoy following the progress of the Great Crested Grebes throughout the year. such as their wonderful courtship display, nest building, chicks on the adult's back and adults feeding the chicks fish. The channel between the island a south edge of the Loch is worth a check for Mallards and other ducks such as Pochards, Tufties, Gadwalls and Teal. The trees hold the usual passerines, such as Goldfinches and Blue Tits, Woodpigeons and, in the Spring, nesting Grey Herons come and go.

Great Crested Grebe Little Grebe

Mallard Goldfinch

Teal Wood Pigeon

That concludes part 1 of this description of my experiences of “Birds of Hogganfield Park LNR”. In the coming weeks I will publish part 2 in which I will describe birds that can be seen from the East Loch, North Loch and the area on and around the Pond.

Highlights - November 2020

We present a gallery of my favourite pictures I’ve taken during November 2020. 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 Buzzard Common Gull
Female Goosander Kestrel
Little Egret Mallard
Mute Swan Redwing


Angels Bonnet Blushing Bracket
Butter Cap Clouded Funnel
Lyophyllum Fumosum Sulphur Tuft


Bullfinch Coot
Goldeneye Female Goosander
Drake Mallard Whooper Swan



Blackbird Blue Tit
Bullfinch Coal Tit
Goldfinch Great Tit
Grey Squirrel Nuthatch
Siskin Treecreeper

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