Our Expeditions: June 2020

Week ending: 28th June Baron's Haugh, Hogganfield Loch LNR
 

I managed out during the two sunny days we had last week. On Wednesday I headed for RSPB Barons Haugh. To give me the best chance of getting lots of pictures I took my Nikon D500 camera along with my Sigma 105mm macro lens, for flowers and insects, and Sigma 600 mm zoom lens, for more distant subject such as birds and animals. In the car park I got off to a flier with pictures of a Small Tortoiseshell butterfly on Pencilled Cranesbill. On my way down to the Marsh Hide I also got shots of a Meadow Brown  on a Bramble flower and just outside the hide, a Green-veined White languishing on Bramble leaves.

Small Tortoiseshell
Meadow Brown Green-veined White

It was very quiet at the Marsh Hide, yielding no birdies. So I tried the next hide, the Causeway Hide, where I was a bit more successful, getting a nice picture of a Coot. Unfortunately, my stay there was interrupted by an invasion of young people with no sense of how to maintain social distancing. My next stop was the banks of the River Clyde. There I accidentally spooked a pair of nearly mature ducklings. The Phoenix Hide was occupied, but from a quick scan from the side of the hide I could see that there weren’t any birds within 100m. I should say that I could hear plenty birds singing from deep within their leafy covers - Whitethroat, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff and Robin. In fact, I didn’t see much until I got to the Centenary Hide. From there I spotted a Whitethroat belting out a tune from the top branches of a willow tree. My progress around the reserve was temporarily halted by a small herd of wayward, and big, cows. I only managed to pass when they went for a wee paddle in the River Clyde.

Coot Juvenile Mallard
Whitethroat Cow
I decided that for the last stage of my visit I would use the macro lens. First to attract my attention was a Sunfly on a beautiful Blue Sow Thistle flower. I got up close and personal with a Common Clusterfly, managing a shot of its compound eye. On more Bramble I caught an image of a hovering Early Bumblebee. Next I snapped a wee beige Carder Bumblebee hanging onto a tubular flower of Common Comfrey.

Sun Fly Common Clusterfly
Early Bumblebee Common Carder Bumblebee

On long grass by the river I was pleased to see one of my favourite damselflies, the Emerald Damselfly. Closeby, I also found Common Blue and Blue-tailed Damselflies. I think they are delightful creatures. These were my last captures at the Haugh but I ended the visit fairly satisfied with my haul of pictures, while disappointed that I hadn’t seen many birds.

Emerald Damselfly
Common Blue Damselfly Blue-tailed Damselfly

The next day I ventured to Hogganfield Park LNR, so confident that I would see birds that I left my macro lens in the car. With the sun still shining merrily I started my circuit of the loch with a shot of a small group Mute Swans gathered at the car park end. There were also many Greylag Geese on the water. I came across a stern-looking Grey Heron posing on one of the artificial islands. It seemed totally unconcerned with passers-by. Further out on the water I could see a female Great Crested Grebe diving for fish, but no sign of the chick I saw last week.

Mute Swans Greylag Goose
Grey Heron Great Crested Grebe

On the sandy beach beside the swing park there was a very active assembly of Black-headed and Lesser Black-backed Gulls. On the east side of the island I photographed a Coot feeding her 3 hungry chicks, and on another of the artificial islands, a fair distance from the lochside, a pair of Great Crested Grebes  were swapping places on the nest (If you look carefully between the grebes you can see the tip of the pale-coloured egg).

Black-headed Gull Lesser Black-backed Gull
Coot Great Crested Grebe


 I next made a slight detour to the area north of the eastside pond where I heard a calling Willow Warbler . Not expecting to see it due to the thick foliage, I was pleasantly surprised when it appeared on the low branches for long enough to get a few decent shots. On the grass I noticed the attractive sight of a Woodpigeon nestled in short grass and daisies. By the pond I found some damselflies - Common Blue and Blue-tailed Damselflies.

Willow Warbler Wood Pigeon
Common Blue Damselfly Blue-tailed Damselfly

I caught sight of a pair of Small Heath butterflies  cavorting above bramble bushes. I was willing them to land but they continued with their aerobatics until they were out of sight. The picture below gives an impression of the moment. I made my way back to the loch side to continue my circuit and I snapped a Small Tortoiseshell sunning itself on a wee sandy patch. My final shots were of the visit were of the cute variety - Mallard ducklings nibbling breadcrumbs thrown in by children who were delighted to see them - as was I.

Small Heath Small Tortoiseshell
Mallard Ducklings
 
It was good to see and photograph some birds that weren’t sparrows or starlings or any of the other birds of my back garden that have been entertaining me over the last three months. I feel I took great advantage of the weather, especially since the rest of the week was wild, wet and windy, and dull. Wee Nicky announced that we would probably be able to travel more than 5 miles after July 3rd. Look out coastal birds, we’ll soon be watching you.



Week ending: 21st June
  Jim’s Garden, Hogganfield Loch

We had visit from a wee stranger to our back garden this week, a young Grey Squirrel . It looked hesitant and lost, and after looking around for 10 minutes it nipped off through the hedge.

Grey Squirrel

The House Sparrows were very active, more than usual, as some had demanding fledglings on tow. They are very messy feeders, good news for the ground feeders, and consequently my supply of seed, nuts and fatballs is nearly exhausted.

House Sparrow 

We don’t see much of Mr and Mrs Blackbird since my neighbour felled their nesting tree, although I did catch some shots of the female with a worm. There have been hordes of Starlings swooping in to gorge noisily on the fatballs. In contrast to the neurotic Starlings, the much calmer Woodpigeon (another victim of the felled tree), returned to more calmly gather seed below the feeders. It’s cousins the Feral Pigeons were more frequent visitors, descending from the relative safety of the rooftops until they felt threatened by encroaching humans.

Female Blackbird Starling
Wood Pigeon Feral Pigeon

I revisited Hogganfield Park LNR once again this week and found plenty on which to engage my camera, such as the many Mute Swans and Greylag Geese making most of people’s generous gifts of food .

Mute Swans  Greylag Geese

At the car park (closed due to the lockdown) I was delighted to get close shots of some familiar birds. Moorhen, Greylag and Lesser Black-backed Gulls must have wondered  where the cars have gone that brought their folk with bags of bread. Walkers were now returning though, albeit with more dogs and naughty children to chase the birds into the water. I noticed a naughty Magpie with a chunk of bread it had stolen from a smaller bird.

Moorhen Greylag Goose
Lesser Black-backed Gull Magpie

There was a very pale Greylag which may be a leucistic bird or perhaps a hybrid. It’ll be interesting to see if its plumage gets darker later in the year. As I strolled around the Loch I snapped pictures of what still felt like long lost friends, until the recent relaxation of the lockdown. Coot, Mallards and Canada Geese seemed to be getting on very well without us.

Leucistic? Greylag Goose Coot
 Mallard Canada Goose

The summer wildflowers were in full bloom. Meadow Cranesbill caught my eye, as did Ragged Robin and Oxeye Daisies.

Meadow Cranesbill Ragged Robin
Oxeye Daisy

At the small pond to the east of the Loch I was pleased to see a couple of Greenfinches , the female hiding in the bushes and listening to the male rasping its voice atop a Hawthorn bush. In the same area I photographed a Whitethroat  clutching a moth in its beak just before it descended into the thorny undergrowth to feed its chicks.

Greenfinch
Whitethroat

At the end of my walk I came across a vicious altercation in the Canada Goose flock. One very angry goose was going spare, over what, I didn’t see. It chased any goose that crossed its path until it had most of the area to itself. Gladly, no birds seemed harmed in the outburst. It was pleasant relief to find a few Black-headed Gulls quietly preening on some lochside rocks. That was a bit of a change as it is usually the gulls that make most noise. My last sighting was of a Great Crested Grebe chick close to the bank, too close for its parents who were calling anxiously from the safety of the centre of the Loch. It was encouraged back by the promise of fish (which unfortunately I didn’t see due to poor light and social distancing concerns).

Canada Goose
Black-headed gull Great Crested Grebe Juvenile

Hopefully the Scottish Government will consider soon a further relaxation of the lockdown regulations to allow travel to the coasts. If they do, I suspect John and I might need to get some camouflaged face masks, which, when you think of it, is not a bad idea anyway, considering we’re  trying to hide from the birds in the first place.


Week ending:  14th June  Hogganfield Loch LNR

Encouraged by a statement by the steadfast Professor Jason Leitch, that we could “drive around 5 miles to exercise”, I thought I’d revisit one of my usual (pre-lockdown) haunts, Hogganfield Park LNR. The car park there was closed off, but I was able to get a space amongst the many cars parked along Cumbernauld Road, and it wasn’t long before I was walking the lochside footpath, once again enjoying the natural delights of one of Glasgow’s finest parks. First to catch my eye was a Red Admiral Butterfly resting on a Yellow Flag Iris leaf. There were many bees on the Iris flowers, such as the Garden Bumblebee. Nearby on one of the artificial islands I snapped a well-lit Female Tufted Duck. I also managed to catch a shot of a Moorhen as it beat a hasty retreat from some advancing swans.

Red Admiral Garden Bumblebee
Female Tufted Duck Moorhen

The were a couple of families of Mute Swans on the Loch. I watched cygnets feeding in the lochside reed beds, carefully tended by their parents, ever-alert to the threat of untended dogs, of which, sadly, there were a few.

Mute Swan

In the eastern section of the park, less busy than the main thoroughfare, I watched a Magpie devour seed left out for that very purpose. Not long afterwards, a Whitethroat appeared on a path-side tree branch. On the pond there were a few Tufted Ducks and Coots but little else.

Magpie Whitethroat
Tufted Duck Coot

As I made my way back to the Loch I passed an area of rough ground that contained Ragged Robin, flowers that lives up to their name. At the edge of the Loch there were a few wild orchids. The two species that I noticed were the Northern Marsh Orchid and, just coming into bloom, the Common Spotted Orchid . The latter was surrounded by Yellowrattle and Meadow Buttercups, a very pretty sight.

Ragged Robin Northern Marsh Orchid
Common Spotted Orchid

I was delighted to see several pairs of Great Crested Grebes, one of my favourite birds. I watched one pair feeding their ever-pleading chick with fish.

Great Crested Grebe

There were a couple of geese species present. Greylag Geese  mingled with the Mute Swan flock, each eager to receive food from kind people carrying bags of bread. Gathered in the middle of the Loch was a sizeable flock of Canada Geese , who seemed to be sleeping. Maybe they’d had a hard night flying. Also resting were a small colony of Lesser Black-backed Gulls on a pontoon that has been relocated further from the path than on my last visit. A couple of Greylags were sleeping in the middle of motley collection of Lesser Black-backs.

Greylag Goose Canada Goose
Lesser Black-backed Gull Lesser Black-backed Gull 4th Cycle

By the edge of the Loch, a single Black-headed Gull was scratching its head just as a Grey Heron flew in to survey the shallows for a tasty morsel, perhaps a frog? A Little Grebe appeared on the scene, making repeated dives in search of small fish. My final shot of the visit was of a Carrion Crow surveying the small sandy beach at the south end of the Loch, waiting for a feeding opportunity no doubt.

Black-headed Gull Grey Heron
Little Grebe Carrion Crow

It was certainly nice to get back to Hogganfield, but, have no doubt, it was not as relaxed a place as it had been. Most people were obviously anxious to observe social distance rules, but a few irritating eejits were not as sensible and were causing tempers to rise.  Let’s hope that wee Nicola is able to lead us out of the nightmare before too long, despite them. 

Week ending: 7th June   Strathclyde Park

This week’s blog
mainly documents the delights of a particular walk in Strathclyde Country Park . The walk along the South Calder Water  river, that  flows into the northeast of Strathclyde Loch, is entirely wooded and lined with wild flowers. My walk there started with a newbie for me at that site, the Wood Cranesbill. By the riverside there were many tall Dames Violet plants freshly in bloom and in sunlit passages, star-like Greater Stitchwort flowers were attracting insects. As I wandered under an impressive arched railway bridge, a main line from Glasgow to London, I spotted a patch of Lady’s Mantle  growing through short grass.

Wood Cranesbill Dames Violet
Greater Stitchwort Lady's Mantle

I came across a section of the riverbank that was lined with flowering Common Comfrey. To the sound of many bees working from flower to flower I photographed Common Carder, White and Buff-tailed Bumblebees, the latter two were large queen bees as big as your thumb. As I passed a rocky limestone outcrop I noticed some pink flowers of Herb Robert  clinging in a narrow damp crack.

Carder Bumblebee Herb Robert
Buff-tailed Bumblebee
 
Along the path edges I found several places where Water and Wood Avens were flourishing. Both species were starting to form spiked seed heads.

Water Avens
Wood Avens

As I neared the path’s end I managed a lovely shot of a Marmalade Hoverfly  resting on a sunlit blade of tall grass. I also caught a Grey Squirrel trying to look invisible, clinging upsidedown on a tree, before it realised it wasn’t working and hastily scampered upwards. I crossed the short distance to the Foreshore Carpark. It was completely empty of cars (the Park was closed to cars due to the Lockdown). As I scanned it for wildflowers I was surprised to find Common Blue Damselflies, who are water-dwelling, on the grassy verges. The Loch is about 100m away from the car park.

Marmalade Hoverfly Grey Squirrel
Common Blue Damselfly

I photographed Red and White Clover, and, in the same family (pea) , tiny Hop Trefoil. Beside a low wall the were a few Yarrow plants.

Red Clover White Clover
Hop Trefoil Yarrow

Another common roadside plant, the exotically-named Pineapple Mayweed , was growing in the kerbside. It is actually native to Asia and is a favourite food for foragers. Buzzing of bees attracted me to large bushes of Dog Rose and Rhododendrons. I found mainly Red-tailed Bumblebees deep in the large flowers.

Pineapple Mayweed Rhododendron
Red-tailed Bumblebee Dog Rose

 There was a large flock of Greylag Geese grazing by the Loch. They were conscious of the many walkers and their dogs and took to the water for safety if they perceived danger. Some on the west side of the Loch had goslings. I noticed a more brightly-coloured pair amongst the more usual dull ochre ones. I suspect these will grow up to be hybrids. Tufted Ducks accompanied the geese on the water but never emerged onto dry land.

Greylag Geese

A very conspicuous white goose was with the Greylags. It was a domestic Embden Goose, probably an escapee from a farm or collection. I snapped a few of the very common birds seen around the Loch. These include Jackdaws, Carrion Crows and Mute Swans. Only a few years ago there were few Greylags and large and swelling number of Swans, but now the Greylags far outnumber the Swans.

Embden Goose Jackdaw
Mute Swan Carrion Crow

I hope I’ve given a flavour of the natural delights of the paths along the South Calder water, and  Strathclyde Country Park in general. It is a wonderful resource, more known for its water sporting activities, but it is a fact that far more people use it for walking than sailing or canoeing. Give it a try.

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