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Ive lived in Lanarkshire all of my 40 years, and in that time I have seen my local area change beyond all recognition, and definitely not for the better. From the appearance of massive identikit housing estates where rolling fields once rang to the song of yellowhammers, the inexorable process of urbanisation goes on as the local authorities undertake a concerted effort to eradicate every sign of nature- or so it seems. The nature- filled halcyon days of my childhood are a swiftly receding memory, replaced by the creeping horror of what is replacing them. Its important, I think, to highlight what we, as nature lovers in general and bird lovers in particular, still have, for the moment at least.
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Staying Local

Posted Tuesday 17th January 2017 at 19:12 by Green Sandpiper
after the Big Day Out at the start of the month, I've had a couple of quiet weekends. A flying visit to Baron's Haugh was mildly dissatisfying as it was relatively quiet. I tend to have an idealised view of the Haugh as a birding haven, which more often than not isn't borne out by experience. Still, did manage to add long- tailed tit and siskin to my year list.

A later visit to CAthkin Marsh SWT reserve got me kestrel for the list, nothing else, but some unwanted attention from the now- infamous 'dogger' who seems to favour the reserve for illicit trysts.

Neither visit, clearly, was anywhere near satisfactory.

Family life intervened again at the weekend, and I was restricted to squeezing a couple of hours birding locally in Uddingston. Bluebill, whose knowledge of the area is matched only by his knowledge of the East Coast and bus timetables to get there, had tipped me off about stock doves in the woods.

Once allowed off the leash by the Boss- chick, I got my stuff together and dragged my son and heir off the couch to come with me. A dull, dreich, utterly uninspiring day was brightened up by the boy's incessant chatter. The woods along the river were quiet except for corvids and woodpigeons. High- pitched seeping noises were suggestive of goldcrest, but none were visible. a trio of male goldeneye, in various states of plumage, entertained us on the river Clyde. Mallard and mute swans attended, as expected. We kept looking skywards for raptors, but alas, this was a raptor- free zone. Things were not going well.

I ws aware that little grebe can be seen on the river, along with goosander, and occasionally kingfisher. sharing my attention from the treetops (for stock doves) to the water brought my attention to a trail of bubbles. A lump of brown broke the surface, and my immediate thoughts were of what type of diving duck I was dealing with. My son, with sharper eyes than me, grabbed my arm and hissed ' look' and pointed with his free hand. Rather than a duck, the unmistakeable snout of an otter broke the surface, followed by its lithe body and tail. It frolicked in the water for only a few seconds, then disappeared, not to be seen again.

Rejuvenated by this, we continued walking. A glance across the river and movement in the treetops caught my eye. A flock of half a dozen stock doves bustled about, and finally flew back across the river, settling right above our heads. Target bird, year tick, and best views in quite a few years. Also, a patch tick, as I'd only ever seen them before elsewhere.

Light was beginning to fail, and I set us a limit to how far we would go before turning back. My attention was again brought to the high- pitched 'seep' call. (Incidentally, I'm 43, listen to loud rock music, so am pretty happy I can still hear high- pitched calls) I explained to the boy that he should watch for movement, nd before long a half dozen goldcrest darted into the brush at the base of a tree. Year tick 2.

By now, between the otter and the ticks, the day was a success, and we were about to turn back when I saw 2 little grebe surfacing. Third year tick, and not a bad going home bird, really.

What started frustratingly with last year's plague of 'family' stuff always coinciding with my birding day ultimately turned into a good afternoon out. Year ticks, an otter, and a look of genuine interest in the boy's eyes. It also helped when he learned that at 9 years olf, he saw his first otter a full 25 years sooner than I had. A bit of healthy competition will see us well.
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