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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.
Rating: 2 votes, 5.00 average.

Knowledge and Expectation

Posted Tuesday 7th February 2017 at 18:41 by Green Sandpiper
We all make a big deal about our knowledge, or gen. Whether its about a particular species, or a particular area, 'gen' is one of our most valued commodities. But what happens when this knowledge turns the hope of a good day out into the expectation of a good day out? Is a little bit of knowledge a dangerous thing?

Take last weekend. Boss- chick had allowed me free rein on the saturday to have a full day out. I set my sights on Musselburgh and my first trip to SCotland's east coast this year. My earlier Big Day Out had taken some of the year ticks I would expect in Musselburgh, but there were still birds galore to tick- off, right? Birds I'd had there before. Surf scoter, skylark, sparrowhawk, other birds not begiining with S, I was salivating with the epectation of a tick- fest.

Saturday arrives, and naturally, I slept in. Worse still, I hadn't checked the tides, such was my louche approach to the day. The first sign of potential problems was the horizontal sleet on the motorway heading East. While the sleet eased, the cold, wind and rain didn't. The Scots word dreich is particularly apt when describing miserable weather on the East coast. Anyway, the tie was far out and I resigned myself to finding small birds on large mudflats. Luckily, I got turnstone almost immediately and watched a number of them going about their business. Redshanks and various gulls showed, and a very kind local guide pointed me in the direction of a grey plover, almost invisible on the mud. Bar-wits probed the mud in small numbers, but the sea was so far out that Jodrell Bank telescope would come in handy ( Bongofury 2017) A flash of white far out though did get me my first eider of the year.

Slightly disquieted by the lack of ticks so far I headed to the scrapes. Here, good numbers of dunlin added my third year tick of the day. Very high numbers of barwits and grey plover dominated the area, though, and I spent time hoping for a sparrowhawk to pass by and set the mass of waders wheeling skyward. No. Such. Luck.

With time running short and the tide coming in, I ventured back to the sea wall, where I got excellent views of 2 male long tailed ducks 20- 30 yards out. Further scrutiny got me a very distant velvet scoter, probably my worst views ever of a velvet. Time running out, and hypothermia setting in, I headed back along the sea front, pretty disappointed by the lack of passerines. No linnet, rock pipit, certainly no twite, no skylark. From deep in my mumbling, though, movement caught my eye and I got a splendid pair of reed buntings high on a tree. where I had seen them before, but totally forgot about. Local gen, see...

In this case, my knowledge that Musselburgh is a great place led to unreasonable expectations, and worse still, a slightly dismissive approach to what there was. 7 year ticks all told is hardly a failure, and while the birding can hardly be at fault, perhaps the Birder in this case was.

Fast worward to Sunday, and my next day out. Strict time limits kept me to the West, and I headed to the Clyde estuary at Cardross and Ardmore Point. Word was that there was a slavonian grebe at ardmore, although I held out very little hopeof seeing it. Word also was that there was a greenshank across the river in Parklea, and this is where I headed first. Parklea- and its surrounding places, are more miss than hit for me. I never feel comfortable in such an industrial area (the Clyde is pretty filthy) and worse still, I never get the tides right. Such was my surprise at seeing not one but 2 greenshank right where they were said to have been. I allowed myself a slight fist- pump, then decided to push my luck and head across the river. Cardross and Ardmore don't always offer a feast of ticks, but do tend to be enjoyable places to bird- Ardmore being the more enjoyable of the two. I did hold out very little hope, though, but decided to make the most of beig out. My visit to Cardross didn't get me the hoped- for scaup, but did get a little egret, my first for the site. A short drive to Ardmore point got me very muddy feet and the foretold slavonian grebe. It also got me the bonus of a red- breasted merganser, offering very close albeit gloomy views. 3 year ticks being a triumph of hope over expectation for the day.

Over the 2 weekends, 2 very different weekends, I managed to add 10 year ticks. Of these, the three on the Clyde are probably the sweetest because my local gen of the place, my knowledge and experience had, in contrast to the week before, left me with minimal expectations. Still, as I write this on a cold, dark February evening, with the wind howling outsdie, I can look back and smile at 2 very enjoyable days out.
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