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I’ve 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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Birding sites- the Green Sand Assessment.

Posted Tuesday 12th February 2019 at 21:44 by Green Sandpiper
Like a lot of us, I'm guessing, I'm a huge fan of Bill Oddie's Little Black Bird Book. I'm a fan of the man himself, naturally, but there's something about the self- deprecating tone of the LBBB that strikes a chord. One section involves our man categorising different types of birders, in a mostly non- judgemental way, leaving it up to ourselves to form our own opinions. During a recent day out wandering in the cold I found myself wondering whether we could categorise sites or birding locations in the same way.

The one that strikes fear into my heart (as it usually involves a wasted day out) is 'public park birding.' This, as you might guess, involves braving dog walkers, cyclists, power- joggers, mum-and-pram combinations, and generally, loads and loads of people. Usually only done this for a twitch, and as I'm not very good at twitching, usually ends abysmally.

Linked to this, is 'urban birding' since most public parks I know of are located in or close to towns. Now, I know that some folk love urban birding, some folk manage to do this very successfully, but as my working week is spent in Glasgow, the only thing which keeps me sane are idle day- dreams of heading into the wilderness at the weekend. Wandering around the city, staring skyward and breathing in toxic levels of fumes, just isn't for me.

Next up would be 'nature reserve birding' which I've had to split into 2. Firstly, there's the 'visitor centre' birding experience, usually with a shop attached, where most of the birding action will take place in strategically placed feeders. (by strategically placed, I mean 'right in front of the big window') These places often have more people than species at any one time. A notable exception, by the way, is the WWT reserve at Caerlaverock, which- despite its shop and tea- room- is a real birder's reserve. Many RSPB reserves could take a lesson from them, if I was being honest.

Much better nature reserve birding can be found on those- usually hidden- gems run by wildlife trusts and even the RSPB. No shops, no tea- rooms. Also, no toilets, but there are ways round that. Places like Fowlesheugh RSPB in Aberdeenshire is a seabird city, a clifftop adventure- especially adventurous if its breezy- and one of those places that offers you a real spectacle. Other places like Ken- Dee Marshes and Wood of Cree in Galloway offer great birding that you have to work hard for. Balgavies Loch SWT gives you ridiculous views of osprey, and Inversnaid RSPB offers some reall woodland birding, complete with the chance to be eaten alive by highland midges. The perfect mix of wildness and management.

The final, and idealised type, is 'completely wild' birding. Normally involving camping out- the hardier proponents of it would bivouac without a tent, and not risk missing anything at dawn. Self- sufficient, this is the kind of birding that a very, very few of us would a) try, b) be allowed to do by our spouses, c) succeed in. As I said, its idealised, the stuff of dreams as I spend my day in a suffocating office, and my weekend wandering around a public park searching aimlessly for the Med Gull someone claims they maybe saw earlier that week.

As much as there are preferred options, truth is, there's something for everyone, depending on what goals you set. I know of someone who takes binos to work every day, just in case. That someone is an awfully handsome chap named Green Sandpiper.
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