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Addicted To Spring (1 Viewer)

"I'm going to Turnberry for divers next week if you fancy it....."

Some of you may have noticed that I occasionally do wacky things that go beyond the normal Green Sand eccentricity. Plans (if there even are actually plans) will go awry and only a combination of luck and prayer gets me out of whatever mess I've ended up in. Afterwards, I tend to rationalise such events, the rich tapestry of my birding, but in my honest moments I'll admit that sometimes something only seemed like a good idea at the time. I've shared a few such moments before.

After my last- and very productive- day out in Lothian I messaged my mate Bill and compared recent birding tales. He had had an exceptional trip to the Sma' Glen, and congratulated me on my (hard- earned) success in Lothian. And so the fateful words about Turnberry were mentioned. Sometimes, the stars align and plans actually come together. More often, any half- arsed plans I even think about fall through and I end up having to make it up as I go along. So, I had about a week to work out whether a big day out in Ayrshire was do- able.

First, though, was a day out walking in the Sma' Glen with Mrs GS. Taking binos with me on a casual day out is a recipe for a domestic incident, so I was reduced to surreptitious eyeball and eardrum birding. Highlights were grey wag and dipper (lots of dipper) on the river almond. No raptors, no migrants, but its as if the Glen was telling me it would see me again soon enough. On the plus side, Mrs GS seemed very taken by the sight of the dippers doing dipper-y things in the river. Maybe hope for her yet.

This was followed up by fruitless trips to Cathkin Marsh. It is, of course, 100% true that a sign of insanity is to repeat an action in the hope of a different result. I keep going to Cathkin Marsh in the (forlorn) hope of Reed Bunting. It does, of course, reinforce why I like Cathkin Marsh. Its fey and suits itself, which apparently is somewhat like me.

The week at work progressed slowly. Against all odds I secured a loan of my father-in-law's car for the Turnberry trip. I started hoping that this might turn out to be a classic Big Day Out. My days working from home were brightened by the re- appearance, after a gap of years, of a greenfinch back in my garden. Something to be treasured- who'd have thought at a time of year when we're primed for song thrush, skylark and willow warbler that the wonderfully asthmatic wheeze of a greenfinch would be the day's highlight.

Eventually, the weekend rolled around. The feeling of anticipation had been building, not only excitement for a good day out birding with a mate, but a mate who- by most standards- is an exceptional birder. Any lingering thoughts of what could possibly go wrong were cast out like the scariest bits of The Exorcist.

Catastrophising in advance- its what good days are made of.

I don't know if its because of my oft- awry days out, but a day when everything clicks seems to stand out all the more. The first inkling of a successful day was when I didn't sleep in, and we even made it to Turnberry right on schedule. Bill- being a more experienced coastal birder- had checked the tide times, which I normally forget to do. We parked, and wandered down to the beach- the path being adjacent to the monstrosity which is the Trumpian golf course. We paused briefly to get our scopes and tripods set up- and got a reed bunting almost immediately. The next piece of good fortune was, or were, gannets feeding not far offshore. 2 year ticks before 'real' birding had begun; quickly overtaken by the first red- throated diver of the day. I was reassured by Bill that we would be heading somewhere even better.....

The positive vibe was supplemented by a confiding greenfinch as we began our trek along the shore. Not a tick for either of us, but a definite sign of just how far greenfinches have fallen where seeing one is a cause for celebration. Bill mused that they seem to do better at the coast than inland, and that this might be worth someone researching.

A walk along a beach got us to a likely spot to set up, with Ailsa Craig in full view. The shoreline offered multiple ringed plovers (tick) while seawatching got more gannets, more red- throated divers, and my 203rd lifer- Black- throated diver. Cue much celebration.... Scanning along the shoreline got wigeon, shelduck flying past, redshank, and a single knot on the rocks. Guillemot and razorbill on the water, with a summer plumage black guillemot. I'm not an experienced (or particularly skilful) seawatcher, but the only comparison I can make in terms of the bird 'life' available is a woodland full of noise. Sandwich tern were added in due course as a tick, with chiffchaff, grey wagtail, linnet and raven being notable additions to the day list. A brief stop at Maidens got us brent geese, before they somehow disappeared. Neither of us is sure how that happened, mind.

Year ticks galore, dozens of species in total, and a day of laughs, birding tales and great company. All told, just about the perfect day out. It improved even more the next day when, taking advantage of 'take your 20 year old daughter to her work' Sunday I stopped off at Hogganfield Loch. The wonders of social media had told me that there was a little gull and a red- necked grebe on site. Now, I'm not a twitcher.... but since I was in the area I decided it'd be rude not to at least try..... Fortunately, the morally- ambiguous trip was a success. I managed to get the little gull quite near the car park, mostly due to using my observational skills to find another birder. Alongside was a photographer who, rather sniffily, announced that he was there for the grebe and wouldn't cross the road for a little gull. The other birder and I just looked at each other. A walk around the loch got GC grebe looking rather wonderful, and a distant red-necked grebe floating serenely about 6 feet away from a footpath. Hogganfield is a strange, strange place sometimes.....

Bill messaged me a few days later to tell me of his success locally. Spring has sprung, he announced. It was time to find out for myself.

Emboldened by Bill's claim, I took the opportunity to squeeze in the occasional mini- visit to the Clyde Walkway and the Horsefield in a sand martin/ swallow search, albeit without joy. After a run of free time, the Easter weekend was a write off, family stuff intervening and affecting more important things, like looking for warblers. Easter Monday saw my luck restored, he wife cancelled her spin class and I 'borrowed' my car for a quick trip East. The target was Dunbar for kittiwake, fulmar and some photoss of shags. I tried Torness first, but it was pretty quiet bar skylark (you really can't go wrong with skylark, admittedly) and a few gannet on the water. One of the car parks is closed off with nesting bird warning signs, so its looking good for ringed plover again.

I'm proud to say I used all my birding skills and managed to get Kittiwake at Dunbar Harbour. (a couple of thousand of them) I also managed to get a single fulmar, so 2x year ticks. Job done, and as a bonus, got nesting feral pigeons on a rock stack offshore. I even managed to get quite a few photos of aforementioned shags, including a video which includes them living up to their name.

I stopped off at Musselburgh on the way home. The scrapes were a bit disappointing'. Good numbers of not many species. I did manage to get sand martin in the left- hand hide- there was absolutely nothing in the ash embankment, so presumably they hadn't long arrived, at least not enough to be nesting. Year tick, though. The sea was dead, but at least the fence was down so I had a closer look at a bird- less sea. Yay.....

I had supplemented the bank holiday weekend with a couple of days annual leave. Given how quiet Musselburgh had been I opted to save my cash/ brownie points and stay local. Glad I did as well. Got blackcap on the path near the Porters Well area, then another couple further along, slightly up the path next to the school, with a wren trying to drown out its singing. I noticed that Uddingston wrens really have it in for warblers this year- same thing happened to my first chiffchaff near my house. Greenfinch active in the area area of the school as well. Surrounded by warblers calling, and its the asthmatic wheeze of the greenfinch that made my wee heart leap.

I wandered up to Fin Me Oot. The dead woods were slightly more alive than usual, but still absolutely nowhere near what they should be. Chiffchaff and WW were singing near the FMO bench. Wandering up to the bridge, I got sand martins and a couple of big, beautiful swallows overflying the field'. Both dipper and grey wag made an appearance on the Rotten Calder, which capped off a pretty good walk all told. Its safe to say April has been pretty good so far

"Spring has sprung....." Prophetic words indeed. Things seem to have clicked in April- - both in quantity of birds, and in the quality of birding. The best thing about it is that its still early days in term of Spring. The positive endorphins coming from longer days of sunlight and birdsong are addictive. The more we get, the more we want. I find myself staggering home even from a local walk with my ears, my soul buzzing with the noise of birdsong, and looking forward to my next day out. And thats the way it should be.

Stay healthy, stay safe folks.

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