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ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Columbia

Changing Our Birding Ways (1 Viewer)

Quiet week, and quieter weekend. Both in terms of birds, and of 'life events.' Garden watching saw the usual suspects, with the addition of long- tail tit onto the garden list for the year. Meanwhile, my friends- both within 2 miles of my house, in different directions- are fed up with the number of redpoll they're getting in the garden. If anyone can explain this, please let me know.

As always when you're working and reduced to staring at a bird feeder, you end up desperate for the weekend to come. For obvious reasons, the usual daydreams about exotic places are ridiculous pipedreams (though I'm fairly sure some of the birding community are less strict about this. No judgement made, just an observation) that only serve to darken the mood. Living for the weekend has become living for a day out in Lanarkshire, mostly South Lanarkshire (my council area) and allowing myself to visit those parts of North Lanarkshire which are within a mile or so of the boundary. Even then, I feel slightly awkward as though I might be breaking the rules. The irony of this, is that the same hospital and health board covers the places I go, so it wouldn't be a case of burdening health service resources.

So, my week was spent watching the blue and great tits flitting about the feeders, with occasional ruminations about what to do at the weekend. I've deliberately not looked at 'recent sightings' from any of my favourite places, but was aware of 'twitchable' birds within my comfort zone. As I've mentioned before, extensively, I'm not a twitcher, and it was sobering to think that this was the direction my mind was taking me.

Checking my year list over, I noted a few birds that should be easy ticks. Birds available locally, birds which I would be able to tick. After completing my Dad duties on Saturday, I headed off to Baron's Haugh and the adjacent Dalzell Estate. My thinking was grey wagtail either on the River CLyde, or in the Dalzell Burn passing through the estate. A walk along the river to the Carbarns Farm area, with the hopeful aim of common gull, pheasant, and curlew. Any trip to Baron's Haugh can offer Raven, Peregrine, and the Dalzell Woods can produce sparrowhawk. In theory.

Arriving at the car park, it was once again full. Terrible parking meant I couldn't squeeze in anywhere. A casual glance around saw masses of dog walkers, pram- pushers, and cyclists. No sign of any birders in the car park. At an RSPB reserve.

Removing myself to the closest residential street, I opted to begin with Dalzell Woods and ignore the reserve. I quickly got treecreeper and great tit, with nuthatch calling from a distance away. Great Spotted Woodpecker gave contact calls from deeper in the woods. The path through the woods seemed a little busier than usual, but not oppressively so. (I previously described my last trip to Baron's Haugh ) Blackbirds and woodpigeons were other fairly obvious birds. Further along, the pathways became noticeably busier, and I opted to move away from the main paths. Unfortunately, this common sense approach was quite, er, common and the side paths weren't significantly less busy. Progress down to the river was slow, with the need to step off the path every 10 yards or so, to allow people past. It wasn't all gloom, as one of these moments allowed me great views of a nuthatch.

Anyway, the riverside path (Clyde Walkway) was packed with the usual array of non- birders, social distancing was impossible, and relatively few people even tried it. Fortunately, I like muddy boots so had no problem stepping off the path into the clabber, but you have to wonder how hard it is for people to turn away from each other as they walk past, or to even walk in single file. Carbarns area was equally busy, with anglers added to the admixture of non- birders. Needless to say, Carbarns pool was free of birds bar mute swan, black- headed gull, and a single lesser- black backed gull. No curlew.

A similarly perilous trip back along the river got goosander and mallard. A walk up the side of the Dalzell Burn was absolutely bird free. Zero. Nada. Not even a robin or a wren. No grey wag, in other words. A trudge back to the car and the beginnings of seething anger.

Sunday dawned, and Mrs Green Sand was quite happy for me to go out again for a couple of hours. I'm fairly sure I'm not great company when I'm mumping and moaning in the house, being grumpy. I can't blame her for wanting some peace and quiet. And this is where my long- sought after weekend went seriously downhill.

If you look at some of my other blog entries over time I make a big deal about being a mudlark, I need to be out in the wilds, I'm not hugely keen on even 'visitor centre' reserves (WWT Caerlaverock excepted) and urban birding as a concept fills me with dread. Even if I wasn't birding, my mental health does better being 'proper' outdoors. Fresh air on my face, the crunch of frost underfoot, taking my shoes off and feeling the grass under my toes. That sort of thing. So why then did I find myself at Strathclyde Park on Sunday, scanning a frozen loch? I wasn't twitching the ring- billed gull, btw, as I struggle with gulls at the best of times and without a scope picking it out would've been near impossible. Instead, I was looking for common gull. Easy to find normally, a gnawing fear was building that the third week in January had left me without one. No logic to it at all. The plus side was that there were plenty of common gulls to tick. The downside, and this is a serious downside, was the number of people on site, taking their daily exercise. Cyclists, prams, kids on trikes and chucking stones onto the frozen water. It was difficult to maintain social distancing- at one point I stepped onto the frozen loch due to a group walking eight- abreast. The noise, disruption, and sheer numbers meant that anything resembling a birding trip was out of the question. It literally was ticking the common gull, then escaping.

The unfamiliar feeling I had, I then realised, was resentment. Then, shame. I resented other people enjoying the outdoors. I resented people making use of 'MY' nature reserve the day before. I resented people who were perhaps meeting up with friends for the first time in months. There's a debate locally about Baron's Haugh and its sudden influx of visitors. Some purists are stand- offish, yet a friend of mine pointed out that surely its better to have as many people as possible come to love the place. Leaving aside the obvious benefits of being outdoors. This is as sound an argument as you can make, but the arguments to the contrary are equally hard fought.

When, though, did we lose our empathy for each other?

We're in lockdown mk2 for the long run. All my good intentions about making the most of each opportunity don't seem to be working. I knew the Haugh and Strathclyde Park would be really busy, yet I went there. I knew I hate birding in ANY public park, yet still went to Strathclyde to tick a bird. So much for enjoying being out, and seeing what happened when I got there. I was applying my 'big day out' approach to local birding, which will never, ever work. And nor should it.

Its Wednesday now, and already I'm thinking of the weekend. I'm thinking of spending time locally, getting an early start, and just enjoying being outdoors. There will be birds 'there', I know this instinctively. The most important thing, is that I'm 'there' too. Maybe then I can reconnect with whats important.

Stay healthy, stay safe.

John
 

Deb Burhinus

Used to be well known! 😎
Europe
I hear your pain John 😂

Don’t worry, the birds will still be there when everything goes back to ‘normal’, when kids go back to school, adults go back to work, dogs are again left alone all day and the only people you will have to contend with are really annoying superfit skinny folk who wear shorts when it’s snowing and who have to show their dedication to fitness by running at top speed during their coffee breaks and lunch breaks around the nature reserve. It’s usually at those moments I stop in the middle of the narrow path and stare fixated through my bins at the top of the nearest tree (and loose my hearing 😁).

I’m enjoying your blog btw.
 

Green Sandpiper

Well-known member
Scotland
I hear your pain John 😂

Don’t worry, the birds will still be there when everything goes back to ‘normal’, when kids go back to school, adults go back to work, dogs are again left alone all day and the only people you will have to contend with are really annoying superfit skinny folk who wear shorts when it’s snowing and who have to show their dedication to fitness by running at top speed during their coffee breaks and lunch breaks around the nature reserve. It’s usually at those moments I stop in the middle of the narrow path and stare fixated through my bins at the top of the nearest tree (and loose my hearing 😁).

I’m enjoying your blog btw.
thank you so much for reading my ramblings about rambling. And thank you for spreading some positivity- I'm glad I'm not the only one with a seething resentment about the Lycra Warriors.
 

StephenL

Member
Hi John, I really enjoy reading your ramblings about your rambling. In some ways I was jealous as I cannot get to Barons Haugh but also thankful that I could not if it is that busy. If you are looking for your grey wagtail fix you could try New Lanark. I had a very good view of one today for a long period and similar with a goldcrest than landed beside me and did not mind as I followed it from tree to tree as it looked for food. New Lanark can be busier on a Saturday & Sunday but there are numerous other paths to take that are not as well trodden and it might just ease some of the angst against the lycra brigade.

Stephen
 

Green Sandpiper

Well-known member
Scotland
Hi John, I really enjoy reading your ramblings about your rambling. In some ways I was jealous as I cannot get to Barons Haugh but also thankful that I could not if it is that busy. If you are looking for your grey wagtail fix you could try New Lanark. I had a very good view of one today for a long period and similar with a goldcrest than landed beside me and did not mind as I followed it from tree to tree as it looked for food. New Lanark can be busier on a Saturday & Sunday but there are numerous other paths to take that are not as well trodden and it might just ease some of the angst against the lycra brigade.

Stephen
Hi Stephen, thanks for that, I appreciate it. I used to take the kids to New Lanark when they were much younger, but haven't been for ages. Too long, maybe, given that its a stunning place, even without the birds, so probably just what I'd need to re- charge the mojo. I'm due a couple of days flexi leave to recover from the Superbowl, so the Tuesday seems like it might work out for me. This weekend has a lot of Dad duties, but the intention is to splash about in the mud in Uddingston. Mojo charging at its best!!

John
 

StephenL

Member
Hi John, for your info I have seen the grey wagtail in the hotel car park but as you know it is just luck a lot of the time. Somewhere else that you may want to consider is Carmichael estate which is on the road to Biggar. During the week is a lot quieter and although there is not a huge amount of birds at this time of the year it is good during the breeding season. Nuthatch, treecreeper, yellowhammer, buzzards and I had a good view of a cuckoo last year. If you need more info/directions let me know.
Enjoy wherever you go and I look forward to your next instalment.
 
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Columbia
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Columbia
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Columbia

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