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Its All In The Planning.... (1 Viewer)

After the excitement of Mrs Green Sand's big number birthday, I fell back into the routine of working long hours, and watching the feeders. I'm of an age where 3am toilet breaks are a ting, and thankfully the song thrush can reliably wake me up before my bladder does. I'm definitely trying to find the positives there....

Anyway, another positive of putting in long hours is the build up of flexi credit, and the tantalising promise of an easing out of lockdown in the near future so I can blow it all.

The weekend arrived with the usual to- do list of Dad duties, but owing to luck more than skill I found myself with a few spare hours on Saturday afternoon. Son-and-heir was at a similar loose end, and I persuaded him that going walking with me was the best idea ever. By persuading, I took his i- pad from him and asked him to choose a week he gets it back. A slight flaw in the plan was his hiking boots were too small, and his reluctance to wear his older sister's ("they're PINK Dad....") and we lost time with a detour to Go Outdoors.

Scotland's Covid restrictions, I think I've mentioned, allow for outdoor exercise to begin up to 5 miles from the boundary of your own local authority. I think this is incredibly generous in comparison with England, and incredibly clear- cut. Son-and-heir is pencilled in to be doing the West Highland Way with me in the summer, and I opted to head somewhere which offered decent walking, fresh air, and the possibility of birds. Cairn Table, near Muirkirk, is marginally over the border into East Ayrshire, but still within 5 miles. It offers, on occasion, red grouse, curlew, oyc, SE owl and- once- a hen harrier. I had no expectations of this, but did think that some sort of avian life would appear.

And it did. 30 yards out of the car park, 2 female pheasant appeared out of the tussocky grass. Year tick. We couldn't complete the walk, due to failing light and leaving the head torch in the car. Did get oystercatchers in the wild (as opposed to looking glum at Hogganfield Loch) plus meadow pipits starting to make an appearance. Nothing more spectacular, but fun nontheless- not least because months of lockdown had left the normally superfit son-and-heir slightly struggling. A year tick, spectacular scenery, fresh air, and a couple of hours with the boy. A good day.

This spontaneity meant that I couldn't sit and ruminate about what I was going to do, and not be able to do, on the Sunday. I was acutely aware that I lacked grey wagtail, curlew, sparrowhawk and siskin, with each theoretically having been very tickable thus far this year. Baron's Haugh- equally theoretically- offered chances to tick at least some of these. CAll it a lack of ambition, or the fact that my sojourn into fresh air on the Saturday left me asleep on the couch rather than planning anything on the Saturday night. Either one works....

The Haugh car park was full once again, a portent if ever there was one. I opted this time to head for CArbarns via Dalzell Woods and the Dalzell Burn- where's I've had grey wag before. Carbarns Woods were alive with the sound of nuthatch and song thrush. Lots and lots of song thrush. EVerywhere. The water level on the Burn was low, and ideal for both dipper and grey wagtail. There was some evidence of scat on the exposed rocks, albeit not a huge amount. It came as no surprise, then, that there was no sign of either species. The walk to CArbarns itself was relatively uneventful, some walkers, stepped off the path a few times to maintain a safe distance, but nothing overtly dangerous. Carbarns had limited species, gulls, and a few oycs. For a moment I thought I half- heard a skylark from across the river, but I was nowhere near sure enough to tick it. A grey heron flew low overhead in all its prehistoric majesty. No sparrowhawk and no peregrine.

A walk back along the path was notable only for the song thrushes and for the goosander on the river. Nothing in the Centenary Hide, bar a single wren. Phoenix not much better, but I did get 2 pair Gadwall. I took the longer, muddy route back to the car park via the top of the fields only to find it was even busier. Strangest thing, I didn't get a huge selection of birds, defintiely no ticks, and still a few too many people for my liking, but it was a good visit.

It was still far too early to go home, which is why I found myself at Uddingston Grammar School. If I thought the Haugh was busy.....

Lots of joggers, dog walkers, cyclists, etc. As expected on the Clyde Walkway, and something that just has to be accepted. Noise and motion brought my attention to a tree, and the binos brought out a small flock of goldfinches. Absently I thought that birds of a feather flock together, and wondered if other finches would be among them. Lo and behold, there was a male siskin, quietly going about his business, oblivious to the frantic movements of the goldies. Speaking of oblivious.... one badly dressed birder standing in the middle of a path, staring at a tree may make perfect sense to us folk, birders of the world. It was, though, the cause of consternation among the good folk of Uddingston who found themselves trying to work their way around me, but obviously too polite to say so. Year tick, and more importantly a bit of a bogey bird finally seen.

The rest of the day was a stretch of the legs up to Fine Me Oot in the hope for grey wagtail, and sparrowhawk en route. A slow wander up the path got me more song thrush. No grey wag on the rotten Calder, despite water conditions being perfect and exposed rocks being covered in scat. No dipper either, which was disappointing. Highlight at the dungheap (and there's a sentence I never thought I'd utter) was a single fieldfare. What a terrible year locally for winter thrushes.

The real highlight, though, had nothing to do with year lists, bogey birds or lists. At the bridge over the Rotten Calder I met an elderly woman out walking with her pal, who stopped to tell me how overjoyed she was at having her first bullfinches in her garden. She was buzzing with excitement at them, and seemed quite pleased that I shared her excitement at seeing what can often be skulking and secretive. Something will have died inside of me if I ever lose those kind of stars in my eyes.

So, a good weekend. Connected with nature and wild places, connected again with my 'home' reserve, connected with a couple of new species for the year. Most importantly, though, I connected with someone who shared her sheer joy of seeing birds, and connected with maybe the best part of myself.

News is looking hopeful for lockdown exit, we can get through this.

Stay healthy, stay safe folks.


Dave Derrick

Well-known member
John, thoroughly enjoyed this read. "Something will have died inside of me if I ever lose those kind of stars in my eyes" Hit a nerve. Excellent and thank you, Dave.
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