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Making Do- 2021 begins (1 Viewer)

So, lockdown is back. Stay close to home is the official advice, although the online advice says you can travel up to 5 miles beyond the boundary of your local authority for outdoors exercise. Hmm. I think I'll take my cue from the healthcare professionals who begged us to stay close to home.

Lockdown means birding plans are cancelled. Though I'd admit that with dozens of people in Scotland dying daily from Covid19, it'd be pretty churlish to get too upset by it. For the time being my birding is definitely of the 'take what you can get' variety.

New year's day began with a paltry 5 species on the feeders. Paltry might be doing it an injustice, I don't know whether I was expecting lammergeier to swoop in and start eating the fatballs. January 2nd and I ventured to my local RSPB reserve- Baron's Haugh. Admittedly, its in the next council are over, but Lanarkshire's geography is a curious thing- areas of South Lanarkshire are further north than areas of North Lanarkshire. I was able to rationalise this by telling myself I can walk to the reserve, cross- country- in a couple of hours, so its not really far away. Unfortunately, a lot of Lanarkshire's dog walkers, cyclists and joggers had the same idea. Strange situation when you find a nature reserve involving woodland, fields, a largish loch, and lots of scrubland to be 'crowded.' I'm not really a 'path' birder so was happy to wander off- trail and avoid people.

Anyway, this is my spiritual birding home, and the guidance was to stay close to home......

Got the expected variety of woodland birds, adding coal tit, goldfinch and bullfinch to my 'should have seen them in the garden' total. Successfully ticked off expected waterfowl, a bonus was a little grebe, as it took me until autumn 2020 last time round. An eclipse drake shoveller was an even bigger bonus. The cold weather had mostly frozen the Haugh, with only a few areas of clear water. Some of the brighter species had sought refuge on the river. The Marsh Hide- which is technically derelict and 'closed (note to RSPB- there isn't a birder born who'll obey a 'keep out' sign.) had become slightly overcrowded by my liking. Which meant 5 people. Which is 4 more birders than I usually see at the reserve. My route back to the car took me through Dalzell Woods, where I got my third bonus tick- a nuthatch.

Being off work, and Scotland having a more generous public holiday at this time of year, I made the most of the sunny weather and spent a couple of hours working the River CLyde near my home. Got song thrush almost immediately, and while I get them easily every year, it was nice to have one that wasn't singing outside my bedroom window at 4am. A wander into what we locally call the 'Horse Field' (it is a field with horses in it- I really am as simple as that) got a variety of finches, including my first greenfinch of the year, and for that location actually. On my way back, I also ticked off redwing and goldcrest among others. Lots of ticks aren't surprising given its the first week of January, but I can't complain about the variety of them. I got the feeling that slowly my disappointment was being eroded by the glow of getting ticks, and having to work harder for them than I maybe would have had to at Caerlaverock WWT.

The birding week took a more surreal turn yesterday, though. My father in law has to shield indoors due to health issues placing him in a vulnerable group, and unfortunately, his care was due its MOT test. Compulsory each year, and as its me who currently uses it, I couldn't refuse his request for me to deal with it. So, yesterday morning found me driving into an industrial estate in arse- end of Glasgow, in the knowledge that I'd have a few hours to waste. Luckily, I had time to prepare, and late night perusal of a map, identified some areas of green amidst the industrial wasteland. Didn't help the slight sense of despondency that my day would be spent birding in an industrial estate. I mean, I hate urban birding, but industrial birding??

Anyway, within a few hundred yards of the garage I reached my first patch of greenery. Initially devoid of life, a mixed flock of tits flew in. Watched these for a while, until a wren popped into view, and dived down again into the longer grass. Tick! A wander round to a nearby cemetery didn't produce a hoped- for treecreeper. (the walk was quite tranquil, though, so couldn't complain) The next patch of green on my agenda was a half mile away, and en route my eye was drawn to a ploughed- over field, or more specifically, movement among the furrows. Three meadow pipits on the perma-mud. Tick #2.

A stop for lunch and a nap in a derelict farm building (I was warm and cozy in my Christmas- present outdoors jacket, and I could sleep on a sharp edge in any event) recharged the batteries. I could see, in the distance, tress. Big trees. Old trees. Trees suitable for treecreeper. A walk over to them led me to discover that the trees were on a golf course. My perusal of the map hadn't noticed this. Go figure... A pleasant walk along the fairways (the lack of golfers meant that the good walk wasn't wasted) got very little in terms of birds. Just as I returned to my start point (one of the greens) three fieldfare flew in from the west. Had a very pleasant 15 minutes or so watching them busy themselves, until they flew off. An uneventful wander back to get the car and easy journey home. 3 year ticks, totally against the odds. Never had a day birding like it. Its not what I would have chosen to do with y day off, but really, we'll have to take whatever birding we can get.

Today was my last day off, and took some time for me to get moving. Underfoot conditions awful, it was clear I wasn't going to walk far. Aimed for the Clyde (again) it took me twice as long to get there than normal. Did get housesparrow in someone else's garden. A rather unfulfilling tick, though I'm probably being a bit snobby. A pair of greylag geese flew North over the river as I got there, which was a slightly better tick. This patch is unfortunate enough to have an auto- breaker's yard in the middle of it. A yard which seems to expand its perimeter yearly.... The woodland adjacent to it has the potential to be bird- rich, but has tended to be a bit hit and miss. Bill, my mate, is adamant that its dead. Once I reached the edge of the wood got 2 great- spotted woodpeckers fighting, until frightened off by a song thrush. A mixed flock of finches were further into the woodland, and I finally got a treecreeper at the far side of the woods. A mistle thrush surprised me on the way back out of the woods. As a dead woodland goes, there was a fair amount of life in it.

Good quality birding, hard work, physical exertion, good for the soul and the year list. My guilt about ticking a sparrow in someone's garden re- emerged when I ticked a pied wagtail next to a bin outside a convenience store 5 minutes walk from my house.

All told, I definitely seized whatever chances I could tis week. as we all will have to for the foreseeable future. I realised that I've maybe gotten too used to 'big days out' to exotic places and maybe lost a wee bit of the sheer joy of birding anywhere and everywhere. Thats not like me, and hopefully it will pass. A good week.

Stay safe, stay healthy.

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