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ZEISS DTI thermal imaging cameras. For more discoveries at night, and during the day.

Making Hard Work Look Easy (1 Viewer)

Perception is everything. We can tell a lot about birds (and other wildlife too) by their 'jizz', that enigmatic, hard-to-be-precise-about mystical ability to recognise things by their general impression. We all have it to some extent, some much more than others, and I can't imagine there's anything remotely scientific about it. Speaking for myself, it always feels good when it works well. The 'jizz' of Green Sand's 2023 had been that it was going to be hard, hard work.

Anyway, after my Fairlie Big Day out with my mate Bill it was back to slightly fragmented birding, interspersed with 'family stuff' and compensated for by sneaking days off periodically. My union was on strike at the start of the month, and I decided to forego fighting with the police on the (non- existent) picket line on and spend the day birding. Obvious choice on public transport was to head to Musselburgh. You'll know by now that its a place I seldom go to, a place I neglect.....Not altogether unexpectedly, there was nothing spectacular on the sea, but I had a familiar feeling that something was building. I've had it before at Musselburgh, then a couple of weeks later, end up with a great day. A gut instinct, a 6th sense maybe? Anyway, the success story of the day were linnet, dunlin and of all things, snipe on the scrapes. The other highlight of the day was a sprawk on the path at Wallyford station as I arrived.

Family stuff intervened again the next weekend, but I had a flexi day on Wednesday 8th. I decided to stay local, and aim for dipper, grey wagtail, rook and raven at various obvious points in Uddingston, Fin Me Oot and off toward Blantyre. I enjoyed reasonable success, apart from a pretty late start due to having a very comfortable couch. On my way to the River Clyde I got a rook in someone's garden, so a year tick, although it offended my snobbery to tick a corvid in someone else's garden. Walked to the horse field, nothing much other than 30- odd fieldfare and a handful of rooks in a mixed flock with jackdaws. If you've seen my year list you'll know I ticked this one. Clambered over the fence onto Blantyrefarm Road, and began walking to Fine Me Oot via the river path.

A half dozen whoopers were in a field, and these were definitely not public park whoopers- their threat zone was very extensive and they took off when I was more than 500 yards away. Highlight was a family of 5 deer who stood at the top of the hill, and stood in profile against the sky. Very picturesque, although my phone camera didn't do it justice.

Plenty of scat on the rocks on the Rotten Calder, so was optimistic for something at least. The water was reasonably low too. Took about 20 mins to get a dipper about 150 yards downstream. It seemed oblivious to me, it was happily dippering away doing dipper things. Year tick 2, and since there was very little else about, I indulged myself for a good while. A pause for a rest at the Fin-Me-Oot bench, but the light was dire and bar a buzzard being mobbed by crows there wasn't much to shout about.

A wander to Redlees Quarry in the hope of getting raven on the 'nesting pylon' was fruitless. Worse, the level of tree felling to make way for a widened road was horrible to see close up. Shame on South Lanarkshire Council, although most folk from South Lanarkshire know they have no shame. Since I was there, I had a walk around the place, went 'off- trail' a bit to get some proper mud on my boots, which was pleasant enough albeit it was still a walk around an artificially- created urban fringe park. 2 ticks for the day, great views of the dipper, and a proper rook rather than one eating polystyrene in a garden.

The downside was the sight of further tree felling near the river. A local car breakers yard is notorious for felling anything within 100 yards of their territory. I checked the council website for planning permission, and lo and behold it was granted on condition the felling didn't encroach outwith their boundary. It was clear that they had breached this, and felled trees in a glade or dell which is a hotspot for warblers. I lodged a complaint with SLC, but I'm figuring the car yard pay enough to get away with anything they like.
Superbowl weekend meant Dad- Son time. After planning my Big Superbowl Day, I had the foresight to book Monday off. The plan was to get an East- bound train at stupid o' clock and catch up on some sleep. Sadly, family stuff intervened in the morning, and rather than a train- sleep, I was driving. Taking advantage of this, I headed to Torness Power station, reaching there at midday. Turns out Torness at the weekend is very different from Torness on a work day. Specifically, its easier to find somewhere on the dunes to have a pee when 3000 people aren't going for lunch-break beach walks.

I started off with 3 stonechat on the rocks at the start of the path. Tide was quite far out, so hopes of sanderling on the strandline were dashed. 3 stonechats were hardly a disappointment, though. Nothing spectacular on the water, usual suspects only. Did get a very confiding rock pipit near the start of the path. Slow walking, as I was studying the concrete rocks for possible purple sandpiper, given I'd had them there before. Infrequently. Turns out, I got a purple sandpiper. Day instantly became a success, and its an understatement to say I was chuffed. The walk back to the car got skylark singing, which was year tick 3.

A stop for a burger at the Dunbar Temple of the Golden Arches, and I headed to Musselburgh (cos I'd been neglecting it....) Parked at the Levenhall Links car park, headed to the sea wall (fence) to start with. A few birders already there, which was good. The sea was dead calm, and was difficult to see where the sky started. I know I complain when the sea's choppy..... Anyway, I'm not a twitcher, so I didn't care whether I got the white- winged Scoter that had been seen earlier that day..... which is fortunate, as I didn't. I did get 2 pairs of velvet scoters, showing brilliantly through the scope. Gift of sight restored, etc. Even better, further searching got 3 Slavonian grebes (a very long- sighted, squinting look at my Collins guide confirmed they were slavs) which also looked great in the sunlight/ calm conditions. 5th year tick of the day, I'd have been happy with that at the start.

Dog- walking/ jogging traffic was increasing now, and I wandered off in the direction of Goose Green Place for a look nearer the Eskmouth, with the intention of going to the scrapes on my way back. A couple of birders had reached the sea wall through a gap in the fence. I was filled with pride, that my claim that there isn't a fence built that can keep out determined birders was coming true. Anyway, one of them put me onto a pair of LT Ducks, which also looked marvellous in the light. I mean, it was getting late, but the stillness of the air made what light we had very clear. Tick 6, and always think of LT Ducks as being a bogey- even when I do get them, its usually a difficult find on choppy waters.

Up at the scrapes, again there were loads of the usual suspects. Dunlin, barwit (sleeping) oycs and lapwing. Snipe showed well again, and a male pheasant appeared from somewhere. Tick 7. Light was definitely my enemy, and I opted to have a slow wander back to the car, via the sea wall again. As I reached the path, I heard chaos from the lapwings behind me. A massed flock in the air, I started looking for a peregrine, couldn't find it, so decided to enjoy watching the 'murmuration' for the sake of it. I mean, it genuinely is a stunning sight. My wide- mouthed amazement lasted about 30 seconds, before I got the peregrine. Fantastic views, watched it do 5 'raids' before it headed off. Great to see it from the 'sea' side of the scrapes boundary. Leaving aside the year tick, it was a real treat to see. Another special moment of birding. It caught sod all, though, so I'm clearly a jinx.

The drive back home was awful, but the day was well worth it.

That was the latest (in terms of twilight) that I'd stayed at Musselburgh, and I was wary of the wee bam/ delinquent teenager invasion, but it was fine. There's something different about staying out birding as late as you can, makes it a proper trip almost, without 'artificial' limitations. Birding in the 'wild', as much as a larg-ish town on the outskirts of Edinburgh is 'wild.'
My list is sitting at 90 ticks for the year, so I'm pretty happy all told, not least since I don't have greylag or reed bunting, 2 birds I'd have said were January bankers. Plans uncertain for this weekend, I may try to stay local, or even Lochwinnoch if I'm feeling adventurous.


I was moaning last month about how much hard work this year was, about how it was slow going, how every tick was going to be earned the hard way. I think my disappointment at Caerlaverock has fuelled a complete misconception. A check of my detailed records (ok, a quick glance at previous year lists) shows that this has been the best start of the year I've had since before Covid. As I said at the start, when our instincts are proven right, it feels good. My impression of this year, my perception that it was going badly, though, was mistaken. And it felt damned good to be wrong.

Stay healthy, stay safe folks. Lets keep being good to each other.


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