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

That Was The Weak That Was (1 Viewer)

I like sunlight. Admittedly, I live in Scotland so its often absence making the heart go fonder, but the love is real. Thus I found my first week of the New Year somewhat disrupted by 5 days of birding at twilight. Now, I won't blame you if you automatically assume that its my own fault for sleeping in, but I can genuinely say it wasn't my fault. Instead, the sunlit Elysian fields of a new birding year which had been my fantasy for weeks turned out to be just that, fantasy. Ironically, my week of Dusk- birding was some of the most intense, tiring, and rewarding.

Thanks to Scotland's generous public holidays, and a bit of luck booking annual leave, I had the full first week of January for birding. New Year's Day is always family day, so had to limit myself to gazing into the garden. 4 species only, which made me notice that my garden had been deathly quiet for a few weeks. Being in Covid isolation for 10 days meant I had had plenty of time for garden gazing.

My plan, which I'd been formulating for weeks by this point, was to visit Dumfries and Galloway for my big January day out. Plans in place to visit Ken Dee Marshes for willow tit, jay, red kite, winter thrushes. A drive then to the Solway coast to Caerlaverock WWT, which avid readers will have worked out by now is my birding nirvana. My father in law got his new electric/ hybrid car that I barely know how to use, and I had booked use of it. (more on this later)

Naturally, the plan started going awry by sleeping in. I sacrificed the Ken- Dee part, and decided to focus on Caerlaverock. Its a birding nirvana, don't you know, and I wanted to maximise my hours of daylight there. Ken- Dee can wait til Spring...

It took a few miles down the M74 motorway to realise that my dream of Elysian sunshine had faltered. The skies glowered, the hills had low cloud over them, the car's Starfleet- quality control panel told me it was about to rain (cos my eyes weren't already telling me that.) Searching for bits of blue sky as I neared Dumfries and Galloway was fruitless, and I resorted to tellign myself it'd be fine.

It was, sort of. Sunshine was an absentee, and my time on Caerlaverock was, essentially, spent in twilight. It may be my memory filtering only the good things, but each previous visit seems to have coincided with strong, boldening sunlight. Anyway, this one didn't, and I realised that the reserve took on a whole different persona. A new- ness to replace the familiarity. I had taken it for granted that the trip would be the same as before, and latterly realised there'd be a wee bit more effort needed.

In saying that, it was still a damned good day out. Best part of it was that, in addition to the absolute bankers, I got birds that I'd had to work harder for last year. Tree sparrow showed well at the feeding station on the nature trail. A walk along this trail got me collared dove feeding- last year's sole collared dover was in Tesco car park, so already in 2022 I'm making progress. The previous evening's gales and torrential rain meant that the 'Wetland' part of WWT was foremost, and high water levels meant I missed out on many expected species such as lapwing, redshank, and even pintail. I did get a huge amount of shelduck and shoveler, among many of the more common species. 22 year ticks in total. I have a nagging feeling that this is quite low in comparison, but I haven't looked at Birdtrack or Bubo to check previous years. That would take away from a different-but-still-great day in one of my favourite place. It was, again, an object lesson in not taking things for granted.

Speaking of which, I re- charged my Brownie points with the missus by making the 3rd a family day. It was sunny, incidentally.

January 4th had a trip to Baron's Haugh pencilled in. I was up early, packed my bag, and set off in plenty of time. Still driving my father-in-law's new motor, I made it to the reserve by 10am. I got as far as taking my seatbelt off when I received a text from him asking for his car back. Made my way home without my feet touching Baron's Haugh mud, to be told that the car has an app thing that sends notifications of its whereabouts. I assured him I had enjoyed my trip to Dumfries and Galloway...

So, Plan B was a wander along the River Clyde locally in Uddingston. By this point the sun had disappeared and light had fallen drastically. A walk in the 'Horse Field' as its known locally got me bullfinch and goldfinch. The Clyde Walkway itself got me treecreeper and siskin, so birds I'd had to work hard for last year. Well, harder than I'd have liked anyway. A redwing near Uddingston Grammar school, exactly where I got one last year, was good to see. I don't know if its just a perception thing, but massed flocks of winter thrushes seem a bit scarce this year.

Determined to make up for my aborted visit, I resorted to public transport for the Haugh visit on the 5th. It didn't let me down, albeit still quieter than I expected. Naturally, it was cloudy and light was poor. Still, managed to add nuthatch, little grebe, gadwall, reed bunting and goldcrest, among other, more expected ticks. More importantly a great walk around in fresh air. There's something about the place that makes me feel disloyal if I don't visit occasionally, and I've mentioned previously that such 'loyalty' visits can often be crushingly disappointing. This wasn't though.

This much birding in one week is practically unheard of, and I was reaping the benefits of my missus working and me being on leave. She encouraged me to make the most of my week, and thus I found myself on the train(s) to Musselburgh. Naturally, it was dull and cloudy, with a persistent threat of rain. The wind was strong enough to be chilly, but not strong enough to blow the clouds away. Having gotten there at 11 am I resigned myself to yet more dusk birding. Again, having built myself up to a frenzy of expectation, the birding was hard going. Each tick earned, especially Turnstone which rather than show for me confidingly, flew away showing only its arse. Did get a decent sized flock of stock dove, and a kestrel getting the crap knocked out of it by a crow. The sea was relatively quiet, the view Northwards to Fife was spectacularly in the glowering, thunderous sky. The biggest surprise, though, was a shag, just off the sea wall. Not a bird I associate with Musselburgh.

The journey home involved a lot of sleeping, and by this point I realised just how tired I was getting. A near- full week of birding, with all the travelling it involved, and given my love of muddy fields, the lack of places to sit and relax. My week was coming to an end, and elder daughter was working on the Friday. I used this as an excuse to visit Hogganfield Loch, a duty visit perhaps, but still in the hope of some decent birds. Got my banker lesser black backed gull, so couldn't complain. Lots of families out and about, I didn't get the Smew that was there- although since I didn't know it was there I wasn't looking all that hard. The lack of other birders present let me down, as thats usually a good sign that there's something unusual. No pochard either, so I expect that they will be this year's bogey bird. I did, though, get my first fieldfare of the year. A singleton, and again the lack of massed flocks is noticeable.

An enjoyable walk in the lunchtime murk, left me plenty of time to stop off at other Lanarkshire places that I rarely get to. I remembered that there was a ring- billed gull at Strathclyde Park. Now, I'm not a twitcher, and even when I do twitch, I'm awful at it. I balanced this with the Twitter sightings which gave a decent location for it on the Loch. Naturally, when I got there, there were hundreds of gulls, mostly distant. The light was bad- of course- so distant viewing was a search for clues. It won't surprise you to find out I didn't get it.....

So, a pretty good start to 2022. Not really easy birding, and in a way I'm glad I had to work for it. Still plenty to find before the spring migrants arrive as well.

I did though learn a few lessons. Firstly, I'm 48, and my mind and body clearly disagree about my physical limitations. I was knackered!! Leaving the exhaustion of a middle- aged man to one side, it also taught me not to take things for granted. Don't take good weather for granted at Caerlaverock, or that birding will be easy there. Don't take it for granted that a new birding year presses a reset button on anything but a year list. The environment is still as wrecked now as it was in December, and that should be worrying us all.

The most valuable thing about not taking things for granted is that each day becomes as big an adventure as your first day. The excitement of January birding should stay with us all through the year. Each time we go out we should be wondering what it will offer us. No assumptions, but a sense of wonder. Thats what birding offers us. We enter their alien world, and if that doesn't fill us with awe, then nothing will. January is rejuvenating, and I realised that I don't need sunshine for that after all.

No birding for the next couple of weekends as I'm working overtime. Looking to buy a scope for the first time, so am willing to sacrifice a couple of weekends to pay for it.

Stay healthy folks, and stay safe.

John
 

Farnboro John

Well-known member
I have a plan. Don't tell your family!

At 48 you need to take a bit more care of yourself. If a bit of mild birding like you describe is leaving you tired, then you need a lot more exercise and your family will have to make sacrifices for it, like being content with family evenings instead of days (actually the most likely result of this is that you will all like each other more.) With the extra time you need to get out and stride manfully (personfully these days?) across the landscape nailing birds left right and centre. Carrying your impending scope and tripod will assist the process.

Happy birding!

John

BTW I've just retired at 59. I'm fat and out of condition. I'm going to get a bike and do a lot more local birding. I need to lose about six stone and I need to keep reminding myself that's six lots of one stone, not a thing to achieve in one go. But I also need to just tone up muscles that are there, just suffering from pandemic sloth. It's possible that might involve a year list for motivation....
 

Green Sandpiper

Well-known member
Scotland
I have a plan. Don't tell your family!

At 48 you need to take a bit more care of yourself. If a bit of mild birding like you describe is leaving you tired, then you need a lot more exercise and your family will have to make sacrifices for it, like being content with family evenings instead of days (actually the most likely result of this is that you will all like each other more.) With the extra time you need to get out and stride manfully (personfully these days?) across the landscape nailing birds left right and centre. Carrying your impending scope and tripod will assist the process.

Happy birding!

John

BTW I've just retired at 59. I'm fat and out of condition. I'm going to get a bike and do a lot more local birding. I need to lose about six stone and I need to keep reminding myself that's six lots of one stone, not a thing to achieve in one go. But I also need to just tone up muscles that are there, just suffering from pandemic sloth. It's possible that might involve a year list for motivation....
Always works to set ourselves targets. If its one thing that birders are really good at.....
 
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 Colombia
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Colombia

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