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

The Day That Was (1 Viewer)

I was planning to include last week and this week in one post, but it turns out I have too much to say!! Part 2 will follow tomorrow- ish.

So, Mrs GS was due to enjoy a 'big number' birthday last Sunday- she refuses to call it a 'big' number and prefers 'significant' as an adjective. However you wish to describe 50.....

My idea to get up at 7am on Saturday instead became a lazy morning watching my garden feeders. Plans, eh?

Sunday was written in as a family day, as it should be. Eldest daughter was working on the Saturday, and being the Dad I am, its my sworn duty to make sure she gets there. Its a struggle to leave her, tbh, rather than sit in the car outside for 8 hours, which I think would be perfectly reasonable. Mrs GS suggested that I go out for a bit after dropping child off. Child is 18, incidentally, in case you thought I had some sort of exploitation scam going on.

With an eye to Scottish covid restrictions, I headed to Hogganfield Loch in Glasgow's East End, site of both famine and feast in the past, and to be honest, not my favourite place. It is, though, quite close to Baby GS's place of work, and was on my route home. As such, I felt it was worthwhile popping in, given that I only had a relatively short time in the afternoon to myself. A scan of an OS map would also show that its, arguably, within 5 miles of the boundary- any boundary- of South Lanarkshire. I've been supportive of the Scottish Government's plans, and have stuck to the restrictions as I believe they're for the best, but there are times that I'm sure that no- one in the Scottish Government has seen a map of Scotland.

I've mentioned before I'm a bit of a birding snob. I love mud on my boots, I love going home chilled to the bone with wet feet, rosy cheeks, and a nagging doubt of my own sanity. I love being forced to strip out of soaking wet, filthy clothes on the front porch. I'm not a fan of urban birding, and definitely not a fan of urban park birding. Which is what Hogganfield is. What Hoggy also is, is what you make of it. If you want to tick whooper swans being fed to hand by toddlers, then you can, easily. If you want to do more 'wild' birding, then it turns out- to my surprise- you can do that too. Hoggy is well known for its breeding GC grebes, and I was hoping against hope of seeing them. Maybe too early? You never know til you go. I had seen on social media that a scaup had been there, but as I'm not a twitcher, it didn't feature high in my priorities. If I saw it, I saw it. If not, then thats the way it goes.

The car park was full, which didn't seem like too good an omen. I parked in the adjacent car park of Lethammill Golf Course- known colloquially as a 'corpy' golf course, meaning it was a public or council- run place. Hoggy itself didn't seem as busy as the car park suggested. Sure, there were plenty of walkers and joggers, and loads of kids, but not the jostling, jam- packed nightmare I had feared. Or, had experienced last summer in Uddingston. Normally, I walk clockwise around the loch, but decided, on a whim, to be rebellious. Given I don't like change, this really was a massive step for me! Almost immediately, I got my reward. 5 pochard close into the island on the Loch. Not only pochard, but awake pochard- a first for Hoggy, as every time I see them here they're having a kip. Unexpected and welcome year tick, most years its a matter of luck when and where and if I get them, so this was defintiely a relief.

Walking on slightly, a fellow birder stopped and asked if I'd seen the Iceland Gull. Obviously, I hadn't, and I tried to sound enthusiastic about my chances of seeing it. Me not being a twitcher limited my enthusiasm, and hopefully didn't hurt my brother birder's feelings. I was enjoying being out, I was feeling the positive endorphins flushing through my system, it really wasn't a twitchy type of day. That, and I'm useless at gulls anyway. I've said for years that true gull experts (usually bearded blokes) should be stored in glass cabinets with an 'in case of....' sign.

Walking on was just sheer enjoyment of watching birds going about their business, regardless of the dog walkers, kids on bikes, joggers, or Glesga mammies gossiping. Definitely a lesson there for GS when he's getting grumpy about people having the temerity to be outdoors when he is. If the Tufties can tolerate it.....

Most times I go to Hoggy, its a simple circuit of the loch then back again. There is, though, so much more off the beaten track that to my eternal regret I have neglected. The dipping pond was flooded (with 2 mute swans in residence) and I took the opportunity to go off the path towards a mini- loch. Plenty of open water, plenty of reedmace, tussocks, dips, hollows. Devoid of life at that time, but my birding brain fast- forwarded to maybe May or June. It has the potential to be spectacular. I MUST go back. Maybe this is why I've had such a negative vibe? I've never given it a chance.

The good vibe of the day, though, was mitigated somewhat by the signs of human damage, with gorse being burnt, with associated drinking debris (If you can carry your full bottle of Buckfast in with you, surely its easier to carry the empty one home?) A couple of offshoots of the main path take you to Avenue End Road, and leads to a further local LNR- one of the Glasgow 7 lochs project. While I wasn't intending to go that far, I opted for a wander up the quieter path. the path itself was people- free, and lined with trees and bushes which just cried opportunity. For about 20 minutes I just stood in the middle of the path as a massed flock of blue tits, great tits, goldfinches and chaffinches flew about. In amongst the commotion, with goldies and chaffies squabbling, blue tits and great tits swapping places on branches, a pair of bullfinch quietly went about their business of eating everything they could find. Unperturbed by everything, and definitely not put off by the badly- dressed bearded human, they showed just why they are so special. I think they must have had a good breeding year in 2020, as this is the best start to a year for bullfinches I can remember. For every feast there's a famine, and a single greenfinch sat, immobile. As much as I'm seeing plenty of bullfinches, any greenfinches have been singletons. Whatever the official verdict is, the eyes in the field are telling us that its a real cause for concern.

A further walk up and back brought me back onto the main path. A scan of the loch got me a pretty unexpected tick- an oystercatcher sitting on one of the artificial rafts, looking bemused with 2 black- headed gulls. A tick is a tick, but ticking an oyc in the East End of Glasgow isn't something I'd expect to be doing! No sign of the GC grebe at the end of the loch where they usually can be found, and I gave up on seeing them. Plenty of time left in the year for them. Maybe its a Glasgow thing, but plenty of smiles from people walking by, despite my (bad) habit of stopping abruptly midstride.

Three quarters of the way round, with light failing and rain clouds gathering, I took what I intended to be my last look over the water. For the second week, the jizz of a bird caught my eye. Something among the ducks and gulls which didn't look 'right.' Close inspection, and I got my GC grebe. Sure its crest weren't all that 'great' yet, but it was definitely getting there. We all know how special GC grebes are, but seeing them doing their thing in a very urban setting somehow makes it even more special.

A day of 3 year ticks, 2 of them unexpected, one of them after I had given up. A day giving me a new site offering great potential, and a special place where the birdlife came to me. A day of positivity, a day where I was happy being out, and a day where I was happy to see other people being out. In short, not a bad day at all.
__________
Oh, and Mrs GS got treated like the Princess that she is. She loved the gifts that the kids and I got her, the gluten- free birthday cake melted faster than the candles even, and her day was filled with love and laughter. Mostly at my expense, if I'm being honest. Perfect weekend, all told.

Stay healthy, stay safe. We're getting there.

John
 
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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