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The Time Of March (Part 2) (1 Viewer)

Where was I....? Oh yeah, I was moaning about how I've hardly been able to go birding this year whilst describing how I managed to go out birding in early March.

I like to think of myself as enigmatic. Mrs GreenSand tells me I'm never happy, my best mate sums it up with 'tosser.' I'll leave it to you to decide...

Anyway, after my productive trip to the Haugh, I had some time off midweek. I managed to get loan of the car from my father in law. I had a 6pm curfew as me, the wife, and youngest child were planning to go to the gym. The weather was a bit grim, unfortunately, so although I took the camera, I was fairly sure there'd be no photos. The drive East was fairly monotonous- I've found the drive either zooms by before you know it, or drags on relentlessly. Sadly, today it was the latter. I got to Torness Power station, and stopped briefly to have a look at the 'dungheap.' Had yellow wagtail, yellowhammer, and linnet there before. Of course, nothing there at all, actually, was no dung heap. Was this a portent? After parking the car headed off to the beach where I've had sanderling and ringed plover (but never together) in the past.

In case anyone's thinking this is a tale of doom, there were loads of Skylark singing, so its automatically a good day. Is there a birder anywhere that doesn't feel uplifted by skylark song? Not a criticism if there are, but one of those things to wonder at.

With it being March, in Scotland, the ground was a bit wet, so I didn't sit (this is definitely an age thing as 5 years ago I'd have been lying on my stomach in the grass) Oycs and redshank were the birds most visible, plus a small flock of turnstone among the seaweed. (Turnweed?) I scanned the strandline- I've learnt to be patient and careful when doing this, it doesn't always come easily- and thankfully movement caught my eye. A half dozen sanderling in all their bright whiteness, doing sanderling things. Year tick one, and I was pretty happy about it as well. Not just for the tick, but for the 'bird action'. I watched them for a bit til a marauding dog scattered everything, and I took this as a cue to move on.

So far, so good. For reasons I can't fathom, I enjoy Torness. I mean, its a big scary nuclear power station, but there's something about it. GreenSand being enigmatic....

The walkway was uneventful. Nothing on the rocks bar pied wagtail being all busy and active. Skylark were making some racket from behind. Quite a few cormorant on the water with, naturally, quite a few eider. The civilian nuclear police drove by and we shared a friendly wave- I must be a well- known face by now as they didn't even stop for I.D. I backtracked along the top deck, finally getting good views of the skylark. Have I ever mentioned just how much I love those noisy wee buggers? Anyway, movement out the corner of my eye got a white streak plummeting into the water- the benefits of well- used peripheral vision. Found it in the binos and got eyes on where the action was. 3 adult gannets feeding. Year tick 2, and a bit of a bonus as well.

The rest of the walk was uneventful, but between the bonus gannet and the skylarks, I definitely had a spring in my step. Back on the path back to the car park, I had a scan of the field on my left. Movement about 20 feet in got me a Yellowhammer- there had been no bread and no cheese getting sung since my arrival, and I'd sort of given up hope. Year tick 3, and while its not exactly as good as sitting in top of the gorse singing, it was still good to get the tick under the belt. I watched it moving along the ground, feeding. The cherry on the cake, though, was as I was watching the yammer, a small flock of something flew in about 30 feet away. A quick scan.... ringed plover!! A local chap watched them with me, apparently local bods are hoping they nest in the building site where the car park should be. 4 year ticks, when I was hoping for 1, maybe 2 at best. Good birds, good ticks, good site, good vibes.

By this point in proceedings, my blood sugar was low, so I stopped off for a healthy McDonalds. The rain was more persistent, and to my chagrin my binos had fogged up a bit. I travelled the short distance to Dunbar harbour to go through the formality of ticking Kittiwake. Job done, year tick 5. My bladder was calling, so I followed the path round, out of sight of the burly lobster fishermen on the dock, so I could pee into the sea. I heard an un- kittiwakey noise, looked up, and a pair of fulmar stared down at me, as if daring me to pee under their nest. Tick 6, and completely unexpected one at that.

I decided I was on a roll, and I tried for the black redstart that had been seen locally. Now I'm not a twitcher, because I'm awful at it. But the black redstart had been seen in the street I'd seen it before (when I did twitch it) and from the photo on twitter, I figured where I could see it.

Could I buggery.

Gave up on it, jumped down onto the beach to watch the tide coming in over the rocks. Very calming, very therpaeutic. For a country boy like me, there's always something beguiling about a tide coming in, even if there was a pneumatic drill going off 30 feet away. I have had purple sand there, and there was something interesting on the far side of the rock, but it disappeared before I got a good look at it. Did get a very confiding rock pipit land near me. Year tick 7.

Reaised Dunabr was unlikely to offer anything else, and I still had time to squeeze in another visit. Decided not to try Musselburgh for once, and limit myself to Aberlady. I needed the exercise and the long walk out would do me good. One of the benefits of midweek birding is that normal folk are absent and I got parked easily. Within seconds, I got pair of little egret about 10 feet upstream of the bridge. Year tick 8, and definitely of the hoped for but not banked on variety. Something spooked them and they flew further upstream. Across the bridge I glanced back at the car park, and there was a third egret in the marshy bit next to the road. I prefer the ones on the river, but I'm a snob.

Enjoyed the walk out to the beach, got pinkies flying over in small numbers. No further ticks, rain stayed off, all very pleasant. Did see a rabbit with an inflamed eye, so that doesn't bode well. All in all, a productive day, and a satisfying one. I wasn't bothered about the black redstart if I'm being honest, and was extremely happy with the fulmar, the sanderling and ringed plover.

Another weekend of working, followed by more time off midweek.

Decided to stay local in the Uddingston area. Heard lots of chiffchaffs chiff- chaffing away. Kept my ears peeled for anything else, but nothing happening, clearly just a smidge too early.

Nothing spectacular in the horsefield, I decided to approach Fin Me Oot from the opposite side than usual. This involved climbing over a barbed wire fence (ripped my trousers) but eventually made it across the road next to the stables. Notable sightings were a goosander pair on the Clyde near the confluence with the Rotten Calder, a pair of buzzard were circling overhead irritating a few gulls, and chiffchaffs calling from across the river(s) I made it to the Fin Me Oot bridge after crawling under one fence and falling over another. (age related issues again.....) As usual, there was plenty of scat on the rocks, and plenty of treecreeper action on the trees. They have to be nesting in the area. Long- tailed tits flitting about as well.

A glance upstream, and right on cue, a dipper flew in from round the cambus (bend in the river.) It did its dipping thing, then disappeared again. i turned round, thinking it'd be great to get a look at a grey wag. Fortunately, there were three on the rocks downstream. Squabbling with each other, very distasteful, and not the serenity I associate with them. The dipper flew downstream overhead, and the wags joined him. I stayed a while soaking in the serenity, then decided to move on. A wander up to Newton Brae achieved nothing except anger at the sight of a fire having been started in the undergrowth. I realised I preferred Newton village when it was me, my mother and about 6 other families living there.

Anyway, a meandering walk back across the bridge and past the fields. As I got under the railway bridge a jay flew off to my left. Year tick, and unexpected at that. Not a great view, regrettably, as it flew off at some speed. Took my life into my hands and crossed the road toward the area my birding mate Bill and I refer to as 'Deadwoods.' The walk through Deadwoods was full of life, and we may need a different name. 'Not-As-Much-Life-As-There-Should-Be Woods' ??

Another (or the same) jay flew off again- this time toward Fin Me Oot. A great- spotted woodpecker flew in to replace it, so I couldn't complain. Still had some time on my hands, so I opted to walk over to Redlees Quarry hoping for Raven. I know they've been doing work on it, and by work I mean cutting down established trees in warbler nesting territory. I'm fully expecting houses to get built. Anyway, mallard and moorhen on the pond were a surprise. I walked through the Quarry and into the back field where I've had hot raven action before. Local knowledge came good, and I didn't have to wait long for hot raven action. A half dozen woodpigeons came bursting out from the trees, followed by a half dozen jackdaws. I then got a single raven (all the single ravens, all the single ravens....) come out, being pestered by a kestrel. Lots of cronking going on, lots of flying about. Eventually the kestrel disappeared and the raven floated serenely back to its nest on the electricity pylon. Year tick 2 for the day, and 10 for the week.

A good day out locally, staying loyal to my patch, visiting places that make me happy. Fin Me Oot basically re-charges my batteries. Thus suitably re- charged, I decided to be a bit more adventurous the next day. Still car- less and relying on public transport, on a whim I decided to try Cardross and Ardmore Point. An area which I tend to neglect, mostly due to it generally being hard work with no guarantee of success. Now, I'm not that kind of birder, so I set off, determined to enjoy my day regardless.

I got to Cardross 1 hour after low tide, and decided I would walk to Ardmore Point along the shore. The highlight was a sparrowhawk midway between the 2 places, a year tick which continues 2022's trend of GreenSand travelling places to tick birds theoretically available near home.

Nothing exceptional was on the water or the mud, but did get great views of greenfinch at Ardmore Point South bay. No sign of the knot or grey plover, nor the divers (the water was dead calm and I could see for miles) which the SOC had said had been there recently. A very decent stretch of the legs, I've got 2 massive blisters on my foot from walking over rocks and boulders, but I'm kind of old school where if you come home without mud splashes or without aches and pains, what have you achieved?

I've always wondered what it'd be like to walk from Cardross all the way to Ardmore (I've done half distance before). Now I know, I never need to do it again. Definite shades of me scratching an itch by visiting Whiteless Wind Farm.


So, looking back, a hectic month. I actually seemed to get more birding time in without noticing than if I'd been out during my traditional weekends. What really got me, though, was how effortlessly I seemed to slide back into it. Like putting on a favourite old pair of walking boots, my body remembered the feeling of being out in chilly air. The feel of drizzle, and how to ignore it. Fighting against bad light, then when the sun appears, fighting against good light. The search for somewhere to pee (with or without lobster fishermen)

Doing things instinctively, and knowing things instinctively rather than actively having to think about it. Sanderling on the strand line at Torness, Ravens at Redlees. Break up your silhouette; don't cast a shadow toward a bird; never, ever come between a cow and her calf. These are basic elements of fieldcraft which at some point were learned and I like that to many of us they have become second nature.

I'll like it more when skills like these become that way to ALL of us.

Stay healthy, and stay safe everyone. The virus is still out there wrecking lives. Don't let it wreck yours.

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