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The Time Of March (1 Viewer)

Its not the first time I've reached the end of March with a sense of bewilderment. How did I get from early January, cold, dark, wet to the bright mornings (thank you Mr Song Thrush for my 3am wake- up) long evenings, and warm days of Spring. (I understand that large parts of the UK are probably still shivering, but temperatures in Lanarkshire are at the 'balmy' stage.)

Tempus fugit, time flies when you're not paying attention. The annual bewilderment has been enhanced by my rather disjointed birding experiences. None of this weekend birding stuff. Weekends are for working, and birding should be done, er, midweek.

Anyway, clearly the first quarter of the year has seen me birding where I can, getting ticks where I can, but more importantly, being out there when I can. I've proven that where there's a will there's a way. Its funny, though, that for all the doom and gloom, I've actually found myself getting out quite a bit these past few weeks. But has the quality matched the quantity? Has my sense of somehow 'missing out' been alleviated?

First weekend in March I found myself not working (yay) and with a bit of spare time between chauffeuring wife and eldest daughter about. Limited time, so by default had to stay local- it gave me the chance to try again for dipper and grey wagtail on the Rotten Calder at Fin Me Oot. Even if I dipped, its still an hour or so in Fin Me Oot, so by definition there aren't any obvious negatives.

Water levels on the Rotten Calder had fallen, and there were plenty of scat- covered rocks. Also, lots of Long- tailed tit activity, with a pair of treecreepers alternating between chasing each other with murderous intent and feeding on some very non- treecreepery trees. Keeping my fingers crossed they'll nest there. Treecreepers are one of those birds I never seem to get enough of, I can't put my finger on it at all, but I find them joyful. Sadly, no dipper action downstream, despite conditions being perfect. A robin moved near the path toward Newton and caught my eye. As I turned back, I glanced under the bridge upstream. Something flew just out of sight onto the sandbank. I stared a bit more, then movement on the right caught my eye. A lovely dipper dipping away. The light wasn't great, and I was looking through a tunnel, so I couldn't get a photo, but was good to watch it in and out of the water. It too flew over onto the sand bank opposite, and disturbed my bonus bird- a grey wagtail. 2 ticks for the price of one, one of which I wasn't expecting and one of which I was despairing of.

Leaving the ticks aside, it was, as usual, lovely and peaceful. I always worry that I don't do it justice when I speak of it. There's something about the place that connects to me. Maybe because its the mystery village I heard about as a child, then eventually found it 'oot'. Maybe its because if I close my eyes I can imagine (or maybe hear) the sounds of the long- gone villagers. A village not unlike the one I grew up in. My village survived, though. In any event, I vowed that if we do hit an apocalypse, I would head down there and live in a tent and forget about it all. Unsure what the wife will do as she refuses to set foot in a tent, but thats definitely a 'her' problem' not a 'me' problem.

My next time out was a week or so later, and a lengthy day out at Baron's Haugh. I was car- less, and had been weighing up the public transport options. Head East to Lothian, West to Cardross in Argyll, or South- ish to Ayrshire. Ayrshire looked good until I checked the weather forecast, with public transport giving me about an hour in Irvine before the forecast gales. Similarly bleak outlook for Cardross, and in the expectation of a day off midweek, I wanted to save Musselburgh for then. Because 2 visits in a week would ruin it? The Haugh won by default, and while it can feel like going home, there's always the nagging worry about what kind of Haugh day out it will be. I did read that there was a singing chiffchaff and a pair of pintail on site.

I'm not a twitcher.......

Opted to get there by walking along the Clyde Walkway from Strathclyde Park in Motherwell. Nice walk, nothing spectacular bird- wise though. No ravens on the railway bridge (for all the years I've birded there, and all the years they've nested there, I've seen them once on that bridge.)

Not far beyond the bridge and into the reserve, heard a chiffchaff calling from further ahead. A nuthatch called from behind me, and bullfinches flitted in the trees not far from the Causeway Hide. There was, thankfully, plenty of activity and I knew it would be a good day.

Now, you'll know by now I have some fairly set ways, and I'm not inclined to tick something on the basis that it was singing somewhere on a nature reserve I was visiting, but at least I knew a chiffchaff was kicking about somewhere. All I had to do was find it. Not an unreasonable target. The water was awfully high on the river (imagine if Willy Wonka sent the irritating kids kayaking in hot chocolate) and the Haugh itself was flooded. Chances of kingfisher were low to non- existent. A pair of buzzard floated lazily overhead, heard long before they were seen. All these things registered instinctively.

Managed to get views of dabchick and goldeneye from the Causeway hide. The highlight was a flock of siskin on the path down to the Hide, good views again. Usual crows in the field. I bumped into a couple of well- known locals at the Marsh Hide, and it was nice to spend some time with them. Loads of Gadwall in front of the hide, pintail were allegedly far out, but I couldn't see them. Luckily, I'm not a twitcher.

My walk to the Dalzell woods was uneventful. No sign of jay, bar a possible screech from an unseen bird. It could easily have been amorous squirrels anyway, and its not the first time I've made the mistake of staring intently at a tree expecting a flash of orange, only for a very satisfied- looking grey squirrel to wander into sight.

I strolled down to the Chestnut walk and from there to the Clyde. Goosander pair on the far bank of the river, the male showing particularly well in the light. The Centenary hide was uneventful bar a wren and moorhen showing well, and a mallard hiding in plain sight. Wigeon a- plenty and gulls, plus further excellent views of dabchick. This part of the Haugh truly comes into its prime when the rest of the warblers arrive. Not long now....

The rest of the path was similarly quiet, until the Phoenix hide. There, bumped into the local chaps again, who told me there was a chiffchaff showing nearby. They did it an injustice. It was literally 6 feet along the path, flying between 2 trees. Not singing, actually, so clearly a different specimen from that I had heard. I ticked this one, naturally.

Walked around the path again, just as I got to a point between the Causeway and Marsh Hides movement above me caught my eye. A crow dived out of the way of a bird, which barely moved its wings in response. Got eyes on it, as it was moving slowly enough, and it lingered at a decent height. Peregrine, offering best views I've had for years. And self- found. Year tick 2, and a 'Green Sand panics' bogey at that.

Transport problems meant that I got a train to Blantyre and walked the few miles home along the Clyde. Just as I got to the playing fields near Uddingston Grammar School, I heard the sound of pink- footed geese from somewhere over near the motorway. I wasn't going to tick them, obviously, but as I walked onward, I did get a pair flying over, probably to meet up with their chums. Year tick 3. A pair of roe deer wandering out of the undergrowth made lovely, if dim, viewing in the twilight.

Used the Ordnance Survey website to calculate that I had walked over 8 miles. I am definitely getting old as I used to recuperate from that by having a brief lie down on the couch, rather than falling asleep on the floor for 2 hours.

All told, a good couple of days out. The ticks were ticking along nicely, it was good to unwind out in the fresh air (occasionally, very fresh) and, as always, to be among birds. It always amuses me that the therapeutic nature of being outdoors is now being heralded as a massive boost to people's mental health. Its not a new phenomenon, those of us who spend time outdoors always knew it. Some of us, me included, almost rely on it. These days out weren't commando birding as such, but were instead finding the life- enhancing quality in the experience. Quality which has only a fleeting relationship to quantity

Stay healthy, stay safe. I'll post the lowdown on my other March outings once I've managed to put them into (coherent) words.

John
 

Dave Derrick

Well-known member
Supporter
England
Its not the first time I've reached the end of March with a sense of bewilderment. How did I get from early January, cold, dark, wet to the bright mornings (thank you Mr Song Thrush for my 3am wake- up) long evenings, and warm days of Spring. (I understand that large parts of the UK are probably still shivering, but temperatures in Lanarkshire are at the 'balmy' stage.)

Tempus fugit, time flies when you're not paying attention. The annual bewilderment has been enhanced by my rather disjointed birding experiences. None of this weekend birding stuff. Weekends are for working, and birding should be done, er, midweek.

Anyway, clearly the first quarter of the year has seen me birding where I can, getting ticks where I can, but more importantly, being out there when I can. I've proven that where there's a will there's a way. Its funny, though, that for all the doom and gloom, I've actually found myself getting out quite a bit these past few weeks. But has the quality matched the quantity? Has my sense of somehow 'missing out' been alleviated?

First weekend in March I found myself not working (yay) and with a bit of spare time between chauffeuring wife and eldest daughter about. Limited time, so by default had to stay local- it gave me the chance to try again for dipper and grey wagtail on the Rotten Calder at Fin Me Oot. Even if I dipped, its still an hour or so in Fin Me Oot, so by definition there aren't any obvious negatives.

Water levels on the Rotten Calder had fallen, and there were plenty of scat- covered rocks. Also, lots of Long- tailed tit activity, with a pair of treecreepers alternating between chasing each other with murderous intent and feeding on some very non- treecreepery trees. Keeping my fingers crossed they'll nest there. Treecreepers are one of those birds I never seem to get enough of, I can't put my finger on it at all, but I find them joyful. Sadly, no dipper action downstream, despite conditions being perfect. A robin moved near the path toward Newton and caught my eye. As I turned back, I glanced under the bridge upstream. Something flew just out of sight onto the sandbank. I stared a bit more, then movement on the right caught my eye. A lovely dipper dipping away. The light wasn't great, and I was looking through a tunnel, so I couldn't get a photo, but was good to watch it in and out of the water. It too flew over onto the sand bank opposite, and disturbed my bonus bird- a grey wagtail. 2 ticks for the price of one, one of which I wasn't expecting and one of which I was despairing of.

Leaving the ticks aside, it was, as usual, lovely and peaceful. I always worry that I don't do it justice when I speak of it. There's something about the place that connects to me. Maybe because its the mystery village I heard about as a child, then eventually found it 'oot'. Maybe its because if I close my eyes I can imagine (or maybe hear) the sounds of the long- gone villagers. A village not unlike the one I grew up in. My village survived, though. In any event, I vowed that if we do hit an apocalypse, I would head down there and live in a tent and forget about it all. Unsure what the wife will do as she refuses to set foot in a tent, but thats definitely a 'her' problem' not a 'me' problem.

My next time out was a week or so later, and a lengthy day out at Baron's Haugh. I was car- less, and had been weighing up the public transport options. Head East to Lothian, West to Cardross in Argyll, or South- ish to Ayrshire. Ayrshire looked good until I checked the weather forecast, with public transport giving me about an hour in Irvine before the forecast gales. Similarly bleak outlook for Cardross, and in the expectation of a day off midweek, I wanted to save Musselburgh for then. Because 2 visits in a week would ruin it? The Haugh won by default, and while it can feel like going home, there's always the nagging worry about what kind of Haugh day out it will be. I did read that there was a singing chiffchaff and a pair of pintail on site.

I'm not a twitcher.......

Opted to get there by walking along the Clyde Walkway from Strathclyde Park in Motherwell. Nice walk, nothing spectacular bird- wise though. No ravens on the railway bridge (for all the years I've birded there, and all the years they've nested there, I've seen them once on that bridge.)

Not far beyond the bridge and into the reserve, heard a chiffchaff calling from further ahead. A nuthatch called from behind me, and bullfinches flitted in the trees not far from the Causeway Hide. There was, thankfully, plenty of activity and I knew it would be a good day.

Now, you'll know by now I have some fairly set ways, and I'm not inclined to tick something on the basis that it was singing somewhere on a nature reserve I was visiting, but at least I knew a chiffchaff was kicking about somewhere. All I had to do was find it. Not an unreasonable target. The water was awfully high on the river (imagine if Willy Wonka sent the irritating kids kayaking in hot chocolate) and the Haugh itself was flooded. Chances of kingfisher were low to non- existent. A pair of buzzard floated lazily overhead, heard long before they were seen. All these things registered instinctively.

Managed to get views of dabchick and goldeneye from the Causeway hide. The highlight was a flock of siskin on the path down to the Hide, good views again. Usual crows in the field. I bumped into a couple of well- known locals at the Marsh Hide, and it was nice to spend some time with them. Loads of Gadwall in front of the hide, pintail were allegedly far out, but I couldn't see them. Luckily, I'm not a twitcher.

My walk to the Dalzell woods was uneventful. No sign of jay, bar a possible screech from an unseen bird. It could easily have been amorous squirrels anyway, and its not the first time I've made the mistake of staring intently at a tree expecting a flash of orange, only for a very satisfied- looking grey squirrel to wander into sight.

I strolled down to the Chestnut walk and from there to the Clyde. Goosander pair on the far bank of the river, the male showing particularly well in the light. The Centenary hide was uneventful bar a wren and moorhen showing well, and a mallard hiding in plain sight. Wigeon a- plenty and gulls, plus further excellent views of dabchick. This part of the Haugh truly comes into its prime when the rest of the warblers arrive. Not long now....

The rest of the path was similarly quiet, until the Phoenix hide. There, bumped into the local chaps again, who told me there was a chiffchaff showing nearby. They did it an injustice. It was literally 6 feet along the path, flying between 2 trees. Not singing, actually, so clearly a different specimen from that I had heard. I ticked this one, naturally.

Walked around the path again, just as I got to a point between the Causeway and Marsh Hides movement above me caught my eye. A crow dived out of the way of a bird, which barely moved its wings in response. Got eyes on it, as it was moving slowly enough, and it lingered at a decent height. Peregrine, offering best views I've had for years. And self- found. Year tick 2, and a 'Green Sand panics' bogey at that.

Transport problems meant that I got a train to Blantyre and walked the few miles home along the Clyde. Just as I got to the playing fields near Uddingston Grammar School, I heard the sound of pink- footed geese from somewhere over near the motorway. I wasn't going to tick them, obviously, but as I walked onward, I did get a pair flying over, probably to meet up with their chums. Year tick 3. A pair of roe deer wandering out of the undergrowth made lovely, if dim, viewing in the twilight.

Used the Ordnance Survey website to calculate that I had walked over 8 miles. I am definitely getting old as I used to recuperate from that by having a brief lie down on the couch, rather than falling asleep on the floor for 2 hours.

All told, a good couple of days out. The ticks were ticking along nicely, it was good to unwind out in the fresh air (occasionally, very fresh) and, as always, to be among birds. It always amuses me that the therapeutic nature of being outdoors is now being heralded as a massive boost to people's mental health. Its not a new phenomenon, those of us who spend time outdoors always knew it. Some of us, me included, almost rely on it. These days out weren't commando birding as such, but were instead finding the life- enhancing quality in the experience. Quality which has only a fleeting relationship to quantity

Stay healthy, stay safe. I'll post the lowdown on my other March outings once I've managed to put them into (coherent) words.

John
John, excellent read again. And, yes, why has the world only now it would appear properly recognised the mental health benefits of being outside; patently obvious it always has been. I too use OS website to work out, after the event, how far I have walked. Years ago, recovered so much better !!!! All the best, Dave.
 

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