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

Western Scotland birding (1 Viewer)

We've had some minging weather this month, so I've only managed my first day out today at Lochwinnoch.

The scrapes were flooded so not a lot to be seen directly in front of the visitor centre. Also the path along Barr Loch looks like it had been completely under water during the storms this week. A lot of the waterside vegetation has been pushed, almost rolled, right up to the path, and partway along, the path has been completely blocked (see photo below). The water was sitting only a couple of centimetres below the path and I hope a few days of dry weather will see the water recede some more. Two small trees were partly blown over and blocking one of the paths at Aird Meadow.


Highlights of this visit include a single Lapwing, lots of Goldeneye, seven Whooper Swans, more than 30 Mute Swans. There were a lot of geese around, mainly Canada and Greylag, but I saw four Pink-footed Geese flying over Barr Loch. Along at the boardwalk, I felt lucky in actually seeing a Water Rail, but then a few seconds later I saw another, before it quickly skulked under some vegetation. A single Raven was around this area, and I also saw a Red-throated Diver flying over - not a bird I thought I'd ever see there, but it didn't look like it had any intention of stopping and it was one of those blink or you'll miss it moments.

Lots of Blue Tits, Coal Tits, Great Tits and Chaffinches around, as well as Robins, Blackbirds, Nuthatch and a couple of Treecreepers. I'm sure some of these smaller woodland birds will be winter visitors, but there were no obvious winter thrushes around.

Edit: just looked at my notes and it turned out the Water Rail as well as the Red-throated Diver were firsts for Lochwinnoch for me. Water Rails are reported by many people though the year and I'm sure I've heard them there before, but the only one I actually saw before was at Baron's Haugh. This brings my sightings for Lochwinnoch to 94.
I had a Red-throated Diver at Lochwinnoch in January 1986.

I've been waiting for the Smew to turn up at Lochwinnoch this year like it has done for many years now, but no luck so far. I suspect the Smew above might be Lochwinnoch's normal bird!
Nice i got a glimpse of a Redpoll the other day when I was there I think but was a very fast unreliable ID so didnt count it, cracking photo you got though :) think the Long-Tailed Ducks have been sticking to the sea so far, did see one at Linlithgow Loch (West Lothian) just after Christmas though.
I caught up with some LTDs in the mouth of the Tweed yesterday. Doesn't get me a Scottish year tick unfortunately!
I went to Hogganfield Loch today where I got really good, but brief views of a Red-necked Grebe. It had only been first spotted a couple of days ago. It was really close to the side of the loch and was visible immediately, but then I lost sight of it - I think it might have moved into cover around the island in the middle of the loch. I've always wondered what secrets the island holds.

There were also two Little Grebes and at least nine Great Crested Grebe. Hogganfield Loch is a good site for grebes as it has also had Slavonian and Black-necked in the recent past, usually over winter.

Other birds spotted today which you'd see on just about every visit here included Goldeneye, Goosander, Tufted Duck, Mallard, Coot, Moorhen, Mute Swan and Canada Goose. There were no sign of any Whooper Swans which I'm assuming have already migrated. There were lots of gulls, a mix of Herring, Lesser Black-backed and Black-headed, with around half of the latter being in summer plumage. There were a couple of Oystercatchers on one of the floating islands. Very little in the way of small woodland birds with only a Blackbird and a Robin, but the Willow Warblers won't be long in arriving.

Edit: just remembered to add that a small pond contained a Great Diving Beetle as well which I was quite pleased to see. It was the only sign of animal life in the pond so far.

I plan to visit Lochwinnoch tomorrow where a Lesser Scaup has been around on Barr Loch for a week or longer.
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Went to Lochwinnoch today but I probably chose the wrong day for it. It wasn't cold really, but there was light drizzle being blown horizontally directly in to the hide, so it wasn't a comfortable spot with scope and binoculars getting soaked and the lenses covered in droplets.

No luck with the Lesser Scaup unfortunately despite a comprehensive sweep of Barr Loch. 130+ Wigeon though. Many of the other usual suspects: Goldeneye, two Gadwall, Tufted Duck, Teal, Mallard, Goosander, Canada Goose, Greylag Goose, Cormorant, Great Crested Grebe, 30+ Mute Swan. I didn't bother going around to the other side of the reserve today, so no chance of seeing if the Long-tailed Duck was still around.
I acquired a scope the other day so compiling a list of suitable sites to try it out...really want to try my luck at Cloch Point as the only time I went there before I couldn't make out anything out at sea. Lochwinnoch has the obvious attraction of the train station on the doorstep.
I don't have a car so I try to choose places that are reasonably close to a train station when I take the scope out as it is quite heavy. I have a big scope and a wee one, and I take the latter more often as it sits in my rucksack but it obviously doesn't have the reach of the big scope. I keep meaning to buy a monopod or something for the small scope that would be lightweight and fit in my bag. I usually just hold it by hand, mainly for quickly confirming what something is rather than getting an extended view.

A good place to go with a scope is Cardross. Direct trains from Glasgow and the station is right on the water so you don't have to walk far to set up your scope. I'd rather go to Ardmore Point actually, but so far Cardross has been alright. I can get a bus to the end of the road leading down to Ardmore Point so I'll try that one day.

At Lochwinnoch it's quite handy for viewing at Barr Loch as many of the birds congregate on the far side.
Just thinking about Hogganfield Loch. On the northwest side on Saturday there was a big build up of rubbish in the water, getting mingled in some vegetation near where birds congregate (and nest). Does anyone know if litter-picks are ever arranged?
I'm sure I've seen people doing sea-watches with a scope wedged between their knees so I want to experiment with that even though I did get a tripod.
Trust me the tripod will be better even in rough conditions. Its shaking will be less frustrating than trying to pan and tilt a scope gripped between or rested on your knees to follow a seabird arcing between wavetops or seaduck disappearing behind them.

Trust me the tripod will be better even in rough conditions. Its shaking will be less frustrating than trying to pan and tilt a scope gripped between or rested on your knees to follow a seabird arcing between wavetops or seaduck disappearing behind them.

True but I'm on public transport and/or foot and a scope and tripod is a lot to manage. Train doors, ticket barriers, people getting on with bikes and on.
Scope in daysack, tripod on shoulder sling (or use portable chair bag?)

Its not difficult. Seawatching without one is.

I appreciate you are trying to be helpful but I'm sure I remember you getting in a car to drive to Norfolk on NYD. By chance that's where I bought the scope and the journey home took a bus and FIVE trains one of which was the jam-packed Stansted Airport service (which I had to stand on). Door to door it took 12 hours.
I appreciate you are trying to be helpful but I'm sure I remember you getting in a car to drive to Norfolk on NYD. By chance that's where I bought the scope and the journey home took a bus and FIVE trains one of which was the jam-packed Stansted Airport service (which I had to stand on). Door to door it took 12 hours.
I twitched both the Grey-headed Lapwing and the Stejneger's Scoter last year in a day from Farnborough - well I say in a day, that was the plan... the car stuck a piston through the block on the M6 homeward bound near Shap and getting relayed home took till 0530 the next morning.

That, like your experience, is not the normal run of birding and isn't the basis on which you plan days out whether photographing warblers in calm and sunshine or seawatching in a howling gale.

I went to Lochwinnoch today. It was a really nice day and felt warm despite my phone telling me it was only just over 10 degrees C.

While I was there I got myself a Viking Monopod. I love my big scope, but sometimes I can't be annoyed carrying it and the tripod around, especially if I'll be doing a lot of walking. I have a small Kowa scope that I like to throw in my bag and take with me to give me that little extra reach. The optics in it aren't great, but it's usually enough to help confirm IDs of birds that are just a bit out of reach of my bins. I had been wanting a monopod for a wee while and this one only cost me £20. Light, cheap and does the job for this small scope, and it fits in my bag too which was another big attraction.

Bird wise the highlight of the day was a Carrion Crow carrying a dead frog. The frog's innards were poking out of its body so I'm imagine the crow killed it elsewhere or nabbed another animal's prey and then headed off with it. There seems to have been a big build up of birds on the reserve, with absolutely loads of Black-headed Gulls and Teal around the scrapes in front of the visitor centre, as well as a few Wigeon, Lapwing, Canada Goose, Moorhen, Common Gull, Shoveler.

Over on Barr Loch there was a big flock of Greylag Geese, up to 200 individuals. They began on a field on the other side of the loch but took to the air in an impressive display before splitting into two groups and coming to land on the loch. Someone had spotted a Barnacle Goose with them yesterday but I couldn't see it if it was still there. As per my last time at Lochwinnoch Barr Loch was full of Wigeon, Tufted Duck, Goldeneye, Goosander, Great Crested Grebe, Mute Swan. Two Common Buzzards were circling overhead. I was keeping my eye out for incoming Ospreys, but another bird of prey-shaped bird I saw later turned out to be another Buzzard. After looking out for the Barnacle Goose, I saw a group of 20+ Curlew flying around over the southern side of the loch.

I dipped yet again on the Long-tailed Duck and I suspect I'll never see this individual, although luckily I've seen them elsewhere before so it's not needed as a lifer or anything.

I heard my first Chiffchaff of the year, and there was also briefly a singing Blackcap too, possibly one of the overwintering birds rather than an early arrival. Another highlight was my first Reed Bunting of the year.

No sign of any Sand Martins today, and we still haven't seen some of the waders that nested here last year, but hopefully they're on their way. But the water still feels really high and there's not as much real estate on the scrapes so I'm concerned the waders won't find it to their advantage as what's left feels more exposed to predation from gulls and crows.

I also saw my first butterfly of the year - a Peacock on a daffodil. I can't say I've ever seen a butterfly on a daffodil before, but I think it was just using it to rest on.
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I went to Ayr today, my first visit to the coast this year. I got the bus down and saw Peregrine, Sparrowhawk and Common Buzzard on the journey. The former not long after we joined the motorway out of Glasgow and possibly one of the birds nesting at Glasgow University.

The weather was a bit changeable. Quite mild and had some nice sunshine, but this was mixed with some brief downpours. The tide was coming in which made many of the birds easier to see. There were lots of bumblebees around even when it was raining. The rain brought out the aroma of many of the new flowers that have appeared at the back of the beach.

I went along to the harbour area first and the first new birds of the year were a couple of Stonechat in the grass at the back of the beach. In the harbour itself there were Black Guillemot (as expected and hoped for) as well as a single Guillemot (didn't look in ill-health or anything). Other highlights here includes Eider, and on the structure protecting the entrance to the harbour were a lot of Cormorants and a small number of Shag. There was a small group of Purple Sandpiper and a couple of Turnstone. An Otter made a brief appearance here too, the third time I'm seen them here.

Walking along the beach towards Doonfoot, I saw my first Gannet of the year (just a single bird during the whole trip), as well as Red-breasted Merganser. As I got closer to Doonfoot I heard first and then saw a small group of Linnet, as well as House Sparrows, Greenfinch, Blackbird, Starling, Dunnock, Song Thrush, and coming and going were single and differently-aged and plumaged Pied Wagtails. I was getting really stumped by a Reed Bunting, thinking it might have been a Corn Bunting. I've seem then hundreds of times, but I often find females aren't obvious to me unless there's a nearby male to confirm the species or I'm at a place where I expect to see them. I couldn't see a male here, but I settled on Reed Bunting anyway.

Among all the crows in the area was a Raven on the beach right in front of me. Gull-wise, most of the usuals, but mainly Lesser Black-backed, although I was disappointed not to see any Great Black-backed Gulls today.

At Doonfoot itself, there were lots of Redshank, along with singleton Curlew and Oystercatcher, and lots of Teal and smaller numbers of Wigeon, Mallard, Goldeneye, Goosander.

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