Sunday, 20 May 2012

(just) Another Day in Paradise

I love living in Scotland. Every time I step out of my door I encounter something I didn't expect. This morning I realised that I haven't shown you all my Breeding Bird Survey square. Thankfully I was over at Lochwinnoch this afternoon, and planned an early trip to wander up there for a casual visit... I didn't make it.

I packed the camera and, fully dressed for an afternoon's volunteering, I set off. Turned off in Lochwinnoch to take the windy single track road to Muirshiel Country Park; windows open, and enjoying the drive. I was the second car into the car park. I pulled out my bins, grabbed my rucksack, and headed out. 

I only passed two groups on the way out, and managed to swifty clock up 4 calling cuckoos, a wheat ear, a couple of pied wags, a treecreeper, carrion crow, grouse, a solitary swallow, and skylarks and meadow pips galore. All in all, a peaceful morning. Even nice enough to lose my jacket. Then, half way along my route to the top, I went to cross what is usually a slightly spongy section of ground at the head of a stream. First step and the ground turned to mush.... I went in up to my knee. Instinct? Step Out! Result? I was suddenly up to my HIPS in the water! 

Thank goodness I learned my survival skills. Leaning forward, I spread my weight and pulled myself out. Looking down at my soaked trousers, I could feel the water running down my gaiters and into my boots... 

BOOTS OFF! SOCKS OFF! Preserve the dryness (only partially successfully)!

I wrote off my walk to the top. Settling down to dry in the sun and much on my picnic in the hour before I was due at the reserve. 

Surprisingly warm toes!

My square is the other side of that hill... I get not only some productive birding, but a nice walk too!

The top of the Calder at Muirshiel

An hour later I arrived at Lochwinnoch Reserve, ready for my shift. The feeders were a hive of activity. And unlike last weekend (and me) the weather was wonderfully dry.

During the afternoon the female starling bought her newly fledged brood to the feeders. By 5pm the female sparrowhawk had taken everyone. Still, the other birds were looking in great shape (unfortunately I didn't get any great pictures of the wonderfully coloured breeding plumage male redpolls - they were stunning).

Even without the rain, the feeders remain buzzing

My highlight of the day was definitely the show Greater Spotted, who whizzed between the feeders and the stands of trees to either side of the centre through out the afternoon.

I was completely distracted by this fine fellow who happily sat outside the visitor centre window.

Great plumage & tonnes of charisma

Hopefully there's a full nest somewhere and we'll be seeing little red-capped spotties soon!

So, despite the soaking, an excellent day! Sad for the starlings, but still early enough for a second brood. Keep your eyes on the fledglings over the next few weeks, they make great targets for birds of prey and may bring excellent sightings. Good hunting!

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