I like to take a walk before work and see what Scottish Wildlife I can see. It is often the usual suspects but still a great way to start any day.
In this series of posts I will share a walk (or perhaps a cycle) from my house and share what I see. All photos are taken on this one walk which explains why they won’t all be the highest quality. Any sounds are shared from the excellent site Xeno Canto. So join me on a walk I took this morning and we can chat about what we see and hear on the way.
It was a cold morning with a light frost still on the car, but the sky was blue and clear. I was no sooner out the house than I saw the usual gang of Feral Pigeons warming themselves on the house roof opposite.
We walked through the estate to the Menstrie Burn and continued through the village.
At the old farm at the end of Brook Street I saw a few newly arrived Swallows resting on the wire after their long journey back from Sub-Saharan Africa. The Swallows’ return is always a milestone in the year, to be savoured and celebrated.
On the grass by the Fox-boy a pair of Jackdaws are strutting about. Clearly distinguished from their Corvid cousins by their grey colour, black cap and beady penetrating eye. For some reasons Jackdaws always seem to come in pairs like dating teenagers.
At the bridge across the burn by the Scout Hut I always check for Dippers and Grey Wagtails. They are often here and at this time they are pairing up and often seen together and sometimes I have seen the Dippers displaying. This time there are no Dippers but a pair of Wagtails fly through with their undulating flight and ridiculously long tails giving away their identity. I follow for the chance of a photo and prove lucky to focus on one between the branches before they fly downstream.
I hear a Common Buzzard’s “mewing cat” call from above but cannot see it.
I walk on and whilst I do catch a glimpse of it soaring high above I am not quick enough for a photo. I head up the old land-rover track which goes up the Myreton side of the glen. A Dunnock sits proud on the top of a gorse bush. The old name for Dunnock is Hedge Sparrow and they are never far from cover but at this time of year they can be seen singing from prominent perches.
As I walk towards the first bend in the track I can hear three different birds singing on top of each other. The polite well pronouced secondary schoolboy call of “Teacher Teacher” from a Great Tit and the more squeaky primary school child call of “Teacher Teacher” from a Coal Tit. Amid it all is the anxious and stressed “Bother, Bother, Dammit Dammit” of Goldfinches. I locate two of the three by a rocky outcrop.
At the corner I leave the main path and take the track behind Broomhall Castle. The spider threads testify that I am the first person to pass this morning. A Blackbird sings it’s rich baritone song from a tree surveying the village below.
A Blue Tit sits on a branch absorbing the sun. Is is still about freezing but warming up fast.
On another branch a Chiffchaff sings its name. These have only just returned from Africa too about 10 days before the Swallows. Practically the call is needed to distinguish Chiffchaff from Willow Warbler. A couple of weeks ago, I heard my first Chiffchaff call one day and the next day I heard about 6 singing from this short stretch of scrubby trees behind the castle. I remember a good number here last year too. It is good to find them at this time as once they are all paired up they sing less.
I hear a Blackcap’s alarm call, like the banging of two stones together but cannot locate the bird.
A Greenfinch wheezes in the distance as I return to the back-road spotting a Robin on the path and next to the old school a cathedral of House Sparrows cheep and chirrup from the hedge. Three females sit warming in the sun.
I check the view along the Ochils towards Alva. The Ochils stand so strong above the flat fields below. The transition is complete and absolute, nothing subtle about it. What a beautiful area this is.
I cross the main road and check out the field opposite. Some rabbits are by the hedge whilst new lambs, another sure sign of spring, feed at the trough. Two Common Gulls fly overhead, they actually are quite common around here but not so much further south.
I take the old railway back home. Several Chaffinches are calling and I struggle to focus my camera on a female as she hops from branch to branch. She seems to know what I am doing and pauses to stare back at me disapprovingly.
It has been said that Wood Pigeons are everywhere and I cannot remember going on a walk in this area without seeing one. Today is no different. Most people hate these birds and their “I don’t want to go” call can get annoying. But they are peaceable birds and beautiful in their own way. A Rook flies across the sky with its distinctive rowing action.
I know that the Starlings are there before I see them because of all the clicks and whistles. Their song is so other worldly, for some reason it reminds me of an old modem connecting in the days before broadband. I walk on and turn back to see the one bird reflecting the sun showing all the stars which gave it its name.
Whilst a Wren sings from a nearby bush a Magpie leaves its nest and forages on the ground for some more nesting material. Magpie nests are easy to spot as they are fully enclosed (a defence against predating Carrion Crows).
Just as I am thinking my walk is done one final gift. A Song Thrush and 5 Linnets fly overhead and land in a nearby shrub. Linnets are not rare birds but nor are they that common around here, the best spot of the walk saved for last.
I get back to the estate and hear a Yellowhammer ask for “A little bread and no Cheese” from the nearby shrub. This bird is on the decline nationally but is holding up well in Scotland and we are blessed with lots around Menstrie. They must be doing really well this year because this is somewhat marginal territory this close to the houses.
A lovely walk and a great way to start the day.
7.45am, 16th April 2021, 3.09km in 55 minutes, clear blue skies,
A total of 26 bird species observed or heard, plus the Rabbits
- Feral Pigeon Columba livia
- Common Woodpigeon Columba palumbus
- Common Gull Larus canus
- Common Buzzard Buteo buteo
- Common Magpie Pica pica
- Eurasian Jackdaw Corvus monedula
- Rook Corvus frugilegus
- Coal Tit Periparus ater
- Eurasian Blue Tit Cyanistes caeruleus
- Great Tit Parus major
- Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica
- Common Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita
- Eurasian Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla
- Eurasian Wren Troglodytes troglodytes
- Common Starling Sturnus vulgaris
- Song Thrush Turdus philomelos
- Eurasian Blackbird Turdus merula
- European Robin Erithacus rubecula
- Dunnock Prunella modularis
- House Sparrow Passer domesticus
- Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea
- Common Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs
- European Greenfinch Chloris chloris
- Common Linnet Linaria cannabina
- European Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis
- Yellowhammer Emberiza citrinella