A walk around Gartmorn Dam

So my wife and I started the new year with a walk around Gartmorn Dam, a retired gravel pit nearby in Clackmannanshire. We walked clockwise from the carpark and, in between wishing all the anti-clockwise walkers a “Happy New Year”, we managed to get the birding year list off to a flying start. Of course we also worked off a few of the mince pies as well.

Nature started in the car park with a Great Tit singing “Teacher Teacher” to get our attention. You can tell the sex of a Great Tit by the thickness of the black stripe down the belly. This was a male with a thick continuous black stripe.

Great Tit (male)

Nearby a Blackbird chose a fence post to keep an eye on us. This was a mature (yellow eye ring) adult male (black not brown).

Blackbird (male)

Walking away from the car park I heard a almost apologetic “huw huw” and I looked up to see a brief view of a Bullfinch but I was not quick enough for a photo.

At the small pier on the loch side a young boy is walking with his parents armed with a bag of bread. The mute swans take note and start swimming over.

Mute Swan

We walk around the north shore first. At one point I walk off the path and disturb a few Common Snipe. These are shy birds and rarely reveal themselves unless you get too close.

A Grey Heron flies over my head, its feet dangling behind it, before landing on the central island.

As we continue we see several Goosanders diving for fish. The male with its bottle green head and the female, equally attractive, with a reddish brown head. Both have a long hooked bill with strongly serrated edge, essential for catching fish on its diving forays.

Reaching the far end of the loch a few Wigeon are gathered on the shore. The males standout with their central yellow head stripe, pinkish breast and grey back. The blandish females mainly told by association and the similar size and shape.


An impressive Horse Hoof fungus clings to a birch, more Shire Horse than Shetland Pony this one.

Horse Hoof Fungus

A curious Robin lands on a branch to check us out. My first of the year and always a pleasure.


An alarm call rings out and the Robin and scarpers as a Sparrow Hawk flies overhead and then threads a line through the trees and out of sight.

As we walk towards the farm at the East end of the loch I notice a large flock of Canada Geese feeding in the field. Along with Greylag’s these are plastic geese (introduced and resident) rather than the wild Barnacle, Pink Feet, Brent or White-Fronted Geese which migrate here each winter. I try not to despise the Canada’s because of their ancestry but not too hard.

Canada Geese

On their own near the farm are two other geese. With its carrot bill on is clearly a Greylag, the other a Canada. I wonder why these aren’t with the flock, perhaps they have been injured by a wildfowler?

Greylag and Canada goose

Reaching the South East corner we start heading back West. A Cormorant is fishing nearby. They rest so low in the water they sometimes appear all neck and head with no body.


A small Moorhen is skulking in the reeds but as we approach swims across the gap.


At this point I can see a large dog running across the field where the Geese had been grazing, no owner in sight. Sure enough the whole flock take to the air and fly to the middle of the loch for safety. A couple of Herons emerge from the same field, too spooked by the dog. I feel a bit sorry for the Geese after dissing their pedigree beforehand. The dog is now the focus of my distain or more accurately the irresponsible owner.

Another impressive fungus catches my attention.

We continue back towards the Dam wall, passing some Tufted Ducks. People often think these are Goldeneye as they do have a golden eye but the black back and white side with clear head tuft is a male Tufted Duck, the Goldeneye being told by the white spot on its cheek. The Tufties are one of our most common ducks, after Mallards of course.

Tufted Duck (male)

Stopping at the garden with bird feeders, a lovely Coal Tit moves around the nearby shrubs, impressive claws on display as it watches me.

Coal Tit

My first Tree Sparrows of the year are on the feeder. These are the country cousins of the town dwelling House Sparrows and a lovely bird with all brown cap.

Tree Sparrow

The bottle green heads of the Mallards catches my eye followed by the skulking of a distant powderpuff of Little Grebe. I have also seen distant Great Crested Grebes on the water too but too far for a good photo.

Little Grebe

A couple are feeding the Swans and Black-Headed Gulls which causes a commotion as more and more birds join the throng hoping for a handout.

I take the opportunity to practice my birds in flight photography skills. If I practice on a gull I might be ready when that Goshawk finally shows itself.

One of the Swans sets off chasing another. The less aggressive Swans take their place and their food.

We are back at the car now and as we are driving we notice a few Grey Squirrels chasing each other before pausing on the tree trunk to allow a photo and then they are off again.

My final year tick of the walk (on the 1st January anything is a year tick) is a Jay on the road. Altogether 36 bird species on the walk.

Greylag Goose (Anser anser)
Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)
Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)
Eurasian Wigeon (Mareca penelope)
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)
Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula)
Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula)
Goosander (Mergus merganser)
Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis)
Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus)
Feral Pigeon (Columba livia (Feral Pigeon))
Common Woodpigeon (Columba palumbus)
Common Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus)
Eurasian Coot (Fulica atra)
Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea)
Eurasian Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus)
Eurasian Jay (Garrulus glandarius)
Common Magpie (Pica pica)
Eurasian Jackdaw (Corvus monedula)
Rook (Corvus frugilegus)
Carrion Crow (Corvus corone)
Coal Tit (Periparus ater)
Eurasian Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Great Tit (Parus major)
Eurasian Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes)
Common Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)
Eurasian Blackbird (Turdus merula)
European Robin (Erithacus rubecula)
Dunnock (Prunella modularis)
Eurasian Tree Sparrow (Passer montanus)
Pied Wagtail/White Wagtail (Motacilla alba)
Common Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs)
Eurasian Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula)

2 thoughts on “A walk around Gartmorn Dam

  1. Well done!
    As of today 3rd, my list is only 17 birds – though one is a Blackcap, which happened to come to my feeders today, and three Grey Partridges, a bird I haven’t seen for a number of years (everything seems to be Red-legged). ‘Family walks’ tend to be less productive more me as I’m the only birdwatcher – a difficult balancing act between spoiling their walk and enjoying mine! Happy New Year to you and yours.


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