Today I had limited time as I slept in a fair bit (I’m a teenager, don’t judge me) and then had to revise until lunch to make up for the lost time. Biology prelim tomorrow which I want to at least pass. This left me with about an hour from 2:30 till 3:30, and I spent it well.
Dad said he could take me to the Moorfoot Hills (just south of Gladhouse) and he’d read in the car because he needed to do some reading (i.e. he couldn’t face the rain). So I headed off from Moorfoot Village towards the hills themselves where I was mainly hoping for Red Grouse and Stonechat. The River South Esk starts in the Moorfoots and runs into Gladhouse Reservoir, so the first bird I saw was a Dipper fluttering upstream. Further on I saw what must have been the shepherd going to check his sheep on his quadbike. Man how much easier life would be if I had a quadbike.
At what I’d say is the entrance to the valley I was delighted to see a Merlin fly past me and towards a rocky bit in the hills where I’ve seen one before. That’s already one year tick! And to add to the Raptorage, three Buzzards were soaring high above the hills. Awesome.
Further into the valley I was feeling optimistic that perhaps I’d see grouse or chat without having to go very far in. This didn’t happen.
I walked all the way to a little hut in the middle of the valley where I sat scanning the hills with my scope which I really needn’t have bothered bringing but it did let me take some quite misty pictures. On the walk in though, I saw two Ravens fly across and heard another later on. Another raptor to add to the list was a Peregrine which flew past twice, which helped me confirm what I’d though it was the first time it flew past. Three ticks in 45 minutes. Whilst that was a good thing it was also bad as it meant I had fifteen minutes to get back to the car, and it wasn’t “just down the road.” So after seeing nothing actually in the valley I hastily retreated back out, both so I wasn’t late and also due to the weather which was getting increasingly wet and windy. I did hear one bird in the valley, the ever reliable Wren which I had semi-expected to have fled the area after the heavy snow. But no, it stuck around.
Still no Stonechat or Red Grouse yet and I was heading back home. So I played a song on my phone to try and make the weather seem not so bad. Blackbird by Martyn Bennet. This was actually bad as it meant I kept thinking I was hearing birds but it kept turning out to be the song, so I stopped it and just as I did that I heard the undeniable, guttural call of a Red Grouse. After a bit of scanning with the bins, I found them, a pair. One male, one female I think.
That was me up to 4 ticks for the day and I was happy with that. So I started to run as my watch was telling me I needed to do so.
About 10 minutes later I was nearing Moorfoot village with a Kestrel being flushed on my right from a straggly Gorse bush as I ran past, and the Greylag flock from yesterday grazing in fields to my left. Just before I got to the car I noticed some dumpy little things moving about by a hedgerow in a field. Three Red-legged Partridge gave me my fifth year tick of the day!
Into the car, a quick look at some manky Mallards and farmyard Geese, and I was off home. Where I could dry my soaking trousers on the radiator in my room, and sit in front of the fire with some biology notes. I do love being exposed to the elements, but afterwards it’s nice to be able to relax 🙂
Other birds I’ve seen today are the large flock of Fieldfare behind my dad’s house, with some Mistle Thrushes, Redwing and local Starlings mixed in. Whilst I was watching them they all flew up and I instinctively looked for the raptor. A Kestrel, which was quickly seen off by the Jackdaws, and then later the first Sparrowhawk I’ve seen in Temple (the village my dad lives in) made the thrushes rise into the air again. For the next ten minutes I kept seeing the Sprawk dashing amongst the houses and across the fields. Looked like it was really enjoying itself, whilst scaring the garden birds half to death!