Hermitage w/ fam

So I did get out birding today, or at least out on a walk with the fam which turned into them walking ahead whilst I got distracted by something.

The Hermitage of Braid is just around the corner from my house so it doesn’t take long to get to the birds. First non-common birds (after Crow, Jackdaw, Woodpigeon, Blue Tit, Blackbird) were the flock of Linnets that are flying about in the field nearby. A year tick already! At the top of the field I could see the small flock of Fan-tailed Pigeons which live at the stables by the field which I guess is another species despite not really being “wild”. Not even sure they are on the Category E list. Anyway, moving on…
Once in the Hermitage I started to see all the usual birds, but one bird I usually see was not there. Not a Goldfinch in sight. Further along the path I heard that descending, harsh trill of some Long-tailed Tits which I could not actually see amongst the shrubs but luckily some more showed up in a Willow for me to tick off my year list.
I pretty much saw everything that you can see in winter in the Hermitage (see my post about Small Projects) EXCEPT Great Spotted Woodpecker which I did hear, but unfortunately couldn’t find amongst the trees. I also couldn’t did the Dipper which I always go on about being “really reliable”, thanks a lot Dippers.
I found one Greenfinch in a spot I usually see them. In winter I rarely see them anywhere other than here. It’s near gardens though so I assume they are using the feeders that people are putting out.
At one point near the end of the walk I was distracted by a large number of Great and Blue Tits which I know can be joined by other birdies. Sure enough a few Chaffinches showed up, some Blackbirds and a Robin. Once a small family group stirred up the birds I had another look for one bird in particular. Almost immediately the Bird Gods met my wishes. A Nuthatch was on the ground hammering at a small stump. I reeled off a few photos and also saw two Treecreepers chasing each other about a tree which I captured too. Very happy I’d found the Nuthatch again as I hadn’t seen him/her in ages!







After that I realised I’d be needing more photos for my blog post, and that I was going to be really far behind mum and my sister so I took a leisurely stroll back through the Hermitage to try and get some more shots. Amongst the birds I saw were my first Dipper of the year (out of focus) and a lovely Male Kestrel above the golf course.










So yeah, and here’s my list. I was counting all the birds so I could upload what I’d seen to BirdTrack which is actually playing up and not uploading. Hm…


I’ll do a post later to update my year list 🙂

Hermitage w/ fam

About a week ago in Holyrood

So, I’m a bit late in posting this but that’s how it is.

One of my Thursdays spent at Holyrood Park doing my John Muir Award. I was actually finalising my proposal for all the things I’m going to be doing, and we’ve added sketching and speaking to people to my list of activities. Anyway, last Thursday I only really did some walking about in the area and seeing what’s going on, which is actually one if the things I’m supposed to do to help me gain an understanding of the area.

I started by heading from the Historic Scotland office to St. Margaret’s Loch, just across the playing fields, and I did a wee count of the birds on and around the loch.

2015/01/img_4407.jpg 32 Mute Swans, more than usual on the Loch.

2015/01/img_4408.jpg Quite chuffed with this shot of one of the 19 Greylags around the Loch.


2015/01/img_4410.jpg A couple of Swans started doing what I assume is a greeting ritual/dance? I’ll need to read up on it.

2015/01/img_4413.jpg About 200 Black-headed Gulls on St. Margaret’s, still no Med Gull for me!

2015/01/img_4414.jpg A cheeky Dunnock who wouldn’t face the camera.

2015/01/img_4412.jpg With the Swans and Geese.


2015/01/img_4415.jpg Number of Feral Pigeons seems to have gone up now it’s cold.

After St. Margaret’s Loch I head up the high road to The Lilyhill, my first area that I’m studying for my Award. Every week I see the same Magpies. Almost feel like I’m getting to know them. One week I sat and watched 4 of them systematically make their way through the leaf litter, picking things up and burying them in different places.

2015/01/img_4416.jpg One of the Magpies.

I proceeded up the hill and into Lilyhill where I found quite a few firsts for this year; Coal Tit, Chaffinch, and a couple others I think. Once I reached the end of Lilyhill I went up to Whinny Hill and had a wee walk through there, adding Bullfinch to my year list and getting some very nice views of Goldcrests squeaking about in the Gorse and Broom. After this I had to go back to the office to finalise my proposal with one if the wardens but after that I headed back out to my third area, Dunsapie Loch. Before I got there though I was distracted by a Kestrel which was being, A. Very noisy and B. Mobbed by a couple of Carrion Crows. Whilst the Kestrel was clearly not very happy about being chased around the park, it did mean another year tick for me! And I got a few decent pictures.









This shot (below) I’m also quite happy with, looks very artistic and was obviously completely on purpose (not!)


So after spending ages staring at the sky I finally moved on and got to Dunsapie and saw what I’d expected, and added Pheasant to my year list 🙂 also struggled to get nice shots of the Tufted Ducks which kept diving so eventually I gave in and settled for this “post-dive” shot.

And of course the Black-headed Gulls posed as much as they could.

So that was probably the last time I was out birding, I might manage to get out tomorrow but I’m not promising anything.

In other news, I’ve ordered a digiscoping adapter for my compact camera so I’m sure I’ll be updating you with all the shots I take using that!
Hope everybody has a good week!

About a week ago in Holyrood

My John Muir Award

So, long story short, I need to do voluntary work as part of my school timetable. So I managed to sort out voluntary with Scottish Natural Heritage at Holyrood Park. They could only take me for 6 weeks though which was really quite annoying as A. I needed voluntary for the whole school year and B. I really loved everything I did with the park rangers, from visiting a private wildlife reserve to clearing gorse and even the litter pick after bonfire night! So, the head ranger suggested I do my John Muir Award in the park. What a great idea that was 🙂

John Muir was known as the Father of Conservation in America (I think that’s it) and was responsible for a lot of the National Parks. He was also an explorer, ecologist, geologist, glaciologist, something else, something else and many other things!

The idea of the award is that you discover an area, explore it, conserve it, and share it. My area (or three areas) are in Holyrood Park. Lilyhill, Whinny hill and Dunsapie Loch. These three areas cover plenty of habitats, birch forest, pine forest, gorse, open grass, rocky crags, and a Loch (lake). So there’s me discovered the area.
To explore the area I’m going to be doing fairly regular bird surveys, learning to ID trees, and just generally learning everything I can about the ecosystem and biodiversity of the site, (including nightlife) which I’m loving so far!
The third challenge, to conserve the area, means I need to help nature survive in the area. To do this I’ll probably set up bird boxes, maybe do a few litter picks, and I’ve been allowed to make information boards for Dunsapie Loch and also St. Margaret’s Loch to give visitors a bit of information, including why not to feed the birds white bread! Another thing I’ll potentially be doing is just chatting to people around the area (usually around St. Margaret’s Loch) about why not to feed the birds white bread, and possibly letting them switch their bread for grain that I’ll bring with me (I know, how nice of me).
How am I going to share my experiences? I’m doing it right now 🙂 but this is just one way I’m doing it. My Flickr page will play a fairly large part in my sharing, as I like taking pictures anyway and it helps people see what’s around and what I’ve found. I’m going to try my best to do some sketches in the field of anything really; trees, bugs, birds, flowers, the landscape…

So that’s what I’m doing for my John Muir Award! Apparently it’s quite specialised and more self-lead than most peoples so hopefully it’s going to be a beneficial experience! It’s already the best part of my week every week 🙂

My John Muir Award

Year List Pt. 2

Well, a short addition to my list but might as well put it up as I’m taking a break from studying.
On the bus to rugby yesterday I decided to look out the window and wished there were more birds to see, before realising that I had definitely seen a new bird. Feral Pigeons. Not that exciting I know, but it’s an addition. Once I got to rugby I was hoping the Curlews might be on the playing fields but instead was happy to see Oystercatchers.
And as I was leaving school today I could hear Great Tit but couldn’t find it and I was in a rush to get home in time to meet someone. Anyway, tomorrow (providing the weather gets better) I’ll get a fair number of birds added to my list as I’m in Holyrood Park doing my John Muir award from 11 til 3, and then another opportunity to add the Curlew at rugby 🙂

18. Feral Pigeon
19. Oystercatcher

And something I forgot to look out for at school is the occasional Black-backed Gull. I’m not sure if it’s Lesser or Greater but I’ll check next time I see one… If I see one.

Year List Pt. 2

Year List Pt. 1

So far this year I’ve not been out birding at all. Poor effort, I know. So my list hasn’t gotten off to a very good start. This is the first year I’ve done a proper year list so it’s a bit annoying I haven’t started well. But it does mean I have more birds to see throughout the next few days! I’ll hopefully add a fair number of birds to my list on Thursday as I’ll be in Holyrood Park doing my John Muir Award (I’ll do a post on this in the future). So, here’s the first 17, and here’s to a good year of birds, for me and you!

1. Common Gull
2. Herring Gull
3. Carrion Crow
4. Woodpigeon
5. Dunnock
6. Black-headed Gull
7. Magpie
8. Mistle Thrush
9. Blackbird
10. Goldcrest
11. Blue Tit
12. Goldfinch
13. House Sparrow
14. Jackdaw
15. Robin
16. Sparrowhawk
17. Wren

Year List Pt. 1

Hours of staring pays off

I spend a lot of my time staring out the window taking semi-decent shots of birds through my scope and just hanging around to see what shows up. So, that’s what I’m doing now. And would you believe it, a Sparrowhawk just flew straight into the bush next to my feeder where I was watching some Blue Tits hopping about! Pretty sure he (too small to be a female) didn’t catch anything as I can still see the Blue Tits and hear other birds. But, that’s the first time I’ve seen a Sparrowhwak properly in my garden as opposed to flying over! Man, I think I’m going to love 2015!

Unfortunately no picture as he was far too fast, but still a great memory. Here’s a few photos I have managed just now though.







There’s also a large flock if Common Gulls that have been landing in the field behind my house recently. They appear about an hour or so before the sun goes down every day. So I was planning on getting some nice digiscoped shots but some blasted dog scared them all away, probably to the playing fields near my house but it’s too cold for me to bother going out now. I know, poor commitment, but hopefully they keep up their habit and I get some shots tomorrow of the not-so-common Common Gulls.

Hours of staring pays off