Spring is springing, I hope…

Last Thursday I was in Holyrood Park again doing some John Muir Award stuff, and once again I forgot to blog about it. But I have to report on this one as it was a particularly nice day!

I’m pretty sure the temperature was around 12 degrees Celcius which is relatively warm compared to previous Thursdays in the park. I’d decided to do another count since it was completely different weather compared to previous Thursdays in the park (just to reiterate how lovely it really was).

On my way to my three areas I passed a rather angry looking Mute Swan, a Feral Pigeon who had definitely fallen in the loch while trying to have a bath, and one of the usual Magpies that I see by St. Margaret’s Loch.  

       

I started my first count in the Lilyhill Plantation but before I could start properly counting I was approached by three Carrion Crows whilst I was writing down the details about weather, date, time, etc, etc, etc… 

 The first bird I saw in the Lilyhill Plantation was a male Blackbird who shot out of a Holly bush which they are usually hiding in. Next up was a couple of Goldfinches which are always reliable. Don’t worry, I’m not going to tell you every bird I saw, just the notable sightings.

Near the start of my transect I noticed quite a kerfuffle between 5 Great Tits, maybe arguing over nest sites, I don’t know. Speaking of nest sites, I spotted a Wren sneaking into a spot at the bottom of a tree with nest material in it’s beak, think I’ll keep an eye on them. 

Also found 3 Magpie nests, all at different stages of construction. More fighting was going on down the path as a pair of Dunnocks darted about in the undergrowth. The Dunnocks were actually very vocal on Thursday, as were the Robins

 

Frogspawn was another sign of Spring’s possible arrival, in one of the sort of ditches that runs through Lilyhill. 

 A distant Buzzard near the end of that transect gave me my first raptor of the day, and I also found another Wren nest according to my notes but I don’t remember where. 

 And yes, I have got a black dot on my lens, I think it must be on the inside of the lens as I can’t wipe it off. 

Some springtime love was also in the air as this Woodpigeon tried to court an unimpressed friend. Poor guy. 

My favourite sighting of the day came as I was walking back down the road to start my count in the Whinny Hill plantation. I thought I’d seen some Dunnocks arguing again in the gorse and for whatever reason decided to have a look with my bins despite being just across the single lane road. Once I had found one of the birds it became apparent that it’s legs were far too pink to be a Dunnock. Then it hit me, I had a feeling I knew what it was. As the rest of it’s body emerged from behind a twig it started singing, confirming my identification. A Chiffchaff! First one of the year for me, and a lovely little celebratory song was chiffed and chaffed by the lovely warbler. What a nice end to a good count.  

 My totals for the Lilyhill are as follows:

  • Blackbird 8
  • Carrion Crow 5
  • Blue Tit 5
  • Great Tit 10
  • Woodpigeon 19
  • Chaffinch 8
  • Goldfinch 10
  • Robin 7
  • Lesser Black-backed Gull 1
  • Dunnock 8
  • Wren 5
  • Bullfinch 6
  • Goldcrest 3
  • House Sparrow 8
  • Magpie 4
  • Buzzard 1
  • Pheasant 1
  • Greenfinch 1
  • Chiffchaff 1
  • Collared Dove 2

  Onto Whinny Hill, I was really hoping for Coal Tit as I’ve only recorded it once in this area despite it being full of conifers. Unfortunately that didn’t happen, first bird was a reliable Robin. I was treated to some close views of Goldcrests picking about in the gorse, which was pretty much in full bloom, and smelt great. 

Had a pair of Sparrowhawks fly over as well as a single Grey Heron, probably heading to Dunsapie Loch. Two more springy sightings were of Peacock and Red Admiral butterflies sunning themselves. 

Totals for Whinny Hill were as follows:  

  • Robin 1
  • Goldcrest 4
  • Goldfinch 4
  • Wren 3
  • Chaffinch 3
  • Lesser Black-backed Gull 1
  • Woodpigeon 3
  • Magpie 1
  • Dunnock 1
  • Blackbird 1
  • Grey Heron 1
  • Sparrowhawk 2
  • Blue Tit 2
  • Long-tailed Tit 2

Must say I’ve been surprised at how few species this area has given me but I’ll have to wait and see what crops up in the summer months.

After that count I was quite hungry so I went up the hill and sat by Dunsapie Loch to eat my lunch and just enjoy watching the birds enjoy the sun. 

While sitting in my spot I noticed an ex-duck nest below a shrub at the side of the Loch, and a Chaffinch so hinging in the shrub less than 5 feet away. Despite not seeing a Kingfisher I did see a bird catch a fish.  

 

Starting my count around Dunsapie I had 2 Meadow Pipits fly from Dunsapie Crag to the main hill and one flyover Pied Wagtail. Sid and Sally again followed me around the Loch as the Lesser Black-backeds kept a watchful eye on me from the rocky crag. Not much out of the ordinary around Dunsapie to be honest, the usual ducks and gulls all hanging out.

My best sighting came in the form of a bird that I noted down as being “larger than a thrush, dark, like small oystercatcher, continuous fast flapping”. This bird I saw whilst leaving Dunsapie and walking back down the hill. When I got back to the Historic Scotland HQ I mentioned it to Robbie, one of the rangers, and he suggested Woodcock. Hit the nail on the head. Don’t know why I didn’t think of that! It was probably from Bawsinch, a private wildlife sanctuary on the other side of Duddingston Loch.

A good way to end the day! And to end my post šŸ™‚

  

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Spring is springing, I hope…

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