Sunday, 26 January 2020

Scotland By Rail - Dundee, Gallery Q, DCA, V&A, cormorant trying to swallow something

Pilgrim's Haven, watercolour, 25x30cm, (spot the lighthouse).
In Gallery Q, Feb 2020 


A Scotland By Rail day delivering four island artworks to Gallery Q plus exploring a little bit of cultural Dundee.


Dundee - Gallery Q
The exhibition at Gallery Q opens next Saturday 1st February at 12noon. Let me know if you're interested. Gallery opening hours are Tues - Sat 11am - 4.30pm (5.30pm on Thurs). 

When I visited the gallery birds and nature seemed to be prominent. I loved the terracotta bird jugs by Phil Arthur and, as always, Claire Harkess' watercolour wildlife. 

I'm really happy to be exhibiting in this bright friendly gallery full of original painting and printmaking, ceramics, glasswork and jewellery. I'm especially pleased to be exhibiting again alongside my friend since school days, Dundee artist Martin Hill.

See our work from the exhibition here - www.galleryq.co.uk


Martin Hill, Sunset, oil on board, 14x20cm

Phil Arthur, Little Owl lidded jug, c.23cm high

Claire Harkess, Band-bellied Owl, watercolour, 15x21cm


Train to Dundee
It's such a good journey, worth doing just for the views. Soon after departing Burntisland: Kinghorn, church, bay, Inchkeith Island. Once I saw dolphins from the train at this very spot.



Markinch, reminding me of  an earlier Scotland By Rail trip looking for grey partridge with artist Kittie Jones. Finding unexpected adornments in a modern, not outwardly promising, station building - landscapeartnaturebirds.blogspot.com

trees and fields and other such nice

crossing the Tay, looking to Dundee

crossing the Tay, Fife on the left, two crows crossing the other direction


In Dundee - V&A and RRS Discovery
Dundee old and new, RRS Discovery and V&A. I love the contrast

porthole window in V&A, glimpses of Discovery, Tay, Tay Bridge, Fife hills beyond

Tay Bridge & lighthouse


Cormorant and something fishy
And here in the Tay, a cormorant, grappling with something, I couldn't work out what. Something wide and flat. I started to fear it was a big piece of plastic. 


  

But...






Angles changed and suddenly backlit fins appeared



  


A flat fish! A flatfish. A Flounder or a Dab? I sadly know really nothing of fish. 






And swallowed. Or possibly dropped.





Dundee Contemporary Arts - Ursula Le Guin
I enjoyed Dundee Contemporary Arts (DCA) too, it's an interesting building in layout (especially the toilets, very unusual) with a small good arty design-y gift and book shop, original prints for sale, cafe, exhibition space, cinema. 

The exhibition on until 22nd March is Seized by the Left Hand, a very diverse, contemporary exhibition of fifteen international artists come together to look at thoughts and ideas in Ursula K. Le Guin's hugely popular sci-fi novel The Left Hand of Darkness (1969). I like sci-fi, I like environment, I like equality. This exhibition is about all that.

Quote from DCA website:
"Written 50 years ago, this masterpiece of feminist science fiction is set on an icy planet called 'Gethen' (which translates to 'Winter') whose inhabitants shift and change gender continuously throughout their lives. We as readers are told the story of Gethen from a human perspective through the eyes of protagonist Genly Ai, an envoy sent to the planet to attempt to convince Gethenian governments to join an interplanetary trade coalition.

The book had a profound impact on the sci-fi genre at the time of its publication and remains hugely relevant to the world around us today, posing serious and challenging questions about gender, sexuality, the environment, language, communication, power and empire."

My favourite work in the exhibition is Flora Moscovic's huge, atomic, volcanic, solar wall mural - two full walls painted from top to bottom, side to side in glowing white, yellow, orange, blue light. Title, Crossing the Kargav. 

Also two series of beautifully delicate and very touching painterly works-from-memory by Abel Rodríguez, an elder of the Nonuya ethnic group in the Colombian Amazon, "recalling the indigenous flora and fauna that precariously inhabit the region. Now in his 70s, Rodríguez has recently been forced to move and resettle ... after being displaced from his homeland by guerrilla militia forces and corrupt government structures ... facilitating the exploitation and destruction of the precious rainforest ecosystems in South America."

Complete exhibition notes are online here - www.dca.org.uk/assets/general/SBTLH_Exhibition_Notes_13_Dec_FINAL.pdf



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Previous Dundee blog post
2017 - Balgay Hill & Cemetery and lots of Martin Hill (and a very interesting local comment at the end by Jim Crumley) - http://landscapeartnaturebirds.blogspot.com/2017/04/scotland-by-rail-dundee-balgay-hill.html


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Fluke Street & South Horn, Isle of May, watercolour, 18x37cm (spot the moon). In Gallery Q, Feb 2020

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How to get there:

Trains to Dundee leave:

- Edinburgh and Aberdeen frequently, journey time a bit over an hour.
- Glasgow frequently, journey time a bit under an hour and a half
- Perth every hour, journey time about half an hour


Timetables & Buy Tickets here.



Many thanks to ScotRail for their support of my Scotland By Rail work.

BTO WeBS Wetland Bird Survey - Binn Pond, Jan 2020


As detailed in my previous blog post here, I carry out two once-a-month volunteer bird surveys for the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO). The survey is the Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS). This year I'm going to try to put a quick blog post about each count each month.

I volunteer for two monthly counts. This post is about my Binn Pond count on the hill above Burntisland in Fife.

A good Scotland By Rail Binn Pond circle walk here. Start and finish at Burntisland train station.


BTO WeBS Wetland Bird Survey - Binn Pond, Jan 2020

Time:
09:40 - 10:10
Comment:
as always, very poor visibility caused by more and more reeds /rush growing every year. There are probably pretty much always more birds than I am able to log in my results.

Results:
Coot 1
Moorhen 1
Teal 7

The teal are so nice. Britain's smallest duck. A call like the twinkling of delicate silver bells. Through winter there are often a small number of them here. I wonder each time about how this particular little group came to find the pond... Is it the same group as last visit? Is it the same group each year?


I forgot to take a pond photo so you'll have to wait until next month :)

Thursday, 16 January 2020

BTO WeBS Wetland Bird Survey - Union Canal Linlithgow to Philpstoun, Jan 2020

c.230 wigeon on Flood Field near Philpstoun

Another New Year. Resolutions and all that.

One of mine is (probably?) to see if I can put up a quick post each month summarising my British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS). Partly as a way of encouraging me to stick to another resolution - make sure I do carry out the surveys!

I volunteer for two monthly counts:

- a linear there-and-back 11km ish walk along the Union Canal towpath from Linlithgow to Philpstoun, in Lothian. All waterbirds making use of canal AND making use of one field width on either side of canal. Read more about it in my 2012 post which introduces the route - http://landscapeartnaturebirds.blogspot.com/2012/10/counting-canal-birds-linlithgow-to.html

NB - this is also a really good Scotland By Rail walk. Get the train to Linlithgow, visit a cafe before you start and another cafe (or a nice pub) when you get back. Don't forget The Line Gallery, Far From The Madding Crowd independent bookshop, Linlithgow Palace, great charity shops, wholefood shop, Fairtrade shop...

- a small pond, the Binn Pond, above Burntisland, in Fife. All waterbirds on or around the pond. I'm not sure if I will or won't blog this one.


Wetland Bird Survey - Union Canal Linlithgow to Philpstoun, Jan 2020

Time: 
09:30 - 13:00
Comment: 
quite strong wind from west. Flood Field east of Park Farm very substantial - main flood is currently large, plus 3 or 4 small patches

Results:
Cormorant - 1
Curlew - 8               - on Flood Field
Goosander - 1
Grey Heron - 1
Greylag Goose - 16       - on Flood Field
Mallard - 21               - on Flood Field
Moorhen - 2
Mute Swan - 3
Wigeon - c.230               - on Flood Field
Black-headed Gull - 2   - on Flood Field
Common Gull - 2       - on Flood Field
Grey Wagtail - 1       - on Flood Field
Reed Bunting - 2

I reckon there will have been snipe on the Flood Field too but they're so hard to spot at this distance.


Linlithgow Canal Basin (visitable, cafe, boat trips). My count starts here

Childhood patch.Where the canal leaves Linlithgow. I understand this whole long field may (will?) soon be houses.
What about our favourite sledging spot? What about the fox cubs I watched here? What about the huge flock of linnets I see here? What about the yellowhammers?

Narrowboat Farm Market Garden

the Flood Field! Wonderful spot. This is where the vast majority of birds on my count are spotted.

more the Flood Field

yellowhammer male (yellow face)

reed bunting, back of

song thrush singing

my turnaround at the end of the route.
A mysterious dry, squeeky, creaky, cracky wood, sided by Philpstoun shale bings

spot the bing

touch of red

coffee spot sketch spot


coffee spot sketch.
Great tits, blue tits, blackbird.
One great tit alarm calling right at me, coming gradually closer and closer. Not sure if curious or if trying to get rid of me.



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How to get there:

Linlithgow is very well served on the flagship Edinburgh - Glasgow line. 

Enough trains that you really don't need to check the timetable, but if you do want to - 'Central Belt' here.


Many thanks to ScotRail for their support of my Scotland By Rail work.


Friday, 13 December 2019

Scotland By Rail - Wemyss Bay walk from station to Kelly Reservoir

Kelly Reservoir with wren

Following on from my previous blog post exploring Wemyss Bay station and the journey there from Glasgow Central. 

This new post charts a nice four mile there-and-back walk uphill from station to moortop reservoir, through wooded gorge, along country track past fields and a few dwellings, onto open moor with pylons and views across the Firth of Clyde to Bute and Arran and the Cowal Peninsula.

There was good birdlife including buzzard, reservoir wren, five jays in some birches, chattering and flitting about, a raven up on the moor. Apparently hen harriers are a possibility. And outside the station down on the shore were lots of gulls, some eiders, swans, cormorants, oystercatchers, more...



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The walk:

Watch the ferry arrive or leave, visit the station bookshop and cafe, look for the Red Wheel plaque (see previous post). 
Watch the waterbirds on the shore. A good place for this if the tide is out is from the road bridge immediately south of the ferry and station entrances.


Once you've enjoyed the waterbirds don't cross the bridge into Skelmorlie, turn left at this signpost and walk uphill towards the caravan park:
turn left at this sign just before the road crosses the Kelly Burn

caravan park entrance, walk uphill here


The Kelly Burn, a wooded stream, is on your right and very soon the road turns sharply left. Leave the road and pass straight ahead through wide metal gate:


Follow the footpath uphill, Kelly Burn always on your right.

I find signs like this are rather jarring,
but there definitely are steep banks so take care if children are with you.
 
lots of oak trees...
  

Don't turn right across this bridge and gas pipeline:



Instead turn sharp left to leave the Kelly Burn and pass through this gate:


After a short way emerge onto a very minor road and turn right to continue uphill. Turning left takes you through the caravan park as an alternative route back down to the station. 


spot the jay

Pass a house or few a couple of times. Don't worry, this is the correct way.
Now and again you *might* spot small round signs marking the route.
  

And onto the open moor:


Very strange to see pylons with their wires down. I'm not sure if the wires are currently being renewed or if it's all in the process of being decommissioned.



Looking back over the Firth of Clyde, Arran mountains on far left, Cowal Peninsula on far right, Rothesay straight ahead. The two Bute ferries passed each other half way across.


At the not overly obvious spot illustrated in the photo below walk straight ahead and up onto the reservoir wall. 

If you wished a much longer walk you could turn left and continue on the track another seven or so miles to emerge eventually at Drumfrochar station on the south bank of the Clyde. I haven't done it but it sounds a really interesting station-to-station walk, more info here

Part way along that route is the Greenock Cut Visitor Centre. Again, I haven't been, but I'd like to! Info and opening dates & times here - www.clydemuirshiel.co.uk/park-sites/greenock-cut.


As an aside, one of my own favourite station-to-station walks is on the West Highland Line -  from Bridge of Orchy to Tyndrum following the Old Military Road and the curving of the railway round the famous Horseshoe Curve. See my (2012) blog here.

At this not overly obvious spot walk straight ahead and up onto the reservoir wall. 

Kelly Reservoir

reservoir wall with bench
  
reservoir wren, pencil, watercolour & pen in sketchbook


But please, take your litter home:
crisp & sweet & cigarette packets, and fishing twine. Gathered from under bench and along the reservoir wall


Here's a leaflet showing the whole of the Kelly Cut route, not just the small section I walked - www.clydemuirshiel.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Kelly-Cut.pdf

And here's a nice blog post showing more of these routes - www.caingram.info/Scotland/Pic_htm/muirshiel_park.htm




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How to get there:

ScotRail runs hourly trains from Glasgow Central to Wemyss Bay. Check the Ayrshire, Inverclyde and Stranraer timetable here.

Many thanks to ScotRail for their support of my Scotland By Rail work.