To Garelochhead by train for less than twenty hours. I was there to carry out number 1 of 2 annual bird counts on my British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) square. Count 2 must take place at least month after count 1, so it'll be towards the end of June. Ideally both counts would be earlier but bad weather prevented me from venturing into the hills a few weeks ago when when I had first intended.
My allocated square kilometre is in the hills between Garelochhead and Loch Lomond, not super-high but it feels quite remote and I see very few other people up there. The lack of litter is telling, I found only one piece, a now-deflated helium balloon.
|spying on Jennifer, having her coffee|
|Glen Finlas reservoir, Loch Lomond beyond|
|deep peat pool, crystal clear|
|deep peat pool, crystal clear, zoomed in|
The variety of birds on my square is very limited. There are always lots of meadow pipits and lots of skylarks (though not as many as meadow pipits). Most times also ravens (maybe two, three, four, five). Always lots of sheep. Today all I had was meadow pipit and skylark, and lots of sheep. I saw three ravens tumbling on an opposite hilltop, but they were outside my count time so didn't, ah, count.
The walk up from the road isn't bad. We heard our first cuckoos of the year, at least three individuals calling, one from woods above, two from valley below.
List of all birds seen/heard:
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
|name the caterpillar|
|name the (same) caterpillar|
|blaeberry (Vaccinium myrtillus). Thanks to David for i.d.|
|heath milkwort (Polygala serpyllifolia). I think.|
but possibly common milkwort (Polygala vulgaris). ?
|ribbed bog moss, (Aulacomnium palustre). Thanks to David for i.d.|
|opposite-leaved golden saxifrage (Crysosplenium oppositifolium). I think.|
|marsh violet (Viola palustris). I think.|
On the summit plateau we separated for Jennifer to walk a longer return route whilst I counted pipits. As I was finishing the sun emerged from its cloud cover and I found myself in the most wind-sheltered spot of the morning. I stopped and sat and sketched, drinking Earl Grey from my flask.
If you're interested in finding out more about taking part in any of the BTO's volunteer surveys I'd urge you to do so. It's great fun, you learn lots, and there's the feel-good factor. The data is invaluable to understanding and protection of nature. Some free training courses are available.
How to get there:
|station tunnel, at night looks like *space* station tunnel|
|swallows by station|
|station planters, spot the honey bee|
|www.helloartisans.org.uk, as part of ScotRail's Adopt A Station scheme|