Monday 1 July 2013

2013 - June BTO waterbird count, Linlithgow - Philpstoun

My monthly BTO WeBS count along the Union Canal, Linlithgow to Philpstoun.

Tuesday 25th June 2013.

Start time - 7.50am
Turnaround - 10am
End time - 11.10am

A warmish day despite being fairly overcast. A light breeze, no rain.


The most exciting sighting - foxes! A while out of Linlithgow, in a field on the left, I thought I spied hares; I raised my binoculars and found that it was foxes. Four of them. A parent and three young I think. They were far away but my view was clear. They young were mock-fighting, rolling and tumbling together. One carried a bright orange ball in its mouth, exactly as a dog might.
Birmingham and Black Country Wildlife Trust write: 

"Foxes love to play, particularly with things that smell good – old shoes, dog chews, balls and gardening gloves are favourite items."
Lots more fascinating info by clicking the link above.

Young birds everywhere too. And this white-nosed foal:

hidden treasure:

At my turnaround point in the shadow of the Philpstoun shalebings I suddenly, unexpectedly, spotted a geocache. I've never gone looking for one but have found a few in the past. If you spend lots of time outdoors and observing you're probably going to find one every so often. There are lots around, all over the world, but I hadn't realised quite how many - have a look at the map here to get an idea of the scale. I recently found a really small one - in a black 35mm film cannister - but I can't now remember where that was! Possibly it was during my recent painting week on the Isle of May? Today's cache was a small plastic drinks tumbler, covered with camouflage fabric. I signed the notebook inside and put my blog address. If you haven't heard of geocaching and have no idea what I'm on about, have a look at to reassure yourself that I'm not going loopy.

Philpstoun bing geocache


The flood-field is no longer a flood field. As you'd expect, it tends to lessen in size as summer progresses; today there was no water evident at all, only two large patches of drying and cattle-churned mud. A hazy yellow blanket of buttercups flowered across the grasses. At first the field seemed empty of all birds but quickly I saw starlings, a house martin, woodpigeons and crows.  
And eligible for my count of water birds:

Lapwing - 17    
Oystercatcher - 1    
Pied wagtail - unsure of the number but less than 10 and more than 1. Some were young, lacking the full black-white markings of their parents.

flood-field - no flood!

flood-field buttercups

canal buttercups

All non-flood-field water birds eligible for WeBS count:

Mallard - 9    
Moorhen - 2 (plus 3 chicks, small enough to have only recently begun swimming)
Tufted duck - 2    
Black-headed gull - 1    
Lesser Black-backed gull - 1    
Grey wagtail - 2

The lesser black-back was floundering in the canal, attempting to lift a dead fish clear of the water to carry it away. It gave in and departedwith its meal. I smelled the fish as I passed it. 

All birds seen:

Black-headed gull                
Blue tit                
Carrion crow                
Collared dove                
Feral pigeon
Great tit                
Grey wagtail                
House sparrow                
Lesser black-backed gull
Pied wagtail                
Sand martin                
Sedge warbler                
Song thrush                
Tree sparrow                
Tufted duck                
Willow warbler                

Total bird species: 39 (same as last month)

WeBS count list, June 2013

Tesco oystercatcher:

As I passed through Tesco car park on the way to the start of my count were the oystercatchers that have been nesting on the roof there. Oystercatchers will nest on many flat, pebbly and gravely surfaces, they don't build a nest, just make a shallow 'scrape' in the ground. For at least the past three years a pair have successfully fledged young from above our local Tesco. Last year they had two chicks, this year they have one. It's now of a size where it can feed itself on worms and grubs from the grassy car park bankings, 'though its parents still watch it closely.

this year's oystercatcher, Tesco Linlithgow

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