Thursday 29 August 2013

2013 - August BTO waterbird count, Linlithgow - Philpstoun

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

Wednesday 28th August 2013.

Start time 7.50am
End time 11am

Overcast, cool light breeze, a few patches of sun, no rain.

My first time doing this count since June, having been unable to make it last month.

What flood-field?:

Flood-field is sadly now absolutely not a flood-field, just a field. Hopefully the autumn rains will change that. So no water birds on flood-field today, rather, two pied wagtails, two woodpigeons, a few starlings, a few jackdaws and lots and lots of rooks. Somewhere far off a curlew was calling.

The signs of the change of the seasons are starting to appear but it's been a very productive summer: large groups of young house sparrows flitted along the tall towpath vegetation in front of me, sometimes a few tree sparrows foraged amongst them; often young goldfinches were alongside their parents, striking with their bright yellow wing stripes but lacking the beautiful red facial masks of an adult; all the starlings now have cream/white spotted metallic dark green chests but heads are still the dusking brown of this year's young.

At one point a probable sparrowhawk, mobbed by martins. My sighting was too brief to be certain but it flew low sticking mostly to vegetation, much less obvious than a buzzard.

There were water birds using the canal, but nothing of great note.

count notes, 28.08.13

All water birds eligible for count:

mallard - 3
moorhen – 6
pied wagtail – 2

lesser black-backed gull - 6
black headed gull – 1
unknown juvenile gull – 3

All birds seen:

pied wagtail
lesser black-backed gull
black-headed gull (coming into winter plumage so not black headed. In fact, even in summer they aren't black headed but a beautifully rich dark chocolate brown)

unknown warbler – quite yellow, probably chiff chaff or willow warbler but no song heard to enable me to distinguish.

sand martin - soon to be heading south, this will likely be their last appearance in my 2013 counts.
swallow – as sand martin

tree sparrow
house sparrow
song thrush
blue tit
feral pigeon

curlew – heard far off, out of count range

28 species

Today in photos:

reed island, floating east to west. Spot the moorhen.

cropped field

same field, different angle

The Shirvalee. She always looks so cosy and snug. A 2/3 length barge. Spot the swallow.

Brassicas & bing. Spot the brassicas.

on the rookout. Spot the hay bale.

on the rookout. Spot the difference.

Spot the robin...
Well actually he's not here, but his pincushion is. That's right, the red/orange fuzzy fuzzes are 'rose bedeguar galls'. These are amazing things, in effect 'made' by the gall wasp, Diplolepis rosea.

Gall wasps are minute parasitic creatures, this particular one about 4mm long. They lay their eggs on the host plant and, when the larvae hatch and begin to eat, something that I don't really understand causes the plant to morph and grow these incredible structures. There are many different galls in the UK, on many different plants. One that people are quite familiar with is the wood-like sphere the size of a large marbles, sometimes found growing on oak trees. Inside galls are chambers which the larvae live in until ready to emerge as adult wasps and begin the cycle again.

If you want all the technical details, and larval photos, have a look here -

If you want fewer details, but more gall variety, have a look here -

If you've time to spare, have a look at both. 

identify the fungi.

between Philpstoun bings

where a bridge once was, between Philpstoun bings

Guess the gloop.
This may be the egg casing of some unknown creature but more likely is the juicy insides of a berry or currant, dropped by a bird.

Starlings taking flight. Spot the horses.

Linlithgow allotments. Spot the lucozade bottle.

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