Monday 24 February 2014

2014 - February BTO waterbird count, Linlithgow - Philpstoun

My monthly BTO WeBS count along the Union Canal, Linlithgow to Philpstoun.
As part of efforts to improve screen vs. canvas balance I'm going to try to keep most of my canal-count blogs much shorter in the past. Just the basics of what I saw, perhaps primarily as a record for myself. If anything really exciting comes up I'll try to include it. Like January's mole.

Friday 21st Feb

Start time 8.20am
turnaround time 10am

End time 11am
Weather - cold and windy from east to west. Sometimes a little rain.

The flood field - quite extensively flooded - 119 wigeon making use of it. On my route this is a very hight count for any species.

Waterbirds seen: 

Curlew 2 - on flood field
Goosander 5    
Mallard 3    
Moorhen 5    
Wigeon 119 - on flood field
Black-headed Gull 2    
Common Gull 2    
Dipper 1 - zoomed past on stream below canal bridge just east of Philpstoun. I heard rather than saw it.

All birds seen:

Black-headed Gull
Blue Tit
Carrion Crow
Coal Tit
Common Gull
Feral Pigeon
Great Tit
House Sparrow

Pheasant - a black one, as you sometimes see. Other than the red facial wattles it's whole body was in iridescent greeny, purple-y, blue-y blacks.

Song Thrush

32 species

This is spot the black pheasant. The black spot is this pheasant.

identify the fungi. on an uprooted tree

lots of them. growing from earth around the now air-exposed roos

Monday 10 February 2014

Woodhall Spa, Lincoln, 98-year-old Granny

This Friday-Monday mum and I visited Woodhall Spa, Lincolnshire, to see my granny (dad's mum) who is now in a home there. Granny is 98 (and a half) and has had a fascinating life, growing up on a farm on Jersey and living through the German Occupation there. Her diary of that time is published as Jersey Occupation Diary, as imaginatively named as my Landscapes and Birds of Scotland. Author is Nan Le Ruez, publisher Seaflower Books. It's very much worth reading, includes a snippet at the end about the amazing story of her second marriage, age 89, to Jimmy Cooper, one of the island's liberators. Order it here or from your local bookshop.

Woodhall Spa is nice. Gentle and relaxing. We were in a lovely cosy little self-catering studio, me on the sofa bed. Granny was too tired for long visits so instead we would see her for an hour or so several times a day. The rest of the time (except for the cafe) we were outside. There are walks all around the village; woodland and farmland and moor. Lots of areas are nature reserves. We saw all the regulars plus jays, redwings, fieldfares, sparrowhawk, buzzard, green woodpecker, Egyptian geese...

Lincoln, no imps on view. A city of brick and sandstone, beautiful in this low winter sun. A very nice giftshop, Forty Four, part way up the hill sells moomin merchandise. Moomins are hard for me to resist. The Collection museum and the Usher Gallery are very very much worth a visit. 

Roughton Moor Woods, Woodhall Spa. This orange lichen on one side of many of the trees. Mum on the other side of one of them.

For my brother Roan

We stopped to paint here. Half an hour in watercolour. 

The largest slices of cake we've ever been served. Very nice, very sweet. Me almond & cherry, mum carrot. 

We adventured through a bamboo forest. Spot the (smaller, more female) artist in some of the following pics: 

Moor Farm Nature Reserve. Mum painting. 

We'd heard a green woodpecker laugh (they yaffle. Their Olde English[e] name is Yaffle) and I was desperate to try to see one so I went wandering, retracing our trail. emerging from wood through gorse alley to open grassland I saw one, standing alert, beak to the sky. I had about ten seconds to watch it through binoculars and another ten with the naked eye while I fumbled to get camera-phone to binocular lens before it flew. I didn't. It did. Eight or more magpies flew off too. I quickly sat and sketched what I could remember, and the scene. In the evening I studied green woodpeckers in more detail through internet photos.

Green woodpeckers are known for foraging on lawns, probing deep with their long beaks and even longer tongues. When I walked to where woodpecker had been I saw dark holes among the tussocks. Each was about as deep as my pinkie finger is long, and wide at the surface, narrowing almost to a point at the bottom. My pinkie fitted them perfectly.

Mum likes sheep, goats, etc a lot. Probably more than birds. Fair enough. These are Hebridean sheep, on the reserve.

Spot the muntjac.

Spot the muntjac track. 

Two Egptian geese. We were very surprised to spot them but subsequently have learned (thank you Lincolnshire Bird Club) that a small population breeds around here.

Jersey Granny, 98 (and a half)