Tuesday 19 May 2015

Garelochhead BTO BBS bird count - first cuckoo

The reason:
 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.

looking north

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 birds:
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:
Blue Tit
Carrion Crow
Coal Tit
Green Woodpecker
House Martin
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Meadow Pipit
Willow Warbler

18 species

The rest:
A caterpillar.

name the caterpillar

name the (same) caterpillar



And boggy, heathy, hilltop flowers starting to bloom. They'll be much more abundant when I return in June.

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:
ScotRail runs regular trains on the West Highland Line from Glasgow to Oban/Mallaig. Garelochead is an hour from Glasgow Queen Street. Timetables here.

My BBS count square is a ten minute drive or a several mile walk from the village.

station view

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

Garelochhead shore

Monday 11 May 2015

To house a hedgehog - Forth Hedgehog Hospital

Tonight we received our new hedgehog, Daisy.

Daisy was very underweight when found last autumn but thanks to the commitment of Nadia of the Forth Hedgehog Hospital she now weighs more than a kilogram. I want to draw attention to the work of the hospital does, and the easy steps we can take to help reverse the serious decline of our hedgehogs before they vanish from the UK completely.

Nadia's hospital is a registered charity in Rosyth, Fife. This winter it rehabilitated twenty-one hedgehogs, including Daffodil - blind in one eye, found outside, in daytime, in our garden last autumn. Daffodil is now strong and fit and regularly returning to Nadia's garden.

If you've found a hog in Fife you can phone Nadia for advice. If you're not in Fife, Google "found a hedgehog" and you'll see lots and lots of info and people to contact.

If you have a garden, or know someone who does, PLEASE:

- leave some long grass, log piles, wilder patches.

- DON'T STRIM, MOW, BURN, SPRAY without first checking for hogs (and frogs, toads, nesting birds, moths, etc)

- consider building or buying a hog box.

- don't put up fencing that prevents all entry and exit - leave a few small gaps at the bottom or cut a hole or two.

- put a plank or shallow sloped edge  in your pond to save hogs from drowning.

- consider putting out cat food each night.

- put out a shallow basin of water for drinking.

- look at this link to see why these things matter - www.hedgehog-rescue.org.uk/endangered.php.

- Please share this post and encourage others to help.

Some links:

Figures are variable but all agree that hedgehogs in the UK are in serious decline - 30% or more have gone since 2002. Please please take a few minutes to read the links below. It's so easy to do little things that can really help.

How many are left? - www.hedgehogstreet.org/pages/how-many-are-left-.html

Found a hedgehog? Should you do something? - www.hedgehoghospital.org.uk/when-to-call.html

Buy or build a box? - www.hedgehog-rescue.org.uk/houses.php

Please click 'like' on Forth Hedgehog Centre's Facebook page. Please do consider supporting your local hog rescue centre. Help needn't always be financial - cat food, bedding material, hog boxes may be just as welcome.

Please have a look at the Hedgehog Street campaign - www.hedgehogstreet.org

Building a home for Daisy:

There are lots of options for building or buying a hog home but please go for practical rather than too slick or gimicky: if you build your own, for example, a hog probably won't go near it if it's been painted or preserved or built from treated wood.

Here's mine, following the excellent advice at www.hedgehog-rescue.org.uk/houses.php.

And Daisy being given the key.

Thank you for helping.

Good night Daisy.