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

1 comment: