Saturday 23 January 2016

2016 - January BTO waterbird count, Linlithgow to Philpstoun

Linlithgow Canal Basin - the start of my count
Although I haven't been getting round to blogging it I do still carry out my monthly British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS) count on the Union Canal, Linlithgow to Philpstoun.

WeBS is a UK-wide count of waterbirds, carried out each month by around 3,000 volunteers. The science gathered is vitally important in the conservation of populations and habitat.

Because of our relatively mild winters a lot of these waterbird species come here from their Arctic breeding territories and either spend the whole winter with us or feed up then continue southwards. Winter is definitely the best time to see waterbirds on my particular count route, because of the flood field. Flood field (my name) lies a kilometre west of Philpstoun and during winter becomes, well, flooded. Birds flock to it. Today it held 153 wigeon, 5 greylag geese, 15 mallards, 1 curlew, 2 black-headed gulls, 2 herring gulls, 1 buzzard, 1 starling.

spot (some of) the 153 wigeon

5 greylag geese

Over the past four years I've counted lapwings, oystercatchers, grey wagtails, pied wagtails, pink-footed geese, moorhens, coots, common gull, lesser black-backed gull, teal, shelduck, pochard, grey heron, all on the flood field, some of them in very high numbers. And snipe. It's the only place I've ever found to fairly regularly see and watch snipe, though they're small and camouflaged and a telescope would be very helpful!

Unfortunately every spring/summer I look at fresh drainage channels being dug and water draining to be replaced by cows which surely often trample the breeding attempts of the lapwings that try to nest there. (On which - aren't lapwings wonderful! Watch the short clip half way down this old blog post.)

I wish there was a way for flood field, even just its flooded centre, to be set aside and developed as a mini wetland nature reserve. There's an ideal spot for a bird hide up on the canal bank and people could leave vehicles in the car park at Park Farm then make the short walk along, finishing off afterwards with coffee and cake in The Park Bistro. Or they could travel by water taxi. Many people use this stretch of canal, by bike and foot - and barge! - and would stumble upon the hide. The hide and reserve could become a feature and a selling point for Scottish Canals and Linlithgow Union Canal Society and The Park Bistro.

mute swan, no ring

Elsewhere along the canal today I saw little in the way of waterbirds:

- 2 goosander, one male one female

- 4 mute swans
(- two unringed adults on canal in area of the first road bridge west of Philpstoun.
- two adults just west of Philpstoun bings. Smaller one unringed. Larger one with light green ring, black letters PLF.)

- 1 cormorant flying overhead following the line of the canal east to west, then veering right to head presumably towards its fellows on Linlithgow Loch.

2 reed buntings (almost definitely several more)

And ALL birds seen along my route today:

Black-headed Gull
Blue Tit
Buzzard - 1
Collared Dove - 2
Curlew - 1
Feral Pigeon
Goldcrest - 3
Goosander - 2
Great Tit
Greylag Goose - 5
House Sparrow
Linnet - 40
Mute Swan - 4
Robin - 2
Song Thrush - 2
Treecreeper - 1
Carrion Crow
Coal Tit
Cormorant - 1
Goldfinch - 5
Great Spotted Woodpecker - 1
Greenfinch - 4
Herring Gull
Long-tailed Tit
Mallard - 17
Pink-footed Goose
Reed Bunting
Wigeon - 153

Total - 41 species

old nest by the canal-side

earthstars are among my favourite fungi. Such alien shapes. I think this is a collared earthstar (Geastrum triplex)...
I think this is a collared earthstar (Geastrum triplex)...

For scale. (Hand is human not hobbit, I don't think he ever wore it on that finger. And we wouldn't see the hand anyway.)

only a second before I pressed 'take' there was a treecreeper on the right of that main trunk and a goldcrest on the stump on the left

from the top of the more northerly Philstoun shale bing, smoke puff trees

Has anyone lost Hamish? I have his tag.

Older WeBS canal count posts by clicking the BTO WeBS wetland bird count link on the left hand side of blog.

23rd Jan 2016

1 comment:

  1. Hello from snowy Canada Leo

    Enjoy your blog. Looks like spring over your way as opposed to our winter wonderland. Although, I shouldn't complain as we're having a mild winter thus far.
    Your wishful thinking regarding the digging of draining ditches was, years ago, a concern of mine. At nearby Tiny Marsh, come spring, thousands of migrating geese and waterfowl would stop off at the flooded fields of neighbouring farms. Then the farmers began to dig deep ditches to drain the fields to take advantage of spring crops. Long story short, despite being offered compensation to delay ditching the farmers proceeded with digging ditches that became permanent fixtures. Spring these days finds little water on the farmers fields, and very few ducks and geese in the marsh. It's called progress, as residential development increases and farmland becomes scarce and expensive. The world is becoming smaller with each passing moment.
    Best wishes,
    Ernest Somers