Trip reports

Local bird watching outing

Local bird watching outing
Mike Betts

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Margaret Harrison had decided to experiment with an intermediate time for the start of this walk. Uncertain which - or any, after such a long cold spell - migrants would have arrived, she opted for an 8am start. Not quite dawn chorus, but certainly early enough to get plenty of song and to see the birds before the many other visitors arrive at Roslin. About 15 members had arrived, fractionally too early for the car park gatekeeper , but whilst we waited for those few minutes a Song Thrush, sadly the only one of the day, sang lustily from the trees above us. The sun shone, soon warming up the cool air, as we began our walk along the river, finding Bullfinches and our first Chiffchaffs, and a Dipper sped past, also the only one of the day. Wrens sang seemingly from every bush and more Chiffchaffs showed well: they were really quite numerous throughout the walk, and we wondered whether they were to be summer residents here or whether some might still be moving north: they had only been recorded in the Glen during the last week. As we crossed the stream a pair of sharp eyes called 'There's a Grey Wagtail in that tree', which certainly surprised me, but the spotter was quite right - indeed there were two there. We wondered whether they were gathering moss or lichen for their nest.

Below the castle (and Google tells me that there has been a castle there since the 14th century) we watched Jackdaws carrying nesting material into many of its old crannies, and we wondered later why it is that some species, including the Corvids, don't seem to have songs, just calls. Does anyone feel a PhD coming on? Passing on, sharp ears were rewarded by a short burst of Blackcap song, the first for most of us this year, but the bird was elusive and would not show. Up the hill into the wood, and a Great Spotted Woodpecker gave its 'kick' call a few times: eventually we managed a brief view of it in silhouette before it moved away, but it was enough to make out the red nape of a male bird. A few moments later and we heard our first Nuthatch, its loud warning call 'chuitt, chuitt, chuitt' ringing out. Only one member spotted it before we were all distracted by a male Blackcap that came right out in front of us to sing, a lovely sight and sound, but it wasn't long before we found another Nuthatch which gave everyone good views as it foraged along the branches. It is only about 4 years since Nuthatches arrived in Roslin, but they are doing well in this old wood.

After a short coffee stop, when a Buzzard quartered over the woods and a Pheasant called, we moved back towards the Chapel, finding our first Greenfinches of the day, and both House and Tree Sparrows, the latter obviously building a nest in a tree cavity. And a Raven flew past, its deep 'koorp' call very distinctive, as was its 'Maltese cross' flight silhouette. The first coach had arrived, bringing early visitors to the Chapel, so we moved down past the Cemetery where a couple of Dunnocks foraged, to have a look down into the Glen from the Castle battlements, and we then returned to the river, but some Mallards were the only addition to our sightings. Another Nuthatch called by the road bridge, and we were pleased to hear the Song Thrush still singing. It had been a very good morning.