Trip reports

Group Outing

Wheatear in spring
RSPB

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Bavelaw and the Pentlands

Our midsummer evening walk this year took us from the Red Moss car park, up past Threipmuir Reservoir and Bavelaw Castle, across the Pentlands to the Logan Burn waterfalls and back. It was a lovely warm, sunny evening, so a bit surprising that only 9 of us turned up. The car park was full to overflowing, so I hope no-one turned up, couldn't find a space and left again. The reason, as we found out, was that there was a fell run on that evening, more of which later.

Starting off through the woodlands it was willow warbler central. They were singing from every direction, though difficult to spot amongst all the foliage. A distant cuckoo could also be heard calling. Coming back out onto the road we got a good view of a male bullfinch before he was joined by the female and flew off. Some small birds flying over were thought to be redpolls by their calls, and one of them obligingly landed at the top of a tree long enough for us to confirm the identity. The cuckoo was now calling from closer, but from the other side of the Red Moss, and we were unable to get a sighting.

The reservoir was fairly quiet, though the resident mute swans had 8 cygnets in tow and we got a little grebe and a few ducks. Some of the runners were warming up, and we were told the run would start at 7.30. Although they would be going in a different direction to us, they were doing a circuit and so we would meet up with them later. Continuing up the road, the drive leading to Bavelaw Castle was an unusual setting for a pair of grey wagtails.

Out on the Pentlands the usual swallows and house martins were flying around, meadow pipits and skylarks singing. A different song was followed by an alarm call, and a blackbird sized bird flying in to the hillside. All binoculars turned to look - a male ring ouzel. We were just getting the scopes on it when the first runners appeared and we had to get off the path. We moved to a wider section, but the bird had moved on as well. The next interesting calls turned out to be snipe. We reckoned there were at least 3 birds present, and as well as doing their "drumming" display, one landed on open ground and allowed us good views through the scope. A male reed bunting was also in the same area. By now the serious runners had passed us, and some of the fun runners at the back slowed down to ask us what we were looking at.

Moving on through the Green Cleugh we picked up a couple of juvenile whinchats and a male stonechat, while a buzzard hanging over the hill was the only raptor of the evening. Some of the group also got another ring ouzel. The sandy bank of the Logan Burn had nesting sand martins and we were able to watch them flying in and out. A heron further down the burn, and a couple of wheatears completed our bird list for the evening. By now it was 9.30pm and we thought we might have to join in with the spirit of the evening and jog back to the car park, but settled for a brisk walk instead, accompanied by the calls of snipe, pipits and skylarks, and the buzzard flying past again.

Hugh M. Conner