Trip reports

The Hirsel

Male redstart perched on branch
Redstart - RSPB Images

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Thirteen members met at The Hirsel Visitor Centre. Bird watching had started immediately on passing the gate into the estate; driving up to the car park Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Blackbird, Robin and Song Thrush were seen. Pheasant were in the fields. From the car park we were entertained by Sand Martins, Swallows and a small party of Swifts above the Visitor Centre. Blue Tit Chaffinch and Nuthatch were in the nearby trees, with Mallard on the grassy bank of the lake and a Grey Wagtail nearby. The usual corvids were around.

Setting off along the estate road towards Dundock wood, there were Tree Sparrows in the hedges. With the fields bordered by hedges to the left and mature woodland to the right there were plenty of birds, including Dunnock flying across our path. The wood yielded up Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Siskin, Treecreeper and the common tits. Half way along this road is a hide on the south side of the manmade lake. The hide is small, taking about 6 people at a time so we took turns to have a look and some got good views of Sedge Warbler. The range of duck and water birds was disappointing (winter being a better time to visit for these species), but we saw Mute Swan, Tufted Duck, Coot, Little Grebe, Grey Heron and Greylag Goose with a flyover from an Oystercatcher.

On entering Dundock Wood Common Redstart was heard and soon located, giving everyone excellent views. A Nuthatch on the ground at the base of a tree entertained us for quite some time and didn't mind our relatively close proximinity. We also recorded Bullfinch, Goldcrest and Great Spotted Woodpecker (mostly heard, I think, but seen by one). We returned to the lake walk and completed our circuit, with Reed Bunting and further brief views of Sedge Warbler.

We lunched at the picnic tables beside the lake, accompanied by Mallard looking for some crumbs. Fortunately these tables were sheltered from the stiffish cold breeze. After lunch we took the Dunglass Walk alongside the golf course, over a bridge to the River Leet (a tributary of the Tweed), following it past The Hirsel House (noting the swift boxes) to Dunglass Bridge, where there were good views of male and female Blackcap. Grey Heron flying, Pied Wagtail and Bullfinch were also seen. We walked through the trees and joined the Estate roads back to the car park, seeing two Mistle Thrush in a field and hearing Greenfinch en route . We arrived back at 3:15pm, allowing members to get back to Edinburgh just before the worst of the rush hour. The group total was just short of 50 birds.

John Hamilton