Friday, May 21, 2010


Time for a “ketchup” (catch up, get it?) entry here.  I came up the motorways to Scotland on Wednesday morning.  Easy driving.  I stopped at a little bird reserve called Barons Haugh, in a town called Motherwell, near Glasgow, and I wandered around and took a few bird pictures.  The Swan family picture in Photos14 was taken there, as were the Eurasian Wigeon and the Song Thrush ones.  It was a pleasant place to walk around and spend a few hours.


After that, I drove on into Balerno, which is a suburb of Edinburgh, and is where my hosts for three nights live.  Alan and Margaret are people we exchanged houses with about 20 years ago, as I think I mentioned before.  We have kept it touch through Christmas cards, and when I told them I was coming to Britain on a birding trip, they generously invited me to stay with them.  Alan is a much more experienced birder than I am, so I knew I would get some good information from him, too.


On the drive to Balerno, I was on a two lane country road and there was a sign that said “Cattle Crossing”.  It turned out to be literally true, and you can see the picture I took through the windshield while I waited for the cows to cross, in Photos14.


Yesterday they took me out birding.  We went down the coast from Edinburgh, stopping several places.  The first place was a town called Musselburgh, and we took a long (for me) walk up on a sea wall and saw birds in the mud flats and in the water.  I picked up 4 new species for my trip list, including a good, although distant, view of a female Long-tailed Duck, a bird that winters here, and one that I had not expected to see.  I got some pictures of shorebirds, too, Ringed Plover and Dunlin, two species I had seen earlier on the trip, but had not been able to photograph.  I enjoyed having good views of the Dunlin in their breeding (summer) plumage, as I usually see them in their drab winter plumage, in California.


Margaret had prepared a picnic lunch, and it was so sunny and warm that we ate out on a beach, sitting on rocks.  It was again the nicest day since I have been here.  Even the breeze off the sea was not cold at all.  After lunch we visited several other places, and did some more walking.  There is a picture in Photos14 of Bass Rock, and you can’t really tell from the picture, but the entire rock was covered with Gannets, a large sea bird.  They nest there, and the reason the rock is white is that it is covered in their poop.  By the end of the day, I had walked at least 4 miles, I think, and I could feel it.  Still, a year ago I wouldn’t have wanted to even do it, and it was fine yesterday, even though I could feel it afterwards.  I know that four miles is nothing, but my weight and my age have seriously affected what I am able to do, physically.  I’m still lugging around 100 pounds of body fat, even after losing 85 pounds of it in the last year.


I am eating very well here, as Margaret is a great cook.  Last night we had a venison sausage dish, with mashed potatoes and great vegetables.  A considerable step up from my usual fare.  The night before it had been roast chicken with roasted potatoes and excellent vegetables, including a new one for me, celeriac.  Alan has a large vegetable garden, and they still have stuff frozen from last year.


Today I had a lazy day and I drove up into the hills near here, to the Pentland Hills Regional Park.  I walked, I sat, I saw a few birds, I wrote in my journal, and I read my book while I ate the picnic lunch that Margaret had packed for me.  It was even warmer today, and sitting in the shade was nice after some walking.  I got a picture I like of a bird I have wanted to photograph, too, the Blue Tit.  They are common over here, and the birders here don’t pay any attention to them, but I really like them.  They are a common garden bird and they come to feeders.  Alan and Margaret have two pairs of them nesting in their yard, and Alan showed me one sitting on her eggs, in a nest box.


I came back here to the house in the middle of the afternoon, to catch up on my computer stuff, and I am wearing my shorts for the first and probably last time on the trip.  It is quite warm today, considering where we are.


So, tomorrow I plan to head north to the Highlands, for four nights in a cottage.  I’ll be on my own again, after a couple of days with people.  I don’t have anyone lined up there to take me out birding, but I might sign up for a group tour, as there are a couple of species that I would like to see that I am not likely to find on my own.  It would involve getting up at dawn, though, I think, and I’m not sure I care enough to do that.  We will see.  My cottage is supposed to have internet access, so I expect to be in touch.  I have been able to use Alan and Margaret’s broadband connection here, just by plugging my computer into their modem.


My count is at 154 species now, for the trip.  I have hopes of seeing maybe 15 or 20 more, but we will see; that might be overly optimistic.  It is getting harder and harder to see new ones, and the birding part of the trip is winding down.  The last 8 days, in the London area, won’t have much birding in it; it will mostly be sightseeing, I think.


Nothing else to report now, I guess.  The next entry here should come from the Highlands of Scotland.