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Landscape by Keith Ratcliffe  
© 2009


Variety Show

At 9 o’clock this morning it started to snow, by 10 it had laid a fairly good covering over the lawns & roofs before it ceased. By noon the March sun was too hot for it and it all but disappeared. The day was warm & bright so time for lunch then a local walk round King’s Park in Stirling.

Armed with binoculars & camera I set out on one of the many versions that exist of this promenade. It turns out to be particularly rich in bird life.

As I walk past the cemetery a pair of Collared Doves call to each other from their respective lampposts. Further on I recall that the day previous I had seen a flock of 15 Waxwings on the telegraph wires – a lifetime first for me – no sign today though. Near the entrance to the park I meet up with the small colony of Tree Sparrows that occupy the bushes there – they retreat slightly into the foliage but a short wait brings them back out on the high branches chirping noisily all the time.

I enter the woods here rather than use the path and there are all three common Tits in evidence flitting about at my disturbance. Blackbirds rustle among the dead leaves and brave Robins challenge my presence in their territory. A Song Thrush utters some rather unconfident notes of song then flies off and I add Chaffinch to the growing list of avian diversity.

Near the farm I spot a wren in the undergrowth – its alarm call out of all proportion to its size, whilst in the bushes a twittering sound heralds a group of Long Tailed Tits – the delicate soft pink colouring on their chests just discernable.
Long-tailed Tit

In the field I spot a small group of Fieldfare then notice some more on the wires above. The next field has a host of noisy crows & seagulls that lift into the air at something they hear or see. The M9 traffic rumbles & hisses as I cross the road and head towards the castle. I have often seen a Kestrel on the next stretch – hopping along from post to post at a respectable distance in front of me but he is not here today. The other common raptor hereabouts is a Buzzard who perches on a lamppost surveying his domain for prey.

The walk continues under the castle and the Jackdaws chack constantly as I amble past. Last time I was here a Peregrine was perched on the castle battlements before diving in a deadly stoop to the woods below, presumably sounding the death knell for some small bird. I take a breather and soak in the view across the carse to the Trossachs & Ben Lomond then detect a slight sound that indicates the presence of my favourite little bird the Goldcrest – flitting busily from bush to bush and unaware of his rapt observer. Several fat Wood Pigeons launch from the trees and glide down to examine the field for food and I also note a Mistle Thrush doing the same. My reverie is disturbed by a harsh shout from a bird seen but not visually identified as it rattles off further into the wood. Its size, call & behaviour suggest a Greater Spotted Woodpecker.

Goldcrest

A short stretch of road leads onto the golf course where yet more bustling Blackbirds are tossing leaves in the undergrowth. More Chaffinches & Robins and I look out for a Bullfinch that I regularly see here but to no avail today. The final stretch along the top edge of the park looks out over the village of Cambusbarron and onto Gillies hill where upwellings provide power for Buzzards to lift – only two this afternoon but I have seen 8 of them on a warm summer’s evening. Their lazy flight is interrupted by a flock of crows who predictably mob the two gliders until they fly off over the woods. More finches occupy the bushes and one clear songster is a Goldfinch perched on a high branch and belting out his aria. Then a pair of Greenfinches completes the tally and I drop down through the woods to say hello to the chirping Sparrows before returning home.

This short walk is not a bad advertisement for bio-diversity – 22 different species today & 3 others seen on this walk on previous occasions. It is amazing what a little sun can do to bring out the birds.

© Keith Ratcliffe
March 2009


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