Saturday, 9 January 2010

Kilpatrick Hills, West Dunbartonshire

Another walk in the hills - this time from Overton House, past the Lang Craigs, the Black Linn and the Humphrey Reservoir.

The Overton Woods were rich in birdlife: I saw a female Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula), a Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus), a Redwing (Turdus iliacus), a Fieldfare (Turdus pilaris), and a nearly trodden-on Snipe (Gallinago gallinago). Further on, I spotted a pair of Treecreepers (Certhia familiaris) and a pair of Goldcrests (Regulus regulus).

Treecreeper (Certhia familiaris)
Goldcrest (Regulus regulus)

The Goldcrest is a miniscule warbler: alongside the closely-related Firecrest, it's the smallest species of bird in the UK, weighing 5-7g (for comparison, a 10p coin is 6.5g).

These charming little birds are often overlooked - I usually spot them if I'm sitting still, scanning the foliage carefully with binocs. They are superbly camouflaged and it's only their constant darting movements and a flash of gold, that gives them away.

The Goldcrest's scientific name Regulus regulus is latin for 'little king', referring to its golden crown.

Some years ago, as a child, I found a dead Goldcrest in the back garden and was able to see up close the shocking orange of the male's crest. I took some feathers for my collection and will add a link here once I get round to photographing them.
Lang Craigs

Sheep were walking about on top of the frozen-solid Humphrey Reservoir. I found Otter (Lutra lutra) tracks in the snow at the edge of the Humphrey - the tracks indicated a bounding gait and showed tail-drag. Local fishermen have mentioned seeing Otters here.

At the Black Linn, spiky ice crystals had formed on the snow and glittered colourfully like tinsel.

I descended the hills and entered the fog, which coated my clothes and hair with silvery frost. The temperature was around -10 degrees centigrade.

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