Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Kilpatrick Hills, West Dunbartonshire

The aim of today's walk was to look for the elusive Emperor moth (Saturnia pavonia): the only member of the impressive Saturniidae family which is native to the UK. The nocturnal females are difficult to find when resting in the heather. The males, on the other hand, are diurnal with a very characteristic erratic flight pattern. They are difficult to approach: they have no need to feed and therefore, no need to land!

My dad and I walked along the Humphrey Road to the Humphrey reservoir, past the Lily Loch, to Burncrooks reservoir, to the Whangie, crossed Stockie Muir (following one of the unnamed rivers which cross the moor) and we ended our hike at Carbeth Inn.

Saw my first Swallows (Hirundo rustica) of the year above the fields at the end of Beeches Road (Duntocher).

At the Lily Loch we could hear the yickering calls of Little Grebes (Tachybaptus ruficollis): it seems likely that they will breed here again this year.

The sky was clear and cloudless and the sun blazingly warm. We took a detour along the edge of Burn Crooks valley to look for Adders, but found nothing: perhaps they haven't yet emerged from hibernation.

I know it's a bit lame, but I couldn't resist photographing this:

Marker indicating the location of Stop Valves (water mains) at Burn Crooks 

Strangely aesthetically pleasing...I've always been fond of azure-blue.

At the second dam at Burn Crooks, a pair of Grey Wagtails (Motacilla cinerea) were darting about.

As we crossed the moor to the South West of the Whangie, we spotted a male Emperor moth - too fast to photograph :(
At this spot we disturbed a male Roe Deer (Capreolus capreolus), still in its darker winter coat, which flared its white rump at us and effortlessly jumped a barbed wire fence and disappeared into the forest.

I collected some Roe Deer hairs from a 'deer couch' on Stockie Muir (where we disturbed another Roe Deer, a female). The coarse hairs were steely grey with brown/black-ticked tips and distinctive 'spongy' texture.

2 Red Grouse (Lagpus lagopus) on Stockie Muir and numerous warblers darting about in the decidous trees which line the Stockie Muir burns. Another male Emperor moth danced rapidly past us.

Wood Warblers (Phylloscopus sibilatrix) could be heard singing: their trilling calls somewhat resemble the sound of a coin spinning on a table.

Listen to the 'spinning coin' trill of the Wood Warbler here:

The Stockie Muir Black Grouse lek was deserted, the short grass strewn with their black feathers. I took back a lyre-shaped tail feather to add to my collection.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Duntocher, West Dunbartonshire

This morning there were a pair of Collared Doves (Streptopelia decaocta) and a lone Woodpigeon (Columba palumbus) perched in the trees in my parent's garden.

One interesting feature of the pigeon family (Columbidae), which is unusual amongst birds, and is shared only by Flamingos and some Penguins, is the method by which they feed their young. Pigeons produce crop-milk: a secretion from the lining of the crop which is composed mostly of sloughed cells and is very rich in fat and protein. Both males and females secrete and regurgitate crop milk on which the young squabs are fed entirely until they are at least a week old (after which the parents feed them increasing porportions of mashed adult food).

Woodpigeon (Columba palumbus)
The Woodpigeon is by far the largest European pigeon species, weighing up to 520g. It can easily be distinguished by size, the white bands on its wings and by the white neck patches. The bill is pinkish-yellow and the eyes have pale yellow irises.

The Woodpigeon's scientific is latin for 'Collared-dove pigeon' (Columba = from Columbar = collar + palumbus = pigeon).

Collared Doves (Streptopelia decaocta)
Collared Dove (Streptopelia decaocta)
Collared Dove (Streptopelia decaocta)
The Collared Dove is small, slender pigeon with pale brownish-grey plumage and a black neck band. The bill is grey and the eyes are dark red. Weighing around 200g, it is considerably smaller and slimmer than the portly Woodpigeon.

The Collared Dove's scientific name mixes both Latin and Greek, meaning 'Collared-dove eighteen' (Strepto = wearing a collar/torque (Greek), peleia = wild dove (Greek) + decaocto = eighteen (Latin), literally ten-eight). 'Strepto/streptos' literally means 'twisted' in Latin, referring to the twisted strands of metal which make up a torque or neck collar.

The Collared Dove has expanded its range Westwards from Turkey and the Middle East over the last 40-50 years. In 1955 it nested in the UK for the first time and since then the population has rapidly increased: around 568,000 birds now breed here.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Kilpatrick Hills, West Dunbartonshire

Just a short walk today: from Duntocher to Little Round Top and then the Slacks. The increase in birdsong is becoming very evident!

The recently revamped RSPB website has sound clips for most species, very handy!

Robin (Erithacus rubecula)
Robin (Erithacus rubecula)
Robin (Erithacus rubecula)
Robin (Erithacus rubecula)
Robin (Erithacus rubecula)

At Little Round Top I found a dead Roe Deer, everything but the legs had been picked clean:

The snow has almost completely melted in the Kilpatrick Hills but the higher Campsie fells, to the East, are still very white:

Campsie fells from the Slacks

Stag's Horn Clubmoss (Lycopodium clavatum)

Stag's Horn Clubmoss (Lycopodium clavatum) is purported to have various medicinal properties such as being analgesic (pain-relieving) and antirheumatic. However, this plant is known to contain the toxic compounds lycopodine (which paralyses motor nerves) and clavatine.

Its scientific name means 'Wolf-foot club-shaped'(Lyco = wolf + podium = foot, clavatum = club-shaped).

Drinker moth (Euthrix potatoria) larva