Thursday, 26 May 2011

Mugdock Country Park, East Dunbartonshire

I joined West Dunbartonshire's Over 50's Walking Group on a trip to Mugdock Country Park where there are ancient 'bluebell woods' and the opportunity to see a variety of warblers!

We walked northwest from Mugdock Country Park Visitor Centre through mixed woodland near the Craigallian & Carbeth Lochs and followed the path along the western edge of Craigallian Loch to the deciduous woodland to the south. Then we took the track leading eastwards to the grounds of Craigend Castle (and the ruins of Craigend Zoo) and returned to the visitor centre.

In the woods northwest of Mugdock Castle we passed an old, rotten tree in which there was a Great Spotted Woodpecker's nesthole - the young could be heard peeping. Soon after, one of the parents was sighted nearby.

Willow Warblers sang from every scrubby tree as we entered a marshy clearing to the east of the Carbeth & Craigallian Lochs. Here we saw a pair of Roe Deer run down the hillside and a Grey Heron which flew over and made an ungracious and unsuccessful attempt to land on top of a tall pine.

Suddenly, a large, long-winged bird of prey glided past us through the clearing in the direction of Carbeth Loch: an Osprey!

Definitely the highlight of the day for me, as I have never seen one of these birds so close to home.

On the path around Craigallian Loch we heard the singing of Sedge Warblers concealed amongst the vegetation: their song is a fast, frenetic (slightly crazy) warble full of harsh cackles and chattering.

Ancient woodland (south of the visitor centre)

In the woods surrounding Craigend Castle we could hear the songs of both Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers. We also saw a pair of Treecreepers.

Beech tree (Fagus sylvestris)
Distribution transformer on telegraph poles
Bistort (Persicaria bistorta)

Bistort leaves are the main ingredient of Dock pudding (also known as Easter Ledge Pudding), a fried dish traditionally eaten during Lent in Yorkshire (where the World Dock Pudding Competition is held each April in Calderdale), Cumberland and the Lake District.

Dock Pudding Recipes:

Dock Pudding Recipe from BBC Food

Assorted Dock Pudding Recipes from

Vegetarian Dock Pudding Recipe from

Monday, 2 May 2011

Kilpatrick Hills, West/East Dunbartonshire

Another search for the elusive Adders at Burncrooks Reservoir!

I walked with my parents from Duntocher to the Humphrey Reservoir, past Duncolm and the Lily Loch, to Burncrooks Reservoir and on the way home we crossed the Slacks and Little Round Top instead of following the Humphrey Road.

The Humphrey Road and the Slacks afford some brilliant aerial views of the River Clyde:

The River Clyde from the Slacks
The River Clyde from the Slacks

We cut across the moorland (to the left of the Humphrey Road) where we found a Meadow Pipit's nest in the heather: a neat grass-lined cup holding a set of four tiny, chocolate-mottled eggs.

On the path around Duncolm I saw the first Green Hairstreak butterfly of the day: small, rapidly darting, with wings brown on top and irridescent green underneath.
The drystone wall near the Lily Loch was covered with basking Green Hairstreaks - they fluttered erratically in the sunshine and when they landed they orientated their wings sharply in the direction of the sun.

Green Hairstreak (Callophrys rubi)
Looking towards the Lily Loch from the base of Duncolm - the Green Hairstreak's habitat

Hundreds of huge Horse Leeches (Haemopis sanguisuga) could be seen in the Lily Loch's peaty waters (still bare of vegetation), fattening themselves on a glut of tadpoles.

These large leeches are safe to handle as they're unable to bite through human skin - in Britain, only the rare Medicinal Leech (Hirudo medicinalis) is capable of this (it doesn't stop them from sucking onto you though!).

This plump leech is (rather endearingly) still clutching the reed it grabbed onto as it tried to avoid capture:

Horse Leech (Haemopis sanguisuga)
The Lily Loch with Duncolm behind

The Lily Loch is part of the Dumbarton Muir SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) - it's the only oligotrophic (nutrient poor) loch in Dunbartonshire and is surrounded by an area of raised bog.

Burncrooks Reservoir

As we crossed the grassy hill where the river feeds into Burncrooks, a Sparrowhawk flew up from the ground.

We saw a pair of Greylag Geese (Anser anser) feeding at the edge of Burncrooks Reservoir - these are nervous wild birds and hard to get close to, quickly entering the water the minute they see you. I tried to creep closer through the rushes but the geese began to honk with alarm and were soon swimming out of sight.

Greylag Goose (Anser anser)
Greylag Geese (Anser anser)

We searched amongst the dried golden grasses, dark heather, scree and the russet, wiry tangle of old Bracken fronds...but didn't find any Adders.

On the grassy bank of the smallest Burncrooks Dam, we found a glittering Heath Goldsmith beetle (Carabus nitens).

The river which feeds into the Lily Loch, Duncolm behind
The Slacks
Orange-tip (Anthocharis cardamines) female on foodplant - Cuckoo Flower (Cardamine pratensis)
Wild Pansies (Viola tricolor)
Bracken (Pteridium aquilinum)
Little Round Top Wood