Clyde Big Birding Day - looking back to last year
In the lead up to this year's Clyde Big Birding day we are going to feature a few of last year's stories as a way of inspiring even more people to get involved this year!
#2 - Kevin Sinclair's Clyde Big Birding Day
Engaging Families and Children
As part of the sub-group established to coordinate our plans for Clyde Big Birding Day I’d agreed to focus on arranging bird-related activities for children and families on the Southside of Glasgow. Engaging these groups in a meaningful, enjoyable and lasting way with wildlife has been a long-standing passion of mine.
Drawing on support from fantastic colleagues in the Clyde Ringing Group (CRG) and reaching out to a number of contacts involved in working directly with young people, it proved relatively straightforward to develop and deliver a programme that included a guided bird walk and a bird ringing demonstration. All sightings on the day were captured by the activity leaders and reported via BirdTrack or, in the case of bird-ringing, via the DemOn reporting platform.
Three distinct groups were involved during the day:
The day was divided into three distinct sessions to accommodate the participating groups. An overview of each session is given below.
Session 1: Castlemilk Explorers (10:30 – 12:30): Guided Birding Walk and Bird Ringing Demonstration
The session was divided into two parts: (i) a guided bird walk round Castlemilk Park led by Paul Baker and Mike Sinclair; and (ii) a bird ringing demonstration held in the grounds of Castlemilk Stables supported by Kevin Sinclair, Rachel McLeod, Stephen Inglis and Rebecca Dickson.
Children were divided into two groups of 7 (plus 4 adult ‘supervisors’ per group) and participated in each activity for 45 min before swapping over. Those on the bird walk were given ‘bird spotting’ sheets with pictures of the typical birds they could expect to see. Each child was also given a pair of binoculars to use. The session began with a briefing from Paul and Mike about Clyde Big Birding Day, what birds they could expect to see and the route they would take through Castlemilk Park.
The second group remained at Castlemilk Stables where they participated in a variety of bird-related activities including owl pellet dissection, wildlife arts and crafts, a bird migration game and the bird ringing demonstration. The CRG volunteers led the bird ringing demonstration with SWT Explorers staff coordinating the other activities as part of their ‘normal’ fortnightly session.
What was seen?
Both activities were a huge success.
On the two bird walks a total of 20 different species were recorded: numbers, where confirmed, are shown in brackets - Swift(6), Carrion Crow, Starling, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Great Spotted Woodpecker (1), Mallard (5), Lesser Black-backed Gull (8), Herring Gull (1), Feral Pigeon (3), Robin (2), Blackbird, Magpie (2), Grey Heron (1), Song Thrush, Jackdaw (2), Woodpigeon (4), Treecreeper (1), Chaffinch, Goldfinch (1) and Mistle Thrush .
The bird ringing demonstration benefitted from taking place in the wonderful grounds of Castlemilk Stables which have been turned into a wildlife/bird oasis by the provision of a range of bird feeders, a pond and nestboxes.
At the beginning of each ringing session the children were shown the mist-nets that had been set up in the grounds to catch the birds. Time was taken to explain the importance of bird ringing in collecting key breeding, survival and migration data for different species. Special attention was given to explaining that bird welfare was the top priority and that all ringers had to undergo years of training, under strict supervision, before being allowed to extract birds from nets and ring them.
As is the case with ringing demonstrations, the team are at the mercy of the birds! Fortunately, on this occasion they’d read the script and shortly after starting Session 1 we had a Coal Tit, Great Tit and Blue Tit to show the children.
Once the birds were safely extracted from the nets, the children were summoned over with their leaders from their other activities to be shown the ringing process.
Each bird was shown to the children who were given the chance to identify the species. There were definitely some budding ornithologists amongst them with some perfect IDs offered up! The purpose of bird ringing was explained along with the process of selecting the correct ring size to fit to the bird. Each bird was then examined to determine its age and sex, and in the case of breeding females, the purpose of the bare belly (brood patch) for incubation was explained. Finally, the children were shown how to take the basic biometric measurements of bird wing-length and weight. A further Coal-Tit and Great Tit completed the birds for Session 1.
During the first session we were teased by a beautiful Nuthatch which visited the feeders on a few occasions but skilfully avoided the mist nets! Just at the swap-over point between both groups of children we were treated to the ‘catch of the day’ a wonderful male Great Spotted Woodpecker!
The bird caused a real stir amongst children and adults alike, with other groups attending a meeting inside the building rushing out to see the bird as word spread!
The second session produced fewer birds as we approached noon: not an uncommon ‘quiet period’ for a ringing session. We did, however, manage a further Blue Tit and a new bird for the session, a male Dunnock in breeding condition.
Session 2: W.I.L.D. (13:00 – 14:30): Bird Spotting Walk
A total of eight children attended the session. Approximately, four weeks earlier the same group of children had the opportunity to attend a bird ringing demonstration in the park so they were very enthusiastic about the opportunity to now do some bird spotting!
The spotting session was led by Paul Baker and Mike Sinclair. Due to practical restrictions, the bird spotting activity had to take place within the designated area within Linn Park assigned to W.I.L.D. Despite this, the children managed to see a number of species: Magpie (2), Great Tit (2) Long-tailed Tit (2) and Bullfinch (1).
Session 3: Miscellaneous Family Groups. (13:00 – 15:00): Guided Birding Walk
Rebecca Dickson and Kevin Sinclair led a group of six (including two family groups) on a walk around some of the key birding areas in Linn Park.
Our party met at the famous ‘White Bridge’ to begin our walk. We began by explaining about the nestbox monitoring programme in Linn Park. The programme has been running since 2018 and now comprises 60 nestboxes across the park which are monitored by a group of volunteers (12) who have been trained in accordance with guidance set out in the BTO Nest Record Scheme Handbook.
The nestboxes cover a range of designs to target different species with tits, Robins, Spotted Flycatcher, Treecreeper, Dipper and Tawny Owl being specifically targeted. Each volunteer group is allocated a nestbox patch and under the overall coordination of Mike Sinclair (a BTO approved Nest Record Mentor for the area) carry out weekly box checks during nesting season to determine occupancy and nest building progress. All data is submitted to the BTO via their DemOn database.
Using an endoscope we had a look at a few nestboxes around the White Bridge area. It didn’t take long to find tit boxes at different stages of development with some birds in the process of egg laying and others with well-developed chicks.
The group then made their way up towards the Mansionhouse flats stopping periodically to look at natural nest sites. We discovered a Robin nest where the young had recently fledged in addition to old Chaffinch and Blackbird nests. Our nest-hunting activities were punctuated by a very active pair of Mistle Thrushes collecting worms from a shady grassed area.
Our walk then took us into a section of the park which we knew to be populated by raptors. We weren’t disappointed. Calling Buzzards overhead circled what looked very much like an active nest site high in the conifers. Although no Sparrowhawks were seen on this occasion, it didn’t dampen the group’s enthusiasm.
Moving on under the tree canopy we caught sight of a Treecreeper flitting from conifer to conifer doing its characteristic corkscrew traverse up the trunk. The root base of a large fallen tree provided a good opportunity to discuss the value of such habitats for nesting species……. and we weren’t disappointed! An old Wren’s nest perfectly crafted and camouflaged into the twisted root base provided an excellent contrast to the large imposing Buzzard nest above our heads.
Our walk took us to the second owl box in the park and we were pleasantly surprised to find a Stock Dove in residence sitting on 2 eggs. (Post event note: the eggs have successfully hatched and the pulli were ringed by the CRG on 1.6.22).
Our walk ended with a stop-off at one of the owl nestboxes that had been occupied by a Tawny Owl for the first time since being put up in 2020. Members of the CRG had ringed the two chicks that were present ten days previously, so the return visit to the box was greeted with a bit of trepidation. Would the chicks be there? Would they be healthy?
Using our endoscope we were able to inspect the box with minimal disturbance and the news was good! Two healthy chicks that had clearly grown significantly since being ringed. As an added bonus, as we were leaving the area, an adult (presumed the female) was also spotted close by keeping an eye on our movements. Post Event Note: subsequent nestbox checks (w/c 30 June) showed no sign of the chicks which are presumed to now have successfully fledged. Regular park birders have been informed and requested to report any sightings via BirdTrack.
Kevin Sinclair (8 June 2022)