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Tynron Glen

By John Shaw

 

Birds of Tynron

Tynron is great for birdwatchers!

In a reasonable year you could expect to see up to 90 species.  There is such a wide variety of habitat, from open moorland to deciduous woods, coniferous plantations and wee lochs. There are 119 species on this list, though I have only seen 102 in 15 years as a keen birdwatcher.  A birdwatching trip can vary from a walk on the tops in the winter, when all that is seen is a solitary crow, to a bright morning in late May in Stenhouse Wood with many vociferous songbirds.

This is my personal survey since 1980.  I am grateful for advice from Brian Turner, Shinnel Forge, the one person who knows more about Tynron’s birds than I do.  Brian is a well-known bird photographer, who has had his pictures published in many birds magazines.  He also has a moth trap and can tell you which moths frequent his bit of Shinnel Glen.

R             =  Resident seen all year round

B             =  Breeding

V             =  Visitor to the glen.  Not breeding in the glen

S             =  Summer

W            =  Winter

 LITTLE GREBE  V(B?)  Best place is Aird Loch.

CORMORANT  V  Seen sometimes at Aird Loch or Capenoch, mainly in winter, or flying over.  I have seen several at once, drying their wings on the boat.

GREY HERON  RB  Colony at Aird Loch, but the trees were cut down in 1992.  Also nested in Hulton Wood until it was cut down in 1990.  1993 moved to small plantation of larch and Scots pine close to Aird Loch with ten nests in 1995.  Herons are doing well.  The old curling pond at Craigturra often has one.

MUTE SWAN  V  I have occasionally seen one or more likely two in Tynron.

WHOOPER SWAN  WV  Try Kirkconnel Loch.

GREYLAG GOOSE  V  I have seen some flying over.

CANADA GOOSE  V  Very recent arrivals.  Bred at Aird Loch in 1991, but I have not seen them since.  Expanding in South-West Scotland.

PINK-FOOTED GOOSE  V  Noisy flocks of geese often seen flying over in winter in V formation are most likely to be pink-footed.

TEAL  V  I have only once seen any round here, though I know someone who shot teal in Tynron in 1992.  MacRae shot one or two in the early years of the century.

MALLARD  RB  Many breed along the Shinnel.  They can be seen anywhere wet.  I have seen sixty on Capenoch Loch in winter.

TUFTED DUCK  V  In the area, but rarely seen in Tynron.

GOLDENEYE  WV  One duck on Aird Loch in 1995/6.

GOOSANDER  RB  3 or 4 pairs breeding.  A fine sight flying along the Shinnel.  This is one bird that is subject to disturbance.  Water bailiffs will destroy nests if they can.  Rafts of baby goosanders are delightful.

RED KITE  ?  Became extinct in the nineteenth century.  I read a wonderful report from about 1880, “shot a red kite, believed to be the last in the area”!  However, kites have been reported in the area recently, after being reintroduced into Scotland.

HEN HARRIER  ?  Reported on Kirkconnel, but I have yet to see one.

GOSHAWK  ?  Reported up the glen in the forestry.  They breed in Glencairn.

SPARROWHAWK  RB  Around, but not often seen.

BUZZARD  RB  Several pairs.  They have done well recently.  Buzzard calls are a very typical sound of the glen.

GOLDEN EAGLE  V  Always rumours of an odd eagle, but likely to be mistaken for buzzards.  I have only ever seen one, near Old Auchenbrack, being chased by a buzzard protecting its nest and simultaneously mobbed by a peregrine.

OSPREY  V  Reported seen on migration.

KESTREL  RB  Plenty around, a wonderful sight.  Croglin Craig is Kestrel City.

MERLIN  ?  Rare sightings.

PEREGRINE  SB  Usually two breeding pairs.  Expanding in South-West Scotland.  They winter on the coast, but still pop back to their nest sites sometimes in winter.

RED GROUSE  RB  A few breed up on the heather, on the tops above Auchenbrack and Kirkconnel and on Capenoch, but they are much less common now.

BLACK GROUSE  RB  One or two around, but this is a bird which has disappeared in an alarming fashion in the seventies and eighties.  Leks of 12 males were at Appin in the seventies.  Above the Clone as many as 29 lekking males were reported in the early eighties.  Sir Hugh Gladstone records that 114 were shot at Auchenbrack on 25 Oct 1910, which he calls a good year!

GREY PARTRIDGE  RB  Almost disappeared in the 1980s, as so little grain is now grown.  Common earlier this century, but hard to find now.

PHEASANT  RB  Very common, especially squashed on the road.

CORNCRAKE  Now a distant memory.  Common last century, but gone by the 1950s.

MOORHEN  RB  One or two pairs breed along the Shinnel or Aird Loch.  Getting hard to find.

COOT  V  Aird and Kirkconnel Lochs, if you are lucky.

OYSTERCATCHER  SB  Hearing the first oystercatchers fly over at night is one of the first signs of spring.

GOLDEN PLOVER  SB  One pair bred successfully in 1990.  Only found on the very tops, if at all.

LAPWING  SB  Not nearly as common as they were ten years ago.  Early silage cuts are probably to blame.  On mild winter days flocks may come inland to feed.

DUNLIN  ?  I have never seen any in Tynron.

SNIPE  RB  You always have a good chance of putting one up in one of Tynron’s many bogs.

WOODCOCK  RB  Best seen roding in the spring.

CURLEW  SB  Arrive on the first mild days, if any, in February.  The braes suddenly go very quiet when the curlews leave in August.

REDSHANK  S(B?)  Occasionally seen, notably at Kirkconnel Loch.

COMMON SANDPIPER  SB  Arrive in April, only stay three months to breed.

BLACK-HEADED GULL  V  Large flocks from Loch Urr visit most of the year, but especially in spring and summer on the flat fields around Tynron village.

COMMON GULL  V  The gull most likely to be seen in Tynron in winter.

LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL  V  Visit when bored with Dumfries.

HERRING GULL  V  Sometimes appear.

GREAT BLACK-BACKED GULL  V  Most likely in summer, when one or two fly around.

FERAL PIGEON  RB  Breed at Hillhead and High Pinzarie.

STOCK DOVE  V?B?  Elusive.

WOODPIGEON  RB  Too common, say some people.

COLLARED DOVE  V  Expanding rapidly locally in the 1980’s.  I am not sure if they are breeding in Tynron.

CUCKOO  SB  Heard commonly from May to July.

BARN OWL  RB  We are lucky to have breeding pairs.  One very cold winter day I found one frozen solid to a branch at the Ford.

TAWNY OWL  RB  Can be heard almost any night.

LONG-EARED OWL  SB  Breed in small coniferous plantations on hillsides.

SHORT-EARED OWL  RB  Breed on moorland.

NIGHTJAR  ?  Possible.

SWIFT  SV  Fly over from Penpont, Maxwelton or Moniaive.

KINGFISHER  V  Reported lower down the glen.  I saw one at Moniaive Bridge in December 1993.

GREEN WOODPECKER  RB  One or two pairs probably.  The yaffle draws attention to them.

GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER  RB  Less rare, 4 or 5 pairs.

SKYLARK  SB  Fantastic song on the hillsides in spring, but seem to leave in winter.

SAND MARTIN  SV  Common in the nineteenth century.  Now sometimes seen down the glen.

SWALLOW  SB  Most settlements have them.  Have two, sometimes three, broods.

HOUSE MARTIN  SB  At some farms.

TREE PIPIT  SB  Pairs on valley floor every 100 metres or so some years.  Some years there are few and many people never notice this bird with its spectacular song flight.  The 1879 bird report said that tree pipits had been scarce all year and some had lingered exceptionally late into October.  The writer adds that he shot a fine pair, though!  The nineteenth century mentality of naturalists was of shooting and egg-collecting.

MEADOW PIPIT  RB  Everywhere on the moors and braes.  Many are summer visitors, yet it is often the only small bird out on the hills in winter.

GREY WAGTAIL  RB  Riparian.  Flick their long tails by streams, mostly in summer.

PIED WAGTAIL  RB  Most now leave in winter.  Breed in the stone dykes along the roadside.

WAXWING  WV?  You never know.

DIPPER  RB  The Shinnel is not yet acid enough to deter dippers, so they are breeding still.  At least 5 pairs.

WREN  RB  May be the commonest bird in Tynron.

DUNNOCK  RB  Very common.

ROBIN  RB  Start singing, when other birds are silent in September.  Found right up to the top of the forestry.

REDSTART  SB  Attracted to nestboxes.

WHINCHAT  SB  Rare, but attracted to new forestry.

STONECHAT  RB  I thought probably the last ones disappeared in the 1980’s, but I have seen one or two in 1995/6.  Once common.

WHEATEAR  SB  One of the early migrants, late March or early April.

RING OUSEL  ?  Mythical bird as far as I am concerned.  I have walked all the likely localities without success.  I am assured that they must be there.

BLACKBIRD  RB  A typical glen bird.

FIELDFARE  W  Huge flocks appear in October and stay till April.

SONGTHRUSH  SB  All or most leave for the winter.

REDWING  W  Often in mixed flocks with fieldfares.

MISTLETHRUSH  RB  Plenty around.

GRASSHOPPER WARBLER  S?(B)?  Possible, as they like new forestry, but I searched in vain in May 1996.

SEDGE WARBLER  S?(B)?  Probable, but I am surprised that I have not noticed any yet.

WHITETHROAT  SB  Not many probably.

GARDEN WARBLER  SB  Song so easily confused with blackcap.  I have found garden warbler nests though.

BLACKCAP  SB  A few.

WOOD WARBLER  SB  These warblers are very localised in specific habitats, like Stenhouse Wood.

CHIFFCHAFF  SB  A few.

WILLOW WARBLER  SB  Common as muck.

GOLDCREST  RB  Conifers full of them with their distinctive song.

SPOTTED FLYCATCHER  SB  Arrive very late, often late May.  Use nestboxes.

PIED FLYCATCHER  SB  Brian Turner has his own colony of up to 12 pairs at Shinnel Mill, established by putting up lots of nestboxes.  Elsewhere not many, except in Stenhouse Wood.

LONG-TAILED TIT  RB  Small groups of this most beautiful bird can be seen in winter feeding with other tits.

WILLOW TIT  RB  Elusive.

COAL TIT  RB  Lots.

BLUE TIT  RB  Likes nestboxes.

GREAT TIT  RB  Attracted to nestboxes.  One of the winter sounds, starting in December, is the great tits piping away.

TREECREEPER  RB  Common, but not easy to find when you are looking for them.

JAY  RB  A few lower down the glen.

MAGPIE  RB  In 1980 a rarity, but have since colonised the glen.

JACKDAW  RB  Fond of chimneys.

ROOK  RB  Large colony of 114 nests at Auchenbrack in 1993 split into five separate rookeries with 149 nests in 1996 all close by.  There are only a few now at Macqueston, four in fact in 1993, but up to 19 in 1996, where there was a rookery of 107 in 1973 in Scots pines.  There were 7 rookeries in 1885, including one by the manse.  They were all gone by 1910.

CARRION CROW  RB  The only bird which can be seen absolutely anywhere in the glen at any season.

RAVEN  RB  Easily seen flying over, cavorting and croaking characteristically.  Family parties especially conspicuous in autumn.  Have bred at Capenoch Loch, Appin Glen and even very close to Tynron on Craigturra Craig.

STARLING  RB  Declining nationally, but lots in Tynron.  Terrific mimics of curlew and oystercatcher calls.

HOUSE SPARROW  RB  Not common in the glen.

TREE SPARROW  ?  Never seen any round here.

CHAFFINCH  RB  Ubiquitous.  They nest separately, then in August they form big flocks.

BRAMBLING  WV?  I’ve never seen any.

GREENFINCH  RB  Bird feeders attract them.

GOLDFINCH  RB  Appear as if by magic when dandelions are in seed.  Also common in winter on thistle seeds.

SISKIN  RB  More and more come to bird feeders especially after January.  Small flocks in winter.  Also like dandelion seeds.

LINNET  SB  Getting quite scarce.  Now rarely seen in winter.

REDPOLL  RB  Difficult to find except when dandelions are in seed.  I remember seeing redpolls, linnets, siskins and goldfinches all feeding on one prolific crop of dandelions (in my front garden at Thornie Park!).

CROSSBILL  WV  Another of my bêtes noires.  Everyone else sees them plundering the pine cones.

BULLFINCH  RB  Elusive.

SNOW BUNTING  WV  Reported.

YELLOWHAMMER  RB  I think they are not as common now and many disappear in winter as there is nothing much for them to eat.

REED BUNTING  RB  A few around.

ANIMALS

The glen is full of mammals and reptiles, but it would still be possible to go for a walk and see only a few rabbits or a flat hedgehog on the road.

 

Mole : Molehills are not uncommon even on the hill tops, and there is still a molecatcher in Tynron in the nineties.

 Bat : There are eight species of bat in Dumfriesshire, but although pipistrelle are very common, I have never seen any of the larger bats.  I am told that noctule, Daubenton’s, Natterer’s and brown long-eared bats are likely to be in Tynron, though hard to spot.

Hare : Common.  One of the most endearing sights is to see hares running up the road in front of the car and finally diving into a gateway to escape.  They seem to like the roadsides, but can be seen anywhere, waiting until the last minute on your approach and then shooting off.  Some of the hares on the hills turn very pale in winter, but are not true mountain hares.

 Vole : Billions! Water, bank and field voles.  A boom year means good eating for short-eared owls.  Melting snow on grassy hillsides reveals the network of tunnels made by voles under the snow.

Brown rat : Some rats live at the farms, but not too many.

Red squirrel :Common enough and not threatened by grey squirrels.

Fox : Always a fox around, but we kept poultry and were never troubled.  I sat by an upturned tree at Magmalloch one day and was surprised by a fox coming out of a hole beside me.  Was she more shocked than me?  I could hear cubs mewing inside.

Badger :  Some, possibly several setts.  I only ever saw one in Tynron, along the road by Lann Hall.

Weasel  : Plenty.  Once at the Ford on a summer’s day, I was watching young sparrows taking dust baths on the road.  Suddenly a weasel popped out, picked up a baby sparrow, looked round, then disappeared.  There was no fuss.  The other sparrows watched quite unconcerned.

 Stoat : Easiest to spot them crossing the road.

 Otter :  Are there any on the Shinnel?  They are reported on the Shinnel and the Dalwhat in 1994/5.  James Shaw says the last otter was in the 1870s.

 Mink : They are a nuisance.  Everyone says so, yet I have never seen one alive on all my walks.  I did find one knocked over on the road near Shinnel Mill in 1996.

Roe deer : A good number.  You are quite likely to see them down the glen.

Red deer  :  You will probably only see these up the glen in the forestry, but they are getting bolder.

Hedgehog : Common. 

 Shrew : Common, pygmy and water should all be present.

 Mice : House mouse and wood mouse

 Polecat :                 Exterminated in the nineteenth century.

 Frog : Plenty, right up to the pools on the tops of the hills, where I have seen a crow eating the spawn.

Toad : Less common than frogs.

Adder :  Always possible you might see one.  I have personally never seen one in Shinnel Glen..

Slowworm : Plenty around, I expect.  I have twice narrowly missed mowing one with my mower.

Lizard : I have only seen a dead one.  There must be plenty.

Newt : Common newt and great water newt have been reported.  Palmated newt is possible.

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