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 on the top of Auchenbrack 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 1980s. 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 1980s, 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.
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.