Today we are going on a bird-watching trip to Baron’s Haugh in Motherwell. It is early in October and the winter birds are arriving at the Haugh.
Our trip starts off Shields Road in Motherwell and takes us down an old road which was used for access to a pumping station for the steelworks in Motherwell before they were demolished.
We soon arrive at an access to Dalzell Estate and into a wooded area. As we enter the area, we hear the high pitched zeeee of a Treecreeper. On looking through our binoculars we see it climbing up the trunk of a tree.
There are also a number of Blue Tits and some Long-tailed Tits.
We continue to Adders Gill and as we arrive at the remains of the old pumping station we hear a harsh sound like ‘skaark’ – the voice of Jays. We look around for them, but do not see these colourful birds.
In the sky we see four geese heading towards Baron’s Haugh and after observing them through binoculars identify them as Barnacle Geese. These are rare winter visitors to the Haugh (a low lying meadow by the side of a river) so we get quite excited about this. We hope to see them later in the trip.
The River Clyde is in front of us so we look out for Kingfishers. No sign of these today so we take the path on our right to Easter Braes. The Clyde is on our left and a field with grazing cows is on our right.
The main bird sounds here are from the Blue Tits and some Robins. We are on the look-out for Jays, but again have no luck.
We come to a small gate and enter the path which leads to Baron’s Haugh. This is run by the RSPB and is a major area for waterbirds. The Clyde is still on our left and as we walk along we hear the ‘chee-tee’ of the Kingfisher.
KingFisher Flies Past
As we look towards the River Clyde we catch a blue object flying past us. This is the Kingfisher, but as it was moving so fast we only catch a glimpse of it.
We soon arrive at the Centenery Hide and enter it to look at the birds on the Haugh. The water level has risen and the wading birds have departed to warmer areas for the winter.
A few weeks ago the Greenshank and a rare Long-billed Dowacher could be seen on the Haugh. The Lapwing are still there along with the Mute Swans and the Mallard Ducks.
We leave this hide and continue to the next Hide. We can hear the Bluetits and Long-tailed Tits as we walk along and soon arrive at the Phoenix Hide.
Here we manage to get a fairly close-up view of a Little Grebe and watch it as it catches small fish in the water. It stays there for a while having lunch, before flying off to another part of the Haugh.
The Mute Swans are to our left. There are three – two adults and a juvenile. Originally there were two cygnets, but one of them was snatched from the Haugh in the early summer by a Buzzard. The juvenile’s light brown feathers are being replaced by adult white feathers now.
Injured Barnacle Goose
As we look over the Haugh I notice something on the water’s edge in the grass. On closer inspection I realise it is a Barnacle Goose, probably one of the geese which flew overhead a short time ago. There is no sign of the other geese.
While we are at the Hide some other bird-watchers arrive with a spotting scope. We get a closer look at the Barnacle Goose and realise it has an injured leg. It makes no attempt to get into the water and hopefully its leg will get better.
On our left, five cormorants are perched on a concrete slab which is above the water level. They are looking around the Haugh but are fairly inactive and remain in the same position most of the time.
We continue to the next hide – the Causeway Hide. As we walk there we see a Buzzard flying over a field to our left. This is a common place to see the bird which must have a nest in the area. There is not much activity at this Hide so we do not stay long and proceed to the Marsh Hide, which is the last hide.
Here we get a good view of a large group of Lapwing. A few weeks ago they had a Long-billed Dowacher in their midst but it was last seen on Wednesday 5th October and has moved on to another area.
As we watch the Lapwing they suddenly take to the skies and we soon see the reason why when a Peregrine Falcon comes into view. It circles round the Lapwing before flying off.
The Lapwing return to the water and the scene is calm again. The Herons are dotted around the Haugh watching and waiting for some prey.
Flock of Curlew
As we watch this peaceful scene a flock of about 50 Curlew descend on the Haugh and start feeding. We get a good view of these long-billed birds, which are quite rare visitors to the Haugh. Hopefully they will stay for a while.
Other birds on the Haugh which can be seen are Teal and Mallards. These are year-round residents and can be see throughout the year.
Very soon it is time to leave and we walk through Dalzell Estate to the entrance at North Lodge Avenue.
We agree it has been a good day. We have seen Kingfisher, Curlew, Barnacle Geese, Little Grebe and Peregrine Falcon as well as the usual birds on the Haugh.
How to get there:
First Scotrail to Airbles Road (station between Hamilton Central and Motherwell. If travelling from Glasgow Central the train leaves from the lower level). Turn right at exit from station onto the main road. Turn right at the second mini roundabout and follow to the bottom of the road, turning left then right to the reserve entrance.
First Bus no 245 travels round the Airbles estate.
At Junction 6 of the M74, take the road to Motherwell. Bear right at the next traffic lights sign posted to Wishaw. Turn right at the third mini-roundabout, and follow the road to the junction, turn left then immediately right to enter the reserve; the car park is on the right.
Grid Ref: NS 75560 55060