South Lanarkshire offers birders a huge variety of habitats and birding opportunities. The district stretches from the urbanised and post- industrial outskirts of Glasgow, south through the rolling farmland of the Clyde Valley, to the bleak, imposing hills approaching Galloway. Like many other areas, South Lanarkshire suffers from the effects of growing urban sprawl, with the effect this has on wildlife and habitat. Nonetheless, it is perhaps less badly affected than some, and still offers even the casual birder excellent birding opportunities. Chatelherault and Calderglen Country Parks are both close to major urban centres, yet nonetheless are popular birding sites
Much of the Clyde Walkway (a network of paths linking Glasgow City with New Lanark, some 40 miles away) passes through South Lanarkshire, and offers excellent wetland, farmland and woodland opportunities. The woods will offer both all- year and migratory birds. The Clyde itself offers species as diverse as Oystercatchers, goldeneye, kingfishers, goosander, and herons as it winds through both rural and urban areas. It is also always worthwhile keeping an eye skyward for birds on migration- from ospreys to waterfowl, a wide range of migrating species will pass through (or over) the area.
Chatelherault Country Park is part of the ambitious Clyde Valley Woodlands National Nature Reserve, where rivers flow through ancient gorges. The Scottish Wildlife Trust’s Falls of Clyde reserve in the town of New Lanark is famed for its breeding peregrines, and for the steps it takes to protect them. The reserve forms the end point of the Clyde Walkway, and is a challenging climb up some fairly steep hills. Pied flycatchers are also a popular summer target for listers.
Parking facilities can be found in any of the small towns and villages which litter the area, and offer excellent opportunities to go ‘off road.’ Depending on how much mud you like on your boots, I’ve found that there is also plenty of wild space where hardier birders can really get down and dirty. The overall feeling is that while urban spread can’t be completely ignored, it isn’t isn’t all that difficult to escape.
Arm yourself with a map, a sandwich and a flask, there is something for everyone.
Whitelees Windfarm/ Eaglesham Moor
The high upland of Eaglesham Moor straddles the border between the South Lanarkshire, East Renfrewshire and East Ayrshire council administrative districts. Covering a massive area, it encompasses moorland, wetland and woodland, with a diverse range of bird and animal species co- existing with Whitelees Windfarm- the largest facility in Europe. While not a nature reserve as such, the operators of the windfarm have taken steps to mitigate the impact of their facility, at least to date. The impact of their latest expansion remains to be seen, and windfarms in general remain contentious issues for birders. The on- site Ranger service is a major plus- point for the site, however, and have been happy to answer queries regarding birding visits. As of July 2011 their site list was 95 different bird species. The car park at the windfarm offers a good starting point for a day’s birding and walking, heed the car park closing times though. Skylark are in abundance in all areas, becoming more bold farther away from the visitor centre. Meadow Pipit are also present in good numbers. Wheatear have been recorded on the vicinity of the turbines themselves.
The major water bodies are recommended for waders and wildfowl, with snipe and curlew recorded. Raptors, as expected, are present, with kestrel and buzzard being the obvious ones. Less common, but still recorded, are hen harrier and peregrine. Finches have been recorded near the visitor centre and at the wooded areas on site. The forests are worth a look for visiting great grey shrike. The path system covers over 70km in total, although by no means all offers birding opportunities. If you are intrepid enough, there are, though, areas to go ‘off trail’, - care should be taken in areas of marshy ground (I was once mobbed by a pair of curlew while stranded knee deep in a marsh) The site is used extensively by walkers and cyclists, although it could not be described as crowded. In short, a more than decent site, which provides good birding in perhaps an unexpected setting.
8 Kenmure View, Howwood, Johnstone, Renfrewshire PA0 1DR
Where to Watch Birds in Scotland
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Calderglen Bird Club
Calderglen Bird Club is based in East Kilbride, South Lanarkshire in Scotland. We are a small club of approximately 20 members, who meet on a monthly basis, but would like to extend a welcome to anybody who has an interest in birds, wildlife and wild areas.
Cathkin Marsh - SWT
Situated not far from Carmunnock village and the major town of East Kilbride, Cathkin Marsh is nestled unassumingly between a landfill site and agricultural land. The Marsh boasts the wide range of species you would expect, plus the ubiquitous gulls and corvids making good use of our waste. Thankfully, it lacks much of the vandalism problem that blights other Lanarkshire sites. Access is via a gate and along a hedge-rowed path. Avid listers will quickly accumulate ticks just by standing still.In Spring and Summer, expect to see warblers. Autumn brings us migrant thrushes and finches. Yellowhammer frequent the reserve, which is also good for wildfowl and waders. The fields adjacent to the path offer Skylark, and in season, massed flocks of corvids and gulls and occasional raptors. Parking is limited to a siding on the single –track road outside the reserve, or by prior arrangement with SWT, inside the gate of the reserve itself. Access is generally good, although conditions underfoot can be wet at times. Coulter’s Wood (an immature woodland with potential in terms of finches, tits, and raptors) is a mile walk away.
Clyde Valley Woodlands National Nature Reserve
Carved by ice and water from the surrounding gently rolling landscape, the steepness of the gorge sides here has protected the trees from felling. These ancient woodlands have clung to these gorge sides for centuries, providing a sanctuary for a wealth of wildlife….
Falls of Clyde - SWT Reserve
The reserve stretches along both sides of the Clyde gorge, from New Lanark to Bonnington Weir. As well as the falls, the gorge is fringed by ancient natural woodland and modern mixed plantation. Part of the Clyde and Avon Valley Landscape Partnership.