Tartan Tales Part 1 – Close Encounters at the Botanic Garden

It was in the wee hours of last Thursday morning that Team Sausage left our West London nest and temporarily migrated north to Edinburgh. For Mrs Sausage it was all about academic research, for Mr Sausage it was a chance to explore a new city and it’s feathered residents.

After making a new nest at the excellent Fraoch House B&B, Mrs Sausage headed off for her appointment whilst I walked the 1.8 miles to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh. Set in 70 acres of manicured gardens with themes ranging from Rock Garden to Alpines to Chinese Hillside I was hoping it would be home to some interesting bird life.

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My first stopping point was the Chinese Hillside, primarily as it offered a shelter from a rain shower threatening to turn into a downpour. Dodging the showers would be a feature of the morning.

Sitting quietly and taking in the surroundings I was shortly joined by a very confident Chaffinch, singing away less than 10 feet away.

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As if the Chaffinch was signalling all was well, a Dunnock then appeared from nearby undergrowth, almost within touching distance and completely unconcerned by my presence.

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With “human heavy” environments such as botanic gardens it seems the birds become significantly less wary of our presence. Although the birds here were not feeding from the hand as seen at Kensington Gardens, they were certainly none too worried about sharing space with people.

I made my way around the grounds dodging showers as I went. Chiffchaff and Goldcrest were both seen and heard and Blue Tit, Great Tit and Long-tailed were seen in good numbers. As I sheltered in the Copse area this Wren appeared, singing away in the rain.

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It was also apparent that Edinburgh, like Aberdeen and most inner cities in the UK, is home to a healthy population of Lesser Black-backed Gull. Scavenging wherever the chance of easy food can be found, they were especially happy to sit and wait by the Terrace Cafe and I couldn’t resist a close-up shot or two.

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And a head shot:

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After completing a circuit and pausing for a quick coffee, the weather started to improve. With sunshine starting to break through and plenty of time to kill I made my way around again and was rewarded almost immediately with this Great Spotted Woodpecker, insect hunting:

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I ended up back at my first stop by the Chinese Garden where a few other nature photographers were hanging around. It was soon clear why. The earlier Chaffinch and Dunnock were still showing well along with this acrobatic Grey Squirrel:

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And a hunting Grey Heron:

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Caught one!

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This area was definitely the epicentre of the birding activity at the Botanical Gardens. At least one pair of Robins were showing here along with two or three other individuals. The male Chaffinch from earlier was regularly joined by a female, the single Dunnock also had a partner and a male and female Blackbird were constantly hunting around the shelter. Here you can see the female with a beak full of food:

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This area of the Gardens also saw regular visits from Greenfinch, Blackcap, a well hidden but noisy Mistle Thrush and on the water in front, a few Mallard and Moorhen. Not a bad start to our five days of Edinburgh birding.

These pics and more on our Flickr page.

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