What's been seen in Riverside?
About two years ago, on a cold, bright January day I was walking along the path towards the footbridge at Cambuskenneth and saw what I thought was a goosander diving and surfacing in the river just before the bridge. Getting closer it became clear that it wasn't a goosander but something more glamorous altogether, a male goldeneye, a winter visitor to our area and one of the most colourful migrant birds we are likely to see.
It was a special day for me, because about five minutes earlier I'd seen a goldcrest in the fir tree on the right side of the path, and a flock of gold finches in the birch trees bordering the river. Triple gold, I thought, feeling quite self-congratulatory.
Those sightings got me thinking about the number of different birds we have here in Riverside and I decided that over the next few months I'd casually jot down every one I saw. To my astonishment, by the end of March there were over fifty species.
But when you think about it, it really shouldn't have been such a surprise: we live in a place with such a diversity of habitat that it should have been obvious that birds of many a feather should flock together to take advantage of it.
We have moorland birds, curlews, plovers and snipe that fly overhead from their summer nesting grounds to the Forth estuary where they mix with oyster-catchers, a fair number of which can be seen in the fields at Queenshaugh during the summer. There is actually quite a lot of farmland surrounding us which provides food for at least three species of gull as well as other birds, and we have a school playground that hosts herring gulls at lunchtime.
Our gardens are perfect for blackbirds, starlings , robins and dunnocks, and house-sparrows that are making a welcome comeback in Stirling. And of course where there are small birds, there will be predators. If you're really lucky you might see the resident sparrow hawks contour flying over hedges and garden walls terrorising the bluetits who appear to be their main source of food in the autumn, when they can't get a plump feral pigeon.
There are hedgerows and gorse sheltering yellowhammers, linnets and tree sparrows, nearby rocky crags where ravens have been seen in the last few years and we are on the flight path for ospreys heading for Africa, red kites going anywhere they can to find a meal, and the many thousands of geese whose delta formations in the sky are so characteristic of winter.
This is a perfect time of year for bird-spotting: the trees have shed their leaves and those elusive little brown birds you caught out of the corner of your eye in summer can reveal themselves in all their variety - if they haven't headed for warmer climes.
Riverside is a great place to live and visit, not only for us humans but for out feathered friends also. So, next time you're out for a walk keep your eyes open, make a note, check against the list on our website ... and if you are fortunate enough to see waxwings this winter, call me, please, please, call me!