Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Where's Tullibody? 14th March 2015

Another long drive to Scotland was necessitated this weekend to combine having dinner with my daughter in Glasgow on Saturday and then, on Sunday, attending an Osteopath's acupuncture training day in Edinburgh before driving home again. 

I took this opportunity to also try and see a Ross's Goose that has been frequenting a place called Tullibody just east of Stirling, as this would not involve a huge detour from my route to Glasgow. Having left my home comparatively late at 4am on Saturday morning I consequently found myself crossing the border six hours later in unaccustomed daylight, and being a Saturday the traffic was refreshingly light on the Motorway as I headed northwards through the bleak snow topped Lanarkshire hills towards Glasgow.

By the time I got to Stirling Scotland had woken up and I found myself in the unusual situation of negotiating comparatively heavy traffic as people went about their Saturday morning business. I passed the huge Wallace Monument and headed east towards the Ochil Hills and the unprepossessing and totally unremarkable former mining town of Tullibody. A place I had never heard of in an area of central Scotland I had never visited before.

The morning was depressingly dull, grey and damp entirely matching my feelings after my long drive and finding myself in such a dour and uninspiring place as Tullibody. I stopped in a layby to consult my RBA app. and conveniently it announced that the Ross's Goose had already been reported this very morning as frequenting a field with around one thousand Pink footed Geese just southwest of Tullibody and right by the road I was currently parked on. It was to be found in a field just behind 'The Gulf Service Station'. Finding a pure white goose amongst a thousand grey geese should surely not present too much of a problem. 

A mile or so down the road some Pink footed Geese flew across and I passed the Gulf Service Station which came upon me faster than I expected. Naturally it was on the opposite side of the dual carriageway so I  had to carry on until I could negotiate a roundabout and return on the other side of the road and gain access to the service station.

I pulled into the service station and parked in the far corner of their huge deserted car park which overlooked the fields and got out. A scan across the fields found the Pink footed Geese scattered across the rough wet grassland but there was not a sign of a white bodied goose amongst them. I slumped with tiredness and disappointment as I felt sure it should have been here.

A cycle path led a short way back from the service station, parallel with the road, to a small bridge spanning a river which would give me an elevated view across the fields. A signpost announced that the bridge spanned the River Devon. Maybe the Ross's Goose was hidden by the undulating contours of the field and the bridge would be a better vantage point? I walked the short way to the bridge and even before looking through the scope could see an all too obvious white shape amongst the grey brown bodies of a group of previously obscured Pink footed Geese. There it was, the desired Ross's Goose, white and so very obvious, a really dinky little thing compared to a Snow Goose but similarly all white with black wing tips, bright pink bill and legs.

I watched it for fifteen minutes, standing on the bridge on a raw morning, the air sharp and refreshing, happy to be free of the soporific constraints of the car. A female Goosander floated with two Mallard by the edge of the river bank below me and a straggling flock of fifty plus Fieldfare passed overhead working their way northeast.

It was too distant for me to take an image of the Ross's Goose but I could see that an industrial estate backed onto the far side of the fields. I decided to investigate. Maybe I could get closer to the goose from there? I drove back up the road I had come down and took the turning off the roundabout that led onto the industrial estate and parked at the far end where an alleyway conveniently led off down towards the fields. The buildings around were heavily fortified and the smell of hops and yeast plus a huge sign announcing BELHAVEN told me unequivocally this was surely a brewery or distribution centre for alcoholic refreshment. Currently it was deserted with not a sign of life but something was definitely brewing judging by the not  unpleasant beery smell emanating from the fortified buildings.

I took the alleyway through the buildings and found myself beside a small field which led down to the River Devon. On the other side of the river was a much larger field full of geese. I slipped along the edge of the small field and managed to get close enough to obtain a passable image of the Ross's Goose in amongst its temporary companions. Being geese they were typically ultra wary and certainly would not allow close approach.

The provenance of any Ross's Goose in the UK being fully wild is usually dismissed by those who adjudicate on such matters but if a Ross's Goose can be considered to be legitimately wild this one surely is as good a candidate as any.

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