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Alyth Bird Blog #8

Birds you can spot in Alyth during lockdown – last in the current series

The final blog in this series looks at three birds that you might spot whilst walking beside Alyth Burn. Having said that, this year numbers of all three seem to be down on what I’d usually expect, so a few trips might be needed to get a sighting.


The dipper, sometimes known as ‘water blackbird’ in Scotland, is a short-tailed, plump bird that loves fast flowing streams and rivers. When perched on a rock it endearingly bobs up and down and frequently cocks its tail. Its white throat and breast contrasts with its dark body plumage. Dippers nest very close to water, using holes in banks, walls or trees. I normally see young dippers on the burn late spring and summer and hope this year will be no different.

FACTOID: It is remarkable in its method of walking into and under water in search of food – in fact they have been filmed actually flying under water. They have a third, transparent eyelid called a 'nictitating membrane' that they can close, enabling them to see underwater.

Grey Wagtail

The grey wagtail is more colourful than its name suggests with blue-grey upper parts and a lovely lemon-yellow underneath. Like the dipper, look for it perched on a rock.

FACTOID: The Grey Wagtail has the longest tail of the wagtail family, which it wags continually. The long tail improves its agility while flying in pursuit of insects.


The mallard, or ‘mire duck’ in Angus, is such a familiar sight that it is easy not to appreciate just how attractive the drake is, with its glossy dark green head, yellow bill, mainly purple-brown breast and grey body. The drake’s habits, however, do not live up to its fine appearance – it is very promiscuous and abandons the female as soon as eggs are laid. It then proceeds to immediately find a new mate. Females, in contrast, are good and caring mothers – look out for mothers and ducklings on the burn with not a male in sight!

FACTOID: Most varieties of domestic duck are derived from the mallard, even breeds like the runner duck and the white ‘decoy duck’.

Some other birds that you might come across on the burn include grey heron, goosander and sometimes even a kingfisher – and don’t forget the swallows swooping low over the water gathering insects.

We hope that you have enjoyed these eight Alyth Bird Blogs. As spring draws to a close the birdlife will be increasingly busy raising young, birdsong will start to diminish and they will be generally more unobtrusive. Recognising types of birds will also become harder with the arrival onto the scene of many fledglings and juveniles, often in confusing plumages. Please feel free to continue to comment, ask any questions, or post your photos. Bye for now!

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