Record number of coots on my patch


The predicted arrival of the year’s first barbecue weekend seemed to have passed us by, as we were subjected to the usual menu of wind and rain.

However, the signs of spring were much in evidence as I went out and about on Sunday.

Mammal movement seems to have increased, judging by the amount of casualties on our roads. Dead badgers seemed to be everywhere and the first crop of flattened hedgehogs was sadly much in evidence.

It was the last wildfowl count of the winter on Sunday and I was in for a pleasant surprise when I visited one of my designated local lochs. For many years now, coot numbers have inexplicably plummeted, not just on my patch, but across the Borders in general. No plausible explanation has come forward and it was extremely worrying that this once common water bird seemed to be on the way out. Sunday’s count however, yielded 22 individuals on this loch – the highest recorded there and two more than the previous record in 1994.

Let’s hope that this year’s breeding season goes well and numbers get back to where they once were. Other spring highlights of the weekend included a pregnant frog in my neighbour’s garden (heading I hope in the direction of my new garden pond), bird song gathering pace with newcomers such as skylark and yellowhammer joining the throng and the sight of my first spring lambs careering round a field near Legerwood.

Borders botanists, particularly those in the Hawick area, will be delighted to hear that a new softback book covering their locality, is about to be published – The Flora of Hawick Burgh. Amazingly, author Michael Braithwaite recorded 632 species of plant in 2014, which is a huge number for an inland town.

The town is split into eight habitats and the plants found in each are described and their location given, so that aspiring botanists can grab a field guide and go and look for them. It is wonderfully illustrated throughout with coloured pictures and maps, and for only a fiver including post and packing it is an absolute steal. You can get a copy by sending a cheque for £5 made out to Hawick Archaeological Society, to Michael Braithwaite, Clarilaw Farmhouse, Hawick TD9 8PT.

Or why not get one for only £4 by popping along to the society’s coffee morning in the Congregational Church, where copies will be available.