Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

The swans are nesting

I noted the return of the swans recently.

Now I see they have nested.

I’ve seen them a few times when I passed the pond, and while the pair were around to start with, it looks as one (guess which) is always on the nest, apparently sleeping, while the other is seldom to be seen.

I’ve never seen the family (cygnets), but I’ll try to remember to look closer when I’m passing this year, and maybe get lucky.

This was funnier in real life than the pic – the distant swan seemed scared to approach any closer to the ‘sleeping’ one on the nest. If it got much closer she (I assume) raised her head, and it turned away.

Swan version of “I have a HEADACHE!” perhaps.

Two Swans

Two Swans


Shhh... Sleeping

Shhh… Sleeping

Woke a few hours later.

Swan Awake

Swan Awake

Where’s that useless no good waster of a husband gone now?



28/05/2018 Posted by | photography | , , | Leave a comment

The swans are back

I’m beginning to watch for these now.

At least the lack of leaves (so far) on the trees meant I could see them.

It’s some weeks since I’ve been able to get down to the wonderfully named Baggyminnow Pond and glance over for a look.

Now that I know better, and have longer lenses, who knows?

Maybe I’ll catch a cygnet or two.

I’m too far away, so although it would be nice, I doubt I’ll ever see a family walk to the river (Clyde) nearby.

Clydeford Road Swans

Clydeford Road Swans

26/04/2018 Posted by | photography | , , | Leave a comment

Swans are back

Waking home from the shops (need I say ‘one night’ – I feel like a vampire living in the dark since the clock went back) I happened to look over at the spot where I’d watched a pair of swans nesting earlier in the year, and got a surprise in the cold and dark.

Once they’d hatched their eggs and eventually led the family to the river, they disappeared and weren’t spotted again.


I thought I saw a couple of light blobs in the distance, through the bare trees, but it was too dark and too far for anything to be made out, however they did seem to be moving slowly.

Lucky to be carrying a long stabilised zoom, I tried to get a closer look, but it was too dark to see anything by eye.

I killed the autofocus and took a best guess manual focus on the blobs, then let the camera take care of the rest.

Looks like the swans have come back home.



I thought I’d try for a second shot from a different spot, but by then their heads were up and they were on the move.

Guess they must have been talking to catbutt, and realised it was me!

Still, the second shot did at least confirm I wasn’t imagining them.



I hope they don’t sleep in the water – I know from past observation that this pond freezes over, and we were hitting -6 deg C  and even -8 deg C last night.

I couldn’t do much with these pics as the only light here is from street lights about 50 metres away, or headlight from vehicles going around a roundabout, and these pics take over 2 seconds to expose even at high ISO (and 35 mm equivalent 300 mm lens). I usually don’t hit 1 second with my settings.

Incidentally, I happened to be carrying a non-budget compact camera – while it had the sensitivity and zoom to match this, it’s focussing method rendered it almost useless for this situation. I’d liked to have tried harder and had a comparison shot, but it was too cold and I hadn’t digested the manual!

10/12/2017 Posted by | photography | , | Leave a comment

It’s a swan – and family to be (but not mine)

A feature post and pic from Zak’s Bute collection today, and I think it’s a beauty.

For strangers to this phenomenon, I should expand on this by noting the presence of a swan family on Bute, which resides in the area of Rothesay castle, and breeds there every year, with the moat providing a handy and safe water feature for their convenience. However, they do go down to the harbour, and to the sea, and when they do, the town can come to a momentary halt and see parents and cygnets enjoy a police escort. See them in this past feature.

17/04/2014 Posted by | photography | , , , , | Leave a comment

Clyde swans

I wonder if anyone has ever counted, or estimated, the population of swans along the length of the River Clyde?

Since I discovered that the river was a reasonably close neighbour, and that there were numerous legitimate, and maybe some not so legitimate, ways to get down to it, I’ve been a fairly regular visitor over the past few years, and walked most of the riverside path that can be reached within a day’s walking. I’ve been fortunate enough to cover some stretches with a local historian, able to point at some of the structures evident along the edges, and evidence of long lost bridges and crossing, and I’m grateful for his help, as this experience has enabled me to spot more of these features, which would have gone otherwise unnoticed. The only disappointment is that I’ve managed to identify very few of them, even with the help of old surveys and maps of the area.

One of the odd things that I have noticed during these visits is that the river always present some swans for me to look at. Not great flocks, usually just a few pairs, but they always seem to be in sight somewhere.

The pair below seemed to swim into view from nowhere while I was visiting the old weir at Carmyle, and a few seconds after I grabbed the pic they flew off, and I didn’t see any more for the rest of the day. The weir served a bleachworks and grain mill, long lost from the area.

Carmyle weir river clyde swans

Swan on the River Clyde at Carmyle weir

The bridge or viaduct seen in the background is interesting, and used to carry the railway track over the river, in an area where there used to be numerous coal mines, and mineral railways. Like most railways, the line was closed many years ago, and the track lifted. In this case, the crossing comes to a complete dead end in the trees to the right of the picture, leaving a something in the order of a three or four metre drop to the ground below.

The crossing itself has been stripped all the former track, and the two ends are supposed to be closed off and sealed by metal fencing, however, access panels have been cut into these, and it’s possible to cross the river using the bridge. I’ve only used it once, more of curiosity than need for access, and the engineer in me wasn’t sure what to make of it. Clearly abandoned and unmaintained for decades, the deck is full of holes, and even though it is now grass covered, there’s no problem in seeing the river through the holes. With no maintenance, the structure is riddled with rust, and while it all looks solid, and the impact of one tiny body may not be significant, I also know that rust can eat through such structures and leave little surface evidence while the metal below is little more than a crumbling oxide. Once, it would have carried steam locomotives weighing upwards of 70 tons, plus their tenders and carriages, yet you wonder of you might become another river statistic if you head across it a few years after it was closed.

Without a survey, there’s no way to know whether or not any given spot underfoot is solid metal, or crumbling rust, but it does seem to be a pity that it wasn’t preserved or reused in some way to provide a proper and safe pedestrian crossing over the river, if they weren’t going to remove it fully when it was closed.

12/01/2010 Posted by | photography | , , | Leave a comment


There’s an annual event that those familiar with the Isle of Bute look out for at this time of year, and that’s the arrival of the cygnets at the castle, offspring of the swans that live there.

This year’s been no exception, and the family went for a walk yesterday.

They came © Zak

They came © Zak

As always, we’re grateful to Zak for permission to use the occasional pic from his collections, which allows us to bring you these little gems.

Island life has its ups and downs, but this is definitely one of the ups – it doesn’t take much imagination to work what sort of reception the swan family would receive if it tried the same outing around one of the big towns on the mainland. The police would be out in force, police cars would be surrounding and herding them, animal services would be called out, cages would appear, and the whole lot would eventually be swept into them and carted away – to be relocated somewhere “safe”.

On Bute?

There's always one! © Zak

There's always one! © Zak

They go for a walk, wander about a bit, sit down in the road, and…

Everything carries on more or less as normal around them, then they go back home – all on their own.

They went © Zak

They went © Zak

Little wonder I think of selling up and moving every so often.

09/05/2009 Posted by | Civilian | , | 1 Comment


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