This is the second week of my current five week course of beginners' birdwatching classes. Today's walk started at Blackford Pond in Edinburgh. One of the great things about starting a birdwatching walk (specially for beginners!) at a pond is that there are guaranteed birds. So the group were entertained by coots chasing each other across the water, lots of mallards making a lot of noise, a pair of mute swans sailing serenely by and lots of black headed gulls entirely not living up to their name by being in winter plumage. There were also a couple of moorhens and best of all the Blackford Pond dabchicks (little grebes) gave a star performance. Usually a shy and retiring bird that dives into the water as soon as it's spotted, today three of them came quite close to shore so everyone got a really close look at this cute little bird.
We then walked into the Hermitage of Braid and along the Braid Burn (for part of the time we were following a grey wagtail as it flew upstream!) then over some fields and back to our starting point. Plenty of blue tits, great tits, chaffinches all around (though not always easy to get a good look at!) and a long tailed tit that I think only a couple of people got a view of, because it was low down in the middle of a bush. One of the disadvantages of leading a group of people on a birdwatching walk through woodland is that you can't guarantee that everyone gets to see all the birds.
I don't take my camera with me when I'm leading guided walks (to avoid being distracted from my job by taking lots of photos!) and the photo at the top of this post shows mallards at Blackford Pond in October 2009. You can see more photos of the birds and scenery in the area here.