It will be
unnecessary to enter at any length into generalities regarding the
natural history of the parish ; reference will be made to locality,
distribution, and relation, when dealing with the individual
It will be found, however, that the fauna and the flora of the
parish are both varied and rich, that while they include most of the
species common to surrounding parishes, they also possess certain
interesting species peculiar to itself. Here the varied nature of
the land surface, the great diversity of altitude by which it is
characterised, and the consequent differences of surroundings, as
peat moss, heathy moors, wooded hills and sheltering glens and
hollows, present such diverse environment as naturally gives
opportunity for great variety in the land fauna and flora; while
equally the distribution of numerous, and in several instances,
large sheets of water, as Loch Libo, Harelaw dam, Long-Loch, Balgray
reservoir, present attractions to the various species of aquatic
birds that visit our neighbourhood annually for nesting purposes,
and remain with us throughout most of the summer months.
Subjoined is a list of the Mammalia of the parish. As far as regards
nomenclature, the names given by W. S. Dallas, in his Natural
History of the Animal Kingdom, have been mostly followed.
The Common Squirrel—Sciurus
vulgares.—This active little fellow is quite common where there are
trees, as at Caldwell and the Pad.
The Water Rat or Vole—Arvicola amphibia.—Found in Cowden Burn and
other streams. The Common Field Vole—Microtus agrestis.—Common
throughout the parish.
The Black Rat—Mus rattus.—This rat was formerly found in the parish,
but has now disappeared.
The Common or Brown House Rat—Mus decumanus.—This rat, which is
common and well known, has all but extirpated the former, which is
the true British rat. This rat is found in all parts of the world,
and is not indigenous to our country, having been probably brought
to it by some ships, and is also known as the Norway Hat, which is
The Common House Mouse—Mits muscii/us.
The Harvest Mouse—Mus messorius.—Observed among the stooks in
harvest in the meadows of Caldwell, after they had been sown with
The Long-tailed Field Mouse—Mus .uj/r aliens.—Common enough.
The Otter—Lutra vulgaris.—The otter was formerly found in the
parish. One that was killed some years ago, the writer is informed,
is still in preservation.
The Common Hare—Lupus timid us.—Is fairly common, especially about
the Pad and Harelaw. The white variety is occasionally met with in
The Rabbit—Lupus cuniculus.—Very common in the west of the parish.
The Common Shrew—Sora.r araneus.—Common.
The Little Shrew—Sora.v pygmams.—This species, which is quite a
recent addition to zoological knowledge, is to be found in Cowden
The Water Shrew—Sora.r remi/er.
The Hedgehog—Erinaceus Europceus.—This creature is common. It
hybernates in winter, and many are killed if the frost is severe.
The Bank Vole—Microtus glareolus.—Is rare, but has been found in the
vicinity of Killoch Glen, where also a white variety was caught some
Short-tailed Vole—Arvicola arrestis.—Popularly called the
field-mouse. The voles are from time to time very destructive to
crops, especially where their natural enemies are severely shot
The Fox—Cauis vulpus.—This creature is found in various parts of the
parish, as Caldwell wood, Uplawmoor wood, Hartfield moor, Knockanae
wood, and others, and is regularly hunted. It is often a source of
much mischief to farmers near its haunts.
The Wild Cat—Felis catus.—Up till 1895, this creature was found in
the north of the parish, but in that year the last of them is
reported to have been killed.
The Weasel—Mustela rulgaris.—Common on moorland roads where there
are drystone walls.
The Stoat or Ermine—Mustela erminea.—Found at Neilston Pad and other
places, and sometimes found with white body and dark tail in winter.
The writer got a fine specimen, a very fierce little fellow, in the
ermine stage, in the winter of 1909, which had been very severe :
white body, black tail, light brown on top of head.
The Mole—Talpa Europcea.—Very common throughout the parish, and
often does much mischief, especially in fields under crop.
The White Mole—Talpa alba.—A variety which, the writer is informed
by the mole catcher, has been caught at the Pad.
The Pole Cat—Mustela putorius.—Up till J 8fi8, was to be found in
the parish, but about that year it became extinct.
The Common Bat—Vcspcrlilio pepestrellus.—The bat is common and
frequently seen on the wing after its insect food in mild evenings,
near old buildings and under large trees.
The Long-eared Bat—Plecotus auritus.—Common at Crofthead mill and
the printfield, and the works at Gateside.
Debenton’s Bat—Vcspcrlilio Debcntoni.—To be found in the north of
the parish, and is remarkable for the ease with which it can be
tamed and made a pet of.
The Adder or Viper—Pelias
berus.—The gamekeeper informs the writer that the adder is still
seen in Picketlaw and Moyne moors, in the south of the parish. This
is the only venemous reptile found in Britain,1 and ammonia or
carbonate of ammonia applied, is the best cure when bitten.
The Common Ringed Snake—Coluber natrix.—It is reported on good
authority that a living specimen of this snake was taken in the
northern boundary of the parish in the summer of 1898.
The Ask or Lizard—Lacerta vivipara.—To be found at Cowden valley and
The Blind or Slow Worm—Anguis fragilis.—Reported as found on Moyne
moor and at Long Loch. A most harmless reptile, although popularly
regarded as exceedingly venomous.
The Common Newt—Molge vulgaris.—To be found about quarry holes.
temporaria.—Very common in different parts of the parish.
The Scotch Frog—liana Scotica.—Found about Riglaw, Old Kilpatrick
water, and Harelaw dam. In the last-named station, the large
characteristic spawn is abundant.
The Toad—Bufo vulgaris.—This somewhat unwieldy creature is fairly
common about Uplawmoor wood, where their nocturnal habits often
bring them under notice in the dusk of summer nights, especially on
the road between the plantation and the loch. The Common or Spotted
Newt—Triton vulgaris. — Found in quarry holes The Crested Newt or
Salamander—Triton cristatas.—Found in the north of the parish.
The Webbed Newt—Triton palmatus.—Rare, but also found in the north
of the parish, at Old Kilpatrick water.
The Ornithology of the Parish.
The birds of any
district constitute undoubtedly one of its most pleasing
attractions, and whether our attention be turned to the moors or
woods of the uplands, or the open fields or glens and valleys of the
lowlands of the parish, it will be found that we everywhere possess
a rich variety of the feathered songsters.
In the valley of the Clyde there are found 238 species, and of
these, 110 are to be found in the parish of Neilston.
In the scale of classification, this section might have been noticed
before the Mammalia, but it was more convenient to place it in the
order adopted in the subjoined list, which is not by any means
The Skua Majalestres catarrhactes.—Common ;it Harelaw dam, and
following the plough in spring—a bold and daring bird.
The Common Gull — Laras can its.—Common in spring at Harelaw dam.
Rlacklieaded Gull — Lams ridibutidns.—Common in spring at Harelaw
dam. This bird’s head is white in winter, but becomes dark in early
Lesser Black-back Gull—Lari/s fnscits.—In spring and summer on the
islands and margins of Harelaw dam in great numbers. This is a great
The Common Grav Heron—Ardca cinerea.—Loch Libo, Caplaw dam, and
others. This bird is blamed for being sore on fish ; but, as a
matter of fact, it lives largely on water rats.
The Coot or Bullcoot—Fidicula atra.—In considerable numbers at Loch
Water or Moorhen—Gallinu/a chloropus.—Loch Libo, Caplaw dam, and
The Water Rail—Halits aquatints.—Caplaw dam, etc.
The Wild Duck or Malard —Anas boschas.—Loch Libo, Caplaw dam.
Teal Duck—Querquedula crecca.—The smallest of the ducks—Moyne moor.
Solan Goose—Sida bassana.—Specimens are seen in Loch Libo, and they
are often heard crying when flying over head at night.
The Ailsa Cock.—In 18(56, 011 6th February, one of these birds was
carried in the upper stratum of a very severe wind storm from Ailsa
Craig to Caldwell. The late Colonel Mure, M.P., observed it tumbling
down through the air, and fall to the ground with a heavy thud as if
shot. It was alive, but could not fly, and 011 examination was found
to have a broken leg, and was otherwise injured.
The Corncrake or Landrail—Cre.v pratensis.—Common in corn and
hayfields—their rasping notes “ crek, crek,” heard in summer till
well on in the night.
The Golden Plover—Charadrius pfuvia/is.—On Hartfield moor.
The Gray Plover—Squatarola cinerea.—Common.
Gray Wagtail—Motacilla boarida.—Fairly common.
Pied Wagtail—Motacilla jarrellii.— Do.
Yellow Wagtail—Budi/tes rayi.— Do.
Common Snipe—Scot0pax gallinago.—Quite common on the moors.
Jack Snipe—Gallinago gal/inula.—Hartfield moor.
Curlew or Whaup—Xttmenius arquata.—Nests in Middleton and Moyne
Sandpipers — Tringemc.— Common at streams and springs, Brownside and
Caplaw moors, and Moyne moor.
The Crested Lapwing—I'aneUus crcstata.—The Peesweep, everywhere
The Common Partridge—Vardex cinerea.—Common on the moors.
Common Red Grouse—Lagopus Scoticiis.—Moyne, Picketlaw, Caplaw moor.
As its name implies, this bird is peculiar to Scotland.
The Pheasant—Phasiunus colckicus.—Caldwell woods and surroundings.
The Woodcock—Scolopax rusticola.—Fairly common as an autumn migrant.
The Blackcock—Tctrao tetri.x.—On Moyne, Picketlaw, Caplaw, and
Hartfield moors. In these places, the keepers inform the writer, it
is known to nest.
The Wood Pigeon—Columba palumbus.—These birds breed in large numbers
in Caldwell woods and many other plantations around.
The Cuckoo — Cuvulus canorus.—A regular visitant in summer, whose
welcome notes are to be heard from the Pad, Killoch Glen, Uplawmoor
Road, and other places.
The Skylark—Alauda arvcnsis.—This charming songster is found
everywhere in the parish. Numbers of them die in severe winters,
being unable to find food when the ground is frozen.
The Woodlark—Alauda arbora.—Common.
The Linnet—Liuota cannabiua.—Common in the furze and on the upland
moors. Often seen flying in flocks.
The Goldfinch—Carduelis clegans.—Found at Caldwell, Arthurlie, and
Cowdenhall, where they nested regularly for a number of years.
The Lesser Redpole—Linota linaria.—These lively birds frequent all
our heathery moors.
The Bullfinch—Pyrrhula Europcea.—The Scottish parrot, and fairly
The Chaffinch or Shelfa—Frangilla ccelebs.—Common ; and has a sweet
refrain in early spring.
The Greenfinch—Ligurinus cJdoris.—“The Green Linty,” common.
The Heather Lintie “Twite”—LiuotaJlavirostri.—Common; Moyne,
Picketlaw, and other moors.
The White Throat—Sylvia ciueria.—Popularly known as the “ Bletherin’
Tam,” and is heard in our hedgerows by the wayside in summer
evenings, hurrying with his peculiar chur-r-r, chur song.
The Titlark—Anthus pratensis.—Common; known as the “Titlin,” and
often seen flying after its foster young—the cuckoo—when that bird
takes to the wing ; hence the proverb of the “cuckoo and the titlin.”
The House Sparrow—Passer domesticus.—Common wherever there are
Hedge Sparrow—Accentor modularis.—Common.
The Starling—Sturnus vulgaris.—Very common ; flying in flocks or
following cows in the fields. Fifty years ago, this was a rather
rare bird, and boxes were put up on houses and trees to induce it to
build—quite unnecessary in the present day.
The Yellow-hammer—Emberiza citrinella.—The “ yeldren ”—a
bunting—common, and known locally as “ Willie, Willie, Willie tak’ a
fee,” from his song.
The Redbreast—Erijtkacus rubecula.—Common ; an interesting and bold
bird, and held in affection by the people.
The Wren—Troglodytes vulgaris.—Fairly common; seen flitting about in
bushy and rocky retired places. This lively little bird shares with
the robin the affections of people in the country.
Corn Bunting—Emberiza miliaria.—Seen flying in the stubble fields in
Stone Chat—Pratincola rubicota.
Whin Chat—Saxicola rubetra.
Blackred Start—Raticel/a tites.
The Red Start—Ruticclla pkcenecura.
The Garden Warbler—Corruco hortensis.
The Marsh Tit—Pams palustris.
The Blue Tit—Parus cceruleus.—Common ; a pair has built in a hole in
the writer’s garden wall for many years.
The Great Tit—Parus major.—Interesting and very lively and active
The Water Ouzel or Water Pvet Cine it Ins aquaticus.—The burn in
Cowden Glen and Kirkton Burn.
The Mavis, Throstle, or Song Thrush—Turtlus mttsicux.—Common ;
nesting in shrubs and small plantations, more timid than the
blackbird. They don’t approach the dwellings of man so readily, and
consequently suffer more in severe winters, when mail}’ of them die.
The Missel Thrush—Tardus risrirorus.—Common ; sometimes known by the
name of the feltie.
The Blackbird—Turd us mcrula.—Common; more venturesome than the
mavis. It approaches village gardens, and consequently fewer of them
are killed in bad winters from frost.
The Fieldfare — Turdus pilaris.—Frequently seen in the upper parts
of the parish in winter and early spring, before leaving for their
nesting station in the forests of, possibly, Northern Europe ; also
sometimes popularly named the feltie.
The House Swallow or Martin—Hirundo or C/iilidon nrbica.—Short-tailed
and less forked, always builds its nest outside.
Chimney or Barn Swallow—Hirundo rustico.—Long-tailed and a twitterer,
differing in this respect from the next.
The Sand Martin—Hirundo riparia —This bird is always mute ; found
wherever there are sand quarries, as at Holehouse and Gateside and
The Common Swift—Cypselas aptts.—Common ; seen skimming over the
ponds in soft summer evenings, and rising in sweeps after flies, on
the smaller varieties of which they exclusively live. It is peculiar
from all other birds, in that all its toes look forward.
The Carrion Crow—Corrus coronus.—Common.
The Common Rook—Corrus frugilegus.—Very common; large rookery at
Caldwell, and many smaller ones in different parts of the parish.
The Jackdaw—Corrus inoncdula.—Common ; sometimes this bird gives a
good deal of trouble by building its nest in ehimne3rs not in
regular use in houses even in the town. A bold bird.
The Magpie—Pica cauda/a.—Builds in many of the retired and quiet
plantations, as at Knoekanae, Middleton, and the Pad.
The Barn Owl—Slri.r jlammea.—Common at certain farms in the west of
The Long-eared Owl—Otus vulgaris.—Fairly common.
The Tawny Hooting Owl—Stjrnium sir id it I a or alnco.—Common in
Caldwell woods, the plantation at Caldwell Law, Loch Libo, and
The Short-eared Owl — Otus brachyotus.
The Sparrow-hawk—Accipiler nisus.—Fairly common ; an elegant bird,
and frequently seen flying about lonel}- country roads and hedgerows
after its prey.
The Kestrel or Hovering Hawk—Falco tinnunculus.—This bird is common,
and is frequently seen hovering in the air inspecting the ground, or
instantly closing its wings and tail, and falling like a stone upon
its victim, should its quarry come into view in the grass below.