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A History of the Parish of Neilston
Chapter XIX. — The Natural History of the Parish


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 species.

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.

I.

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 an error.

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 corn.

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 winter.

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 valley.

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 years ago.

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 down.

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.

II.

The Reptilia.

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 Loch Libo.

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.

III.

The Amphibia.

The Frog—liana 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.

IV.

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 exhaustive.

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 spring.

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 breeding station.

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 Libo.

Water or Moorhen—Gallinu/a chloropus.—Loch Libo, Caplaw dam, and other waters.

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 moors.

Sandpipers — Tringemc.— Common at streams and springs, Brownside and Caplaw moors, and Moyne moor.

The Crested Lapwing—I'aneUus crcstata.—The Peesweep, everywhere common.

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 common.

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 dwellings.

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 autumn.

Stone Chat—Pratincola rubicota.

Whin Chat—Saxicola rubetra.

Wheatear—Saxicola anaidhe.

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 birds.

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 Loch Libo.

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 parish.

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 Knoekanae wood.

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.


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