Viola Stirling’s Nature Diary: 7-9 Nov 1919

As we continue with Viola’s diary, you may have noticed that one of her traits is to name landmarks based on the animals she encounters there. In the previous entry we see her on ‘Crossbill Path’. Today’s entry sees her observe birds at ‘Wagtail Burn’ which is near ‘Kingfisher Pool’. It’s these small details that give a lovely personal touch to this unique record.

Down at ‘Wagtail burn’, Viola encounters a heron and two birds new to the diary: a ‘yellow wagtail’ and a Sparrowhawk.

Confusingly, the ‘yellow wagtail’ Viola encounters is probably a Grey Wagtail. They have bright yellow feathers under its tail and on its chest. They are easily distinguished by their wagging tail!  They are often spotted near streams and rivers but have sadly declined in numbers. You will probably will have seen its relative the ‘Pied Wagtail’ in more urban areas. Check out the video below for some wagging!

Yellow Wagtails are a summer migrant to the United Kingdom who come to breed. It probably wouldn’t like to be in Stirling in November! They are mainly confined to England and Wales during the summer although you may see the odd one travelling further north.

Although the Sparrowhawk is one of our more common birds prey, any sighting of one is always special. They can be found in both urban and rural settings and prey on small birds. Females are brown and noticeably larger than the males which have blue/grey coats. If you hear birds alarm calling in your garden go outside and take a look in the trees. There may just be Sparrowhawk lurking nearby…


Nov. 7. 1919. Wagtail burn

Saw a heron standing near the burn half an

hour after we saw him standing in the burn

almost at the same spot 15 or 20 mins after

he was back at his first position on the bank

He was black above and grey beneath but

I could not judge his height as we were

too far away.

12am. near Kingfisher Pool

Saw a yellow wagtail. He was just like

as ordinary wagtail but yellow beneath

instead of white.

3.10 pm. Saw a sparrow hawk


Nov 9. 2.40 pm. Wagtail burn near King-

fisher Pool

Saw yellow Wagtail and king-

fisher again.