Neilston Parish

Loch Libo, the beauties of which have been often extolled, was visited in September, 1889, but the loch was very full and there was little opportunity of examining the flora of the locality. Particular reference to the botanical features of the loch will be found in Mr. Wood’s paper in this volume. Neilston Pad and Hairlaw Dam were at a later date (26th April,1890) the scene of an excursion. ‘The Craig of Neilston, . . . vulgarly called the Pad, from having in its appearance the form of a pillion’ (as the writer of the first statistical account of the parish declares), is a favourite resort of Glasgow ramblers. On the occasion of our Society visit, the weather being clear a magnificent prospect was obtained, embracing Loudoun Hill, the mountains of Arran, the Argyleshire mountains, Ben Lomond, Ben Venue, etc. Common spring flowering plants only were noted at this time, but at one of the meetings in the following summer the green habenaria or frog-orchis (Habenaria viridis) was exhibited from this neighbourhood, where it is abundant.

The chief feature of interest, however, was the breeding colony of the familiar black-headed gull (Larus ridibundus) on an islet in Hairlaw Dam—an extensive artificial collection of water south of the Pad. Glasgow people must always entertain some degree of affection for this species, as it does a great deal to enliven our polluted river at its busiest part, and the whole year round is to be seen in considerable numbers between the bridges and among the shipping in the harbour. The mature bird in summer plumage is strikingly beautiful, with its black head, red beak and legs, French-grey back, and pure white sides and under surface. In his Birds of the West of Scotland, Gray, writing in 1871, says, with reference to the Hairlaw colony:— ‘There are perhaps from 500 to 800 pairs to be found breeding there every year. . . . At the time when this colony is in the state of greatest activity the old birds are constantly flying about the neighbouring fields, especially those from which potatoes have been lifted, and picking up worms and beetles, the remains of these being found at almost every nest’. Whenever the dam came within sight it was apparent that since Gray's time there is no diminution in the size of the colony. By means of a boat about twenty of those present got on the island, which was thickly strewn with nests, and care was necessary to avoid stepping on them and destroying their contents—in most cases a single egg only being laid. Describing the great Norfolk ‘gullery’ at Scoulton Mere, Mr. Stevenson says ‘by the 18th of April the first eggs are laid’, a date which seems to with our own district, judging from the experience of this visit. The nests are flat and of simple construction, and the eggs present great variety in shape and marking. Hopes were entertained that a photograph might be secured of the gulls rising from the island, but they were prematurely scared, and a golden opportunity was thus lost. However, the sight of the vast multitude of as they rose in a mass in the sunlight was a memorable one.