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Natural Connections

Modern life in Scotland is increasingly busy. The connections our ancestors had with nature and the land are being lost. As leisure time shrinks, or is filled with hi-tech experiences, opportunities to experience nature become fewer. And yet it is possible to connect with nature on a day to day basis. All around us, the great web of life continues to hold its shape, and nature continues its eternal cycles. Keep looking, listening, smelling, touching - and keep experiencing natural connections.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

A better day today with strong winter sunshine, and a (not unexpected) ornithological treat. I had been on the look out for Waxwings since Jeremy Hastings reported a sighting on Islay in late October. So it was no surprise (but still a real pleasure) to see a flock of 20 or so swooping over the car as we arrived at church (on Corkerhill Road, Glasgow) this morning. After the service, I came out to find 20 in a tree directly opposite the church, soon joined by another 20 or more. I was able to walk over to the tree and watch them guzzling berries from a distance of only 10 feet. Eventually they all took off and were joined by a group that were perched in nearby treetops. The whole flock flew over to the Poplars at Cardonald College where they were joined by another group (making around 150 in total) before heading off South East. They are such exotic birds, so tame, and with their soft, tinkling calls they really are one of the highlights of any birdwatching year.
(For some fantastic photos, visit Peter Hadfield's Manx Bird Photography and select "New photos", then "Waxwing")

Saturday, November 27, 2004

That recent run of settled weather came to an end today with the return of rain. A pity, as the calm conditions had prompted a number of birds to become more active and visible. On Friday I saw about 6 Feral Pigeons swooping under the Bishopton Road bridge over the M8 at Erskine (presumably visiting potential nest sites). Similarly there were two Grey Herons squabbling over a tree top perch at Woodhall. In contrast, today (Saturday) was so wet, even the ducks on Dunsapie Loch were in hiding.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Took a walk along the river again this morning. One Raven still on the first pylon (at the very top), again flying off North. I wonder if this is going to be a long term roost site. Various other birds about, most notably a single Cormorant, flying upstream, circling once, then carrying on. Weather still very calm and mild - long may it continue!

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Working from home this morning, so took the opportunity to have a walk along the river prior to starting. First birds I heard were what I took to be two Ravens perched (? roosting) on the first electricity pylon. They were "cronking" loudly, then flew off across the river towards the farm. As they did, one of them did a short "roll". There were lots of other corvids around, and I must admit I soon lost them amongst the others, there not being any very obvious difference in size. However I think the cronking (albeit high-pitched) and the roll make the ID fairly safe. Having said that, I'm planning to check again tomorrow (and take binoculars this time).
Other birds about included a Heron flying sedately upriver (but then having to "jink" nervously to get through the power lines), various thrushes (including Redwing, Fieldfare and Blackbird) and too many Magpies for my liking.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Last week's frost has given way to more rain (Bah!!). Dark evenings mean little time to search for the Waxwings which have apparently reached Scotland in hordes. However a single Buzzard in the usual field, 50+ Whoopers at North Commonside and a hunting Kestrel at Selvieland all helped to lift the gloom.

Friday, November 19, 2004

More cold weather today. Lots of snow on distant peaks (? around Crianlarich). Birds still making the best of the warm sunshine - around half of the 20 or so Feral Pigeons on rooftops beside Hawkhead Road this morning were indulging in extravagant display flights and much bowing and pirouetting.
Distinctly icy this evening.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Marked change in the weather today. Very calm, but also noticeably colder. Ben Lomond has the faintest dusting of snow on its upper slopes. Lots of birds around, taking advantage of the clear conditions. Noticed a Buzzard fly up from the ground into a tree at the first Finlaystone meadow. Later there were two among the sheep. At Langbank, around 20 Rooks were visiting their nests. Not sure why they should be doing that at this time of year.
Large group (around 50) of Whooper Swans in a flooded field right beside the M8 at Inchinnan at 8 45 am and 3 pm. I've never seen them there before. Also a single Buzzard in a tree near there.
Recieved a picture (below) of a mystery bug from Chris. I know it is a Plume Moth. Unsure about the species as my book doesn't cover the micro moths. Did find out the identity of last week's moth though: its a Feathered Thorn.

Mystery bug (Photo: Chris Milligan)

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Single Buzzard padding about in the first Finlaystone meadow (among the sheep) at 10 am - still there on the way back at 12. The sight of Buzzards associating with sheep is becoming as familiar as that of egrets and cattle, or jacanas and crocodiles. I wonder what the Buzzard gets out of it. Maybe the sheep nibbling the grass attracts earthworms to the surface.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Front cover of a new book on Ireland's natural history which I noticed in the bookshop at Belfast Airport. I might try to get a copy (at £18) to compensate for not being able to afford the New Naturalist version (at £180)!

Spent the last 2 days in Northern Ireland. Both days cold but clear and calm. A bit too busy to notice much in the way of wildlife, but spotted 5 Redwings in the tree tops at the back of Ballynahinch Baptist Church, and two flocks of around 50 Rooks in fields between there and Lisburn.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Just back from 5 days in the Yorkshire Dales. Most of my time was spent working, but in between I managed to spot some wildlife. On the way to Wharfedale, stopped at Hawes where we came across a hedge full of chirping House Sparrows (maybe 20 in all) followed by another 10 on a nearby wall. Later in the day, saw lots of Pheasants in Langstrothdale and Upper Wharfedale. Other birds around Kettlewell included a flock of 20 or so gulls (? Black headeds) and odd crows.
The walk to Conistone Pie on day 2 was remarkable only for the virtual absence of any bird life (except a Buzzard circling the crags above Scargill and two separate Ravens "cronking" overhead). The grikes on Conistone Pie were unremarkable. The only colour here (or anywhere) was contributed by a few hardy Herb Roberts.
Day 3 saw small flocks of Fieldfare flighting between the treetops beneath Scargill. Also a single Rabbit and male Pheasant in the grounds.
Day 4 included a walk to Kettlewell. More crows and gulls, plus a Dipper on the beck in the middle of the village.
The journey home today was enlivened by three Snow Buntings flying up from the road at the top of the pass over to Wensleydale [NB 11 seen there, 15th Nov, and reported on Craven Birds website], two separate motorway Buzzards, miles and miles of berry-laden Hawthorns and a gaggle? of motley Mallards at Tebay services.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Dark on the way in to work and on the way home as well, so not much to report. Driving around Paisley during the day, the trees are glorious oranges and yellows as they lose their last leaves. Greeted back home by a large, unidentified moth (below) attracted to the light at the kitchen door. Must get my moth book out......

Unidentified moth, 2.5 cm across.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Interested to see that amazon are advertising the next two new naturalist titles (paperback covers shown below), both due out in 2005. Clocks went back at the weekend. Suddenly the evenings are very dark.

Next NN (96?) paperback due for publication in 2005.

Reprint (paperback) of NN82, due for publication in 2005.