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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.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Poppies, Lingerwood.

Ragged Robin, Vogrie.

Marsh Orchid, Vogrie.

Summer is reaching its height here in west central Scotland. The meadows at Bishopton and Finlaystone have been mown, and the Mute Swan flock at Lanbank has jumped to 17 (from 2). New flowers over the past month have included Bird's foot Trefoil, Ragwort species, two types of Thistle and a purple flowered Vetch. New flowers this week / today have included Rose bay Willow-herb (on the south-facing bank of the M8 at Bishopton), Sea Aster / Michelmas Daisy (on the Inchinnan Bridge), Mugwort and a yellow-flowered crucifer with pale grey-green leaves (not unlike the Pineapple Weed now flowering in gardens in the estate). Also noticed two new patches of "Fox and cubs", just before and just after the eastbound M8 / Erskine Bridge slip. No Willow Warblers along the river this evening, but 3 Chiff Chaffs and possible Blackcaps were excellent substitutes.
A trip to Midlothian yesterday found flowering Reedmace, Honeysuckle, Marsh Orchid (above) and Ragged Robin (above) at Vogrie, Yellow Rockrose on a wall behind the mining museum and Poppies (above) in the field at Lingerwood (with a singing Yellowhammer and family parties of Swallows).

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Bramble flowers are everywhere.

First Policeman's Helmet flowers of the year.

Giant Hogweed by the Cart.

The beautiful summer weather continues to dominate. Yesterday evening we were over in Hamilton, and in the park opposite the racecourse we found two really unusual trees, a tall, dark-leaved Oak and a spindly tree with twisted bark and palmate leaves which reminded me of Ginkgo but may have been a variety of Hawthorn. Spent this afternoon in Palacerigg Country Park near Cumbernauld. Lots of common birds around (House Sparrows, Starlings etc, plus a House Martin). Plant highlight was on the way home - a group of really striking purple Orchids on the grassy banks beside the M80 at Provanmill.
Back down by the Cart, new plants in flower include the first Policeman's Helmets (above), Red Valerian, Bindweed, Bramble (above) and Red Deadnettle. Also prominent were Giant Hogweed (above), Dog Rose and Sycamore keys. Bird life was virtually invisible amongst the vegetation, with only a singing Chiffchaff of any note. Best natural connection of all - the smell of new Honeysuckle flowers in the back garden.

Giant Hogweed (really giant this year)

Monday, June 20, 2005

Lovely balmy weather these days.
Walking along the river yesterday afternoon, noticed that Policeman's Helmet is everywhere, and even more prolific than last year. Giant Hogweed is now in full flower, and the whole scene is one of midsummer plenty.
Noticed two Swallows hawking over the river. At least 3 Willow Warblers were singing around the park - I wonder if the males are stepping up their territorial activity in preparartion for their second broods. Flocks of young tits are everywhere, calling excitedly from dense cover.
Today there were two House Martins over the Cart at Paisley Cross and 3 Swifts screaming around the tenements next to Paisley University.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

News from the back garden is that the Blue Tits have fledged - or at least I think they have. The box has not been disturbed, but there is no sight or sound of either parents or young, so I assume they all got off safely.
Yesterday (Thursday) was an amazing day. Left Paisley at 6 pm, heading for Dalbeattie. First sightings were of two Buzzards on telephone poles near the Dutch House Roundabout. Stopped at Dalmellington, and among the birds around the town centre were Pied Wagtail, Swallow, Swift, Jackdaw, House Sparrow and House Martin (At last - my first of the year). Further on, stopped at a layby south of Dalmellington for Curlew, Meadow Pipit and Skylark. Around Dalbeattie, lots of roadside flowers including whole swathes of Ragged Robin in the marshy field corners. Also a single Buzzard heading purposefully into a wood.
Joined a guided walk through Dalbeattie Forest. A drizzly day finally gave way to a clear and balmy dusk. Standing out amongst the Birch scrub, enjoyed the opening chorus of Robin, Chaffinch and Tawny Owl followed by the main event - at least 2 male Nightjars* churring in the gloom, and a brief glimpse of a possible female slipping over some nearby conifers. Lots of Pipistrelle Bats (including two flying in tandem) and clouds of Scottish Biting Midge (Culicoides impunctatus) added to the magic.
On the way back up the A71, caught sight of the ghostly form of a Barn Owl hunting a roadside field near Parkgate.

*According to the warden, only 24 Nightjars sang in Scotland last year [22 in D&G}, representing a halving of recent totals.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Still more colour in the countryside this week. Grasses are now in full bloom, especially a species with a purplish-maroon flower which seems to be everywhere. Plenty of Foxgloves scattered here and there (as usual, they were particularly common on Arthur's Seat when we were through at the weekend). Lovely patch of "Fox and Cubs" exactly at the point where the A8 becomes the M8, east of Langbank. Only one Poppy so far this year - a sorry-looking specimen in the central reservation of Greenock Road (beside the football pitches).

Thursday, June 09, 2005

No big change with the Blue Tits today. The parents continue to feed the chicks very efficiently (I'm amazed at how quickly they fly off, then back with beakfulls of food). The mealworms were not a success - they simply attracted Magpies into the garden, which terrorised the Blue Tits. I've decided to scrap the idea. And anyway, the pair seem to be getting on great without any help.
Over at Parkhead this evening - only sighting of note was a pair of Pied Wagtails flying around the shops in the retail park.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Eider duck and ducklings east of Oban

Highland Cattle east of Oban

Wild flower lane north of Oban.

Warm and sunny today, after a damp start. Had to go to Oban for a meeting, but enjoyed the journey because of the weather. Best sightings were Eider (see top photo above), Greylag Goose and Pied Wagtail all with young, a spiralling Buzzard, a calling Cuckoo, Rabbits, Highland Cattle (above, bottom photo), loads of Red Campion, Yellow Flag Iris (above, middle), a bank of Bistort near Taynuilt, Ragged Robin and wild Lupin (beside the Alexandria bypass) and my first Foxgloves and Red Clover of the year. The road along by Loch Awe was particularly lovely with Oak trees in full leaf, Laburnum in copious flower, lots of Welsh Poppies (including an orange-flowered variety), extensive Iris beds and roadside Bugle (masquerading as Bluebells).

Thursday, June 02, 2005

First sighting today was of a group of 7 House Sparrows (presumably a fledged brood) hopping about on the road at the back of the house at 7 30 am. Drove to Glasgow, then to Ayr via the new M77 extension (for the first time). Noticed a single Kestrel hovering over a roadside field, and plenty of Red Campion on the embankments at Newton Mearns and again near Kilmarnock. Also near Kilmarnock were a patch of Yellow Flag (on an unusual, steeply sloping embankment) and nearby, a patch of Ragged Robin (at NS 446 388). At Craigie, an Orange Tip Butterfly was inside the quadrangle, then two Swifts were over the road back home, as well as plenty of Swallows.
Fledged Starlings hopping about the school playground. Blue Tit nestlings still cheeping away inside the box. Sent away for some mealworms to give them a helping hand......

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Two glorious days, followed by a miserable one. Highlights of the sunny days were a soaring Buzzard over Erskine estate, a Black headed Gull hawking for flies along the cart, a female Mallard with two ducklings past the rocky river bend (hopefully not the one that had 7 or 8 two days before), plenty of Elder in flower and noisy young Blue Tits in our nest box. Highlights of today were a Sparrowhawk dashing through the estate as I blearily opened the curtains first thing, a Heron alighting in the second Finlaystone meadow and lots of Mallards (good weather for ducks!) including at least one in the middle of the football pitch beneath Arkleston Farm!