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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.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Had a couple of nightime connections this week - a Tawny Owl "Keewick-ing" last night and a Red Fox yelping the night before.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Took the train up to Glasgow at lunchtime. Surprised by a perfect patch of Greater Reedmace growing beside the train tracks at Crookston station. Also there were Red Clover and horsetail sp, with masses of Canadian Goldenrod along the route to the city.
Spent the afternoon touring around some good nature sites in the Renfrewshire / Inverclyde area. First bird was a hovering Kestrel just outside Kilbirnie. Our first proper stop was the RSPB reserve at Lochwinnoch. Very few birds about - I have never seen it so quiet. However that was compensated for by two or three Peacock butterflies (see bottom photo), more flowering Greater Reedmace (second bottom), an enormous (7-8 cm), unidentified moth larva and along the new path, a Common Hawker (photo) and a profusion of wild flowers (no doubt encouraged by the disturbance to the land. Most evident were Scentless Mayweed (photo), Policeman's Helmet, Monkeyflower, Common Orache (?) and Red Goosefoot (?).
Stopped at the bridge into Lochwinnoch to find 20 or more Sand Martins, House Martins and Swallows feeding over the river.
Drove on to Gourock and stopped at Cloch Point to check the Clyde. Not much around except for a few Gannets and Cormorants, and large rafts of moulting Common Eider. Stopped again beside the Cal Mac ferry terminal. There was quite a lot of traffic on the river (see photo) but that didn't deter around 50 Manx Shearwaters which appeared over the next 90 minutes. Birds were in small flocks (mostly of 2 to 10), flying up and down river in more or less equal numbers, and wheeling and dipping exhuberantly. Some came in quite close, and I was really struck by how perfectly at home they are in that element.

The S S Waverley approaching Kilcreggan.

Scentless Mayweed beside new path, Lochwinnoch.

Common Darter, Lochwinnoch.

Greater Reedmace, Lochwinnoch.

Peacock Butterfly on knapweed sp.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Nearly September, and still the Scottish summer goes on. Had a glorious, sunny, blue-skied Saturday here in the west of Scotland. Spent the afternoon beside Loch Chon in the Trossachs. Last time I was there (about 15 years ago) I was disappointed by the lack of any wildlife in the area. Not so today. Our first sighting was of 8 to 10 Red Deer in a roadside field. Then, at the loch itself, numerous damselflies, dragonflies and butterflies (including Large White, Small Tortoiseshell and a large, dark brown species which may have been Purple Hairstreak). Not much bird life about (well, it is the summer doldrums), except for a mewing Buzzard (invisible), a few hidden passerines and two eclipse Mallards.
Later, in Aberfoyle, noticed dozens of Swallows and House Martins feeding frantically above the rooftops. Its hard to avoid the conclusion that they are feeding up prior to disappearing off to their winter quarters.
Interesting news from Wales is that the 2,000 or so Dolphins seen off the west coast earlier this week have been followed by an unprecedented 6 Fin Whales. Experts suggest the reason is that the Irish Sea is "teeming with food", mainly Mackerel.
Local news is that there are huge numbers of Manx Shearwaters in the Clyde. Must have a look this week.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Chanory point, looking East

Two Bottlenose Dolphins in the Moray Firth

I never tire of this view - the eastern corries from Loch Morlich

Blaeberries collected from the Caledonian Pine Forest at Loch Morlic

Young Common Toad, caught in the back garden.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Had to go to Inverness on business yesterday and today. Traveled up last night and stayed overnight in the Newtonmore Bunkhouse. Got up early and headed up to Chanory Point (in the rain) to look for Bottle nosed Dolphins (see photo above). Hadn't even locked the car when one appeared, incredibly close inshore! Walked around to the point and spent 20 minutes watching as a pair (one very dark in colour and one much lighter) and a single repeatedly surfaced in front of me. They seemed to be quite relaxed, and occasionally leapt dramatically out of the water. Managed to take a few pictures (see one above), although they don't really communicate what a dramatic sight it was. How amazing to see such "exotic" creatures in such a very ordinary setting on a typical rainy Scottish day. (There's a good website about the Moray Firth Dolphins here).
Didn't have much time to notice anything else (apart from a Common Seal, two Sandwich Terns and a few Cormorants). Spent the day "shadowing" a colleague around rural north Scotland. Started in Inverness, then over to Ulapool, north to Ledmore (incredible views to Suilven, Canisp, Stac Pollaidh etc), then West to Lairg and back to Inverness. On the way back to Glasgow, stopped at Loch Morlich (photo) and had a short walk in the forest. Blaeberries are now ripe (photo), so enjoyed a few, while the Midges took bites out of me.
Apart from the above, plenty of Rabbits about, plus Devil's Bit Scabious, and back home, another garden Common Toad (photo).

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Came across an excellent series of articles while searching for some information at work. The pieces, collected under the heading "Reconnecting to the forgotten wisdom of nature", are found in Issue 28 of Journal for Living, the in-house magazine of Albany Free School in New York.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

News broke this week that scientists studying the Siberian permafrost have found it is melting at an alarming rate (and starting to release huge amounts of Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases). Some experts are claiming that global warming has reached "tipping point", and that future changes are likely to take place at a much higher rate than so far. An article in the Scotsman on Wednesday reported that Scotland was warming up faster than any other part of Britain. And yet, against the background of all this worrying news, nature gets on with its eternal routines as best it can. This week there have been real signs of autumn, with a big influx of Black headed Gulls and the first Lapwing flock of the year, both near Langbank. Also, some Birch trees are starting to change colour, and all of a sudden, there are no Swifts in the sky. Part of me is sad at the impending arrival of autumn (and winter), but another part is relieved that the eternal cycle goes on, in spite of us.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Sanda (right) and Sheep Island.

Bog Asphodel on the Mull of Kintyre.

Antrim coast from Mull of Kintyre.

Westport Bay, Kintyre.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Back in Argyll yesterday (Thursday) and today. Had a meeting to attend, so travelled up the night before and stayed with friends near Kilmartin. A dusk walk revealed two Toads, a calling Tawny Owl (? chick), plenty of bats and some House Sparrows roosting in the Clematis. Leaving this morning, saw a young Brown Hare plus common birds such as Pied Wagtail, Greenfinch (incl young) and Blackbird.
On the way to Campbeltown, once again struck by the colour in the waysides. Especially prominent were Monbretia, Honeysuckle, Rose bay Willow Herb, Purple Loostrife, Greater Knapweed, Ragwort and Meadowsweet.
Stopped at Westport beach (see photo above) for a few minutes to watch the Gannets feeding offshore. Noticed a tall water spout which I guess might have been from a Minke Whale.
After spending most of the day working in Campbeltown, took a drive down to the Mull of Kintyre. Weather not so good, with a howling South Westerly wind. However the coast of Antrim was easily visible (see photo). Plant life included Bog Asphodel (photo), Cotton Grass and Heathers. Few birds about except Gannets offshore and a scavenging Carrion Crow.
Back along the coast, stopped to have a look over to Sanda Island (photo). Spotted a couple of spiralling Buzzards abd a Wheatear, plus 3 pristine "Rock Doves" and plenty of House Sparrows and Swallows on the farmland.
Best sightings on the journey home were a Red breasted Merganser with 6 well-grown young, about 20 feeding Common Terns and 10 loafing auks (?Razorbills), all off Ardrishaig.