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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.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Set off first thing this morning and spent a cold but sunny morning exploring Baron's Haugh. Lots of birds about including Gadwall and Pochard in full breeding plumage and Shoveler, Tufted Duck, Mallard and Teal all in eclipse. Lots of exposed mud was good for 2 Snipe, 2 Ruff, a Water Rail (sniping at the Ruff) and hundreds of Lapwings. Also there were two smaller waders (about 2/3rds the size of the Ruffs, with straight bills and longish legs. One was very similar in coloration to the Ruffs, the other a little more monochrome. Keeping an eye on the birding grapevine in case anyone else sees them and files a report.
Nice to see the wardens at Baron's Haugh have an eye for plants as well as birds, with late-summer interest being maintained by flowering Honeysuckle, Michelmas Diasy, Herb Robert and Red Campion, fruiting Teasel and a whole meadow full of thistles (which attracted at least 6 Bullfinches).
Back home, a new record of 11 Magpies were ransacking my bird feeders. However some modifications made later today seem to have outwitted them (and the Grey Squirrel), for now at least. Other birds in the garden were Robin (first here), Dunnock, Blue Tit (2 together) and Great Tit (4 together - a record).

Baron's Haugh: Causeway Hide from Phoenix Hide.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Another week into Autumn, and more changes to show that the natural cycle continues to roll. Friday of this week saw the first frost of the year with ice crystals on the car windows after a cloudless night. A near-full moon in a cloudless sky over Seamill last night cast a glorious light over the Arran sound. This morning, the first visitor to the feeders was that pesky Grey Squirrel. He was followed by 2 Blue Tits and a Great Tit, then 3 Feral Pigeons. Two Magpies did make an appearance but were chased off by the squirrel. Long may that continue!
Visited Hoganfield Loch this lunchtime to see the flock of Ruddy Ducks which was sitting around 28. Also there were both Great crested and Little Grebes with dependant young. I guess the summer isn't quite over yet.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Today was, yet again, gloriously sunny. Took a trip down to Cardwell Bay after work and was absolutely stunned by the beauty of the view over the Clyde basin (unfortunately, I forgot my camera). This stretch of coastline really is a forgotten treasure.
Noticed that the Eider ducks off Gourock are now in full breeding plumage (as were a couple of Mallards I saw in Surrey at the weekend). Another sign of Autumn was the Lapwing flock, again at Langbank.
This evening, took a walk along the river in Pollock Country Park (see below). The breathless conditions suited the midges and other insects, but also a couple of Pipistrelle Bats which were tempted out as dusk descended. Noticed a young Grey Heron fishing, motionless, beside the watermill.
Back home, a Blue Tit has become the first visitor to the peanut feeder (unless you count the Grey Squirrel which has already worked out how to open the feeder lid).

Late Summer evening light, Pollock Country Park.

Spent the last three days in London. The weather there is even better than at home - with not as many of the signs of autumn we have been noticing.
Spent Wednesday afternoon and all day Thursday in central London. Birds few and far between, with only Magpies, Woodpigeons and Feral Pigeons at all numerous. Most exciting find was a young Grey squirrel (the first I've ever seen) in Hyde Park. Down in Surrey it was a different story. Best trips were along the river through Guilford and around the National Trust estate of Box Hill. The walk in Guilford brought two (invisible) Jays, 25 eclipse Mallards and a few Wrens. Best sighting was a Common Frog (below) hopping about in short grass beside the tow path. Also of interest was the shrubby plant shown below which had purple, five-petalled flowers and pinnate leaves.
The time spent in East Horsley produced a Jay (good views this time), Great spotted Woodpecker (heard), Blue and Great Tits (visiting peanuts) and at least two singing Robins. A trip to Box Hill on Saturday was particularly good with Green Woodpecker (heard) at the visitor centre and Nuthatch (heard) at the stepping stones. Best plants were on the steep, south-facing slopes (see picture below). These included Stemless Thistle (pictured), a very low-growing bellflower(pictured), a five-petalled, pink flower (and a matching yellow one - IDs to follow) plus literally dozens of short and medium sized herbs. Also of interest were several grasshoppers, and various butterflies including a (probable) Common Blue and an exquisite Small Copper. In the woods were Yew (pictured), Holly (pictured), Dead man's Beard (pictured) and lots of Box.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Mystery plant (possibly Clustered Bellflower), Box Hill.

Stemless Thistle (?), Box Hill.

Mystery plant (possibly Hedgerow Cranesbill), Guilford.

Yew berries, Box Hill.

Ivy in flower, Box Hill.

Old Man's Beard, Box Hill.

Box Hill

Common Frog, Guilford.

Trafalgar Square (haunt of Feral Pigeons but not much else).

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Another glorious day, weather-wise, but really sad to see a Barn Owl dead beside the M8 at the bend near Bishopton. I suppose it is good to know they are in the area, but so sad that such a rare and beautiful bird has been killed in this way.

Monday, September 05, 2005

This has been another glorious weekend, with clear blue skies and temperatures around 26 centigrade. Spent Saturday exploring Rouken Glen Park with the many others who were out enjoying some fair-weather natural connections. Still, there were places to escape the crowds, most notably the gorge through which the Auldhouse Burn flows (see below). Best birds there were three Grey Wagtails and a single Dipper. Also in the park, a Goldcrest, 6 Grey Squirrels, a Mute Swan pair with 7 large young and still more Peacock butterflies. Back home, had another encounter with a Peacock butterfly, this time one which had emerged from its pupa in my garden shed. It obviously had no way to escape, and I found it dead under one of the windows. I felt so sad for it - such a miracle of nature, with such a complex life-cycle to pursue, but stopped from fulfilling that destiny by just being in the wrong.
News today (Sunday) is that Siskin has become my latest garden bird with 20 or more (including juveniles) shredding the catkins at the top of the Silver Birch trees. Also seen / heard from the garden (yesterday) were a few lingering Swallows, a cronking Grey Heron flying upstream and 7 Mallard heading the other way.
It's high summer in Silver Glade with the air full of wafting Rose bay Willow-herb seeds - but with Siskins arriving and Swallows nearly gone, the cycle is already turning again.

Auldhouse Burn, Rouken Glen Park (haunt of Grey Wagtail and Dipper).

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Spent most of the day at a meeting in the Montgreenan Hotel, an amazing "Greek" Thompson designed building in the hills above Irvine. Best sightings were 2 soaring Buzzards over the woods there, and a hunting Kestrel along the Lugton to Barrhead road. Back home, a Red Fox called repeatedly around 21:30.