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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, February 27, 2006

Colder today, with the promise of snow by the weekend. Drove to Greenock by the back roads this morning, trying to avoid the roadworks on the motorway. The quieter roads meant some interesting natural connections, most notably 25 (?Greylag) Geese (including a white bird) in a field south west of Kilmacolm (and 12 more flying north west), a clump of (last year's) Teasel by the roadside and a pair of Ravens swooping and tumbling over the viewpoint car park above Greenock.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Quite a good week for natural connections. Monday afternoon (a holiday) was spent at Castle Semple Loch. Plenty of wildfowl about (including a single male Goosander) as well as singing Chaffinch, House Sparrow and Blue Tit (inspecting a nestbox - below).
Tuesday's trip to Ayrshire turned up very little. Wednesday was spent in Argyll, with still no wild flowers on the verges (only Crocuses, Snowdrops and Narcissi) and few birds about. Best were a pair of Hoodies by Loch Eck and a winter Guillemot just off Hunter's Quay.
Thursday was unusual for a sighting of a Rabbit in the first, sea level field below Bishopton (it may have been in the sights of a Buzzard perched on the roadside fence). Weather for tomorrow is to be quite good, so here's hoping!

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Nest box at Castle Semple

Monday, February 20, 2006

The next New Naturalist cover will look like this (left).
Meanwhile, news from the newsgroups is that the first Oystercatchers of the year have been heard calling over Strathspey during the night of 18th February.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

News from the web is that there are small flocks of Waxwings at various sites around the Clyde area, plus very good counts of Slavonian Grebe (35) and Red throated Diver (32) off Ardmore Point. Also more Scaup and Pintail at favoured sites on the Clyde.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Walked along the Cart from Silver Glade to Hawkhead. Interesting sightings along the way included: singing Song Thrushes on top of riverside trees, 6 Mallards under the first bridge, newly emerged Snowdrops (below) in Rosshall Park, a flock of 6 or 7 Woodpigeons on the lawn there, a Buzzard being mobbed by Carion Crows at Leverendale (with another just before the gate to Hawkhead Estate Park), newly-emerged leaves of Lesser Celandine, up to 10 House Sparrows "chirrupping" noisily in the Bens Estate, a Pied Wagtail and 6 Jackdaws at St Andrew's Academy and at least one more House Sparrow at the railway bridge just before the glade.

Bracket fungus on dead Birch, Leverendale Hospital grounds.

Early Snowdrops, Rosshall park, Glasgow.

The settled weather of yesterday gave way to heavy rain and south west winds today. As a result, a circuit of Arthur's Seat this afternoon did not produce many natural connections (unless you count being soaked to the skin). I was keen to check if Fulmars had returned to their nesting ledges on the crags. No sign of any (although the weather would probably have kept them well hidden, even if they were back) with only two heavily-splattered ledges on the south west flank of Arthur's Seat to indicate any had ever been there. Only significant sightings were good counts of Greylag Goose (140), Mute Swan (60) and Tufted Duck (40) on St Margaret's Loch.
News from the web is that a PhD study conducted by Kate Vincent of De Mountfort University, Leicester has suggested that House Sparrow declines may be due to a shortage of insect and spider food provided to nestlings. A diet composed mainly of vegetable matter and ants was shown to result in fewer and smaller (and therefore less viable) chicks than one rich in insects and spiders.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Yet more settled weather and the increasingly long evenings have made this a lovely week here in (normally) wet and windy West central Scotland. To cap it all, the Snowdrops are flowering in great drifts among the trees in Finlaystone Estate (and can easily be enjoyed, for no charge, from the adjacent A8).

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

A view across Loch Fyne in winter sunshine.

The unexpectedly settled spell of weather over the past week has allowed some very welcome natural connections. On Saturday we walked to Sloy Dam under windless blue skies. The views of the surrounding mountains were fabulous. Wildlife was scarce except for a Treecreeper and a Great spotted Woodpecker (heard) down in the oakwoods, a cronking Raven over some crags and a Snipe which flew up from marshy ground near the dam itself. However it was great to spend a whole February day out on the hill (see photos below).
Today (Wednesday) started with an early morning (singing) Song Thrush and was followed by a work trip to Lochgilphead. Weather again very settled with strong winter sunshine (see above) and flat seas, but also "icing sugar" on the tops (a reminder that we are still -supposedly- in the grip of winter). Other reminders were the complete absence of any flowers along the roadsides, and the flock of Wigeon grazing on municipal grass just a few yards from Lochgilphead town centre.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Sloy Dam.

Looking East from the Sloy Dam road, with Ben Lomond at the far right.