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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, April 30, 2006

Just back from a weekend in Auchengillan, just north of Carbeth on the Glasgow - Drymen road. Arrived too late on Friday for any worthwhile natural connections, but Saturday dawned warm and sunny (picture 1), which resulted in us staying out of doors most of the day and well into the evening. The morning started with singing Willow Warbler, calling Pheasant and a distant Cuckoo (my first of the year) over by the Whangie (2). Other good birds in the woods there were fighting Chaffinches and a dashing female Sparrowhawk. Nearby were one or two Small Toirtoiseshells (again, my first of the year). An afternoon walk onto nearby rough ground produced good views east to Dumgoygne (3) north to Killearn (4) and northwest to Ben Lomond (5). Also noticed a Sedum (Stonecrop) species (6) on east facing bluffs and Wood Anemone (7) on sunny banks. The day continued with Swallows hawking early midges in well into the evening, and finished with a possible Woodcock roding over the treetops.
Today was duller, with fewer memorable connections. However took a short walk at 7am and counted 5 or 6 singing Willow Warblers (but no Chiffchaffs) in an area less than half a mile in diameter. Also heard a Tawny Owl (although it was broad daylight at that time), a Great Spotted Woodpecker, two, possible Blackcaps and another distant Pheasant. Mammals encountered were Roe Deer and Rabbit.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

More Swallows about (on the Greenock - Kilmacolm road) but little else of note. News from the web is that "around 14 Sand Martins appear to be nesting in drainage holes in concrete embankment north of River Kelvin just west of Benalder Street, Partick".

Cairn Lochan, Cairngorms.

Owl (or Goldeneye) nestboxes at Forest Lodge.

Crested Tit, Coal Tit and Goldcrest habitat, Abernethy Forest.

Just a few photos (above) from Strathspey 2006.

Monday, April 24, 2006

The annual trip to Strathspey went well, with good weather and lots of wildlife. Highlight of the drive up was the sighting of three Blackcock flying across the A9 north of Calvine. At Nethybridge, dusk was followed by clear skies and a show of stars which would be impossible to see in the city.
Saturday morning started at 6 am with both male and female Capercaillie visible from the hide at Loch Garten. Other wildlife there included Osprey, Red Squirrel and Red Deer. An all-day walk through Strathnethy revealed Crested Tit, Goldcrest, Siskin, Coal Tit and possible Crossbill sp and Redstart (plus marvelous views of the Cairngorms well-covered in snow). Finally, a late evening visit to the Insh marshes turned up a distant Roe deer and calling Curlew, Redshank and Tawny Owl.
Late Sunday morning was spent exploring the snow fields adjacent to the ski car park on Cairngorm. Later, saw my first Swallow, Sand Martin and Common Sandpiper of the year (plus Goosander and Red breasted Merganser co-operatively fishing) on the Tay at Dunkeld. A late afternoon visit to Loch of the Lowes provided excellent views of an Osprey skimming the loch (to cool off?), while an unsuccessful Red Kite stop at Argaty turned up one of the highlights of the trip - a perfect, rural idyll with displaying Lapwing, bubbling Curlew and ridiculously tame Brown Hares, all lit by a warm, evening sun.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

A trip to Queen's Park on Monday evening found both Coot and Mute Swan nesting, and possibly incubating (top). It was a typically dull evening, but eventually the sun appeared under the clouds, illuminating much of Southwest Glasgow (second photo). Today was spent in Inveraray, but began with a frosty start (its nearly May!) and glorious views across dead-calm Loch Fyne (bottom two photos). Notable sightings on the trip were the first Wood Anemone in flower (outside Inverary) and the first patch of Cowslip on the grass verge outside Balloch. Dandelions now starting to dominate the flower scene.

Nesting Coot and Mute Swan, Queen's Park.

Sunset from Queen's Park.

Early morning (2), Inveraray.

Early morning, Inveraray.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Spent much of today in Troon. Highlights were another calling Chiffchaff and a rare (for me) sighting of a male Blackcap (both in Darley Plantation).

Saturday, April 16th, 2006

Today started with faint Willow Warbler song (first of the year) from the railway line, and ended with much stronger song from the scrubby area behind the house. In between, natural connections were Lily of the Valley on the verge opposite the end of Balfron Road, singing Skylark on Barshaw Golf Course and chirrupping House Sparrow on a rooftop in Merton Drive. Amazing what you can connect with, even when confined to the city.
Yesterday afternoon was spent walking around Mugdock Park. Highlights were a singing Coal Tit in the visitor centre car park, a confiding Canada Goose on Craigend Pond (with 2 Cormorants and 2 Lesser black backed Gulls on the island there), a Treecreeper at Mugdock Castle (with a profusion of epiphytic Polypody there - see photo) and a Common Toad in Gallows Pond. Woods full of Dog's Mercury, emergent Bluebells and birdsong (but no Chiffchaffs or Willow Warblers).

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Highlights in the garden over the past few days have been a singing Chiffchaff and a very gaudy male Greenfinch. Planted a Hawthorn hedge today. It is only a few sticks at the moment but I have great hopes that it will become a real wildlife haven in the years to come.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Sometimes the only natural connections available are web-based ones. Good places to start are: http://webcams.scotsman.com/ and http://www.scottishwebcamslive.com/webcams.htm.

News from the net is that "Gower" is now out (although Amazon don't think so), with "Woodlands" (above) now on the launch pad.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Spent the morning touring birding locations in the Clyde area. Started at West Ferry, the very low tide meaning no Scaup but plenty of Shelduck, Curlew and Wigeon. Next stop was Balloch Country Park (top) where a very confiding Red throated Diver kept us transfixed for over half an hour (above). Heard a drumming (?) Greater spotted Woodpecker but no Willow Warblers or Chiffchaffs. Final stop was Ardmore Point which produced a Raven and two Buzzards in an aerial dogfight, a flock of 60-70 Greylag Geese coming in to land, a Stock Dove feeding quietly among the Alpacas (!) and various waterfowl including Shelduck, Teal, Wigeon and Red breasted Merganser. Most intruiging of all was the brief "chirrick" call which was almost certainly a Sandwich Tern.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Headed off to Pollock Park yesterday (8th April), listening for any early Willow Warblers. No sign of them, or Chiffchaffs, but plenty of other birds around including Starlings and Jackdaws looking like they are nesting. Also took some photos of the Pollock Beech (above).
Garden highlight was my first Bumble Bee of the year (with another - or the same - today).

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Spent the day in Argyll, including a quick lunchtime drive through Knapdale. Glorious views across the Sound of Jura (top). Natural highlights were Primroses and Coltsfoot along the roadsides, my first Wheatear of the year and a confiding Black throated Diver in the bay at Tayvallich.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

After the snows of yesterday, the Loch Garten Osprey appeared much more at home in today's sunshine (above). Also enjoying the improvement in the weather were great swathes of Lesser Celandine, a single Rock Pipit and my first Chiffchaff of the year, all at Portencross. Yesterdays snow was mostly a memory, but for the remnants on Goatfell (top).

Monday, April 03, 2006

One of those "four seasons in one day" days today with sun, rain and hail all mixed together. The Osprey on the Loch Garten nest had started the day perched in Spring sunshine, but by lunchtime, the nest platform was covered in snow.
Natural connections today included banks of flowering daffodils along the A8 and elsewhere, the first Primroses opposite Newark Castle and nest-building Coots on Rouken Glen Park pond.