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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.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Things have been really hectic lately, but that hasn't stopped the natural connections coming thick and fast (as they always do at this time of year). Highlights of the past few days have included a couple of Red Fox cubs romping in the estate, a male Greenfinch and a Collared Dove drinking from the bird bath, and a female Greenfinch visiting the peanut feeder (for the first time since we've been here).
This morning started cold with frost on the car windscreen (its 31st May!!!). Had to go to Kinross today. One of the photos is of a view across Loch Leven from the town. The other is from Vane Farm RSPB which I popped in to on the way down. Highlights there were vast clouds of insects, path banks full of wild flowers, Swallows nesting on ledges in the "underpass" and late Whooper Swan, Barnacle Goose and Greylag mixing with hatched broods of Mallard and Shelduck.
Evening highlights were a Swallow and 5 House Martins hawking over the Cart.

Friday, May 26, 2006

The recent rain doesn't seem to have deterred the Oxeye Daisies which are now in full bloom along the M8 at Renfrew. Also there, the Hawthorn hedges are covered with white blossom. Birding highlight was a Kestrel at St James.

Thursday, May 25th, 2006

usy day today, but noticed a Buzzard perched quietly on the fence next to the motorway north of Bishopton, a Raven soaring over the interchange at Finlaystone and 2 House Martins feeding over the back garden (first I've seen here).

Wednesday, May 26th, 2006

Took the back road over from Paisley to Greenock this morning and noticed an invisible Skylark singing over a field near Lapwing Lodge and a pair of Greylag Geese on a puddle in a field west of Kilmacolm.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Over in the West End of Glasgow for a meeting, so I parked near the Kelvin at Benalder Street. Noticed at least 2 Sand Martins flying into drainage holes in the retaining wall of the north river bank. Nice to see them there, even though the weather today was decidedly wintry.

Monday, May 22, 2006

A mixed day, weatherwise, and a busy day workwise, so not much in the way of natural connections (although did notice the MV Waverley steaming down the Clyde at 8am). Managed a trip over to Glasgow Botanic Gardens this evening. Not much to report except for a few Mallards on the Kelvin and Hart's Tongue Fern fronds unfurling in the undergrowth.
News from the web is that the first egg has hatched from the Osprey nest at Loch Garten.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Main event today was a botanical one - the appearance in the estate of millions of dandelion seeds suspended in the afternoon air. I guess the weather conditions recently - rain, then wind, then sun and perfect calm - must have been perfect for dispersal. Whatever, it made a fantastic sight (although it wont be much fun digging out the plants when they start coming up).
Took a walk along the river and noticed 5 Swallows hawking insects, followed by two gulls chasing a Sparrowhawk. Flowering plants include Garlic Mustard and Rape.
News from the web is that the Highland widlife watching festival (Highland Wild Encounters 2006) is just about to start. Based in Caithness, Sutherland and Wester Ross, highlights include guided boat trips to Hoy, Sanda and the coastline around Wick, guided walks through Invernaver / Bettyhill (for Mountain Avens, Purple Saxifrage and Scottish Primrose) and Inchnadamph (for Globeflower and Mountain Avens) and opportunities to watch Black Grouse, Puffins, Divers, Badgers, Bats and cetaceans (the latter off Strathy Point).

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Up and away early this morning, with a dawn visit to Lochwinnoch. Masses of Sedge and Willow Warblers about but no Chiffchaffs or Grasshopper Warblers. All quiet out on the lagoon with only a few Mute Swans and some hawking Sand Martins adding any life. Bogbean is in full flower though, and together with the weak, early morning sunshine and the chattering of the Sedge Warblers, it made quite a nice scene.
Last night there was a Tawny Owl calling loudly from the woods next to the house, at one point drowning out all the other sound in the house.
Interesting news from the web is that the butterfly atlas of SW Scotland is just about to be published. To read more, click here.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Just back from 2 glorious days on Islay. Work commitments meant I had very little time to spend out and about. However in a place like Islay, natural connections are impossible to escape, and I managed to make the most of what little free time I had. Stepping off the plane on Wednesday morning, the first thing I was conscious of was the song of Skylarks – maybe 3 or 4 birds – and a sound all too rare these days. Driving to and from Bowmore and Bridgend that day I remembered that Islay is "big" country, with extensive views opening up over every hill and round every corner. I also remembered just how varied it is, with the colour of the landscape altering in response to the ever-changing weather. That first evening the tide was fully in, and all the way along the beach just south of Bridgend, parties of Dunlin (northbound birds with chestnut scapulars and black bellies) were busily feeding up. Overnight there was quite a severe storm, but by morning the weather had improved and by 5am I had headed out for a short tour covering the merse at Rubha ban and the flats at Gruinart. Highlights were roadside ditches full of Marsh Marigolds, woods full of Bluebell, Red Campion and Common Comfrey, and great encounters with great birds. Best of these were 7 Whimbrel shrugging off the rain, a pair of Ringed Plovers displaying along the shingle, Shoveler, Teal, Raven, Grey Heron, Redshank and Curlew on the flats, Sedge and Willow Warblers in song, and at least 2 noisy Corncrakes (plus Red deer, Roe Deer, Rabbit and Brown Hare). Wonderful to be out in the open, and just enjoy the sights and sounds of nature.
Took a walk through Bridgend woods later in the morning, picking up singing Willow Warbler (but no Chiffchaffs), Robin, Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Blackbird and Song Thrush. Around the steading there were Jackdaw, Feral Pigeon and Starling (all probably breeding), while back at the hotel, Swallow and Starling were both visiting nests under the eaves. Final birds were chirruping House Sparrows on the roof of Bowmore Hospital – good to see that the Islay birds don’t seem as threatened as ours on the mainland.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Had a meeting at Merchiston late morning, and was surprised by just how much wildlife has crept into and around the decrepit buildings. At least 2 pairs of Swallows were nesting under a ledge above the supplies bay and at least 6 pairs of noisy Rooks were nesting on the western edge of the site. The lawns there are now studded with Cuckoo Flowers (a great improvement) and Starlings, Swallows and Woodpigeons seem to be everywhere. Better enjoy it while it lasts as I hear the site is to disappear under concrete in a year or two!

Friday, May 12, 2006

The unseasonally mild and sunny weather was still around today, resulting in a very pleasant drive to and from business in Oban. Highlights were flowering Cowslip, Primrose and Cuckoo Flower on the verges south of Balloch and Bluebell, Lilly of the Valley, Dog's Mercury and Wood Sorrel in the woods north and south of Inveraray.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Lots of garden connections to be had these days. A gang of up to 20 Starlings has been marauding through the estate looking for Leatherjackets (I wonder if they are adults feeding young or just hungry non-breeders). A Chiffchaff has been adding its song to that of the usual Willow Warbler and a male Greenfinch spent the early evening "wheezing" in the tree over the fence. Woodpigeons seem more active these days, the garden is suddenly full of earthworms (and slugs - Bah!), and the compost heap has become a magnet for tiny beetles and flies. Also around - the first Orange Tip butterflies (one yesterday and one today).
Popped over to Pollock Park for the evening and saw my first 2 Swifts of the year.