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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.

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.


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