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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, July 30, 2006

The glorious summer weather we have been having all of July finally broke yesterday with overcast skies and quite a lot of rain. However today saw a return to sunny skies. A cycle along the river turned up a young Feral Pigeon, just out of its nest in the underpass at Rosshall. It still had down on its head and was unable to fly back up to its nest when we approached.
Also saw a single swift quite near there. Sad to think that they will all be gone within a couple of weeks.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

An evening cycle along the Cart and through Rosshall Park turned up a pair of Moorhens with young chicks (presumably a second brood as there were also 3 "adolescents" on the same pond).

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Holiday 2006 turned out to be a road trip of England, taking in Cumbria, Oxford, Surrey and Lincolnshire, all in the space of 6 days. Plenty of natural connections were had on route, aided (usually) by the warmest weather in Britain since records began.
Wednesday 19th July was spent in the Eden Valley, visiting friends in Temple Sowerby. Blistering weather meant a trip to the river, where the main catch was a couple of quite good sized Minnows (below). Back at the cottage, three pairs of House Martins were raising (? 2nd) broods.



Thursday 20th July was spent in Oxford where 4 or 5 Swifts were screaming over the historic buildings of the University Science Library (below). Later, the drive through the Chiltern Gap turned up a Buzzard and 20+ Red Kites.



Friday 21st July was mostly spent around the house and garden in Surrey. Birds heard or seen included Great spotted Woodpecker, Greenfinch and Tawny Owl. An afternoon walk near the M25 turned up flowering Teasel (photo below) and dancing Banded Demoiselle.



An early morning walk on Thurston Common on Saturday 22nd July was a completely new experince for me (first photo below). Birding highlights were good sightings of Dartford Warbler. Also of interest were a dead Sand Lizard and some beautiful (alien) water lilies (second photo).





Sunday 23rd July required quite a long drive from Surrey to the Lincolnshire coastal town of Skegness. Driving through the fens threw up more new sights with traditional windmills sharing the vast horizon with their high-tech cousins. That particular day ended with around 20 Swifts (the bird of the trip) screaming above the rooftops.
Monday 24th July got off to a great start with an early morning walk to Gibralter Point (first photo below). Highlights almost too numerous to mention included leisurely views of Common, Wood and Green Sandpiper, Avocet, Black tailed Godwit and Greenshank on the meres, followed by a feeding little Egret, nervous Ringed Plover family, Cinnabar Moth caterpillars and clouds of butterflies. An afternoon trip to Chapel Six Marshes (second photo below) turned up Linnet in the sand dunes and Peacock, Red Admiral and Small Toirtoiseshells on the municipal Budlias.





Tuesday 25th July involved the longest drive of the holiday, so consequently the fewest natural connections. Only notable connection was with a few patches of Dove's Foot Cranesbill (below) outside a Little Chef on the A1. However it was great to reflect on a number of "lifers" and prolonged visits to the classic habitats of policy woodland, fen, heath and dune slacks.



Last sighting of the day involved 14 Swifts in a very tight flock screaming over the glade at 9pm. I have never seen this behaviour before. Usually high birds are associating only loosely, and any compact groups (usually 2s or 3s) tend to be at rooftop height.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Monday proved to be even hotter than Sunday, with clear blue skies most of the day. Small birds pretty much absent from the garden (although I have seen at least one of the fledgling Great Tits (now with a much bolder black stripe on its yellowing breast) hanging around. Two Collared Doves dropped in for a drink from the bird bath, but highlight was a giant Common Frog (about 10 cm long) which hopped away under the fence (the first I've seen here). Must get to work on a pond for the garden.
Swifts continue their summer screaming with at least 3 over the Botanic Gardens (9pm), then 3 and 10 over Hyndland (10pm) and at least 1 high over the glade (11pm).

Monday, July 17, 2006

At least 3 Swifts screaming over the glade yesterday at around 5 pm. Theirs is really the sound of the summer. Hoping to hear it a lot more when I visit Oxford later this week. Meantime, people at church have reported a large raptor ("much bigger than a Sparrowhawk") flying down Corkerhill Road being persued by every other bird in the neighbourhood. Buzzard is a possibility (they nest only a mile away in Pollock Park), but why was it at street level? Maybe a confused fledgling from a local nest (Cardonald Cemetery is a possibility, but if so, they have been awful quiet as I've never seen one there). Other possibilities are a lost migrant Honey Buzzard or Osprey. Must try to get a more detailed description.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Revisited my wild flower photos from Saturday. Had a go at putting names to them (some may not be quite right)...


Starry Saxifrage


Alpine Lady's Mantle


Tormentil sp.


Bog Asphodel


Mountain Thyme (blurred)



Possible Marsh Saxifrage


Honeysuckle sp

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Walked up to Dunsapie Loch this afternoon. Heard a Chiffchaff in the woods and saw a single Swallow over the playing fields. Plenty of insect life including dragonflies and damselflies but Knapweed is finished so no sign of any Burnet Moths.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Spent the day walking to the top of Ben Lomond and back via Ptarmigan. Birdlife in short supply, but plenty of interesting plants around, more of which tomorrow. Also, spectaclar views (below), in spite of the drizzle.

Friday, July 07, 2006

The day started with 20 or more Rabbits in the sea-level meadows - the first time I'd seen so many there. Not much else to report on the return journey to Greenock, but back home the garden had 5 House Sparrows (? a family party), the 3 juvenile Great Tits, the 2 juvenile Blue Tits and a solitary Dunnock.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Drove to East Kilbride this afternoon. The hedgerows (or at least what is left of them, now that the M77 extension is finished) were alive with creamy Meadowsweet and purple Foxgloves. Thought I saw some orchids on the verge of the roundabout south of Newton Mearns. Must check next time I'm out that way.


Wednesday, July 05, 2006
Spent part of the afternoon on Troon beach, enjoying glorious summer sunshine and a flat calm sea (see picture). Enjoyed the sight of a Grey Seal floating lazily 100 metres offshore. Rockpools full of tiny fish and shrimps. Sea water crystal clear. Birds in the area included 5 Swifts, 2 House Martins, a few Swallows and House Sparrows, a Heron, 2 Redshanks, an Eider, plenty of Starlings, a few Jackdaws and lots of Herring and Lesser black backed Gulls.

Monday, July 03, 2006

A very wet start to the week - thankfully it got a whole lot better!

Sunday, July 02, 2006
Walked along the Cart as far as Pollockshaws Road this afternoon. Highlights were singing Chiffchaff just over the bridge (and audible from the house for the last week), flowering Meadowsweet and vetches (with Policeman's Helmet just starting), a Kinfisher under the M77, a Heron a little further on, 2 Woodpigeons, 1 Stock Dove and 7-10 Swallows feeding around the Highland Cattle enclosure at Pollock Park (where one of the females had a newborn calf) and 5 or so Sand Martins over the river there.




Saturday, July 01, 2006
Spent the afternoon at Mugdock Park. Particularly enjoyed the lovely wildflower meadow which surrounds the bottom dipping pond. Highlights there were Reed Bunting, Robin and Willow Warbler all in song, a possible Toad in a marshy spot and numerous butterflies including one which might have been a Pearl-bordered Fritillary (above).




The dipping pond there held Red and Blue Damselfies, menacing looking Dragonflies, Sticklebacks and Whirligig Beetles (above).



The top dipping pond was also very productive with a singing Chiffchaff, plenty of good-sized Sticklebacks, White Water Lilly (above) and (on the way back to the visitor centre) a fine Stinkhorn (below).



Also checked out the main pond near the visitor centre. Pleased to see a female Tufted Duck with two ducklings (below), both energetically plunge-diving (and picking insects off the water surface) while the female hissed nervously at 2 merauding Lesser black backed Gulls (below).




Also there were masses of Stickleback fry (possibly what the Tufties were feeding on), 7 Mallards (including large juveniles and eclipse males), another pair of Tufted Ducks, 2 Moorhens and flowering Yellow water Lilly (below).



Later (around 10pm), watched 7 Swifts screaming around the flats at North Kelvinside.

Friday, June 30, 2006
Kids in the estate found another Toad tonight (around 10pm). A neighbour tells me the whole area was a marsh before the houses were built.

Thursday June 29, 2006
A familiar sound caused me to look up from the bustle of Paisley's Glasgow Road this morning (around 10 am) to see 3 Swifts screaming over Mansionhouse Road end.