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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 29, 2007

Spent late morning in Pollock Park. Highlights were a female Mallard with 9 ducklings (my first of the year) and flowering Comfry, Red Campion, Wild Garlic, Garlic Mustard, Lesser Stitchwort and (especially) Bluebells.

Monday, April 23, 2007






Spent a good weekend in Strathspey. Species count not particularly high, but lots of memorable natural connections along the way. Our base was the Lazy Duck Hostel in Nethy Bridge (above). Highlights there included Coal Tits and Red Squirrel at the feeders, a calling Tawny Owl, and a magical walk through a piece of Caledonian Pine Forest (top) to a Rabbit warren covered in Juniper bushes (complete with calling Greenfinches, singing Willow Warbler and a black Rabbit). An early morning visit to RSPB Loch Garten was rewarded with distant views of a male Capercaillie and the memorable sight of an Osprey brining in the first fish of the day. Later that day, walked from Loch an Eilean to Loch Morlich. Highlights on the journey were a male Teal on Lochan Deo, hundreds of Wood Ant nests, forest bogs (you could almost imagine the Greenshanks of last century), Goldeneye on another forest lochan and great views over to the Kincardine Hills (middle).

Saturday evening was spent in the Badger hide near Boat of Garten. Although the Badgers failed to show, it was lovely to be out in the countryside as dusk fell (with Goldeneye and Wigeon on the Spey as the backdrop).

Managed to sqeeze in a trip to the outskirts of Carrbridge on Sunday morning where the highlights were Greylag Geese, Golden Plovers (in summer plumage) and a singing Skylark.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

An early morning walk around Cardonald Place Farm turned up 20 bird species for the BTO survey plus two Ladybirds and, back at the house, the first singing Blackcap of the year (a foraging bird in a Willow just over the garden fence). Later in the day, the garden had its first Orange Tip of the year.
The highlights of the evening walk along the Cart were a Kingfisher speeding downstream and a tree-Rhodedendron in flower.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Spent the morning exploring Cardonald Park Farm in preparation for the birds and butterflies survey work planned for this summer. Biggest surprise was a drainage ditch full of Equisetum (and a possible nesting pair of Mallards).
In the evening, visited Pollock Country Park looking for the first Swallows of the year. As anticipated, saw 2 swooping over the river in front of Pollock House. The other highlight there was Monkswood flowering along the river banks. Earlier, while waiting in traffic at Cowglen, noticed a bank of Purple Valerian and a Blue Tit building a nest in the Traffic Lights.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Had to be content with garden connections today. Highlights were lots of Pond Skaters (and a surfacing Common Frog) on the silverglade pond, Chiffchaff AND Willow Warbler (first site record for 2007) in song (plus possible Blackcap), and flyover Black headed Gull.
News from the web is that Nuthatches have been seen this month in Gourock and near Bishopton...

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Spent the whole afternoon exploring Mugdock Country Park. Spring birdsong was one of the main features of the day, with totals being as follows; Chaffinch (9), Goldfinch (5), Greenfinch (2), Chiffchaff (4), Willow Warbler (3, all in one small area - my first of the year), Blue Tit (3), Great Tit (6), Coal Tit (2), Robin (12), Wren (9) and Blackbird (1). Other good birds were 4 Buzzards (including 3 soaring together), single calling Great spotted Woodpecker and Pheasant, nesting Carrion Crow and a nice pair of Common Gulls on Craigend Pond. Assorted other highlights included a pair of breeding Toads in Mugdock Loch, my first Orange Tip Butterfly of the year, flowering Coltsfoot, Broad-leaved Pondweed, Dog's Mercury and Lesser Celandine, and a Leech with the Sticklebacks in Gallows Pond.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Spent this afternoon in the Changue Forest, South Ayrshire. In spite of the mild weather, we had the place virtually to ourselves, meeting only 3 other people in over 3 hours. The main event of the day was a visit to the pond at Kirsties Stone, reputed to be home to a colony of Palmate Newts. Our visit co-incided with the spawning of dozens of Common Toads - the whole site was alive with pairs or individuals either preparing to spawn, in the act of doing so, or heading back into the forest having finished for another year. Many however were not so lucky with partially-eaten corpses strewn all over the area.
Managed close views of two newts. Also noticed some patches of frogspawn in addition to the masses of toadspawn there.
Other highlights were whole swathes of Butterbur along the banks of the Stinchar, a male Grey Wagtail singing its simple, 4-note song from the top of a young conifer, a Common Buzzard soaring over the head of the glen and a Goldcrest feeding in the bare branches of a roadside sapling. The drive back to Girvan was enriched by the sight of well-grown lambs running about under glorious blue skies. Later, there were Cowslips on the grass verge south of the Bankfield Roundabout.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Spent a good afternoon at David Marshall Lodge with highlights being as follows:
Single Little Grebe and Common Toad on the pond, plenty of singing finches and tits in the woods, a pair of Grey Wagtails flying upstream, 3 Buzzards circling above the treetops, flowering Wood Anemone, Golden-leaved Saxifrage and Wood Violet, and assorted nesting/roosting boxes including tit, treecreeper, owl and bat (pictured).

Monday, April 09, 2007

A chilly afternoon around Castle Semple Loch was more notable for what wasn't seen than what was, with Goldeneye, normally so evident, now completely absent. Highlight at RSPB Lochwinnoch was a male Reed Bunting visiting the centre feeders. Over at the country park visitor centre, the calling Chiffchaff was absent. No sign, either, of any Sand Martins. On a plus note, the Marsh Marigolds are now in flower.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Today's walk along the river produced 2 Grey Wagtails at the first weir (first I've seen here all winter),a leucistic female Mallard on the river there and, at Rosshall Park pond, a pair of Moorhens (also absent all winter) and a Kingfisher (my first ever sighting here). Plant highlights were the first flowering Bluebells and Cuckoo Flower. Oh, and the frogspawn in the silverglade pond has hatched.
Forgot to mention yesterday - a Peacock butterfly sunning itself in the garden.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

The good weather over the past few days has allowed some nice natural connections. Yesterday, an afternoon walk along the beach at Portencross turned up a Gannet and 3 Razorbills offshore and a singing Chiffchaff in the scrub. Today, a shopping trip to Paisley was much improved by the sight of 3 Grey Wagtails on the river between The Hammils and Cotton Street Bridge.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

More frost this morning, followed by another perfect day. An evening walk along the river turned up the first bats of the year - two flitting around the first bridge at dusk. Other highlights this week have included a nest of mice under a piece of wood and a group of 30 Magpies altogether in a few Birch trees (both in the glade).

Monday, April 02, 2007

A frosty start to the day, but plenty of sunshine in Ayr, enlivened by Greenfinch, Starling, Blue Tit and Coal Tit singing in the Racecourse Road gardens. Yesterday's highlight was the first Silver Glade Chiffchaff of the year (calling again today).