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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.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Kestrel over M8 at Arkleston (0745), Buzzard over M8 at Inchinnan (0750) and Buzzard beside A8 (perched on top of a ridiculously small conifer) at Finlaystone (0755).

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Not too many connections today. However a pair of Greenfinches first thing at the garden feeders, and a Grey heron soaring high above the A8 at Woodhall were highlights. Oh, and a Magpie (probably) has punctured the pond liner. Repairs imminent.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The drive back from Greenock to Paisley today was notable for Birdsfoot Trefoil in flower on a roadside wall. Late afternoon visitors to the garden peanuts included two Grey Squirrels and single Blue Tit, Great Tit and (unusually) male House Sparrow. A Magpie has been visiting the pond - possibly picking out tadpoles. Over the weekend, a juvenile Starling appeared, dead, on the back lawn. It was later carried off by a Lesser black backed Gull.
An evening walk along the river turned up singing Willow Warbler, Chaffinch and Chiffchaff, and flowering Garlic Mustard and Honesty. Lots of Kingfisher activity just behind the steading with 2 birds perched (and fishing) under riverside bushes and 2 or 3 flying up and downstream (including two apparently carrying food or faecal sacs).

Friday, May 25 to Monday, May 28, 2007
Spent a cold but enjoyable weekend at Auchenfoyle Farm in the West Renfrewshire hills (see photo for main habitat types - Rough pasture; Improved grassland; Conifer stands; River banks; Farm buildings; Uplands). Managed a fair bit of nature-watching between other activities.

Highlights as follows:
Lots of nesting birds around the farm buildings including Starling, Pied Wagtail and Swallow. Swallows feeding over the river together with House Martins and Swifts. Fledged Starling broods noticed on Sunday (4 young pursuing a parent, on foot, across pasture) and Monday (young birds flocking between conifer stands and pasture). [Incidentally, young Starlings were also fledging on Monday from nests on Islay, being monitored by BBC's "Springwatch"]. Conifer stands full of birds including singing or calling Willow Warbler, Song Thrush, Blackbird, Robin, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Linnet, Wren, Woodpigeon and Pheasant. A brood of fledged Chaffinches scattered along the river, being fed by parents (other birds seen carrying food were Robin, Swallow, Pied Wagtail and Starling). Up to 2 adult Dippers flying up and down the river, and one seen to stop and feed a single juvenile on a rock. Constant "Chip chip chirrip" of Reed Bunting from one or two marshy spots. Also a single Grey Heron and up to 20 roosting Lesser black backed Gulls (including sub-adults). Distant calls of Curlew (several), Oystercatcher (3 together) and Cuckoo (one on Friday and Saturday). Plenty of Carrion Crows and Woodpigeons on slightly higher ground plus, on Sunday morning, 4 Ravens interacting together (possibly a fledged brood). A walk up Cairncurran Hill (see picture) on Sunday produced singing Meadow Pipit and Skylarks plus more mixed corvids (Rooks, Carrion Crows and at least 2 Ravens), 3 pairs of Canada Geese and one pair of Greylags (from the nearby reservoirs), and a big, hairy caterpillar. Lastly, a few flowering plants including Cuckoo Flower and Marsh Marigold, a lovely patch of Horsetail, jumping fish (Brown Trout) and a vole species (possibly Short tailed) under a plank of wood.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Driving through Arkleston Farm at 8pm, pleased to hear a Yellowhammer singing from a wire (they are quite rare around here). Half an hour later, back at the Glade, a Blackcap was singing snatches of song as it clambered around a Willow searching for food.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007
This morning's B.I.G. survey of Cardonald Park Farm produced the following totals:
Lesser black backed Gull 2
Woodpigeon 11
Collared Dove 2
Wren 3
Dunnock 1
Robin 1
Blackbird 5
Song Thrush 1
Blackcap 1
Willow Warbler 1
Whitethroat 1
Goldcrest 1
Blue Tit 3
Great Tit 3
Magpie 2
Carrion Crow 2
House Sparrow 2
Greenfinch 2
Cormorant 1
Red Fox 2
Grey Squirrel 1

Monday, May 21, 2007

Really starting to rack up the summer migrants now - hot on the heels of yesterday's Whitethroat, we found a singing Sedge Warbler beside the path between Lochwinoch and the Nature Centre tonight. Also there were a dozen or so House Martins, 3 or 4 Swallows (including a pair nesting under the bridge) and a calling Reed Bunting. A passer by mentioned that she had seen a Kingfisher at the same spot earlier in the day.
Botanical news is that the last bare trees in the grounds of the Southern General are finally getting their leaves. The so far unidentified one in the north east corner is evenly (if thinly) covered with unfurling leaves but the Ash near the north gate is going to be last of all (the Collins Guide says its "the last wild tree in leaf").
Spent the afternoon marking at home - and being serenaded by Willow Warbler, Blackcap, Chiffchaff and Whitethroat!

Sunday, May 20, 2007

A warm summers day today. A walk along the river revealed a Mallard with 2 ducklings, a scratching Whitethroat (both these less than 100m from the house), a Grey Heron, plenty of Orange tip Butterflies and flowering Yellow Flag Iris and Honesty.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

An afternoon walk along the river revealed greatly increased water levels after the rain of the last few days. Also of note were the first flowering Yellow Flags of the year and the leucistic female Mallard now paired with a normal drake.
Yesterday's drive back from Ayr to Paisley was brightened up by a pair of Red legged Partridges running along the road, a short snatch of Yellowhammer song and 3 frustrating Curlew/Whimbrels in roadside floods. At Craigie itself, a Great Tit was carrying food into a hole under a ground floor window. Back in Paisley town centre, a Blackbird was collecting worms from the municipal grass verges.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Today started with singing Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff and Blackcap (2) in the scrub behind the house. Later, 5 Swifts (my first of the year) were over the Hammils in Paisley. Other sightings of late include a House Martin over the house (also this morning) and a young Grey Squirrel sprinting across Well Street, Paisley yesterday lunchtime.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Just back from an excellent weekend by the south-east shore of Loch Lomond, highlights as follows:
Birds: Tree Pipits (over an area of short grass next to a wood) and Wood Warbler (a really showy male in the understorey) in song, a Grey Wagtail and Common Sandpipers (both on the lochshore), female Mallard with young (ditto), a Jay, a Treecreeper and 16 Willow Warblers (but only one Chiffchaff). Swallows much in evidence - including two perched in an Oak tree (I guess thats what they must have done before telephone wires were invented).
Mammals: 2 Roe Deer, 2 Grey Squirrels and bats under the floodlights.
Plants: Rampant Honeysuckle. Bluebells and Ramsons in full flower (plus Chickweed and Marsh Marigold). Wonderful show of Rhodedendrons.
Insects: Midges biting!!

Forest edge above Loch Lomond: Tree Pipit habitat.

Ramsons in flower - near the Wood Warbler site.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Today started with a male House Sparrow in the garden (seen again in the afternoon) and ended with a dead Grey Squirrel on the Cardonald road bridge.