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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, June 28, 2007

More evidence of local breeding activity this evening with a female House Sparrow feeding 2 fledglings at the back of the garden. Although most of the tadpoles in the pond are at an early stage of development, I got a glimpse of one today with both sets of legs. Also had a Dunnock singing from a fencepost, and two mice coming to peanuts scattered on the grass. The drive home at 10 pm turned up at least one fox. It is now unusual if we don't see any.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Spotted a female Sparrowhawk cutting through the Paisley University car park in front of A Block (around 4th floor level) .
This evening, took a trip over to Largs. Few birds about due to the cool, windy weather, but nice to be out and about. Two Red Foxes in front of the car on the way home.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Really scraping the barrel this evening - trying to squeeze some natural connections out of a visit to Braehead Shopping Centre. However, as always, the wildlife was just outside the bubble, waiting to be encountered.
Took a walk along the Clyde behind the centre. At first, the only signs of life were some Lesser black backed and Black headed Gulls overhead and, across the river, a pair of Mute Swans pottering around a derelict slipway. However further West, the riverside vegetation became more interesting with clovers, vetches, sow-thistles, a small reedbed, and single plants of Teasel and Alexanders. A small brown bird flitted away before I could identify it. Similarly, two ducks high overhead might have been Wigeon..... but the light wasn't right.
Behind Xscape, two fledgling Pied Wagtails were testing their wings. While watching them with the binoculars, a Red Fox trotted across my field of view.
Heading home, another Fox (this time a cub) darted across the road in front of us.

Monday, June 25, 2007

The pair of Collared Doves which frequent the estate have a single fledged young. It was seen begging its parents for food using a very unusual wing-shivering action. Also noticed 2 or 3 House Martins whizzing through the modern estate at Bonnyholm. I wonder if they nest there.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Mixed weather here in West Central Scotland, but nevertheless, natural connections have continued to present themselves. The Water Lilly on the Silver Glade pond has become quite a talking point (see photo below), with more blooms starting to poke through to join the first. On 20th, a Yellowhammer was still singing from the usual wire at Arkleston Farm. On 21st, a Wren crept along the back fence and a Woodpigeon grazed the clover on the back lawn (photo). Checked the farmland at the end of Scott's Road, Paisley on 22nd, but no sight or sound of Yellowhammer. However one species clearly doing a bit better is Dunnock, with a male singing over the traffic noise from the railings of Morrison's on Paisley Road West.

Today started with around 10 House Martins swooping over houses in Oldhall and a Song Thrush singing from nearby Barshaw Park. This afternoon, a damselfly was emerging from the pond (see photo) and a pair of Great Tits brought at least 2 well grown young to the peanut feeders.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

An adult and begging juvenile Great Tit at the bird feeders today. Also a single Common Toad in the pond.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Suddenly midsummer has arrived in West Central Scotland - the woods behind the house are full of furtive juvenile bird-calls, the meadows at Bishopton and Finlaystone are chest-high, the Silver Ragwort (or we'll call it that until I get a better I.D.) along the Clyde walkway has flowered and its light enough to read a newspaper until 10:30pm!

The wind and rain widely forecast for the weekend didn't materialise. Instead it was mild with sunny spells here in West central Scotland. Natural Connections over the weekend were as follows:
Friday evening: a Grasshopper Warbler singing from Erskine Harbour (and audible, as in previous years, from the car park of the Erskine Bridge Hotel).
Saturday: a pair of mice sp tidying up the crumbs after I had filled the bird feeders
Sunday: the first ever damselfly (Blue tailed) at the silver glade pond; a group of black, spikey caterpillars in a nettle patch along the cart (presumably larvae of Peacock butterfly); a fledgling Woodpigeon grounded on the lawn in Rosshall Park (and coaxed into the undergrowth, away from the local Magpies); Goldcrests singing loudly in Rosshall park (Greenfinches and Blackbirds doing the same back at the Glade); a male Blackbird collecting worms at Bonnyholm.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

A strange natural connection yesterday: around 3:30 pm, in heavy traffic at the Penilee Road junction on Glasgow Road, three Oystrcatchers circling overhead and calling loudly (it brought to mind three I saw doing the same thing at Auchenfoyle a few weeks ago - why three?).

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Heard a Yellowhammer next to Candrens Road this lunchtime. Two Toads are now present in the pond, and my first ever Water Lilly flower opened today.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Highlights today (apart from glorious sunshine) were a Common Toad in the pond and 2 or 3 Swifts screaming high above the garden at dusk.

Sunday, June 10, 2007
Back from Hungary to find west central Scotland bathing in glorious summer weather. The garden is now completely overgrown, with the geranium bushes in full flower (and attracting Bumble Bees) and my first waterlilly flower just about to open.

June 6th to 10th, 2007

Spent a hot and sticky, but also natural connection-filled 4 days in Hungary. Highlight was an early morning birding tour to the Kiskunsag. However the whole trip provided both expected and unexpected opportunities for nature watching. Most time was spent around Budapest University's campus on the west bank of the Danube. Highlights here were a gorgeous male Black Redstart, little red and black Froghoppers and a little lilly pond (below) complete with Perch and blue Damselflies.

A boat trip up and down the Danube one evening revealed numerous Mallards but little else apart from a Kestrel over the parliament buildings (see picture below).

Natural connection highlight of the week was a birdwatching trip to the Kiskunsag region 25 km south of Budapest. However first stop was an industrial site on the outskirts of the capital. Commonest birds were newly-fledged Starlings, but 2 male Red backed Shrikes were hunting from a wire fence and singing birds included Cuckoo and Golden Oriole. Nearby, the first Corn Bunting of the day was heard, along with a chipping Great spotted Woodpecker and 5 Hawfinches overhead. This site was notable for its abundance of wildflowers and butterflies including the lovely Chessboard (its Hungarian name). Also there was a Saker nest, in a box on an electricity pylon, which gave distant views of a female and 3 young.
Driving between sites turned up lots of birds including Collared Doves (in villages and on overhead wires), Black headed Gulls and Common Terns (looking quite out of place, flying over dry farmland), Swallows and House Martins, plus several Marsh Harriers, Common Buzzards and Kestrels. Best roadside birds were around 5 Bee eaters strung along a section of roadside wire (and probably nesting in a nearby embankment).
Stopped briefly at the village of Bugyi to admire a White Stork nest on a pylon right beside the main intersection (below). Listened to Serins singing from overhead wires and chimneys (another village singer nearby was Golden Oriole).

Next stop was a sheep farm in northern Kiskunsag. We visited the heavily-grazed farmyard and its surroundings (below) which consisted of some delapidated buildings, piles of hay, livestock (sheep and donkeys), scattered Acacia trees and a reedy hollow. Notable were House Sparrows nesting co-operatively with White Stork and buzzing around the haystacks with Tree Sparrows, a Little Owl swooping from a wooden telephone pole into an Acacia tree (revealing surprisingly long, brown wings) and "hiding" behind a branch, apparently pur Rock Doves (but officially Feral Pigeons) nesting in the barns, and a cacophony of birdsong with contributions from House and Tree Sparrow, Black Redstart, Crested Lark (song very like Skylark's), Marsh and Sedge Warblers, Nightingale (from roadside bushes) and distant Hoopoe and Golden Oriole. Briefly heard the frog-like song of a Turtle Dove, while other birds in the area were a White Wagtail (on overhead wires) and a few Black headed Gulls flying by. Noticed a wooden Little Owl box on a pole, and a wicker one in a tree. The Hungarians seem very keen on providing nestboxes (c.f. Saker and Red footed Falcon). Also noticed further help for birds in the form of a trail of spilt grain left behind a tractor.

The main event of the morning was a visit to the Kiskunsag proper. This began with a drive along the access road to the national park near Apaj (the road follows a drainage ditch and is bordered by deciduous woodland with puzsta beyond). First birds seen were a pair of confiding yellow Wagtails (Blue headed race). It may also have been here that the first Turtle Dove of the day was seen - single bird flying strongly away to reveal brown back and black and white tail. The commonest bird here was Common Cuckoo, with many calling birds (including one female giving the "bubbling" call not unlike the "prutt" of Moorhen) and frequent sightings of birds swooping between trees (including a rufous-phase individual doing a remarkable impression of a Kestrel).No doubt they were parasitising the Great Redd Warblers which were singing noisily at 50 metre intervals along the reedy margins of the drainage ditch. Also here were several calling Golden Orioles (including 2 seen flying between trees), a pair of Common Buzzards (wheeling overhead) and (on the return journey) an invisible Lesser Whitethroat (giving its Chaffinch-like rattle from within a Tamarisk bush). Along the path there were also numerous butterflies including "Chessboards" plus whites, bliues, oranges and browns (and a single yellow further on). Out on the puzsta, 2 pairs of Curlews were alarm-calling overhead. Other overhead birds were Kestrel and Marsh Harrier. Corn Buntings jangled their bunches of keys from the longer grass, and a single Whinchat called from an isolated shrub.

On the way back along this section (above) a male Red footed Falcon was seen flying off and hovering briefly while a female watched us from a box in an Acacia tree.Also recorded were a Stock Dove (flying off), a group of Linnets and more Blue headed Wagtails. Out on the puzsta proper, birds consisted of several Great white Egrets, 4 distant Great Bustards, a handful of Rooks and a Moorhen in the drainage ditch. A shepherd was tending a flock of sheep but otherwise the scene was of complete emptiness (see below).

Heading out of the reserve, we encountered a cart carrying one of the "Grey Bulls" - wild cattle used to manage the grassland. Then we headed for another, damper corner of the reserve. Here (as the temperature climbed to around 36 degrees), highlights were a gorgeous Lesser grey Shrike hunting from a wire fence and a Turtle Dove feeding quietly in full view along the path. Also present were Corn Bunting (heard), Golden Oriole (heard) and another Red backed Shrike.

Three more sites were left to try - first, on some dry farmland next to a village, watched 2 Wheatears and got prolonged views of a Tawny Pipit feeding in the short grass. Nearby, in a beet field, got a distant view of an anxious-looking Stone Curlew. Finally, heading north through Paj, we reached an enormous area of damp pasture (bordered by a drainage ditch) (East of Uthbok) where we hoped to find Roller. No luck with the Roller (I shall have to come back again in the future!), but plenty to compensate including a Purple Heron walking across the road and several Grey Herons and numerous Great White Egrets out on the marsh. Other birds getting their feet wet were groups of loafing Mallards, piping Redshanks, sleeping Black tailed Godwits, alarm-calling Lapwings, several Black winged Stilts and (overhead) Black headed Gulls and Whiskered Terns.

All too soon we were heading back to the city at breakneck speed, and (sadly) back from the 19th century into the present day.

Other natural connections on the trip were considerably less spectacular, but some House Martins nesting in the facade of a Railway Station (above) and late night Cicadas singing from trees in the northern suburbs were both notable.

Monday, June 04, 2007

The drive home this evening (about 6pm) brought a notable natural connection in the form of a pair of Shelducks out on the flats at Finaystone with 5 or 6 small young. I don't think I have ever seen a family group hereabouts before.
Other notable sightings along the Cart this evening were a Kingfisher flying into a waterside Willow and plenty of flowering Honesty (I think - the flowers come in two colours - white and purple). Later, checked out the House Martins nesting in Cardonald Gardens (at number 31). There seem to be two active nests with around 6 birds involved, some possibly from an earlier brood. Noticed at least two alighting on the roof before being flushed back into the air by others.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Today started with 3 House Martins apparently visiting nests under the eaves of a house in Cardonald Gardens. Later, unusual garden visitors were a female Chaffinch, 3 flyover Mallards and a Wren (the latter for the second day running).

Friday, June 01, 2007
Hovering Kestrel over A8 near Langbank at 8am.
Unusual garden visitors this eveing (5:50pm) were a Wren, a juvenile Robin [with a narrow yellow wingbar which the Collins Guide says is "most obvious on juveniles"] and a male Blackbird (a female was just over the garden fence at the same time).