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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, August 26, 2007

Spent the weekend camping in Ayrshire. The site was in the middle of farmland. Natural highlights were Swallows constantly moving over (with small parties on telephone lines near surrounding farms), a massive roost of corvids in a conifer stand (which emptied dramatically around 7am) and an unusual moth (maybe a Thorn) attracted to lights at night. Noticed several Buzzards and a hovering Kestrel on the drive home.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Still plenty of Swallows about, particularly on the back road to Greenock. Patches of Michelmas Daisy in the roadsides. A Buzzard flapped heavily over the motorway near Bishopton first thing. Common Gulls (including some juveniles) are gathering on the municipal grass at Ferguson shipyard.
Yesterday there were lots of birds feeding on exposed mud on the Clyde including several Grey Herons spaced out at regular intervals.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Highlight today was a skein of geese (impossible to tell which species) heading north near the Erskine Bridge (viewed from the M8 at Bishopton at home-time). Interestingly, one of the kids said he had seen a skein over the glade a few days ago, and he came in this evening to say he had just seen some more ... I wonder if they are Canada Geese dispersing from breeding sites around the hill lochs south of here...

Monday, August 20, 2007

Had quite a good day of natural connections today. Weather much improved with glorious sunshine for much of the day. Had to go to the hospital this morning, but heading for work at 10:30 am, noticed 2 House Martins still visiting nests under the eaves of a house in Cardonald Gardens. Took a short cut via Howwood and the Kilmacolm road. Still a fair number of Swallows about, plus at least one House Martin. At Locher Community Woodland, noticed a Peacock and a Small Toirtoiseshell on a Buddlhia bush, then a Kestrel on a telegraph pole, an invisible calling Raven, and 3 Buzzards in the space of half a mile (two soaring and one perched on top of a sapling). Verges covered in flowering hawkweeds and willowherbs. Also, the Heather around Knocknairshill reservoir has come into bloom.
Meanwhile the Lapwings are massing along the Clyde, and the leaves on a few trees are starting to turn ...

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The rain of the last few days has finally abated, so took a walk along the river this afternoon. Noticed a solitary House Martin overhead. Also noticed plenty of young Magpies and Carrion Crows. Both species appear to have bred well (Bah!). Another species which may be doing well has been Blackbird - all week there has been a male carrying beakfulls of worms on Moulin playing fields. I guess the wet ground has made finding worms much easier, and possibly encouraged this pair to make a late breeding attempt.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Main events this week have been dwindling numbers of hirundines, no Swifts at all, and the appearance of large numbers of Lapwings along the Clyde. A trip to the Botanic Gardens this evening was virtually bird-free. Only sign of life were the clouds of midges over the Kelvin.
Yesterday, walked along by the railway line at the school. Noticed a few small bats about. Also a single Red Fox on the railway line (now completely exposed by recent heavy cutting of trackside vegetation).

Saturday, August 11, 2007

This has been an interesting week for natural connections. Highlight was a sandwich-stop at West Ferry on Thursday when 14 Whimbrels were feeding on exposed mud. A visit to the shopping complex at Linwood that evening revealed crowds of Starlings preparing to roost on lighting gantries and 20 or so House Martins plus 3 Swallows, possibly also moving to roost.
Friday included a late afternoon drive to Edinburgh. Highlights were Golden Rod and Poppies along the road edges (in addition to the usual Ragwort and willow herb - surely pink and yellow are the colours of late summer in this part of the world). Most obvious birds were Black headed Gulls and Woodpigeons, plus (still) plenty of Swallows.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Had an afternoon meeting in Alexandria yeasterday, so stopped at Lomond Shores to eat my sandwiches. Not much about (excepting wet tourists) apart from 2 Pied Wagtails, 50-60 mallards, 30 Black headed Gulls, 3 Lesser black backed Gulls, 2 or 3 Swallows and flowering Broad-leaved pondweed next to the docking point for the Maid of the Loch.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Some new New Naturalists are just about to hit the shelves. These are the dust cover designs...

Sunday, August 05, 2007

This has been a weekend of maritime connections with a visit to the west coast yesterday and one to the east today.
Saturday afternoon and evening were spent on the Clyde coast just north of the Wemyss Bay ferry jetty. Highlights there were 2 pairs of Black Guillemots close in, two Gannets overhead, a Rock Pipit on the beach and three distant Manx Shearwaters. Also notable was the profusion of flowers along the coast, with wild species such as knapweeds and vetchs mixed in with garden escapes such as Crocusmia and Japanese Anemone.
This afternoon's trip to Edinburgh allowed a short visit to Longniddry Bents to look for Red necked Grebes. The water there was very choppy, light conditions not good and any bird life well out to sea. Consequently views were not good. I had two possible Red necks early on (which I couldn't relocate later) and a single Great crested Grebe which refused to metamorphise into anything more interesting, in spite of my efforts. Otherwise, the only birds on offer were around 60 auks (mostly Razorbills, but with at least 1 Guillemot), around 20 Eiders, a few (probable) Scaup, two Gannets, five or six fishing Sandwich Terns and a few common waders. The grass patches there were alive with colour, with Sea Campion and Purple Cranesbill standing out from the usual ragworts, sow thistles, knapweeds, vetches and clovers.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Managed a short walk along the river late afternoon. Swallows, House Martins and 2 Swifts all seen. Also 11 eclipse Mallards together on one stretch. The Policeman's Helmet has started to reach the "popping" stage. Also noticed a blue Geranium species.
Other connections this week have included:
Early hours of Sunday 29th July
Tawny Owl calling in the glade woods
Monday 30th July
Screaming Swifts over the estate (will there be many more?).
Thursday 2nd May
Small, tight flock of small gulls on sea-level meadows at high tide (also seen at the start of the week).
Friday 3rd August
Two juvenile Woodpigeons with an adult on the estate road first thing.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

South west Scotland is deep in the summer doldrums. However already there are signs of approaching autumn. Along the Clyde, gulls and possibly terns are moving restlessly. Even the Swallows and House Martins seen on the drive from Ayr to Howwood this afternoon seemed to be particularly urgent in their feeding. However some birds are still nesting - there was a big gull chick calling for food from the roof of the Ayrshire Hospice and a Pied Wagtail feeding a juvenile on a road over the braes. Also seen on todays drive were 3 Buzzards, a Kestrel and a Grey Heron.

Monday, July 30th, 2007
Caught a snatch of Grasshopper Warbler song from roadside vegetation near Auchenfoil Farm as I headed to work this lunchtime.

Friday, July 27, 2007
Intended to walk up to the coll on the Sierra Son Jordi today. However on arriving at Costa des Pins, found the track cut off by a high fence. This was a real pity as the forest looked and sounded really exciting (with a glimpse of a noisy Sparrowhawk dashing through, and the almost deafening sound of humming insects). Decided to walk to Punt des Pins instead. It turned out to be a good walk with plenty of highlights including a very obliging Turtle Dove (see picture), a singing Blackcap and two possible Wrynecks flying and calling through roadside gardens.