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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.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Torrential rain, hailstones, gale-force winds: - not much of a welcome for the first Swallows, House Martins and Sand Martins which have arrived in England over the past few days.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Had to go over to Hamilton this morning so popped down to Strathclyde Country Park en route. Lots of birdsong (Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch and Blackbird) in the Low Parks, and a fair few Goldeneye and Goosander on the Clyde (but no sign of the male Smew which is wintering in the vicinity). A school (?) of 20 or so Cormorants were fishing together on the loch and four Great crested Grebes in the distance included a pair doing the "penguin dance" display. Heading back to the car, noticed at least two Goldcrests (probably many more) feeding in some bushes with a mixed tit flock (included a strange Great Tit which had rusty red markings on its flanks, wings and tail). Back in Low Parks, a Carrion Crow was carrying nesting material and two Grey Herons passed eachother in flight.
A brief stop at the mouth of the Calder Burn on the way back to Paisley turned up a solitary Grey Wagtail and my first Coltsfoot of the year (below).

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Another mixed day weather-wise, but had clear blue skies for the drive down to Greenock over lunchtime. Highlights were all along Candrens Road: 30 or so Whooper Swans behind the Old Schoolhouse, a Buzzard on a telephone post and a Sparrowhawk in a "dogfight" with a small bird high in the sky. Later, a Kestrel was over Maggie's Mill.
News from the web is that frogs are spawning in Dumfries and Galloway.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

An Ayrshire woodpecker sandwich today...
First natural connection of the morning concerned a tight flock of 30 Starlings swooping over the M77 above the early morning traffic. Managed a 10 minute walk around Rozelle Park pond before starting work. The staff there put out food for the birds, and I was followed by about five Blue Tits who obviously thought I was one of them. Totals for a quick circuit of the pond were as follows: Blue Tit (11), Great Tit (2), Coal Tit (2), Dunnock (4), Robin (4), Blackbird (12), Woodpigeon (9), Chaffinch (9), Mallard (96 including a leucistic female), Mute Swan (2), Moorhen (1), Carrion Crow (3), Black headed Gull (22) and Great spotted Woodpecker (1).
At the other end of the day, stopped briefly at Shewalton for Blue Tit (2), Magpie (2), Blackbird (1), Goldcrest (3) and a very showy Great spotted Woodpecker.
The last bird of the day was a Kestrel over the M77 just south of Newton Mearns.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Torrential rain and high winds made natural connections hard to come by today. However there was plenty of excitement on the drive from Greenock to Ayr with huge waves breaking over the road at Skelmorlie and Largs flinging salt water, seaweed and pebbles at passing cars. The only wildlife visible through the gloom were a dozen or so Oystercatchers probing the grass verges between Seamill and Ardrossan.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

A walk along the river this afternoon revealed plenty of green shoots appearing on the banks which have been scoured by recent floods. Only bird of note was a male Goosander flying upstream past Moulin Playing Fields.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

The wind and rain of the past few days seem to have had the effect of concentrating birds into certain areas. So, this morning's walk around Bellahouston Park was notable for larger-than-usual flocks of Black headed Gull, Redwing (chattering and singing in the tree-tops), Starling, Woodpigeon and Jackdaw. Most birds were feeding on the municipal grass, suggesting that ready access to food was the reason for the flocking behaviour. The woods were quiet (no doubt due to blustery conditions) but the first tree (? Blackthorn) is now in flower.

An afternoon walk along the Cart and round Pollock Park turned up numerous items of interest. The walk started with 5 male House Sparrows perched quietly in the usual bush at Moulin Quadrant. A male Goosander (presumably the one that has wintered locally) and a Little Grebe (unusual along this stretch) were a hundred metres upstream of the duck bridge, together with two Mallards, the first of 57 along the river (with two more on the Top Pond in Pollock Park). Many Mallards were in pairs, but generally males outnumbered females. A Kestrel hunting over the M77 embankment was notable, as were two Hooded/hybrid-type Carrion Crows (one in the usual place beside Linthaugh Road and one just beyond the M77 underpass). The second Little Grebe of the day was trying to keep out of sight just before the underpass and a singing Greenfinch near Pollock House was the first of two heard today (other singers were Robin, Blue Tit, Goldcrest and Goldfinch). Four Moorhens were scattered along the Pollock Park stretch of the Cart and a pairs of Long tailed Tits were at two sites (as well as 7 together in a roving flock near Titwood Road). At least two Goldcrests were singing from conifers in the Big Wood and two more were working their way along the foot of the hedge near the riding stables. A flooded corner of the paddock there attracted 2 Goldfinches (another 7 were together in the treetops), 2 Chaffinches, and single Dunnock, Robin and Blue Tit. The hedges along the exit road were full of birds included the aforementioned Goldcrests, Goldfinches and Long tailed Tits plus single Robin and pairs of Blue and Great Tit.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Heavy rain, strong winds and a particularly high tide combined to create the most flooding I have ever seen along the M8 past Langbank and Bishopton. The "Bullrush pond" was completely inundated and the fields on the landward side of the motorway were about 25% under water.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

A miserable day in West Central Scotland with 100% cloud cover all day. However Spring is obviously on its way just a little to the south of here (Dumfries and Galloway) with reports of Dog's Mercury, Herb Robert and Red Campion all in flower.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

No time for natural connections today. News from the web is of Golden Eagles displaying on Islay and Waxwings turning up in Glasgow.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

A cold but sunny start to the day, looking for Nuthatches in Rozelle Park, Ayr. On the way home this evening, single Buzzards were watching the traffic at Holmston Roundabout and just outside Newton Mearns.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Another frosty start, but then a mild, still day. A walk around Dunsapie Loch in the afternoon revealed lots of bird activity with Robin, Wren and Dunnock all singing and a solitary Grey Heron waiting in a quiet corner.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

An afternoon drive to Edinburgh turned up 25 Lapwings well inland at Kilsyth, regular roadside Buzzards and a dead Badger near Linlithgow.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

A morning walk in Bellahouston Park was notable for two "firsts" of the year; a drumming Great spotted Woodpecker and several Chaffinches in full song.

Friday, February 15, 2008

More signs of spring in the garden this morning with a pair of Dunnocks indulging in much wing-flicking and a Robin singing from the back fence. A Dunnock was bathing in the pond and two fat Feral Pigeons came to crumbs on the lawn. A glorious day, but sandwiched between two very frosty nights.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

An early-morning Buzzard above the M8 at the Erskine bend was the only notable natural connection of the day. However news from the web (for yesterday) is that 69 Slavonian Grebes were between Cardross and Ardmore North Bay and 122 Red-throated Divers were between Cardross and Helensburgh. Incredibly, there was a Merlin hunting over Wellmeadow Street, Paisley at 1:40 pm.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A busy work day today, so little chance for natural connections. However a 5-minute walk to Greenock Health Centre did turn up singing Wren and Dunnock in the car park.
Migrant news is that a Garganey has reached Lochmaben, D&G.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

A glorious day here in West Central Scotland prompted an afternoon drive to Aberfoyle. Highlight of the trip up was a Grey Heron flying at great height north of Killearn. The walk from Aberfoyle to David Marshall Lodge passed through Birch woods alive with Chaffinches, Robins, Blue Tits and Great Tits (the latter three in song). However the pond at DML was quiet with only two Mallards. Highlights of the drive home were huge flocks of geese on the mosses each side of the A81 and a flat-calm Clyde viewed from the Erskine Bridge.
News from the web is of the first butterflies of the year - a Small Tortoiseshell near Girvan, Ayrshire and a Peacock at Corsewall Point, Wigtonshire [also a Ruby Tiger (moth) larva in Ayrshire].

Monday, February 11, 2008

Had a very pleasant walk along Troon seafront this afternoon, from the town hall to the barrage. The calm, sunny weather meant flat calm seas and the school holiday meant hordes of people. However there were plenty of good birds about including Redshank, Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Oystercatcher, Turnstone, Rock Pipit, Cormorant, Eider, Great black backed Gull, Eider and two distant Long tailed Ducks.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

An afternoon walk along the Cart revealed plenty of common birds in song. However there was very little activity on the river (no ducks, Herons or Cormorants, and only a single Moorhen) until a Kingfisher showed itself at the Rosshall School bend.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Walked along the Union Canal from Falkirk to Linlithgow today. No major sightings, but it was good to hear various common birds starting to sing. Below are some photos from along the route: Grangemouth Oil Refinery from Polmont, the viaduct over the Avon Gorge, the railway viaduct North of there, Linlithgow Palace and the approach to Linlithgow Canal Basin.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Too busy for natural connections today - except a probable Peregrine heading inland over the M8 at West Ferry. News from the web is that an exceptionally early Swallow has been sighted in Musselburgh. Must be a mistake, surely (although the first birds are reported to have crossed the Straits of Gibralter on 2nd of this month).

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Had to drive over from Paisley to Greenock just before lunch. On route there were 12 Whooper Swans behind the Old Schoolhouse (with more probably hidden behind the grass bank), another 15 or so half a kilometre further West and 45 Greylag Geese (including a mostly-white bird and a few other aberrants) at Kilmacolm.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Mercifully dry after days of rain. Managed a short walk along the Cart as the light was fading this evening. The only thing visible in the gloom was a female Goosander just upstream of the first bridge.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Most of today was spent working in Ayr. However the drive home turned up Oystercatchers feeding on the road verges and lots of Eider all along the coast. Web connections include the news of a White billed Diver off Fetlar - presumably the start of the Spring passage north.

Monday, February 04, 2008

No natural connections today due to pressure of work. However news from the web is that Lesser black backed Gulls are returning inland to breeding areas - nearly a month earlier than usual.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Only sighting of note today was a group of 20 or so Starlings chattering in trees near Cronberry Crescent. News from the web is that a Sandwich Tern was seen in Hampshire and a Gargeney in Aberdeenshire. Here they come!

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Overnight snow was still lying during a mid-morning walk around Bellahouston park. Highlights there were a calling Greater spotted Woodpecker and my first Snowdrops of the Spring (see below).
Later, a walk along the Cart to Hawkhead produced plenty of interest including more clumps of Snowdrops; Kingfisher, Grey Heron, Little Grebe and Cormorant(2) along the river; a mixed flock of Fieldfares (c100), Mistle Thrushes (20) and Starlings (5) on Rosshall Football Field and small flocks of Siskins at both Silver Glade and Hawkhead Park.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Scotland has been battered by wind, rain and (in the North and East) snow for the past 24 hours. With trains cancelled, electricity cut off and even ships wrecked, the weather has had quite an impact. Coinciding with the storms have been sightings of Gannets, Kittiwakes and Fulmars around the coast.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

More wind and rain, and the promise of snow. But birdlife is getting on with the important business of nesting and raising young. Mandarins have begun to display in the London parks and Crossbills have had fledged young for over a month.