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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.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Twenty five Starlings were feeding on cut grass at the glade this evening - I wonder if they have young, or are just feeding up in preparation for breeding, or maybe there has been a hatch of (?) Craneflies.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A slight frost at dawn was followed by thunder, lightening and torrential rain. However a welcome visitor to the garden was a Song Thrush bathing in the pond.

Monday, April 28, 2008

A wet day in Paisley today. Only natural connections were a few plucky House Sparrows chirruping in the rain.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

A hard frost overnight gave way to a perfectly still morning. Went down to Insh Marshes for 6:30 am, surprising a pair of Red legged Partridges as I drove around a corner. The marshes had a variety of waders including Curlew, Lapwing and Oystercatcher. Also notable were at least one Rabbit, a pair of Teal and a female Mallard with 6 ducklings (my first of the year).
A brief stop at Tromie Bridge produced a nice Dipper, and the drive past the airfield in Glen Feshie a handful of Sand Martins, a Mistle Thrush and a Common Buzzard. Then a Great spotted Woodpecker called near the hostel.
Lunchtime in Aviemore was brightened up by a Pied Wagtail and a singing Willow Warbler. Later, on the way back down South, we stopped in Dunkeld to enjoy the sunshine. Highlights there were a dozen or so Sand Martins visiting nest sites on the bridge over the Tay, Cuckoo Flowers by the river and an Orange Tip Butterfly (my first of the year) near the churchyard.

Saturday, April 26th, 2008

eaded for Loch Garten just after 5 am. Lots of Hares, Roe Deer and Pheasants in roadside fields, then a Common Toad and lots of singing Willow Warblers and Chaffinches between the car park and the hide. The female Osprey was on its nest and a couple of Red Squirrels visited the peanut feeders. After an hour of searching, a male Capercaillie was sighted from the forward hide and eventually we all had good views as it stood, frozen but menacing, among the heather. The walk back to the car turned up another Common Toad and a male Siskin on the feeders.
A short walk down to the lochside produced a few more singing Willow Warblers and Chaffinches. The main event of the day was a walk from Loch Morlich to Eag a Chat (the Cat's Gorge) and back. Early highlights were a single Goosander on Loch Morlich and another Goosander with a pair of Goldeneye on Lochan Gamna. The walk up past Rothiemurchus Lodge and over the shoulder of Castle Hill gave stunning views of the whole of Glen More. Eag a Chat was particularly spectacular as the snow-covered tops came into view. Bird life up there was sparse with only a couple of Meadow Pipits and the ubiquitous Wren breaking the silence.
The walk back to Loch Morlich passed over a small piece of the plateau, complete with gravel and stunted Willow. Further down, after passing a reindeer carcasse (the bones bleached white by the sun), clubmosses gave way to Juniper scrub and eventually to forest. Still few birds were seen, but this was made up for by the stunning views of the mountains through the trees (photo below). A quick walk back along the North shore of the loch produced 10 more singing Willow Warblers and another female Goldeneye.

Highlights back at the Hostel in Glen Feshie were a herd of 20 Red Deer walking sedately down the strath, a Woodcock roding through the plantations, a couple of bats hunting along the road and a Tawny Owl calling in the night.

Friday, April 25th, 2008

Just back from a wonderful weekend in the Cairngorms. Bird list for the weekend was as follows: Mallard, Teal, Goldeneye, Goosander, Greylag Goose, Red-legged Partridge, Capercaillie, Osprey, Pheasant, Buzzard, Oystercatcher, Greenshank, Lapwing, Curlew, Woodcock, Black headed Gull, Tawny Owl, Sand Martin, Meadow Pipit, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Pied/White Wagtail, Wren, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Goldcrest, Song Thrush, Blackbird, Mistle Thrush, Robin, Wren, Dipper, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Coal Tit, Siskin, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Starling, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Another lovely day in Greenock, but no time for connections (although a pair of Lesser black backed Gulls were mating noisily on the tenement roof outside my office window). News from the web is that Mallard ducklings have been seen in Lothian and Argyll, and the satellite-tracked Osprey is back in possession of her nest.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

A damp start to the day gave way to 100% blue skies, light (southerly) winds and warm sunshine. A Grey Heron was lurking beside the weir on the Cart and 4 or 5 bats were flapping around the Rosshall and Moulin bridges at dusk.
News from the web is that the satellite-tracked female Osprey has finally arrived back at her nest in Moray (although apparently two other females are already in occupation).

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

A slight frost overnight heralded a better day with clear skies and a lighter wind (although still from the East) than of late. The early morning drive to Ayr was notable for a Kestrel at Fenwick Road end and a Buzzard near Symington. Once in Ayr, a brief walk around the ponds at Rozelle produced 3 Great spotted Woodpeckers (drumming, calling and seen), a Treecreeper (visiting a presumed nest site under a piece of tree bark) and a single Stock Dove (feeding quietly beside the access road).

Monday, April 21, 2008

Another quiet day with only a Grey Heron flying lazily over the Clyde at Langbank to brighten things up. Later, a Red Fox slunk past the garden fence.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

A quiet day, connection-wise. Web news is that three Nuthatches are showing well at Rozelle Park, Ayr and the Moray Osprey is now stuck near Lochaber Loch, D&G.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

More canal walking today - this time from Bishopbriggs to Yoker. Weather was bitterly cold (as it has been all week) with a strong Easterly wind. Notable totals along the route included 3 Chiffchaffs, 10 Willow Warblers, 24 Mallards (18 drakes) and 8 Mute Swans (3 pairs - 2 with nests and 2 singles). Marsh Marigolds provided a splash of colour through Yoker.

Friday, April 18, 2008

It was another cold, windy day here in West Central Scotland, but an afternoon walk around Mugdock Country Park turned up a few interesting sightings. Three or four Willow Warblers braved the elements to sing, with one doing so in the bare branches of a path-side tree. Two invisible songsters nearby might have been Blackcaps. The Goldeneyes and Tufted Ducks have disappeared from Mugdock Loch (although I noticed plenty of the latter on Victoria Park pond as I drove past) and the 10 Mallards between Mugdock and Craigend were all drakes. A Goldfinch was sharing a tree near the castle ruins with a Siskin and another of the latter was calling beside the Gallows Pond (pictured below). Finally, a possible Sparrowhawk sped through the trees behind the dipping pond.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

An afternoon walk up Neilston Pad was notable for the view from the top - 360 degrees stretching from the Louther Hills in the East to Arran (see photo) in the West and the Highlands in the North to the Galloway Hills in the South. Interestingly, all had snow cover which must be quite unusual so late in the year.
Bird highlights included a total of 6 Buzzards, 3 Kestrels (including a displaying pair), my first Swallows, Sand Martin and Willow Warblers of the year plus 4 Little Grebes on Craighall Dam. Non-birding highlights included the hind end of a vole disappearing down a grass tunnel, Gorse in flower and a profusion of Coltsfoot.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

No opportunities for natural connections today but news from the web is that the Osprey breeding season is well underway. The pairs at Glentress and Loch of the Lowes both have two eggs in the nest. Sadly, the Moray female is still becalmed south of Birmingham. Perhaps she has realised that the snow is still falling in the north of Scotland.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Another day off, and more sunny weather, so took to the hills again, this time around Cornalees Bridge in Inverclyde. Lots of other people had the same idea so natural connections were a bit limited until we left the beaten track. Highlights were an overflying Raven being mobbed by two Carrion Crows, dozens of Stonechats and Meadow Pipits, displaying Curlews and nesting Great black backed Gulls.

Monday, April 14, 2008

A rain-free day and annual leave meant a pleasant walk around the Overtoun Braes all afternoon. Along the Lang Craigs a couple of Ravens were duelling with a Peregrine. Higher up, there was frogspawn in a ditch and a Buzzard careering through a gully. The conifer plantation behind the craigs was full of Siskins, Crossbills and other small birds. Plenty of Meadow Pipits and a few Stonechats were on the moors. A pair of Goosanders and two Grey Herons were on Black Linn Reservoir. Lower down, a pair of Mallards were on Greenland Reservoir and a collection of wildfowl including Mallard, Tufted Duck, Goldeneye, Mute Swan, Little Grebe and Moorhen were on Bowie Loch. A Common Toad on the forest floor (see photo below) and singing Chiffchaffs in the woods were notable. However the extensive farmland south of the craigs held little of interest, and there were no hirundines or Willow Warblers anywhere. The end of the walk was enlivened by another (or the same) pair of Ravens, this time in combat with a Buzzard.
The most unusual bird of the day was a Kestrel hunting under the floodlights of one of the Braehead carparks at dusk.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

A quick walk along the Cart this afternoon only produced the usual singing Chiffchaff. Two Goldfinches were in the Poplar trees along the railway line near the Cat and Dog Home. News from the web is that the satellite-tracked female Osprey is still taking her time (moving slowly through South East England) even though her mate is on territory in Moray. These studies are giving some fascinating insights into the bird's behaviour - the need for returning birds to feed up (to get into breeding condition) after arrival on territory, the patience (or otherwise) of early returners as they wait for their mates to arrive, the effects of weather on migration and so on).

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Today was one of those "four seasons in one day" kind of days with heavy rain and hailstones while driving through Glasgow, lying snow on the north side of the Fintry Hills and glorious sunshine in Aberfoyle. The trip ended at David Marshall Lodge where highlights were a pair of Siskins (see photo of male below) at the centre feeders and a Little Grebe on the pond. Later, a walk along the River Forth at Kirkton found a pair of Goosanders.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Two walks today - one around Craigend and Gallows ponds at Mugdock, the other along the Cart and around Rosshall Park. Highlights of the first were singing Chiffchaff and a couple of pairs of Greylag Geese. Notable records along the Cart included a pair of Mistle Thrushes seeing off a couple of Magpies and a Grey Wagtail hiding in the shelter of a waterside Willow.
The Loch of the Lowes Osprey pair have produced their first egg (being claimed by the SWT as the first of the year for Scotland although I notice that the Tweed Valley pair have also started to lay). Neither Loch Garten or the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park appear to have settled pairs yet. The Morayshire female is making slow progress through France.
On an unrelated topic, an article in today's Hexham Courant reports that a staggering fifteen and a half thousand Grey Squirrels have been killed in the Tynedale area of Northern England in the last 15 months in an attempt to save the Red Squirrel in the area.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Song Thrush, Blackbird, House Sparrow, Greenfinch, Wren and Dunnock all singing around the glade (but no Willow Warblers or Blackcaps as yet, and the Chiffchaff seems to have moved on). Highlight in the garden today was the visit of a pair of Greenfinches to the peanuts. Other news is that the frogspawn has hatched (including 2 red tadpoles).
Osprey news from the web is mixed: the satellite-tracked bird seems to be storm-bound in Western France, the female at Loch Garten seems not to have settled with a mate yet, but the pair at Loch of the Lowes are showing signs of being ready to lay.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

A Song Thrush dominated the dawn chorus again today.
A fascinating story is unfolding on the web with the satellite-tracked female Osprey only now moving through France after spending 12 days on the North coast of Spain. Many Ospreys are already back in Scotland but unable to nest because of lying snow. Perhaps she will prove to have made the right decision by delaying her return.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Today started with a noisy Song Thrush singing very close to the house, apparently undaunted by quite a sharp frost. On route to Greenock, a possible Peregrine swooped over the motorway north of Bishopton (very close to where I saw one once before). The drive home saw a number of Teal along the Bishopton stretch of the Clyde and a Common Buzzard perched on a roadside fence at North Commonside. Tea-time saw both male and female Chaffinch visiting the garden feeders. Later, a walk along the Cart turned up a pair of Goosanders along the Moulin stretch, a pair of Grey Wagtails at the Rosshall bend, a Moorhen at Rosshall Park pond and Grey Herons there and back on the river. The leucistic female Mallard and her normal mate seem to be prospecting for nest sites at Moulin.

Monday, April 07, 2008

A walk past Bingham Pond first thing found flowering Marsh Marigold, emerging Flag Irises and nest-building Coots. It really is a fantastic natural oasis in the city, and is now coming into its own after the bleakness of winter. This evening, the highlight in the garden was a male Chaffinch taking seed from the bird table.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

The overnight snow in west central Scotland (and indeed across the country) made for a bit of a rude awakening this morning. However it was all gone by lunchtime, replaced by cold, clear conditions. An afternoon walk to and through Pollock Park didn't turn up any unusual birds (no Chiffchaffs, hirundines etc), but there were plenty of Common Toads (including at least one pair) in the top pond. Bird highlights consisted of singing Goldfinches, a noisy Grey Heron and a calling Great spotted Woodpecker (in the stand of conifers between the Glade and Pollock). Plant highlights included Cuckoo Flower at various points along the river and a patch of Butterbur just over the Moulin bridge.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Part of a group of around 400 grey geese on the Kelvin floodplain (below).Lots of Pinkfeet and a few Greylags (below).
Male Yellowhammer (below).
Another good day walking the canals of central Scotland, this week the Forth and Clyde between Bishopbriggs and Kilsyth. The morning started with nesting Rooks beside Bishopbriggs Burn and squabbling House Sparrows near the sports centre (this seems to be a real strongold with almost every street thereabouts having singing birds). A singing Skylark near the start of the canal walk was the first of many heard today. Other singers were Robin, Wren, Dunnock, Chaffinch, Goldfinch (very numerous), Chiffchaff (at Cadder Bridge, Twechar and Kilsyth South Woods) and Yellowhammer (a single near Glasgow Bridge). Other notable bird sightings included a couple of calling Pheasants, a pair of Canada Geese on a pond near Kilsyth, around 400 grey geese (mostly Pinkfeet and a few Greylags) on the Kelvin floodplain near Torrance, a Cormorant perched in a tree over the canal and two Buzzards soaring over St Flanan (the only ones seen all day). Nesting birds included Rook, Jackdaw, Mute Swan, Pied Wagtail and Feral Pigeon. Interestingly, of 41 Mallard seen, 34 were drakes (presumably the females are mostly on eggs). Mammals included two Roe deer in the woods south of Kilsyth and a Mink on the canal bank between there and Twechar. Finally, two Peacock butterflies were along the stretch east of Kirkintilloch.

Friday, April 04, 2008

A quick lunchtime walk around Murdieston Park revealed far fewer birds than on previous occasions. However a pair of Mute Swans are nesting at the west end of the small dam and there is a small rookery (with 3 nests) on the easternmost border of the park.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

A possible calling Tawny Owl overnight was quite a surprise. Not so the Chiffchaff which was singing first thing from the same area where one sang all last Summer. Driving from Glasgow to Ayr, then to Greenock and then back to Glasgow turned up plenty of birds including displaying Buzzards, a couple of Grey Herons and two pairs of Mallards lurking in roadside fields. A brief stop at Portencross didn't find any Wheatears but produced a Purple Sandpiper feeding quietly in the "splash zone".
Ospreys are arriving back at their nests all over Scotland with reports flooding in, for instance, from Loch Garten, Loch of the Lowes, Loch Lomond, Loch Awe, Knapdale and Moray.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Managed a short walk along the Cart after work this evening (one of the benefits of the clocks going forward is the lighter evenings). Not much of note but a hidden songbird beside Bonnyholm Bridge could have been a Blackcap (I wish I could be more certain about identifying this species by song alone).

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Today's torrential rain came as quite a shock after yesterday's sunshine. However it doesn't seem to have deterred the summer migrants with Ospreys back at both Loch Garten and Loch of the Lowes, and Red throated Divers appearing on inland waters.