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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, July 31, 2008

Murky weather continues here in W-C-S. Forecast is for 10mm rain overnight.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

No natural connections today due to work pressures. News from the web is of continued wader passage and the beginnings of an influx of Little Gulls.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

What a difference from yesterday's sunshine - smirr then driving rain. Walked down to the esplanade, although there was little to see due to the conditions. Most notable find was a Great black backed Gull on the rocks.

Monday, July 28, 2008

The high summer weather in west central Scotland continued today with another warm, sunny day. A very quick walk around the Murdieston Dams at lunchtime was unremarkable except for substantial (presumed) post-breeding flocks of Mallard, Tufted Duck, Lesser black backed Gull and Black headed Gull.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Spent the afternoon in sunny Edinburgh. The day ended with a proper east coast haar. Back home, a Common Toad was hopping across the road in front of the house.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Had an early morning walk along the Cart as far as Leverndale Hospital. However there was very little about apart from a Moorhen along the Moulin stretch and a Common Toad crossing the path near the catering school. Later, three male Blackbirds, a Song Thrush and a Dunnock were feeding together on the back lawn. The Song Thrush took a black slug but the others may have been feeding on emerging winged ants. The long grass around the lawn is full of moths [10,000].

Friday, July 25, 2008

A glorious day today with warm winds and sunshine. Spent the afternoon walking in Mugdock Park. Bird sightings were very limited as they usually are at this time of year. There were a few squeaks and whistles in the woods but almost everything small and feathered was staying well hidden.
Out on the fields at the Kyber Path, four Swallows and two Pied Wagtails were on the wing, and a couple of Goldfinches buzzed from a stand of pines. On some of the rocky outcrops, Wild Thyme was in full flower. More colour was provided by Harebells, Knapweed, Devil's Bit Scabious and Foxgloves.
Mugdock Loch was covered with yellow water lillies and 27 eclipse Mallards (plus a white farmyard-type) languished in the shallows. Seventeen more Mallards were on Craigend Loch, including a female with one tiny duckling. A female Tufted Duck had 6 tiny young which were bobbing about like corks. Meanwhile a juvenile Grey Heron was lurking around the margins, a couple of Moorhens were squabbling out on the water and a Lesser black backed Gull was on the lookout for easy pickings.
Up at the visitor centre, a Swallow was attending two chicks in a nest under the entrance arch. Down at the dipping pond, blue and red damselflies were both in evidence, and the water lillies on the Gallows Pond were of the white species. A few Goldgrests were working the treetops nearby and two Buzzards were soaring over the field behind Craigton Castle. Finally, on the way back to the Kyber Path, a probable Sparrowhawk flashed across the path [10,000].

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Today started with a young Common Toad under a broken plant pot, found while dismantling the tent. The journey south was uneventful (although unusually warm and sunny) except for a Swallow visiting one of two nests in the entrance to Inveruglas Visitor Centre.
Back home, 3 or 4 Swifts were screaming high over the glade.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A quieter day today with damp weather still dominating. An evening walk produced several bats, a distant Tawny Owl and a Common Toad crawling across the road.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Today was taken up with a trip to Iona. This involved driving to Oban, a ferry to Craignure, a bus to Fionnphort and a ferry over to Iona, then the same in reverse. The weather was disappointing with virtually constant, smirry rain. However natural connections were in fairly liberal supply. First bird of note was a Short eared Owl flying along Glen More beside the bus (and being mobbed by some crows). This, disappointingly, turned out to be the only raptor of the trip – a fact no doubt due to the cloud base being at ground level and visibility being so poor that Iona did not come into view until we were half-way across the sound.
Iona itself did not disappoint. First birds seen (apart from a Greater black backed Gull on the beach) were a pair of Ravens. Then, walking through the village, the first Corncrake of the day was heard calling loudly from a neglected meadow. This set the pattern for the day. Wherever fields (or even patches of fields) had been left to grow wild, Corncrakes were calling. Altogether 13 were located within half a mile of the village. Other highlights of the walk north from the village included a flock of 20 Twite, nesting House Sparrows, juvenile Wheatears and assorted finches (including Linnet). The walk south from the village was less productive but turned up Rabbit, more Corncrakes and juvenile Wheatears, more nesting House Sparrows and a family party of four Sedge Warblers.
All too soon it was time to head back to Oban. This had been my third visit to Iona. It is a place which seems to call you back, and I am already looking forward to my next visit.
Crossing over from Iona, the boat disturbed a feeding flock of some 40 or so Shags. Then a short wait at Fionnphort enabled four more Greater black backs, a couple of Rock Pipits and one or two Hooded Crows to be picked up. The journey back through Mull was again lost in low cloud with only a few Swallows, Grey Herons, Eider and three Rock Doves emerging from the gloom. The ferry journey was a little better with six Black Guillemots along the coast at Duart Castle, some unidentified seals on Lady’s Isle and five Gannets in mid channel.

Monday, July 21, 2008

One of the first birds of the day was a Raven flying (and croaking) high over the tent. Later, a short trip to Oban
was notable only for flocks of marauding gulls robbing the tourists of their chip suppers. Back at Benderloch a juvenile Blackbird was perched on the roadside.
The afternoon was spent on a very long walk through the forest from Barcaldine on Loch Creran to Achnaba on Loch Etive. Best records were crippling views of first one then a second Pine Marten crossing the forestry tracks. Both were less than 50 metres ahead and the first individual stood up on its hind paws to get a better look at me.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The local chickens ensured an early start to the day. Other birds joining the chorus included Great spotted Woodpecker, House Sparrow (carrying food), Pied Wagtail, Robin, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Blue Tit, Swallow, 20 Jackdaws and two Willow Warblers. Later, a trip to
Ardmucknish beach produced a preening Red throated Diver, a Grey Heron and 20 Oystercatchers. An evening walk around Seabank woods produced little of note (except a Roe Deer from the car). However extending the walk as far as Eriska Bridge added three Buzzards, Linnet, Goldfinch, Chaffinch, 5 Siskins, 20 Swallowsand 3 juvenile Stonechats.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Spent much of today driving to Benderloch, Argyll with stops at Luss, Crianlarich, Tyndrum and Oban. Lots of people at Luss meant few birds apart from a pair of Mute Swans and 40 hungry Mallards. Crianlarich was much quieter and a Swallow there was putting the finishing touches to its nest at the "Rod and Reel". Along at Tyndrum, 2 Siskins, 2 Greenfinches and around 10 Chaffinches were vising the feeders at the "Real Food Cafe". The rest of the journey was uneventful except that at some point the Carrion Crows turned into Hoodies.

Sitting at the door of the tent in Benderloch with the hills of Ardgour and Glencoe in the distance was a delight. Birds around the fields in the foreground included 2 Collared Doves, 20 Hooded Crows, a Song Thrush and a Buzzard. Later, a short walk along the lanes to the noth west produced another Buzzard, calling Tawny Owl and Curlew, a curious Weasel (which was tempted out of cover by squeaking noises), around 10 Swallows, fruiting Raspberries and banks of flowering Honeysuckle.

Friday, July 18, 2008

A rainy day today, but an afternoon walk along the Cart and Levern Water turned up a number of interesting sightings. There was a Sand Martin over the river at Pollock and some flowering Cornflowers beside the fence along Brockburn Road. A half-grown, leucistic juvenile Mallard was struggling up the Cart beside the Moulin weir and a juvenile Jackdaw was begging for food on the playing fields there. Best of all was a singing male Whitethroat, again, at Cardonald Place Farm. It seemed to have disappeared over the past month but is present again very close to where it had set up territory before [18,000].

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Walked from the Glade to Ferguslie in Paisley today. The pond at Ferguslie (above) is surprisingly natural-looking. Today it held 25 Mallards, a Mute Swan with 1 cygnet, a Moorhen and (on the drainage channel) a Grey Heron. Elsewhere, 2 Blackcaps and 2 Chiffchaffs were in song, and 2 male Whitethroats were having a song-duel at Hawkhead Estate Park. Finally, a Kingfisher was along the Cart at Howford Bridge.
This afternoon a Weasel scampered over the road at Kilwinning [19,000].

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Spent some time exploring Boden Boo, Erskine Harbour and the Clyde Walkway this morning. Highlights included a singing male Reed Bunting in the reeds at the harbour and 7 apparently occupied House Martin nests on north wall of the Erskine Hotel (10,000).

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Most notable records from this morning's B.I.G. survey included two singing Blackcaps and a Moorhen along the "nursery stretch" of the Cart (just outside the recording area). This afternoon and evening were spent in Stirlingshire. Not many natural connections about except for notable concentrations of House Martins around farm buildings on Kippen Muir and in Drymen.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Spent the afternoon walking along the Cart as far as Pollock House and back. Noticed a Mink on a log just east of the M77 bridge, then 1 leucistic female Mallard with 3 tiny young, a juvenile Grey Wagtail, a Kingfisher and a Sand Martin near the weir. On the way back home, a Grey Heron was over the river and a female Mallard was leading a newly-hatched brood of 8 ducklings 200m east of the first bridge (17,000).

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Spent much of today in Troon. A short trip to the beach produced a noisy Sandwich Tern. Later, a walk in Fullarton Woods produced two singing Chiffchaffs but little else apart from a variety of unidentified "little brown jobs" in the treetops (6,000).

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Spent most of the day walking in East Lothian. Terrain consisted of a mixture of farmland, upland (Traprain Law) and lowland river (River Tyne). Bird highlights included breeding Tree Sparrow and Skylark in farmland, Wheatear, Stonechat and Linnet on Traprain Law and Grey Wagtail, Grey Heron, Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Sedge Warbler and Bullfinch along the Tyne (plus lots of Yellowhammers, Goldfinches, Swallows, House Martins and Swifts). Other sightings included a couple of Rabbits and some Teasel plants (23,000).

Friday, July 11, 2008

Little in the way of natural connections today due to pressure of work. News from the web is that quite a few returning waders have started to pass through (putting my Common Sandpiper and possible Green Sandpiper of the last week in context).

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Heavy rain last night led to flooding on Arran and in the Borders. The Cart was in full spate and a rich brown colour this evening. The juvenile Mallards upstream from the first bridge have now banded together - there were 23 in one group alone. A Goldfinch was singing from the top of a tree next to Rosshall School. Earlier, the Mute Swan flock was close-in at Langbank [12,000].

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Not such a good day for natural connections, the overcast conditions seeming to have driven everything into cover. However Swifts were still feeding avidly around the glade and the House Martins in Oldhall were equally busy.
News from the web is that the first eight Goldeneye are back at Langbank [11,000].

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

A glorious day (between the thunderstorms) in west central Scotland. Drove to Kilmaurs via Largs, noticing a fishing Gannet at Meigle Bay and a male Kestrel at Auchenharvie Castle on the way. In the evening, Reshank, Scentless Mayweed and Marigold were flowering on wasteground at Linthouse and at 10:30, bats were crossing paths with Swifts over the Cart [11,000].

Monday, July 07, 2008

This evening's walk along the Cart was remarkable for a site first - a Common Sandpiper along the stretch just upstream of Howford Bridge. Other highlights included a Kingfisher, Grey Wagtail, Grey Heron, probable Dipper and Roe Deer beside the Brock Burn, the family of Mallards with the leucistic juvenile now three-quarters grown near Rosshall Park and two more Kingfishers along the river at Rosshall School [11,000].

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Managed to squeeze in two walks between the showers today. The first was from Linthaugh to the Glade. Highlights were several broods of well-grown Mallard ducklings (5, 5 and 6 - the latter with a leucistic female), three juvenile Black headed Gulls and three juvenile Woodpigeons with adults on Linthaugh playing fields, and a singing Whitethroat seen well at Linthaugh swing park (the first I've seen there). No sign of the "usual" male at the first bridge for a few weeks now - perhaps he has relocated.
The second walk was a longer one, from Kilbarchan to Parkhill Woods and back. Highlights were three singing Yellowhammers, three singing Blackcaps (all seen well), other singers including Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, probable Whitethroat, Wren, Blackbird and Skylark, a soaring Buzzard and Kestrel, two Hares and a profusion of wild flowers including Fox and Cubs, Valerian, Blue Vetch, St John's Wort, Greater Reedmace, Wild Geranium, Wild Raspberries and Wild Strawberries The pictures below show a view of Castle Semple Loch near the Collegiate Church and some wildflowers along the cycle track [21,000].



Saturday, July 05, 2008

Spent the middle of the day exploring the new country park at Waulkmill Glen, between Darnley and Balgray Reservoir. The three hours were packed with natural connections, the highlights of which were as follows:
Birds: a pair of Bullfinches just beneath Balgray Dam; a possible Green Sandpiper in the lade channel beside Ryat Linn; two reeling Grasshopper Warblers at the foot of the glen; up to 4 Sedge Warblers (and 3 Whitethroats) including an adult carrying food; two Mallard ducks with small young (one, a leucistic bird, was trying to coax a brood of 5 ducklings up one of the lade steps); displaying Great crested Grebes; 3 juvenile Herons and hovering Kestrel and Buzzard. Other ones that got away included 4 wagtails overhead which may have been Grey, a possible Dipper and a possible Spotted Flycatcher.
Non-birds: a Rabbit; a Roe Deer; a dead Common Toad; good numbers of butterflies (browns) and masses of flowering plants including Purple spotted and Lesser Butterfly Orchids on the reservoir banking, Knapweed, Ragged Robin and fruiting Wild Raspberries in the scrubby areas and Honeysuckle in the woods [16,000].

Friday, July 04, 2008

A wonderful, balmy evening meant a trip to the family outpost in Drymen. It was one of those "read the newspaper at 11 o'clock" kind of nights with parties of screaming Swifts straffing the pub-goers and twittering House Martins visiting their nests in the village houses. Lots of bats and a probable Barn Owl helped speed the journey home.
News from the web is that a pair of Choughs have successfully bred on Rathlin Island for the second year running. Also, there is evidence of a significant Crossbill irruption and Little Gulls and Green Sandpipers are moving down the East coast [9,000].

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Motorway birds at teatime included a Grey Heron over the Bishopton bend and a Cormorant over the White Cart viaduct. Later, three Mistle Thrushes and a screaming Swift were in a rainy Craigton [13,000].

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Had an interesting walk this evening, following the Cart as far as Hawkhead Estate, then returning via the Hurlet and Crookston Road. Took a detour through Hawkhead Woodland - what a wonderful spot (apart from the traffic noise) - a great swathe of farmland and woodland with views to the Renfrewshire heights and Neilston Pad. Heard a Buzzard and glimpsed a Great spotted Woodpecker there. Elsewhere, a Grasshopper Warbler was reeling from the grassland in Leverndale grounds, one or two Sedge Warblers were singing in the marshy area north of Hawkhead Estate Park football pitch and the first Wild Raspberries were out in Crookston Wood [17,000].

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Took a walk around Arkleston farm this morning - it really is a hidden gem. Highlights were up to 5 singing Yelowhammers (most around the farm buildings at North Arkleston, but also one near South Arkleston), up to 5 singing Skylarks, up to 30 Swifts (feeding around one of the singing Sylarks and over the trees in the cemetery), up to 30 Swallows (including around 20 gathered together on wires) and 4 House Martins. Walked home via the "wildflower meadow" behind Selviland Road. Again, another neglected corner. Long may they both remain forgotten and undeveloped [14,000].