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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 31, 2008

Most of today was spent in Troon. A short walk along the seafront found 3 Swallows feeding just above the surface of the sea. In the afternoon, a walk through a damp Fullarton Woods turned up a few Swallows feeding overhead but little else.
News from the web is that 5 Spoonbills have appeared on St Mary's Isle south of Kirkudbright. Three of the group appear to be immatures (reported begging food). Given that a pair attempted to breed at Mersehead a couple of years ago, and given also that there are miles of suitable habitat nearby, local breeding seems possible.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Today started with around 25 House Martins wheeling and chattering over Dunchurch Road, Oldhall and ended with a Red Fox slinking across the road at Cardonald Park Farm railbridge. In between, most of the day was spent at Southerness in Dumfriesshire. Natural highlights were relatively few (a flock of Ringed Plovers plus a single Dunlin, drifts of flowering Sea Aster, dozens of Swallows lined up on wires) but it was still great to be out and about on a balmy, wind-free day [13,000].

Friday, August 29, 2008

The weather is settling again, after the heavy rain of late. This evening has been so humid it has felt positively balmy.
News from the web is that 5 Spoonbills are in Kirkudbright (to add to the two at Kinneil) and the long-staying Common Crane remains at Caerlaverock.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

A late start at work today allowed a leisurely walk along the waterfront from Gourock back to Greenock. Highlight was the juvenile Black throated Diver (which has been present for about a week) feeding off Battery Park. Nearby, an adult and juvenile Ringed Plover were on the shingle [13,000].

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

News from Skye is that 22 Brent Geese arrived in Broadford Bay yesterday. Meanwhile, lots of Greenshanks and Black tailed Godwits are filtering through central Scotland, and a Green Sandpiper has been located in the lade next to Ryatt Linn Reservoir (where I saw one over a month ago) [10,000].

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A very, very, very wet day today meant no natural connections apart from three geese flying near the airport at 7:30 am (my first of the autumn). Interestingly, the first internet goose sighting (4 Brent Geese at Belhaven Bay) also happened today [11,000].

Monday, August 25, 2008

Walked from Crookston back to the glade this evening, following the river most of the way. Remarkably, the only birds evident were a few Magpies, some over-flying gulls and a single Woodpigeon. Two Robins were singing near Howford Bridge but even they were hidden from view. No hirundines. No Sparrows. Nothing [10,000].

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Spent a bright afternoon wandering around Barrhead. In spite of the dry weather, there were few people about (where are they all?). Walked along a couple of stretches of the Levern Walkway. Crossing a small bridge, a Kingfisher flew directly under my feet. Later, a white dove in Cowan Park was a coincidence after yesterday's sightings [12,000].

Saturday, August 23, 2008


Today started with Swallows "scissorsing" over the houses in Linlithgow main street, as they must have done for hundreds of years. Most of the day was spent walking in the countryside south of Linlithgow. The first part of the walk was along the towpath of the Forth and Clyde Canal. Not many birds were about, but a dead shrew on the path, a pair of Mute Swans with 3 large young, and some Swallows entering an abandoned building were all notable. The second stage was along a tortuous footpath heading south beside the River Avon. Most interesting sightings were actually away from the river and included a dozen white doves (above) and 10 Swallows at the visitor centre, 3 Common Buzzards plus a single Kestrel over some fields, plenty of Rabbits and two Red Admirals. The third section led through farmland in the direction of Cockleroy. Highlights were four House Martins attending nests under the eaves of an old house, three more Buzzards (all very noisy) and a single Roe Deer. The most notable sighting of the final section, back along the canal, was a pair of Moorhens with two very young chicks (top) [35,000].

Friday, August 22, 2008

This afternoon's drive up the Clyde estuary revealed as many as 10 Grey Herons stalking the shallows opposite Langbank. The evening was spent in Drymen. The drive up was only notable for a single Swallow on a roadside wire. However 30 House Martins were over the village and a calm twilight at the Loch Lomond viewpoint was enlivened by a bat and a rabbit.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Clear blue skies today came as quite a shock after the rain of the last week. A lunchtime walk to the dams found even more Tufted Ducks and Coot than of late, plus lots of juvenile Lesser black backed Gulls. The Tufted Ducks are interesting. Some are all brown, but others have a pale blaze around the base of the bill. Some males are still (or back) in breeding plumage. Several today were quite tame, feeding close to the shore. However the majority stayed well out in the middle of the bigger of the two dams.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Hard to see any natural connections through constant, driving rain.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Rain, rain and more rain. The Scottish Osprey's have the right idea - a Moray bird was tracked crossing the Channel earlier today.

Monday, August 18, 2008

No naturalconnections today. However the web is reporting the arrival of skuas in the Forth and Clyde. This is an annual event - birds dispersing from their breeding colonies further north spend a few weeks in Scottish estuaries harassing terns and other seabirds before the latter head off for their wintering grounds in the southern oceans.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Walked from Pollockshaws to the Glade via Pollock Park this evening. Five Grey Herons were hunting together along a short stretch of drainage ditch in Pollock Park. The water mill there still had two active Swallow nests and a half-grown Mallard duckling was on the river. At least one Kingfisher sped along the stretch west of the weir [11,000].

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Spent a very pleasant afternoon walking the stretch of the West Highland Way between Tyndrum and Bridge of Orchy. Despite unpromising weather forecasts, we managed to avoid the rain, and even enjoyed some very welcome sunshine. The path was almost deserted (apart from the 18 of us), but bird sightings were also fairly limited. The car park at the "Green Welly" was full of House Sparrows and Chaffinches (including some tatty-looking juveniles). Once out of the village, the commonest bird was Meadow Pipit. Other common birds along the way included Chaffinch and Swallow (plus a single House Martin). Birding highlight was a Spotted Flycatcher feeding young in a conifer belt near Auch. Also there, up to three juvenile Grey Wagtails were on the river and two Swallows were attending a nest in the porch of a cottage. Other highlights along the way included flowering Lady's Mantle, Harebell, Devil's Bit Scabious, Heather and Thyme.


More Swallows and Chaffinches, plus at least two family parties of Pied Wagtails were at Bridge of Orchy. Nearby, a Hooded Crow was perched on a roadside wire [20,000].

Friday, August 15, 2008

A rare dry day today, although the threat of rain was never far away. In the evening, a young Red Fox padded along the path outside the glade [8,000].

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Another rainy day today, but the clouds parted long enough for a lunchtime walk around "the dams". The four Mute Swan young are now half-grown. Mallard numbers seem down but Tufted Duck and juvenile gull numbers are up [7,000].

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Walked from Paisley to the glade this evening. I have never known the area so quiet. In over an hour's walking, I saw half a dozen Swallows, a Woodpigeon, a few flyover gulls and nothing else. No sights or sounds. No Magpies. No Mallards. Not even the usual House Sparrows in the hedge at Moulin [10,000].

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A rainy afternoon required a trip over to Gartnavel Hospital for a meeting. Passing Bingham's Pond, noticed at least 2 juvenile Tufted Ducks, a Moorhen and three Mute Swans [9,000].

Monday, August 11, 2008

A lunchtime walk to Custom House Quay was notable for the paucity of birdlife on show. We really are in the summer doldrums now.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

After a night of heavy rain, a lunchtime walk along the Cart revealed very high water levels (although a quick check of Moulin playing field revealed no overflow at the usual place). Few birds were on the river but 2 Swallows were swooping over Linthaugh Park, 50 Lesser black backed Gulls were on Moulin playing field and a bat sp. was hunting over the river in the sunshine.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

The much-forecast rain finally arrived at Portnaluchaig at 2 am. Thereafter, wind and rain were the order of the day. A quick detour to Mallaig only provided Shag and Herring Gull around the harbour, plus singing House Sparrow nearby.
The drive home was only slightly spoiled by patchy rain. A stop at Tyndrum produced Blue Tit, Coal Tit, Robin, House Sparrow and 40 Chaffinches at the feeders outside the Real Food Cafe. Later, at Inveruglas, a Swallow was feeding young in a nest under the visitor centre canopy.

Friday, August 6th, 2008

Woke up to clear and sunny weather with excellent views of Rhum and Eigg (above). Walked around the campsite for a while (watching a pair of (?) Common Terns fishing and feeding a noisy juvenile) but spent most of the day out in the Wild Rover (below). Headed out towards Eigg and caught some Mackerel and a small Rock Cod (which went back in) beofore cruising around the "Welcome Rocks", watching Shags, Gannets, auks, gulls and terns.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

With the weather in the West of Scotland looking set to lift for a few days, drove north for a few nights camping at Portnaluchaig near Arisaig. On the way out of Glasgow, as many as 100 Swifts were feeding over the motorway at the airport. The journey was fairly uneventful apart from 4 Red Deer hinds and a dappled fawn near Beasdale. Arrived at the campsite as dusk fell, and set up the tent accompanied by rabbits and bats.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008


Another busy day, combined with wet weather, meant naturalconnections were thin on the ground. However noticed the Mute Swan flock at Langbank has now swollen to as many as 50.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

A damp evening with a hint of autumn. The Swifts certainly think so - 7 or 8 were screaming over Rosshall School and Crookston Hotel. Around 9 pm they formed a tight formation for a high-level pass. Meanwhile a female Mallard with two small young was on a boulder along the Moulin stretch of the Cart.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Took a walk along Greenock Esplanade after work. Lots of people were out walking but birdlife was limited. Three Curlews calling noisily as they flew over were the only highlight.
Later, a Buzzard was soaring low over West Ferry.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Had a good look around Rouken Glen Park this afternoon. The glen was very damp and there was no sign of any Dippers or Grey Wagtails. However two unusual calls which may have belonged to a Jay and a Sparrowhawk were notable. At the pond, the Mute Swan pair have three huge young. Over 100 Mallards included plenty of well-grown juveniles but one female was still escorting a half-grown duckling.
A walk along the burn in Eastwood Park failed to produce any interesting birds but nice to see a red-flowered Fuschia growing beside one of the bridges.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Spent the afternoon in Edinburgh and managed a quick walk up Arthur's Seat. The pair of Mute Swans on Dunsapie Loch now have six well-grown young. Best birds however were 2 Linnets near the summit.

The cover art for the newest New Naturalist has been released (see below):

Friday, August 01, 2008

The rain duly arrived at six o'clock this morning. It co-incided with my first sense this year that the summer is coming to an end and "the nights are drawing in". Someone said to me the change is always evident when the Glasgow Fair ends (which it did today). Ironic really, as the Paisley fair and many English summer holidays start tomorrow.