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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, October 30, 2008

A second day spent in a cold but sunny Central Scotland. More flocks of geese were overhead and a flock of around 80 Fieldfares was over farmland. Later, a dead Otter was beside the M9 at junction 9.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A work-related trip to the Forth village of Airth provided some interesting natural connections including multiple skeins of Pink footed Geese flighting up from the estuary, twittering Goldfinches in the castle car park, a Great spotted Woodpecker in the tree opposite the hotel reception and a hovering Kestrel at the start of the M73.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Four Mute Swans (3 ads and a juvenile) were on the floods at Candrens Road. Buzzards were over Lochwinnoch and on wires near Lugton. Most remarkable were three Swallows feeding around Ayrshire Central Hospital in Irvine.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The top of Ben Lomond had a light dusting of snow today - the first I have seen this year. Weather reports predict a wintry few days. On the way to Ayr this evening, a Buzzard was soaring over the Hunterstoun roundabout and 50 Lapwings were in a tight flock over Bogside.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Walked from the glade to Netherauldhouse via Pollock Park this morning. Highlights were a Treecreeper near the M77 flyover and the Nuthatch, again, in the walled garden (below).Saturday, October 25, 2008

Another day of torrential rain. The Cart had seeped over its banks in one or two places but is still a foot or so lower than the high point a few weeks ago.

Friday, October 24, 2008

An early morning meeting at the Beatson meant passing the pond in semi-darkness. Still managed to make out 4 Goosanders among the other wildfowl and a Grey Heron lurking in the shallows. Also managed to connect with one of the Nuthatches later in the day. It really is a striking little bird, and a welcome addition to the south-west Glasgow scene.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Severe gales and heavy rain were the order of the day in west central Scotland today. A dead Badger on the M8 near the Erskine off ramp was a sad end.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

News from the web is that Whooper Swans are now well in locally (although still moving down the Ayrshire coast) and a Nuthatch is showing well at Pollock Country Park.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The gale force winds of the past few days have resulted in many "waifs and strays" reaching the British Isles. The phenemenon seems even to have reached Inverclyde with a couple of unexpected visitors noted during a quick walk around Murdieston Park this lunchtime. Most notable were 15 Goosander swimming and fishing together on the top pond. They were very nervous and at one point, all 15 dived in unison. Nearby, a single Pochard has arrived to join the Tufted Ducks. Also of note, the 'new' pair of Mute Swans seem to have 'adopted' two of this year's cygnets - both dams now holding two adults and two juveniles.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Fifty Starlings were flying in formation over Cardonald this afternoon. Later, a Coal Tit was visiting a seed dispenser in Drymen.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The gale-force winds hit the Western Isles today, and were still quite strong by the time they reached the glade this afternoon. News from the web is of late Swallows and early Waxwings, both in D&G.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Predictions of severe gales over the next two days meant an earlier-than-intended return to the mainland. The crossing was actually quite pleasant with Gannets and the occasional Kittiwake for company, and distant views of the Torridan hills. The drive down to Glasgow was notable for Grey Heron and Buzzard in Ullapool, a Red Kite over the road at Tore and 20 or more Rabbits grazing under street lamps in the middle of the Dunblane/Doune roundabout on the A9.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Most of today was spent doing the most ambitious walk of the week – 10 miles over rough country from the outskirts of Tolsta to Sgiogarstaigh. Thankfully the weather was good, because conditions underfoot were quite a challenge. Bird life was fairly scant (not surprisingly) but there were good views of Red Grouse (see first picture below) and Raven. The scenery was very rugged and eerily empty (not a sign of human life, apart from some deserted shielings, in over 6 hours walking).
Eventually Sgiogarstaigh came into view. It is the south eastern corner of Ness, which is the most densely populated rural area in Europe. Satellite views show a maze of crofts laid out across whole swathes of land. From the ground, it is a fascinating mix of habitats. In one roadside field, around 100 Lapwings and 100 Starlings were feeding with around 30 Golden Plovers (second picture below) and masses of Rabbits (including lots of black ones). Further north, at the Butt of Lewis, only Shags, Gannets and the ubiquitous Hooded Crows braved the elements.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The early morning was spent exploring Traigh Ghioradall, the beautiful, sandy beach passed earlier in the week. The views along to Tolsta Head were particularly impressive (see below). Later, a tour of west coast sites turned up a juvenile Marsh Harrier near the Callanish stone circles (see second picture below), plenty of Greylag Geese and a family of Whooper Swans on roadside lochs (third picture), two Redwings and two Stonechats north of Arnol, and dramatic seascapes at every turn (fourth picture).

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A sunny early morning meant a walk over the moors to Tolsta head. The view back to Traigh Ghioradall was stunning (see first picture) as was the view of the head itself (second picture). The walk turned up lots of good records including three Barnacle Geese overhead, patrolling Raven (picture 3), some interesting pondweed (4&5) and an unusual fungus species (picture 6). Later in the day, a walk in the Lews Castle grounds turned up 7 Grey Herons fishing together.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Today was spent driving from the glade to Ullapool. Hundreds of Pink footed Geese along Strathallen were the highlight of the trip, but Buzzard and Kestrel were also regularly seen.

Monday, October 13, 2008

A chaotic day at work, so no natural connections. News from the hebrides is that Greenland / Iceland / Arctic Redpolls have arrived.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

A midday walk along the Levern Water didn't turn up anything remarkable (except for much-reduced water levels). The conifers at the North edge of Crookston Wood were full of squeaking Goldcrests.
Some Swallows are still being reported around the southern half of Scotland. However there are also widespread reports of wintering Whooper Swans.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

A welcome break from the recent rain permitted a trip over to Mugdock Park. The main change from the last visit is that three female/subadult Goosanders have arrived on Mugdock Loch. There were at least three parties of Long tailed Tits in the woods, but otherwise all was eerily quiet. Heading back over the Clyde, a Buzzard was spiralling over Duntocher and two more were over fields just after the motorway merge.
A later trip along the motorway, just as dusk fell, found a Kestrel alighting on a lampost at Hillington. Back home, a Red Fox crossed the bridge road at 10pm.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Took a walk along the Cart this evening, to see the effects of the recent deluge. The river has broken through at two points along the Moulin stretch. Three Mistle Thrushes were on the playing fields and two Song Thrushes were in the woods.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

No time even to draw breath today - so natural connections have had to be virtual ones. News from the RSPB is that Bittern numbers were substantially up this year - with 20 sites (up 66% from 2007) now hosting a total of at least 39 nests (up 44% from 2007). Other news is of more Chiffchaffs, presumably identified by song. Still can't find out if this autumn singing is a new phenomenon.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Two White's Thrushes (in Cleveland and on Shetland) and a Willow Flycatcher in Cornwall (among a smattering of american passerines) were the highlights of what appears to have been a fantastic day for rare migrants.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Highlight of a rain-soaked day in Greenock was a Chiffchaff singing loudly (and repeatedly dipping its tail) as it fed in the bushes outside the office windows. Although I know that the species is now very common all year, I can't remember singing birds being such a feature of previous autumns.

Monday, October 06, 2008

A morning spent working at the dining room table was brightened up by the visits of 4 Blue Tits, 4 Great Tits, a Coal Tit, a Robin, A Dunnock and 4 Feral Pigeons. Heard more Redwings overhead and a Mistle Thrush was scolding a Magpie in the treetops. Later, single Buzzards were at Fairlie and over Monkton roundabout.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

A sunny day in Troon, but only managed brief stops at Barassie beach and the harbour. Plenty of Eider, Ringed Plover, Shag and Oystercatcher around the latter. News from the web is that a late pair of Swallows were feeding young in a nest on Castle Douglas High Street on Friday.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Woke up this morning to an unfamiliar sound - heavy rain on the rooftops in the glade. Headed east and eventually arrived at Barns Ness. The weather was really horrendous there, but a single juvenile Dunlin among the Turnstones and a single juvenile Kittiwake among the Black headed Gulls were just discernible through the driving rain. Later, a rainy St Abb's Head had a Grey Wagtail near a group of farm buildings, 4 Shags feeding in the harbour and snowy-white Gannets braving the winds offshore. Back at the glade, a walk along the Cart revealed very high water levels, a flock of Starlings and a Mistle Thrush squabbling over a Rowan tree and overhead, my first two Redwings of the winter.

Friday, October 03, 2008

First natural connection of the day (apart from waking up to a second consecutive frosty morning) was the usual Buzzard in the first Finlaystone meadow. Presumably the same bird was still there when I passed again 10 hours later. In between, a lunchtime walk around Murdieston Park found the family of Mute Swans on the top dam for the first time. The visiting Mute Swan pair (and accompanying Whooper) were on the bank, looking very nervous. It gave me a chance to confirm that none of the "new" swans are ringed. The day ended at 1 am with a Red Fox diving for cover outside the glade.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Awoke to the first frost of the winter in the glade. It came as quite reassuring after what has been a very strange summer.
Little time for natural connections today, but two huge flocks of corvids (c150 and c100, mostly Jackdaws) over Todholm, Paisley at 6:30 pm were interesting.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

A plethora of naturalconnections today began with a single Buzzard over Longhaugh and a second bird on the ground in the first Finlaystone meadow. A lunchtime walk around Murdieston Dam turned up the usual suspects (the Whooper Swan is still there, and still playing "gooseberry" with the Mute Swan pair), but a Grey Heron on the smaller dam was my first for the site. Heading home, the Finlaystone meadow Buzzard was still dodging the sheep and 20 geese were overhead, dropping down towards the estuary at Erskine.