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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, April 30, 2009

The Willow Warbler which has been acting as our living alarm clock all week was showing itself first thing at the top of a Birch tree opposite the house. Next stop of the day was Bingham's Pond where the Tufted Ducks were displaying and the Coots were bickering as usual.
Tonight, a walk around Hawkhead Woodland, just as the sun was setting, turned up a reeling Grasshopper Warbler, a Red Fox, a Buzzard and four Roe Deer [29 bird species in total].
The big news from the web is that a pair of Ospreys have laid eggs at Caerlaverock, the first pair to nest in Dumfriesshire in 200 years [17,947].

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The usual lunchtime walk around Murdieston Dams was notable for a brood of 9 Mallard ducklings. Meanwhile Mute Swans and Coots are sitting tight - presumably on eggs.
News from the web is of a Corncrake calling near Largs (ayrshirebirding).

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A meeting in rural Renfrewshire this morning produced singing Yellowhammer and Willow Warbler, plus Swallow, Jackdaw and House Sparrow, all in the 30 seconds it took to cross the car park.

Monday, April 27, 2009

A damp drive to Inveraray produced next to nothing on the way. However the town centre was alive with small birds (Siskin, Geenfinch, Goldfinch, Chaffinch, House Sparrow and at least three pairs of Collared Doves).
Driving back via Glen Fruin turned up Wheatear and Grey Wagtail plus a distant Cuckoo (my first of the year).

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Today was the day of the first TTC of the breeding season. Highlights of a two hour walk between 7:30 and 9:30 were:
A pair of Bullfinches feeding under ornamental cherries between some blocks of tenements
Plenty of singing Willow Warblers and Blackcaps (with a few Chiffchaffs)
Both Grey Heron and Cormorant along the Cart
Local scarcities including Goldcrest, Mistle Thrush, Siskin and Bullfinch.
Among the missing species were Collared Dove, Treecreeper, Grey and Pied Wagtails, Sparrowhawk, Kingfisher and Whitethroat.
Later in the day, walked home from Netherauldhouse through Pollock Country Park. Highlights along the way were Great spotted Woodpecker at the PCP feeders (but no Nuthatch), Sand Martins and Swallows along the river there and my first Mallard duckling of the year.
The final weekend total was 59, with the following species added today: Goosander, Great spotted Woodpecker, Sand Martin, Mistle Thrush, Goldcrest, Long tailed Tit, Rook, Bullfinch and Siskin [21,644].

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Walked from Erskine Golf Club to Longhaugh Point and back this morning. Non-birding highlights were my first Orange-Tip of the spring (there were others in the garden and along the Cart later in the day), a few Rabbits here and there and flowering Comfry, Mustard Garlic, Cuckoo Flower and Sweet Cicely. Birding highlights were many, but included my first Sedge Warbler, Grasshopper Warbler and Sandwich Tern of the year, passage birds in the form of Black tailed Godwits, Dunlin (moulting into summer plumage), Ringed Plover and four White Wagtails, and notable residents in the form of Shelduck, Buzzard, Linnet and Skylark. Most intriguing sighting was of a Wheatear along one of the field edges, in almost exactly the same spot where I saw one last time I visited the site.
Later in the day, a walk along the Cart and Brock Burn produced two male Blackcaps singing loudly (and one showing well).
Total bird count for the day was 50 (Greylag Goose, Shelduck, Mallard, Cormorant, Shag, Pheasant, Grey Heron, Buzzard, Oystercatcher, Lapwing, Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Curlew, Redshank, Black-tailed Godwit, Moorhen, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Sandwich Tern, Feral Pigeon, Woodpigeon, Skylark, Meadow Pipit, White Wagtail, Swallow, Wren, Dunnock, Robin, Wheatear, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Grasshopper Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Magpie, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Greenfinch and Linnet) [14,948].

Friday, April 24, 2009

Really too busy for natural connections today. However the mild weather continues, so here's hoping for the weekend. News from the web is that Waxwings are still about but most summer migrants now arrived (only the Swifts and one or two others to come).

Thursday, April 23, 2009

A milder start to the day. A lunchtime walk around Murdieston Dams found Mute Swans and Coots on nests, and a pair of Grey Wagtails flitting around the smaller reservoir. Later, a Buzzard was thermalling over Longman Point.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Another frosty start unfortunately gave way to a day of road casualties. A big Red Fox was still lying on the verge at Finlaystone where it appeared on Monday. Meanwhile, workmen were removing the body of a Roe Deer from the motorway next to the airport. Finally, a dead Barn Owl was beside the eastbound stretch between the Erskine turnoff and the Bishopton flyover.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Today started with two Willow Warblers singing loudly from opposite ends of the glade. Unfortunately, no more time for natural connections. However news from the web is of Pied Flycatcher, Redstart, Tree Pipit, Grasshopper Warbler and Cuckoo all in locally.

Monday, April 20, 2009

A frosty start to the day again, but the sun wasn't long in melting it all away. An evening walk along the Cart turned up nothing exceptional, although the Wild Garlic is now in flower and three pairs of Long tailed Tits were blowing raspberries in the woods.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

A completely still and cloudless night dawned to reveal quite a significant frost. However the sun soon dispelled that, and the rest of the day was warm and bright.
Last bird for Strathspey was a singing Dunnock outside the Mountain Cafe. Next stop was SWT Loch of the Lowes where the highlights were a male Yellowhammer feeding quietly under one of the bird feeders, and a pair of Long tailed Ducks diving energetically among the Tufties and Goldeneyes. Later, in the centre of Dunkeld, 10 Goosanders were on the Tay, four Sand Martins were straffing the old bridge and a single House Martin was visiting a nest on Main Street.
The drive home went through the Sma' Glen where a Willow Warbler was singing and a Grey Heron flew overhead.
The total bird count for today was 30, consisting of Canada Goose, Goosander, Mallard, Long tailed Duck, Goldeneye, Tufted Duck, Little Grebe, Great crested Grebe, Coot, Grey Heron, Pheasant, Oystercatcher, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Sand Martin, Swallow, House Martin, Robin, Dunnock, Blackbird, Willow Warbler, Goldcrest, Great Tit, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, House Sparrow, Greenfinch , Chaffinch, Siskin and Yellowhammer . Canada Goose, Long tailed Duck, Tufted Duck, Great crested Grebe, Coot, Sand Martin, Swallow, House Martin and Dunnock were all weekend firsts, taking the weekend total to 56 (Greylag Goose, Canada Goose, Goosander, Teal, Mallard, Long tailed Duck, Goldeneye, Tufted Duck, Little Grebe, Great crested Grebe, Grey Heron, Coot, Pheasant, Buzzard, Osprey, Kestrel, Capercaillie, Ptarmigan, Oystercatcher, Lapwing, Curlew, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Feral Pigeon, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Great spotted Woodpecker, Pied Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, Sand Martin, Swallow, House Martin, Meadow Pipit, Dipper, Wren, Robin, Dunnock, Wheatear, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Blackbird, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff , Goldcrest, Long tailed Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, Rook, House Sparrow, Starling, Greenfinch , Chaffinch, Siskin and Yellowhammer, but not including Crossbill sp. and possible Crested Tit).

Saturday, April 18, 2009

An early rise allowed a dawn visit to RSPB Loch Garten. As the sun came up, the male Osprey was being harrassed by some Carrion Crows, a Great spotted Woodpecker and some Siskins visited the bird feeders and a single male Capercaillie gave brief views in the distance.

The rest of the day was spent walking the northern corries from Cairngorm to Lurcher's Crag (see photos). Birding highlights were few but spectacular with 3 Ptarmigan squabbling on the near-sheer walls of one of the corries.

The full bird list for the day was Greylag Goose, Mallard, Goldeneye, Buzzard, Osprey, Kestrel, Capercaillie, Ptarmigan, Lapwing, Feral Pigeon, Woodpigeon, Great spotted Woodpecker, Meadow Pipit, Wheatear, Mistle Thrush, Blackbird, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff , Goldcrest, Coal Tit, Carrion Crow, Starling, Greenfinch , Siskin and Yellowhammer. Eight species were new for the trip (Kestrel, Capercaillie, Ptarmigan, Feral Pigeon, Great spotted Woodpecker, Meadow Pipit, Wheatear and Mistle Thrush), taking the weekend total to 47.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Main event of the day was a walk through the Sluggan pass and back via Glenmore and the lochside. Before that, popped down to Loch Garten for displaying Goldeneye, and also noticed some House Sparrows entering nest holes in Duakbridge. Later, on route to the main walk, a Buzzard attempted to lift a Red Squirrel from the road near Kincardine Mains.
The walk through the Sluggan Pass was notable for a single Crossbill sp and a possible Crested Tit singing from an area of dead trees. The descent to the lochside gave marvellous views (see below) and a stop at Glenmore produced numerous Siskins coming to bird feeders.
The day ended with a nice walk through Dell Woods, enjoying the "dusk chorus". Bird total for the day was only a modest 20 (excluding the crossbill sp and Crested Tit), consisting of Mallard, Goldeneye, Grey Heron, Buzzard, Black-headed Gull, Woodpigeon, Pied Wagtail, Dipper, Wren, Robin, Song Thrush, Blackbird, Goldcrest, Long tailed Tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Jackdaw, House Sparrow, Chaffinch and Siskin. However in amongst that total were four new species for the trip: Wren, Blackbird, Goldcrest and Long tailed Tit (bringing the weekend total to 39).

Looking south over Loch Morlich to the northern corries - site of Saturday's walk.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

First bird of this year's Strathspey "weekend" was a Chiffchaff singing outside the bedroom window at 06:45. The trip north was relatively uneventful, but a number of stops in Strathspey produced plenty of good sightings. The Ruthven area held Buzzard, Rabbit, Lapwing and Curlew while the Insh Marshes had Teal, Roe Deer and a flyover Osprey. Later, Broomhill Bridge held Dipper and Grey Wagtail, Boat of Garten held Goldeneye and Aviemore, a flock of Siskins. Two Oystercatchers were on the roof of a cottage in the Dell of Abernethy and a long day ended with a Curlew bubbling at Badanfhuarain.
Bird total by the end of the day was 35, with the full list being: Greylag Goose, Goosander, Teal, Mallard, Goldeneye, Little Grebe, Grey Heron, Pheasant, Buzzard, Osprey, Oystercatcher, Lapwing, Curlew, Black-headed Gull, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Pied Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, Dipper, Robin, Song Thrush, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff , Blue Tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, Rook, House Sparrow, Starling, Greenfinch , Chaffinch, Siskin, Yellowhammer.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A Mallard duck with six ducklings was reported from Ayrshire this morning (ayrshirebirding).

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

An evening walk along the Cart to Paisley and back via Hawkhead Woodland turned up all sorts of surprises including my first Blackcap and Swallow of the year (at the Leverndale Gate and just north of St Andrew's School respectively), a rare singing Yellowhammer in fields behind Crookston, a 'peep'ing Great spotted Woodpecker at Hawkhead Woodland and 3 late Goosanders along the Crookston bend of the Cart. Altogether 28 species were seen (or heard) as follows: Goosander, Mallard, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Feral Pigeon, Woodpigeon, Swallow, Pied Wagtail, Great spotted Woodpecker, Wren, Dunnock, Robin, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Goldcrest, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Long tailed Tit, Magpie, Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, Starling, Chaffinch, Goldfinch and Yellowhammer.
The Bluebells in Rosshall Park woods are coming into flower and Cuckoo Flowers are out in force at the bridge before Hawkhead Park.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Spent most of the day in Mugdock Park, recording a fair number of birds including a showy Goldcrest, a Greylag Goose bizarrely sitting on the ramparts of Craigend Castle and my first Willow Warblers of the year. At least eight of the latter were singing around the northern section of the park - more than I have heard there before, and outnumbering the three Chiffchaffs also noted. Also of interest was a clump of Marsh Marigold in flower next to the Craigend Pond outflow.
Managed to add four new species to my square count for Mugdock Visitor Centre: Woodpigeon, Pied Wagtail, Goldcrest and Mistle Thrush.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Another day, another Kingfisher! This time just half a mile from the glade. After months bemoaning the fact that they seemed to have deserted the area, three have turned up in the last week.
Little else of note on the walk along the Brock Burn / Cart corridors today except for two local Chiffchaffs - at the woods northwest of Crookston Castle and at the east entrance to Rosshall Park. Also, the Feral Pigeon nest in Crookston Castle now contains two well-grown squabs and an untidy Jackdaw's nest has appeared close by.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Biggest surprise of the day was a thin film of ice on the car windscreen first thing. What followed was a glorious day with near 180 degrees of cloudless blue skies.
First trip out was a quick spin round Arkleston Farm. A couple of Skylarks were in song but there was no sound or sign of any Yellowhammers.
Later, walked from the Botanic Gardens to Kelvingrove Park (and back) along the Kelvin Walkway, seeing a Kingfisher, a Grey Wagtail, a Grey Heron and a possible Dipper.
The cherry tree in the front garden is in full flower and looking like a foam bath.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Walked up the Old Gartmore Road out of Drymen this afternoon. Lots of birds in evidence including a Grey Wagtail on the burn, Pied Wagtails and Meadow Pipits in the fields and the ubiquitous Chaffinches just about everywhere. Heading west from there produced lovely views to Loch Lomond plus Pheasant, Goldfinch and possible Sparrowhawk.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Nothing to report on a rainy round trip to Greenock today. Two days ago, the highlight was a single Lapwing over the motorway at Middleton. This evening, a Cormorant was fishing in the Clyde behind Braehead and two Mute Swans were plowtering around the shipyards on the opposite bank.
News from the web is that the Loch of the Lowes Ospreys have laid their first egg.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

A short walk through the centre of Paisley at lunchtime produced the unexpected find of a Dipper repeatedly flying up under one of the bridges (presumably visiting a nest). The only other birds of note were a group of drake Mallards (again, I assume the females are on eggs). No sign of any Mute Swans attempting to nest this year, at least not where they have tried in the past.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

The weekly walk around Murdieston Dams took place in wet and windy weather today. The Black headed Gulls have now completely gone, and been replaced by loafing Lesser black backs. The Mute Swan pair seem to have given up their nesting attempt (hopefully only temporarily) and Mallard numbers are down to a handful of males (presumably the females are on eggs). Biggest surprise was a new bird for the site - a male Reed Bunting scraping in the leaf litter on the south bank of the main dam - and a probable pair flushed from the water's edge.

Monday, April 06, 2009

First thing, a Collared Dove was mewing and coo-coo-cooing outside the bedroom window. Later, two Grey Herons were in the reedy corner beside the Bishopton road where it crosses the M8.
News from the web is of the Osprey pairs at Garten and Lowes settling in, while the satellite-tracked birds are halfway back from their winter quarters.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

A mild spring day meant plenty of time spent outdoors including a quick stop at Erskine shore (for Cormorant but little else) and a longer walk along the Calder and the north shore of Castle Semple Loch. Highlights of the latter were a Raven and a Buzzard in a dogfight over farmland, Meadow Pipits and Pied Wagtails feeding together on grassland, flowering Cotsfoot and Primrose along the cycle track, sightings of both Rabbit and Hare, new lambs enjoying the spring sunshine and a couple of less regular bird species including Redpoll and Stock Dove.
Altogether 52 species were recorded this (long) weekend (as well as Hare, Rabbit, Cotsfoot and Primrose) across 20 sites. The full list of species recorded was as follows: Mute Swan (seen at 4 sites), Canada Goose (2), Shelduck, Teal, Mallard (8), Domestic Mallard, Tufted Duck (3), Goldeneye (2), Goosander, Pheasant (4), Little Grebe, Grey Heron (2), Cormorant, Buzzard (3), Kestrel, Moorhen, Oystercatcher, Curlew (3), Black headed Gull (6), Common Gull (2), Lesser black backed Gull (8), Herring Gull (3), Feral Pigeon (2), Stock Dove, Woodpigeon (4), Skylark (4), Grey Wagtail, Pied Wagtail (4), Meadow Pipit (5), Wren (10), Dunnock (3), Robin (10), Wheatear, Blackbird (8), Fieldfare, Mistle Thrush, Song Thrush (3), Chiffchaff (2), Coal Tit (5), Blue Tit (6), Great Tit (6), Raven (2), Magpie (6), Jackdaw (7), Rook (4), Carrion Crow (10), Starling (3), House Sparrow (2), Chaffinch (12), Greenfinch (5), Goldfinch (2), Redpoll and Yellowhammer. Highlights were Teal (excellent views), Raven (always spectacular), Stock Dove (not often seen), Fieldfare (perhaps the last until next winter) and Wheatear (first of the year).

Saturday, April 04, 2009

A dreich day started to clear from the west by midday, so took the opportunity to explore the countryside on the edge of Helensburgh. Walked around the pond on the Old Luss Road, then around the two reservoirs there and along the edge of the town as far as a cup and ring marked rock in Drumfad Wood. Natural highights along the way included several pairs of Teal (giving excellent views) on the duck pond, a white domestic Mallard in an overgrown lade nearby, and a Curlew displaying over the moor [12,600].

Friday, April 03, 2009

Another annual leave day to use up started with an early morning walk along the Cart. Unusually there were 30+ Woodpigeons on the lawn next to Rosshall Park and 5 or 6 Mallards on the lawn next to Rosshall Park pond. Later, stopped briefly at Arkleston Farm. Only a single Yellowhammer was showing itself but at least 5 Skylarks were singing over the cereal fields and 25 Fieldfares were in the trees in the cemetry.
In the afternoon, walked along the Lang Craigs above Milton. Highlights included displaying Raven, hunting Kestrel, numerous Skylarks and Meadow Pipits and my first Wheatear of the spring. Only disappointment was not connecting with the Green Woodpeckers reputed to frequent the area. I did hear a high-pitched "peeping" but would say it was closer to Sparrowhawk than Yaffle. Earlier, a brief stop at Loch Bowie produced up to 3 pairs of Little Grebes, a pair of Shelduck and a single female Goldeneye [17,736].

Thursday, April 02, 2009

A brief walk around Murdieston Dams at hometime produced glorious sunshine but little bird life of any note. The Mute Swan pair have settled on the island in the main dam while two Rook nests were in trees nearby.
Exciting news from the web is of an Osprey fishing the Clyde off West Ferry.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

A glorious spring day saw hundreds of tadpoles newly hatched in the silverglade pond. News from the web is of Green Woodpeckers in Overtoun Braes and plenty of Waxwings still around Glasgow.