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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, December 31, 2009

Another natural year has come and gone. Highlights have been many: watching Ptarmigan in the Northern Corries, a Merlin beside Loch Arklet and a Peregrine on the Fereneze Braes; finding a Mediterranean Gull on Murdieston Dam; camping under crystal-clear, starlit skies near Nethybridge; close encounters with Raven at Lang Craigs, Cuckoo near Ladymuir Reservoir, Teal above Helensburgh and Dipper on the flooded Cart; getting good views of Long tailed Duck on Loch of the Lowes and off Ardmore Point; finding Stock Doves near Waulkmill Glen Reservoir, Common Scoters off Troon and a Fulmar over Castle Semple Loch; discovering the hidden gem" of Hawkhead Woodland; locating possible breeding Raven, Stock Dove and Fulmar on Arthur's Seat; finding two Otters off the Ayrshire Coast; completing timed tetrad visits for my home tetrad (and taking on two more); stumbling into a fall of Pied and Grey Wagtails down the Ayrshire coast; adding Oystercatcher, Bullfinch, Yellowhammer, Teal, Goldeneye, Tufted Duck, Whooper Swan and Greylag Goose to my local lists; finally connecting with Woodcock, Purple Sandpiper and Brent Goose in the last week of the year and finding our first newt in the Silverglade Pond.
Regrets: Still not catching up with Scottish Hawfinches or Bearded Tits (I suspect I may have "missed the boat" with that last one, as the recent frost has probably done for them); missing out on some common species including Red Grouse and Whinchat; failing to track down the nesting sites of the local Cardonald Swifts or Rooks and missing the hatching of Tufted Duck broods on Bingham's Pond.
Resolutions: to add some new species to my local list (e.g. Sand Martin, Brambling, Jay and Redshank); to connect with the declining Scottish population of Mandarin Ducks; to see (or hear) more local Treecreeper, Bullfinch, Waxwing, and Tawny Owl; to learn more about the Scottish populations of Chough, Little Owl and Green Woodpecker; to learn the calls of Pied and Grey Wagtails and to connect with Black Grouse, Crested Tit, Hawfinch and Bearded Tit. And a long shot.... to find Nuthatch in my home tetrad.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

No change in the status of the local water bodies - Murdieston was almost completely frozen apart from an impossibly small, clear area which is packed with birds. Two Goldeneye were doing their best to search for food, but surely they won't hang around much longer.
Heading home, a Buzzard was low over the A8/M8 merge at Finlayston.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Mugdock Park resembled a winter wonderland today with all the water bodies frozen solid. A few burns were still flowing and any exposed ground attracted a good selection of thrushes, tits and finches. A notable seven Robins were in the courtyard, scrapping for crumbs. Other birds around the park included a single Grey Heron, up to two Common Buzzards and a possible Jay near the SE gate.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Another day off, so away before dawn again. Arrived in Maidens just as it got fully light. Two big flocks of passerines (one mostly of Skylarks and one mostly of Greenfinches) were on the weedy patch next to the harbour. Other birds on view included 5 Brent Geese, a few Shelduck, plenty of Goldeneye (including males, which I haven't seen on freshwater so far this winter), a couple of Great black backed Gulls and mixed flocks of Dunlin and Ringed Plover. South of the harbour, the strandline was full of feeding birds including Starlings, Blackbirds, Song Thrushes, Blackbirds, a Redwing, Rock and Meadow Pipits, Pied Wagtails, Redshanks and Turnstones.
Saltcoats Harbour held more of the same, but also five Golden Plovers and a Little Grebe. Around 10 Purple Sandpipers were on the furthest rocks. Finally, there were lots of Eider and a male Red breasted Merganser off Largs.
Best sighting of the day (in spite of three new birds for the year) was of two Otters playing for 15 minutes just 50 yards offshore [129+3=132/136].

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Ardmore Point was all quiet at dawn, except for the calls of Redshank and Curlew, the whistling of Wigeon and 6 Whooper Swans bugling nervously. A Woodcock flew up from beside the path. Out on the sea were two pairs of Slavonian Grebe, two Goldeneye, a Long tailed Duck and (closer inshore) a good-sized flock of Teal. Pick of the waders were two Bar tailed Godwits. Back at the car park, 30 Greenfinches flew overhead (126+3=129/136).

Saturday, December 26, 2009

A fresh fall of snow overnight was blanketing the estate as a Collared Dove sang from the rooftops first thing. The usual Dunnocks were around the garden and both Blue and Coal Tits came to the feeders. Later on, a pair of Collared Doves were feeding on breadcrumbs in the "Bus Shelter".

Friday, December 25, 2009

Had a very eventful walk along a snowy and very beautiful Cart as far as Paisley and back. Best sightings involved two species I have never seen locally before (a pair of Teal and up to 10 female-type Goldeneye) and one I rarely see (a party of 6 Redpolls). In the woods, Song Thrush, Redwing, Dunnock, Robin and Wren were feeding in the leaf litter. Overhead, small parties of Greenfinch and Goldfinch were starting to sing. Higher still, a flock of 38 Greylag Geese flew over, heading West. The view along the river, with the winter sunshine filtering through the mist (and backlighting Goldeneye, Mallards and a Little Grebe) was stunning.

Thursay, December 24, 2009

West central Scotland continues to shiver under a blanket of snow. The House Sparrows at work kept up their noisy cheeping all day. On Murdieston Dam, all the birds were squeezed into the only ice-free area. Among them was the first Pochard (a female) of the winter. Some local news from the web (clydebirds) is that a Woodcock was in Arkleston Cemetery.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The route to Greenock resembled a winter wonderland today. Forty Greylag were heading to roost on the Clyde just before dusk. From the web, there appears to be a massive movement of Skylarks underway (with reports from Lothian, Ayrshire and D&G) and the first Waxwings have arrived (in Linlithgow and Edinburgh).

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Wcs remains in the icy grip of the big freeze. The heavy snow is very picturesque, but is playing havoc with transport. Web news is of Snipe and Woodcock being forced to feed in the open because of frozen ground.

Monday, December 21, 2009

West central Scotland seems to be getting off very lightly with regard to the wintry weather. With much of England at a standstill, icy roads were the only problem hereabouts.
In the absence of natural connections, had to be content with virtual ones. Big news is of a continuing Brambling influx, plus more Long tailed Ducks, Great northern Divers and Common Scoters turning up on land-locked water bodies.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Highlights of the return walk to Pollock today were two Little Grebes on the Cart (next to the canal meadow) and a pair of Goosanders (the first of the winter) under Rosshall School Bridge. Also notable were Siskins at two sites and a Grey Heron roosting on a branch over the river near Crookston Castle. Redwings were everywhere.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Took the opportunity to do my TT count in the tetrad centred on the junction of the M8 and the tunnel road. Intended to do two hours of counting but the snow came on after an hour. The bulk of the count was in and around Craigton Cemetery. Highligts were a Common Buzzard, a Great spotted Woodpecker and masses of Redwings. Nearby, a Kestrel was over the motorway.

Friday, December 18, 2009

A day off today, but few natural connections possible due to other demands. A quick stop at Pollock Park turned up hordes of passerines (including a small flock of Siskins) at the feeders, but no Nuthatches. Later, a Sparrowhawk over the tea-time traffic on the Hurlet was a nice bonus.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A Mistle Thrush was over Gartnaval Hospital this morning. This afternoon, the first snow arrived in WCS.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A milder day today. Over a hundred Woodpigeons and Feral Pigeons were at Arkleston.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

More signs of seasonal changes at Murdieston. Today, the Black headed Gulls were joined by a handfull each of Common and Herring Gulls. Duck numbers are still to build up. The only notables were the three Goldeneye which have been present for the last few weeks. On the smaller dam, the Mute Swan family has dispersed. Only a single adult male was left. The small group on the big dam had risen from 4 to 5 (possibly with the movement of the other bird's mate) but there was no sign of the three surviving young.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The pleasant, sunny weather this afternoon tempted the local Starlings into song.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A walk along the Cart in freezing fog produced nothing apart from a gaggle of hopeful Mallards[125+1=126/136].

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Spent a very misty day around Linlithgow. Birds on the loch included Mute Swan (17), Greylag Goose (c150), Farmyard Goose (12), Mallard (15+), Domestic Duck (3), Pochard (1), Tufted Duck (c200), Goldeneye (3), Smew (1), Little Grebe (12), Great crested Grebe (1), Cormorant (10), Moorhen (19), Coot (76), Black headed Gull (c300), Common Gull (17), Feral Pigeon (10), Pied Wagtail (1), Wren (7), Dunnock (4), Robin (7), Blackbird (10), Song Thrush (1), Redwing (6), Blue Tit (3), Great Tit (2), Treecreeper (1), Magpie (1), Carrion Crow (1), Rook (10+), Jackdaw (1), Chaffinch (1), Goldfinch (1) and Bullfinch (8).
Other birds seen around Beecraigs were Grey Heron, Woodpigeon, Coal Tit, Starling and House Sparrow (39 in total) [124+1=125/136].

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Scottish weather produced more variety today - in the shape of freezing fog. More is forecast for tomorrow's walk round Linlithgow Loch.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

West central Scotland remains gripped in something which looks like winter (it is certainly dark enough) but feels more like spring.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

A late afternoon meeting at the Beatson meant a walk past the pond. There were 7 Goosanders there - three adult males, three females and a young male. A Blue Tit was singing lustily, in spite of the gathering gloom.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Around thirty of the Black Cart Whooper Swans were beside the M8 this morning. Later, there were still just the three Goldeneye on Murdieston Reservoir.

Monday, December 07, 2009

News from the web is of two new sightings locally: a Jack Snipe and 200 Twite at North Arkleston Farm (clydebirds).

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Spent the afternoon at a windy and deserted Cathkin Marsh. The local crows were constantly harassing both a Buzzard and a Kestrel. A vole scampered away under fallen Reed stems and a juvenile Moorhen fluttered into cover. A Grey Heron obviously resented my presence as well, and kept lolloping back and forwards.
Stayed on until dusk, just enjoying the peace and the "wild".

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Spent most of the day walking in the hills between Greenock and Wemys Bay. Birdlife was very thin on the ground (thick mist didn't help). The only notable sightings were of a Great spotted Woodpecker at Loch Thom Cottage, a Cormorant flying up to the Kelly Reservoir and two Ravens on the outskirts of Weyms Bay. A detour to the Black Cart floodplain turned up a total of 117 Whooper Swans (flying in and out in family groups of up to 5), a single Black Swan, around 200 Greylag Geese, a Kestrel and two Buzzards. Later, a walk along the Cart produced a Great spotted Woodpecker and a Kingfisher (again, at the pond) [124/136].

Friday, December 04, 2009

This year's bird list is 13 short of 2008's. No big deal, but might be fun to try to equal that figure. A number of omissions should be easy to address e.g. Red Grouse [123/136].

Thursday, December 03, 2009

The only natural connection of a busy work day was a Grey Heron "frank"ing over Silverburn Car Park at dawn.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Oh dear! The combination of heavy workload and short daylength at this time of year meant another connection-free day...

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

More frost this morning, but rain later. A Spotted Sandpiper has turned up near Strathblane.