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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.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Another day of heavy work commitments and few natural connections. However the annual Strathspey trip is only two days away. Web news from the area is that birds as diverse as Goldeneye, Treecreeper and Osprey are sitting on eggs. All the satellite-tagged Ospreys from 2009 (five in total) have returned safely to NE Scotland. The one tagged Honey Buzzard is still in West Africa.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Rain, and a long working day, meant few natural connections today. Nationally, summer migrants including Sedge Warbler, Grasshopper Warbler, Cuckoo and even a few Swifts continue to flood in.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Working in Dumfries again today. On the way back home, parked up at the Dalveen Pass for a quick scan of the area. Up to a dozen Wheatears were in the immediate area (including four males in a high speed chase) and three Buzzards were hovering in the updrafts and dive-bombing eachother. Also there were dozens of Rabbits including several black ones. Further along the A702 at Glenochar Bastle were Curlews, Lapwings, Oystercatchers, Meadow Pipits, a single Moorhen, Starlings, House Sparrows, Swallows and Jackdaws around the settlements, and more Wheatears.
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Walking figures for last week below (Blue = Intended. Pink = Actual).
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Sunday, April 25, 2010

Today's walk took in Cardonald, Shieldhall, the Clyde Tunnel, Broomhill and Hyndland. Birds were very standard fare but the walk through the tunnel was quite exciting. An interesting web record (clydebirds) is of a Brambling singing beside the Hurlet on Friday (11,235).

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Enjoyed a very pleasant walk from Blackness to Linlithgow via Bo'ness today (photos one and two below). Highlights included close views of prospecting Shelduck along the foreshore, plenty of Linnets in a weedy field at Bonnytoun, a Tree Sparrow near the east end of the loch and three cracking spring Wheatears (113. Could they have been Greenlands?) in a ploughed field at Aingath.
Back home the water level in the Cart was particularly low this evening with quite a lot of mud exposed. Notable sightings during this evening's walk included a pair of Goosanders (still) and a virtually pure Hooded Crow feeding with mixed corvids at Rosshall Farm.
On another subject, the local authority has done a great job of renovating the dilapidated tenements at Crookston Cross (bottom photo). (37,353)..

Friday, April 23, 2010

Still plenty of daylight left after finishing work in Dumfries, so headed to Threave Castle to check out the Osprey nest there. On arrival, both birds were clearly visible on top of the nest. Later, one was soaring casually above the wood. The nest is visible from many points around the reserve but the birds don't seem concerned by the presence of people. The fact that the nest tree is on an island probably helps. Other birds in the area included dozens of Willow Warblers, two Ravens (dwarfing the nearby Jackdaws), a pair of Shovelers and a really encouraging selection of farmland birds including Oystercatcher, Curlew and Swallow.
Next stop was the RSPB reserve at Ken-Dee Marshes. On the way, two Stock Doves flew across the road. At the reserve, best records were two Nuthatches (one coming to feeders in front of one of the hides), another pair of Shovelers (111), displaying Lapwings, mating Redshanks, a Great spotted Woodpecker and a Red Squirrel.
Heading home, two Red Kites (112) gave fantastic views at Mossdale. Today's walking total: 11,649.
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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Headed for Dean Castle Country Park late this afternoon after finishing work in Kilmarnock. Up to three Blackcaps were singing in a small area of scrubby woodland and a Stock Dove (first photo below) was feeding quietly in one of the animal enclosures. A Wood Duck on the quarry pond (second photo) was presumably part of the collection. It seemed to be paired to a female African Pintail or similar. Overhead, a noisy Rookery was in full, raucous swing. Today's walking total: 7,256.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The frost was back this morning, but the day itself was clear and sunny (but very cold). This evening's walk took in Hawkhead Woodland between the Hurlet and Crookston. A Buzzard and a male Kestrel were the highlights. Walking home through Crookston, a neglected flower bed was covered with naturalised Cowslips.
Back home, a Willow Warbler was singing from the wood opposite the frot door (joining the Chiffchaff and Blackcap already there). Today's walking total: 12,055.
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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Another sunny day today, but with the wind round in the north, colder than of late. A brisk walk around Murdieston Park at lunchtime found two pairs of Mute Swans, one apparently incubating eggs. Two Coots also had their first nesting attempt well underway, although another pair had unwisely chosen a site next to the place where the locals feed the gulls. Most interesting sighting was of a Common Sandpiper scooting across the main dam and feeding on the grass banks (my forst here). Also interesting was a nice white Feral Pigeon. Today's walking total: 8,300.
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Monday, April 19, 2010

An afternoon shortcut past Bingham's Pond found the pair of Mute Swans there attending a nest on the southernmost island. Later in the day, an evening walk along the Kelvin produced pairs of Goosander at the west end of the Botanic Gardens and behind the old BBC building. Three Mallards were on the pond in the Botanics and back home, the silverglade pair were mooching around the estate. Today's walking total: 10,447.
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Sunday, April 18, 2010

No natural connections today - resting up before starting back at work tomorrow. News from the web includes 4 Mallard ducklings at Caerlaverock (the first I've heard of this year). News from the Osprey nests include:
Loch Garten - second egg laid today
Loch of the Lowes - second egg laid on 16th (but new male not fulfilling all duties yet)
Aberfoyle - pair settled, but no eggs by 16th
Tweed Valley - third egg laid on 14th
Caerlaverock - still nest building / mating
Wigton Bay - first egg laid today
Bassenthwaite - first egg laid today
Glaslyn - third egg laid on 14th
Walking totals this week were: 23,542; 16,954; 16,782; 24,076; 7,089; 16,535 and 2,686 = 107,664.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

A change to more unsettled weather today. Decided to explore a new area (between Brownside, Glenburn and Dykebar) and spent an hour checking out footpaths and farm roads. Birds were fairly scarce (the traffic noise didn't help) and there were no Yellowhammers at all (even though the habitat seemed ideal). Most notable records were two pairs of Coot on Glenburn Dam and double figures of singing Willow Warblers.
This afternoon a walk around Castle Semple Loch produced numerous Sand Martins and Swallows but little else.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Another glorious day with warm spring sunshine and no wind. Varied the usual walk slightly, heading east along the river instead of west. Hoping for Whitethroat but no luck yet. Most remarkable sighting was actually back home (from the front door) - the male Blackcap which has been present for the past week or so clambering through the trees beside the railway.
News from the web is that four Common Cranes have apparently settled at Loch of Kinnordy.

Today has mostly been a lazy day, but totals for the remainder of the week have been better: 23,542, 16,954, 16,782 & 24,076.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Day two of our Strathspey trip began with a scout of the forest lochs in the Abernethy area. Water birds included Wigeon, Teal, Goldeneye, a single male Red breasted Merganser, Little Grebe, Slavonian Grebe, Greylag Goose and Sand Martin. Forest birds were Osprey, Great spotted Woodpecker, lots more Siskins, Coal, Great, Blue and Long tailed Tits, three (mostly hidden) Crested Tits and a single Crossbill (a big, red male, "choop"-ing from a treetop). A short stop at the grebe car park outside Boat of Garten produced Teal, Wigeon, Tufted Duck, Mallard, Lapwing, Oystercatcher, Goldeneye and Black headed Gull (plus a Red Squirrel at the feeders). Part of the day was spent around the Rothiemurchus "Triangle" (first photo below) as there was more than birdwatching on the trip agenda (see third photo for some interesting tree life). The only birds there were Buzzard, Meadow Pipit (plus Chaffs and Sisks). Loch Insh provided the only Mute Swan of the trip, and a final stop at Insh Marshes yielded a nice hybrid Hoodie x Carrion Crow (plus Redshank, Curlew, Lapwing, Teal, Mallard, Wigeon and Roe Deer). No doubt we missed more than we saw, but a glorious time was had by all.


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Today was the first day of a short, unplanned visit to Strathspey. In the event, we had just 24 hours in the area, but managed to amass a list of 50 species including several of the "highland gems". First stop (after the first half of a dreadfully slow journey) was Pitlochry. No House Martins (a little too early) or Swifts (much too early) in the town centre, but a walk over the dam produced Goldeneye, Pied Wagtail and a pair of Goosander. Dipper and Grey Wagtail were both notable by their absence, and both species eluded us the whole trip (in spite of stops at various likely localities). I wonder if the winter snows have hammered them.
Other birds on route included several Buzzards and a single Osprey overhead. Arriving in Strathspey, the weather was fantastic and gave excellent views of the northern corries from the Glenmore Forest Centre (first two photos below). Most obvious bird there (and in fact for the whole of the trip) was Siskin, with numerous small groups in the treetops. A walk around the skiers car park (very busy) produced lots of Meadow Pipits and a single, calling Red Grouse (106th species for 2010). Back at ground level, an evening visit to Loch an Eilean (third photo) produced a Common Sandpiper, singing Willow Warblers and more Siskins (plus the ubiquitous Chaffinches).
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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Not quite so warm today, but another rain-free day was most welcome. The day started well with a pair of Bullfinches nervously checking out the cherry tree in the front garden. Next stop was the Sallochy car park on Loch Lomondside. A 90 minute walk there produced a Jay, a calling Redstart, 7 singing Willow Warblers (no Chiffchaffs), 2 pairs of Bullfinches, lots of Siskins, a single Long tailed Tit, a singing Blackcap, 5 Goosanders, a Canada Goose and some assorted gulls. The only human life consisted of two canoists paddling by a little offshore. Perfect peace!
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Stopped off at Mugdock Park on the way home. Highlights there were two singing Willow Warblers (one in a traditional spot near the start of the boardwalk), a Buzzard being mobbed by a crow, a pair of Mute Swans on the loch and a pair of Greylags on Craigend Pond.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Another beautiful day meant a trip to Culzean Country Park and a whole day of blue skies and sunshine. The gardens looked lovely with lots of Rhododendrons and cherry trees in flower. Birds in song included Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs and a single Willow Warbler. Also notable were Fulmars and Jackdaws nesting on the cliffs, two occupied Grey Heron nests at Swinston Ponds, a Lesser black backed Gull with extensive white "piano keys" in both wings, at least two Small Tortoiseshell butterflies on the wing and two Nuthatches in Happy Valley.
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This evening, three small bats were hunting under the Queen Margaret Drive bridge before dusk (104 species in 2010).

In other news, the latest cover art from the new naturalists series has been released (see below).
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Sunday, April 11, 2010

Today was a red-letter day for summer migrants with my first Willow Warbler, first Blackcap and first Common Sandpiper (100th species in 2010) all logged by 10am. There was a frosty start to the morning with ice on the car windscreen at 7am. However the sun was soon up and the rest of the day was warm and still. This morning's walk took in the north bank of the Black Cart between Inchinnan Bridge and Barnsford Bridge. Highlights (apart from the migrants above) included 6 Snipe, 6 White Wagtails, a pair of Linnets, singing Yellowhammers, Reed Buntings and Skylarks, nest-building Starlings and a skein of Greylags low overhead. Best record at home was the sound of two Blackcaps and two Chiffchaffs, all audible from the back garden. Finally the first tadpoles have emerged in the back door pond. Below are two views of the Black Cart just north of Glasgow Airport.
Beow are two views of

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Most of today was spent outdoors, beginning with an early morning walk to Oldhall, continuing with a walk up and down the Calder in East Kilbride,and ending with a dusk walk along the Cart. The day started cold, with even a hint of frost, but warmed up quickly, peaking at an incredible nineteen degrees. Bird highlights included a Dipper and two Grey Wagtail in Calderglen. A Rabbit there, and a bat species at Rosshall were notable mammals. Plenty of snow on the higher hills in South Lanarkshire. Most interesting sighting was an upside-down tree near Calder Linn (below).
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Friday, April 09, 2010

Two walks along the river today. A late pair of Goosanders were along the Cairnhill stretch and singing Chiffchaffs were at three sites (at the Levern / Cart confluence, in the remnant of Pollock Wood across the farm bridge and between the glade and the railway).

Thursday, April 08, 2010

A busy working day, so very few natural connections. Most interesting were several waves of Starlings heading along the A8 at Cappielow just before dusk (presumably going to roost in the sugar factory). Elsewhere a single Buzzard was in the sheep field at Finlaystone. News from the web is of an influx of Willow Warblers. No prizes for guessing what the ears wll be pricked up for tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

This evening's walk found the river level well down on yesterday. Birds were very active with two Goldcrests chasing eachother through some bare branches, wheezing Siskins at two locations and singing Chiffchaffs at three. Greenfinches continue to dominate the birdsong - they seem to be very numerous this year. Long tailed Tits seem to have been the losers with none again today.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Today's rain finally subsided at teatime, allowing a short walk along the Cart. Plenty of birds around (25 species in total) with the best being two singing Goldcrests and a pair of Bullfinches in Rosshall Park.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Heavy rain first thing rather spoiled the beginning of a walk from Barrhead to Cardonald via the Dams. However as the weather improved the birds started to show. Balgray reservoir had 85 or more Sand Martins and a single Swallow was among them (my first of 2010). Also unusual there was a silvery-grey Jackdaw with 20 normal birds. The other reservoirs had small numbers of both Swallow and Sand Martin. Also notable were good numbers of Great crested Grebe and Cormorant, and a few left-over Goldeneye.
Walking targets this week:
Monday - 8,000 (21,364)
Tuesday - 8,000 (8,014)
Wednesday - 8,000 (10,983)
Thursday - 8,000 (2,697)
Friday - 8,000 (15,305)
Saturday - 15,000 (23,186)
Sunday - 15,000 (15,265)
Total - 70,000 (96,814)

Sunday, April 04, 2010

A morning walk around Crookston and Leverndale produced an invisible Bullfinch (bird of the weekend?), a drumming Great spotted Woodpecker, three Roe Deer and a hunting Kestrel. Later in the day another walk revealed some wind damage in the woods in Rosshall Park (pictured). Also took some photographs of riverside Daffodils, new signange in the park, the Cardonald Farm Bridge and a fantastic spreading Sycamore.
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Saturday, April 03, 2010

The highlights of a very pleasant walk along the canal between Broxburn and Linlithgow were four Tree Sparrows at Wilcoxholm, a Linnet at Philipstown, three Goosanders and a Bullfinch on the outskirts of Broxburn, ten Greylag Geese, two Lapwing and a pair of Wigeon on floods near Pardovan Holdings and plenty of singing Skylark, Reed Bunting, Yellowhammer and Chiffchaff all along the route (including 5 of the latter in Winchburgh alone). Chris's photos of Goosanders, Reed Bunting, Blackbird and two canal scenes below.


Back home, a male and female Greenfinch, male Chaffinch, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Blackbird and two Dunnock all visited the garden during a two-minute watch.

Friday, April 02, 2010

A good walk to Nitshill first thing enabled exploration of some unfamiliar areas including the southern edge of Pollock Park, Cowglen and Arden. Bird of the day was Bullfinch with small groups at various sites. Also notable were 5 Roe Deer, a Great spotted Woodpecker and a nesting pair of Buzzards, all in an isolated patch of woodland near the M77. Also notable were two late Redwings and two singing Chiffchaffs (at the glade and Kennishead). Pictures below show the ns&l building at Cowglen, the five Roe Deer and some studies of the Potala.



An evening trip to Ardrossan and Largs was cold but calm.