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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.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Back to reality today, with a timed tetrad visit to get done in central Glasgow. Birds weren't as interesting as those of the Keltie Water or Benderloch beach, and the scenery certainly wasn't as good. However there were some notable finds. Jackdaws have young in their nests at the top of the motorway lights where the M8 meets the Clyde Tunnel road. The cemetery there is full of fledged Starling broods. Nearby, a total of five Whitethroats were singing their scratchy song. And most notable of all, a pair of Swallows seem to be nesting in an unfinished Wimpy semi just off Berryknowes Road. Back in the garden, the Blue Tits continue to shuttle back and forth to the nestbox and Bullfinch, Whitethroat, Willow Warbler and Blackcap were all heard around the glade (21,413).

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Early morning visitors to the area around the feeding station at Lossit, near Oban included a pair of Hooded Crows and a possible (heard but not seen) Bullfinch. Later in the day, a walk along the shingle and dune slacks behind Benderloch Beach produced at least two nests each of Ringed Plover and Oystercatcher, singing Sedge Warbler and a Greater black back chasing a Herring Gull.
Highlights of the drive back down were two Ospreys over the road at Loch Awe (10,696).

Saturday, May 29, 2010

A potentially fantastic walk from Callander north along the Keltie Water was spoilt a little by long spells of rain. However there were lots of birding highlights along the way including a colony of House Martins nesting on an isolated pumping station, Little Grebe, Canada Goose, Reed Bunting and Sand Martin around the nearby reservoir, a Jay, numerous Willow Warblers, singing Tree Pipits, a brood of Canada Geese and two new birds for the year: Whinchat (131) and Pied Flycatcher (132). (31,205).

Friday, May 28, 2010

A short walk down to the Cart at lunchtime revealed dozens of juvenile Starlings pursuing their parents, noisily begging for food. The habitat looks quite good for Grey Wagtails down there, but still no sign (10,133).

Thursday, May 27, 2010

A quick run past Bingham's Pond this afternoon produced two Coots, each with single dependent young. Later, two Swifts were screaming low over Mansionhouse Road, Paisley (6,031).

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

No natural connections today, but news from the web is of the third Osprey egg hatching at Loch Garten, Crested Tits feeding young nearby and a Spoonbill at Powburn in Ayrshire (5,665).

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Rozelle Park, today, had a drake Wood Duck (130) among the drake Mallards (it has apparently been there for over a year). A Stock Dove was feeding on the woodland floor and two or three Swallows were picking up mud from a puddle. Later, a Mute Swan pair had a brood of seven at Doonfoot and a drake Mallard was on the roof of a two-storey house nearby. Two Gannets were feeding offshore and the scrub along the promenade was full of Whitethroats, Sedge Warblers, House Sparrows and Linnets. Although there has been a massive amount of house-building between there and Greenan, there were still a few Skylarks and at least one Meadow Pipit singing in the fields. Stonechats were notable by their absence - I still haven't seen one in 2010. Grey Wagtails also seem to have done badly, and possibly also Long tailed Tits (although the latter had reached such a population high that the drop has probably been less than might have been) (12,087).

Monday, May 24, 2010

A slightly shorter-than-usual lunchtime walk found mixed news at the Murdieston Dams. The pair of Mute Swans on the smaller dam seem to have failed completely with the two adults pulled up on the island and the nest empty. It's just possible that the cygnets may have been hidden under one of the parents, but their behaviour suggested not. Over on the main dam, the Mute Swan pair there still have at least 5 of their original brood. Best news however is of the Coot family which hatched a week or so ago. Far from coming to grief, the brood seems to be thriving with eight young being fed by their parents (below) (9,175).

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Another warm and sunny day in wcs. Today's walk was up to, then along the foot of the Lang Craigs at Milton. Plenty of nature on show, and only 3 other souls to share it with all afternoon. Flowers included Mountain Pansy, Tomentil and Blaeberry. Insects included numerous butterflies plus all manner of airborne life, obviously very attracive to the clouds of hirundines and regular Swifts overhead. Mute Swans were nesting at Loch Bowie, with Moorhen, Little Grebe and Mallard also there. Around Overton House were singing Willow Warblers, Blackcaps and a single Chiffchaff. Up to four Ravens were about the crags (presumably a family group) including one doing break-neck, switchback dives. Two Cuckoos were singing out of sight (typically) and the moor was studded with Wheatears, Meadow Pipits and a few Skylarks. Best bird was probably the Tree Pipit singing from a tree just south of Overton House. However, for sheer numbers and exhuberance, the Swifts were hard to ignore (12,179).

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Today was one of those exceptional days when the natural connections just keep coming - helped considerably by unbroken blue skies and glorious sunshine. Managed to squeeze in an early morning walk through Hawkhead Woodland and back along the Cart, finishing with a new stretch through a forgotten corner of Leverndale Hospital. Highlights were three Grasshopper Warblers on the north flank of Hurlet Hill, a pair of Stock Doves south of Leverndale, singing Skylarks behind Hawkhead Estate and good sightings of both Kestrel and Buzzard.
The excellent weather continued during a late morning trip to Muirshiel Country Park. A long walk to the Byrytes Mine and back produced several sightings of Wheatear, Meadow Pipit and Skylark, clouds of Butterflies, plus pairs of Common Gull and Canada Goose on Queenside Loch, and at least two singing Cuckoos. Best, however was a female Hen Harrier (128) flying slowly up one of the ravines. There might have been a male nearby, judging by some loud, yittering calls, but a swift retreat seemed the right thing to do, especially at this time of year.

Back at the visitor centre, the staff there pointed out a noisy pair of Spotted Flycatchers (129) which went on to give excellent views.
An evening walk along the Cart was notable mostly for several Orange Tip Butterflies visiting the newly flowering Garlic Mustard.
Just three more sightings: a House Martin over Cardonald Gardens (the first of the year), a singing Yellowhammer at Arkleston Farm (ditto) and two Swifts over Novar Drive, Hyndland (31,676).

Friday, May 21, 2010

Summer arrived in west central Scotland today (must be nearly time for "Springwatch" to start). Along with the soaring temperatures came other signs. Every Starling in Glasgow seems to have a nest full of sqawking mouths to feed, the evening air was full of Dandelion seeds and the local Homo sapiens are exposing acres of flesh as they shed their winter coats. On the bird front, another Swift was screaming over George Street, Paisley this afternoon (after one on Wednesday afternoon). I wonder if they nest near there.
Still on the nesting front, a pair of Purple Herons look set to breed at Dungeness, Kent (9,767).

Thursday, May 20, 2010

This evening's walk took place against a background of birdsong with four Chiffchaffs, two Blackcaps, a Willow Warbler and a Whitethroat all performing within 5 minutes of the house. The Whitethroat was song-flighting over the same Bramble patch where I suspected a pair (perhaps the same ones) were nesting two or three years ago. A Grey Heron was wading in the shallows and a Mistle Thrush was singing loudly along the loop (while two others were chattering nearby) (7,378; 5094).

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A very quck lunchtime walk found the pair of Mute Swans on Murdieston Dam with seven fairly recently-hatched young. A female Mallard nearby went three better with a brood of ten. The Coots of a few weeks ago are nowhere to be seen but three other pairs were present: one nest-building and two incubating. Finally, the Mute Swan pair on the smaller dam were still sitting tight.
On the passerine front, two House Sparrows were carrying food while two Blackcaps, two Coal Tits and a Goldfinch were singing in the cemetery.
On the way home (over the back roads) a Hare was in a fold in a field next to the road. Back home, the Blue Tits are suddenly all quiet in the nestbox - perhaps the young have flown... although it would be very early as the fledging date in 2008 (the last year the box was used) was 12th June (7,986).

Monday, May 17, 2010

Warmer weather returned to west central Scotland today. As a result, Kelvingrove Park was full of people this evening. The crowds didn't deter a Treecreeper near the pond, or a Dipper speeding downstream near Kelvingrove Underground Station. Earlier in the evening, a Buzzard was soaring over the Bishopton bend of the M8 (13,128).

Sunday, May 16, 2010

An afternoon walk from Balgray Reservoir via Pollock Park threw up a number of interesting sightings including singing Grasshopper Warblers (127) beside Ryatt Linn Reservoir and near Darnley Mill Pond, nine Great crested Grebes (including two on nests) at Waulkmill Glen Reservoir and a Hoodie hybrid in Pollock Park. Once again, warblers seemed to be everywhere (for instance, a 100m stretch of the Cart opposite Cardonald Cat and Dog Home had two Whitethroats, a Willow Warbler, a Chiffchaff and a Blackcap all in song, while a small clearing near Darnley Mill Pond had three Whitethroats (one song-flighting), two Willow Warblers, a Chiffchaff and a Blackcap ). Sedge Warblers were also very evident (23,169).

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Spent an excellent day in the east neuk of Fife. Weather was fairly overcast, but managed to get quite sunburnt all the same. Birds were excellent with two sightings of Grey Partridge (124) plus Corn Buntings (125) at Anstruther, Kilrenny and Crail. Also notable were Kestrels at three sites, two Swifts over Cellardyke, my first (belated) House Martins of the year (126) and a Hooded Crow at the Pig Farm. Most ubiquitous birds were Herring Gulls, Swallows, Starlings, House Sparrows, Linnets and Sedge Warblers. A young Wood Mouse was scurrying around some clifftop steps and Primroses seemed to be everywhere (23,919). Photos below courtesy of cjm.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Both Blue Tit parents were delivering food to the nestbox today, so all seems to be going well. A male Whitethroat was singing and growling just over the back fence while a Chiffchaff was singing loudly from the railway wood. An evening walk along the river, round Cairnhill, then up and over Crookston Home Hill, produced another singing Whitethroat (at Moulin), plenty of Starlings feeding young and lots of bats under the Cart and Brock Burn bridges (9,991).

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Having completely cleared out the tadpoles in the silverglade pond, the local Magpies have taken to menacing the Blue Tits nesting in a box on the house wall. Despite what the RSPB say about their impact, these birds are systematically persecuting everything that moves around here (6,114).

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A Swift was over the A8 in Greenock this evening. Later, a walk along the Cart from Hawkhead produced a distant but very welcome Yellowhammer, singing from across the river near Hawkhead Cemetery. Also notable there were three singing Whitethroats, a singing Sedge Warbler and a pair of Bullfinches. A Grey Heron was over Leverndale field (12,532).

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Passed through Lochwinnoch today and noticed two Swifts careering over the main street. Swifts are really wonderful birds. So much so that you could almost measure the quality of a summer by how many days Swifts were seen. It must be great to live in Pitlochry or Aberfeldy (or Lochwinnoch), or some other town or village where Swifts are present all summer. Sadly, the sight and sound of Swifts over the east end of Paisley seem quite rare today.
This evening, a walk along the Cart produced a Grey Heron overhead, a Moorhen on the pond, plus several singing Blackcaps and a lone Chiffchaff.
Sad to see that DumfriesandGallowayBirding has been shut down. For quite a while, the moderators managed to create a really good mix of serious sightings and enthusiastic observations. Unfortunately, an unpleasant element appeared in some of the threads and the group owner has finally thrown in the towel (8,919).

Monday, May 10, 2010

No actual connections today - but virtual news included Grey Wagtails, Dippers and Willow Warblers all with fledged young (5,347).

Sunday, May 09, 2010

This morning's walk took in the Clyde Tunnel and part of Partick. The latter was pleasantly busy, despite it being quite early on a Sunday morning. The afternoon walk was from Howwood to Castle Semple and back. Best birds were two firsts for the year: a couple of Swifts (122) over the loch and numerous Sedge Warblers (123). Also notable were literally dozens of singing Willow Warblers along the cycle track (plus several Blackcaps and Whitethroats but no Chiffchaffs). Also worryingly absent were the Yellowhammers which have been such a feature of this area in the recent past (14,655).

Saturday, May 08, 2010

This was the day of the first timed summer visit to the tetrad centred on Rosshall Farm. The day started cold, with quite a lot of grass frost. However birds were very active and some good sightings followed. Probably most significant were an amazing nine singing Whitethroats between Silver Glade and Hawkhead. Also notable were a Sparrowhawk being mobbed by 20 Starlings at Hawkhead and a Stock Dove along the river west of the Leverndale gate (the first I've seen in the whole patch). This afternoon, a long walk around Mugdock Park failed to turn up anything notable, but three Hares gave close views at the gunsight (24,227).

Friday, May 07, 2010

Took the opportunity to walk home from Bellahouston Park this evening. Most notable were the large numbers of Starlings around, frantically digging up and ferrying food for their (presumably newly-hatched)young. Also unusual were two separate Grey Herons between the Cardonald Place and Bonnyholm bridges (there had not even been one present for several months) (13,069)

Thursday, May 06, 2010

An excellent day of natural connections. Managed to set off for work a little earlier than usual, so stopped at West Ferry to check for Whimbrel. Sure enough, three birds were feeding nervously among the rocks (121). Later, a lunchtime walk around Murdieston found two Mute Swans sitting tight (on eggs?) and a pair of Coots with six newly hatched young. Other birds included singing Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler around the cemetery (where there was an excellent growth of Rustyback Fern on a south west facing wall) and Starlings, Blackbirds and Chaffinches all gathering food for young. (9,647).

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Too busy for many natural connections today, but a working trip to the RAH in Paisley was brightened up by Mallard and Moorhen on the hospital pond and Goldfinches in the mature trees along Victoria Road. Later, an evening shopping trip to Partick found a Grey Heron and four Sand Martins on the Kelvin at Benalder Street.
News from the web is that Dotterel passage is underway, with birds noted on the Pentlands, the South Ayrshire hills, Lowther Hill, Cairnsmore of Carsphairn and, unusually, on the coast at Maidens. Also around are passage Whimbrel and Black tailed Godwit - might have a look tomorrow (9,322).

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

An extra day off today - and an opportunity to tidy up the garden (not too tidy). A quick run over to the DIY store at Abbotsinch produced a singing Whitethroat at the top of Penilee Road but sadly no Yellowhammers at Arkleston Farm.
The day spent in the garden was greatly enhanced by a male Whitethroat singing its scratchy song from the area which has been occupied in most of the last five summers (Previous first dates were May 18th 2009, May 14th 2008 and May 20th 2007). Other birds around and about included Bullfinch, Siskin, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff and Magpie (up to 9 inspecting the newly raked lawn) (10,812).

Monday, May 03, 2010

The May Bank Holiday meant an interesting day of natural connections (although fairly tame compared to the weekend's). A morning walk around Rouken Glen Park found a male and female Grey Wagtail on the river and a pair of Mallards with an impressive 16 tiny young on the pond (the latter my first of the year). Also notable were two Blackcaps and a Chiffchaff.
This evening, the usual walk, west along the river, produced a number of surprises (avian and other). A Red Fox was drinking calmly from the river just across from the Moulin playing field. As it moved away, the reason for its tameness became apparent - it was limping heavily due to a damaged left hind foot. A female Mallard was shepherding ten newly hatched ducklings (including two pale-coloured birds) just upstream from Howford Bridge. Not far from there, a Dipper sped downstream, giving its characteristic call. That was one of three new species added today to the square (Ralston/Crookston), the others being Bullfinch and Whitethroat (the latter my first of the year: 120). Today's walk also produced two new species for the neighbouring square of Bull Wood / Leverndale: Black headed Gull and Common Gull.
Also notable along the Leverndale stretch of the river was a massive tree which has lost half of its trunk (and branches) since I last walked there. Meanwhile, someone was driving a full-sized motor bike (not one of those toy ones) along the cycle path. More welcome were the first Ramson and Bluebell flowers of the year, and a nice clump of Marsh Marigold (15,861).

Sunday, May 02, 2010

The annual Strathspey weekend has come and gone (all too quickly). Highlights included a new walk into Glen Einich (below) and six new birds for the year: Capercaillie, Tree Pipit, Black Grouse, Merlin, Red legged Partridge and Cuckoo (119). Add to that a supporting cast featuring Siskin, Goldcrest, Greylag Goose, Goosander, Osprey, Crossbill and Common Sandpiper, and a very good weekend was had by all (10,965; 24,454). More to follow: