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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.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

A family trip to Edinburgh Zoo might have meant some good, collateral birdwatching. However in spite of straying off the beaten track at every opportunity, the blustery wind meant wild birds were in short supply. Jackdaws, Carrion Crows and Magpies were plentiful enough, but songbirds were confined mainly to a few Coal Tits and Goldcrests, and some feeding Swallows.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Today started with another sighting of the elusive Cardonald House Martins (again just one bird over Cardonald Gardens).
The Mute Swan flock at Langbank numbered about 50-100 birds this afternoon. It is quite a spectacle with birds strung out just offshore for about half a mile. Must try to find out the history of the flock. Presumably counts have been submitted to the Clyde Bird Report.
News from the web is of successful breeding of Little Bittern in southern England (hard on the heels of last month's Purple Heron success). All of which begs the question: Why are herons doing so well? Cattle Egrets have colonised south west England, Little Egrets are commonplace (with evidence, this week, of a post-breeding dispersal reaching southern Scotland). Is it something to do with climate change - or better breeding success further south, forcing northwards expansion? And why just herons?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Around 10 Swifts were screaming over Novar Drive, Hyndland this morning. Reports from around the country seem to suggest quite good numbers, with lots of birds still around and at least some still feeding young.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Another day, another funny crow - this time a near complete hoodie in Pollock Park (poor record shot below). It was associating with some other decidedly odd birds.

Just west of the crows, a female Mallard had two young.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

An evening walk along the Cart produced very few birds with only a Goldfinch, a handful of Woodpigeons and a couple of Blackbirds in song. However a Kingfisher was calling, unseen, at Moulin and another, perched bird gave prolonged views along the usual stretch.

Monday, July 26, 2010

An interesting hoodie hybrid was hanging about the west end of Greenock this lunchtime.

Meanwhile, up at Murdieston, three pairs of Coots had broods of 5 (large), 2 (medium) and 2 (small) young.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

While putting the bin out late last night, noticed a Common Toad was clambering about the front step. Looking back over past blogs, it seems that late summer is quite a good time for sightings hereabouts.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Ainster was heaving with folk today, with the annual lifeboat gala in full swing. However the noise of the bungee jumpers and stunt flyers failed to drown out five singing Corn Buntings between Cellerdyke and Killrenny or six "Cirruck"-ing Sandwich Terns outside the harbour. The photos above show (from bottom) Poppies and barley with the May in the background, a big flock (298) of Starlings, a singing Corn Bunting and the Weathercock on Kilrenny church spire.

Friday, July 23, 2010

An afternoon meeting at Gartnaval Hospital meant a short walk in and out past Bingham's Pond. On the way in all seemed quiet with few birds out on the water. However on the way back a Coot family (2 adults and 2 young) were afloat and a Grey Heron was lurking on one of the islands. Then a female Tufted Duck emerged from the vegetation with three small young (photo below).

Thursday, July 22, 2010

A Yellowhammer was singing in fields outside Howwood first thing. Later, heading over to Greenock, a Kestrel and Buzzard were near How Barnaigh. Further along the road, two Collared Doves were just before Pomillan Bridge and a Lesser black backed Gull had two chicks on an islet in Knocknair'shill Reservoir.
Back home, a Common Toad was clambering through the undergrowth in the back garden.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Today started with the cheering sight of a House Martin barrelling along Cardonald Gardens. At the other end of the day, a Yellowhammer was singing from its traditional perch next to Arkleston Farm. In between, two of the birding highlights of midsummer were on show - the movement of Manx Shearwaters off Cloch Point and the build up of Mute Swans off Langbank.
The weather off Cloch Point at 6pm was not particularly hopeful, with low cloud and heavy rain. Three Common Sandpipers and a feeding Black Guillemot were the only sightings of interest at that point. However the movement of a container vessel in the direction of the Holy Loch coincided with an arrival of around 200 Manx Shearwaters (148). The birds arrived in the wake of the ship (with a Harbour Porpoise) and settled on the sea at the south end of Dunoon. The flock was very mobile with a lot of leap-frogging and belly-flopping going on. After half an hour, the flock started to disperse with the some moving further north, at one point gathering round the CalMac ferry. The remainder started to disperse down the Clyde and by 7pm, probably only around 50 were left.

Other birds enjoying the rain included 3 Gannets and a possible Sandwich Tern north, some odd gulls, several each of Shag and Eider, and a diving Guillemot.
Heading back up the Clyde, 50 Mute Swans were gathered on the high tide at the east end of Langbank.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

An evening visit to Cloch Point failed to turn up any Manx Shearwaters, possibly due to the calm, sunny weather. Thirty Eiders were loafing offshore and a Common Sandpiper was on the rocks.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The cover art for the latest New Naturalist title (above) is now being shown on amazon. Other titles in the pipeline include: Plant Pests (116), Plant Galls (117), Marches (118) and Nature in Towns and Cities (prob. 119).

Sunday, July 18, 2010

An afternoon checking the north east Glasgow kettle-holes (Hogganfield, Frankfield, Bishop, Woodend (above) and Lochend Lochs) produced a singing Grasshopper Warbler, a hybrid Barnacle X Greylag Goose and a migrant Common Sandpiper, but absolutely no sign of any Ruddy Ducks (I wonder if the official cull has done for them). Garnqueen Loch has been the best site in the past - maybe try to check there next weekend.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

It was wild, wet and windy on Witch Craig this morning. Birdlife was thin on the ground as a result, with the only notable records being half a dozen singing Whitethroats and a soaring Buzzard.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Took a short walk along the Cart in Paisley town centre this lunchtime. The river was in spate, so waterbirds were few. However a Swallow, two House Martins and three Sand Martins (first I've seen here) were all feeding between the two road bridges.
Uploaded all the Yorkshire sightings to Birdtrack this evening, giving a grand total of 55 species (Greylag, Goosander, Mallard, Mandarin, Pheasant, Red legged Partridge, Grey Heron, Buzzard, Kestrel, Oystercatcher, Lapwing, Curlew, Common Sandpiper, Lesser black backed Gull, Black headed Gull, Common Gull, Woodpigeon, Stock Dove, Feral Pigeon, Collared Dove, Swift, Great spotted Woodpecker, Skylark, Sand Martin, House Martin, Swallow, Meadow Pipit, Pied Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, Yellow Wagtail, Dipper, Wren, Dunnock, Robin, Wheatear, Blackbird, Mistle Thrush, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Goldcrest, Spotted Flycatcher, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Jay, Magpie, Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Goldfinch and Greenfinch). Not bad, given that a full day's work and a 440 mile round road trip were also sqeezed into the the 34 hours away.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

An early morning walk around Weeton Hall in the rain produced a Jay out in the open (apparently not unusual down south) and a nice urban Kestrel.
After work, a walk along the River Wharfe between Barden and Cavendish Pavillion allowed a clear up of a lot of the Dales specialities including Dipper, Grey Wagtail, Goosander, Mandarin (147), Greylag, Oystercatcher, Curlew, Sand Martin, Nuthatch and Great spotted Woodpecker (but not Green Woodpecker, Little Owl, Redstart or Pied Flycatcher). Nearby, a Red legged Partrdige ran across the Embsay road.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Had to travel to Leeds this afternoon so stopped off around 5:30 for a walk in the south Dales. The weather was remarkably good, given the forecast of heavy rain and the ominous thunderclouds overhead. The walk took in a river valley (complete with uncut hay), an upland farm, a narrow limestone dale and a trek over high pasture back to the start. Best birds on route were two pairs of Yellow Wagtails (146) gathering food, a noisy Kestrel family in a shelter belt, Common Sandpiper and Oystercatcher along the beck, plenty of Swallows and House Martins around the farms (plus three Swifts, Stock Dove, Treecreeper, Spotted Flycatcher, Rook, Jackdaw, Pied Wagtail, Starling, House Sparrow etc), Curlew, Skylark, Meadow Pipit and lots of Wheatears on the tops and a large flock of (presumably post-breeding) Lapwings (although a couple tried a bit of half-hearted mobbing). All that, and three hours without a sight of another human being, made for a really lovely time.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Unexpectedly managed to confirm House Martins breeding in Cardonald Gardens this morning with six birds (including juveniles) entering and leaving a nest in the apex of Number 38.

Monday, July 12, 2010

News from the web is of plenty of sandpipers (Common and Green) on the move.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

A busy day of birdwatching began with a timed tetrad visit to Craigton and Hillington. Highlights were few at this very urban site, but included fledged broods of both Coal Tit and Swallow. This afternoon, walked home from Sargeant Law in the Gleniffer Braes. Strong winds meant that birding was hard work, but there were plenty of hirundines and Swifts around, plus Little Grebe, Kestrel (2), Grey Heron, Stock Dove and Linnet.

Suspected Swallow nest site off Berryknowes Road.

Whitethroat territory next to the M8.

Swallow breeding site at Hillington.

Orchid on the Glennifer Braes.

Lesser black backed Gull breeding site in Barrhead.

Kestrel hunting grounds, Saturland Farm.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Enjoyed an excellent walk around the farmland between Crookston and Paisley doing a Timed Tetrad Visit for the bird atlas. Highlights included a Treecreeper (rarely seen hereabouts), two singing Yellowhammers (above), good-sized flocks of Swifts, four or five Whitethroat territories, Swallows and House Martins feeding at several locations, breeding evidence for Mallard, Magpie, Jackdaw, Woodpigeon, Blackbird, Swallow, Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Blue Tit and Great Tit, and two new birds for the tetrad and the whole area: Sand Martin and Reed Bunting. The walk back over the fields (below) was like stepping back in time, with the lanes full of finches and buntings.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Up to 20 Swifts were high over Novar Drive in Hyndland this evening. Heading home, a glorious orange sunset appeared over the Clyde.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

A strangulated "Prrrttt" over the street perpendicular to Cardonald Gardens this evening revealed a single House Martin loop-the-looping over the rooftops. Nearby, two Fox cubs were loitering on the footbridge over the railway - possibly enjoying the lovely, ripe Raspberries there.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

The most interesting might-have-been-connection of the day was reported by one of the junior connectors - a Tawny Owl calling repeatedly from the silverglade woods at 3am.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

A willowchiff working the bushes along the rear of the back garden was the only natural connection of another day of domestic duties.

Monday, July 05, 2010

The local pair of Collared Doves were in the estate today, but are presumably not breeding as there was no sign of any young.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

A rainy day in west central Scotland, but a Swift was feeding between the showers over Partick Cricket Ground.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Today started with a House Martin over Cardonald Gardens. Walking home from Broomhill this lunchtime, around 10 House Martins and a similar number of Swallows were hawking over waste ground in Govan and over the adjacent Elder Park. Later, four House Martins and two Swifts were feeding along the Cart, the Swifts noticeably higher than the martins. Also along that (Moulin) stretch were two Mallard broods (of four and three). Best bird of the day was a Kingfisher on the Brock Burn.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

An interesting record from the internet this week was a Chough seen on Arran. Meanwhile, the Water Lillies continue to cheer up the back garden.

A Chiffchaff has been singing over the fence for a few days. The song is like the typical one, but begins with a series of strangled notes. The excellent xeno-canto describes this as "sub-song" but I wonder if it might be a juvenile tuning up.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Heading down to Gourock by train this evening, the Herring Gulls seemed to be doing better (in terms of chick numbers) than the Lesser black backs on the factory rooves.