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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.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Two Carrion Crows were chasing a Buzzard over the M8 first thing this morning. Later, a Robin was singing its winter song in the sunshine outside the office window (my first of the back end of the year). News from the web is of the first pinkfeet back at Kinross and two Lapland Buntings in Cumbria (wonder if they've just come down from breeding in the fells).

Monday, August 30, 2010

A quick walk around Murdieston Park this lunchtime found two new arrivals on the main dam in the shape of a Little Grebe and another (!) brood of Coots (five red-faced chicks just out of the nest). Also new were increased numbers of Herring and Lesser black backed Gull juveniles.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Today started with 360 degrees of blue skies and a House Martin visiting the nest in the roof apex of a house in Cardonald Gardens. This is the first bird I have seen at the site for three or four weeks, and begs the question: is there a second brood on the go, or was this just a passing (or local) bird taking a speculative look?
The day went downhill from then on with intense sun, blustery winds and scudding clouds - a most uncomfortable combination for those of us sensitive to atmospheric pressure changes.
Tonight, clear skies suggest we might get the first frost of the back of the year (the highlands had their first snow this week).

Saturday, August 28, 2010

An early start found only a few dog walkers at Esk Mouth. Birds were still quite skitish but a Black tailed Godwit and three Bar tails [158] stayed close enough to allow good comparison. Over 200 Mute Swans were feeding out in the estuary, with Mallard, Goosander and Wigeon on the river itself. Ringed Plovers, Dunlin and Turnstone were along the seawall while six Velvet Scoters [159] and a single Great crested Grebe were offshore. Back on dry land (well nearly), a Black Swan [160] and two Little Grebes were on the boating pond.
A quick run round to Ferny Ness in search of Red necked Grebes was unsuccessful with only a few Mallards showing on a very rough sea. However there was a good flock of Bar tailed Godwits on the sand.

Friday, August 27, 2010

A busy day at work meant no naturalconnections all day. However a Tawny Owl calling in the glade at 1:45am was a nice consolation.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Something not seen every day in Cardonald - a Horse was waiting quietly by the side of the busy Sandwood Road.
Other wildlife included a Swallow on a chimney in Langank and 10 Greylag Geese over Howden's factory in Renfrew.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Work necessitated a tour of Renfrewshire, Inverclyde, Ayrshire and Lanarkshire today. However there was no time for any stops, so any birding had to be done on the move. There were lots of Eider afloat off Wemyss Bay. Further south, a small party of Gannets was fishing off Stevenston. The Ayr Hospital was quiet today with yesterday's hirundines nowhere to be seen. Finally, a Pied Wagtail was giving it's "Chissick" call as it bounded over the Caird Building car park in Hamilton.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Still plenty of hirundines in Ayrshire with House Martins flitting round possible nests at the Ayr Hospital and plenty of Swallows over nearby fields. A Kestrel was being pursued by a crow over the Greenan area and birds on the Clyde included juvenile Shelduck, feeding Gannets and several Sandwich Terns. Meanwhile a Pied Wagtail had dependent young (echoing the Carrion Crows and Wrens of recent days - at least some species have had a good breeding season).

Monday, August 23, 2010

A Buzzard hunting earthworms on foot, in the rain, at Finlaystone was the only natural connection of a very wet day in WCS. 2,380 steps (I hate marking!).

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The east side of Edinburgh was sunny and still this afternoon. A juvenile Carrion Crow was begging for food with a call which I first thought was a drumming woodpecker. Further up towards Dunsapie Loch, a single Swallow was feeding over the mown areas. Later, as dusk fell, six House Martins twittered far overhead.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

A late morning walk along the Clyde from Parklea was cut short by the burn below Finlaystone Estate (presumably it is passable at low tide but not today). Bird numbers and variety were also limited by the high tide. Strong winds and choppy seas also didn't help. However there were several Sandwich Terns feeding close inshore and a Greenshank [157] showed welll among a small Redshank roost. Other birds around included five Canada Geese and a couple of Red breasted Mergansers.
Earlier, a couple of House Martins were twittering around Oldhall, Paisley.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Possible Peregrine over M8 in central Glasgow this evening. The bird flew east above the middle lane of the eastbound carriageway. Earlier, 20-30 Greylag Geese were feeding on stubble north west of the airport.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Another pleasant day in WCS. However the day length is noticeably shorter now. A young Red Fox was pottering about under the streetlights, unconcerned by passers by.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Not much in the way of natural connections today, but a walk home along the Clyde this evening was notable for clear settled weather. The Buddleia bushes around the base of the Kingston Bridge were devoid of any butterflies (too cold?) but would appear to be an ideal food resource.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Spent the evening in a very autumnal Pollock Park. A Grey Heron was calling, unseen, from the river, and five Swallows were over the visitor centre. Heading home about 9pm, an impressive 180+ Carrion Crows were feeding on a single football field.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Not much doing on the Greenock dams this lunchtime. Most birds seem to have given up on their breeding attempts, although two pairs of Coots were still feeding young. This evening, the skies over Cardonald were devoid of any bird life. The Swifts have certainly gone, and the Swallows and House Martins may have moved on as well. One species actually better represented was House Sparrow with more seen this evening (6) than in the last fortnight.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

A glorious day in WCS began with a walk along the Clyde at Erskine (the Waverley making an impromptu paddle-past). House Martins were active around five nests on the Erskine Bridge Hotel and a female Bullfinch was feeding quietly in a Birch tree.
This afternoon, a flock of Long tailed Tits with a single, lemon-yellow Willow Warbler passed through the garden.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The first natural connection of the day was a Tawny Owl [156] calling very briefly outside the house at 1 am. The species is very rare (or rarely detected by me) hereabouts, with only two other records in the past five years.
Spent the morning trying to tame the back garden, with a calling Willow Warbler for company.

An afternoon walk around Mugdock Park was unremarkable, although six Tufted Ducks on a flat calm Mugdock Loch made a lovely picture. The castle tower was open, and gave fantastic views as far as Tinto Hill.
This evening, a Common Sandpiper was giving its alarm call on the Cart at Moulin. Later, the high pressure around all day produced a lovely sunset.

Friday, August 13, 2010

An afternoon walk along Fishers Road in Renfrew coincided with high tide, so there was no exposed mud to check for waders. However managed to find a mixed flock of Redshanks and Lapwings clinging to the channel wall. Later, a Moorhen was feeding a chick on Robertson Park pond.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Spent much of the day at the David Livingstone memorial in Blantyre. Bird highlights were few due to the summer doldrums and all that. However a pair of Bullfinches gave brief views before disappearing into the herbage.

Headed out again at 11pm to look for the Perseid meteor shower. Had quite a successful time with around 20 meteors seen over a two hour period.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

At least one Swift was screaming over Hyndland, Glasgow first thing this morning. Later, two Sand Martins and a House Martin gave superb, close views as they fed over the water feature in Ferry Village Park, Renfrew.
Nearby, Fisher's Road (which runs between the scrap metal yard and the golf course) was all quiet, but should produce lots of good sightings at other times of the year.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

An early afternoon walk along the Kelvin failed to produce any waterbird sightings. A later walk along the Cart looked like doing the same. However eventually a handful of Mallards, a single Goosander and a flyby Kingfisher were tracked down. Most interesting record was of five Swifts feeding over Hurlet Hill.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Headed up to Lang Craigs first thing again this morning. The weather was not very promising, with low cloud and persistent rain. However almost the first bird to show was a juvenile Green Woodpecker [155]. It appeared from the west, circled calling, then settled on an exposed branch before heading east towards the crags. It was interesting to notice that the bird favoured a dead branch poking through the canopy. This preference is mentioned in the excellent Kightley, Madge and Nurney (shown below) as a useful aid to finding the species.

Green Woodpeckers seem to be very patchily distributed in lowland Scotland. To the north of Glasgow (in addition to the Overton records), recent sightings have also come from Loch Ardinning Muir, Blairskaith Quarry and Strathblane, with more in Gartocharn and Fintry. However, the numbers involved seem tiny, and it is not clear if any interchange takes place between populations (for instance, I am unaware of any sites in the Cochno area which might serve as a bridge between the Overton and Loch Ardinning groups). This level of isolation presumably makes populations susceptible to spontaneous extinctions, as seems to have happened at the Hermitage, Prestonfield and Duddingston in south Edinburgh).
Other wildlife around the crags this morning included a Raven, a juvenile Bullfinch and a Red Fox.

A brief visit to Arkleston Farm late morning produced a singing Yellowhammer (rare this year) and around 60 House Martins (the majority juveniles) on wires.
At the other end of the day, a Great spotted Woodpecker was "peep"ing from a tall pine in Fullarton Woods, Troon. Also there were two Buzzards and a Raven noisily sorting out a territorial dispute. Meanwhile, a big Grey Seal was hanging about the fishing boat tie-up.


Sunday, August 08, 2010

An early morning visit to Lang Craigs failed to produce any sightings of Green Woodpecker, although there was at least one bird calling from further up the hill. Two Ravens were under some trees near the big house (perhaps they had found a dead sheep) and were being scolded by a Jay and two Magpies. A flock of around 60 Chaffinches nearby was also unusual.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Two Swifts were over Novar Drive, Hyndland first thing. Later, a walk along the Clyde, from Glasgow Green to Cambuslang, produced mostly common birds (Mute Swan, Mallard, Goldfinch etc), but a pair of Bullfinches were quite unusual. Cambuslang itself was swarming with winged ants - reminiscent of the "plague" of greenfly in the East Neuk two weeks ago.

Friday, August 06, 2010

There was another odd Carrion Crow at Cardwell Bay this afternoon. Definitely a hybrid, it had predominantly black underparts but streaks of grey along its flanks and a fringe of grey feathers around its black bib.
Today's walking total was only 7,365 - but probably OK given the figures for previous days:
Thur 22,908
Wed 13,827
Tues 10,008
Mon 19,136
Sun 10,605
Sat 13,156

Thursday, August 05, 2010

A morning walk through Leverndale and along the Cart as far as Hawkhead produced some additions to three of the five 1km squares the route covers. These now stand as follows:
Silverglade (Rosshall to Cardonald Library) - 62spp
Crookston Castle and Brock Burn - 42 + Willow Warbler = 43
Bull Wood / Leverndale Hospital - 47
White Cart at Hawkhead Estate Park - 55 + Stock Dove = 56
Ralston / Crookston - 46 + Great spotted Woodpecker = 47
Other highlights included Kingfishers at three sites and a female Goosander with 7 flightless young (strongly indicative of local breeding). Non-birds were flowering Cranesbill and two confiding Roe Deer, both on the hospital farm.
Highlights of an evening walk between Saltcoats Harbour and Stevenston Point included House Martins still feeding young in nests on flats behind Lidl, a family of Little Grebes on Auchenreoch Loch, 42 Ringed Plovers, 16 Sanderlings and two Dunlin on the sands south of the point and a flock of 14 Swifts back at Saltcoats. Another eight Swifts were over High Monkscastle Farm Pond. Also there were two Sand Martins, a Litte Grebe and a family of Moorhens.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Today started early with a thorough scour of Ardmore Point. Bird variety was excellent with a total of 15 new species added to my three individual 1km square lists. However the tide was fully in, so any waders present were bunched up at the back of the north bay. The tide did start to go out over the next couple of hours, but waders were disappointing with only single Whimbrel and Common Sandpiper out of the ordinary. Most interesting sighting was of a concentration of feeding birds just offshore consisting of 13+ Gannets, 10+ Shags, 3 Sandwich Terns, 3 "Commic" Terns (153), 2 Great crested Grebes, 2 Guillemots, a Black Guillemot and a Razorbill (154). Also notable were a flock of 45 Red breasted Mergansers, eight Sandwich Terns heading south east high overhead, two juvenile Shelduck, two juvenile Robins (one dead on the path) and one juvenile Bullfinch.
An afternoon walk beside Castle Semple Loch produced a pair of Collared Doves, a calling Sedge Warbler, a flock of Long tailed Tits and all the usual suspects.
Meanwhile, another day, another breeding heron. Natural England have announced that at least six pairs of Spoonbills are nesting at their Holkham reserve in Norfolk.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Spent a blustery but mostly sunny day in Scone. The area around Perth Racecourse was fairly quiet, bird-wise, but produced some intersting sightings including: two singing Yellowhammers, 30+ Pied Wagtails on a small patch of lawn, two Grey Wagtails along the Tay, two Buzzards in the palace grounds and three Swifts feeding quite low over Legger Ley.

Monday, August 02, 2010

The highlight of an early morning start at Baron's Haugh was a Water Rail [149] showing for prolonged periods as it washed and preened on the edge of a patch of reeds. Three other Water Rails were heard giving the distinctive "strangled pig" call at two different spots. Staying in the same family, good numbers of young Moorhens and Coots were putting their parents through their paces. Other highlights included plenty of passage waders (Black tailed Godwit (2) [150], Snipe (3), Common Sandpiper (4), Dunlin (1) [151], Oystercatcher (1), Ringed Plover (1) and Lapwing (++++)), two Jays, several Blackcaps, Willow Warblers and Whitethroats (but no Sedge Warblers), two Great spotted Woodpeckers and Bullfinches at three sites.
Heading home, a quick stop at Garnqueen Loch revealed two male Ruddy Ducks [152], asleep, in the Tufted Duck flock. I'm not sure if the cull of this species is still going on, but they certainly seem scarcer than before. The cull itself seems to have been an expensive exercise with a recent report suggesting it has cost £740 for every bird killed.
This evening, a walk along the Kelvin from the Botanics to Kelvingrove Museum failed to produce any Kingfishers or Dippers, but a big flock of Long tailed Tits was a welcome surprise.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Headed for Longhaugh Point first thing this morning. Unfortunately the tide was completely out (should have gone to Baron's Haugh as originally planned) so any birds present were scattered over a vast expanse of mud. As a result, finding anything unusual was pretty difficult, but the spectacle of hundreds of waders, gulls and other birds as far as the eye could see was ample compensation. Best birds on show were three Whimbrels (including one with a pronounced limp), small numbers of Teal and Wigeon, a reeling Grasshopper Warbler and several Sedge Warblers (including one carrying food - a day late for the atlas). The Sedge Warblers were making the most of the excellent little reedbed on the east side of the point. Other plantlife included Knapweed, Meadowsweet and Sow Thistle.
This evening, A Red Fox cub was sitting in a front garden, watching the world go by.