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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, September 30, 2010

Heard a sound today I have not heard for a couple of months - a House Sparrow cheeping in the back green behind the office in Greenock.
Driving to Prestwick this afternoon, two Buzzards were soaring over the dual carriageway south of the three towns bypass.
After work, took a quick walk along Pow Burn. The tide was well in so waders were limited to 20 Redshanks and a Curlew. Waterfowl consisted of Mallards, Wigeon, a single Goosander and a single Little Grebe. Also notable was a huge Lawyer's Wig (?) near the rivermouth.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A day of heavy rain in WCS, but by home time clear weather had spread in from the west.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A tale of two cities (Edinburgh and Glasgow) and one wagtail (Grey) today. Heard at least two birds above the traffic in Edinburgh city centre, with another on the rooftops at Cessnock.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Today's walk along the river was notable for the huge numbers of corvids and pigeons in the air and feeding on the stubble fields. The birds were nervous and unsettled, partly (I guess) because of the pressure of having to be so close to other birds. Further along, near Hawkhead Estate Park, the birds were particularly unsettled, and the reason became clear when a Peregrine [163] appeared carrying a kill and calling loudly as it powered away. The local Crows, Jackdaws and Rooks were flying in all directions, not helped by the arrival on the scene of three Buzzards. The raptor theme continued a little later with a Sparrowhawk being harried by three crows over the tower. Other birds along the river included a Grey Heron, a Cormorant and 20 Mallards.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

An early morning walk along the Clyde at Parklea found flat calm seas and hundreds of Redshanks feeding on the incoming tide. Three Greenshanks were among the Redshanks. A single Sandwich Tern was on the timber cages and small numbers of Razorbill and Guillemot were fishing offshore.
This afternoon, in Victoria Park, Moorhen and Little Grebe still had dependent young.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Spent today walking around Polmont, Grangemouth, Skinflats, Carronshore and Falkirk. Highlights included a singing Chiffchaff and a Bullfinch near Inchyra Estate, two Stock Doves at Skinflats Lagoon and two Kingfishers along the River Carron (35854).

Friday, September 24, 2010

Drove to Gretna first thing and arrived just as weather was brightening up. Managed to escape to Rockcliffe a short time later. Walking south along the Eden produced Mallard, Teal, Lapwing, Curlew, four gull species, a Buzzard, a Grey Heron, a Cormorant, a Meadow Pipit, a Grey Wagtail, clouds of Goldfinches and, best of all, 5 Greenshanks roosting one-legged on the mud. Back at Metal Bridge, a female Goosander was loafing with some Black headed Gulls. Other birds seen from the car included Starling, Kestrel and good-sized flocks of House Sparrow and Chaffinch.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Driving over to Greenock from Howwood, a Stoat leapt into the grass verge. Later a Red Fox was trotting around the car park at Braehead.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A rainy day in Glasgow / Paisley. A walk along the river at teatime found the river in spate (but otherwise empty). The only birds about were some singing Robins and some nervous pigeons and Magpies. A huge crowd of the local youth were no doubt also feeling the same unease about the change of season.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Another (or the same) Grey Wagtail was flying over Nelson Street in Greenock this afternoon. Not sure if the recent sightings hereabouts have been of passage birds or a potential winterer settling onto territory.

Monday, September 20, 2010

A lunchtime walk around Murdieston Park produced two Grey Wagtails (I have seen more in the last two weeks than the rest of the year put together) and a new bird for the site: a presumed immature male Wigeon. The latter bird was skulking around the island in the Thom Street reservoir. It was quite timid, staying about 10 - 15 metres out from the shoreline and turning away every time I pointed the camera at it. The heavy rain didn't help either, and the two photos above were the best of a bad lot. What they seem to show is a chestnut tinge to the head, neck and flanks, a white patch in the secondaries and (just possibly) some diffuse grey on the wing coverts. Presumably it arrived with the storms last week.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Passage and winter visitors continue to flood into the country: geese, buntings, passage waders. A real sense that things are changing.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Decided to check one or two local spots for any leftover Guillemots from the influx earlier in the week. Left the house at 7am to walk along the Cart to Hawkhead. Pletny of birdlife on the river , including four of the "riparian six" (Goosander, Grey Heron, Dipper and Grey Wagtail, but no Kingfisher or Cormorant). The Goosanders consisted of two family groups: one of 6 and one of 4. Grey Herons were showing particularly well with up to three birds present. The Dipper was along the stretch of river just west of Hawkhead Estate Park and the Grey Wagtail was an overhead (possibly migrant) bird. Guillemot failed to show, but other highlights included a group of 16 Mallards, a Moorhen (quite secretive here) and over 100 Jackdaws flying in tight formation. Also notable were a singing Chiffchaff and a Rabbit (both unusual).
Next stop was Balgray Reservoir where rainy conditions prevented a proper search for any lost auks. However two Pochards in a bay normally occupied only by Tufted Ducks was a worthwhile record. A short detour to Glanderston Dam found over 50 House Martins and over 100 Swallows feeding over the reservoir and adjacent fields.
The afternoon was spent walking from Newshot Island to Erskine Golf Course. Finding good birds was hard work, mainly due to an unfavourable tide and lots of people along the shore. However a couple of Teal were among the Mallards, a Greenshank was with a huge flock of Redshanks, Long tailed Tits were at five different sites, and a single Guillemot (below) was sailing upstream immediately under the bridge. The afternoon ended with a Red Fox pottering across the mud at Newshot.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Managed to squeeze in a pre-work visit to Aird Meadow (another pre-6am start) to check for Black Terns. Eventually picked one up as it fed over the far boundary with Castle Semple Loch. Even at that distance, the bird's jiz was unmistakable. Few other birds were around but a Pheasant beside the road south of the Kilmacolm crossroads was an interesting find. There were also still plenty of Swallows around the farms on the back road to Greenock.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Leach's Storm Petrels continue to be seen off west coast headlands. Meantime two or three Black Terns (still) and a Gannet were at RSPB Lochwinnoch. In Paisley, a juvenile Cormorant was perched across the river from the Town Hall.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

News from the web is of an influx of Petrels (Leach's Storm and Storm) into western Britain. Also notable have been the first big arrivals of Pinkfeet and odd Whooper Swans, Fieldfares and other winter fare. The mixed weather in WCS continues. Several Swallows were battling the winds over the hillsides south of Greenock.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Came across an interesting article on the SEPA website which opens with the line: "Scientists from Scotland’s environment watchdog have described work to survey fish in the Clyde Estuary and Garnock Estuary as “like being on Springwatch” after they found over 20 species, including some rather unusual specimens". The article goes on to list some of the species found including Dragonets, Pipefish, Snake Blennies, Viviparous Blennies, Mullets, Sand Smelts and juveniles of important commercial species such as sole, plaice, dab, herring and cod.
Made a brief stop at West Ferry first thing to check if anything had been blown in by the overnight winds. Plenty of common birds were grappling with the conditions including a single Swallow flying downriver, only a foot or so above the waves. Opposite Dumbarton Rock, it passed a female-type Goldeneye (my first of the winter). Later, a Grey Wagtail was in the back green behind the office.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Nearly 24 hours of almost constant rain came to an end this evening. The Cart was in full spate and that, together with the strong winds, meant few birds were on the wing. However two unfamiliar birds flying over the trees on Cairnhill may have been Woodcocks.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Around 80 Canada Geese were feeding on stubble in the field bordering the western edge of Hllington Industrial Estate. Meanwhile, 10 Swallows were feeding over the access roads to the motorway interchange.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

An early start today meant there were few people about on arrival at Hogganfield Loch. Unusually, the birds were not concentrated near the car park, but scattered over the entire loch. No sign of the Black Tern (too early?) but lots of other highlights including several pairs of Gadwall, two male Ruddy Ducks, Little and Great crested Grebes with young, small numbers of both Teal and Shoveler, and a single Pochard. Walked three quarters of the way round the loch before noticing a small, grey-backed tern dipping repeatedly to pick at the loch surface - a smashing juvenile Black Tern [162]. The bird patrolled up and down a short section of bank, giving excellent views of its black cap and the characteristic dark smudge near the neck, Most notable was its jiz - quite different from the usual sea-going species.
The rest of the day was always going to play second fiddle to that, but a walk (in surprisingly sunny weather) through Dalmeny Estate produced a single Wheatear just east of Barnbougle Castle, all three common hirundines, 4 Bar tailed Godwits, a Sanderling and plenty of Gannets (but no skuas) offshore [26,347].

Friday, September 10, 2010

News on the web is that yesterday's Black Tern is still at Hogganfield .... maybe tomorow.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

A mild evening in WCS. However a walk around the west end of Glasgow revealed only Homo sapiens abroad.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Settled weather here in WCS. However the east has been getting southeasterly winds, resulting in a really significant drift migration.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

A handful of House Martins were twitterining over Castle Semple Visitor Centre at dusk this evening. A little later nine Curlews flew, calling, down the loch from west to east. Driving home via Kilbarchan, a bat swooped in front of the car and a frog hopped across the road.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Nights are suddenly, noticeably drawing in.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Two good birding walks today: an early morning walk around Ardmore Point produced two Bar tailed Godwits, a Red throated Diver, two Great crested Grebes and several flocks of Goldfinches totalling hundreds of birds. Lingering summer visitors included two Chiffchaffs (one in song), a Sandwich Tern and a couple of Swallows. This afternoon's walk down from Balgray Reservoir was disappointingly quiet (too many anglers, I think) but the crows at Ryatt Linn were mobbing a Kestrel, then a Buzzard. A Buzzard was also the victim of corvid harrassment over Pollock Wood (first for the square).

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Managed to escape the Clydeside Garden Centre trail for an hour this afternoon, so headed off to Baron's Haugh to see what was about. Best bird was a nice juvenile Ruff [161] feeding out on the open mud with at least 18 Snipe. It was also nice to see at least 20 Gadwalls, the males back in breeding plumage and starting to display to eachother. A few Teal were also back in breeding colours, but the Mallards were all still in eclipse. Heading back to the car, a Kestrel flew over with the typical flap-flap-glide jiz.

Friday, September 03, 2010

The "Indian Summer" in the west of Scotland continues. However winter is not that far away. After the unprecedented late snow (and midsummer skiing) on Cairngorm, the first snow of this season fell in the last few days of August. Also, a number of Lapland Buntings have dropped in from Shetland to Cumbria.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The airport Carrion Crows were harrassing a Kestrel this morning. Otherwise, today was a day full of only work.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

A sunny day in WCS, with that high pressure weather system still overhead. No sign of any Sand Martins at the Ballater Street colony when I walked past this afternoon (in fact the only birds on the river were two motely Mallards). Walking through the park near there, several Robins were in song.
This evening, the local kids brought a one-inch long Toad to release in the pond.