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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.

Friday, December 31, 2010

The last day of the year is a traditional time for looking forwards and back. So what have been the best natural connections of 2010? Connecting with the Scone Hawfinches, a Galloway Nightjar and a Dumbartonshire Green Woodpecker were all memorable. So too were an early morning visit to a Black Grouse lek, a point-blank encounter with a Crested Tit next to Loch an Eilean and the sight of a summer-plumaged Slavonian Grebe sailing on a forest lochan. The Islay trip was memorable for Twite, Hen Harrier, Chough and four species of goose. Fife also proved a happy hunting ground with excellent views of Corn Bunting and Grey Partridge. One of the best birds of the year was the Black Tern which gave fantastic views as it fed along the west shore of Hogganfield Loch. However the natural highlight of the year was the Peregrine which shattered the peace of my usual riverside walk at it carried off a Jackdaw.
My bird list for 2010 ended up at 181, considerably up on the 134 of the previous year. Notable gaps included Corncrake, Long tailed Duck and Barn Owl. Golden Eagle and White tailed Eagle also failed to feature. However there were lots of local finds including Goldeneye, Tufted Duck, Stock Dove, Redshank, Snipe and Woodcock all added to local squares. Finding two singing Yellowhammers and a Reed Bunting in a previously unexplored corner of the Paisley – Glasgow corridor was also notable.
And ambitions for 2011? I still have to catch up with the Bearded Tits in the Tay reedbeds. Then there are the Mandarins at Inverary, breeding plumaged Black throated Divers and Common Scoters in Lochaber and (a long shot this one) a Scottish Little Owl. Closer to home, a garden Nuthatch would still be nice. I also have ambitions of adding Mute Swan to my home 1km square. There are numerous gaps in the species lists for my home 10km squares (e.g. Lapwing, Oystercatcher and Canada Goose) and breeding evidence for many species is still lacking. Finally, there is the fieldwork for the two tetrads I have taken on in South Lanarkshire.
Personal ambitions for 2011 are the same as for every year – happy times with family and friends, and the health and strength to enjoy them. Oh, and the senses to pick up all those natural connections which are just waiting to be experienced.
So here’s to 2011 – God bless us, every one.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Another day of marking, and being distracted by visitors to the bird table. At least 5 Bullfinches (two males and three females) are still in the area, but are still very timid, flying away at the slightest movement. A pair of Chaffinches and two Dunnocks were also present today, and at least one Siskin was calling from the trees over the fence.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A day of drizzle (and marking at the dining room table) yielded plenty of bird activity in the garden involving up to 4 Bullfinches, two Blackbirds, two each of Coal Tit, Blue Tit and Great Tit, and single Robin and Dunnock.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Finally managed to get the two early-winter, timed-tetrad visits to my two South Lanarkshire tetrads done. Highlights included a Jay near Stockbriggs Lodge and 30 Bramblings in trees opposite Over Stockbriggs Farm.

Tetrad 1: NS73Y (Stockbriggs Lodge)

Tetrad 2: NS73X (Craighead Farm)

Monday, December 27, 2010

The thaw arrived in West Central Scotland last night, and coninued all day today. Visitors to the garden feeders included 5 Bullfinches, two Redpolls and two Coal Tits.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

There were only a couple of Mallards on the Kelvin under the Benalder Street Bridge this morning, with no sign of last week's Goosanders. However 25 Waxwings overhead was a nice record.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

A Christmas Day walk along the stretch of the Cart which goes through Rosshall Park produced a single Redshank which flicked up from the water's edge and disappeared up the Brock Burn. This is a new bird for me for the site (others were Fieldfare and Treecreeper - square total now = 48), following recent sightings on the Cart at Hawkhead and Paisley Cross, and on the Kelvin at Yorkhill. Also notable today were two Moorhens feeding together on the ice and singing Collared Dove and Greenfinch. Up at Crookston Castle, a tree laden with apples had attracted a single Fieldfare.

Friday, December 24, 2010

A day of Foxes in the city today. First of the day was one across four lanes of rush hour traffic on Helen Street. Another was in Cardonald, and two more were in Netherauldhouse in the wee small hours. It's amazing how people hardly notice them these days - they are such a familiar part of the urban scene.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

A brief circuit of the Murdieston Dams found dozens of wildfowl and gulls packed into a tiny patch of unfrozen water. Commonest birds were Black headed Gulls with over 150 present. Ducks were represented only by Mallard and Tufted Duck, with no sign of any Goldeneye or Pochard.
Driving home tonight, a brilliant orange sunset filled the western sky.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Spent most of my annual leave day treading the pavements of Sauchiehall Street and Buchanan Street. However an evening walk along a partially frozen Kelvin (from Kelvinbridge to North Kelvinside) turned up a few interesting sightings. A Dipper was plunging bravely into the freezing water from the bank just north of the gate to the Botanic Gardens arboretum. Two Tufted Ducks and two Moorhens were in the same general area while there were Long tailed Tit flocks at three sites and a single Siskin at one.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Another day of freezing temperatures. The temperature has hardly crept above zero for the last week.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Another day working in Paisley meant another interesting lunchtime walk along the Cart. Wildfowl numbers continue to build up along the stretch between the Cross and the Hammils with 78 Mallards, 11 Tufted Ducks, 6 Goosanders, 4 Moorhens, 2 Coots, 2 Mute Swans and a Pintail all present. The Otter was feeding actively in shallow water between the Bridge Street and Mill Street bridges while a Grey Heron watched on and a Kingfisher flew over. Also notable was a Redshank which called, then flicked along the river, alighting on the parapet of the High Street bridge. The Redshank was a new bird for me for the square, as were Common Gull and Redwing, bringing the square total to 37.


Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Kelvin this morning was almost completely frozen from Benalder Street to the Clyde. Four Mallards and 50 assorted gulls were on the edge of the ice. Back above the Benalder Street bridge, the river was completely ice free and had attracted 6 Goosanders and two Mallards. A Redshank was unexpected, feeding along the water's edge. Nearby were 20 Fieldfares and two singing Robins.
This afternoon, a snowy walk along the Cart in the direction of Paisley produced a nice group of six female-type Goldeneye and a single Coot. The Coot was my first in the 10+ years I have been walking the stretch of the river between Cardonald and Hawkhead. Presumably it has been displaced from its usual haunt by ice, - but that only begs the question "Where is its usual haunt?".

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The snow returned to WCS this morning. Ten Magpies were marauding through the back gardens, followed by two Great Tits, two Blue Tits and a Coal Tit. A couple of Dunnocks, a Robin and a Woodpigeon were the only other visitors.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Wildfowl on the Cart near Paisley Cross today included a Goosander, a Pintail, a Tufted Duck, a Coot and two Moorhens.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A ten hour working day ensured no natural connections today. The predicted snow failed to arrive today, but more is forecast for tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The drake Pintail is still being reported from Paisley Cross. Must have a look on Friday.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

In a good week for the species, a single Dipper was on the Kelvin behind Kelvingrove Gallery first thing. Nearby were 7 Mallards, 2 Goosanders and a Cormorant.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Heading home this evening, a Buzzard was waiting hopefully on the footbridge over the A8 at Woodhall.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Today started with a Dipper speeding under the Benalder Street Bridge in Yorkhill. This afternoon, a walk through the Barrhead Dams found Balgray, Ryatt Linn and Waulkmill Glen Reservoirs all completely frozen. As a result, the normally quiet Littleton Reservoir was packed with birds. Most notable were 30 Teal and two Wigeon, neither of which are regular here. Also unusual (but not unexpected) was a Snipe which flew up from the feeder channel. A notable concentration of 33 Mute Swans was complemented by 5 Whoopers (with five more overhead). The second Dipper of the day was on the lade channel and the hedgerows in Waulkmill Glen were full of Fieldfares, Blackbirds and Redwings.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

A busy day spent helping with a house move left little time for natural connections. However a quick walk along the Cart found no Woodcock in the woods but two male Goosanders behind the Cardonald Place Farm buildings.

Friday, December 10, 2010

One of those odd, purple Feral Pigeons was feeding outside the university campus in Paisley first thing this morning. I still don't think this is a genetic abnormality, but that they must have picked up the colouring at the dyeworks on Hawkhead Road.
A lunchtime walk through Paisley town centre found two Moorhens feeding with the Mallards near the Hamills and a Tufted Duck on the river next to the town hall.
Back home, 20 Waxwings were in tall trees at the bottom of Cardonald Place Road.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

The usual Bullfinch at Hillington East railway station was joined this morning by a Siskin.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

A Bullfinch and a Goldcrest were calling in Hillington East train station at first light. Songbirds are no doubt struggling in today's temperatures which dropped to a low of -8.1 degrees centigrade at teatime.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Cardonald, like the rest of West Central Scotland, remains in the grip of heavy snow and ice. The Waxwings at the railway bridge have moved on, but six birds appeared briefly in tall trees at the end of Silver Glade.

Monday, December 06, 2010

The Waxwing flock next to the railway bridge on Cardonald Place Road is now down to just 3 birds. There are plenty of berries still left, but heavy snow this morning has covered them up.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

A very quick visit to RSPB Lochwinnoch found numerous passerines around the feeders. Highlights included over 50 Chaffinches, two Reed Buntings, a Great spotted Woodpecker and three Bramblings [180], the latter very obvious with their tangerine flanks. My sqaure list was boosted by three species (Brambling, Great spotted Woodpecker and Coal Tit) and now sits at 42.
Arriving back home, 80 Waxwings were feeding on Hawthorns beside the rail bridge on Cardonald Place Road. Also joining them were Woodpigeons, Blackbirds and a single Redwing.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

A lunchtime walk along the White Cart produced several surprises including 12 Teal near the rocky bend, a Sparrowhawk soaring above the trees, a Redshank flying up and down the river near the entrance to Hawkhead Park and two Roe Deer, 8 Bullfinches, a Reed Bunting, two Goldeneye and a Grey Heron just west of there. Good walk totals included three Treecreepers and two Great spotted Woodpeckers.
It was a good day for roving (atlas) records with 5 new species (Redshank, Reed Bunting, Teal, Moorhen and Treecreeper) added to my square list for the Cart at Hawkhead (now sitting at 64), one new species (Treecreeper) added to Bull Wood and Leverndale (now 52), and one new species (Black headed Gull) added to Ralston/Crookston (now 50). For comparison, the total for my home square (Rosshall to Cardonald) is 64.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Not much snow in Paisley and Glasgow today. There was even a little weak sunshine first thing. A tea time walk around Partickhill produced plenty of Redwings slipping overhead plus a party of Long tailed Tits blowing raspberries.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

News from the web is of Woodcocks turning up in suburban gardens and flying over town streets, some even in broad daylight. I kept my eyes peeled and ears pricked up for any sight or sound on the way to Hillington East, but to no avail.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

The snow is lying deep and crisp and not so even here in west central Scotland. While waiting for a broken-down train to be cleared from the railway line at Hillington this morning, a Bullfinch was piping quietly, unseen, in the half-light.