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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, March 31, 2011

Busy day, but the fields at Longhaugh Point were full of birds - Greylag Geese, Shelduck, Starlings and a good-sized flock of what looked like Golden Plovers (hard to be sure at 70mph). Osprey news: One Osprey back at Caerlaverock, one at Keilder and a pair at Aberfoyle.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Worked in Paisley today, so kept an ear open for the urban Raven, but no luck. Strikes me that this must be a non-breeding bird as breeders will have fledged young by now. However there were occasional reports over the winter of two together, so I suppose there is a slight possibility that he may be one of a pair with a nest somewhere (although surely someone would have reported stick-carrying etc). Urban breeding wouldn't be that unusual - I remember when pairs started to nest on Chester Cathedral and Cardiff Guild Hall in the 1980s. They were unusual then, but probably not anymore. There is a pair almost certainly breeding in central Edinburgh and a pair nested on the floodlights at Blackburn Rovers in 2009. Other urban sightings have come from Maryhill in Glasgow, the centre of Ayr and the pair I saw over Greenock a few months back.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Finally heard my first Chiffchaff of the year - it was drowning out all the other birdsong at Hawkhead first thing. A little later in the day, another bird could be heard above the traffic as it sang from the railway line opposite the end of Fulbar Road (both Paisley). Osprey news is that a bird is back at Lake of Menteith and a pair have settled at Rutland (evicting the two Egypian Geese that had taken over their nesting platform).

Monday, March 28, 2011

Managed to escape the dining room table today, although only to go to work. Had to scrape the car after a very cold night. Misty on the way down the Clyde but plenty of birds about including 10 Greylags in fields near Longhaugh Point, a dead male Pheasant on the road verge just before Langbank and a Grey Heron flying up the dual carrigeway at Newark Castle. Lunchtime was spent at the top end of Greenock Cemetery. Plenty of singing Chaffinches, Goldfinches, Great Tits and even a Wren and a Goldcrest. However no sound yet of any Chiffchaffs. Back home, one of the junior connectors reported a Sand Martin at Bonnyholm. Headed along there for a look but no sign. Did see something unusual though - a police car driving along the pavement. Checking the Osprey sites tonight, the big news is that the veteran female from the Dunkeld nest who nearly died last summer has arrived back safely. Amazing stuff!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Ditto yesterday. Scunnered! Background calls from Loch Garten today included those of Buzzard, Raven, Carrion Crow and Mallard. Osprey news is that pairs are back at Glaslyn and Wigtown. No sign of any birds at Loch of the Lowes and still only the female at Loch Garten.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Working all day at the dining room table - Bah! Two pairs of Bullfinches were the highlights.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Plenty of birds in the garden today including the usual Bullfinch pair. No sound of the local Chiffchaffs yet.
Enjoyed watching the feed from Loch Garten, now that the female has returned back for the season. Best was hearing Raven, Buzzard, Chaffinch, Great Tit and possibly Capercaillie among the background sounds.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Working in the west end of Glasgow today, but missed the bulk of what seemed to be a lovely day. Managed a quick walk along the Kelvin on the way to the bus home. A Grey Wagtail was flying upriver opposite the old transport museum while a pair of Goosanders and a Grey Heron were fishing next to the Benalder Street bridge.

Osprey news is as follows:
Loch Garten - first bird back this afternoon
Loch of the Lowes - no sign yet
Aberfoyle - no news yet, but single birds seen near Stirling and over Loch Lomond (both today),
Tweed Valley - no news, but a bird was at Glencourse Reservoir earlier this week
Rutland - first bird returned on 20th March
Wales - a pair were on the Glaslyn nest on 21st
Northumbria, Cumbria - no news yet
(most of this news from the RSPB Community Pages which are buzzing right now).

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

... with 20 there today.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Eight Whooper Swans from the train this morning, in the same field as yesterday.....

Monday, March 21, 2011

Driving to Greenock today, three Whooper Swans were in fields between the motorway and the airport. They tend to move into those fields just before heading back north.
At Murdieston today, Lesser black backed Gull numbers were well up, coinciding with a significant drop in Black headed Gull numbers. Successive pairs of Coots were nest building and mating on a nest platform while the Goldeneye count has risen to four.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Got off to an early start this morning and had a nice wander along the Black Cart at Inchinnan with only the airport traffic for company. Good sightings included 50 Fieldfares feeding with some Starlings, plenty of Teal, Mallard and Shelduck on the river, at least 5 singing Yellowhammers, around a dozen Reed Buntings, an unexpected Brambling with other finches and three Sand Martins (my first of the year).

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Spent the afternoon in Drymen where Starlings seemed to be singing from every chimney pot. A quick run up the Gartmore road produced a Kestrel hunting near the relay station and a drake Goldeneye on Muir Park Reservoir (but no sign of the Great grey Shrike reported there). Back at the village, around 30 Greylag Geese were feeding in a roadside field.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Managed to fit in some good birdwatching at the beginning and end of a full day's work in Ayr. Got to Maidens beach at 7:30am and was soon watching the five Brent Geese as they made their way along the tideline, staying just out of reach of a couple of local dogs. Other birds on the beach included 21 Ringed Plover and 6 Bar tailed Godwits. The rocks at the end of the breakwater held a mixed flock of Knot, Dunlin and Turnstone, and up to six Rock Pipits were chasing and singing in the area.
Stopped briefly at Rozelle Park in Ayr just before 9am. The drake Wood Duck was displaying to the passing Mallards on the main pond and a single Stock Dove was feeding nervously on the path (this is a really reliable site for the latter species).
Headed home via Lochwinnoch and stopped off at the RSPB reserve about 5:30pm to check if the drake Smew was still there. Checked the feeders at the Visitor Centre on the way and was treated to a female Sparrowhawk whizzing past my head as it made a pass at the local Blue Tits. Once the birds had re-emerged from cover, managed to pick out a nice male Brambling and five Reed Buntings. The Smew was showing well but distantly from the second hide. Other birds there included at least 3 Pochards, around 30 Goldeneye and single Curlew and Lapwing (both calling). All in all a great day with ten species added to the year list. Nice to have caught up with quite a few winter visitors before they head back north. Now to find some Chiffchaffs and Sand Martins...

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Today's lunchtime walk took in Greenock Cemetery and the Murdieston Park dams. Good numbers of Greenfinch, Goldfinch and Chaffinch were in the cemetery with two Grey Squirrels and (unusually) a Rabbit. Two Cormorants were diving together on Town Dam. Over on Cowdenknowes Dam, a Coot had nearly finished nest building. A single Rook also had a good-sized nest at the east end but the rookery of a few years ago seems to have petered out. A hundred Jackdaws were wheeling overhead and the three Goldeneye from last week were still present.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Apparently a big influx of Chiffchaffs today with up to 11 at Musselburgh, Lothian. Also news from the Highland Foundation for Wildlife is that the first Ospreys have arrived in southern England.

Tuesday, March 15, 2010

Another day of snow in west central Scotland began with a Blue Tit alarm calling in the back garden. A quick look out revealed a Magpie trying to get into the nest box. Presumably the Blue Tits are already in residence.
The snow feels quite unseasonal, particularly as the first Wheatears and Sand Martins have started to trickle into the region. However the conditions brought good numbers of all the common birds into the garden.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Using up annual leave today but any natural connections were mostly glimpsed through the window of the car on a wet and blustery road-trip taking in Coatbridge and Stirling. A brief stop at Glenboig did allow a quick check of Garnqueen Loch. Nice birds there included a Little Grebe and three female Pochards, but there was no sign of Ruddy Duck. I wonder if the national cull has done for the population in north east Glasgow.
Signs of spring included a Lapwing displaying over a field near the Wallace Monument and a Curlew feeding on farmland near Blairlogie.
Back home, a walk along the Cart from Hawkhead to Cardonald brought a major prize in the form of a Water Rail feeding confidingly on the far away bank. This sighting closed a very obvious gap in my list for this area which I have been watching consistently for over 10 years. My total species list for the six 1km squares involved stands at 78. Individual 1km square totals are as follows:
White Cart Corridor (Rosshall to Cardonald Library) = 64
Cardonald = 43
Crookston Castle and Brock Burn =49
Ralston / Crookston (incl stretch of Cart) = 52
Bull Wood / Leverndale Hospital = 53
White Cart at Hawkhead Estate Park = 65
Thought it might be interesting to check the list for any other omissions. Waterfowl are currently represented by Whooper and Mute Swan, Greylag Goose, Teal, Mallard, Tufted Duck, Goldeneye, Goosander and Little Grebe. Canada Goose remains a distinct possibility as I have seen the species on stubble at Arkleston Farm, and there are presumably similar conditions at Hawkhead Farm. Wigeon, Gadwall and even the aforementioned Ruddy Duck could turn up, but all are long-shots. Perhaps the male Pintail lately resident in Paisley town centre might swim this way!
Other waterbirds already on the list are Little Grebe, Coot, Moorhen, Grey Heron, Cormorant and today's Water Rail. Only Great crested Grebe springs to mind as a possible addition, but that would be a long shot as there is no standing water in the area - apart from Rosshall Park pond(!).
I have recorded five birds of prey in the area: Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Peregrine and Tawny Owl. Merin could turn up at Hawkhead Farm (I had a "near-miss" lately at Arkleston) and Barn Owls could already be resident.
Waders are represented by Redshank, Common Sandpiper, Oystercatcher and Woodcock. Golden Plover and Lapwing are both possible on passage (wouldn't breeding Lapwing be fantastic?) and Green Sandpiper could also turn up (two were recently together at the Hurlet). However Snipe is probably the most glaring omission in this group.
All the common gulls (Black headed, Herring, Lesser black backed and Common) are on the list. Only Great black backed is at all likely to be added, but a passage Common Tern would be a great prize.
All the common pigeons (Woodpigeon, Feral Pigeon, Stock Dove and Collared Dove) are seen regularly. Swift, Kingfisher and Great spotted Woodpecker are also on the list. Green Woodpecker, in my opinion, is so unlikely as not to be worth even listening for (famous last words?). However Skylark (I heard one singing last year nearby at Dykebar) and Meadow Pipit should surely have been recorded by now.

House Martin, Swallow and Sand Martin are all on the list (although the latter is very rare hereabouts). The next seven species are also included: Grey Wagtail, White/Pied Wagtail, Pied Wagtail (yarrellii), Waxwing, Dipper, Wren and Dunnock. Chats and thrushes are represented by Robin, Blackbird, Fieldfare, Song Thrush, Redwing and Mistle Thrush. Stonechat and Wheatear have both eluded me, but remain possible, particularly on passage. Spotted Flycatcher is even more of a long shot, particularly given the bird's decline of late.
Seven warbler species are on the list: Grasshopper Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Blackcap, Whitethroat, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler and Goldcrest. There are probably no more to add, although a passage Wood Warbler could turn up, and Lesser Whitethroat breed at Dykebar, only a mile away.

The four common tits (Long-tailed Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit) and Treecreeper are represented. Of this group, Nuthatch is a distinct possibility, especially as birds have been seen in nearby Pollok Park over recent years.
Six of the seven common crows have been recorded (Magpie, Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, Carrion / Hooded Crow hybrid, Rook and Raven). Jay is the one still not on the list (although there are several (other peoples') records from the adjacent Hawkhead Woodland).
The remaining passerines on the list are: Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Siskin, Redpoll (Common/Lesser), Bullfinch, Yellowhammer and Reed Bunting. Of those still missing, Brambling is the most obvious (I seem to be incapable of finding them unless they land on my bird feeders). Tree Sparrow, Linnet and Twite could also turn up. Crossbill is even more likely.
To summarise, those most likely are: Canada Goose, Golden Plover, Lapwing, Green Sandpiper, Snipe, Great black backed gull, Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Nuthatch, Jay, Crossbill and (especially) Brambling.
As a post-script to the Water Rail sighting, it sadly won't make it into the atlas as it didn't happen in either of the official recording periods.

As a post-postscript to that sighting, someone else has recorded Water Rail in that tetrad (NS56B) for the winter atlas (but not, so far, for the summer one).

Sunday, March 13, 2011

An early morning trip to Ardmore Point took place in calm but rainy weather. Plenty of signs of spring were evident including naturalised Daffodils in flower and frogspawn in some of the ditches. Good numbers of land birds were singing including Robin, Wren, Song Thrush, Dunnock and (especially) Chaffinch. Out on the Clyde, several Slavonian Grebes included one in near summer plumage and a pair performing their "Penguin-dance" courtship display. Eiders were displaying and three seals were pulled up on rocks. A few Goldeneye were scattered around, including a transitional bird with features of both immature and adult (male) plumage. Heading back to the car park, a Stock Dove careered over the path. This, and a drumming Great spotted Woodpecker were new birds for me for the 1km square covering the bulk of the point - giving a current species total of 56. Also notable were two Rabbits.
Later in the day, visitors to the garden feeders included two Bullfinches, a Chaffinch and a Collared Dove.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Overnight snow scuppered any plans for a day away. Instead, had to be content with a walk home from Hawkhead in the rain. Nevertheless, managed to come up with several good sightings including: a small flock of Siskins and a single Treecreeper showing well in Alders in Hawkhead Estate Park; the young male Mute Swan (accompanied by a pair of Goosanders and a Mallard) on its usual stretch of the river; a Great spotted Woodpecker and 7 Long tailed Tits visiting the feeder at the west gate of Leverndale Hospital; a Red Fox padding across a stubble field near Cairnhill; at least 5 Goldcrests singing in conifers at the southern edge of Rosshall Park; a mixed flock of Redwings, Fieldfares and a single Mistle Thrush singing in treetops near Rosshall High School and a Song Thrush singing at the Cardonald Place farmstead.
Earlier in the day, a pair of Mallards (presumably the pair seen in past years) was prospecting the estate.

Friday, March 11, 2011

More snow - and now five clumps of frogspawn in the pond (must put up that netting to deter the Blackbirds and Magpies).

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Wheatear in Cumbria. Snow again in west central Scotland.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Awoke to yet more snow in west central Scotland, although this week it was the wet, sleety stuff which doesn't lie. The local frogs are obviously ignoring the weather as a quick check of the silver glade pond revealed two fresh clumps of spawn.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Today's lunchtime walk was accompanied by driving rain. However birds were much in evidence. Two Redpolls feeding around the margins of Cowdenknowes Reservoir were my first for the site (taking my total there to 53 species). Also there were a single Cormorant and three Goldeneye (including a nice male - my first here this winter). The water levels at Cowdenknowes and nearby Town Reservoir had been lowered by about a metre, exposing quite a lot of mud. Two Pied Wagtails were enjoying the conditions at the latter.

Monday, March 07, 2011

A late lunchtime walk through the Ferguslie Mills area of Paisley produced a calling Bullfinch, 18 Tufted Ducks and a pair of Mute Swans. Another male Mute Swan was displaying on the nearby park pond.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Over one hundred grey geese (presumably Greylags but hard to make out at 70mph) were in fields next to the M8 just south of the Inchinnan-Bishopton flyover. Back home a female Chaffinch and a pair of Bullfinches were in the back garden.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Arrived at Kinneil this morning just as the tide was coming in. Hundreds of waders including Black tailed Godwits and Knot were feeding on the mud. Further out, around thirty Pintail were in the river channel. Meanwhile the Green winged Teal was behind the hide and twenty three Scaup were at the eastern end of the bay. A Greenshank (below) was feeding quietly in the lagoon channel while thirty five Greylags and two Buzzards flew overhead.

Over at Linlithgow Loch, the female Smew was out in deep water and other interesting birds included the lone Shelduck, a few domestic mallards, nest-building Coots and Little Grebes and displaying Great crested Grebes. Heading back over to Bo'ness, a Kestrel flew off from the top of a telegraph pole.
In Edinburgh, two pairs of Canada Geese and one pair of Greylags (but no Iceland Gulls) were on Dunsapie Loch. Nearby were two Bullfinches, and a single Fulmar was soaring along Salisbury Crags.

Friday, March 04, 2011

News from the web is of a fair few Sand Martins passing through south west England and a Chiffchaff in song at Lochwinnoch.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Driving down to Greenock first thing, six Greylag Geese were in the field opposite Longhaugh Point and a Buzzard was in its usual spot at Finlaystone. Around mid morning, two Magpies scolding loudly in the back gardens behind the office turned out to be mobbing a Hoodie / hybrid (presumably the bird which was present a few streets away last year).

Driving down the coast at lunchtime, a nice male Red breasted Merganser was with the Eiders off Skelmorlie, and an Oystercatcher was on the grass verge beyond Seamill. A brief "banana stop" at Shewalton produced a Great spotted Woodpecker drumming (and showing well) next to the footbridge (my first drummer of the spring). A little further along the road to Kilmarnock, a Sparrowhawk was soaring in slow spirals over roadside fields. Finally a brief walk around Kay Park Pond at home time found the local Mallards indulging in much vigorous mating. Among them were various hybrids including one which looked like it had a bit of American Wigeon in it.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Another frosty start to the day. The usual lunchtime walk into Paisley was devoid of any interest whatsover, with all of the hard-weather refugees having returned from whence they came. Interesting sightings from the web include 6 Jays and a Green Woodpecker at Dalzell Estate and three White tailed Eagles on Bute (both clydebirds). Meanwhile a Chiffchaff has been heard singing in Lothian (surely a wintering bird rather than an early migrant).

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Another calm day in West Central Scotland dawned with both Collared Dove and Greenfinch singing in the glade. Working in Hamilton so walked down to the Clyde at lunchtime. A solitary male Goldeneye and a fly-over Grey Heron were the only birds on the river. However the "Furlongs" were full of singing birds including Chaffinch, Greenfinch and Goldfinch.
Back home, a Wren (still seemingly very scarce everywhere) was feeding around the margins of the garden pond. No sign of any frogspawn yet (previous first dates have been 19th March 2010, 6th March 2009, 2nd March 2008 and 18th March 2007).