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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, April 30, 2011

Speyside Way

Headed to a perfectly-still Loch Garten first thing to try for Capercaillie. However, experience has taught that as the years go by, the crowds get bigger and the views more distant - and so it was this year. Nevertheless, Red Squirrel, Common Sandpiper, Great spotted Woodpecker and Osprey were ample compensation.


The main event of the day was a walk from Nethybridge to Aviemore via the Strathspey Way. Added a detour along the Spey between the Boat of Garten Bridge and Kinchurdy Road. That stretch added four or five pairs of Common Sandpiper and 18 Goldeneye, plus two Red breasted Mergansers and a small flock of Sand Martins. Further south an Osprey gave excellent views as it hovered over a small loch.

The walk ended with fantasic views over Aviemore Golf Course to the northern corries. A fantastic walk, all of which done in glorious sunshine.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Today was the first day of the annual Strathspey trip. Left Glasgow at lunchtime and drove north (in glorious sunshine) via Creiff and Aberfeldy. Arrived in Alvie around 5pm. Birds around the estate included Pied Wagtail, Greylag Goose, Pheasant, singing Willow Warbler and Blackcap, Chaffinch, Siskin and good numbers of Song Thrush. Highlights of an evening walk into the hills south of the esate included a roding Woodcock, displaying Lapwing and drumming Snipe.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Two pairs of Shelduck were flighting back to the estuary from fields behind Langbank when I drove past first thing. I wonder if they nest back there. Could be a bit of a problem leading ducklings over 4 lanes of M8.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A glorious, sunny day today, sadly spent entirely indoors. Heading home from work at 9pm, the sky in the west was a delicate salmon pink.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A Collared Dove was singing in the estate yesterday evening, but I am still concerned that one of the pair (presumably the female) may have been taken by a Sparrowhawk earlier in the day. Will keep my eyes peeled.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Garden visitors today included a single Collared Dove, a male Bullfinch (could the female be incubating?) and, unusually, a pair of Greenfinches.
An afternoon walk through Pollok Country Park produced a number of interesting sightings including a singing Whitethroat near Corkerhill Road (where one sang last year), a female Mallard with a brood of 5 ducklings near the M77 underpass, at least a dozen male Orange Tip Butterflies along a short stretch of grassy bank (with Cuckoo Flower), a female Goosander between the golf courses and two Swallows over the Visitor Centre. Huge numbers of people in the park made finding anything else difficult. Certainly there were no Grey Wagtails at their traditional site near the weir, although I thought I heard one half a mile further west.
Back home, the Collared Dove may have fallen prey to the local Sparrowhawk - a pile of buff feathers on the lawn seemed to suggest as much.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

An early morning walk from Cardonald to Partick via the SECC produced a number of notable sightings including: a Whitethroat singing from the same Bramble patch in urban Cardonald where birds have been on territory in four of the last five years; a Raven high over Cardonald, flying west from Moss Heights along Paisley Road West; Mute Swans nesting on a pontoon in the Science Centre dock; at least nine Sand Martins visiting nesting holes in the retaining wall of the River Kelvin at Yorkhill (with two Grey Herons and a Female Goosander nearby); a Dipper flying upstream at Kelvingrove Museum; breeding evidence for several species including Blue Tit, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush and Starling.
Also, something you don't often see in south west Glasgow: an occupied tent (and bike) in shrubbery in Belahouston Park.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Three Grey Squirrels were in the garden today - usually two is the maximum.

Friday, April 22, 2011

An early start today - and a walk at Locherwoods before work. Had hoped to hear my first Cuckoo of the year - but had to settle for a Grasshopper Warbler reeling in a damp field corner and a pair of Kestrels sparring with two Ravens. The thick mist made bird finding difficult, but it didn't deter excellent numbers of Chaffinches and Willow Warblers from singing - I counted 17 and 30 respectively in just 20 minutes of walking.
The late afternoon was spent tackling the back and front gardens. Plenty of birds were around including a pair of Blue Tits visiting the nestbox on the back wall, two Blackcaps having a singing duel and a Great spotted Woodpecker "Peep" ing from over the back fence. Highlight however was a Raven (my first for my home square) which powered over, cronking loudly, around 6pm.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

News from the web is of hatched Mallards and Greylag Geese, and full clutches at both Loch of the Lowes and Loch Garten.

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

Few natural connections today, but manged a quick spin around Arkleston Farm late evening when a single Yellowhammer was perched on a wire.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Another smashing day in west central Scotland. Birding highlight was a Goldfinch which perched outside the office window for ten minutes, brightening up a very dull meeting.

Monday, April 18, 2011

An early morning walk along the Cart prior to work produced a single Long tailed Tit (they have been a lot less visible over the past few weeks), good numbers of singing Chiffchaffs, Willow Warblers and Blackcaps, two Mistle Thrushes feeding on the big lawn in Rosshall Park and a possible Whitethroat tuning up in Hawkhead Park. At the other end of the day, a male Blackcap joined two Great Tits and a Blue Tit bathing in the Silver Glade pond. The Blackcap was hopping excitedly around the edges, possibly attracted by the tadpoles. Two Collared Doves and three Feral Pigeons were also notable visitors.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

An afternoon walk along the Cart, and back via Leverndale "Farm" produced two Blackcaps, four Chiffchaffs and seven Willow Warblers. Also notable were a Common Buzzard at the Leverndale east gate and a Grey Heron at the Cardonald Place Farm wier. The field at Leverndale Farm was full of life with a small pond full of tadpoles and at least four Small Tortoiseshell Butterflies on the wing.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Spent a blustery afternoon walking from Linlithgow to Bo'ness. At least one Tree Sparrow (and possibly 5 or 6 more) was at Bonnytoun Farm. Other notable day totals included three Willow Warblers, two Chiffchaffs and two Blackcaps. The Ospreys at Loch of the Lowes and Loch Gartern both laid their second eggs this evening. Meantime the Daily Mail printed an interesting article here.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Primroses in flower at Newark. Osprey news: The pairs at Loch Garten, Loch of the Lowes and Rutland Water have all produced their first egg.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Got up at 5:30 and was walking along the cycle path at Lochwinnoch just after 6:30. Plenty of birds were in song on what was a soft, dull, misty, moisty morning. Blackbirds and Song Thrushes seemed to be everywhere, but Willow Warblers really were, with 19 singing in less than one kilometre. Other notable species included Common Buzzard, Great spotted Woodpecker and 12 singing Wrens. Walked down the path to West Bay where the Garganey pair were resting, close inshore, with half a dozen Tufted Ducks and a pair of Mallards. The male saw me coming and started "clicking" (demonstrating why the species used to be called "Cricket Teal") before the two took flight and headed out to the centre of the loch. The shyness of the species is something I have noticed before. For instance, last year's Cummertrees bird took flight as soon as I (carefully) popped my head over the hedge. Other birds along the shore included a pair of Wigeon, two or three singing Sedge Warlers (my first of the year), the same number of Reed Buntings and a reeling Grasshopper Warbler (again my first of spring). Other wildlifeincluded six Roe Deer and flowering Butterbur and Wood Sorrell. Got to work at 8am. At lunchtime, a walk over to Murdieston was notable for singing Blackcap and Goldcrest in the cemetery and a singing Willow Warbler beside the main dam.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A pair of Garganey are on the Barr Loch. Mmmm......

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Lunchtime at the Hammils produced a Grey Wagtail, a Pied Wagtail and a Grey Heron. Meanwhile a House Sparrow was chirruping, unseen, from a building overlooking Paisley Cross. The regular Raven spent the morning around Coats' Memorial Church. On two occasions I noticed it carrying sticks up to a spot on the east side of the tower.

Monday, April 11, 2011

A Grey Heron was flying up to the spruces at Woodhall, suggesting possible nesting (I had assumed the colony there had been dispersed by recent house building).

Sunday, April 10, 2011

No natural connections today - Bah!! News from the web is of the first Osprey egg at Peebles.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

A cold start today, with near-freezing temperatures at the campsite. Set off at 6:15 to walk the first few miles of the Lairig Ghru footpath. Almost the first sound heard was the cheerful "Twiddly-dee" of a Crested Tit. Other wildlife encountered along the way included Siskin, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush and Red Squirrel (plus lots of singing Chaffinch, Coal Tit, Wren and Robin). A late morning stop at Loch Morlich produced Red breasted Merganser and Goldeneye, while the north east corner of Loch Insh turned up Goldeneye, Oystercatcher and Reed Bunting. A par of Greylag Geese were at Glen Feshie airstrip and another three were at Uath Lochans. Also at Uath were displaying Goldeneye and singing Meadow Pipit. Driving home, a Red legged Partridge was dead on the roadside north of the Sma' Glen. while a Grey Partidge flew over. Nearby were three Canada Geese and a Grey Heron. Finally, a Swallow in Crief was my first of the year.

An overnight visitor

The Cairngorm Club Footbridge

First plaque on the bridge

Second plaque on the bridge

Track through forest near Rothiemurchus campsite

The view from the tent

Insh Church

Dead Red legged Partridge.

Friday, April 08, 2011

My heart's in the Highlands - and this evening, the rest of me is here too. Managing to squeeze in a short trip to Strathspey before going back to work on Monday. Drove to Aviemore this afternoon, the highlight of the trip being an Osprey soaring over the motorway near Bannockburn. Drove straight to the ski car park, but the only birds on show were a few Meadow Pipits and Pied Wagtails. Then, had a wander around the Dell of Rothiemurchus (highlights being two Buzzards, a Great spotted Woodpecker and a Long tailed Tit), before settling into Rothiemurchus campsite. Sitting under the stars right now. .

Church in Rothiemurchus

Aviemore Centre from Dell Farm

Rothiemurchus Estate Office

Dell Farm looking east

Derelict cottage at Rothiemurchus Campsite

Thursday, April 07, 2011

A morning drive across a lowland moor produced Black Grouse, Curlew, Meadow Pipit, Skylark and Hen Harrier. Then spent a good three hours at Baron's Haugh, turning up 17 Chiffchaff, 3 Willow Warblers, 3 Blackcaps, an invisible, calling Nuthatch and a courting pair of Lapwings (but sadly, no Green Woodpecker). Back home, two Greenfinches and the regular Bullfinch pair were in the garden.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

There was nothing special on a torrid Kelvin during a walk through the West End this afternoon. However a Chiffchaff singing in Festival Park was a nice, city centre record.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Around 15 Magpies were mobbing a Red Fox behind the garden fence. Meanwhile, evidence of local breeding getting underway included Mistle Thrush carrying food, two Starlings foraging in grass verges and a Carrion Crow with a full crop.

Monday, April 04, 2011

A dead Magpie was lying on the paving stones outside the back door this afternoon. It had possibly flown into the "bus shelter" and broken its neck. In any case, all the other local birds seemed to be gathered in the trees just over the garden fence to look on. Dispatched it over the back fence. It might make a nice meal for a Fox tonight. Circle of life and all that. Osprey news: Settled pair at Bassenthwaite; settled pair at Threave; unsettled pair at Aberfoyle; single at Kielder; still none at Caerlaverock; satellite-tracked Strathspey male heading north through England and .... the first egg at Glaslyn.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Had a good scout around Partick today, hoping to connect with what remained of the Waxwing influx. However the only bird about in any numbers was Goldfinch. Later, walked along the Cart to Paisley, then back via Hawkhead Woodland. Highlights included a Kingfisher under Howford Bridge, a Grey Wagtail and a male Blackcap midway between Leverndale and Hawkhead, and a singing Willow Warbler (my first of the year) just west of the Leverndale west gate.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Headed up to Scone first thing to search for Hawfinches. Within minutes of arriving, around 12 birds bounded overhead. Spent the next half hour getting some great views as single birds and small groups of up to 5 moved around the treetops (pictures above by walk4000). Most of the time the flock kept up a constant stream of ticks and squeaks. The side gate to the Palace Grounds was padlocked (below) but the birds were easy to view from the main road. Also in the area were two Common Buzzards, a drumming Great spotted Woodpecker, a couple of Oystercatchers and the palace Peacocks. Headed to Loch Leven and spent the afternoon walking along the cycle track from Burleigh to Grahamstone. Bird highlights of a blustery afternoon were hundreds of Pink footed and tens of Greylag Geese (I wonder how the building of the cycle path has affected them), pairs of Teal, Gadwall and Shelduck, displaying Great crested Grebes, singing Goldcrests, three singing Yellowhammers, two Stock Doves and a single Sand Martin. The cycle path there is beautifully constructed with some very artistic touches and good attempts to ameliorate any environmental impact (e.g. planting of screens in front of goose feeding areas). However I couldn't help thinking it would have been better for the wildlife if it hadn't been built. Back home, the first local Chiffchaff of the year was singing from the "nature reserve" and a female Greenfinch was an unusual visitor to the garden feeders.



Some factoids about Hawfinches: Up to 74 were reported from the Scone site in 2006. The Scone birds are far from sedentary. A female ringed in February 2004 was recovered in Sweden in February 2007 (BW Jan 10).


Some Osprey news: The regular Loch Garten pair has reformed (the male arrived back today) and mating has already begun. Still only the female at Loch of the Lowes.

Friday, April 01, 2011

A "ball" of about 50 Starlings was over the A8 around 7 this evening.