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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, May 31, 2011

A single House Martin was visiting the eaves of the house in Cardonald Gardens again this evening. It would be good to check the site with binoculars, but I suspect the householders may not agree.

Monday, May 30, 2011

A House Martin was visiting a probable nest under the eaves of a house on Cardonald Gardens first thing. Heading down the Clyde, a Buzzard was over the motorway at Bishopton.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

A Pied Wagtail was being pestered by a juvenile at the junction between Byres Road and University Avenue. Meanwhile, back in Cardonald, two House Martins were over the traditional breeding site on Cardonald Gardens.
Below are some pictures from my recent trip to Islay:

Carraig Fhada lighthouse overlooking Kilnaughton Bay

American Monument, Oa of Islay

Islay House

Ballygrant Loch

Port Askaig


Loch Gruinart

Machir Bay

Kilchiarin Bay

Overlooking Orsay

Orsay Lighthouse

Portnahaven Harbour west

Portnahaven Harbour east (Corncrake habitat)

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Fledging day?

The Blue Tit chicks in the nest box on the back wall were up at the entrance hole all morning. However it is all quiet now - hopefully the Magpies haven't got them.
Down at Paisley Road West, the first fledged Starlings of the year were chasing their parents between the parked cars.

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Friday, May 27, 2011

The local Chiffchaff has started singing again - which presumably means either that it has lost its first brood, or has fledged it. Meanwhile a Blackbird had a beakfull of worms in the estate.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

A Pied Wagtail was an unusual visitor to the back court outside the office window in Greenock today. I have had Grey Wagtail there, but today's was the first pied. Elsewhere, west central Scotland seems to be awash with Starlings frantically seeking food for their (no doubt) hungry nestlings.
Incidentally, the final species count for the Islay trip (including birds seen on the journey and bearing in mind the atrocious weather and that this was predominantly a work trip) was 87.

Islay Day 3

The mercurial Islay weather struck again today with strong winds and heavy rain. However having taken the whole day off as annual leave, that meant I had until the ferry at 3.30pm to birdwatch. Headed to the head of Loch Indaal first thing and was soon watching a small group of Bar tailed Godwits. Round at Bruichladdich, 20 Dunlin were dodging the breakers. Headed south on the Kilchiaran road and had singing Grasshopper Warbler and Cuckoo at Loch Gearach. Three broods of Greylag goslings were on the loch.
Over at Kilchiarin, two Common Sandpipers were acting like they had chicks nearby. Also there were Rock Dove, Chough and Buzzard. Driving south produced more Choughs, a couple of Ravens and a male Stonechat. Three more Sonechats (possibly a brood) were at Portnahaven. Also notable were five singing Corncrakes in the Portnahaven / Port Wemyss area.
The afternoon was spent walking in Bridgend and Ballygant woods
The latter was very disappointing, possibly because strong winds and rain drowned out most bird sounds. Nevertheless, a good number of common species were found including Grey Wagtail, Greenfinch, Bullfinch and Blackcap.
The ferry journey was excellent with a scattering of Manx Shearwaters and Gannets in the channel and summer plumaged Red throated and (surprisingly) Great norther Diver in West Loch Tarbet.
The drive back to Glasgow filled in more gaps in the trip list including Yellowhammer, Kestrel, Siskin and Magpie.
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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Islay Day 2

Today started with a singing Collared Dove in Bowmore. After work, headed for Machir Bay and a walk south in the direction of Kilchiaran. Parked at Machir Bay and walked round to Kilchoman Church. Heard a Corncrake rasping in the Iris bed next to the car park access road and saw a Buzzard next to the church. Birds in (or over) the dunes behind Machir Bay included Wheatear, Meadow Pipit, Rock Pipit, Starling, Swallow, Sand Martin, Lapwing, Hooded Crow, up to two pairs of Ravens and a single Chough. Birds in the bay included a single Red breasted Merganser and two Ringed Plovers. Back at the car park the calling Corncrake had been joined by two others and a female Pheasant was shepherding a single chick.
A tour of the roads around Loch Gorm produced a Stonechat, two Linnet and another Buzzard. Meanwhile, Gruinart reserve held another rasping Corncrake, a calling Cuckoo and a really good selection of wetland birds (waders and ducks). Highlights were probably a female Pintail and a Snipe. Heading back to Bowmore, a third Buzzard and a flying Cuckoo were near Lagstoban. The day ended as it began, with the Collared Doves in Bowmore

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Monday, May 23, 2011

Islay Day 1

Storm-force winds delayed this morning's ferry and made for a very bumpy trip. Unfortunately birdlife was scarce with only a few Gannets braving the winds.
Once the working day was done, headed down to the Oa. The weather again got in the way but two Choughs were feeding on the clifftops, two Stonechats were in an Iris bed and a Peregrine powered over, unperturbed by the conditions. later, two Twite were feeding on the path to the American Memorial.
The back road over to Bridgend produced 14 Greylags, a Buzzard and a Cuckoo being chased by a Meadow Pipit.
Later, a House Martin was in Ballygrant and a Grasshopper Warbler was reeling at the back of Bowmore.

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Sunday, May 22, 2011

Wondering if my travel plans tomorrow will be scuppered by gale force winds off Argyll. Will see how things are looking at 3am.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Confined to barracks for most of the day. However a young Red Fox gave great views as it checked out the front garden around midday. In the afternoon, the Blue Tits were taking food into the nestbox on the back wall of the house.

Friday, May 20, 2011

A brief stop at West Ferry first thing produced a single Whimbrel feeding along the distant shoreline. Through the telescope, the bird's 'jiz' was obvious. What was also notable was that it was clearly submissive to two nearby Oystercatchers, taking flight when either of them lunged at it. I don't think I have ever seen Oystercatchers intimidating Curlews in this way, and wondered if this might be a helpful identification feature at long range.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

A lunchtime walk around Murdieston Park found the broods of 6 Mute Swan cygnets and 5 Coot chicks still intact. At least another four Coots were on nests and the pair of Mute Swans on the island in Town Dam were still sitting tight. Having said that, I am not convinced that there are any eggs in their nest, or indeed if they are indeed a pair (although they are behaving like one).
Back at Cowdenknowes, two Swallows were feeding over the middle of the dam and two Swifts were wheeling over tenements nearby. Finally, a single Rook was cawing from the small Rookery.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Two Swifts were low over the motorway north of Bishopton.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Working at the Western this morning. On the way back to the car, two Long tailed Tits and a Grey Heron were beside the Kelvin at Yorkhill. Nearby, a maximum of eight Sand Martins were in the air over the Benalder Street Bridge colony with three birds seen entering nest holes.

Monday, May 16, 2011

A wet and windy day with few natural connections. However a quick walk along the river produced at least eight Goldfinches (possibly a fledged brood) at Rosshall School (where usually only two are present).

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Gannets were shearing over the waves off a stormy Troon this morning. A single Ringed Plover was on the rocks off the ballast bank. Nearby, Starlings were feeding young.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Decided to do my two outstanding timed tetrad visits in Clydesdale this morning so headed out at 5:30 and was on the hill for just after 6. First birds were a Buzzard being mercilessly mobbed by a Carrion Crow. These were followed by a reeling Grasshopper Warbler and a Spotted Flycatcher (my first of the year). Commonest birds were Willow Warbler, Chaffinch and Great Tit, although Whitethroats seemed to be singing from every bush.
Highlights of the second tetrad included another Spotted Flycatcher, a Dipper and two Crossbills. Also notable were good numbers of House Sparrows and Starlings nesting around the farm buildings, and a family group of Rabbits including an adult with a mouthful of grass (? bedding).

Stopped off at Linlithgow on the way home. Coots seem to be doing well with at least 5 broods on the loch and another three birds incubating. Other highlights included singing Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler and Blackcap along the north shore of the loch, a Great Tit pair nesting in a low wall and four Swifts high over the palace.

Friday, May 13, 2011

A working day in Paisley meant a walk along the river first thing, with the return walk at tea time. Highlights in the morning included singing Whitethroats at Moulin and Leverndale, three singing Chiffchaffs (outnumbering Willow Warblers), a pair of Bullfinches at the south east corner of Rosshall Park, the usual Mute Swan at Hawkhead and (unusually) a Rabbit on the Leverndale field. On the return leg, a Whitethroat was singing at Hawkhead (with eight Swallows nearby), a brood of two Mallard ducklings was on the Cart, a Great spotted Woodpecker was over Leverndale field, a family group of Long tailed Tits was mobbing a Magpie at the southwest gate of Rosshall Park and a Hooded Crow X Carrion Crow hybrid was feeding a normal juvenile at Rosshall Park Pond.

More changes were evident along the cycle path including at least four big trees felled (including the one at the corner next to the natural weir), and a new gate at Hawkhead Estate Park.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Today started with a walk through Cardonald to the early train. Lots of birds were on the scene including Blackbirds collecting nest material and Starlings carrying food. Arriving in Greenock, two Swifts were screaming around Westburn Church spire.

A lunchtime walk around the Cowdenknowes and Town Reservoirs found one of the Mute Swan pairs with six cygnets (the other still sitting tight). A Coot pair nearby had five swimming young, but the pair at the other end of the reservoir were trying (unsuccessfully) to keep the Lesser black backed Gulls from picking off their newly-hatched chicks.

Another Swift was screaming over the north gate of Greenock Cemetery where some naturalised "London's Pride" was putting on a fine show.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A faint scream coming through the office window at 9:30 this morning alerted me to three Swifts careering over the Barbour Building, Paisley (my first of the year). A short lunchtime walk around Paisley town centre found up to 6 Sand Martins inspecting the drainage pipes in the retaining wall of the river. They entered a couple of the pipes, suggesting the possibility of nesting. However they might not stay around if we get some heavy rain and the pipes start to flow. Back at the office, two Ravens were loafing on the spire of Coats' Memorial Church (with two more Swifts in the background).
This evening in Cardonald, the usual Whitethroat was singing about 100 metres east of where it usually is and a new male was song-flighting over the bramble patch between the back of the Moulin Estate and the railway line [124 spp].

Above: Two Ravens on Coats' tower (1 o'clock and 7 o'clock)
Below: Drainage pipes along the Cart in Paisley town centre

Monday, May 09, 2011

An evening walk along the Cart was notable for a brood of two Mallard ducklings just west of Cardonald Place Farm Bridge. Nearby, a big tree has been felled behind the farm buildings. I am not sure I approve of the excessive "tidying up" which the council has been doing recently.


Sunday, May 08, 2011

Walked around Balgray Reservoir this afternoon. Conditions not ideal for birdwatching with quite a blustery wind. However good numbers of Willow Warblers, Sedge Warblers and Whitethroats were in song and a pair of Great crested Grebes were displying. Plenty of Swallows about but no Swifts. A sandpiper species was alarm calling on the shore. The call didn't sound exactly like Common, and when the (until-then-invisible) bird was flushed, it flew up at an angle of 30-45 degrees, banking and arcing away quite high up (completely unlike the typical skimming flight of Common). In terms of colour, the overall impression was of brown and white. Oh well - another one that got away.
This evening, a Grey Heron was fishing under the iron bridge at Glasgow Botanic Gardens while a female Mallard shepherded about 4 or 5 tiny young into cover.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Squeezed in a short walk from Crookston first thing, picking up two singing Chiffchaffs in the little wood where the Brock Burn meets the Cart.
Walked from the Erskine Hotel to Renfrew Ferry this afternoon. Traffic and wind noise made birdsong difficult to hear. However came across at least two reeling Grasshopper Warblers, a handful of Whitethroats and similar numbers of Sedge Warbler, Willow Warbler and Blackcap. Eight House Martins were in a feeding group over Erskine and a big mixed group of Swallows and Sand Martins was at the mouth of the Cart. Singing Yellowhammers and Skylarks were also heard.

Friday, May 06, 2011

A busy work day severely restricted any natural connections. However the teatime park-run produced the first House Martin of the year over Cardonald Gardens.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Working from home today, so kept half an eye on the garden. A Magpie has found a way to get under the net over the pond but can only access a short stretch of bank. I may just leave him alone as hopefully the majority of the tadpoles will stay down the other end and perfectly safe. Meantime another Magpie with a deformed beak has spent the whole day trying to get into the Blue Tit nest box on the back wall. I don't think it can reach the chicks but it is driving the poor parents to distraction.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

More frost this morning, followed by another fine day. A quick lunchtime walk along Custom House Quay revealed an almost transparent dragonfly sp on the pond behind the leisure centre and nine Black Guillemots giving exceptional views as they squabbled in the west harbour and visited nest holes in the harbour walls. As I headed back to work a Sandwich Tern (my first of the year) flew along the waterfront.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Today started with clear skies and quite a hard frost. A lunchtime walk around Murdieston Park found a Coot with a brood of five young and two pairs of Mute Swans on nests. Most notable record however was a Chiffchaff singing from the cemetery - the first I have heard for over a week. I'm unsure whether the birds which seemed to everywhere a few weeks ago have moved on or are just keeping silent.
Back home, the netting over the pond seems to have stopped the local Magpies guzzling all the tadpoles - so far.

Monday, May 02, 2011

The full species count for the weekend was a modest 47. Highlight wasn't really the birdwatching at all, but the cloudless skies, spectacular views and good company. Nevertheless, the full list is as follows:
Greylag Goose, Mallard, Domestic Mallard, Red breasted Merganser, Tufted Duck, Goldeneye, Little Grebe, Grey Heron, Pheasant, Buzzard, Osprey, Oystercatcher, Lapwing, Common Sandpiper, Woodcock, Snipe, Black headed Gull, Common Gull, Woodpigeon, Cuckoo, Great spotted Woodpecker, Pied Wagtail, Tree Pipit, Swallow, Sand Martin, Wren, Dunnock, Robin, Redstart, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Blackbird, Willow Warbler, Blackcap, Whitethroat, Goldcrest, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Carrion Crow, Jackdaw, Rook, House Sparrow, Starling, Chaffinch, Greenfinch and Siskin.

Checked the local electricity pylons for any signs of corvid nests, but with no luck. Concentrated on the pylons with strengthening boxes which narrowed the search down to four: at Ralston Avenue, Hillington Roundabout (behind 'Instyle'), Hillington Industrial Estate (between Reid Furniture and 'The Harvester') and Penilee (Linburn Road).

Interesting species encountered included two singing Blackcaps at the back of Hillington Industrial Estate and two Swallows over 'The Harvester'.

Interesting news from the web is of a Green Woodpecker at Renfrew Golf Course.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Today started with a pre-breakfast walk in the Kinrara Estate. Almost the first bird heard (apart from the ubiquitous Willow Warbler and Chaffinch) was a Redstart. Thereafter, this species proved to be very common with several singing birds, particularly in the Birch woodland to the west and south of the estate. Also in this area were Blue tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Tree Pipit, Song Thrush, Robin, Siskin, Jackdaw, Starling, Buzzard and Pheasant. To the south were Whtethroat (the only record of the weekend) and a distant drumming woodpecker which might just have been Green, although was more likely to be Great spotted. The walk uphill to the Duke of Gordon monument added Wren, Dunnock, Blackcap and a distant Cuckoo. Reached the monument in glorious sunshine, with spectacular 360 degree views.
Walked round Loch an Eilein in the afternoon. Lots of people were there, enjoying the sunshine, so bird sightings were few (Willow Warbler, Chaffinch, Tree Pipit, Goldcrest, Siskin, the castle Jackdaws, Great Tit, Coal Tit and a probable Crested Tit disappearing into the forest). Only Loch Gamhna showed any promise, with some indistinct waterfowl in the distance. Unfortunately, the time had arrived to head home, so they had to remain unidentified.