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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.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A lovely day in west central Scotland today. It was one of those kind of "soft" days we get every so often when there is settled high pressure, almost complete cloud cover and no wind. The atmosphere just feels so calm and settled. If I knew somewhere in the world that had weather like this all the time, I would move in a minute.
The day actually started quite well, connection-wise, with a Raven cronking repeatedly as it passed the house around 7am. I wonder if we are on a regular, early-morning flight path (although I guess two records is probably too few to prove a pattern). Thereafter the day was rather spoiled by a marathon, 4-hour meeting in Paisley. Eventually escaped to Greenock about 4pm. Headed over the back roads to avoid traffic at Port Glasgow. Plenty of Swallows were still on wires, with some quite large flocks of Starlings on farmland. Eight ducks high over Houston could have been anything, but were probably Mallards. Over near Snypes Dam, a Grey Heron flapped lazily away. Heading home after dusk, took my usual detour past Arkleston Farm. I live in hope of finding something interesting there - Barn Owl perhaps. However tonight it seemed completely devoid of life.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Finally escaped from work at 8:30 pm. Headed along the river to catch the last of the daylight. Bats were hunting under the Cardonald Place Farm and Howford bridges. Listened hard for Tawny Owls but to no avail. Not surprising as I have only recorded two one-night birds in five years living here.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Today started with a skein of perhaps 30 Greylag Geese flying across the motorway near East Fulwood Farm.
Heading home, a Kestrel was upsetting the local Starlings as it hunted the Rhubarb field at Arkleston Farm while ten (presumed) Mallards dropped down onto the flooded field opposite the south west corner of Hillington Industrial Estate (might try to check it for waders sometime - if I ever get a minute). A Grey Squirrel was a road casualty at Penilee.
Swifts seem all but gone from the area, although one of the junior connectors reported two from Barshaw Park this afternoon. Swallows are still about but the 50 or so which were using wires at Arkleston Farm seem to have vanished.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

My usual Sunday morning walk across the Benalder Street Bridge in Glasgow's Yorkhill was notable today for a nice Dipper which spent a few minutes exploring boulders in the river just upstream of the bridge. They are really great birds to see, especially in urban locations.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

There was an almost complete Hoodie on the playing fields at Cardwell Bay this lunchtime; a really smart bird with the grey feathers infused with pink. Nearby, two White Wagtails were feeding (one on the shore and one on the grass just behind) and a Whimbrel flew by, almost nonchalantly, only 3-4 metres away .

Friday, August 26, 2011

Two more Carrion Crows with some Hoodie blood were hanging around the west end of Greenock first thing.

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Thursday, August 25, 2011

The only natural connection of a dreich, work-filled day was a Raven heard from the bath (!) as it flew over South Cardonald, cronking, at 7am.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Today's heavy rain eased off over lunchtime, allowing a brief walk around Murdieston Park. The two broods of Mute Swan cygnets were still doing well, as were the four juvenile Tufted Ducks, now feeding confidently in the middle of Cowdenknowes Dam. Over on Town Dam, a pair of Coots had a newly-hatched brood of 5 young. Gull numbers are still quite low, but over 20 juvenile Lesser black backs were present. Nearby, a rather scruffy Carrion Crow had extensive grey patches on its mantle and shoulders, suggesting the presence of some Hoodie genes.
Heading home this evening, a single Swift was with Swallows and House Martins feeding over Arkleston Farm.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Working from home today, with only a juvenile Great Tit and a scabby-looking, moulting Magpie for company. This evening a Grey Heron was on the pond in Kelvingrove Park but there were no Kingfishers or Dippers on the nearby Kelvin.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Not such a good start to the day with a freshly dead Badger on the M8 near Bishopton.
This evening, two Swallows were feeding over the Port Glasgow lagoons, a single House Martin entered the nest on number 20 Cardonald Gardens and a bat was hunting under Bonnyholm Bridge.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

An early moning walk around a perfectly still Hogganfield Loch produced several good birds including eight Gadwall, a single Teal and a sleeping Ruddy Duck. Four young Great crested Grebes were begging loudly near the car park and 15 Pochard were in a loose group near the island.
Back in Glasgow, two Sand Martins were still around the Benalder Street colony.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Spent the morning and early afternoon walking in the hills east of Dunblane. Birdng highlights were few, with the only notable sighting being of three Buzzards trying to evade the attentions of mobbing House Martins. Butterflies, however were particularly numerous with hundreds of Peacocks, a few whites and a single Red Admiral. Other insects and a single Dragonfly added to the mix.

Friday, August 19, 2011

A Black Guillemot was an unusal rush hour sighting this evening, flying just above the traffic as it took a short cut between Victoria Harbour and Garvel Point.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

This evening's walk, from Balgray Reservoir back to home, was done in perfect, still conditions and ended with a glorious apricot sunset. Unfortunately birds were pretty quiet, with only a few Whitethroats and Willow Warblers feeding in the hegdges and a few juvenile Great crested Grebes.
Back in Pollok, six House Martins were feeding over the Levernside Road shops.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Walked home from Renfrew this evening, detouring via Arkleston Farm to check for Yellowhammers. None were present tonight, but 16 Goldfinches were feeding on thistles and more than 20 Swallows were gathering on overhead wires. Nearer home, a Bullfinch was calling near the old Rosshall Stables.
As an interesting postscrpt to my Kingfisher comment yesterday, the BTO have just revealed the latest Breeding Bird Suvey results which show that Kingfisher numbers declined by 39% between 2009 and 2010.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Heading home today, at the end of a day of heavy rain, three Swifts were low over Arkleston Farm.
This evening, took a walk along the Cart as far as Pollokshaws Road. After months of not seeing any (apart from one in Mallorca), got my second Kingfisher in 24 hours (this time behind the cricket pitch in Pollok Park). I had come to the conclusion that the local birds must have been wiped out by the recent cold winters. However perhaps I just hadn't been getting out enough.

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Monday, August 15, 2011

Sitting at my desk this morning, my attention was caught by a small bird in the branches outside the window. On checking, it turned out to be a lemony-yellow, autumn Willow Warbler. Within a few seconds, a second had appeared, followed by a Blue Tit, a Great Tit and a nice, tail-pumping Chiffchaff. All were systematically working the brambles and other foliage. A really nice insight into the world of these small birds at this time of year.
This evening, a walk along the Cart as far as Hawkhead Road was notable for two particular records: a Kingfisher speeding under Howford Bridge (they have been virtually non-existent around here this year) and a singing Yellowhammer at Rosshall Farm (only heard with considerable difficulty due to the distance involved - around half a kilometer).

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Plenty of birds about during this morning's walk to Hyndland. Magpies, Jackdaws and Woodpigeons were probably the most common, but the supporting cast consisted of calling Great Tit, Blue Tit, Coal Tit, Chaffinch and Willow Warbler and singing Robin.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Spent a damp afternoon walking around Longhaugh Point. The fields there held nearly 200 each of Greylag and Canada Geese. Four Grey Herons and some assorted common ducks were also present. Down on the shore, a few Whimbrel were among the commoner waders and a Sedge Warbler was flushed from reeds. Walking back to the car, a striking black and white bird turned out to be a juvenile Carrion Crow with almost completely white primaries.
This evening, a domestic run to Linwood produced two Grey Herons on floods near the old schoolhouse. This area used to be great for autumn Ruffs but the main flood has been partially drained and overgrown for the last 20 years.

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Friday, August 12, 2011

Visited Baron's Haugh this morning, hopeful of connecting with some passage waders. However the water levels were extremely high, with no mud exposed. Only a single Green Sandpiper was present, feeding around a patch of equisetum. A Water Rail was calling, unseen, from the reeds. Other good birds included family parties of Little Grebe, Coot, Moorhen and Whitethroat, a single Treecreeper, around 40 Black headed Gulls which swooped over (possibly chasing flying insects) and sound-only records of Kingfisher and Grey Heron.

This afternoon, took a walk along the Avon and around the Cadzow Oaks. These trees are thought to be 800 to 1,000 years old and give a sense of quiet respectability, especially on a calm, damp day like today.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Managed to squeeze in a quick walk around the Murdieston Dams between the showers. The Tufted Duck brood is still intact and apparently managing to evade the attentions of the big gulls. The two Mute Swan families are also doing well, although it is interesting to note that the Town Dam birds spend a lot of time loafing on the island whereas the Cowdenknowes birds are invariably patrolling the open water. Two rather sodden Swallows were on the wing.
Back home, a Swift was an unexpected find as it flew low over the Cardonald Place rail bridge.
This evening, a walk down to the Cart revealed the water level just at the point of spilling over (but significantly lower than I have seen during previous floods). Two House Martins completed a trio of summer midge-catchers.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Incessant rain in west central Scotland today, so had to resort to virtual birding. News from Skyebirds is of a Crested Tit at Gairloch on 16th July. Meantime Fraser Simpson reports Ptarmigan at the summit of Ben Vrakie, north of Pitlochry on 13th June.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

The summer doldrums are well and truly here. Walks at both lunchtime and after tea time produced virtually no birds at all.

Monday, August 08, 2011

An evening walk around Arkleston Farm produced two singing Yellowhammers and 12 Canada Geese flying northwest (presumably heading for the Clyde). A distinctly autumnal feel to the weather today. The Swallows and House Martins were feeding even more urgently than usual. The local Swifts seem to have gone. As the round earth rolls....
News from the web is of Tree Sparrows breeding on Lewis after a 25 year absence (I notice on the ArgyllBirdClub website that they have also bred on Iona and the Oa, Islay this year).

Sunday, August 07, 2011

A wet and miserable Edinburgh today, but St Margaret's Loch held a female Mallard with three very small young and a flock of mixed hirundines (Swallows and House Martins) feeding over the water.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

A walk up Cairn Table from Muirkirk was curtailed by heavy rain. However family parties of Meadow Pipit and Wheatear on the way up (a female and two fledglings of the latter together on fenceposts) were some compensation.Earlier in the afternoon, at least eight Song Thrushes and a similar number of Blackbirds were feeding on the Muirkirk Football Ground. I don't remember seeing such a concentration of Song Thrushes before, and can only conclude that at least one family party was involved.

Friday, August 05, 2011

An interesting item on the web today concerns a Great Tit being "swallowed" by a Pitcher Plant.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

A single Swift was screaming over Newton Mearns just after midday. This evening, a Swallow and a Goldfinch were over Crutherland House in East Kilbride.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

A really good day of natural connections here in a sunny west central Scotland. The morning started with two young Woodpigeons (looking like they were just out of the nest) feeding with adults on the lawn at the entrance to the estate. At lunchtime, a walk around the dams in Murdiestion Park revealed a female Tufted Duck with four young on Cowdenknowes Dam, my first confirmed breeding for the site. The Mute Swan broods on the two dams appear to be thriving, and there were fair numbers of young Mallards, Coots and Jackdaws around as well.
Driving home, over 50 large gulls (mainly Lesser black backs) were spiralling over the Woodhall roundabout, presumably feeding on flying ants.
This evening, at least 30 (possibly many more) Pied Wagtails were funnelling into small trees along the front of the Silverburn shopping centre in Glasgow. This clearly looks like a well-subscribed roost site - although I hadn't heard anything about it before.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Another day, another dead Hedgehog. This time on the M8 just after the Bishopton bend.

Monday, August 01, 2011

A Lesser black backed Gull was feeding a squealing juvenile on the roof of the church hall opposite Ardgowan Hospice, Greenock this morning. There are numerous others on rooves around the area. At this time of year, their whingeing calls are a common sound above the traffic noise.
An unusual sight on the way home from work this evening was a Hedgehog, dead, on the A8 at Cappielow. Back in Cardonald, a Swft was jinking along Cardonald Gardens at rooftop height.