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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, May 30, 2012

The male Blackbird which seems to have taken up permanent residence in the back garden was making himself at home this evening - bathing in the pond and singing from just over the fence. A female also turns up occasionally but never for very long - I wonder if she is incubating eggs.
The local Foxes have been making a terrific racket at nightfall on each of the past few evenings. I assume there is a family involved, judging by the various yelps, squeaks, chatters and screams that I've heard.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A group of three Swifts at window height from the fifth floor of the Barbour Building in central Paisley was the highlight of a busy work day.
They must come close to being my favourite bird. They have a 'presence' which Swallows and martins don't have. Perhaps it is the screaming call, or the reckless, break-neck flight, but they never fail to lift my spirits. I often say that you can measure the quality of a Scottish summer by how many 'Swift days' you have. Four out of the past four is a good start.

Monday, May 28, 2012

A Skylark was singing at Arkleston Farm tonight, while a Blue Tit visited a nest cavity in the cemetery wall.
Back home, three Swifts were high over the garden.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Walked from Cardonald to Hyndland first thing today. Plenty of birds on show, many in song. Greenfinches seemed particularly prevalent. Lots of Starlings were being chased around by noisy broods. Highlights were Swallows and Sand Martins at the Riverside Museum and a pair of Goosanders loafing on the muddy bank of the Kelvin.
This afternoon, another Swift was high over the back garden.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Spent the day "tidying" the garden, although hopefully not so much that the birds, Toads and Foxes will notice. Noticed an influx of hoverflies after I had mown the lawn - I wonder what they were responding to. Blackcap, Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff sang intermittently throughout the day. However the highlight was a single Swift high overhead.

Friday, May 25, 2012

I never cease to be amazed by the wildlife which can be seen (and heard) from the car during otherwise ordinary urban journeys. Today a Whitethroat was scratching from a scrubby area next to the Dennistoun off-ramp of the M8 and a Chiffchaff was singing at the Newark Roundabout in Port Glasgow. Back home, a Chiffchaff, Blackcap, two Willow Warblers and a Song Thrush were singing loudly while the local Blue Tits continue to ferry food to their young.
Once again, the central reservation of the M8 at the south end of the Kingston Bridge was covered with a profusion of wildflowers  - someone really should get an award for it.
Meanwhile, one organisation that should NOT be getting an award is the BBC, after two presenters (were alleged to have) disturbed a pair of Barn Owls during the making of a TV programme.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Scotland continues to bask in sweltering heat and glorious sunshine. A Grey Heron was beside the Benalder Street Bridge but the usual Sand Martins were nowhere to be seen.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A very quick walk around Murdieston Park found all the usual species well into their breeding cycles. The Mute Swan pairs on the two reservoirs have six young each. A female Mallard on the Town/Thom Street Dam also had six young while four active Coots' nests included one with tiny chicks. It remains to be seen what effect the recent warm weather (and the big influx of human visitors) will have on all of them.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Another day, another commute. This time, birds seen en route included a Buzzard carrying prey, a Whinchat on an overhead wire and a Peregrine soaring over a nearby hillside. Amazing what can be seen driving through some of the most densely-populated parts of the country.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Glorious day for the commute from Greenock down to Ayr. Leaving Greenock, a female Sparrowhawk swept across the road into a bush. Further along the road were two Buzzards, a Raven, singing Sedge Warbler, Meadow Pipit and Skylark, two Grey Wagtails and a Wheatear.
Heading back to Glasgow, a Buzzard was near Monkton.

More photos from yesterday below (all taken by CJM):

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Fantastic trip to the Isle of May today. The full list of (presumed) breeding birds was Shelduck, Eider, Fulmar, Shag, Oystercatcher, Kittiwake, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Common Tern, Arctic Tern, Guillemot, Razorbill, Puffin, Feral Pigeon, Carrion Crow, Wheatear, Pied Wagtail and Rock Pipit. Migrants were fairly few (due to the high pressure and clear skies) but consisted of single Turnstone, Red-backed Shrike, Chiffchaff, Lesser Whitethroat and Blackbird. Photos below - more to follow.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The planners of the new M74 extension have done a great job sowing the verges with wild flowers - they are now a patriotic mix of Red Campion, White Mouse-ear and Bluebells. Garnqueen Loch (below) held nesting Mute Swans, Coots with hatched young, a noisy pair of Little Grebes and a single drake Ruddy Duck.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Working from home today. The Blue Tits in the nestbox spent the day running the gauntlet of the local Magpies. At least one of the chicks must have strayed too close to the entrance hole and was promptly snatched away. Other visitors to the garden included several Blackbirds. They really have been notably common this year. Perhaps the mild weather (and soft ground) has suited them. 
There were plenty of birds on show at Hogganfield Loch this evening. Pairs of Great crested Grebes and Mute Swans were nesting in the artificial reedbed at the northeast corner. Clouds of Swallows, House Martins and Sand Martins were feeding over the open water. Back at the car park, the juvenile male Long tailed Duck was associating loosely with some Tufted Ducks (I saw him snap at one of them at one point). Although its a shame that he is so far off course, it was a useful opportunity to brush up on some ID features: slightly smaller than tufties, predominantly brown with white flanks, dark eye in pale face and stubby tail.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Birds were scarce again on the trip over to Dunoon. Nice to see some "wild-type" Feral Pigeons nesting on the ferry dock at Gourock.
News from the web is of the first Osprey chick at a rainy Loch Garten. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

While parking the car opposite the IRH this lunchtime, a Whitethroat was scratching away from the scrubby area above Coves Reservoir.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Clyde was disappointingly quiet in both directions during a brief trip to Dunoon this afternoon. The only birds on show were a few Eiders at each end, and a single Lesser black backed Gull following the ferry. Three Hooded Crows and a pair of Common Sandpipers were the highlights of the drive from the ferry terminal.

Monday, May 14, 2012

No sign of any eggs hatching at the Scottish Osprey nests today (the Glaslyn clutch have hatched over the last few days).
Heading up to a meeting in Glasgow this morning, a Swallow was over Canal Street station.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Two Sand Martins must have been shivering as they visited nest holes near the Benalder Street bridge. Two Grey Herons were nearby, but Dippers were notable by their absence.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Another day, another Cuckoo. At least one and possibly three birds were present during a walk around Loch Thom and the Greenock Cut. The first gave great views as it flew across the hilside and perched, still calling, on telegraph wires, surrounded by six Meadow Pipits. Bird of the day, however, was Wheatear, with singles and pairs getting up from various points during the drive in and out. Also present were Canada Goose, Common Sandpiper and singing Skylark. A Blue Tit was feeding young in a nest box in Shielhill Glen and a pair of Canada Geese had three young at Mount Pisgah.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Got round to uploading all my Strathspey sightings this evening. The final total was 62 species. Lots of notable absentees, but not bad for what was mainly a family break: Mute Swan, Greylag Goose, Mandarin Duck, Wigeon, Mallard, Goldeneye, Red-breasted Merganser, Goosander, Pheasant, Grey Heron, Sparrowhawk, Buzzard, Osprey, Oystercatcher, Lapwing, Snipe, Woodcock, Curlew, Common Sandpiper, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Feral Pigeon, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Cuckoo, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, hybrid Carrion x Hooded Crow, Goldcrest, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Sand Martin, Swallow, House Martin, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Blackcap, Wren, Starling, Dipper, Blackbird, Fieldfare, Mistle Thrush, Robin, Dunnock, House Sparrow, Grey Wagtail, White Wagtail, Pied Wagtail, Tree Pipit, Meadow Pipit, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Siskin, Redpoll (Common/Lesser), Bullfinch and Yellowhammer.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Brrr! Cold and wet. A Yellowhammer was singing in the rain at Arkleston.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Decided to spend some time outdoors between the two legs of the evening "Rugby Run". Headed to the Robertson Car Park south of Paisley, and enjoyed a very pleasant walk on the Gleniffer Braes in still, mild conditions. Almost the first bird encountered on leaving the car was a bright male Wheatear on the fence which runs along the south side of the car park. Other birds in the area included Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler and a single Mallard. Heading further south, heard the unmistakable song of a Cuckoo. Thereafter, spent a good half hour watching the bird as it flew between blocks of conifers, sang loudly from various treetops and attracted the attention of several other birds including Carrion Crow and Blackbird. Back at the Rugby Club, two Swallows flew over.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

A very quick walk around Coves Reservoir this lunchtime produced singing Grasshopper Warbler and Whitethroat. Birds on the reservoir included Grey Heron, Little Grebe and nesting pairs of Coot and Mute Swans.

Monday, May 07, 2012

The last day of our Strathspey trip dawned cold and misty. However the weather cleared during the drive north to Strathnairn. Had a limited amount of time to spare, but picked up 20 species during a short walk near Farr. Highlight was a male Mandarin which flew upriver, just above tree height. Also notable were two male Goosanders and a single Fieldfare, the latter probably a migrant, but just possibly a breeding bird.
Several Brown Hares were present in the area. Then back on the A9, a Mountain Hare was a road casualty just north of Sloch'd.
Spent the middle of the day in Glenmore, where the highlight was a female Sparrowhawk which scattered the Chaffinches on the feeders outside the Glenmore Cafe.
Heading home, the bird of the trip was Kestrel with singles over the road at Blackford and Stepps (the latter carrying prey).
Impressions of Strathspey in May:
(1) Its noisier (with singing Willow Warblers and Chaffinches almost ubiquitous)
(2) Its busier (with lots of walkers, particularly around Nethybridge and Glenmore)
(3) Its still cold, and spring is noticeably later than further south
(4) Its still predominantly grey, yellow and brown with many trees only just coming into leaf (with the obvious exception of the conifers).

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Started the day along the Spey at Speybank. The (deciduous) woods were alive with singing Willow Warblers (33 in one hour), Chaffinches and Tree Pipits. Other woodland birds included Siskin and Redpoll. On the river were Common Sandpiper, Oystercatcher, Mallard and a female Red breasted Merganser.
Back at Alvie, a female Goldeneye was alone on the loch (although later she was escorting three ducklings).
The main event of the day was a walk from Grantown-on-Spey to Nethybridge. Part of the walk was along the Spey, and water birds included plenty of Mallard and Common Sandpiper plus Grey Wagtail at Spey Bridge and Dipper at Nethybridge village. Land birds included Lapwing, Curlew, Tree Pipit, Meadow Pipit, a calling Cuckoo near Abernethy Golf Course and a single Yellowhammer on the outskirts of Nethybridge.
Early evening at Alvie produced the surprise of the day - an Osprey circling low over the small loch in front of the big house.

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Saturday, May 05, 2012

The first task of the day was clearing frozen snow from the car. The dawn trip to Loch Garten followed the same pattern as previous years - lots of people, no chance to see anything. A changeover at the Osprey nest was some compensation. Goldeneye, Wigeon and Common Sandpiper were on the loch itself.
Loch Vaa was idyllic in the morning light with Common Sandpiper, Greylag Goose and Goldeneye present.
Back at Alvie, highlights were two Soaring Buzzards, a Sparrowhawk being mobbed by 20 small birds, Pied Wagtails everywhere (including a single White), Blackcap, Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff all in song, nd two Goldeneye ducklings trying to dodge the attentions of a Grey Heron.
Newtonmore had all the common Highland village birds (plus lots of colourful cats). Mammals seen today were Red Deer, Roe Deer, Rabbit and Red Squirrel.

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Friday, May 04, 2012

Enjoyed lots of fine weather on the drive from Glasgow to Aviemore this evening. However it was snowing at Drumochter and there were more sustained flurries at Alvie later on. A Woodcock was squeaking through conifers at dusk and a Snipe drummed over nearby fields.

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Thursday, May 03, 2012

A Collared Dove was singing at Lightburn Hospital and both Willow Warbler and Blackcap were singing at Carntyne Railway Station.
Back home, a Wood Mouse was creeping about the back step.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

A brief circuit of the Murdieston dams at lunchtime produced singing Willow Warbler and Blackcap (the latter seem to be everywhere this year), five apparently occupied Rook's nests and a singing Pied Wagtail.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

A lovely day of blue skies, finished off with a lovely, salmon-pink "herringbone" sky this evening.
Lunchtime in Greenock was brightened up by a good total of 14 Black Guillemots plowtering and belly-flopping in Greenock Docks. They really were a lovely sight in the sunshine, with the A8 traffic thundering by.

Birding highlight of the day, however, was a male Blackcap which had a bath in the Silverglade pond while the family were sitting at the kitchen table having dinner.