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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, June 30, 2012

Late June in the Lake District: It felt more like late September, but the scenery and bird life were adequate compensation. The lake-front at Bowness on Windermere was notable for the flocks of feral wildfowl including Mute Swans, Canada Geese, Mallards and a single Greylag. Nearby, Song Thrush, Greenfinch and Goldfinch were all in song (with Chiffchaff and Dunnock at the back of the village). Blackbirds seemed to be everywhere. House Martins and Swallows were also common, but Swifts scarce.

Friday, June 29, 2012

The two Abernethy Osprey chicks were fitted with their rings and position transmitters today. Lots of excitement on the blogosphere.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

As usual at this (busy) time of the year, had to be content with fleeting connections during the (long) working day. A Chiffchaff was singing near the back gate of Ravenscraig Hospital this lunchtime and another was singing behind the house this evening.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Ignoring the torrential rain, and the price of a full tank of petrol, set off on my annual D&G trip to catch up with Scotland's main population of Nightjars. Headed through Kirkmichael (nesting House Martins) and Straiton (soaring Sparrowhawk). What proved to be the sighting of the day was a Stoat which scampered across the road near the turn off for Loch Bradan. Further on, a Jay swept into the forest and a hare species (do you get Mountain Hares there?) was at Stinchar Bridge. Glentrool, the Big Water of Fleet and the back road to Laurieston were all quiet due to thick, ground level mist (although a Wheatear was on a wire near Damgarroch).
The mist and rain didn't help the Nightjar viewing but single birds were present at two sites with churring at one. A Tawny Owl and Grasshopper Warbler made up the supporting cast.
Headed home via Thornhill and Durisdeer. Visibility was only a few metres, so it was a long and difficult drive. However a Hedgehog across the road near Moniaive and a Barn Owl near Elvanfoot were some consolation.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A very brief walk around Murdieston Park revealed still one pair of Mute Swans with six cygnets. There were also at least two pairs of Coot with young. Jackdaws were feeding noisy fledglings on the reservoir banks and a single Rook was feeding amongst them. A Blackcap was singing loudly from the north shore of Town Dam.
Heading home, a Great spotted Woodpecker bounded acrooss my field of view at Bridgend Cottages and alighted on a telegraph post.

Monday, June 25, 2012

A House Martin day today. A single bird was over Cardonald Gardens first thing. Later, two were over the Cart in Paisley town centre (with a single Sand Martin entering a drainage pipe in the retaining wall).

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Another busy day meant only casual connections were on offer. These consisted of a couple of Swifts screaming high over Partick Cricket Ground and a Buzzard flap-flap-gliding over the Moulin Estate playing fields.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

House Martins were doing their best to find some flying insects in the cold and rain at Oldhall this morning. 
Spent part of the day uploading the sightings from last weekend's Strathspey trip. The full list was as follows:
Greylag Goose, Teal, Mallard, Mallard (domestic), Goldeneye, Red-legged Partridge, Pheasant, Red-throated Diver, Fulmar  Cormorant, Grey Heron, Slavonian Grebe, Buzzard, Oystercatcher, Lapwing, Curlew, Common Sandpiper, Redshank, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Common/Arctic Tern, Guillemot, unidentified auk, Feral Pigeon, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Swift, Great Spotted Woodpecker , Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, Goldcrest, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Skylark , Sand Martin, Swallow, House Martin, Long-tailed Tit, Willow Warbler, Blackcap, Grasshopper Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Wren, Starling, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Robin, Pied Flycatcher, Dunnock, House Sparrow, Pied Wagtail, Meadow Pipit, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Siskin, Redpoll (Common/Lesser), Reed Bunting (63 species).

Friday, June 22, 2012

Another 5am start enabled a working trip to Dumfries to be extended a little to include some natural connections at both ends of the day. Looked in on Castle Loch first thing and was rewarded with a good showing of common birds. While in the process of ticking off two Sedge Warlers, I noticed that the song of one of them wasn't quite right. Sure enough, it turned out to be a Reed Warbler which gave excellent (if brief) views as it clambered about the reeds. It was then joined by two others, which it proceeded to chase around the reedbed. Also present was a fledged brood of Blue Tits, both Rabbit and Brown Hare, and a singing Willow Tit.
Heading back up the Dalveen Pass at the end of the trip, roadside birds included Grey Wagtail, Pied Wagtail, Wheatear and Meadow Pipit. In the pass itself, six Buzzards and two Ravens were in the air together. Several had missing primaries and/or tail feathers. One Raven had lost so many feathers, it looked like a skeleton, but didn't seem to be impaired in any way.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Torrential rain in WCS. Meanwhile, here's an idea. Why not move your freight to Inverness by train, removing 13,000 lorries a year from the A9?.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Far too much work. Grrrrr!!!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A Cormorant was a slightly incongruous sight as it flew high above the evening rush hour traffic on the White Cart Viaduct.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Song Thrush, Blackbird and Chiffchaff were all singing from the estate this evening. No sign of any House Martins in Cardonald tonight - I wonder if the tiny colony has been abandoned. No sound of Whitethroat for weeks. Presumably the regular male has either moved on or is engrossed in nesting.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Reflecting on an interesting chat I had with a local resident near Loch Alvie yesterday. She reported that the extension of the Badenoch/Speyside Way (to bridge the gap between Aviemore and Dalraddy) is almost agreed. A long-running objection by the Kinrara estate seems likely to be rejected. This is an exciting development as it will allow controlled access to a hitherto difficult to access area (and remove the need to walk along the verge of the B9152).

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Today started with a lovely breakfast at Greystones, Kingussie. Got the train to Aviemore with the intention of walking back along the Badenoch Way. The weather stayed cool and rain was never far away. However the walk produced some excellent sightings. Goldeneye were on Loch Alvie and the Spey, a drake Teal was on the Spey with another at Loch Insh, Common Sandpipers were on all the waterways, Tree Pipits were singing at three sites and carrying food at two more, Great spotted Woodpeckers were at four sites (I wonder what impact they are having on the small bird population?) and a Red legged Partridge was near Ruthven Barracks. The biggect prize however was a singing Pied Flycatcher - confirmed after much searching in a mixed Birch and Scots Pine wood near Loch Insh. Mammals included plenty of Roe Deer and Rabbits. The scenery along the way was tremendously varied with the grassland at Dalraddy Moor, Juniper and Heather scub around Inveruglass and small-scale farming at Insh all particularly notable.
Impressions of Strathspey in June:
It's bitterly cold (but I'm sure today was not typical)
It's quiet (a lot of bird species had stopped singing, although Chaffinch and Willow Warbler were just as evident)
It's (still) deserted (I met virtually no-one, apart from locals all day).
It's much greener.

Breakfast at Greystones

Old gate near Lynwilg

Fields at Insh

Friday, June 15, 2012

Made the most of a working trip to Inverness today. I had to work all day, but an early start (5am) and the long summer evenings meant plenty of time for natural connections at both ends of the day.
The drive up was particularly notable for a fine Red Deer stag which was waiting patiently to cross the A9 at Calvine.  It looked to be "in velvet" with the antlers the same deep brown colour as its coat. In any case, it was a fine sight. Reached the outskirts of Inverness with some time to spare so took a quick run along to the RSPB reserve at Loch Ruthven. Best birds, of course, were the Slavonian Grebes, with (what appeared to be) two pairs and a single on the loch. An alarm-calling Common Sandpiper and a singing Willow Warbler were the first of many for the weekend.
After work, headed for Chanonry Point to try for the Moray Firth Dolphins. As it happened, the tide was just about to turn and a fair crowd had gathered. Spent an hour chatting to the other watchers and counting the birds that flew past (Fulmar, Sandwich and 'commic' terns, Herring and Greater black-backed Gull, Cormorant, Guillemot and a possible Kittiwake. All at once, five Dolphins appeared and proceeded to give fantastic views as they hunted in the channel just a few metres offshore.  At the same time, a Red-throated Diver flew low overhead.
Drove back to Kingussie (where I was staying the night) via Lochindorb but nothing much was braving the biting east wind. It was the same story during a dusk walk along the back of the Insh Marshes. Spotted Crake was the target, but had to make do with a singing Grasshopper Warbler and being mobbed by two Oystercatchers (on Kingussie Cemetery wall) and the entire Black-headed Gull colony nearby. In all the commotion, a pair of Greylag Geese hurried away with 5 goslings.
An early morning Loch Ruthven
Waiting for an audience

The camera on the phone doesn't show how close they were

A disappearing Dolphin

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Heading up the Clyde this lunchtime, a Buzzard was low over the A8 at Finlaystone.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Adrian Chiles was being "buzzed" by parties of screaming Swifts as he presented the football from Warsaw tonight.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Only time for virtual connections today. News from the web is of eight pairs of Slavonian Grebes at Loch Ruthven, three strapping chicks in the Garten Osprey nest, the single still at Lowes and intervention at Dyfi to save the single chick there. Also Wigeon with young on the floods near Boat of Garten.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Some pictures from the last few weeks: Four shots of Loch Lomond, the step count from Saturday's big walk and Craig Minnan.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Enjoyed a pleasant walk over the moors south of the Muirshiel Visitor Centre. Skylarks and Meadow Pipits sang almost continuously throughout the walk, with Tree Pipit, Chaffinch, Willow Warbler and Redpoll around the woodland edges. Two Ravens were also present, and at least three male Blackcaps were showing well around the visitor centre. No sign, though, of Stonechat or Spotted Flycatcher. Heading home, a Cuckoo flew across the road and perched on a dead branch giving excellent views. Other wildlife included numerous butterflies.
A lovely evening in Cardonald. Two Swifts were hunting low over the estate houses.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Heading home, a Skylark was singing at Arkleston Farm but a male Yellowhammer on a wire was keeping quiet.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

West central Scotland was murky and miserable today, but a brief sojourn into Ayrshire found that county bathed in sunshine. Heading back to Greenock, a Whinchat, a Buzzard and a pair of Ravens were showing well just north of Largs.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

The full species count for the walk from Glasgow to Blackridge on Saturday was as follows:
Mute Swan, Mallard, Goosander, Grey Heron, Sparrowhawk, Buzzard, Kestrel, Moorhen, Curlew, Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Feral Pigeon, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Swift, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Magpie, Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, Raven, Goldcrest, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Skylark, Sand Martin, Swallow, House Martin, Long-tailed Tit, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Blackcap, Garden Warbler, Whitethroat, Sedge Warbler, Wren, Starling, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Robin, Whinchat, Dunnock, House Sparrow, Pied Wagtail, Meadow Pipit, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Bullfinch, Yellowhammer and Reed Bunting.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Total species count for Saturday's big walk was 53: details to follow....

Monday, June 04, 2012

A busy day of natural connections started at 5am with a Brown Hare and three Roe Deer on the drive north from Glasgow, 11 Blackcock at a Stirlingshire lek and a Cuckoo calling nearby. That proved to be the first of five for the day.
Loch Lomond was flat calm when I arrived at Sallochy Point. The sun still hadn't broken over the hills behind Sallochy Wood but a male Redstart was already singing from one of the tallest conifers. Other birds in the area included singing Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff (the latter outnumbering the former by five to one), song-flighting Tree Pipit and Whitethroat, overflying Redpoll and Buzzard, and three calling Cuckoos. Heading downhill, a Wood Warbler was managing to make itself heard over the other songbirds. A short walk through Ross Wood produced another Wood Warbler and a singing Pied Wagtail, but had to be cut short as the midges had woken up by then. Returning to the car park, a family of Pied Wagtails was (surprsingly) feeding in the trees overhead, a Redshank flew up from the beach and a male and female Goosander loafed in the shallows.
Headed to Mugdock Park in the afternoon and was treated to three hous of really good birdwatching. Highlights included another calling Cuckoo (my first for the site), more displaying Tree Pipits, Great spotted Woodpeckers at 3 sites (including an occupied nest hole revealed by the squeaking of the young), damselflies and dragonflies on the dipping pond, a Mallard with young on Craigend Loch, carpets of Herb Robert (the most I've ever seen) plus great displays of naturalised Welsh Poppy and Rhodedendron.  
News from the back garden is that the Blue Tit brood has fledged (Hooray!).

Sunday, June 03, 2012

The only decent natural connection of an afternoon spent at a windy Cambuslang Rugby Club was a Whitethroat singing from the edge of the pitch.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Just back from an attempt to walk from Glasgow to Edinburgh in two days. Too shattered to do tomorrow's leg but managed as far as Blackridge today (34 miles) and will definitely do the remainder soon.
Natural highlights on the way included a female Goosander with 16 young on the Clyde, a Whinchat near Crawberry Hill, Mute Swan and Mallard with young, Rabbit and Roe Deer, Ladybird, possible Chrysochus  beetle (the latter metallic green) and good numbers of Blackbirds, Whitethroats and Swifts (51 bird species in total).

Friday, June 01, 2012

No Swifts today, but there were four House Martins in Cardonald Gardens first thing. This seems quite a large number (ones and twos have been the norm in recent years) and raises hopes that they will stay around for the summer.
Managed a brief walk along the Cart this evening. Highlights were two Grey Herons standing in a grass field (are they after voles?), a female Whitethroat slipping into a bramble patch and a Kingfisher calling as it sped downstream.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Single Swift over Greenock at home time. Two Buzzards on the drive home.