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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, July 31, 2012

Yesterday's predominant sound (in Aviemore) was the "Hoo-eet" contact call of Willow Warblers. Today, a hundred and fifty miles further south (in Mugdock Park), it was the "Tooweet" call of Chiffchaff.
The sunny weather at Mugdock was accompanied by various sounds of (mostly hidden) passerines, plus grasshoppers and other insects. The south-facing meadow just south-west of the castle was particularly good with clouds of insects (including a Burnet Moth) among the wildflowers (I found a video showing a similar view on youtube here).

Monday, July 30, 2012

Highlights of a brief stop at Pitlochry were two Grey Wagtails below the dam, a House Martin visiting a nest in the town centre and a Nuthatch calling along the banks of Loch Faskally. Here is a similar call from xeno-canto.
The full list for the weekend was: Mallard, Tufted Duck, Grey Heron, Buzzard, Osprey, Oystercatcher, Lapwing, Common Sandpiper, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Feral Pigeon, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Swift, Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, Goldcrest, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Sand Martin, Swallow, House Martin, Willow Warbler, Nuthatch, Wren, Blackbird, Mistle Thrush, Spotted Flycatcher, Robin, Dunnock, House Sparrow, Grey Wagtail, Pied Wagtail, Meadow Pipit, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Siskin, Unidentified crossbill and Yellowhammer (54).
Impressions of Strathspey in July?
  • Its quiet (virtually all the birds have stopped singing).
  • Its got midges - lots of them - think its the first time I have been bitten there.
  • Its busy, but still only around the shops and visitor centres. We met less than ten people along the path between Boat of Garten and Aviemore. 

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Another day spent in the Aviemore area. Highlight of a morning walk from Boat of Garten to Aviemore was a newly fledged Spotted Flycatcher at Dalfaber. Regular passes from a steam train on the Broomhill line was also good.
This evening, a circuit of sites between Coylumbridge and Boat of Garten produced 100 Jackdaws at Drumintoul, Osprey and Buzzard at Drumchork, two Tufted Ducks on Loch Piyoulish, a singing Yellowhammer just before the turn-off to Kincardine Cottage, 100 Lapwings at West Croftmore and 40 Swifts over the car park at Loch Garten. A vole ran across in front of the car at Tulloch Moor.
Birds at the resort included Collared Dove and Siskin.

Isolated Cottage in Boat of Garten Woods

Loch Pityoulish

Aviemore Resort with Craigellachie beyond

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Staying in a wet Aviemore tonight. Craigellachie at dusk was alive with Toads and Frogs, as well as four Spotted Flycatchers. Nearby, two Swifts were visiting possible nest sites on one of the buildings in the Macdonald resort.
Earlier in the day, a large raptor over the A9 ten miles south of Aviemore may have been a White-tailed Sea Eagle.

Friday, July 27, 2012

No natural connections: so here are a few items from the internet:
  • After the first nesting of a pair of Great White Egrets at Shapwick Heath, Somerset earlier this year, a second pair has also been found breeding at the site.
  • Genetic studies have shown that the three Choughs which appeared in Cornwall in 2001 probably originated from the Irish population, and not from France as was originally assumed. The original population has grown to five successful pairs (2012), and the presence of Welsh birds in north Devon offers the hope of a future injection of diversity into the population.
  • The UK Firecrest population continues to increase with at least 800 pairs (and possibly more than 1,000) in 2010 (all in England and Wales).
  • The core population of Dartford Warblers in England dropped from nearly 1,000 pairs in 2004 to just 50 pairs in 2010. The good news is that the outlying populations appear to have survived.
  • No Golden Orioles nested in the UK in 2010, for the first time in 37 years 
(All information from Birdguides and the Rare Breeding Birds Panel Report 2010).

Nearly forgot - a "taxi run" to Callander allowed a brief stop at Flanders Moss (below):

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Took advantage of the good weather to take an early walk along the Cart. Most notable sightings included a female Goosander with five young (strongly suggestive of local breeding), two Kingfishers, a singing Yellowhammer (my first in the area for two years) and five House Martins around the breeding site in Cardonald Gardens. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Taxi duties took me to a sunny Callander today, where Swallows and House Martins were enjoying the improved weather. Heading home, a Kestrel was over Castlecary Arches.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A family trip to Rouken Glen Park allowed a small amount of casual birdwatching. The Mute Swans on the pond have eight large cygnets. Nearby were three big Coot chicks and a Moorhen with two tiny young. Meanwhile a pair of Little Grebes were incubating on a floating nest anchored to a mooring buoy.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Another damp day today (are there any other kind?). The local bats have been forced to hunt in daylight with two flitting over the back garden as soon as the rain stopped around mid evening.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

A Buzzard was evading the attentions of a gull over the M8 during a quick drive through to Edinburgh.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Spent the day in the East Neuk of Fife. Several Fulmars were on the cliffs behind St Mary on the Rock. Amongst them was a well-grown, downy chick which was being pestered by a large fly. On the sea below were 50+ Eiders (include several broods) while a passing Sandwich Tern had a single juvenile in tow.
Heading back to Glasgow via the A977, a Red Kite was low over Rumbling Bridge.

Friday, July 20, 2012

A single House Martin over the estate first thing, and three Swifts in Paisley town centre suggested a nicer day was on its way, and so it was. A lunchtime walk around Murdieston Park found the Mute Swan family sleeping in the sun and broods of Coots at various stages scattered between the two reservoirs. 
Heading home from work (at 9pm!), stopped briefly at Cloch Point to check for Manx Shearwaters. Around 30 birds were in a group just off the south end of Dunoon (with four Gannets patrolling overhead). 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

A few items of web news: 
The Loch of the Lowes Osprey chick has gone AWOL. It has not returned to its nest since it took it's maiden flight on Monday. One of the Rutland chicks also disappeared, although has now come back.
Galloway and South Ayrshire has become Scotland's first UNESCO Biosphere reserve (Read more here).

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Reading through the first edition of Birdtrack news, had a good laugh when I saw what position I came in the top 100 submitters :-)

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A lunchtime walk along Greenock esplanade was notable for two Sandwich Terns (possibly an adult and juvenile) flying along the water's edge. After a while, three Great black-backed Gulls started to relentlessly chase one of the terns (possibly the juvenile) and eventually disappeared well out to sea (with the other bird in pursuit calling loudly). Other birds present included six Eiders and four  Black Guillemots.

Monday, July 16, 2012
I should really mention some of the highlghts of the Yorkshire trip last week. A brief stop at Halton Gill unfortunately produced no Yellow Wagtails. However a pair of Oystercatchers with a single downy chick in a roadside field was a nice surprise. After work, a trip to Leighton Moss produced singing Reed and Sedge Warblers and a Common Darter. 
Heading home the next day, Avocet, Black tailed Godwit, Greenshank and seven Little Egrets were the highlights.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

A family day today, so no natural connections. News from the web is of Red Kites and Ospreys nestlings wing-taggged in Upper Forth (sheds some light on my sighting of a white-tagged Buzzard last year) and a passage Hobby at Flanders Moss.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Almost the first bird of the day was a Swift screaming over Cardonald. Linlithgow also had at least 16 of this species feeding above the town centre. Other notable sightings included a feeding female Blackcap and broods of Mute Swan, Great crested Grebe and Little Grebe.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Much of today was taken up with driving back from Leeds. Definitely going to leave the car at home tomorrow... 
Various sightings to report when time allows, but just one to be going on with - a dead Mole on a path nearly (if it had been alive) brought my recent mammal species count to nine.


Thursday, July 12, 2012

A lovely day in Yorkshire. Full report to follow.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Bit of a rush to catch the ferry over to Dunoon this lunchtime. Birds viewed from the deck included three Guillemots, a single Gannet and several gulls (mostly Herring but some black-backs including at least one Greater black-backed). Driving round to the venue, a Spotted Flycatcher was on a wooden fence and parties of Mistle Thrushes were in the treetops. Hooded Crows were seen at two sites.
The return trip at 5pm was notable for a small group of six Manx Shearwaters heading north and two birds heading south.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A quick check of the Clyde at Cloch Point produced only a single Gannet, with no sign of any Manx Shearwaters. Hopefully the ferry over to Dunoon tomorrow will be more productive. 

Monday, July 09, 2012

Spent a couple of hours checking some sites in Ayrshire prior to my first appointment in Ayr at 8:45. Martnaham Loch was damp and misty but the Black Swan was showing well as it fed out in the open water. Doonfoot and Greenan were also very wet. However the former held a single Greenshank and the latter three Greenshanks, fifteen Sandwich Terns and a flock of 20 Goosanders. Pow Burn had singing Reed Bunting, Sedge Warbler, Whitethroat and Grasshopper Warbler. However best sighting was a Burnet Moth which zoomed away over the rough grass.
Breeding evidence included a Rook feeding a fledgling and a Black headed Gull accompanied by a gingery juvenile, both at Doonfoot.
Heading back to Greenock, Kestrel, Wheatear and Common Sandpiper were all north of Largs.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

A single Sand Martin was swooping around the nesting holes at the Benalder Street Bridge. Back home, Blackcap, Blackbird, Wren and Goldfinch were all singing loudly through the rain. 
Interesting news from the web is that the first Osprey chicks have flown the nest at Glaslyn, while the chicks at Threave have just hatched.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

A Kestrel was hunting the roadside near Beith during an impromptu trip down the coast. Two Gannets were close in at Ardrossan while House Martins were feeding and visiting nest sites at Portencross. The Clyde was flat calm, but the thick cloud which has been such a feature of this summer rather spoiled what might have been a lovely evening.

Friday, July 06, 2012

A Kestrel was hunting over the new pools at Port Glasgow first thing. Later in the day, a Raven passing over the west end of Greenock caused what must have been most of the roof-nesting gulls in the area to take to the air squawking noisily.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

The Osprey chicks on the Garten webcam are looking huge, and flapping their wings in the welcome sunshine.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

An evening walk along the Cart resulted in a thorough drenching. Few birds ventured out, but 30 Lesser black-backed Gulls (and a single Herring Gull) were catching worms on Moulin playing fields and a single Swift scythed overhead.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

After last month's Red Deer, Roe Deer, Rabbit and Red Squirrel, and last week's Stoat, Hedgehog and Hare, the latest mammal to cross the road in front of the car was a Common Shrew on the edge of Largs this afternoon.
The day started with a family of Herring Gulls on the roof of the Ayrshire Hospice. One of the four chicks had fallen to the ground but seemed quite content hidden in the flower bed with the adults flying down to feed it.

Monday, July 02, 2012

A busy day of driving today with appointments in Ayr, Greenock and Hamilton. The wet weather didn't make for the most pleasant of driving conditions. However five Red breasted Mergansers were "snorkelling" in the lagoon south of Fairlie and a female there had nine young.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Today started with steady rain in Windermere. However the skies brightened a little for the drive home. The climb over the Honiston Pass (the steepest gradient I can ever remember driving down) was very dramatic with low cloud and climbers clinging to the rock faces hundreds of feet above the road. Plenty of Wheatears were around, and two Meadow Pipits were calling, but anything else was hidden in the gloom.

Down at Buttermere, a short walk produced Grey Wagtail, Common Sandpiper, female Redstart and a flock of ten Linnets.
Back in Glasgow, a male Whitethroat was singing at the back of the ASDA car park between Helen Street and Craigton Road.