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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.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

A walk from Hawkhead to Cardonald produced single Kingfishers at two sites, a Stock Dove feeding with Wood Pigeons, a Fieldfare and two Redwings in a treetop and a flock of six Long tailed Tits. The latter is my bird of the weekend with another five flocks (largest one of 12 birds) seen yesterday. One of today's Kingfishers was seen to fly into a cave and only came out when I stuck my head in to see if it was still there.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Spent a frustrating but quite enjoyable afternoon wandering around some of the atlas tetrads in south Glasgow. The weather steadily improved as the afternoon wore on, and it ended up being really quite a nice day to be out. However in spite of visiting eight tetrads and recording 33 species, I made virtually no impact on any of the tetrad totals. The problem was not "the wrong type of snow" but "the wrong type of birds". Well actually the birds themselves were fine (including some locally hard-to-find species such as Dipper, Goosander, Redwing, Fieldfare and Grey Heron) - they just weren't in the right tetrads.The tetrads visited were: NS56 G (Pollok to Crookston), NS56 H (Cardonald), NS56 K (Pollok Park south), NS56 L (Pollok Park north), NS56 M (Govan), NS56 Q (Langside) and NS56 R (Pollokshields). The full species list for the afternoon was: Mute Swan, Mallard, Goosander, Tufted Duck, Grey Heron, Moorhen, Coot, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Black-headed Gull, Herring Gull, Feral Pigeon, Woodpigeon, Pied Wagtail, Wren, Dunnock, Robin, Redwing, Blackbird, Mistle Thrush, Fieldfare, Dipper, Long-tailed Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Magpie, Carrion Crow, Jackdaw, Rook, Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch and Goldfinch (33 species).

Friday, December 28, 2012

As happened yesterday, a very early start to the working day meant there were still a few hours of "daylight" left at the end of the day. Decided to hitch a lift with the family to IKEA, then try to find some birds between there and Renfrew Ferry. "New" birds in the first tetrad visited (NS56I, "Clyde at Braehead") were Pied Wagtail, Shag, Common Gull and Great black-backed Gull. These four species increased the tetrad total from 37 to 41 species.
The path along to Renfrew Ferry briefly crossed the corner of a second tetrad (NS56D, "Clyde at Xscape") where the only addition to the 40 species aleady on the tetrad's winter list was Cormorant. The final tetrad checked (NS56E, "Renfrew Ferry") produced several locally interesting species including Mute Swan and Grey Wagtail. However the only addition (which took the tetrad list to 35 species) was Goldfinch.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Had to work most of today but an early start meant an early finish, allowing a couple of hours in the Priesthill / Pollok tetrad (NS56M). A good number of species were located but unfortunately there was nothing new to add to the tetrad winter list.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A short walk around NS56V (Cathcart) produced 20 species but only 3 additions to the winter total for the tetrad: Mallard, Collared Dove and Jackdaw(!). Species such as Kingfisher, Goosander, Cormorant and Grey Heron stubbornly refused to give themselves up. However one that got away was a possible Nuthatch heard calling once, briefly in suitable habitat.
What was particularly notable about today was the number of species in song: Coal, Blue and Great Tits, Dunnock, Robin, Goldcrest, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove and Starling.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A Blue Tit, Woodpigeon, Blackbird and Dunnock were the only visitors to the garden today.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Another attempt at atlassing - and another soaking as a result. Returned to NS56F, starting at the corner of Pollock Park to the west of the M77 and following the Brock Burn as far as Kennishad Road. Viewing conditions were again atrocious, and only Coal Tit, Redpoll and Rook were added to the tetrad total.

Sunday, December 23, 2012
Had a go at one of the local atlas tetrads (NS56M Govan) this morning. Heavy rain and a driving wind made birdwatching well nigh impossible. However Goldeneye, Goldfinch and Common Gull were all added to the existing list. As before, much more work, in much better weather, is going to be required.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Heavy rain all day prevented most of the planned atlas work. However a brief period of lighter rain around 2pm allowed a short walk around a corner of NS56F. Viewing conditions were pretty poor but Dipper, Grey Heron, Mallard and Treecreeper were added to the tetrad list. A much more intensive search will have to take place when the rain eases.

Friday, December 21, 2012

A single Cormorant was on the usual roost tree as I sped past this lunchtime.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Battlefield - Cathcart - Mount Florida - Kings Park - Toryglen
Waterways: White Cart from the north end of Linn Park, through Cathcart to the back of Battlefield.
Target species: Little Grebe, Cormorant, Grey Heron, Mute Swan, Mallard, Tufted Duck, Goosander, Moorhen, Coot, Redshank, Kingfisher, Grey Wagtail, Reed Bunting, Domestic Mallard.
Open / Wooded areas: White Cart corridor, Kings Park, Toryglen Park, corner of Queens Park (and open area around Victoria) and Hampden Park precinct.
Target species: Buzzard, Kestrel, Lesser black-backed Gull, Great black-backed Gull, Collared Dove, Great spotted Woodpecker, Waxwing, Song Thrush, Treecreeper, Jay, Rook, Raven, Brambling, Siskin, Redpoll, Bullfinch, Hooded Crow, Hybrid Hoodie.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Govan - Drumoyne - Craigton - Ibrox - new Transport Museum
Waterways: Short stretch of Clyde including the mouth of the Kelvin, Elder Park pond.
Target species: Little Grebe, Shag, Mute Swan, Tufted Duck,  Goldeneye, Goosander, Moorhen, Coot, Redshank, Common Gull, Great black-backed Gull, Grey Wagtail, Dipper, Reed Bunting, Domestic Mallard.
Open / wooded areas: Elder Park, part of Bellahouston Park, open ground next to new Transport Museum.
Target species: Sparrowhawk, Buzzard, Kestrel, Woodcock, Great spotted Woodpecker, Meadow Pipit, Pied Wagtail, Waxwing, Fieldfare, Song Thrush, Redwing, Goldcrest, Treecreeper, Rook, Raven, Brambling, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Siskin, Redpoll, Hooded Crow, Hoodie Hybrid

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Pollock – Crookston - Priesthill - Nitshill
Waterways: Stretches of Brock Burn and Levern Water.
Target species: Little Grebe, Cormorant, Grey Heron, (Mute Swan), Mallard, Tufted Duck, Goosander, Moorhen, (Coot), Redshank, Kingfisher, Dipper, Reed Bunting, Domestic Mallard.
Open / wooded areas: Patch of “farmland” behind Cowglen, Patch of woodland to west of M77, Haugh Hill, Crookston, Cleared housing estate at Priesthill and Parkland along Brock Burn and M77.
Target species: Woodcock, Common Gull, Great black-backed Gull, Collared Dove, Great spotted Woodpecker, Pied Wagtail, Wren, Fieldfare, Song Thrush, Goldcrest, Great Tit, Treecreeper, (Jay), Rook, (Raven), Chaffinch, (Brambling), Greenfinch, Siskin, Redpoll, Bullfinch, Hooded Crow, Hybrid Hoodie.

Monday, December 17, 2012

A redhead Goosander was "snorkling" among the Mallards at Forbes Place, Paisley this lunchtime. Nearby, up to ten House Sparrows were chattering from ornamental bushes.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Garden visitors today were Woodpigeon (3), Feral Pigeon (1), Dunnock (1), Robin (1), Great Tit (1), Blue Tit (1), Chaffinch (1), Blackbird (1) and Greay Squirrel (1). One of the junior connectors heard the local Tawny Owl this evening.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

A Kestrel was hovering over a roadside field at Penilee this morning. Later, about 20 Fieldfares were taking berries from bushes at the south end of the footbridge over the M8 at Arkleston.

Friday, December 14, 2012

After a week of sub-zero temperatures, today’s walk in Strathspey found a slight thaw underway. The weather was changeable with drizzle, mist, flurries of snow and some persistent rain. Some localities seemed devoid of birds but there was a steady supply of interesting sightings to keep out the cold. Arriving in Kingussie, two Collared Doves were among the typical village species including House Sparrow and Chaffinch. Ninety Jackdaws were over the Dell Road. Nearer the Spey, a finch flock in a weedy field was made up predominantly of Goldfinches (c20) but contained 10 Redpolls, a Siskin and a possible Twite. A Buzzard called nearby and a Dipper was on the ice-free part of the river.
The first tit flock of the day, in the damp woodland west of Ruthven Barracks, contained Great Tit, Blue Tit, Coal Tit and Treecreeper. More small birds at the feeders at the RSPB Insh Marshes Visitor Centre included the three common tit species and a Great-spotted Woodpecker. The first of two Ravens for the day flew over the marshes but other birds were absent due to the icy conditions. The marshes did however produce the sighting of the day in the form of a pair of Peregrines calling and displaying overhead. After five minutes of circling and some dramatic close passes, the male headed off north. At this point, another raptor rose to challenge him. Its small size (about two thirds of the size of the tiercel) and attenuated shape revealed it to be a Merlin. After a brief skirmish, the Peregrine continued on its way.
A Pheasant and Feral Pigeon were at Invertromie Farm and a pair of Bullfinches were beside the river opposite Tromie Mills. A set of tracks in the snow running from the farm almost as far as Tromie Bridge could have been made by a “Highland Tiger”, but could equally have belonged to a farm cat. Another mammal encounter involved a Stoat (with patches of ermine) which scampered across the road, then straight up and over a wall at Old Milton.

Two Treecreepers and a Raven were between Old Milton and Insh. A Jay was near the centre of Insh and 30 Chaffinches were feeding on rough pasture east of the village. A detour down to the marshes at Lynachlaggan found seven Mute Swans, eighteen Mallards, five Wigeon, a pair of Goldeneye and a Grey Heron on a drainage channel. Nearby were Great-spotted Woodpecker and Hooded Crow. 

Entering Farr Woods, the first bird seen was a male Brambling in a tree overlooking the road. The second was a Woodcock which got up from near the path. Loch Insh was mostly frozen with only a few Carrion Crows scavenging on the ice. Twelve Greylag Geese flying over added to the eerie atmosphere. Seven domestic Mallards were with twelve wild types near the water sports centre where four Long-tailed Tits were the only ones seen all day. As dusk fell, two Goldeneye were under Spey Bridge and up to 40 gulls (possibly Lesser black-backed) flew west overhead. The walk back to Aviemore was not particularly pleasant due to darkness, driving rain and heavy traffic.

The total bird count for the day was 39 species: Mute Swan, Greylag Goose, Wigeon, Mallard, Mallard (domestic), Goldeneye, Pheasant, Grey Heron, Buzzard, Merlin, Peregrine, Woodcock, Feral Pigeon, Collared Dove, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Jay, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, Hooded Crow, Raven, Goldcrest, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Treecreeper, Wren, Dipper, Blackbird, Mistle Thrush, Robin, Dunnock, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Brambling, Goldfinch, Siskin, Redpoll and Bullfinch.
Impressions of Strathspey in December:
It’s quite lifeless in places, with some areas apparently devoid of birds in spite of good watching conditions. Tit flocks were not nearly as numerous or widespread as earlier in the year. Most small birds seemed to be concentrated around the villages
It’s fairly colourless, although patches of withered bracken added a bit of colour
It’s dramatic, with icicles and the frozen margins of lochs and rivers adding extra detail to the landscape. The emptiness of the landscape also accentuates the birds which ARE present such as over-flying geese and displaying raptors
It’s quite dark, with the sun not rising to any great height, and an impossibly short day-length

Thursday, December 13, 2012

A hovering Kestrel always lifts the spirits, so one beside the A8 at the Port Glasgow pools was a nice surprise as I sped by this afternoon.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The two dams at Murdieston Park were both frozen today, with all the birds gathered on a couple of ice-free areas. A single Goldeneye was among the Coots, Tufted Ducks and Mallards but particularly surprising were 21 Canada Geese. A Moorhen was also unusual. Nearby were three flocks of Long-tailed Tits (5, 6 and 10).

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A Buzzard flapped lazily over the M8 near Bishopton late afternoon.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Planning a trip to Aviemore later in the week. Unfortunately Friday looks like being the worst day of the week, weather-wise.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Some of the Beith Street Waxwings swirled across the Clydeside Expressway as I passed this morning. Goldfinches were singing at Partick Cricket Ground.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Today's walk was betwen Bathgate and Linlithgow, joining up two of our regular East-West routes with an untried South-North one. The going was difficult in places with some steep inclines, flurries of sleety rain and on-road sections. However bird watching was quite productive with seven Buzzards being particularly notable. Two Collared Doves were on the edge of Bathgate and other common birds along the way included Coal Tit, Goldcrest, Long-tailed Tit, Pied Wagtail and Goldfinch. A pair of Bullfinches were feeding on thistle seeds near "The Knock" with another pair in trees a little further on. A female Kestrel showed extremely well as it swapped telephone poles below Cathlawhill.
The pictures below are of the stone circles at Knock Farm and Shoemaker's Lane in Linlithgow:


Friday, December 07, 2011

A big gang of Magpies, perhaps 20 or more, were chattering at some unseen foe in a corner of the estate.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

A Chough has been at the north end of Mull for the past two weeks (Mullbirds). Previously, one had been at Gribun on 25th October (argyllbirdclub).

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

An afternoon drive to Hamilton took place in glorious sunshine. Birds on show included lots of Magpies, a Cormorant over the Clyde at Bothwell Bridge and a Kestrel over the motorway near Rutherglen.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

While lying awake at 6am waiting for the alarm clock to ring, a Tawny Owl again called from the woods next to the house.


Monday, December 03, 2012

Another snowy day in WCS and a beautiful starlit night to finish.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

A slightly later start this morning with the sun just coming up as I set off on the regular Sunday walk to Hyndland. 
Slightly unusual or local species during the first half of the walk were Greenfinch, Collared Dove, Long-tailed Tit, Pied Wagtail, Redwing, Fieldfare and two singing Wrens. Arriving at the Science Centre precinct, a high pitched flight call alerted me to a Meadow Pipit over the rough ground just south of Prince's Dock. The dock itself was partly frozen over, and up to 300 Black-headed Gulls (and a few Herring, Common and Lesser black-backed Gulls) were standing on the ice. A stunning drake Goldeneye was on the Kelvin opposite the new transport museum. A short way upstream, three redhead Goosanders were near the Benalder Street Bridge where a Great-spotted Woodpecker flew high over. Finally, over 150 Waxwings were in the Poplars at the west end of Beith Street (bottom photo). They were commuting across the expressway to small trees beside the Glasgow Harbour flats.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Today started really early as I had to be over in the West End by 8:30, but had no car.  Getting up at 6:30 was made a lot more bearable by a hooting Tawny Owl in the woods next to the house - the first here since November 2010.
Most of the walk took place in darkness, so bird connections were few. However a Wren was singing loudly at Festival Park and a Sparrowhawk yickered unseen nearby before showing briefly against the sunrise.

This afternoon, an opportunity to be dropped off at the other end of the Hawkhead Woodland footpath was too good to miss. The first bird seen was a Buzzard being mobbed by a couple of Carrion Crows. More Carrion Crows were passing north overhead (presumably heading to roost), whilst 30 Rooks headed south. A Roe Deer was browsing calmly but keeping an eye on me. Birds at the top of Hurlet Hill included Redwing, Blackbird, Chaffinch and a flypast Stock Dove. Birds in South Crookston included the usual Starlings and House Sparrows. However a quick loop round the back of the estate (see photo below) produced a real prize in the form of my first Jay for the area (screeching in the woods to the west). Another Buzzard was there, with another Roe Deer, a Great-spotted Woodpecker and a Fieldfare a little further on. By now it was getting pretty dark, but two Treecreepers turned up along the path through Leverndale (with one flying past at head-height). The last bird of the day, glimpsed through the gathering gloom, was a Kingfisher disappearing round a bend in the river.

News from the web is that Cairngorm has opened for skiing following two days of snow (photo below from planetski).