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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, January 30, 2013

A Dunnock was giving its little six-beat song outside the office window all morning - the first proper song I have heard from this species this year.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

A pair of Pied Wagtails were courting around a back court in central Greenock when I passed on the way to an event this morning. The male was pursuing the female, flitting along the top of a dividing wall. He was giving a short "Prrrt" call, somewhere between the flight call and the full song. A fascinating and unexpected glimpse into the private life of one of our most elegant birds.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Heading through Ayrshire this morning (again!?), a Kestrel was hunting over the A77 south of Kilmarnock.
Heading back north, a Goldeneye was off Fairlie and the storm was blowing the sea over the road at Wemyss Bay.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

A Goldeneye was on the river beside Mosspark railway station this afternoon.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Spent a really good day in the Cairngorms. First birds of the day were singing Robins in Cardonald. These were followed by a pair of Blue Tits courting under the street lights in Buchanan Street.
Heading up to Aviemore, the snow cover was particularly extensive around Dunkeld with even the trees covered. Further north, the snow was much less extensive but blue skies and sunshine contributed to a beautiful scene. A flock of around ten Black Grouse flew along beside the train at Drumochter and several parties of Red Grouse (plus several Red Deer) were between there and Newtonmore.
On arriving at Aviemore, walked to Coylumbridge (Goosander and Mallard under the Spey bridge and Red Squirrel scampering across the ski road) then caught the bus up to the ski car park. The first bird seen there was a single Snow Bunting flitting around the ski tows. I had forgotten how big they appear (noticeably bigger than, say Chaffinch or House Sparrow). Also up at that level was a single Raven.

Dropping down the Altt Mor trail, the snow was lying in thigh-deep drifts. Birds were fairly scarce at first, apart from a single Goldcrest feeding on the snow. Lower down, the woods were full of Coal Tit and Goldcrest calls and at least one Crested Tit was between the board walk and the last bridge before Heronsfield Car park (in exactly the same spot where I saw them last time I was there).

Glenmore village and Heronsfield Car Park were full of people attending the Siberian Husky Rally. The only bird around was a Mallard on the river. Even the feeders at Glenmore Cafe were quiet. However a small passerine flock at the start of the Logging Road path included Coal, Blue and Great Tits.
Birds were thin on the ground again until the outskirts of Coylumbridge (although a chat with one of the owners of the Sled Dog Centre produced some interesting local information). At Coylumbridge, two Great-spotted Woodpeckers were in a dead tree and other birds included two Collared Doves and ten Chaffinches. Jackdaws were in Inverdruie and a Grey Heron, four Goldeneye, ten Mallards and two Carrion Crows were at the chalet park. The last birds of the day were a couple of House Sparrows in Aviemore.
The total bird list for the day was: Mallard, Goldeneye, Goosander, Grey Heron, Collared Dove, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, Raven, Goldcrest, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Crested Tit, Coal Tit, House Sparrow, Chaffinch and Snow Bunting (17 species) (not including the Red Grouse, Black Grouse, Pheasant and Woodpigeon seen from the train). 
Impressions of Strathspey in January:
  • Its fairly quiet (with odd sqeaks and rustles but little actual bird song)
  • Its crisp and clear (but with leaden skies never very far away)
  • Its potentially deserted (although today must have seen more people in Glenmore - either ski-ing or dog-sledding - than on any other day for years)
  • Its getting a little lighter, with the days noticeably lengthening but the sun still barely clearing the top of the plateau
  • The skies are relatively empty with no waders or gulls, few corvids and (disappointingly) no raptors.

Friday, 25 January, 2013

Another day spent in north Ayrshire. The drive down was through quite a lot of lying snow, but after Dalry, there was none at all. Few birds presented themselves in what were quite stormy conditions heading back to Inverclyde, but a Great black-backed Gull bathing at the mouth of the Meigle Burn was a fine sight.

Thursday, January 24, 2013


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Spent the day working in the delightful art deco-inspired setting of Ayrshire Central Hospital.

Art Deco-inspired exterior ...

... and interior.

South Arran sunset.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

A thin layer of overnight snow didn't last long this morning. This afternoon, a nice Great black back was off Woodhall as I sped by and a Buzzard was surveying the passing traffic at the Erskine on-ramp.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Added my south Glasgow roving records from Sunday today. Managed to add one species to each of tetrads H (Coal Tit) and M (Mute Swan). Its a slow process though.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The regular walk from Cardonald, through Govan to Hyndland produced some interesting sightings including a Song Thrush glimpsed on the Cardonald Rail Bridge (not often seen around here except when singing), Collared Doves at two sites, Pied Wagtails at two sites, Goldfinches at three sites, a Grey Wagtail on the waterfront at Govan and two Magpies nest-building in Shieldhall. Goldeneye numbers on the Clyde seem to have increased of late with twelve along the stretch in front of the Transport Museum. Mute Swans were more evident too with a pair at Govan and one under Bells Bridge.

Glasgow Queen Street Station, Saturday.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Walked along the canal from Winchburgh to Linlithgow this morning. Highlights in the snowy landscape were two groups of Bullfinches, Great spotted Woodpeckers at two sites, Collared Dove at two sites, a single Skylark, groups of Redwing (50) and Fieldfare (15), a large group of Yellowhammers (at least 29) and (unexpectedly) six Curlews.

Partially-frozen canal at Linlithgow.

Friday, January 18, 2013

A surprisingly bird-less day in spite of clear driving conditions. However the winter sunshine lit up the church opposite the university beautifully.

Coats' Memorial Church, Paisley

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Another cold but settled day in west central Scotland. A lunchtime walk found nothing along Greenock esplanade apart from Black-headed Gulls, but at least 13 Goldfinches were in trees at the corner of Union Street and Campbell Street.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Today was spent in a sunny but cold Ayrshire. The drive down to Ardrossan first thing produced a hunting Kestrel next to the three-towns bypass. Later, three Oystercatchers and two Common Gulls were on grass at Ardrossan seafront. A beautifully-marked Common Buzzard was on a lampost in Irvine and, heading home, 20 Whooper Swans were on Loch Libo in the gathering gloom.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

A quick walk past the Murdieston dams revealed that two drake Goldeneye had joined the three females present at the end of last week. Also notable was a Cormorant on the grass at the east end of the main dam.
Some fantastic footage on BBC's "Winterwatch" this evening covered Snow Bunting, Crested Tit, Ptarmigan, Siskin and Red Squirrel.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Enjoyed a pleasant walk along the Greenock waterfront this lunchtime. The Lomond and Argyll hills were white with snow but  the low ground bordering the Clyde has managed to escape - so far.

The Beacon on Greenock Waterfront

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Circumstances dictated that there were no opportunities for natural connections this morning. Below is the nearest I managed.

Wildlife of Glacier Bay, Alaska

Saturday, January 12, 2013

A day of sunshine and calm in west central Scotland. Pollok Park was full of runners in the morning and walkers in the afternoon. The high number of people about made connecting with wildlife difficult, and no new bird species were added to the lists for any of the tetrads the park includes. However a Buzzard being mobbed by Carrion Crows near Pollok House was an interesting record.

Winter sunshine at the Burrell Collection

Friday, January 11, 2013

Managed to squeeze in a very quick walk around the Murdieston Dams during my lunch break. Lots of birds and some much-needed sunshine created a lovely scene. The Mute Swans on Town Dam were pottering around last year's nest and four Rooks were in the nesting tree at the south east corner of the site. A Moorhen was slightly unusual on Town Dam and two Goosanders, three Goldeneye, a Grey Heron and a Cormorant were on Cowdenknowes. Best sighting was a Grey Wagtail on the overflow channel - they have been really rare hereabouts this winter.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Settled weather in west central Scotland seemed to have energised the local wildlife and people alike. The Clyde was flat calm, with Eiders and other birds actively feeding. Meanwhile, the sports pitches in south west Glasgow and Paisley were full of aspiring athletes.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

A brief look at Cardwell Bay this lunchtime didn't produce any divers but a pair of Red breasted Mergansers and a Rock Pipit were compensation.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

News from the web is of Oystercatchers back at the University of Stirling campus (and Hedgehogs active in Cumbria).

Monday, January 07, 2013

A friend was in St Fillans west of Comrie today and sent me a phone photo of a "strange bird". Almost impossible to make out but an eagle seems likely - presumably WTSE.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

A really good walk over to Hyndland on a lovely mild morning produced some excellent sightings. The most incongrous involved five Whooper Swans flying west along Govan Road between Prince's Dock and Govan town centre. I heard a whooping call and looked up to see the five in "V" formation appearing from the east and passing overhead. Also in Govan, on a flat calm Clyde (below) were Cormorant, Goldeneye and Mallard. Nearby were Grey Wagtail and a singing Song Thrush. Other singing birds this morning included Mistle Thrush, Wren, Robin (the spring song, not the winter one), Goldfinch, Starling, Woodpigeon and Collared Dove. Also notable was a "partial albino" Blackbird in Cardonald, the first one I can remember seeing hereabouts.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

A walk from Partick to Dawsholm Park (via the River Kelvin) and back (via the Forth & Clyde Canal) produced a good range of interesting species including Cormorant, Grey Heron, Goosander, Dipper, Buzzard, two Kestrels, two pairs of Mistle Thrushes, three flocks of Long-tailed Tits and a Siskin.

Friday, January 04, 2013

Still incredibly mild here in WCS, although the forecast suggests much cooler conditions by this time next week.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

A Blue Tit was singing loudly outside the office window first thing. Then at dusk, two Blackbirds were singing on the way to West Station..

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Shopping in Livingston today, so had to be content with a flyover Pied Wagtail as meagre comfort. Back home, seven Waxwings were still flycatching at the rail bridge.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Enjoyed a couple of hours walking around Arkleston, Penilee and Hillington this lunchtime. Only two records were new for the Atlas (single Collared Doves in NS56C (Arkleston - Penilee) and H (Hillington - Shieldhall)). However other notable sightings included Greenfinches at three sites (they have been scarce hereabouts recently), pairs of Mistle Thrushes at two and fifteen Waxwings at the Cardonald Place rail bridge. The Waxwings were taking short, fluttering sorties from the treetops, either catching flies or displaying to eachother. One of the Mistle Thrushes was displaying to its mate from the lower branches of a small tree in Arkleston Cemetery. It had puffed up its feathers so that it looked about twice normal size and was hopping from branch to branch and turning in circles while giving a continuous, low warbling song. I had never witnessed this behaviour before. Other breeding behaviours no doubt stimulated by today's sunshine included song from Blue Tit, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Starling and Song Thrush and display from Woodpigeons and Feral Pigeons.
The full list for the day was: Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Feral Pigeon, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Magpie, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Waxwing, Wren, Starling, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Robin, Dunnock, House Sparrow, Greenfinch, Goldfinch and Siskin.