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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.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

A Song Thrush was singing at Gartnavel this afternoon. Elsewhere an Osprey has been seen in Wales and a Swallow in Lincolnshire.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Drove to work via Pollok this morning to pay one final winter visit to NS56F. It was still almost dark but a Wren, a Song Thrush and a Dunnock were all in song. The Wren was my first for the tetrad ... better late than never.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

More glorious weather in west central Scotland today. The twenty Whooper Swans which have been in a feld next to the St James Interchange for the past few days were back there again this evening.
News from the web is of a Snowy Owl near Ben Macdui.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Today had the distinction of being the first day of the year when I drove both to and from work in daylight. In between was another perfect still, crisp, sunny winter's day. The view from Lyle Hill during a very brief lunchtime walk was breathtaking (below).

Heading back up the Clyde at home-time, the tide was the lowest I have seen it for a long time with a huge sand bank off Greenock on view and even the foundations of the timber ponds exposed.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Managed to squeeze in a visit to one of the under-covered tetrads south of Glasgow this morning. The site (NS55H) includes the south-western quarter of Newton Mearns and the bits of farmland that surround it. Spent an hour walking around and managed to add nine species. However the tetrad total is still a disappointing 30. Birds added included Black-headed Gull, Feral Pigeon, Collared Dove, Long-tailed Tit, Dunnock, Song Thrush, Coal Tit and Greenfinch. The latter four were much easier to find now that they have started to sing. However the most surprising find was an Oystercatcher feeding with Jackdaws on the grass verge behind "The Avenue" shopping centre. When disturbed, it flew onto the roof of the nearby sheltered housing complex. It is just visible in the photo below.

Unfortunately time is running out to do any more winter atlassing before the end of the month (still haven't got Wren for the Pollok tetrad!).

Saturday, February 23, 2013

After yesterday's exertions, a day spent in the garden seemed a good idea. Robin, Dunnock, Great Tit and Blue Tit visited the feeders in small numbers all day, but a pair of Blue Tits seem to be on terrritory and were keeping at least some of the other birds at bay.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Enjoyed a great day in Speyside thanks to the Citylink "go anywhere in Scotland for £2" deal. The journey by road isn't quite as good as that by train, in that there is more disturbance along the A9 than the railway. However sightings included ten Oystercathers and 20 Greylag Geese at Blair Atholl, two Red Grouse at Drumochter and 30 Greylag Geese near Lynchat. Thirty unidentified ducks at Spey bridge were probably Teal.

A sunny morning in Aviemore...

Arrived in Aviemore at 11am to find blue skies and strong sunshine (although the temperature was below zero and stayed that way all day). A short bus trip later (single Buzzard at Laggantygown) I was at Nethybridge and the start of the walk. A good look around the centre of Nethybridge failed to locate the usual Dipper(s) on the river. However other birds in the area included Treecreeper, Rook and Pheasant, along with singing Greenfinch (the first of many today), Chaffinch and Collared Dove. 

...and in Nethybridge

Heading up-river, plenty of small birds were on the feeders in the gardens on either bank. Thought I heard a Crested Tit call, but had to be content with Coal Tit, Great Tit, Long-tailed Tit and Siskin. A Red Squirrel was further along the path.

Arriving at the Dell of Abernethy, I was reminded of the story of the two weavers who perished one New Years day after setting out from there for Braemar. Near there were Rook, Jackdaw and Siskin. The path then entered Dell Woods and continued through the RSPB Abernethy Reserve. The pine woods were beautiful in the winter sunshine but try as I might, I couldn't locate any birds apart from the ubiquitous Coal Tit.
The first exception to that rule finally arrived on joining the Forest Lodge road near Cuchanlupe where a Treecreeper was with at least five Coal Tits. The forest lochans near there were frozen solid.

Buildings at Cuchanlupe

Took the path over to Straanruie where the diversity of bird life started to increase as soon as the cottages came into view. Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Chaffinch and House Sparrow  were all present here and in Tulloch. Twenty-seven Mallards and two Jackdaws were at Loch Tulloch.
Decided to take the Tulloch Moor road rather than go round by Loch Garten. Bird life was scarce away from the cottages at the east end. However two Bullfinches were quietly feeding on Heather tips and a male Reed Bunting was equally quiet as it slipped away through a patch of scrub. 
A little further on, two Ravens flew overhead. I heard them coming well before they appeared, one giving a repeated high-pitched call while the second replied with the usual low croak. They appeared over the trees in the west and continued in the direction of Loch Garten. I would guess they flew over the spot where a group of RSPB staff were burning patches of the moor.
Avoided a bit of the road at Glencairn by cutting through the forest in the direction of Auchgourish Arboretum. Again there was very little about except for Coal Tits and a single Roe Deer. 
The walk back along the road to Boat of Garten produced some nice sightings including the usual range of garden species in Street of Kincardine, a Woodpigeon and a Mistle Thrush at Mullingarroch, and two Song Thrushes plus a Mistle Thrush in a field at Gartenmore.

Arriving at Garten Bridge, a pair of Goldeneye were on the Spey, with the snow-covered Cairngorms as the backdrop. Milton Loch was frozen and devoid of any waterfowl. However two Herring Gulls were a surprise as they flew over, Rooks and Jackdaws were going to roost and a Grey Heron arrived noisily at its nest to be greeted, equally noisily, by its mate. Sixty Jackdaws were over Boat of Garten and one was seen to enter the chimney pot of the post office. 

Back in Aviemore, six Mallards and a Carrion Crow were near the Leisure Park.

The total bird count for today was 30 species: Mallard, Goldeneye, Pheasant, Grey Heron, Buzzard, Herring Gull, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove,  Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, Raven, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Treecreeper, Wren, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Robin, Dunnock, House Sparrow,  Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Siskin, Bullfinch and Reed Bunting. No Speyside "specialities", and nothing particularly dramatic, but some good birds in beautiful surroundings.
Impressions of Strathspey in February:
Its cold - the temperature didn't rise above zero degrees all day
The woods are quiet - with Coal Tit being all I could find in many areas
Birds remain concentrated around the towns and villages
There is no sign yet (that I could see) of any new plant growth
The predominant colour in the landscape is yellow - the colour of dry grass.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Twenty five Greylags were flying up from the Clyde at dawn this morning.
News from the web is that the Paisley Abbey Mistle Thrushes successfully fledged two young.
Checking the weather forecast tonight - Aviemore looks a good bet tomorrow. Mmmm?

Wednesday, February 20, 2013


Tuesday, February 19, 2012

The only natural connection of late has been a very unwelcome one - an upper respiratory tract infection.

Monday, February 18, 2013

A Buzzard flew over the Hurlet as I headed over to Hamilton from Paisley at lunchtime. Today was one of those perfect, crisp winter days. Long may they continue.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The now regular Sunday morning walk to the centre of Glasgow produced various interesting sightings but no new tetrad ticks. The strong sunshine, mild temperatures and clear conditions prompted a number of species to sing including Collared Dove, Woodpigeon, Great, Blue and Coal Tit, Robin, Wreen, Dunnock, Starling, Greenfinch and Goldfinch. A single Redwing was beside the Southern General and a single Mute Swan was in front of the Transport Museum with another over Festival Park.
This afternoon, a short walk along the Cart at Moulin prduced a pair of Goosanders, a singing Song Thrush and a foraging Goldcrest.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

A busy day of atlassing in south Glasgow - and trying to shrug off a horrible cold.
Highlight of the day was the sighting of a pair of Stock Doves inspecting tree holes in King's Park. 
Altogether four tetrads were checked, with the following results:
NS56V (King's Park / Cathcart): Added two species (Stock Dove and Pied Wagtail). Tetrad total is now 38(34).
NS56D (Renfrew): Added four species (Lesser black-backed Gull, Pied Wagtail, Rook and Carrion Crow). Tetrad total is now 45(29).
NS56K (Pollok Park south): No new species added. Tetrad total is 50(31).
NS56S (Plantation Park). No new species added. Tetrad total is 51(34). 
Stopped off to have a look at the "Pollok Beech" (below). It is looking a little worse for wear with one large bough obviously having fallen off over the winter. 

Friday, February 15, 2013

The Bittern is still being seen on the west side of Kilbarchan.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Blackbirds were singing from before dawn this morning - the first sustained song I have heard from them this year.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Completed my modest WeBS count at Murdieston today. The site is so small that it can be covered in my lunch break. Highlights today were four Goldeneye, a single Goosander and an exceptional three Cormorants. Signs of the coming breeding season included pair formation (Mallards, Canada Geese and Mute Swans), putative display (Goldeneye and Tufted Duck) and territorial behaviour (Coot). The tiny Rook colony has suffered a setback however. The bits of nests which were being fussed over during a spring-like spell a few weeks ago have completely disappeared.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Managed to escape the marking for an hour at lunchtime today to re-visit one of the south Glasgow tetrads (NS56M Craigton / Govan). Spent a good ten minutes trying to turn a group of six or seven crows into Rooks but to no avail. A Wren was singing beside the St Cuthbert's football ground and two Long tailed Tits were along Paisley Road West. Otherwise nothing to report.
The Bittern reported this week in a Kilbarchan garden appears to have moved on. I wonder if it will be relocated.

Monday, February 11, 2013

For once, the mid-term break co-incided with some favourable weather, so the morning was spent in Mugdock Park and the afternoon around South Kirkton Moor.
The area around the Visitor Centre at Mugdock was alive with birds. Chaffinches, Robins, Blackbirds, Coal, Great and Blue Tits and Jackdaws were visiting the feeders and Greenfinches were singing from the trees overhead. A Chaffinch was singing near the adventure playground with another singing near the boardwalk. Mallards and a single Tufted Duck were the only waterfowl on Craigend Loch. Also present were two Black-headed Gulls and a Common Gull.
Nineteen Goosander (but no Goldeneye) were on Mugdock Loch, with one bird moulting from immature to adult male plumage. A Grey Heron was in the reeds and a Cormorant was an unusual sight on the "island" (with a pair of Mute Swans nearby). A Great-spotted Woodpecker called from just east of the loch and a Wren sang from west of the castle, where 6 Goldfinces were chasing around the treetops and  Snowdrops were flowering on the steep slope.
The Cormorant was a new bird for me for Mugdock. Also new was a Magpie near the castle.
This afternoon, a check of tetrad NS55K (South Kirkton Muir west of Eaglesham) proved rather fruitless. The area is pretty barren with mostly unimproved grassland and very little cover. There is a small deciduous wood (completely empty), a few strips of conifers (ditto), a Trout fishery and four isolated farms/cottages. The only bird over the grassland was Carrion Crow, with at least three pairs present (adjacent tetrads also had Rook, Jackdaw and a single Raven). The fishery only held a single Grey Heron. I had to forgo checking the farms so as not to upset the occupants, but 25 Feral Pigeons were wheeling overhead.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The cover art for the latest New Naturalist has been released (below). Looking forward to this one very much,

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Heading into Ikea at breakfast-time, a Song Thrush nearby was in full song.
In the afternoon, took another look at one of the Glasgow tetrads, NS56F (Pollok Roundabout). It is a fairly uninspiring area, as the photos below show. However plenty of birds were about. Two singing Song Thrushes, a surprising two Grey Herons, a Kingfisher and 20 Redwings were along the Levern Water, three Greenfinches were in the top of a tree behind the Police Station and a Pied Wagtail was singing from the roof of Silverburn Shopping Centre. The Song Thrushes, Kingfisher and Greenfinches were all new records for the tetrad, bringing the total to 36. Try as I might, I wasn't able to add Wren.

Friday, February 08, 2013

A lunchtime walk around the centre of Paisley produced a sequel to yesterday's story about early Mistle Thrush breeding. Two Mistle Thrushes were dive-bombing and pursuing corvids around the abbey graveyard and along the river in such an agitated way that they really must have had young nearby. The aggression on display was really considerable and caught the attention of a few passers by.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

An interesting report on the local grapevine of already-hatched Mistle Thrush chicks. Ferguson-Lees, Castell and Leech says that the first young hatch in early March, with the majority arriving from early April onwards.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

A Laysan Albatross which is known to be at least 62 years old has bred again on the Midway Atoll (story here).

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

A good inch of snow fell in southwest Scotland overnight. An increase in sightings of Woodcock posted on the web may be due to a new influx or possibly birds becoming more visible as they are driven into the open.

Monday, February 04, 2013

Yesterday's visit eventually added another nine species to the total for the Malletsheugh / Newton Mearns tetrad. The overall total now stands at 21, but should probably be at least double that.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Not much time for natural connections today. However an early morning run over to the tetrad visited yesterday added a fair number of common birds including Moorhen, Mallard, Herring Gull, Pied Wagtail, Rook and Greenfinch. Typical scene below...

Saturday, February 02, 2013

Took advantage of today's good weather to take another look at one of the poorly-covered tetrads in south Glasgow and to recce another one in East Renfrewshire. The day started with a walk from Snuffmill Bridge to Battlefield. First bird encountered was a singing Song Thrush (the first winter record for the tetrad). This was followed by two other first records: two Grey Wagtails and a pair of Goosander. The other notable sighting was a pair of Dippers under the Clarkston Road bridge, the male singing above the early-morning traffic. 

After some business in Battlefield, walked over to the other side of the tetrad (Kings Park) to try and add some woodland species (Great spotted Woodpecker, Treecreeper, Buzzard, Siskin, Redpoll, Bullfinch, Rook and Raven were all still needed). The park was alive with birds, but mostly not the ones I was looking for. However two Siskins were singing from a Scots Pine tree and (most surprising of all) a female Ring-necked Parakeet was showing well on the feeders in one of the back gardens on the eastern edge of the park.

Birds seen on the way back to Snuffmill Bridge (although over the tetrad border into NS55Z) were Rook, Kingfisher, Buzzard and Stock Dove (the latter two species being the first winter records for that tetrad).

Managed to visit a new tetrad (NS55H, Malletsheugh / Newton Mearns) late afternoon. It only had six species listed, so even during a brief recce, another seven were added. It is not the most inspiring of areas, with two motorways, lots of new housing, several "no entry" signs and the kind of  "get-you-from-A-to-B-as quickly-as-possible" roads which make stopping virtually impossible. The only significant area of water is a fenced-off, flooded quarry which was frozen over and deserted today. However I will give it my best shot. I think a couple of early morning visits might be the best idea.
A notable feature of today was the number of birds singing in the spring-like sunshine. The full list of singers consisted of: Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Wren, Starling, Dipper, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Robin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch and Siskin.

Friday, February 01, 2013

Heading up to Paisley this afternoon, around 200 Lapwings and 50 Curlews had been driven onto the roadside fields at Fornet Cottage by the high tide.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

All the media outlets are getting excited about the Eagle Owl on the loose in Inverness. Speculation is rife about the possibility of it taking a small dog or a baby (!). I am personally sceptical about the latter suggestion (babies shouldn't be left unattended anyway), but I have a note in my records of an Eagle Owl taking a yorkie in Perth in 1995.