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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, March 31, 2013

This year's very strange spring continues with a scattering of uncommon migrants appearing across the country (including Ring Ouzel, Tree Pipit, Garganey, Cuckoo etc) but no sign of the en masse arrivals of the common early migrants that would be expected about now. The two graphs (from birdtrack) below show what seems to be happening...

Saturday, March 30, 2013

A walk along the Cart from Pollokshaws to Corkerhill produced a number of interesting sightings including Goosanders at three sites (a courting pair, a male and a female), two Kingfishers at one, a Carron Crow with striking white primaries, the 'usual' Carrion x Hoodie hybrid and four Roe Deer.
The cold weather has delayed many migrants (I still haven't heard my first Chiffchaff of the year or seen my first Sand Martin) but Sandwich terns and Ospreys have been  recorded passing through the central belt.

Friday, March 29, 2013

A lunchtime walk around the centre of Paisley found a pair of Grey Wagtails chasing eachother and a Dipper singing at the Hammils. A noisy Kingfisher was flying back and forwards in front of the council buildings. A little later, a second Dipper arrived from upstream and flew off high to the west, above the tenements. Meantime a second Kingfisher began interacting with the first bird before flying off high to the east. Stirring stuff!
While all this was happening, a Redshank was feeding quietly under the Hammils bridge.
This evening, a walk along the Cart produced a further three Goosanders (to add to yesterday's two further west) and another Grey Wagtail (thre first in my Cardonald 1km square since 2011 and only the second since 2010). The graph below shows how Grey Wagtail has become a rare bird for me since the two harsh winters of 09/10 amd 10/11,

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Managed to squeeze in a short walk along the Cart near the house. Plenty of birds were about, despite the bitter cold. Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Wren, Dunnock and Blackbird were all singing. At least eight Fieldfares and at least four Song Thrushes were feeding on Rosshall School playing field. A pair of Goosanders and two pairs of Mallards were on the river. A Stock Dove exploded from the woods at Rosshall Park.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

A Grey Heron drifted leisurely over the M8 near Erskine as I rushed to a late meeting in Greenock at 4pm. Otherwise today was another full-on work day.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Had a fantastic view of a Barn Owl flying along between the A78 and the Clyde in broad daylight this afternoon. It flew ahead of the car for about 50 metres, then swooped up onto a tree branch. A great experience for me but possibly not so good for the owl. It was presumably starvation that had forced it to be abroad in the middle of the day (1pm).
Another favourite bird of mine, a Kestrel, was on a wire over the Dalry to Beith road at home time (5pm).

Monday, March 25, 2013

"Work and snow" more or less sums up today.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

It was still bitterly cold in North Berwick this morning. A walk around the town centre produced the unusual sight of 24 Curlews and five Redshank feeding on grass in Glebe Park with Starlings, Woodpigeons, gulls and corvids. Half way home, a Pied Wagtail was at Harthill services.
Arriving back in Glasgow early afternoon, it became apparent that the snow which fell on Friday/Saturday hadn't lasted. Howver the birds are presumably still having a difficult time of it, judging by the activity around the garden feeders.
News from the web is of Sand Martins, Wheatears, Ospreys and Chiffchaffs arriving up and down the country. I wonder what they make of the arctic conditions?

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The waves were crashing onto North Berwick beach first thing. Indeed the ferocious east wind continued all day, whipping sand, spume and snow in equal measures along the shore. Heading out into the teeth of the gale, the only birds on the wing were big gulls checking the flotsam and jetsam being brought in. Two Carrion Crows thought better of flying and instead stayed crouched on the sea wall. A lovely drake Red-breasted Merganser had taken refuge on the paddling pool. Meanwhile 20 Eider were bobbing in the lee of the harbour. Up in the town, 20 Starlings hurtled over the High Street.
Had to head back to Glasgow in the early afternoon. A mystery small raptor was near Longniddry and two Buzzards were beside the bypass. Ten or more Redwings were over Ballencrieff. A Song Thrush was behind the Glebe House.

Friday, March 22, 2013

A murky drive to Eastr Lothian through the Edinburgh traffic was brightened up by a Buzzard swooping under the bypass at Hermiston Gate (the only thing moving thereabouts).

Thursday March 21, 2013

An earlier-than-usual start brought me into contact with the full dawn chorus for the first time this year. Dozens of birds were singing between home and Hillington East including at least five Collared Doves plus Woodpigeon, Dunnock, Wren, Blackbird, Blue Tit, Great Tit and Chaffinch. 
A little later, Jackdaws were nest-building at Port Glasgow station.
Heading home, a Kestrel was over a corner of South Arkleston Farm.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The only natural connection of a busy working day was a Grey Wagtail (a scarce bird of late) glimpsed by the Cart at Forbes Place, central Paisley first thing.
Back home, two Coal Tits were visiting the garden feeders, illuminated by some very welcome evening sunshine.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Driving to Ayr early this afternoon, a large number of Pink footed Geese (possibly one to two hundred) were in a roadside field near Tarbolton. A debate on ayrshirebirding has speculated on whether these are displaced Scottish birds or returning migrants from further south. Whatever their provenance, they were a fantastic sight (and sound).
Arriving on Racecourse Road, both Goldfinch and Greenfinch were singing between the showers.

Monday, March 18, 2013

A Song Thrush was an unusual sight on the lawn outside the house first thing. A little later, around 16 Whooper Swans were still at Blackstone Mains. 
A pre-work visit to Murdieston Park found the Mute Swan pair nest-building on Town Dam, six Goldeneye (including a displaying male) on Codenknowes Dam and three partly-completed Rook nests in the usual tree at the extreme eastern edge of the park. 
Heading home, two Shelduck on the fields at Fornet Cottage were my first prospecting birds of the year but a Buzzard near the Erskine Bridge on-ramp was in its usual place.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

A day spent in front of the computer with only the garden birds for company... Highlights were a pair of Robins (which kept the Dunnocks on their toes) and some acrobatic Feral Pigeons hanging from the seed feeders.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

A walk along the Brock Burn and White Cart this morning produced small numbers of Redwings at three sites and ten Fieldfares at one. I wonder if they are returning migrants. Also notable were two pairs of Goosanders, five singing Wrens and a new bird for me for the 1km square centred on Crookston Castle: Pied Wagtail.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Had a day off today so headed out at 04:30 and was in place near a well known Black Grouse lek by 05:15. The lek started before anything but the faintest outlines of the landscape could be made out. However the unmistakable bubbling calls of the males could be heard drifting across the moor. Very slowly, the birds materialised out of the gloom, and by 5:45, ten males were visible. Actual lekking was sporadic and at one point the birds seemed to be spooked by something happening off to the left of the lek site (possibly a Buzzard which was flapping about). The heavy rain may also have dampened their enthusiasm. However it was very gratifying to see a good number of birds present again this year.
Headed out again in the early afternoon, this time to take a look at Hogganfield Loch and Garnqueen Loch. The target species was Ruddy Duck. However none were visible at either of these traditional sites. Perhaps the local population has finally been wiped out. Some compensation was provided by excellent views of two pairs of Great-crested Grebes displaying at Hogganfield (one pair doing the "Weed Rush"), and two pairs of Little Grebes whinnying at Garnqueen. Also notable were good numbers of Pochard at both sites and at least two family parties of Whooper Swans at Hogganfield.
Other news for today - Ospreys have started arriving back in Central Scotland with birds reported from at least two sites already.

The full bird list for Monday’s Strathspey trip was as follows: Mute Swan, Whooper Swan, Greylag Goose, Mallard, Domestic Mallard, Tufted Duck, Goldeneye, Red-legged Partridge, Pheasant, Cormorant, Grey Heron, White-tailed Eagle, Sparrowhawk, Buzzard, Golden Eagle, Oystercatcher, Feral Pigeon, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, hybrid Carrion x Hooded Crow, Raven, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit. Treecreeper, Starling, Dipper, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Robin, Dunnock, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Siskin and Reed Bunting (39 species).

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Twenty Curlews were in the fields next to the Clyde first thing.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

At least five frogs were under the ice in my back garden pond. The ice cover is not complete, and they could get out if they wanted, but they seem happy enough. Yesterday, two Great Tits and two Blue Tits were hopping about on the ice.
Today, a couple of Long-tailed Tits passed through the garden.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Perhaps just a co-incidence, but WWT Caerlaverock recorded its first ever Red Squirrel yesterday, while the Galloway Wildlife Conservation Park near Kircudbright had its first local record for ten years today (both sightings from Twitter).
Pond almost completely frozen over today. Lots of Frogs swimming about quite happily under the ice. However the clumps of frogspawn may not survive.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Spent a very enjoyable day in a cold, bright Speyside. The day began with a walk around the Dell of Kingussie. Along the river were eight pairs of Mallard, three pairs of Goldeneye (plus a lone female), a Dipper and an over-flying Cormorant. Ten Oystercatchers and a single Black-headed Gull were over riverside fields and other birds included a female Sparrowhawk, a Common Buzzard,  two Pheasants, two partridge sp, a Reed Bunting, a Mistle Thrush, a Treecreeper and 15 Woodpigeons plus Chaffinch, Siskin, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit and Dunnock. Mammals consisted of Brown Hare and three Roe Deer. Two Golden Eagles were spiralling over a distant hillside.

Birds around the west end of Insh Marshes included three Whooper Swans, thirteen Greylag Geese, a Raven, a partridge sp, 25 Mallard, a Grey Heron, two Mistle Thrushes and a Buzzard. Further east were 36 Greylag Geese, two Hoodie hybrids, a Song Thrush, two Mistle Thrushes, a pair of Goldeneye and (the bird of the day) a magnificent White-tailed Eagle.

A walk along the south and east edges of Loch Insh produced two Mute Swans, eight Cormorant, 18 Goldeneye, 17 Tufted Ducks, four Mallards and the usual (7) Domestic Mallards. Finally, a walk through Kincraig added Greenfinch, Collared Dove and another five Oystercatchers.

Impressions of Speyside in March:
It’s in transition, with some birds coming in (waders and gulls) and others moving out (geese and swans)
It’s excellent for wildfowl and raptors
It’s getting noisier (with many passerines in noisy groups and others starting to sing)

Sunday, March 10, 2013

A pair of Goosander were on the River Cart behind the house this morning. Nearby were six Long-tailed tits, with another couple at Glasgow Caledonian University campus. Two Goldfinches and two Mistle Thrushes were at Blythswood Square.

The snow which has been affecting the east coast also reached Glasgow today. It looks like Aviemore might get even more tomorrow.

Saturday, March 09, 2013


Friday, March 08, 2013

There are now three clumps of frogspawn in the silverglade pond.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

More migrants have arrived in the UK including two Ospreys.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Heading out at 07:45, a Grey Heron was lumbering over the nearby rooftops, pursued by a posse of gulls. Its crop was full so presumably it had caught something down at the river and the gulls were hoping to get a share.
News from the web is of the first few Sand Martins, Wheatears and Sandwich Terns arrivng down south, together with some Firecrests and Black Redstarts. Also, lots of Waxwings seem to be on the move.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

A Pied Wagtail, a Goldfinch, two Collared Doves and a singing Mistle Thrush were all noted while waiting for a connection at Port Glasgow first thing.

Monday, March 04, 2013

A nice Hooded Crow X Carrion Crow hybrid was on Nelson Street, Greenock first thing (presumably the bird which has been around for the past two years).

Sunday, March 03, 2013

A big day in the garden today with the first frogspawn of the year in the pond and a garden first in the form of a Goldcrest flitting around one of the Cypresses.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

A pleasant walk around Mugdock Park this afternoon produced two Lesser black-backed Gulls with the Black-headed and Common Gulls on Craigend Pond, and both Goosander and Goldenye paired off on Mugdock Loch. A single Frog was on the approach road to the park but the breeding pool south of the casle was all quiet. The pond in the back garden is also, apparently, still uncolonised this year.

Friday March 01, 2013

A new month, but the sunny weather of February has continued unchanged.