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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, April 30, 2013

Quite a substantial covering of frost on the car first thing.

Monday, April 29, 2013

A Blackbird kept up a torrent of song throughout a very long working day. A big red-tailed Bee sp blundered into the office but was soon on its way again.
Heading home about 9pm, a Raven came in off the Clyde at Langbank

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Had to pay for the day off yesterday with a day in front of the computer. However a Chiffchaff singing over the garden fence was some compensation. 
Finally got around to uploading some of Saturday's Strathspey sightings late in the evening. Notable that Willow Warblers were widespread while Chiffchaffs were completely absent (or silent). More to follow, eventually.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Spent the day in Strathspey, walking from Kingussie to Aviemore via Feshiebridge.
The following account added 5th May 2013:
Enjoyed a really good day walking in Strathspey. Left the train at Kingussie and headed south along the Dell Road. The Rookery there was quite active with at least ten birds present. Plenty of birds were singing with Chaffinch and Willow Warbler particularly evident. Nearing Insh Marshes, pairs of Greylag Geese were present at various spots. A Curlew was bubbling in the distance and a pair of Lapwings were displaying over the marsh where at least a dozen Black-headed Gull pairs had begun nesting. A distant Buzzard was the first of several today.
Decided to walk along the road to Tromie Bridge rather than going through the reserve. Siskins, Chaffinches and Greenfinches were present in roadside cottage gardens. Tromie Bridge again failed to produce Dipper or Grey Wagtail but a Redstart singing from a conifer in Drumguish (with another answering nearby) was some compensation. Heading south from Drumguish across the heather moor (on the Blair Atholl path), the only bird present was Meadow Pipit. However bird sightings increased on entering the conifer plantation with singing Mistle Thrush and calling Great-spotted Woodpecker and Jay adding to the sounds of several smaller birds. 
Descending down to the Allt Fhearnadail, the birds changed again with Meadow Pipits dominating. A small wood at Corarnstilbeg held Siskin and Great-spotted Woodpecker while a pair of Graylag Geese seemed to be on territory and a possible Red Kite showed momentarily. 
The walk along to Balintean took place against the backdrop of the Glenfeshie hills, still mostly covered by snow. Birds along this stretch were mostly unremarkable with Coal Tit and Willow Warbler the commonest. However the change in landscape at Balintean (to pasture and broadleaved woodland) coincided with the appearance of Pied Wagtail, Song Thrush, Tree Pipit, Redstart and Great-spotted Woodpecker. 
A packed lunch at Feshiebridge was followed by a brisk walk through Inshriach forest.  At least five Crested Tits were present between Drakes Bothy (below) and Loch Gamhna. The Loch was deserted apart from a single Mallard. Loch an Eilein had a Common Sandpiper and another Mallard while a singing Blackbird and Song Thrush were at Forest Cottage. Further along, another Great-spotted Woodpecker was calling from the base of Ord Ban.
Cutting through the forest at Lochan More produced a pair of Mute Swans, four Sand Martins and a Swallow. A pair of Goosanders and a singing Collared Dove were at the Speyside Highland Leisure Park while almost the last bird of the day was a (presumed migrant) Pied Flycatcher heard singing briefly from woodland next to Dalfaber Road just beyond the Old Mill Hotel. Two other black-and-white birds finished the day with an Oystercatcher circling over the Spey and a Pied Wagtail flitting along Aviemore main street.
All in all a very full and quite tiring day, with 20 miles walked and 45 species seen (or heard). Weather was pretty good, but a stiff westerly wind blew almost continually. Bird of the day was probably Willow Warbler, with 23 singing birds across eleven sites.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Two Whooper Swans were still at Barnsford Bridge first thing this morning. A pair of Shelduck were in the fields opposite Longhaugh Point.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Another day, another Siskin - this time a single calling from trees as I was rushing to a meeting in Gartnavel General Hospital. Earlier, a Chiffchaff was outside the office window in Greenock..
A Wood Mouse was pottering about the garden this evening.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

An evening visit to the south western end of Castle Semple Loch produced some interesting records including plenty of singing Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs and flyover Cormorants (2), Tufted Ducks (2) and Goldeneye (5). A handful of Swallows and Sand Martins were over the loch, with numbers swelling as the evening progressed. By 8pm, at least 50 House Sand Martins, 20 Swallows and two House Martins were present. A single Whooper Swan was among the Mutes at the car park. 
Siskins were present at three separate sites, reinforcing my impression that they are more widespread and commoner than usual this spring. The latest graph of reporting rates from the BTO seems to confirm this:


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Highlight of a long day at the dining room table was some courtship feeding by a pair of Robins on the feeders in the back garden. A steady stream of common birds visited during the day, but nothing worthy of note.

Monday, April 22, 2013

A scarce visitor to the garden this morning was a male Blackcap which scuttled about under the feeders. A few minutes later he was singing loudly from over the fence. Similarly scarce were the two Siskins which appeared in the late afternoon. Their plaintive calls have been very noticeable recently, seemingly across west central Scotland.

Also notable was a Long-tailed Tit in my neighbour's garden (by no means regular hereabouts).
A very brief walk along the river produced three Swallows moving west, a pair of Grey Wagtails looking like they might settle, Feral Pigeons with young in the nest, calling Siskin, singing Willow Warbler and flowering Butterbur.

This evening, a walk up to Crookston Castle produced a pair of Goosander (like the Siskins, I wonder if they will stay to breed) and singing Goldcrest, Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff (2).

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Managed to visit a number of tetrads during a walk through the (built up) south side of Glasgow this afternoon. Most records were of fairly common birds, but Siskins at several sites were notable, as were the occasional singing Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler. Bees were quite widespread and a single butterfly in Mosspark was probably a small tortoiseshell.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Headed for Kinneil next. Three Stock Doves were along the approach road and birds along the shore included a singing Willow Warbler (the first of many today), four Scaup, 70 Black-tailed Godwits (moulting into their brick-red summer plumage) and large numbers of Teal, Shelduck and Redshank.
Leaving Kinneil, a Blackbird was carying a beakfull of worms.
Arriving at Linlithgow Loch, one of the first birds seen was a (presumed passage) Common Sandpiper which skittered around a bend. Others included Jackdaws entering holes in the palace wall and 30 Greylag Geese high overhead, heading north.

Walked over to Bo'ness via Bonnytoun Farm. Highlights at the farm included around 10 Tree Sparrows (one carrying nest material) and two Swallows.The path through the fields produced the first of two Small Tortoiseshell butterflies (my first of the year) and a singing Yellowhammer. The walk through the Golf Course was notable for several each of singing Yellowhammer, Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler. The ploughed field to the north held at least five Skylarks (three singing) and a pair of Yellowhammers.

A brief scan of the Forth off Bo'ness turned up a Red-breasted Merganser, a Great-crested Grebe and eight Eider (with one of five bees seen today on the headland). Back at Linlithgow Loch, birds around the west end included a Canada Goose, at least six occupied Coots' nests and up to four pairs of Great-crested Grebes.
A brief stop at Beecraigs found the park pleasantly full of people enjoying the good weather.

A late afternoon walk around the relatively underwatched tetrad covering Pollok produced a Grey Heron, a Grey Wagtail and flowering Lesser Celandine.

The best day of the week, weather-wise, deserved a very early start, so was at the local Raven nest just after 6am. At first there was no activity but then one of the adults arrived and began to feed at least two large young. Great to have confirmation of breeding so close to home.

Friday, April 19, 2013

A cloudless night resulted in a frosty start in SW Glasgow, and a glorious drive down the Clyde. Ben Lomond still had some patches of snow with the tops further north about 50% white.
Heading home, a Swallow over Hillington Industrial Estate was my first of the year.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

A male Kestrel was high over Torranyards on the way home from Ayr this evening. At home, a "willowchiff" was pottering around the back garden. Sightings from friends included Swallows back at a smallholding in Kilmaurs and a female Sparrowhawk photographed in an Oldhall garden (below).

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The recent wet weather has resulted in flooding on most of the local playing fields. One such field at King Gerorge V Park in Renfrew was covered in birds including Lesser black-backed Gulls, Woodpigeons, Starlings, Jackdaws and a Magpie. Not exactly Capercaillies and Slavonian Grebes but still good to see.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

News from the web is of Arctic Terns at inland waters the length of the UK. It seems like the end of the cold north easterlies has resulted in a broad and deep front of migrants arriving all at once.

Monday, April 15, 2013

News from the web is of a big arrival of Swallows in central Scotland.
Popped out to Murdieston at lunchtime to do the monthly Webs count. Two pairs of Mute Swans and a pair of Coots were already sitting tight on completed nests. Three Rook nests have now been built in the usual area although none look particularly substantial.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

A Collared Dove (being dominated by a Woodpigeon) was the only unusual visitor to the garden during a long day at the dining room table :-(

Saturday, April 13, 2013

A morning walk in improving weather from Paisley to Glasgow produced some really excellent records including my first three singing Chiffchaffs of the year, single Grey Wagtails at two sites, a drake Teal roosting near the Leverndale Hospital gate and a Cormorant overhead at Cardonald Place Farm (plus two Goosanders and a Kingfisher). Two Ravens were noisily escorting a Buzzard over Leverndale Hospital and closer checking revealed a large nest on the east face of the tower. It wasn't possible to see over the rim, so occupation couldn't be confirmed (it is not the easiest site to check due to the close proximity of the neighbouring flats).
Did some atlas visits in Renfrew in the afternoon. Highlights were fairly few but included a flock of eight Linnets at the mouth of the Cart and two Teal off Renfrew Golf Course (where Coltsfoot was flowering in profusion).

Friday, April 12, 2013

A rainy walk in the north end of Pollok Park produced a nice surprise in the form of a screeching Jay. There were plenty of common woodland birds in song but no sign (or sound) of any warblers.

Reflecting on the fact that I haven't seen or heard any Ravens in SW Glasgow recently. Not sure what stage any local breeders would be at, but an urban-nesting pair monitored by RSPB members in Wigan, Lancashire have had young for two or three weeks.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

A damp day, and also cold, with fresh snow lying on the hills between Lochwinnoch and Largs. Largs itself was pretty miserable, but three Pied Wagtails were ignoring the conditions.
Heading over to Greenock, a Raven was in a ploughed field and a Buzzard was perched in a treetrop trying to let its wings dry off. The little island on Loch Thom was full of birds including three gull species, Cormorant, Oystercatcher and Canada Goose. A Curlew was singing nearby.
Spent an hour watching the Clyde from West Quay Lighthouse, Port Glasgow. It really is an ideal spot with views of "The Perch" and tugboats heading back to Greenock. Six Black Guillemots were in the immediate vicinity (with others passing further out) and kept up a constant trilling as they pottered about. The river was flat calm and studded with birds including Eider, Red-breasted Merganser, Shag, a single Red-throated Diver and a single Gannet. A Rock Pipit was carrying nesting material on Steamboat Quay.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Last day of decorating today (just as weather is about to change for the worse). Listened all day for Chiffchaff song but no sign. Several Lesser black-backed gulls joined in with the local Magpies to mob something over near the river. They made a terrifuc racket. I wondered about a Mink or Otter. The local Foxes don't seem to elicit such a furious response.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Another day of decorating. The window was open all day but there was no sound of any local Chiffchaffs yet. First "home" dates for the last three years have been 31st March 2012, 2nd April 2011 and 29th March 2010.

Monday, April 08, 2013

A day of painting and decorating, so no natural connections apart from the constant bickering of the Magpies outside. News from the web is that the established pair of Ospreys at Loch Garten are now back and seem to be settling down to breed.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

The usual Sunday morning walk produced a Kingfisher and a Little Grebe (the latter less than annual hereabouts) less than five minutes from the house. A little further on, a female Sparrowhawk was seen entering Pollok Wood, being escorted by two Carrion Crows. A Bee sp. in the Plantation area was another surprise.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Scone Palace grounds were full of birds today with Jays and Great-spotted Woodpeckers particularly noticeable. After much searching, a single Hawfinch was located near the cottages behind Moot Hill. Two Treecreepers were near Queen's Bridge, two pairs of Oystercatchers were feeding on the lawns and a Goosander flew over in the direction of the river. Also notable were a Grey Squirrel at one end of the main avenue and a Red Squirrel at the other.
A walk down to the river and back via the Racecourse produced more Mallards and Oystercatchers, a single Buzzard plus at least seven Pied Wagtails in mature trees around the perimeter of the race track. 
Other mammals today included Brown Hares at Stirling and Scone, and four Roe Deer at Dalreoch.

Friday, April 05, 2013

Photo from Baron's Haugh below...

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Had to be in Hamilton first thing so headed over at first light and had Baron's Haugh to myself for about an hour. Lots of birds were active including lots of singing Wrens, at least two drumming Great-spotted Woodpeckers (plus a third bird showing very well), a drake Shoveler, six Goldeneye (including a male in transitonal plumage), lots of calling Siskins and a single Nuthatch. Lunchtime in Paisley produced a very noisy Kingfisher right under Paisley Cross - Oh and a Brown Rat nipping into a bolt hole.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

A Song Thrush was going through its repertoire outside the bedroom window at 6am.
Three Black Guillemots were in East India Harbour this lunchtime, with another five on the seaward side of the harbour wall. All were in beautiful breeding plumage and were flashing their white wing patches and red feet as they pirouetted around eachother. A Rock Pipit was singing nearby.

Heading home at dusk this evening, a Grey Heron was lumbering over the St James roundabout.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Arriving at Ailsa Hospital this morning, a Chaffinch was singing and the Rookery was in full swing. Heading back to Greenock, a Buzzard was soaring over the Monkton Roundabout, a Woodcock lumbered heavily over the three towns bypass and a pair of Red breasted Mergansers fished just offshore north of Largs.

Monday, April 01, 2013

A  quick dusk walk found most of the local birds already gone to roost. With the bitter east wind, spring seems far away.