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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.

Friday, May 31, 2013

A lovely evening in South Cardonald. A walk along the river found the vegetation as lush as I have ever seen it. I wonder if the late spring has been responsible. The Himalayan Balsam is still quite low, although I'm sure it will be dominating everything else within the next few weeks. Three Song Thrushes were singing between home and Bonyholm Bridge, a Blackcap was at the bridge and a Kingfisher sped past the old stables.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Had the Loch Garten webcam on for company while marking at 5am this morning. In among the various Osprey noises a Redstart burst into song.
Among the good birds being recorded locally include a Garganey in Kilmarnock and an Arctic Tern in East Kilbride. Hope the weather holds for the weekend.

Wednesday, May 29. 2013

As soon as the sun came out today, a Whitethroat began singing his little scratchy song. A short walk along the river late afternoon produced another singing male 200 metres upstream. Meanwhile the local woods are full of Bluebells making up for lost time.
News from the web today is that the Loch Garten Ospreys now have two mouths to feed...

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A feature of the past few days has been the continued (noisy) presence of warblers in my corner of southwest Glasgow with Willow Warbler, Blackcap and Whitethroat all audible as I have been working at the  dining room table, listening through the open window. On Monday morning, a distant Raven called.

Monday, May 27, 2013

The complete bird list for Saturday's walk along a stretch of the Fife Coastal Path was as follows: Mallard, Eider, Fulmar, Cormorant, Grey Heron, Oystercatcher, Curlew, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Razorbill, Feral Pigeon, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Swift, Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, Skylark, Swallow, Willow Warbler, Whitethroat, Sedge Warbler, Wren, Starling, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Dunnock, House Sparrow, Pied Wagtail, Meadow Pipit, Rock Pipit, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet, Yellowhammer, Reed Bunting and Corn Bunting (39 species).

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Had a bit of time between marking today so paid a short visit to Househill Park in one of the south Glasgow tetrads (NS56F). Managed to add Blackcap, Willow Warbler and Pied Wagtail to the tetrad list, and to increase the breeding evidence for Starling, House Sparrow and Blue Tit. Househill Park is a hidden gem with ancient trees, sunny glades (full of Orange Tip butterflies today) and a much neglected stream (below) frequented by Kingfisher and Dipper.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Heading out of the back of Anstruther first thing was like going back in time.The first bird heard was a singing Corn Bunting (the first of two within 200 metres) and other birds in the area included singing Linnet, Yellowhammer, Whitethroat and Skylark, and breeding House Sparrow, Starling and Swallow. Grey Partridge failed to show on this occasion.
The day's walk along the Fife Coastal Path produced  more of all the above species as well as Eider (several females with tiny young - see photo below), Razorbill, Fulmar, Reed Bunting, Sedge Warbler, Swift and both Pied Wagtail and Rock Pipit carrying food.
The other photos below are of the Isle of May, Cellardyke and Anstruther (including a local delicacy).


Friday, May 24, 2013

A pre-work trip to Paisley this morning produced one of the highlights of the year - the first House Martin back at the tiny colony in South Cardonald. In Paisley itself, three Sand Martins were over the Cart near the regular breeding site at Forbes Place and a pair of Goosanders (presumably non-breeders) flew downstream. Passing through Oldhall, around ten House Martins were vising nests on at least three houses (with a Swallow amongst them), a Starling was carrying food and a Chiffchaff was singing from Barshaw Park.
Spent the day at the dining room table again. Activity in the garden included a Blue Tit taking feathers into the nest box on the south side of the house, a juvenile Robin (presumably just fledged) and a Woodpigeon being attacked by one of the local cats (he got away but left two tail feathers and a fair amount of down behind).

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Marking from home today (its that time of year again) so only had the garden birds for company. Unusually, two Grey Squirrels came to ransack the feeders and two Woodpigeons had a prolonged and vicious scrap on the lawn before the victor proceeded to sing while strutting around on the ground. A quick drive over to Renfrew late on produced Starlings carrying food at five different sites. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Typically, a Grey Heron was lumbering high over the M8 at Glasgow Airport first thing this morning. This evening, a Raven was heading inland east of Langbank at exactly the same spot (and on the same flight path) as the one I saw a week or two ago. In between, noticed that a pair of Lesser Black-backed Gulls have built a nest on the chimney of a tenement in Nelson Street, Greenock (below).

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Finally got around to uploading all my Saturday sightings to Birdtrack. The list for the Strathspey part of the day was as follows: Greylag Goose, Teal, Mallard, Goldeneye, Red-breasted Merganser, Goosander, Red Grouse, Red-legged Partridge, Pheasant, Grey Heron, Buzzard, Osprey, Kestrel, Oystercatcher, Lapwing, Curlew, Common Sandpiper, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Cuckoo, Swift, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, Goldcrest, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Skylark, Sand Martin, Swallow, House Martin, Long-tailed Tit, Willow Warbler, Blackcap, Wren, Starling, Dipper, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Redwing, Mistle Thrush, Spotted Flycatcher, Robin, Redstart, Dunnock, House Sparrow, Grey Wagtail, Pied Wagtail, Tree Pipit, Meadow Pipit, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Siskin and Lesser Redpoll (57 species).

Monday, May 20, 2013

A Grey Heron was over the M8 at Glasgow Airport first thing and a Swallow was over Greenock Docks at hometime.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Pictures from yesterday's Strathspey trip:

The path up Creag Bheag

Ongoing track maintenance at Creag Bheag

Looking down to Loch Gynack

The twin nest tree in Glen Banchor

Primroses in Calder Glen

The rail bridge over the Spey

Stepping stones at Eilean na Cluanaich

Marsh Marigold at Eilean na Cluanaich

Some of the local wildlife ....

... and one of the birds I DIDN'T see.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Well the rain DID arrive, but thankfully not until the afternoon. The intended walk around Bridge of Brown looked like being a washout, so settled for a circuit of Kingussie and Newtonmore, taking in Glen Gynack, Loch Gynack, Glen Banchor, the Calder Glen, the Dale of Newtonmore and the footpath back to Kingussie. Highlights of the day were an Osprey seen really well as it flew into the hills, my first Swifts of the year, a really good suite of aquatic species on Loch Gynack (and again on the Spey), a Pied Wagtail's nest AND a Coal Tit's nest in the same tree, a really good concentration of breeding waders and a singing Redwing.
The following added on 19th May:
Arriving at Kingussie station, the day was overcast but mild (although cold for May). Starlings and Blackbirds were stalking the municipal lawns for food for their chicks and the sound of agitated Oystercatchers (they seem to be constantly agitated) filled the air. Collared Dove and Greenfinch were present in the village gardens together with all the common species. Walking up the Gynack Burn, one of the first birds encountered was a Dipper speeding upstream. Chaffinches and Willow Warblers were the dominant songsters, as they were to be throughout the day.
Heading up onto the slopes of Creag Bheag, a Cuckoo began singing away to the east (no doubt heard by the players on Kingussie Golf course nearby). Siskins called from many treetops and Goldcrest song was heard in one or two places. Nearing Loch Gynack, the sound of Greylag Geese began to be heard. At least three pairs were squabbling near the east end of the loch. Also in that area were two drake Teal and a drake Goldeneye (presumably their mates are on eggs), two Common Sandpipers, three Oystercatchers, House Martin, Sand Martin and Common Gull. At the west end, the same species were joined by two drake Mallards. Common Gulls appeared to have nests on some of the promontories and Common Sandpipers were behaving like they might be nesting in the lochside wood.

Heading across the moor towards Newtonmore, Meadow Pipits were singing and displaying at regular intervals. Common Gulls were commuting back and forward between Loch Gynack and the low ground near Newtonmore. At one point, a cloud of Meadow Pipits rose to mob an Osprey heading into the hills. Some alarm calls heard at the same time may have come from Golden Plovers. The songs of Skylark and Curlew and the calls of Red Grouse were more easily identified.
A stand of conifers at the back of the moor held the ubiquitous Willow Warbler and Chaffinch as well as Goldcrest, Coal Tit, Mistle Thrush, Woodpigeon and Siskin. A male Kestrel flew along the edge of the trees and disappeared around the corner. A Roe buck peered through the deer fence at the rich grazing just a tantalising few metres away.
Dropping down to Strone, good numbers of breeding waders began to appear with at least three pairs of Lapwing and Curlew and a single pair of Oystercatcher all apparently on territory. A Pied Wagtail showed well on the burn but some small finches had to go into the “ones that got away” category. Two Red-legged Partridges were the first of six seen during the day.
Decided to follow the “Wildcat Trail” at this point, so headed off west along the boundary between the Strone/Croftdhu woods and the moor. Tried to keep moving as Lapwings were constantly getting up to alarm-call and both Common Gulls and Jackdaws (the latter in a gang of eight birds) were marauding around, looking for unattended eggs.
As the path re-entered the woods, birds like Long-tailed Tit and Coal Tit appeared. Meanwhile three Swifts (my first of the year) appeared from the direction of Glen Banchor and proceeded to battle into the strong north easterly wind.  
Reaching the edge of Newtonmore, the number and variety of birds increased with Rook,  Great-spotted Woodpecker, Pheasant, Coal Tit and Dunnock appearing as well as more Chaffinch, Willow Warbler, Mistle Thrush, Jackdaw, Oystercatcher and Lapwing.  Another Cuckoo called, unseen. Entering Glen Banchor, Tree Pipit and Buzzard were added to the day list. A tree next to the path had a Coal Tit nest (with one egg) at its base and a Pied Wagtail nest (full of eggs) further up the trunk.
The route from the head of the “Calder Glen” down to Calder Bridge produced a different range of species including Grey Wagtail, Redstart, Spotted Flycatcher, Long-tailed Tit, Buzzard and Common Sandpiper. Primroses were flowering in profusion on the steep slopes.
 The remainder of the walk (from Calder Bridge to the Highland Folk Museum) followed the Spey and produced some really excellent totals including three Dippers, five Grey Wagtails and eleven Common Sandpipers. Also present were Goosander (a pair), Red-breasted Merganser (a drake) and Goldeneye (a drake and two ducks) as well as Grey Heron, Greylag Goose and Mallard. Swallows and Sand Martins were feeding over the water at favoured sites (with a Spotted Flycatcher joining them at one). Land birds included singing Redpolls at three sites plus Red-legged Partridge, Mistle Thrush, Song Thrush and (most surprising of all) a singing Redwing. The latter was giving a fluty, four-note call similar to the one on xeno-canto here. Two separate Brown Hares were enjoying the solitude.
By now, it was raining heavily and the priority was to get back to Kingussie for the train home. Oystercatcher, Lapwing, Common Gull, Black-headed Gull and Jackdaw were the most obvious birds in roadside fields but a third pair of Red-legged Partridges scuttled away and both Blackbird and Starling were searching for food among the many Rabbits. Finally back at Kingussie Station, the last bird of the day was a Starling running the gauntlet of Jackdaws to feed young in a nest under the station canopy.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Bit anxious about tomorrow's forecast...

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Exciting couple of days for the Solway and the Ayrshire coast with excellent numbers of Pomarine and Long-tailed Skuas.Had to settle for the regular, singing Song Thrush at home.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Had to attend a meeting at the Victoria Infirmary last thing, so diverted briefly through Queen's Park on the way back to the car. Plenty of birds were about including lots of singing Chaffinches. However good local species were Grey Wagtail, House Martin and Mistle Thrush (the first two being new summer records for the tetrad).

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Decided to do the WeBS count at Cowdenknowes /Town Dams first thing. The Mute Swan pair on Town Dam were shepherding four newly hatched cygnets while the other pair were still sitting tight. Also notable were 50+ Swallows and a single House Martin roosting in waterside saplings at either end of the main reservoir. Two Willow Warblers and a Chiffchaff (the latter my first for the site) were defying the rain and singing loudly while a pair of Rooks were attending the only near-complete nest (of four) in the "micro-rookery" at the east end of the site.

Monday, May 13, 2013

The cold spring continues with fresh snow on the Cowal hills this morning. A return trip to Kilmarnock produced little of note apart from a few roadside Meadow Pipits and Wheatears and a fly-over Grey Wagtail. Back in Glasgow, a single Swallow was over Nethercraigs Sports Complex.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Another day off, so another early start. Decided to do some atlassing in SW Glasgow and was at Snuffmill Bridge by 8am. The river there was quiet, but both Dipper and Kingfisher were present further west. Mallards were at several sites and one female had a single duckling. Warblers were not particularly evident, with no Willow Warblers or Chiffchaffs heard. However four Blackcaps were in song including two behind Cathcart Station. Also notable were four Swallows looking like they might be nesting in the "Electricity Board" complex.
Over at King's Park, at least two Stock Doves were in song, together with both Song and Mistle Thrush. Starlings were feeding young and both Long-tailed Tit and Siskin were acting as if they had nests to protect. 
Back in Cathcart, two singing Collared Doves were a satisfying conclusion to an intensive search for the species.
Spring colour at King's Park

The birdlist for the morning was as follows: Mallard, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Feral Pigeon, Stock Dove, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Kingfisher, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Magpie, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, Goldcrest, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Swallow, Long-tailed Tit, Blackcap, Wren, Starling, Dipper, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Robin, Dunnock, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Greenfinch and Goldfinch (31 species).

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Headed out early today and arrived at Rowardennan at 06:45. On the way, a brief stop at Stockie Muir produced a bubbling Curlew while another stop outside Drymen produced Dipper, Grey Heron, Goosander (pair), Sedge Warbler and Whitethroat. Mammals consisted of a Red Fox in the front garden, a Roe Deer at Carbeth and a Brown Hare at Drymen.
Driving up the east side of Loch Lomond, the sound of a singing Wood Warbler wafted through the open (in defiance of the rain) car window near Carraig. Other birds in the area included Willow Warbler, Whitethroat, Tree Pipit and Buzzard.
Birds around the car park at Rowardennan included Canada Goose, Common Sandpiper and, on the nearby islet, around 20 Common Gulls. Walking north from there, more Wood Warblers were heard and seen with 20 or more recorded (including 15 between Rowardennan Lodge and Ptarmigan Lodge). Other birds along the way included singing Blackcap, Willow Warbler, Redstart and Tree Pipit, single male Red-breasted Merganser, two Treecreepers and a distant Cuckoo.

Belted Galloway on Loch Lomondside

After a social visit in Drymen, the final stop was the Lang Craigs. Foolishly decided to climb right up to the ridge where the wind and rain were particularly severe. However the reward was a pair of Wheatears in the "boulder-field".

The bird list for the day was as follows: Mute Swan, Canada Goose, Mallard, Tufted Duck, Red-breasted Merganser, Goosander, Pheasant, Great Northern Diver, Grey Heron, Little Grebe, Buzzard, Oystercatcher, Curlew, Common Sandpiper, Common Gull, Collared Dove, Cuckoo, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, Goldcrest, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Swallow, Wood Warbler, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Blackcap, Whitethroat, Sedge Warbler, Treecreeper, Wren, Dipper, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Robin, , Redstart, Wheatear, Dunnock, Grey Wagtail, Pied Wagtail, Tree Pipit, Meadow Pipit, Chaffinch and Siskin (46 species).

Friday, May 10, 2013

There was no activity at the Leverndale Raven nest during a short visit first thing (although a single adult flew in and perched on the other side of the tower at one point). However there were some quiet calls which could have come from chicks in the nest. Driving down to Greenock, a Gannet circling just east of Newark Castle was unusually far upriver.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Walking up to the RAH in Paisley first thing, a Goldcrest was singing loudly (a new species for the tetrad). Also present were Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Siskin and Blackcap.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

A Kestrel was hunting over the "Develpment opportunity" land south of the Hillington roundabout this evening when a Blackbird was carrying nest material at Sandwood Primary School.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

A very pleasant evening walk in Barshaw Park turned up a few new birds for the two tetrads covering the site. Pied Wagtail and singing Chiffchaff were added to NS46X (Paisley East End) while breeding Song Thrush (adult carrying food) was added to NS56C (Oldhall / Penilee).

Monday, May 06, 2013

A Blackcap was singing outside the window at 6am, joined a little later by a Song Thrush. This evening, the local midges are on the wing for what seems like the first time this year. Surely the first Swift can't be far off.
Some birds, at least, are getting on with the breeding season, with web reports of fledged Siskins visiting gardens in Glasgow and Newton Stewart.

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Another day, another walk through south west Glasgow, attempting to add some sightings and breeding evidence to the local atlas. In practice, although numerous good local birds were seen, unfortunately no new birds were added to any of the lists of the tetrads visited. A more targeted approach is definitely needed.
Left home at 8:15 and had 22 species within the first ten minutes. Blackcap and Whitethroat seemed particularly plentiful with two singing birds at a couple of sites which previously had only held one. Willow Warbler was also regular but not a single Chiffchaff was heard all morning.
Walking through Pollok Park, the highlight was not one (as usual) but two Hooded Crow X Carrion Crow hybrids around the overflow car park near the weir. Also interesting were a Kingfisher around Corkerhill Road Bridge, a Stock Dove singing near Pollok House and four Swallows feeding over the Highland Cattle field bordering Pollokshaws Road. 
Maxwell Park held a pair of Little Grebes and a pair of nest-building Coots. A loud slapping sound proved to have been caused by one of the Coots flattening the weed on its nesting platform with its foot (something I'd never witnessed before). A Mistle Thrush there was carrying food.

Saturday, May 04, 2013

Awoke to the song of a Willow Warbler at 6am. Heading out at 6:45, another five Willow Warblers and three Blackcaps were singing within half a mile of the house. Other local singers included Collared Dove, Woodpigeon and a lone Mistle Thrush on top of a tall conifer. Walking through Cardonald, Craigton and Govan, Starlings were much in evidence with several birds carrying food or fussing around nest sites. 
Down at Govan waterfront, four Sand Martins were fluttering around last year's nest sites. A pair of Swallows were chattering nearby and a single House Martin was presumably one of the locally nesting birds. Two Whitethroats were in song, one beside the mouth of the Kelvin and the other next to the abandoned dry docks. A Cormorant surfaced with a large fish before gulping it down. Meanwhile, the most surprising record of the morning was a drake Goldeneye in the basin at Clydebrae Street
This afternoon, a walk around Mugdock Park produced plenty of good birds. Two Buzzards were circling over and swooping through a small patch of woodland. Nearby, two male Goldcrests were displaying aggressively to eachother, showing off their bright orange crowns. A Grey Heron, a Grey Wagtail and eight Swallows were around Mugdock Loch. Five Willow Warblers and a Chiffchaff were expected but a Tree Pipit singing and song-flighting in the field in front of Craigend Castle was a lovely surprise.

Friday, May 03, 2013

A scattering of feathers on the back lawn suggests that a Sparrowhawk has taken another of the local pigeons.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Still no sign of any Swifts on my daily commute.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

The final bird count for the Strathspey trip last Saturday totalled 45 species, namely: Mute Swan, Greylag Goose. Mallard, Goosander, Pheasant, Buzzard, Oystercatcher, Lapwing, Curlew, Common Sandpiper, Black-headed Gull, Feral Pigeon, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Jay, Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, Goldcrest, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Crested Tit, Coal Tit, Sand Martin, Swallow, Willow Warbler, Treecreeper, Wren, Starling, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Robin, Pied Flycatcher, Redstart, Dunnock, House Sparrow, Pied Wagtail,  Tree Pipit, Meadow Pipit, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch and Siskin.