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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, June 30, 2013

Summertime, and the living is ..., well not that easy. Around 12 House Martins (presumably most of the Oldhall population) were feeding at near ground level this evening, under Sycamores along the eastern edge of Barshaw Park.

The final bird count for yesterday’s Strathspey trip was 51 species, consisting of Mallard, Goldeneye, Goosander, Grey Heron, Buzzard, Kestrel, Oystercatcher, Lapwing, Common Sandpiper, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Common Tern, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Swift, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Jay, Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, Goldcrest, Blue Tit, Crested Tit, Coal Tit, Sand Martin, Swallow, House Martin, Long-tailed Tit, Willow Warbler, Blackcap, Treecreeper, Wren, Starling, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Robin, Redstart, Dunnock, House Sparrow, Grey Wagtail, Pied Wagtail, Tree Pipit, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Siskin, Lesser Redpoll, Bullfinch (plus Pheasant and Mute Swan from the train).

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Enjoyed another excellent day in Strathspey today.  The train journey north produced the usual Pheasants, Oystercatchers, Lapwings plus two Swifts over Blair Atholl station and a hunting Kestrel beside the A9 south of Newtonmore. Arriving in Aviemore, another three Swifts plus a singing Song Thrush were notable. Took the bus to Grantown (Swift, Pied Wagtail) and entered Anagach Woods at the golf course (where Rook, Jackdaw, Starling and three Mistle Thrushes were feeding). Walked through the woods as far as Craigroy and then back along the river to Speybridge.  Notable sightings in Anagach Woods were Redstart (including an adult with a fledgling), Tree Pipit, at least three Crested Tits and a very noisy Great-spotted Woodpecker. 

The Spey held Grey Heron, a family party of six Goldeneye, at least ten Swifts, numerous Mallards (including a female with three young), several Common Sandpipers and Oystercatchers plus Pied Wagtail, Swallow and Sand Martin. Most notable however were two Common Terns fishing together. One had caught a fish and was mercilessly pursued by a Black-headed Gull (although eventually got away). Land birds here included Buzzard and Redpoll. Nearer Speybridge, House Martins were nesting above the porch of a riverside cottage and a pair of Grey Wagtails were trying to tend a fledged brood. The next leg of the walk was along the Speyside Way from Speybridge to Abhainn-Sith. Commonest bird sounds (as elsewhere) were the song and contact calls of Chaffinch and Willow Warbler. Possible breeding birds along this stretch included a Dunnock carrying food beside the A95 crossing and Swallows nesting under the eaves of the smokehouse. A Buzzard rose from some rough grass carrying a small mammal and two Grey Wagtails were feeding on the path. Twenty Black-backed Gulls and Ten Common Gulls attended silage-cutting at Auchernack Farm. Wildflowers included "Fox and Cubs", Bird's foot Trefoil, Meadow Cranesbill and Sow Thistle. Insects included several Dor Beetles and a larger ground beetle species. The only other person on the path was local RSPB head warden Richard Thaxton who cycled past. I'd have loved to have chatted to him about how the local birds were doing but it wasn't to be.
Decided to walk into Nethybridge via Craigmore Wood, so took the Backharn path. The going underfoot was quite poor and the route very tortuous. However birds along this stretch included another Crested Tit, Great-spotted Woodpeckers at three sites, more Redpolls and Buzzards (soaring groups of two and three) and the only Treecreeper of the day. Up to ten Goldcrests were in a loose flock at the Abernethy Outdoor Centre.
The final part of the walk was down into Nethybridge via the footpath along the south bank of the river. most notable birds here (apart from a flock of Long-tailed Tits) were a female Goosander with six tiny ducklings which scuttled away into cover to the west of the Nethy Bridge.

Back in Aviemore, a male Bullfinch was among other finches feeding on the seeds of Wych Elms in the grounds of the Four Seasons Hotel. Also present were Collared Dove and singing Greenfinch and Blackcap. Over twenty Starlings were in a flock on farmland just south of Kingussie. Six mammal species were encountered during the day:
Grey Squirrel - single across the road at Cardonald Place
Roe Deer - singles by the trackside on both train journeys plus two in Craigmore Wood
Rabbit - frequent sightings of adults and young
Red Squirrel - two in the woods between Dell Road and the Nethy
Brown Hare - two in a field south of Netonmore
Red Deer - around twenty hinds to the west of the railway line south of Dalwhinnie

Friday, June 28, 2013

The cool summer continues with the Arkleston Farm Swallows feeding really low under the trees.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

A Hoodie hybrid, two singing Dunnock, a possible family party of Goldfinches and three singing Blackcaps were at the back of Gartnavel Hospital this afternoon.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Today started with two House Martins loop-the-looping over Cardonald Gardens (they ALWAYS appear when the sun is strong). The main event of the day was the annual trip to the Nightjar breeding site in the Galloway Forest Park. The drive through Straiton and down past Glentrool was notable for a lovely fawn which crouched at the roadside. The Nightjars failed to appear this year and a rather frustrating evening was spent listening to the silence and being slowly eaten by the midges. The drive home was also disappointing with no Barn Owls or anything else for that matter.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Leaving Kilmarnock this evening, two Collared Doves flew up from the road edge. Heading up the M77, a Buzzard was hovering over the verge like a huge, broad-winged Kestrel. Tonight a small bat was over the railway bridge at Cardonald Place.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Started a lovely day at Cowdenknowes Reservoir, catching up on the weekend's WeBs count. Both the number and variety of birds present were low. However there was still plenty of breeding activity with Coots on eggs and with large chicks. Mute Swans, Mallards and Jackdaws all had large young. Purple Irises were in flower.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Photograph of an unusual fern at Grey Mare's Tail.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Spent a pleasant day in the southern uplands that shouldn't have been possible, given the weather forecast. In the event, the heavy rain did arrive but was sufficiently broken by sunny spells to make it just about bearable. Birds were hard to find beacuse of the weather, and the main target (Ring Ouzel) stayed out of sight. However highlights included three raptors (Buzzard, Osprey and Kestrel) and a good range of aquatic species (Dipper, Grey Wagtail, Common Sandpiper). The Grey Mare's Tail had interesting plants in profusion with Roseroot and Globeflower particularly prominent. Feral Goats added to the interest but were possibly not good news for the scarce plants. Joining the motorway, a Pheasant walked across in front of the traffic near a huge patch of "Fox and Cubs" and a Pied Wagtail was on the hard shoulder.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Two Goldfinches were bounding over Manchester University first thing. Nearby, a Mistle Thrush was alarm-calling at the ibis hotel.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

It's that time of the year again, when the big gull chicks in nests all over Greenock start wandering about and falling off rooftops. This morning, two Herring Gulls were down at street level, trying to get at a chick which had run under a parked car.
Arrived in Manchester city centre this evening. Only had a few minutes to look around the area but there was no sign or sound of any birds.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

A single House Martin was again over Cardonald Gardens first thing. 
Heading home, a Buzzard was at Finlaystone (sightings have been rare over the past few months). Later, a juvenile Long-tailed Tit passed close to the house as a flock moved through the garden.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Common Gull nest in the west end of Greenock was a scene of contentment this morning with the chick(s) in the nest and the adult resting on the roof nearby.

Monday, June 17, 2013

An Oystercatcher was piping noisily as it flew low over Tesco's Car Park, Silverburn Shopping Centre this evening.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

No time for natural connections today, but a newly-fledged Magpie pursuing one of its parents across a neighbour's lawn was probably evidence of local breeding.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Over five hours of walking in south Glasgow added only two new species to the local atlas tetrad lists (Blackcap to NS56W [Govanhill] and Raven to NS56K [Kennieshead/Pollokshaws]). However a number of good birds were seen including Mallards with newly hatched young at Battlefield and Pollok Park, Coot with newly hatched young in Richmond Park, Swallows visiting nest sites at Pollok stables, four Swifts low over the Cart at Battlefield and a female Goosander with a single young at Lochar Park. Swallows were encountered at three urban sites, Pied Wagtails at two and singing Willow Warblers also at two (three birds involved). The Raven was a rather ragged-looking bird being chased by two Jackdaws over Pollok House.

Friday, June 14, 2013

The local Song Thrush sang almost continually from tea time until after dark. Wish I knew what this might mean with regard to the breeding cycle. Is he un-mated and looking for a mate, or defending an active nest, or getting ready to start a second brood. Had a look at Simms' "British Thrushes" but got distracted by the territorial behaviour of Blackbirds and didn't quite get to Song Thrushes. Maybe tomorrow...

Thursday, June 13, 2013

A lone House Martin blowing raspberries over South Cardonald first thing was a forlorn sight as none appear to be nesting locally this year. A Chiffchaff was singing at Oakshaws at lunchtime. In the evening, a Mistle Thrush was in gardens next to Porterfield Road, Renfrew.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Heading into Greenock on the train this morning, several Herring Gull pairs had young already out of the nest. At the end of the day, the Lesser Black-backed Gulls on a factory roof at Bogston also had large chicks.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Pulling onto the M8 at 06:45, a big female Sparrowhawk hurtled across the carriageway at bonnet height.
Checked the Common Gull nest site at Ardgowan Square prior to work and found both adults loafing on the rooftop, with at least one chick moving about in the nest. 

Monday, June 10, 2013

Two New Naturalists on the horizon...

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Atlassing in south Glasgow this morning. Only highlights were Swallow, House Martin and Sand Martin in the hirundine hotspot that is Govan.

Saturday, June 08, 2013

The local Whitethroat was already in full song when the back door got opened at 8 this morning.
This afternoon, a family trip to Edinburgh was accompanied by the sound of screaming Swifts - two over the Tron and another 5-10 over the southern flanks of Arthur's Seat. Other birds in the area included singing Linnet and Whitethroat. The Mute Swans at Dunsapie have at least six cygnets and a Grey Heron was hunting in the grass. 

Friday, June 07, 2013

Spent much of today's annual leave day in a sunny Calderglen Park. Natural connections were not the priority but a singing Chiffchaff, some Red Damselflies on the fire pond and a female Blackbird carrying food were difficult to ignore. The most intriguing sighting was actually in the small animal collection held by the park (which also contains Scottish Wildcat) - a pair of Burrowing Owls with three chicks emerging from their tunnel into the sunshine. 

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Low tide down the Clyde found the exposed expanses of mud studded with pairs of Shelduck.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Another fine day in West Central Scotland, although another busy work day. Eight Mute Swans were gathered off Langbank first thing. In the evening, a Whitethroat was singing from Hawthorns behind the Corkerhill Road shops.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Walked along the river to Paisley for an 8:30 meeting. At least five Whitethroats were heard singing. In previous years there were only two. A Raven was calling noisily from the area of "the Tower", a Treecreeper was singing from the branch of a small tree and two Bullfinches (rarely seen hereabouts) were opposite Cairnhill.
Ended the day in Edinburgh where two Sandwich Terns were fishing in Granton Harbour, a singing male Bullfinch was along the Ferry Road path and up to five Grey Wagtails were between "the Colonies" and Stockbridge. 

Monday, June 03, 2013

Another lovely day in West Central Scotland. A short walk at lunchtime found four Swifts soaring high over the west end of Greenock, then careering between the tenements. Down at the esplanade, groups of Eider drakes were hanging about and a Great Black-backed Gull lumbered by. Back up near Ardgowan Square, a pair of Common Gulls were a complete surprise nesting on a ledge near the top of a three-storey tenement and mobbing a Carrion Crow which was scavenging rubbish on the pavement below.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

A sunny day in West Central Scotland, but a day spent mostly running the informal taxi service. Natural connections were glimpsed here and there (a Swallow swooping past "Cardonald Carpets" was one). The local Whitethroat kept up his song more-or-less all day. He seems to start up (and keep going) whenever the sun shines.

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Spent a couple of hours this morning doing atlas work in Renfrew. One of the most notable sightings was of two female Mallards escorting young on the Cart, one with 7 ducklings and one with at least 17 (the latter group consisted of two sizes, so presumably one clutch had been adopted from elsewhere.  Also  notable were new broods of Mute Swan and Coot on Robertson Park pond and a Roe Deer by the Cart.

Additions to the atlas data were as follows:

NS56 D (Renfrew). Tetrad count increased from 28 up to 31 (Coot, Blackcap, Wren), number of confirmed breeders up from  10 to 11 (Coot).

NS46 Y (Western edge of Renfrew). Tetrad count increased from 48 up to 49 (Rook), number of confirmed breeders up from 5 to 7 (Rook, Blackbird).

NS46 Z (Renfrew Golf course West). Tetrad count increased from 62 up to 63 (Great Black-backed Gull), no change in number of species confirmed breeding.

NS56 E (Renfrew Ferry). Tetrad count increased from 22 to 28 (Blackcap, Whitethroat, Willow Warbler, Dunnock, Jackdaw, Goldfinch), number of confirmed breeders up from 1 to 4 (Great Tit, Carrion Crow and Starling).

A short detour past the Crookston Raven breeding site this afternoon found two juveniles calling loudly from a chimney stack about 50m from the nest site and a third calling from a nearby tree.

A lovely day today, but five drake Mallards moulting into eclipse plumage served as a reminder that for some species, the back of the year is already beckoning.