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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.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Got to Ardmore Point for 8:45 this morning and spent an enjoyable couple of hours there. Birds in North Bay were fairly typical but two Greenshanks roosting on a rocky spit were more unusual. A Grasshopper Warbler was skulking in the bushes on the headland, a single Great black backed Gull was on the shoreline and three Gannets were offshore. A heavy squall blew in at this point making visibility quite poor. As a result, two "peeps" flying along the shore had to go unidentified. 
Birds offshore included Eider, Cormorant and Red breasted Merganser. Round in South Bay, twenty Dunlin were feeding nervously with two or three Ringed Plovers. Twenty Swallows and two or three House Martins were feeding over the strandline and under nearby trees. Back at the car park, a lovely passerine flock contained around ten each of Greenfinch, Linnet and House Sparrow plus smaller numbers of Goldfinch, Meadow Pipit and Pied Wagtail.

Some more photos from last Saturday:
Un-named lochan not far north of Granish

Loch na Carriagean

Avie Lochan

Loch Vaa

Friday, August 30, 2013

A Bee sp had managed to get into the house overnight and was trapped in a spiders web on the hall lampshade first thing (Note to self : time to get the feather duster out). Managed to extricate it and get it back outside - a lucky escape.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The regular flock of Greylag Geese was near West Ferry first thing this morning. Heading home, a line of ducks off Langbank were presumably the Goldeneye known to gather there to moult. Best sighting however was an Osprey "stalling" over Longhaugh Point.
Passing through Hillington Industrial Estate, a pair of Swallows were attending four fledged young on a factory roof.

Some impressions of Strathspey in August:
It's colourful (with Heather flowering, grasses yellowing and berries ripening)
It's quiet (at least in places - with large areas of forest completely quiet, but a few favoured areas full of calling birds)
Its full of flying insects
It's deserted (at least once you leave the main attractions).

The path to Knockgranish

Passing the water treatment plant at Granish
Interesting fungi at Granish 
Ceps or similar at Granish
Bridge under the railway at Granish

Looking back towards Aviemore

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The full list of birds seen during the trip to Strathspey last Saturday was as follows:

Mute Swan ,Greylag Goose, Mallard, Tufted Duck, Goosander, Grey Heron, Little Grebe, Buzzard, Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Feral Pigeon, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, Goldcrest, Great Tit, Crested Tit, Coal Tit, Sand Martin, Swallow, House Martin, Long-tailed Tit, Willow Warbler, Treecreeper, Wren, Starling, Dipper, Blackbird, Mistle Thrush, Spotted Flycatcher, Robin, Dunnock, House Sparrow, Grey Wagtail, Pied Wagtail, Meadow Pipit, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Siskin and Bullfinch (45 species). Impressions of Strathspey in August to follow.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Decided to take the angler's path back from Boat of Garten to Aviemore. No birds were on the Spey at the road bridge but a Dipper was on a stone about 200 metres upstream. Two Grey Wagtails were a little further along with another just beyond Wester Dalvoult.  The cattle fields opposite Knock of Kincardine held a flock of 15-20 Mistle Thrushes which were feeding in a damp, scrubby area. In the next field, a passerine flock contained at least ten Chaffinches and five Goldfinches. The flock might have held other species but the cows at that point were showing too much interest in me so I had to move on.
Other birds in that area included Starlings. Meadow Pipit and Buzzard. On the river, a female Goosander was escorting 10 juveniles (possibly a combined brood as the birds seemed to be of two different sizes). A single Mallard was near here but surprisingly, no Goldeneye were seen along the entire stretch of the Spey covered.
The river was perfectly still in front of the angler's hut at Kinchurdy. A lone figure was fishing midstream while his colleagues were watching from the shore. A few Swallows were still around Kinchurdy Farm and nearby Loch Dallas held four Little Grebes and seven Mallard. Two Buzzards were calling in the area and a noisy party of 14 Greylag Geese arrived from the north east and wheeled around nervously before dropping down near Lochan Dubh.
The walk back along the cycle track (Route 7) started with another large tit flock. This one also contained close to 50 birds but seemed to consist mainly of juvenile Coal and Great Tits and a few Willow Warblers. A Bullfinch was calling nearby. Out on the Heather moor (beautifully purple), two Meadow Pipits were the only sign of life apart from a few Coal Tits in the isolated pine trees.
The remainder of the walk back into Aviemore had to take place at a bit of a run to catch the train. Amazing how ten hours can fly in.

Today, three skeins of Greylag Geese (15, 3 and 20) were flighting up from the Clyde between Erskine and Langbank first thing. At lunchtime, the newly hatched Coot brood (3 chicks) were hiding in the sedges.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Loch Vaa was perfectly still with only the sounds of trilling Little Grebes, “frank”ing Grey Herons and the occasional plop of a rising fish to break the silence. Four Tufted Ducks were loafing around an exposed, rocky islet and a single Lesser black backed Gull was sailing back and forth, looking for easy pickings. Woodland birds included Willow Warbler, Siskin, Bullfinch and a particularly strident Great spotted Woodpecker.
Heading clockwise around the loch, surprised three Grey Wagtails (a family party) in a marshy area (at least two more were on the exposed banks further round). Swallows were attending at least one nest in the boathouse and at least four Spotted Flycatchers were feeding together, the juveniles giving their rasping begging call.   Another two Great spotted Woodpeckers were heard and Goldcrest, Robin and possible Common Sandpiper (late?) were also picked up.
Left the lochside at the eastern edge and walked into Boat of Garten Woods. Once again, birds were thinly scattered until the junction with the main track back to the village hall where an enormous tit flock, probably numbering over fifty individuals, was found. I estimated ten Long-tailed Tits, at least six Willow Warblers, three Crested Tits, several Coal and Great Tits, a single Treecreeper and (bringing up the rear) a calling Great-spotted Woodpecker.  This latter species was a feature of the woods there (as it has become at so many other sites around the region) with three more calling birds evenly spaced along the main forest ride. How I wish Green Woodpecker had enjoyed a similar population boom. All the signs are of a decline in the Highland population of that species.
A calling Spotted Flycatcher was also notable in the woods with the usual village birds (Robin, Collared Dove etc) encountered as the edge of the village was reached. A quick check of Milton Loch produced only Mallards. Then it was time for the return leg…
Part three tomorrow.

News from today: First thing this morning, a fine Hooded Crow x Carrion Crow was in Nelson Street, Greenock. This afternoon, two small skeins of geese (5 and 9) flew inland from Longhaugh Point. Later, a single House Martin was over Porterfield Road, Renfrew and a single Swallow was over Arkleston Farm.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Yesterday’s trip to Strathspey was notable for the fact that in spite of the weather forecast saying it would rain all day, it remained completely dry apart from a five minute shower around midday. The intention was to explore some of the less visited areas between Aviemore and Boat of Garten.
Aviemore was the busiest I have ever seen it with people attending the “Thunder in the Glens” rally. The locals certainly entered into the swing of things with various flags and Harley Davidson banners hanging from the houses along Grampian Road. Tried to find the south end of the Aviemore Orbital path but spent a frustrating half an hour following dead ends. The north end of the path (near the SNH headquarters) is much easier to find.
The walk through Aviemore produced the usual House Sparrows, Starlings and Collared Dove, while a Black headed Gull flew over. Following the footpath round the back of the Lochan Mor housing estate, several Long tailed Tits were in a small tree and Swallows and Jackdaws were overhead. House Martins were visiting at least two nests on houses in Jones Road.
Decided to cross the main railway line via the bridge at Knockgranish so headed across the farmland in the direction of the water treatment works. The railway embankment was covered with Ragwort and, unusually, White Campion. Rabbits were in the fields (there were lots more when I passed that way in the evening) and a single Mistle Thrush flew over.
Took a short detour to take a look at the landfill site at Granish. Perhaps as many as a hundred gulls (mostly Herring but with a few Lesser black backed) and 200 corvids (mostly Jackdaws but with Carrion Crows, Rooks and a possible Raven) were feeding on the rubbish. I didn’t have time to pick through them but I know Iceland Gull and Hooded Crow visit this site some winters.
East of the railway line, the industrial landscape was left behind and a lovely area of Birch woodland stretched to the north. Birds were few here but there were plenty of fungi to compensate. Unfortunately this area is badly affected by litter which has presumably come from passing trains (or has possibly blown over from the landfill). A small lochan to the east (not named on any of the maps I have looked at) held three juvenile Black headed Gulls. Like all the other water bodies visited today, it was clear that its water level was lower than normal.
Back on the path, explored the impressive Ring Cairn just south of Loch nan Carriagean. The loch there held an unseen and therefore unidentified flyover wagtail (probably Grey) and a similarly invisible Mallard duck. There was quite a growth of Broad-leaved Pondweed at the edge which abuts the railway line. A block of conifers just to the north held Willow Warbler, Coal Tit, Siskin and Goldcrest with Wren and Meadow Pipit on the adjacent moorland. A Buzzard (the first of many for the day) called in the distance.
Walked through more birch woodland and farmland, eventually reaching Recharr. The telephone lines there held at least 50 Sand Martins and 20 Swallows. Every so often, the birds would fly off, chattering loudly, to feed over nearby Avie Lochan (Avielochan on some maps). Birds on the loch included Little Grebe, Mallard and a Pied Wagtail overhead. The hedgerows nearby held a large flock of Greenfinches with some Chaffinches and possibly Linnets. Blackbird, Robin and Dunnock were also present and I heard what might have been a Kestrel calling from a patch of trees. Another stretch across country brought me out at the cemetery at Laggantygown. A violet beetle was in the undergrowth here. Heading uphill, I soon got a glimpse of Loch Vaa just ahead.
Part two tomorrow.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

The "Thunder in the Glens" Harley Davidson Rally, the Blair Atholl Horse Trials and the Kingussie v Newtonmore Shinty Derby made for a busy day in the eastern highlands. In complete contrast, I hardly met another soul during a circular walk between Aviemore and Kingussie.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Plenty of cetaceans around Scotland these days - oh and Basking Sharks.
Dolphins off the Mull of Galloway
Killer Whale off Peterhead  (and 3 off Lewis) 
Basking Shark off Burghead (with double figures seen today).
Also, a pair of Scaup with three fledged young on the Lake of Menteith (wonder where they bred).

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Two Sand Martins were over the Cart in central Paisley this morning. This evening, a noisy flock of Long tailed Tits was in trees in Churchill, very near where I saw one on Tuesday.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

News from the web is of Golden Eagles nesting in southern Scotland again.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

A dreich evening in Glasgow's West End. Two bright yellow juvenile Willow Warblers were with eight Long-tailed Tits (but intent on chasing eachother) in a small tree at Bingham Pond.

Monday, August 19, 2013

A lunchtime walk around Murdieston Park revealed plenty of signs that the breeding season is still in progress. Fledgling Jackdaws were on the main reservoir embankment, two Mallard females still had dependent broods (Br4 and Br5) and a pair of Coots were feeding newly hatched young in a nest on Town Dam. Also there was a gathering of 30 juvenile Lesser black-backed Gulls.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

An extra early started enabled a detour to Rouken Glen to be incorporated into the usual Sunday morning trek across south Glasgow. At least three Grey Wagtails were in "the glen" with another one at the pond. The pond itself held the usual Mallards, Mute Swans (Pr Br6), Moorhens and Black-headed Gulls plus two Little Grebes, a Grey Heron and the recently arrived eclipse drake Red-crested Pochard. He is impossibly tame and therefore clearly an escape. However he is a fine looking bird and provided a good opportunity to brush up on the main distinguishing field marks. (I must say that the eye wasn't as red as I'd expected, the bill as "rosy" or the crown as peaked). A Willow Warbler giving its "autumn song" from one of the islands and a Great-spotted Woodpecker calling nearby also provided interest. 
Long-tailed Tit flocks were near the entrance to the park and in Newlands (where a Bullfinch could be heard calling above the traffic). Robins were singing at various spots and Goldfinches confirmed their recent population increase by popping up just about everywhere.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Those prophets of doom at the BBC Weather Centre were at it again today - forecasting heavy rain for most of the day. As it transpired (sorry!), the afternoon was perfectly fine. A walk from Barrhead to Foxbar up and over the Ferenese and Gleniffer Braes took place in bright sunshine, although there were showers visible at various points in the distance.
The walk up from Barrhead was fairly steep but provided some great views to the east. Birds were few, due to the windy weather, but two Ravens were on one of the golf course fairways. Heading to the junction with the Killoch Glen path, came across a large rock with "Cup and Ring" carvings (although they looked remarkably recent to me). Further on, a small bluff south of Glenburn Reservoir gave great views to the north. Green-viened Whites were feeding on Devil's Bit Scabious and both Skylark and Meadow Pipit were seen.
Two Linnets were at Paisley Golf Course and a family party of Coal Tits was in one of the shelter belts near the Seargent Law road. 
The last photo below shows the descent into Foxbar.


Friday, August 16, 2013

Spent the day marking at the Dining Room table. A juvenile Robin just moulting into its adult plumage was the only company I had, apart from a white butterfly which floated through the garden.
This evening, a short walk through Pollok Park produced a Hooded Crow x Carrion Crow hybrid at the pond in North Wood and Goldfinch and Swallow at the Riding School. Three more Swallows were feeding over the Cartha RFC pitch during the evening match as a Great spotted Woodpecker called nearby. Most curious sighting was of four people furtively loading material from the edge of North Wood into a car. They obviously didn't like me watching what they were doing, but I couldn't work out what they were collecting. Whatever it was, they had collected an enormous laundry bag full. Meanwhile what I think are Ash trees beside the Haggs Castle entrance to the park were laden with keys.


Thursday, August 15, 2013

A Raven was flying over the Clyde from Langbank to Dumbarton when I drove by first thing. This evening, a Rabbit was by the busy A8 at Finlaystone and a small duck (possibly a Teal) flicked through the St James Interchange as I passed.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Heading home today, it seemed like most of Greenock's Starlings were gathering on the superstructure of the "waterfront" leisure complex. I wonder if this is a roost site. A lone Swallow was over Port Glasgow town hall.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Over the sea to .... Dunoon ... again. Much better crossings today with warm sunny weather both ways. The Waverley passed Dunoon as I headed down to where I was working. Later, a Hooded Crow x Carrion Crow hybrid was at Hunter's Quay.

Scoured the Clyde both ways for any sign of Harbour Porpoises but to no avail. The people on the Isle of May have had more luck with a very interesting pelagic visitor here. The full story is here.

Monday, August 12, 2013

A Gannet was fishing off Port Glasgow first thing. It appears to be quite unusual for them to be so far up the Clyde. Later, a lunchtime walk around James Watt Dock produced nothing of note, but nice views along to the liner berthed at Pacific Quay.
This evening, the Perseids meteor shower was more drizzle than deluge, at least over Barrhead. Having 90% cloud cover probably didn't help. Nevertheless, good to be part of this annual natural event.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

A walk through Pollok Park this morning produced a Kingfisher catching a fish and battering it on a branch before heading off with it. The park was unusually busy with an event venue being set up in front of (behind?) Pollok House. Nearer the Visitor Centre, a Buzzard was being mobbed by a crowd of angry corvids. Also present was a single Hoodie hybrid. 

Saturday, August 10, 2013

A lunchtime visit to Baron's Haugh produced two Snipe loitering near the edge of the reeds but the regular Green Sandpipers failed to show. Plenty of bees were on the Knapweed in the meadows there including the two below.
Later, a Goldfinch, a Pied Wagtail, a Woodpigeon and four Swallows provided the half-time entertainment at Dalziel RFC, Motherwell.

Friday, August 09, 2013

Mid-morning a Great spotted Woodpecker was chipping from the top of the big Sycamore at the entrance to the estate.
This evening a friend remarked that she had had a Pine Marten in her Milton of Campsie garden on two consecutive days around 24th July. The garden backs onto fields at the foot of the Campsies. The sightings were unusually both in the late morning. The species has been recorded recently in nearby Cumbernauld.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

A female Sparrowhawk was soaring over Crow Road near the end of the Clyde Tunnel this evening. A little later, three Linnets (including a singing male) were in a small Rowan in the M&S Car Park, Braehead Shopping Centre.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

A Chiffchaff was moving through the garden first thing with its little 'squeaky toy' contact call.
Below, one of yesterday's Cinnabar Moth caterpillars....

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

The beginning of the day was spent at the  dining room table. Even through the glass doors, the sound of a Raven cronking overhead could be heard. A quick look revealed a (possibly) young bird flapping around trying to avoid the local Jackdaws. Normally the only Ravens seen in this area are high flying birds, presumably commuting to and from the nest site at Leverndale Tower.
This afternoon, the Clyde was fairly birdless during a trip to Dunoon. Only a few Eiders were seen on the way across and only a single Gannet on the return journey. Near Dunoon, a patch of ragwort contained three Cinnabar Moth caterpillars - my first of the year.

Monday, August 05, 2013

A beautiful evening in Glasgow. A wander round the west end took place under blue skies and in warm sunshine. Birds were fairly scarce but Bingham Pond had several broods of Tufted Ducks including one of five. 
Earlier in the day, a walk through Battery Park in Greenock produced a Sandwich Tern, a Whimbrel and a Swallow (as well as several white butterflies).

Sunday, August 04, 2013

A sunny drive through to Edinburgh produced a Buzzard flap-flap-gliding over the motorway at Bathgate, four Swallows down at street level at Jock's Lodge (I wonder if they nest there) and a Pied Wagtail feeding among the monster trucks (heading away from the rally at Ingleston) at Harthill Services.

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Spent a blustery afternoon wandering around Falkirk. Broods of Mute Swans were on the Forth and Clyde Canal and in Callendar Park. Also notable were a few Swallows battling the wind and odd Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers calling at a few sites.

Friday, August 02, 2013

A Bullfinch was calling from its usual area in the corner of the estate. They must be resident here as they are regularly heard (although rarely seen unless visiting the feeding station).

Thursday, August 01, 2013

No Swifts locally today, although the leaden skies and sharp showers probably didn't help. A lunchtime walk into Paisley town centre produced a Grey Wagtail flitting around the Abbey graveyard. Nearby, three Sand Martins and a single House Martin were busily working the river along Forbes Place.