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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.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Glad to be working from home today, so didn't have to face the rain. One of the local Foxes wasn't so lucky: he got soaked to the skin and took refuge in the house porch.
Eventually the rain did abate, but not before the river had burst its banks at Moulin.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Headed off before dawn this morning and was at West Freugh just as the sun was coming up. Within a few minutes, around 200 Greenland Whitefronts arrived from the north west giving fantastic views. Also present in the area were small parties of Greylag Geese and Whooper Swans. Back at Stranraer, Bishop Burn gave excellent views of some large rafts of Scaup and two drake Pintail. Round at The Wig, 88 Brent Geese were feeding next to the road and a flock of (probable) Twite flew by. The raptor count for the day was Buzzard 12, Kestrel 2. On the way home, tried once more for the Purple Sandpipers at Saltcoats Harbour but to no avail.

Scaup at Bishop Burn
Brent Geese at The Wig

Saturday, December 28, 2013

An afternoon walk between the deluges at Ardmore Point produced 80 Wigeon, 20 Teal and ten Mallard feeding in North Bay. Surprisingly, no other waterfowl were visible on what was, admittedly, a very rough sea. The usual Redshanks, Oystercatchers and Curlews were mingling with the ducks in the shallows. Black-headed Gull was the commonest bird with a few Herring and Great black-backed Gulls also present. Only one Shelduck was present. Land birds were keeping out of the wind with only four Great Tits located. 

Friday, December 27, 2013

An anticpated "Big day out" turned out to be just a prolonged soaking as the weather threw  everything it had at us at various sites down the west coast. A dawn visit to a Stirlingshire Black Grouse lek found four males displaying enthusiastically with two Buzzards interacting nearby. At Gartocharn, a flock of 30 geese proved to be Pink-feet rather than the hoped-for White-fronteds.
Saltcoats Harbour was checked for Purple Sandpipers, but huge waves had no doubt dispersed the usual flock. Only a single Eider was braving the heavy seas. The pond to the west of Auchenharvie Golf Course held three Scaup among the Tufter Ducks but the highlight there was a Peregrine Falcon flushed from its kills near the old castle. 
Irvine river mouth held a good selection of wildfowl including a single Goldeneye,  three Red-breasted Mergansers, a handful of Wigeon and a dozen Canada Geese. Heading back to Glasgow (finally beaten by the weather), at least two Whooper Swans were on Loch Libo.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Looks like a Waxwing influx might be underway, with a smattering of records across central Scotland...

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

A short walk along the river this afternoon found the mixed flock of Redwings and Fieldfares still on Rosshall School playing fields. Present amongst them were half a dozen Goldfinches, a Mistle Thrush and a smattering of Starlings. The partially-flooded Moulin playing fields had attracted small numbers of Herring, Lesser black-backed and Great black-backed Gulls, joining the 150 or so Black-headed Gulls already present.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013


Monday, December 23, 2013

Continuing yesterday's theme of night-time birds, a Pied Wagtail was picked out in the car headlights as it flitted across the road at 06:45. This evening, a ball of 20-30 Starlings was over the "sugar sheds". Particularly notable, this evening, was the highest tide I have ever seen on the Clyde. The water level was less than "one brick" below the top of East India Harbour. Further upriver, the sea had inundated the first pond at West Ferry and most of the fields at Longhaugh Point.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

A visit to the Croftfoot tetrad this morning had to be curtailed due to torrential rain. However a break in the weather this afternoon permitted a walk along the river as far as Leverndale Hospital. A Magpie was building a nest in the grounds of Cardonald Place Farm. Other signs of "spring" included several phrases of Wren song and a Song Thrush singing strongly and continuously for several minutes. The water level was quite high (although about half a metre below the recent "strand line" visible on the walkway under Howford Bridge) and too rough for any wildfowl to tolerate. Only a single Grey Wagtail was present, feeding along the bank (although two Mallards were on a calmer stretch at the Leverndale end). A Kingfisher had taken refuge on the pond in Rosshall Park, giving itself away by a brief alarm call. A Great-spotted Woodpecker gave excellent views as it alighted on a bare tree. A single Mistle Thrush and a few Redwings were the prelude to a dozen or so noisy Fieldfares feeding on Rosshall School playing fields. Also there, an exceptional fifteen Goldfinches (plus two Greenfinches) were feeding on what appeared to be Ash seeds. This evening, while doing the 9pm Braehead pick-up, a probable Woodcock swooped through the traffic.
It's snowing in Boat of Garten (photo from Alan Bantick on twitter).

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Highlight of an extremely rainy day of last-minute Christmas shopping was a Grey Wagtail which flew straight down the middle of Byers Road at rooftop height.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Cool in west central today, but Strathspey has had a good fall of snow ... https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10152474506418047

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Driving to Greenock at lunchtime, the flooded fields to the south of the motorway were covered with Lapwings and Curlews. News from the web is of a smattering of Waxwing sightings and another Golden Eagle poisoned in Angus.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

A Raven called and flew low over the traffic on Paisley High Street this early afternoon before alighting on the spire of Coats' Memorial Church.  My sightings of the species hereabouts over the summer and autumn have been fairly few.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Working in Hamilton all morning. Heading back to Paisley, stopped off briefly at Bothwell for a quick lunch break. A Goldeneye and two Little Grebes were on the river while a male Goosander flew high overhead.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Todays WeBS count at Murdieston Dams produced some nice surprises in the form of three Moorhens, two drake Goosanders, five Goldeneye, two Cormorants and a Little Grebe (the Goosanders and the Little Grebe were first for this winter, the others high counts). Numbers of gulls and commoner wildfowl were also higher than of late.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Some photos from yesterday are included below. The route taken is shown at http://www.gmap-pedometer.com/?r=6160094 :

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Today's trip to Aviemore was nearly called off because of a very poor weather forecast. In the event, the only problem was a very strong south west wind (which made the going pretty tough in a couple of places and rendered bird calls virtually impossible to hear). Thankfully, the heavy rain that was predicted failed to materialise.
Most of the journey north took place in darkness. However there was sufficient light to reveal a Grey Heron at Netwonmore and a Kestrel at Kingussie. In Aviemore, a short walk down to the river opposite Cambusmore produced two Goldeneye and an interesting collection of corvids consisting of 120 Jackdaws, a couple of Carrion Crows plus one each of Rook and Hooded Crow x Carrion Crow hybrid. A dead birch tree there seemed to be supporting several types of bracket fungus.
The bus to Nethybridge produced tantalising but very brief views of big groups of mixed gulls, corvids and pigeons on flooded fields around Granish. Around 70 Rooks were in front of Deschar School and a single Roe Deer was at Mains of Garten. 
The original plan was to walk to Broomhill Bridge, then return to Nethybridge and follow the Speyside Way back to Boat of Garten. Instead, a different route back was chosen, along the north bank of the Spey.
Birds encountered along the Nethy included Chaffinch, Long-tailed Tit, Pheasant and two Dippers. Around 20 Mallards were disturbed from the Spey where the Nethy joins it and eight Teal flew by. A single Goldeneye was beyond the bridge and two Whooper Swans were further downstream. Three more Dippers were feeding by plunge-diving into the middle of the river and chasing eachother exhuberantly.
Heading west along the north bank, the waterside trees held various passerines including Blue Tit, Great Tit, Chaffinch and Treecreeper. One flock of Chaffinches held a single Yellowhammer. 
Birds on the river were difficult to see because of the low sun. However the commonest species was Mallard, with a few Goldeneye and a single Tufted Duck also present. Some small groups of Greylag Geese flew over and another large flock of Jackdaws was at Tullochgorum. 
Best sighting of the day probably  concerned the 33 Wigeon which were seen on a wide section of the river just east of Drumuillie. A Buzzard was also there.
Finally, arriving at Boat of Garten (via an excellent new footpath past the sawmill), a chilly Milton Loch held 27 Mallard, 15 Wigeon (whistling quietly) and six Teal. 

The illustration below (entitled "strathspey evening birches") is from Kurt Jackson (http://www.kurtjackson.com/).

The total bird list for the day was as follows: Whooper Swan, Greylag Goose, Wigeon, Teal, Mallard, Tufted Duck, Goldeneye, Pheasant, Grey Heron, Buzzard, Kestrel, Herring Gull, Feral Pigeon, Woodpigeon, Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, hybrid Carrion x Hooded Crow, Goldcrest, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Treecreeper, Wren, Dipper, Blackbird, Robin, Dunnock, Chaffinch and Yellowhammer (31 species).
Impressions of Strathspey in December.
The tops are back to being snow-free, but some of the bigger hills were starting to whiten in the course of the day.
The south westerly wind is a significant force in terms of the way it limits wildlife activity.
The ground is still soft, presumably making feeding much easier.
Many birds (including ducks, geese, gulls, corvids, finches and tits) continue to show flocking behaviour. 
Some species (Mallard, Teal, Wigeon) are already courting and pairing off.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Oh dear.....

Thursday, December 12, 2013

A Song Thrush was singing in a rainy Gartnavel Hospital at dusk this evening.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

A lunchtime walk along Greenock promenade produced a Red-throated Diver flying around offshore, then belly-flopping into the sea behind the "green buoy". Eighteen Eider were feeding together, accompanied by a couple of Herring Gulls waiting to rob them of their catches. Other Herring Gulls were still being pursued by begging juveniles, presumably the results of late broods. A Shag was feeding close inshore and a Grey Wagtail was still resident on the tiny beach at the extreme east end.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Starlings singing in the sunshine in Greenock today. Also, a tinkling Goldfinch at the top of the "Cedar".

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Heard about three Whooper Swans on the Clyde at Carmyle. Must have a look when I am there later this week.

Saturday, December 07, 2013

A great day's walking along the River Carron produced very good numbers of birds (especially winter thrushes and finches) and several highlights. Blackbird was probably the most encountered species of the day with a supporting cast consisting of Fieldfare, Mistle Thrush, Redwing and Song Thrush. Finches included plenty of Goldfinches, quite good numbers of Greenfinch, plus Reed Bunting and Yellowhammer. Buzzards were at three sites, a Sparrowhawk strafed a bush full of finches and a Raven cronked over Dollar Park. On the waterways, Teal was the most obvious species, supported by plenty of Mallards, a few Goldeneye, some Cormorants, Coots, Moorhens and a Grey Heron.  Best birds were three Woodcock flushed from damp woodland as we tried to find a way round a flooded footpath in Abbotshaugh Community Woodland.

The final bird list for the day was: Mute Swan, Teal, Mallard, Goldeneye, Cormorant, Grey Heron, Sparrowhawk, Buzzard, Moorhen, Coot, Woodcock, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Herring Gull, Feral Pigeon, Woodpigeon, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Magpie, Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, Raven, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Wren, Starling, Blackbird, Fieldfare, Song Thrush, Redwing, Mistle Thrush, Robin, Dunnock, House Sparrow, Grey Wagtail, Pied/White Wagtail, Pied Wagtail, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Yellowhammer and Reed Bunting (43 species).

Friday, December 06, 2013

Kelpies at The Helix, Falkirk

Thursday, December 05, 2013

The morning after the first big storm of the winter found flurries of sleet and snow blowing up the Clyde. A huge flock of several hundred Lapwings had taken refuge in the fields to the south of the motorway at Fornet Cottage.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Festive missive from Germany in the post today:

Monday, December 02, 2013

Driving to Prestwick this lunchtime, a Kestrel was hunting close to the verge near Troon. Later, another was hunting in the half-light at Gatehead.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Atlassing in Rutherglen, Prospecthill and Toryglen first thing - a very different habitat from yesterday. The suite of birds present reminded me of the housing estate where I grew up, except for the very obvious addition of Magpie (a rare bird in those days). Highlight was probably the presence of Mistle Thrushes at several sites (outnumbering Redwings and Fieldfares). Also notable were a pair of Magpies attending a half-built nest in Edinberg Avenue. Additions to the tetrad list consisted of Mallard, Common Gull, Goldcrest, Rook and Pied Wagtail.