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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, January 27, 2014

Review of 2013: Part 1

The year 2013 was notable for its unusual weather. A late, cold spring delayed many migrants quite significantly, but the dry summer which followed seemed to be good news for almost all breeding species.
Bird watching activity mostly revolved around monthly trips to Strathspey, a one-week holiday based in Buckie and short trips around south Glasgow (particularly checking out atlas tetrads) and a few forays further afield. The Starthspey and Buckie trips are treated separately here. The first two parts of this review cover all the other sightings.
Some particularly memorable species recorded in 2013 included a female Ring-necked Parakeet near Kings Park, a Barn Owl north of Largs, a single Hawfinch at Scone Palace, singing Corn Buntings behind Anstruther, ten male Black Grouse at a Stirlingshire lek (their unmistakable bubbling calls drifting across the moor), 70 Black-tailed Godwits (moulting into their brick-red summer plumage) at Kinneil, three Black Guillemots in East India Harbour (flashing their white wing patches and red feet as they pirouetted around eachother), 20 or more Wood Warblers along a short stretch of path north of Rowardennan, a Tree Pipit singing and song-flighting in the field in front of Craigend Castle, a fishing Osprey at Longhaugh Point, four Sandwich Terns fishing at the Irvine river mouth, a Stonechat "chack"-ing quietly from a Bracken patch above Overton House, three Ravens and a female Sparrowhawk dog-fighting over Lang Craigs, three Nuthatches in Rozelle Park, two drake Ruddy Ducks on Hogganfield Loch, 15 Barnacle Geese in North Bay, Ardmore Point, four summer plumaged Red throated Divers off Ardmore Point, at least 127 Bean Geese at Luckenburn Fram, several hundred Pochard and twenty Pintail at RSPB Loch Leven, 55 Golden Plover at Kinneil Kerse, a female Sparrowhawk soaring over Crow Road and single Wigeon and Pochard on Mugdock Loch, a Common Sandpiper at Linlithgow Loch, three Stock Doves along the approach road to Kinneil, a Cuckoo calling near Rowardennan, a pair of Wheatears in the "boulder-field" at Lang Craigs, a Woodcock lumbering heavily over the three towns bypass, an Osprey fishing a remote loch in the southern uplands, two Sandwich Terns fishing in Granton Harbour, five Grey Wagtails around "the Colonies", two Greenshanks roosting in Ardmore North Bay, a Grasshopper Warbler skulking in the bushes at Ardmore Point, a Sparrowhawk and two Carrion Crows scrapping beside the railway bridge at the north end of the three-towns bypass, around 200 Greenland Whitefronts at West Freugh (giving fantastic views as they arrived from the north west), large rafts of Scaup and two drake Pintail at Bishop Burn, 88 Brent Geese at The Wig, a Peregrine Falcon flushed from its kill near the old castle on Auchenharvie Golf Course and three Woodcock flushed from damp ground at Abbotshaugh Community Woodland. Unfortunately, Nightjars failed to appear during a trip to the Galloway Forest Park.

Some examples of breeding evidence noticed this year included a pair of Mistle Thrushes dive-bombing corvids in the Paisley Abbey graveyard, Jackdaws entering holes in the wall of Linlithgow Palace, a Tree Sparrow carrying nest material at Bonnytoun Farm, a Rock Pipit carrying nesting material on Steamboat Quay, another Rock Pipit carrying food on the Fife Coastal Path, a Blue Tit taking feathers into the nest box on the south wall of the house, a Mistle Thrush carrying food in Maxwell Park, Swallows entering nest sites at Pollok Stables and several broods of Tufted Ducks on Bingham Pond. 

Some interesting glimpses of bird behaviour were provided by a pair of Pied Wagtails courting around a back court in central Greenock, a Mistle Thrush displaying to its mate from the lower branches of a small tree in Arkleston Cemetery, two male Goldcrests at Mugdock displaying aggressively to eachother and showing off their bright orange crowns, a pair of Stock Doves inspecting tree holes in King's Park and a Red-throated Diver flying around offshore, then belly-flopping into the sea off Greenock promenade.
Non-bird sightings included a Wood Mouse in the back garden, a grasshopper sp which found its way into the house, a ground beetle under the family wheelie-bin, a vole sp running across the road at Arkleston Farm and both Grey Squirrel and Red Squirrel along "The Avenue" at Scone.


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