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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.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

A Grey Heron was over the motorway on the way down to Greenock again first thing. The remainder of the day was damp and, unfortunately, bird-less.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

A pair of Goosanders were on a roadside reservoir on the drive down from Greenock to Kilmarnock. The day ended warm, sunny and still.

Monday, April 28, 2014

A very brief visit to Loch Thom did not provide enough time to locate the Pied-billed Grebe, but did allow a number of good summer migrants to be picked up including Willow Warbler, Sand Martin, Wheatear and Common Sandpiper. This afternoon, the Ravens from Coats Memorial Church were  extremely active outside the office window.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Managed to squeeze in an hour along the Levern Water in Pollok this morning. The summer list for the tetrad is missing some very obvious species such as Coal Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Siskin, Mistle Thrush, Common Gull, Pied Wagtail and Rook. In the event, only the final three in that list were added. Other species present (already recorded for the tetrad) included excellent counts of Willow Warbler and Robin plus three singing Blackcaps and one Chiffchaff.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Had an enjoyable walk between Dunblane and Doune this morning. The commonest birds along the way were Chaffinch and Willow Warbler. Birds on farmland included Yellowhammer, Swallow, Skylark, Pied Wagtail, Pheasant, Oystercatcher, Rook, Jackdaw and a single Whitethroat. Waterside birds were Grey Wagtail and Sand Martin, while the woods held Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Wren, Goldcrest, Robin and a single Chiffchaff. Best bird of the day was a single Red Kite riding the breeze with consummate ease.

Friday, April 25, 2014

http://www.gmap-pedometer.com/?r=6284304

Thursday, April 24, 2014

A glorious day in west central Scotland but unfortunately too busy to get out and enjoy it. We seem to be experiencing a bit of an influx of Black-tailed Godwits locally.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Coats Memorial Ravens were quite active today. The nest has grown since I checked it a few days ago.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A quick look around Murdieston Park first thing found single pairs of Mute Swans nesting on both reservoirs. At least two pairs of Coot were also nesting. Tufted Duck were courting and Mallard numbers were well down, suggesting the females were on nests. Goldeneye were absent.
Arriving in Paisley this afternoon, two Mistle Thrushes were furiously attacking a Jackdaw, presumably protecting a nest.
Entering yesterday's sightings into the Bird Atlas database this evening, the scale of the numbers of birds heard singing at Mugdock became apparent. 195 individuals of 35 species were counted. Prominent singers included Willow Warbler (56), Chaffinch (27), Wren (25), Blue Tit (23), Robin (18), Tree Pipit (13) and Blackcap (11). New summer records for the tetrad concerned (NS57N) were Goldeneye (three late/summering birds on Mugdoch Loch) and Nuthatch (the pair in Mugdock Wood).

Monday, April 21, 2014

Enjoyed a sunny day exploring Drumclog Muir, Mugdock Wood and Mugdock Country Park.


Birding highlight was the large number of summer migrants singing from generally leafless trees. These consisted of at least 52 Willow Warblers, 13 Tree Pipits, ten Blackcaps and four Chiffchaffs. Resident species including Wren, Dunnock, Robin, Great Tit, Blue Tit were also well represented. A pair of Nuthatches were feeding on fallen boughs in Mugdock Wood and a Stock Dove was singing near Gallows Pond. Three Goldeneye were still on Mugdock Loch and a Goosander was on Mugdock Reservoir. Had a good search for Green Woodpeckers on the south facing slope beneath Mugdock village, but could only locate three Mistle Thrushes. Later, a Skylark sang at Stockie Muir and two Grey Wagtails were over Milngavie High Street. Other wildlife included a Roe Deer, several Small Tortoiseshells, a single Orange Tip and flowering Wood Anemone and Wild Strawberry.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Another day, another trawl through an area of south Glasgow looking for missing species for the Clyde Atlas database. Today, concentrated on the area covering Cardonald Park, Cardonald Business Park and Shieldhall. Highlights included a single Chiffchaff (painstakingly extracted from the combined songs of five Willow Warblers) in Cardonald Business Park and a Sparrowhawk spiraling high over Shieldhall (and being mobbed by two Lesser-black backed Gulls).  




Virtual records today (birds heard on the Loch Garten webcam) included singing Coal Tit and calling Redstart ("Hooweet-chick-chick").

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Paid an early morning visit to Barshaw Park in Ralston to try and boost the species list for the tetrad (NS56C). 




Recorded 26 species including six new for the breeding season list (Mallard, Stock Dove, Collared Dove, Great-spotted Woodpecker, Willow Warbler and Coal Tit). The tetrad list still only stands at 38, with very few species confirmed breeding. Obvious omissions include Grey Heron, Sparrowhawk, Buzzard, Kestrel, Common Gull, Tawny Owl, Sand Martin, Grey Wagtail, Mistle Thrush, Sedge Warbler, Long-tailed Tit, Treecreeper, Rook, Raven, Siskin, Bullfinch, Redpoll and Reed Bunting. The tetrad is a diverse mix of suburban housing estates, a golf course, some farmland and an industrial estate. Some potentially rewarding sites to visit over the coming weeks include: Arkleston Farm, Barshaw Golf Course, the ponds along Cockles Loan, Penilee Park, Hillington Industrial Estate (west of Hillington Road) and the railway line between Arkleston Road and Sandwood Road.
Back home, heard what I am certain was a Garden Warbler singing from the scrubby area over the garden fence. However, couldn't get the glimpse that would have confirmed the identification.
This afternoon, a newt sp was an unexpected find while clearing leaves from the garden pond. It was quite lively but tolerated being picked up and put back in.




Friday, April 18, 2014

Managed to escape decorating duties for an hour first thing. The temperature had obviously dropped  overnight as there was a fair amount of ice on the car. However what followed was a glorious spring morning. 



Headed to Craigton Cemetery (above) to try and add some of the missing species to that particular tetrad list (NS56H). However in spite of being treated to a full-blown dawn chorus (which included four singing Blackcaps, four singing Willow Warblers and numerous other songbirds) not a single new species was added. It is a difficult tetrad with no water (either standing or moving) that I can find and few neglected corners. However there are some potentially productive spots including Hillington Industrial Estate (east of Hillington Road), the railway line between Sandwood Road and east of Berryknowes Road, Cardonald Park, Cardonald Business Park, the housing estates of Cardonald, Hillington and Shieldhall and the grounds of the Southern General Hospital. The breeding season list for the tetrad stands at 32. Omissions which would reasonably be expected to be found include Buzzard, Kestrel, Black-headed Gull, Great-spotted Woodpecker, House Martin, Long-tailed Tit, Treecreeper, Chiffchaff, Siskin, Redpoll and Bullfinch. Outside bets would be Grey Heron, Mallard, Common Gull, Sand Martin, Stock Dove, Tawny Owl, Grey Wagtail, Sedge Warbler and Reed Bunting. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Chiffchaff which has been my alarm clock over the past few days was joined this morning by a Blackcap and this afternoon by a rather hesitant Willow Warbler. The local Bullfinches continue to call, unseen, from the densest scrub but the Redpolls have been quiet for a few days.
Removed the body of the Fox which had died in a corner of the back garden today. The local Magpies had a field day with the maggots which were exposed during the operation.
Now more about yesterday's Strathspey trip...
Presumably due to the Easter holidays, there didn't seem to be such good deals available on rail tickets. As a result, it was decided to drive up on this occasion. That meant quite a long, tiring day, but also afforded the opportunity to make an earlier start than usual. So it was that I was parked in the car park next to Ruthven Barracks and ready to start walking at 7am.
The first part of the walk was uphill, across fields and quickly onto heather moorland. Two Pied Wagtails were on the roof of a deserted barn. This species was to be a feature of the day with pairs or singles around many of the isolated buildings passed. Once on the moorland, Red Grouse and Meadow Pipit dominated. Four Greylag Geese were disturbed from a marshy area and two Ravens flew over. Several small parties of Red Deer wandered away as I approached. 


Dropping down into Glen Tromie, some typical woodland birds started to appear including Mistle Thrush, Redpoll and Great-spotted Woodpecker in the Birch woods, Siskin and Goldcrest in the coniferous woodland and Chaffinch, Wren, Robin, Dunnock and Great Tit in both. Two Chiffchaffs were heard (one quite far up the glen) but surprisingly no Willow Warblers were encountered. Mallard was the only duck on the river. Other birds seen in the wooded section (on the way back down) were Treecreeper, Red-legged Partridge and Pheasant.


Walking up the glen, the variety of birds started to tail off with Meadow Pipit dominating on the open ground and Chaffinch in the patches of woodland. A single Dipper was on the river and two Mallards were on a moorland pool. Three Grey Wagtails and two Pied Wagtails were feeding on the rocky bed of a dried up loop of the river. Nearby, a single male Stonechat was feeding animatedly (with a pair further up the glen). Four Ring Ouzels briefly alighted in a small tree. Acting like thin, black Fieldfares, they appeared in a flurry of chacks and whistles, then exploded into the air and swooped away in a wide arc before heading high out of the glen. 


After a long walk, finally arrived at a lonely and atmospheric Loch an t-Seilich. Few birds were present (away from the plantation at one end of the loch), except for a pair of Oystercatchers near the dam and a Raven high overhead. Only the sound of a barking Roe Deer broke the silence. 
The walk back down the glen added the species already mentioned. Drumguish provided more singing Redpoll, Greenfinch, Mistle Thrush and the only Skylark of the day.  The area around the Insh Marshes Visitor Centre produced Buzzard, Starling, Lapwing, Curlew, Oystercatcher, Black-headed Gull, Teal and Greylag Goose. Finally,a quick stop at Kincraig produced three Goosander, two Goldeneye and a single Osprey.


Impressions of Strathspey in April:
Its alive with the sounds of waders on the marshes, Chaffinches and tits in the woods and grouse on the moors.
It is still fairly colourless with the birchwoods still completely bare and the only bright colour provided by Coltsfoot. 
Birds are getting on with their breeding cycles with, for example, Lapwings defending territories, Black-headed Gulls on nest mounds, much Meadow Pipit display, two Goldcrests displaying aggressively and sustained singing from many species.
Its still cool (in spite of prolonged sunshine on this occason) with snow on many tops.
The first new growth is evident on the moors (and no doubt responsible for the presence of the Red Deer mentioned above)

Monday, April 14, 2014


A long walk taking in Ruthven, Bienn Bhuidhe, Glen Tromie, Gaik and Loch an t-Seilich produced a number of interesting sightings including: a singing Skylark at one site, singing Chiffchaffs at two (but surprisingly no Willow Warblers), a pair of Stonechats at one site and a single male at another, Redpolls singing at three sites, a pair of Red-legged Partridges and a mobile flock of four Ring Ouzels (three males and a female). Lots of the commoner species, but surprisingly no Wheatears.
Postscript added 23-04-14: The bird list for the day was as follows: Greylag Goose, Canada Goose, Teal, Mallard, Goldeneye, Goosander, Red-legged Partridge, Red Grouse, Pheasant, Buzzard, Osprey, Oystercatcher, Lapwing, Curlew, Black-headed Gull, Woodpigeon, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, Raven, Goldcrest, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Skylark, Chiffchaff, Treecreeper, Wren, Starling, Dipper, Ring Ouzel, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Robin, Stonechat, Dunnock, Grey Wagtail, Pied Wagtail (yarrellii), Meadow Pipit, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Lesser Redpoll and Siskin (45 species)

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Spent a blustery afternoon around the mouth of the Leven at Balloch. Two Willow Warblers (my first of the year) were singing from either bank of the river. Two probable Stock Doves hurtled over near Balloch House and a small group of Fieldfares shot up into the treetops. Plants in flower in the area included Lesser Celandine, Marsh Marigold, Dandelion, and Skunk Cabbage.

Friday, April 11, 2014

At home, the local Bullfinches continue to pipe softly from the rough vegetation over the fence. No sight or sound of the Redpolls today. A brief warble didn't sound quite right for Blackcap. 
An evening walk behind Robertson Car Park produced nothing of great interest. 
Kept an eye on the Loch Garten Osprey webcam and added calling Crested Tit to my virtual list for the site. Noticed this evening that the pair there have their first egg.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

A Kestrel was dashing over the St James roundabout as I queued to get to Paisley this afternoon. However it was trumped by another big bird - the A380 airbus taking off from Glasgow Airport. In Paisley, the Raven pair on Coat's Memorial Church were mostly loafing near the top of the spire, although at one point a single bird carried a stick up to the vicinity of the nest.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

A huge brown bird lumbering down the Clyde as  I sped up this evening had to remain unidentified. However I will be very interested to see if anyone reports a White-tailed Eagle in the area over the next few weeks. 
Back home, the Redpolls which have been hanging around the estate all winter were buzzing in the treetops - I counted at least eight birds. A Blue Tit was taking nesting material into the nest box and a Wren was an unexpected visitor to the "bus shelter". A dead Toad was a sad sight at the entrance to the estate.
A short walk along the river produced a lone drake Goosander (could the female be on a nest nearby?) and the regular, lonely Mute Swan. A singing Blackcap at Mosspark station was my first of the year.

Monday, April 07, 2014

A frosty start to the day! Both Bullfinch and Redpoll were singing outside the bedroom window.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

A teatime wander around the public footpaths at Castle Semple Loch produced a high flying Cormorant and at least 20 Sand Martins "twinkling" brown and white in the low sunshine out in the middle of the loch.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Did some early-morning atlassing in the two tetrads between Cambuslang and Rutherglen this morning. Managed to get the species total for the first (NS66F) up from 28 to 37 (adding Feral Pigeon, Jackdaw, Coal Tit, Starling, House Sparrow, Dunnock, Wren, Mistle Thrush and Chiffchaff) and for the second (NS66K) up from 40 to 45 (adding Grey Heron, Coot, Great-spotted Woodpecker, Great Tit and Bullfinch). Breeding evidence was hard to come by but Blue Tits and Feral Pigeons were courting, Carrion Crows nest building, and a Woodpigeon entering a probable nest site. A Coot on the pond in Carmyle Industrial Estate plowtered for ages but failed to do anything that might suggest that he had a nest (or mate) nearby.

Friday, April 04, 2014

Visited two local Raven nests today. The first held a pair of birds, one sitting tight and the other flying exuberantly between neighbouring rooftops. The second site seemed to be deserted but the pile of sticks had grown since I last visited, so the pair were possibly just out of sight (and sound).
Driving back from an afternoon meeting in Ayr, two birds over the A78 at Irvine were probably Sand Martins.



Wednesday, April 02, 2014

A Sparrowhawk soared over the university campus in Paisley first thing. Nearby, a Raven was tracing its usual route from Coats' Memorial Church tower along Oakshaws.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Had a quick look around Knightswood Park while waiting for the rugby training to finish this evening. Best birds were eight Redwings perched in a tall tree (some singing softly) before heading off north. Singing Blackbirds seemed to be everywhere and a Pied Wagtail was along the edge of the pond.