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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.

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)

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