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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, May 31, 2014

Today's route here. Full report tomorrow.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Glorious weather forecast for the Highlands tomorrow. I wonder........?

Thursday, May 29, 2014

A Whinchat alighting at the side of the north end of the three-towns bypass was a surprise, as was a Spotted Flycatcher calling from roadside woods in Wemys Bay.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

An Osprey was over the Clyde just east of West Ferry at 07:15

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

House Martins were still frequenting the South Cardonald colony this morning.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Judging from the din every time they go in, the Blue Tit pair in the box on the house wall have a brood of well-grown chicks. Up to four Blackbirds continue to hunt the lawns around the house - the most I have seen here.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Marking all day, but kept an eye on the Loch Garten webcam this evening. The third chick always seems to be in the "back row" at feeding time and seems to be losing ground to its fast-growing siblings.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

A family trip to Edinburgh and a walk around Arthur's Seat produced at least eight occupied Fulmar ledges - seven on Salisbury Crags (first picture) and one on the western face of Nether Hill, just next to the Gutted Haddie (second picture). Also present were at least seven Swifts, several Whitethroats and a singing Skylark.

Friday, May 23, 2014

A single, distant Swift called high above the house about 5:15 this evening.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

A House Martin entered the top nest at Cardonald Gardens this evening. It has been a great day at the Loch Garten Osprey eyrie with all three chicks now feeding well. New birds heard singing/calling today consisted of Reed Bunting, Song Thrush, Goldcrest and Willow Warbler. My full list of "background" species so far this season is as follows: Greylag Goose, Great-spotted Woodpecker, Cuckoo, Goldcrest, Crested Tit, Willow Warbler, Redstart, Song Thrush, Chaffinch, Siskin and Reed Bunting.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Another day, another lunchtime walk in the sunshine, another very distant Swift screech. I think they ARE back in Greenock, but apparently feeding very high up.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Two pairs of House Martins now appear to be nesting in the "micro-colony" in Cardonald Gardens, one under the apex of the roof and the other under the guttering on the west side.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Mute Swan and Mallard both with hatched young this morning at Murdieston. The Mute Swan nest had three unhatched eggs left behind. It was noticeable that all the female Tufted Ducks have disappeared, leaving only the males on the open water.
Thought I heard a very distant Swift over west Greenock at lunchtime.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

An hour and a half spent atlassing in the Cathkin Park / Aitkenhead Road / Polmadie Road area first thing only added Pied Wagtail and Whitethroat to the tetrad list. The latter was a singing / scolding bird in a forgotten stretch of hedgerow sandwiched between the M74 and the railway (see picture below). 

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Great excitement on the Loch Garten web forum as the first of this years chicks has hatched out tonight.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Three Mallards were over the rugby at Scotston tonight.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The species count for last Saturday's B&S trip is currently standing at 49 (with still a few records to add to Birdtrack).
Correction: With all records now entered, the final list stands at 52 species as follows: Whooper Swan, Greylag Goose, Muscovy Duck, Mallard, Goldeneye, Goosander, Pheasant, Grey Heron, Buzzard, Osprey, Oystercatcher, Lapwing, Common Sandpiper, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Cuckoo, Green Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Kestrel, Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, Goldcrest, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Sand Martin, Swallow, Long-tailed Tit, Willow Warbler, Blackcap, Sedge Warbler, Treecreeper, Wren, Starling, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Robin, Pied Flycatcher, Redstart, Dunnock, House Sparrow, Pied Wagtail, Tree Pipit, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Lesser Redpoll, Siskin and Reed Bunting (52).

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

A lunchtime walk around the west end of Greenock failed again to produce any Swifts.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Confined to the house on marking duty. The sound feed from the Loch Garten Osprey nest was on for part of today and yesterday and produced a number of birds singing or calling in the background including Greylag Goose, Chaffinch, Siskin, Redstart, Chaffinch, Crested Tit, Cuckoo and Great-spotted Woodpecker.

Monday, May 12, 2014

A mouse sp scampered across the patio at tea time tonight. Meanwhile a single House Martin was "Phrrrttt"-ing over Cardonald Gardens

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Some of the highlights of yesterday's walk were as follows:

Starling: A number of birds were nesting in the gnarled Birches along the banks of the Spey opposite the Milton Burn. Their scolding calls (reminiscent of Jay) were very evident along that stretch and several birds were commuting back and forwards to rough pasture with beakfulls of insects, confirming that the young have hatched. 

Treecreeper: Walking through an area of stunted woodland by the Spey, about seven or eight birds suddenly erupted from behind (inside?) a trunk at chest height. The birds dispersed onto nearby tree trunks and began hopping up and down agitatedly. All were calling loudly, the intention presumably to alarm and disorientate a predator. I moved away quickly, to avoid alarming them anymore.

Goldeneye: Two females were seen along the Spey (not including a male seen on Loch Alvie from the Duke of Gordon monument). Both flew up from the water ahead of us (we were walking downstream) and headed back upstream at around three-quarters of tree-top height, calling softly. I am at a loss to explain this behaviour. At this time of year, the females should have started (possibly finished) laying. I know they don't incubate the eggs until the clutch is complete (to ensure that all the ducklings hatch at the same time), so presumably both birds (assuming they were breeders) were loafing or feeding on the river. The flights I witnessed must have been either back to the vicinity of the nest site, away from there (to divert me) or just random movements. Whatever the reason, I was reminded of what lovely little ducks they are, beautifully marked and perfectly at home in their riparian woodland habitat.

Cuckoo: I had heard Cuckoo on the two previous occasions I had visited Kinrara, so I was not surprised when the unmistakable call wafted over from the direction of Kinrara House. Typically for the species, the call was kept up almost continually for the two to three hours I was in the area.

Goosander: This is a species I sometimes have difficulty catching up with in Badeonoch and Strathspey. In my experience it is less widely distributed than Goldeneye. However two drakes and a single duck were seen on this occasion. The first drake (and a duck) were loafing on a shingle bar on a bend in the Spey east of Kinrara Bungalow. The second drake took off from a small island in the Spey opposite Drumore and circled over the pasture just inland of there. Breeding drakes apparently leave the breeding territories at the end of May to feed on standing water, so these two were presumably defending nesting females. The female may have been an off-duty breeder or a non-breeding first year bird, prospecting for next year.

Green Woodpecker: I have long been interested in catching up with Green Woodpecker on my visits to Badenoch and Strathspey. Roy Dennis mentions Kinrara as one of the first sites colonised by the species following its arrival in the area in the early 1970s, and the 2007 Highland Bird Report mentions a bird recorded there in February of that year. However I was still surprised when a bird started yaffling from an area of deciduous woodland about half a mile from me at 10:45. Knowing that the species can be quite flighty, and having already started the climb up to Tor Alvie and the Duke of Gordon monument, I satisfied myself with just listening to its call. This carried on at roughly 2 to 3 minute intervals for the next half hour, and on returning from the walk two hours later, was still going on. I'm not sure if prolonged yaffling is a sign that the bird was unmated, or possibly in a territorial dispute (another woodpecker was drumming nearby, although I took this to be a Greater-spotted as I had heard one "peeping" earlier). However I am pleased that this, and recent reports from Glenfeshie, Inshriach, Kincraig, Kinveachy, Abernethy Forest and Tulloch Moor suggest that the species is hanging on in the area. 

Pied Flycatcher: One was heard singing strongly and continuously for at least ten minutes near Lynwilg Cottage. This is a species that I enjoy tracking down in Badenoch and Strathspey. Its song is quite distinctive, making it fairly easy to separate from other birdsong nearby (although actually glimpsing the singing bird is easier said than done). Whether these mid-May singers actually find a mate and settle down or move on is not clear.

Osprey: I heard a bird alarm-calling before I saw it. A minute later one bird appeared above the trees, followed by a second. Both were spiralling above me, not making any attempt to move away. I concluded that they had a nest nearby and moved away as quickly as possible. Looking back after five minutes, neither bird was in the air, so hopefully they had settled back down.  

Gulls: A surprising number of gulls were seen loafing in fields beside the railway. The 50 or so Common Gulls south of Netwonmore may have been at a breeding site, but the thirty or so Black-headed Gulls near Kingussie (with even higher numbers on the return journey) were presumably either non-breeders, passage birds or the off duty birds of nearby breeding pairs.

The Bogach: This is a beautiful location which lies completely hidden from all the local roads, the railway and regular footpaths. It appears to be used by anglers as two rowing boats were moored at a wooden jetty. Birds in the area were listed in yesterday's blog post. Plant life included Marsh Marigold, Equisetum, Bogbean and a water lily species.

Kinrara Estate: The estate is a lovely mix of broad-leaved woodland (with some patches of conifers), grazed fields, ornamental gardens and damp areas. The south-facing aspect presumably helps to produce a habitat which looks like it might belong considerably further south than Strathspey. Apart from the Cuckoo and Green Woodpecker already mentioned, the soundtrack of the estate included major contributions from Tree Pipit (numerous birds singing and display-flighting from the tops of old Birches and Oaks), Willow Warbler, Chaffinch plus all the "usual" woodland birds. Mistle Thrush was particularly noticeable and Redstarts were singing from at least two sites. The estate apparently rears a lot of Pheasants (rearing pens and feeding hoppers were evident throughout the woods) and the sound of calling birds was a regular feature of the day (although the loudest calls of the day came from a pair of cocks sparring in a field at Myrtylefields, Aviemore).

The new Strathspey Way extension: This is a very exciting development which has not been without its share of controversy. However construction is now well underway with a fine new bridge over the Allt na Criche and new stock fencing erected along several stretches. This "missing link" will make a tremendous difference to day walkers like myself used to undertaking the unpleasant (and dangerous) walk along the busy B9152.

Impressions of Strathspey in May: 
It is getting more colourful, with many plants and trees in flower.
There is still considerable (albeit patchy) snow cover on the hills.
Rivers are flowing strongly (presumably swollen by  meltwater).
Many birds are activey breeding, although others are loafing about, either because they have not started breeding yet, or because their involvement is already over.
Young birds are starting to appear (Starling and Treecreeper being teo examples from yesterday).

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Had a really good day walking in Strathspey today. The weather forecast had been for heavy rain but light showers were all that materialised and much of the day was dry and mild. The journey north produced a female Goosander on the river east of Forteviot, 50 Common Gulls just south of Dalwhinnie and 30 Black-headed Gulls north of Newtonmore. Also notable were numerous Mallards feeding on rail-side fields, a Kestrel just outside of Kingussie and a pair of Whooper Swans still on the Insh Marshes.
The destination for today's walk was the Kinrara estate. The first birds encountered (at the entrance to Dalraddy Campsite) were Willow Warbler (the first of at least 82 recorded today) and Tree Pipit (the first of 22). Also present were Robin, Mistle Thrush, Blackbird, Chaffinch, Jackdaw and Pheasant. A Cuckoo calling over in the direction of the 'big hoose' was to prove to be the first of four for the day.

The highlight of the day, however, was a Green Woodpecker which began yaffling around 10:45 and was still doing so when we came back from climbing Tor Alvie at 12:45.
Birds encountered on the stretch up to the monument and back included all of the above plus Song Thrush, Goldcrest, Wren plus two singing Redstarts.
The section through the buildings at Kinrara House produced Redpoll, Siskin and two Red Squirrels (as well as more Willow Warblers, Tree Pipits and Chaffinches). A short detour to a loop of the Spey at this point added Sand Martin (visiting nest holes), Buzzard (2), Osprey (2), Greylag Goose, Goosander, Common Sandpiper, another Cuckoo and 30 Woodpigeon (overhead).
The Bogach was beautifully calm with only the light rain breaking the stillness. A possible Water Rail called from the reeds. Other birds present were Mallard (including a female with two ducklings), Sand Martin, Reed Bunting, Sedge Warbler, Grey Heron, Greylag Goose and Oystercatcher (the last three flying overhead). Woodland birds between there and Lynwilg Cottage included Blackcap, Pied Flycatcher, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush and possible Redwing.
The next part of the walk was along what will become the
extension to the Speyside Way. Birds along this stretch and along the Spey from there to the outskirts of Aviemore included Greenfinch, Pied Wagtail, Blackcap, Oystercatcher, Woodpigeon, nesting Starlings, Common Sandpiper, Goldeneye, Goosander, Mallard, Swallow and Sand Martin. Another Cuckoo was calling in the direction of Corrour and a family party of seven Treecreepers gave excellent views as they "exploded" from where they had been huddled. A Black-headed Gull was the first encountered for a while and a small party of Long-tailed Tits was the first of three for the day.
Back in Aviemore, new birds for the day included House Sparrow, Collared Dove and Rook. A quick wander round the new path at Myrtlefield gave good views of the Sand Martin colony there. Two cock Pheasants were sparring noisily in a field and the fourth Cuckoo of the day called off in the direction of Pityoulish. Finally, a (presumed pet) Muscovy Duck was in the garden of a house on Dalfaber Road.

Interesting plants today included flowering Violet, Primrose, Wood Anemone, Gorse and a number of tree species.
Heading south, lots of Red Deer were near the rail tracks including a white individual south of Dalwhinnie.

Friday, May 09, 2014

Three Sand Martins were inspecting potential nest holes along Forbes Place in central Paisley this lunchtime. A single Raven was perched on the spire of Coats Memorial Church for an hour, late morning.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

A real red-letter day today with the arrival back of three House Martins at the micro-colony in Cardonald Gardens. The birds were swooping up into the corner of a window recess in one of the south-facing houses. I do wish they would choose a high gable site instead, as it might be less likely to incur the wrath of the householder. 
Ben Lomond, today, was still showing some remaining patches of snow.
A walk around the west end of Greenock this lunchtime failed to locate any advance parties of Swifts.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

A miserable day in west central Scotland meant no Swifts were seen on the daily commute.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

A walk along the Cart from Hawkhead to Leverndale this evening produced a distant, singing Yellowhammer over in the direction of Scotts Road,a Grey Heron fishing at the first weir, a male Grey Wagtail at the rocky bend in the river, four Mallards and a flyover Goosander near the old bench, and a singing Stock Dove in Bull Wood. The Raven's nest at Leverndale appeared deserted.

Monday, May 05, 2014

A morning walk around the James Hamilton Heritage Park produced single pairs of both Greylag and Canada Geese with 6 goslings each. A Greylag Goose was (presumably) incubating at Cathkin Marsh where a female Mallard had four ducklings. Other birds there included a Meadow Pipit, a Wheatear, two White Wagtails and a Pied Wagtail on the muddy margins of the main pond. On the drier areas were a Hoodie hybrid, Whitethroat, Linnet, Yellowhammer and Skylark while the wetter areas held Sedge Warbler, twosquealing Water Rails and Reed Bumting.

Sunday, May 04, 2014

A couple of hours atlassing in south west Glasgow this morning produced nothing exceptional, but again the impression of higher than usual numbers of songbirds with Wren, Chaffinch, Blackbird and Robin particularly well represented. Blackcaps were singing at six sites, Chiffchaffs at two, Willow Warblers at two and Whitethroat at one.  A Buzzard called, unseen from Pollok Park. Long-tailed Tits were at three sites and a Blue Tit was seen to enter a hole in a lampost on Mosspark Drive. Swallows were active over the Pollok Park stables and at a new site to the west of the park.

Saturday, May 03, 2014

A Long-tailed Tit pair were being menaced by a pair of Magpies near the back fence, where a Bullfinch called for most of the afternoon.

Friday, May 02, 2014

A single Swallow and a single House Martin were over the paddock at Pollok Park this evening. The woods there were full of Bluebells, creating a blue "mist" among the trees.
Later, a pair of Oystercatchers were "piping" on playing fields at Lochinch.

Thursday, May 01, 2014

One of the Blue Tit pair nesting in the back garden was seen to take a green caterpillar into the nest box at 6pm today.
Frost forecast for Friday night.