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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, July 23, 2014

A Blackbird and a Song Thrush were collecting worms on the lawns in the estate at 7am. Presumably they are feeding second or even third broods. At the other end of the day, four Swifts were over the university quarter in Paisley at 5:30.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

On a lovely day in west central Scotland, a Raven croaked from the top of Coats Memorial Church. Paisley.

Monday, July 21, 2014

An evening walk around Hogganfield Loch produced two Pochards, a juvenile Great-crested Grebe and a Mallard with three small young. Later, twelve Lapwings including juveniles (one of which had a deformed foot) were feeding on the cropped turf of Stepps Playing Fields. The group attracted the attention of about 20 Carrion Crows which chased any bird which managed to find a worm. The evening ended with groups of Swallows heading west over Millerston Rugby pitches.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Four juvenile Swallows being fed by a parent on telephone wires this morning provided confirmation of local breeding for Pollok.

Friday, July 18, 2014

A Collared Dove was the main visitor to the bird feeders this evening.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

A Whitethroat sang repeatedly just over the back fence between 5pm and 6pm.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Fifty House Martins were feeding over cut fields at Hawkhead first thing. This afternoon a Hoodie hybrid was in Rosshall Park and a Kingfisher was on the Cart at Moulin (with three Swifts feeding overhead).

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A pleasant evening walk in Barshaw Park found  a family group of five Mistle Thrushes in the treetops and three or four House Martins loop-the-looping over the old hospital.

Monday, July 14, 2014

A brief walk around the Murdieston Dams at lunchtime found the two broods of Mute Swans (5 and 3) still intact plus five broods of Coots at various stages of development. A single Black-headed Gull was the first of the "autumn".

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Spent a memorable afternoon exploring the Isle of May. The weather for the journey over was excellent, allowing great views of fishing Gannets and Puffins whirring by. On the island, the highlights were being mobbed by the Arctic Terns from the colony around the visitor centre, seeing the air full of Puffins commuting to and from their nest burrows, watching the whole tern colony rise to see off a passing Greater Black-backed Gull (they don't seem to mind the lessers) and picking up various, assorted passerines including Starling, Swallow, Rock Pipit, Meadow Pipit and Pied Wagtail (plus a pair of Oystercartchers). The auk colonies were still very busy (although many Guillemots were already on the sea) and chicks of various species (Arctic Tern, Razorbill, Kittiwake, Shag, Eider, Herring Gull and Lesser black-backed Gull) were all over the island.

The weather had deteriorated somewhat for the journey back, ensuring that everyone on the boat got a soaking. Nevertheless, the planned detour to Bass Rock went ahead, producing the spectacular sight of the breeding colony in full swing, with many nests containing young.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Spent a lot of today working in the garden. All the usual suspects (Feral Pigeon, Collared Dove, Great Tit, Dunnock, Bullfinch, Chiffchaff) were around.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Up to 11 Swifts (but possibly as few as four) were over the west end of Greenock this lunchtime. The first four were high overhead, but a second group of four were between the houses along Newton Street and a group of three were over Ardgowan Square.
Also notable were two singing Chiffchaffs in gardens on Newton Street.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Three Swifts flew around the north of the university campus for about 10 minutes just before 10am on Thursday 10th July. They seemed to be showing some interest in the eaves to the rear of the first tenement east of the campus. However they quickly moved on (although two were back briefly in the afternoon).
Meanwhile a Sparrowhawk struggled to gain height above the spire of Coats Memorial Church as it was repeatedly mobbed by about a dozen large gulls.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

The pair of Mute Swans at Forbes Place, Paisley, had four small cygnets in tow this lunchtime. The date seems rather late, given that the Town Dam pair in Greenock (for instance) had hatched young on 19th May.

Earlier, two Ravens were on top of Coats Memorial Church as the UWS graduands gathered in the sunshine below.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Single House Martins still around South Cardonald.

Monday, July 07, 2014

A Chiffchaff and a Whitethroat were both singing first thing this morning. There definitely seems to have been an upsurge in singing this week.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Up to four juvenile Great Tits continue to visit the peanut feeder in the back garden. No sign of the male House Sparrow today but a Chiffchaff and a Song Thrush were singing over in the "nature reserve", as was the usual Blackcap.

Saturday, July 05, 2014

A male House Sparrow has been a regular visitor to the back garden over the past few days. I wonder if he might spot my sparrow nest box on the gable wall for next year?
More notes from yesterday's Strathspey trip:

A female Mallard had two tiny young in long grass on the river bank. When I came along the path, she bolted for the river, leaving her ducklings in the grass. She then proceeded to flap up and down the river agitatedly (joined by another female who had three bigger young on the river) until her own young finally followed. Another female had three tiny young at Milton Loch.

A female Goldeneye was with quite a large duckling on an un-named loch in the moorland north east of the Aviemore golf courses. Another female was on Milton Loch, Boat of Garten and five more were on or over the Spey at four spots between Kinchurdy and the Boat of Garten road bridge.

A female Goosander and 11 juveniles were together in a tight group on the Spey just south of the fishing hut near Kinchurdy Farm.

17 Oystercatchers were in a sheep field north east of the Aviemore golf courses (with singles and pairs elsewhere).

Two Lapwing flocks were encountered, one of 30+ on a muddy island in a moorland loch northeast of the Aviemore golf courses and one of 36 on rough grassland just south of Kinchurdy Cottage.

A total of twelve Common Sandpipers were along the Spey between Dalfaber and Boat of Garten including three together which may have been a family group.

Collared Doves were heard singing and seen (often in pairs) all over Aviemore.

A recently-fledged Woodpigeon was feeding on a riverside field with a single adult.

A Kingfisher seen flying along the Spey next to the Dalfaber Country Club Golf Course was my first for B&S.

Groups of two, nine and fifteen Swifts were feeding over the Spey south of the Boat of Garten road bridge, especially after showers subsided.

A large mixed flock of around 20 Jackdaws and 80 Rooks was on grassland and moorland north of the Spey opposite Pityoulish.

A hybrid Hooded x Carrion Crow was with a regular Carrion Crow near Pityoulish

Lots of Willow Warblers were encountered (including a single with two attendant young in a Boat of Garten garden) but only occasional song was heard, most giving away their presence by their “Hooweet” contact call.

Blackbirds were searching for food on almost every patch of mown grass in Aviemore (one bird was feeding young as it had a beakful of worms) and a pair chased a Jackdaw away from their nest in Boat of Garten.

Swallows were feeding over golf course fairways, under nearby trees, over silage fields near Kinchurdy Farm and over Milton Loch, Boat of Garten.

Sand Martins were all along the Spey, but especially feeding over the golf course greens. Juveniles were giving a begging call, not unlike that of juvenile Sandwich Tern.

Several active Sand Martin colonies were found along the Spey including a large one on a high bank beneath Pityoulish, a medium-sized one near the abandoned waterworks in Aviemore and a small one on a low (accessible) bank in a sheep field next to Dalfaber Country Club Golf Course.

House Martins were scarce, with only two singles seen all day.

Possible Pied Flycatchers were heard singing very briefly (1) in woods between Dalfaber Country Club Golf Course and the Spey and (2) over in the direction of Mullingaroch Farm.

Four Spotted Flycatchers were feeding from trees and a fence line around Wester Davoult Cottage, at least two with attendant juveniles.

Meadow Pipits and Pied Wagtails very numerous along the edge of the golf course (presumably fledged broods), the Meadow Pipits crouching in the rough, the Pied Wagtails feeding on the greens.

An adult Grey Wagtail was catching flies over the river for at least two young on rocks below. Another adult was nearby.

A singing Skylark was over damp grassland near the bend in the Spey west of Wester Davoult.

Greenfinches were singing at three sites, but were greatly outnumbered by Siskins.

An un-named loch in the moorland north east of the Aviemore golf courses held five duck species (Teal, Mallard, Wigeon, Tufted Duck and Goldeneye) plus Greylag Goose and Little Grebe.

As described above, many species were showing breeding evidence. In addition to the examples already given:

A single juvenile Coal Tit was in the same riverside bush as an alarm-calling Common Sandpiper.

An agitated Lapwing was circling above a possible nest site in a patch of damp grassland.
A recently fledged Robin was with an adult in a small tree.

Friday, July 04, 2014

Enjoyed a good day in Strathspey (in spite of the rain). Route here, details as follows:

With the weather predicted to be wet and windy, I decided to keep to low ground during this impromptu visit to Strathspey. For a while, I had wanted to explore the north bank of the Spey where it borders the two golf courses in the Dalfaber Golf and Country Club. I had also wanted to take a look at the moorland between there and the steam railway (especially the lochs where I had seen an Osprey fishing once before). Today seemed an ideal opportunity to cover both.

The journey up (by bus this month) produced two really good sightings in the form of a Red Kite being mobbed by crows near Bridge of Allan and an Osprey carrying a fish at Kinkell Bridge.

Fortunately the rain stayed off for the first half of the day. My arrival in Aviemore co-incided with the Commonwealth Baton Relay, so the town was full of people lining the streets. I cut round by the resort to avoid the crowds and headed for Dalfaber. Notable birds on the way included singing Blackcap, singing Willow Warbler and feeding Blackbirds (they seemed to be on every patch of mown grass in the town).

The walk down to the Spey was  along a fence line bordering one of the golf holes. Not ideal, because of the risk of distracting players driving down the fairway, but thankfully the distance can be covered in just a few minutes. Once down at the river, the “path” proved to be not much more than an animal track through the vegetation. However, it regularly joined and re-joined the service track down the side of the golf course, so wasn’t that difficult to negotiate. A gap in the vegetation here produced probably the best sighting of the day – a Kingfisher calling loudly as it flew upstream. 

As usual, I found it fairly easy to get away from the crowds by going slightly off the beaten track. As it turned out, I saw only one person (apart from passing canoeists) between the golf courses and the outskirts of Boat of Garten. Birds of the day included Sand Martin (at least three colonies plus birds almost constantly overhead), Common Sandpiper (12), Grey Wagtail (4), Dipper (3), Goldeneye (5) and Goosander (12 in one family group). Flocks (presumably post-breeding) of Rook, Lapwing and Oystercatcher were at a few spots and some good numbers of Swifts were feeding (especially approaching Boat of Garten). Spotted Flycatchers were particularly evident around Wester Dalvoult Cottage and numerous species with attendant young (more details tomorrow).

The full bird list for the day consisted of:
Greylag Goose, Wigeon, Teal, Mallard, Tufted Duck, Goldeneye, Goosander, Buzzard, Pheasant, Little Grebe, Moorhen, Oystercatcher, Lapwing, Common Sandpiper, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Herring Gull, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Swift, Kingfisher, Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, hybrid Carrion x Hooded Crow, Goldcrest, Blue Tit, Coal Tit, Skylark, Sand Martin, Swallow, House Martin, Willow Warbler, Blackcap, Wren, Starling, Dipper, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Spotted Flycatcher, Robin, Dunnock, House Sparrow, Grey Wagtail, Pied Wagtail, Tree Pipit, Meadow Pipit, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch and Siskin (52 species)

Some impressions of Strathspey in July:
Aviemore is quite busy, with the height of the summer season approaching.

The woods are relatively quiet with relatively little bird song.

The paths are very quiet with virtually no-one around, although several small groups of open canoes drifted downstream.

Non birds on show include Rabbits (loads around Aviemore), beetles and flies (many using the “landing pads” of umbelliferous plants), “forty shades of green” in the vegetation (including  Aspen looking its best) and plenty of butterflies in the bracken.

Thursday, July 01, 2014

A brief visit to East India Harbour in Greenock this lunchtime found at least 12 Black Guillemots active, including adults bringing fish and at least one juvenile begging from a hole in the harbour wall. A Rock Pipit was also present, as was a female Eider with a small duckling. Not so nice was a female Eider (with two big young in tow) with a lot of fishing line and a fishing float or lure wrapped around her foot and trailing behind her. Sent an e mail to Hessilhead to see if they could help.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

An unfamiliar gull on the Cart at Forbes Place, Paisley this lunchtime was presumably a juvenile Black-headed (got to check those books). Nearby was a juvenile Rook (just starting to get its bare face) and a juvenile Carrion Crow. Back home, the fledgling Blue and Great Tits were joined by a slightly downy Dunnock. Good to see at least some of the local youngsters managing to evade the marauding moggies. 

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

The Lesser Black-backed Gull chick which fell into the gutter on the tenement opposite work last week seems to be doing fine, calling up to its parent perched on the chimney above.