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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, August 30, 2014

Another lovely day in west central Scotland. 

Friday, August 29, 2014


Thursday, August 28, 2014

Two Swallows were feeding under the canopy of the big petrol station in Port Glasgow when I passed this afternoon. Later, in the grounds of Gartnavel Hospital, a Carrion Crow with a grey mantle was presumably part Hoodie.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Two Robins were singing in the early morning Greenock sunshine.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Another lovely late summer day in west central Scotland (although Nethybridge had frost again overnight). This evening, clouds of midges were all along the riverside and a Chiffchaff "hoo-weet"ed from a Willow. Back home, a bat fluttered through the estate even though the sun was barely below the horizon.

Monday, August 25, 2014

A Buzzard was soaring over the M8 at Bishopton this evening. Later, six bats were hunting under Howford Bridge in Crookston.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The back garden was full of mellow fruitfulness this afternoon. The Honeysuckle flowers are nearly past their best but they are still attracting a few Bees and Hoverflies. The Policeman's Helmet flowers over the back fence are also turning to seed (they will soon start pinging into my garden) but their sickly-sweet smell is still hanging in the air.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Back at Baron's Haugh today, A juvenile Dunlin was with three Ruffs, viewable from the Marsh Hide. Meanwhile two Swallows were hunting low over the pitches at Hamilton Rugby Club.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Passing through the centre of Paisley early this afternoon, noticed the female Goosander still with six very lively youngsters.
This evening, dropped in to Baron's Haugh. The haugh was alive with birds including four Green Sandpipers, four Ruffs, a juvenile Knot, five Black-tailed Godwits, squealing Water Rails and a covey of six Pheasants spooked by a passing Fox.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

A Grey Heron was near Newark Castle first thing. Later, a Swallow was near Cappielow.

Monday, August 18, 2014

An Osprey was hovering close to the shore behind the woods between Langbank and Parklea at 7am. It was a fine sight and a nice change from the usual Buzzards. A Swallow was around the Greenock boundary.

Sunday, August 17, 2014


Saturday, August 16, 2014

A walk around a blustery Bonnytoun Farm produced a flock of between 70 and 100 sparrows, consisting of one or two male House Sparrows plus numerous female and juvenile House Sparrows and at least some juvenile Tree Sparrows. Individual birds were hard to make out due to the flock being very flighty and the weather being so blustery. However the large number hints at a good breeding season and augers well for the winter population at the site. I feel a November or December visit coming on.
Birds on Linlithgow Loch were unremarkable. Again, a winter visit should produce more of interest.
Linlithgow train station had some nice patches of Valerian growing out of the masonry.  

Friday, August 15, 2014

Around half a dozen House Martins were flitting around nests under the eaves of the bedroom block at the Crutherland House Hotel this afternoon.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

A Redshank called over the house just after midnight.
Today's early morning walk around Murdieston Park turned up increased numbers of Tufted Duck and Mallard plus single Grey Wagtail and Grey Heron.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

One result of the recent stormy weather ...

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Wet, wet, wet. I wonder what waifs and strays Hurricane Bertha has delivered to our shores. No doubt the next few days will tell. 

Monday, August 11, 2014

Flocks of Starlings were over the east end of Greenock on the way down to work at 6:45 am and again on the way back at 6:45pm. Meanwhile a Grey Heron was over Woodhall.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Another urban Fox (they seem to be everywhere these days) was the only naturalconnection of a "getting-ready-to-go-back-to-work" day :-(

Saturday, August 09, 2014

The report on the most recent Strathspey trip is mostly done (see Thursday's entry). The bird list for the day was as follows: Mallard, Muscovy Duck (not entered in birdtrack as considered a free-ranging captive bird), Goosander, Pheasant, Grey Heron, Sparrowhawk, Buzzard, Moorhen, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Herring Gull, [unidentified gull], Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Swift, Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, Goldcrest, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Sand Martin, Swallow, House Martin, Long-tailed Tit, Willow Warbler, Wren, Starling, Blackbird, Spotted Flycatcher, Robin, House Sparrow, Grey Wagtail, Pied Wagtail, Tree Pipit, Meadow Pipit, Chaffinch, Lesser Redpoll, Goldfinch and Siskin (40 species).

Friday, August 08, 2014

Some reflections on yesterday's Strathspey trip:
Colour in the landscape is approaching its peak (slightly later than here in the central belt), with many flowers of the hedgerow at their best. I identified the following in flower: Rosebay Willow-Herb, Common Ragwort, Harebell, St John's-wort, Pignut, Red Clover, Common Knapweed, Devil's Bit Scabious, Meadowsweet, Birdsfoot Trefoil and Redshank. Heather has not reached its peak yet with those plants in sheltered forest rides appearing quite purple but those out on the moors still quite muted in colour.
Insect life is probably around its peak too (judging by the number of midge bites I sustained) with butterflies (such as Scotch Argus and Small Tortoiseshell), moths, hoverflies etc all evident. Dor Beetles and ants were common on the forest tracks, as were caterpillars of Emperor Moth and one of the Arctiidae moth species. Also notable were a Bee Beetle, an Ichneumon Fly and a really big black and green dragonfly sp.
The tourist season also seems to be at its peak, ironically with the Scottish schools going back this week. However, as usual, I find that people tend to concentrate around the "honey pots", so that large parts of even the "high profile" trails are mostly empty.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Spent a bright and sunny day in Strathspey today. Route here, report as follows:

The journey north to Aviemore was notable for an increasing variety of colour in the landscape. The moors are now a patchwork of green and grey-brown with the first hint of mauve as the Heather flowers are getting ready to open. Along the roadsides, the pink of Rosebay Willow-Herb, the yellow of Common Ragwort and the green of bracken were the dominant colours. There was a complete lack of snow patches on the Drumochter hills, but one large patch was visible in Glen Feshie and several patches were still present in the northern corries, especially Coire Laogh Mor, Coire Cas, Coire an Lochain and the corries below Braeriach.

The bus diverted along the B9152 at Kingussie so managed to have a quick look at the wetlands between Kingussie Cemetery and Lynchat. Surprisingly, no birds were to be seen (apart from a mixed flock of around 40 corvids), presumably indicating that the Black-headed Gulls, waders and Greylag Geese which nest there have all finished their breeding seasons (hopefully successfully). Loch Insh was also quiet, with no Mute Swans visible, although views were very limited.

Passing through Boat of Garten, a Pied Wagtail on the lawn near the post office was to be the first of many for the day. Also a feature of the day were to be fields of ripe cereals (especially to the east of Boat of Garten and the west of Nethybridge), as well as some fields of cut silage.

Arriving in Grantown-on-Spey, muted screeches from above signalled the arrival of two Swifts hunting over the town square (accompanied by a Black-headed Gull). Another Swift was over the junction with the Cromdale Road.

Around 20 House Sparrows on the edge of the town is hopefully indicative of a good breeding season. Five Pied Wagtails were on playing fields at Grantown Grammar School with another four on the greens of the nearby golf course. A single Swallow was typically hunting over their heads.

Entering the woods, birds heard or seen included Willow Warbler (one bird singing weakly), Chaffinch, Wren, Goldcrest and Coal Tit. Scotch Argus butterflies were in the open sections and Wild Raspberries were fruiting on south-facing banks.

Arriving at the Spey, the first birds encountered were fourteen moulting Mallards, a single Grey Wagtail and a passing band of seven Sand Martins. The next two miles of river bank were almost completely devoid of birdlife (except for a solitary Grey Heron). I wonder if the reason is the heavy angling pressure along that stretch. Of more interest along the river bank was an abundance of flowering plants plus associated insect life (including “clouds” of Scotch Argus butterflies).

A substantial passerine flock was present just after the anglers’ hut, consisting of Coal Tits, Chaffinches, Goldcrests, a Blue Tit and a lemon-yellow, autumn Willow Warbler. Also in that area were a Pheasant and a Buzzard. Nearer the Old Spey Bridge were more Swallows.

The stretch of abandoned railway behind the smokehouse (which is good for thrushes and finches in autumn/winter) was full of birds. The hedgerow there contains Rowan trees (with fruit just beginning to ripen) and a variety of other tree species. Around ten Goldfinches (including juveniles) were buzzing around the treetops, accompanied by Blackbirds, Tree Pipits (giving their characteristic “Speez” call), Great Tit and Willow Warbler. Also around a dozen Spotted Flycatchers (including a downy juvenile) were hunting from the fence posts with eight along a single, short stretch. Other wildlife here included grasshopper sp and fruiting Puffball.

An islet in the river held ten Common Gulls, ten Mallards and a Moorhen (with ten more Common Gulls on a nearly sandbar). Redpolls were in the treetops with Siskins a little further towards Nethybridge.

Birds of the open country around Balliefirth Farm included Buzzard, Pheasant, Meadow Pipit and Carrion Crow, but surprisingly no waders, gulls or geese (yet). All three hirundines plus Swift began to appear over the cereal fields on the outskirts of Nethybridge, with a few Woodpigeons on stubble.

The path through the forest at Duakbridge was quiet in terms of birdlife (although I had very little time to stop and listen) but produced all the common species. Also present were Dor Beetles, ants, caterpillars, an ichneumon fly and a big dragonfly. The “Dragonfly Pond” was quiet except for a couple of Swallows overhead.

Entering Boat of Garten, the first Goosander of the day was on the Spey and Swallows were entering a possible nest site in an old out-house. Back in Aviemore, four Herring Gulls were over Granish Tip, 16 Goosanders were on a shingle bank off the old waterworks, the Sand Martin colony there had been vacated and a Sparrowhawk was being mobbed by three Carrion Crows. Collared Doves were singing along Dalfaber Road and three Swallows were over Spey Bridge, but a distinct chill in the air was a reminder that autumn isn’t far away.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

A single House Martin was over south Cardonald this morning, the first I've seen here for a few weeks. In the evening, a trip to Gourock produced a Manx Shearwater and a Gannet off Kempock Point with 20 more manxies and another Gannet off McEnroy's Point. All were coping easily with a series of squalls scudding up the Clyde. In spite of the deteriorating weather, and the gathering gloom which accompanied it, five Swifts were chasing and calling over the Hawks v Greenock match at Fort Matilda.

Monday, August 04, 2014

There were still plenty of Swallows around the stables in Pollok Park this evening, but what few local Swifts there were appear to have started their migration south.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Among the few visitors to the garden at this time of year, very tatty-looking, moulting Magpies have been particularly evident.

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Just back from a great trip to the region of Campania in southern Italy. Report as follows.
A family holiday this, so limited opportunities for birding. However the binoculars were duly packed just in case. 
Arrived in Napoli on the Friday evening just as dusk was falling. Groups of corvids were heading to roost high overhead and a single bat sp fluttered around the coach park. An after-dark walk around Sant'Agnello and down to the coast produced calling Cicadas in the palm trees and more bats under the cliffs. 
Saturday was spent becoming orientated to the area. Two walks into Sorrento produced no wildlife sightings of interest except abundant small fish in the main harbour. Views across the bay to Mount Vesuvius were exceptional. Back at the hotel, the common birds of the area soon revealed themselves to be Collared Dove, Feral Pigeon, Blackcap and Blackbird. Lizards were also common around the pool and gardens.
Saturday was largely taken up with a trip to Capri. For scenery, life and colour, this was the highlight of the trip. The crossing itself was lacking in bird interest with only a few distant gull sp for company (what a contrast to my Isle of May trip of a few weeks ago). However the scene on arriving at Marina Grande was breathtaking.
Headed up to Capri Town via a bewildering series of steps and passageways, admiring the colour and tremendous views back down to the coast. Then headed to the Belvedere punta Cannone for spectacular views of the Islas Faraglioni. 

Birds along this route consisted of Spotted Flycatcher, Collared Dove, Blackcap and Feral Pigeon. Calls of what I thought were Goldcrests may well have been made by Firecrests. However the highlight of this part of the day was a Swallowtail butterfly which flew along part of the path. 

After an afternoon in Capri Town, the return walk to the harbour by the Via Truglio was equally colourful. 
Monday was spent relaxing and walking around Sant'Agnello and Sorrento. A walk down one of the gorges produced a distant wagtail sp, singing Blackcap, more lizard sp and a dead rat!
Tuesday began with three Swallows over Sant'Agnello train station. The train journey to Pompeii was memorable for fantastic mountain and coastal views. The bus journey up to Vesuvius was tortuous but very scenic with staggering views of the Bay of Naples before the cloud closed in near the summit. The walk up to the crater from the car park was notable for Hummingbird Hawk Moth,Painted Lady and Clouded Yellow butterflies, Valerian, Yellow Poppy and Broom, a big flying beetle (possibly a Cockchafer) and a single Rock Thrush (others were calling but remained unseen). The crater itself was a fantastic sight, the swirling cloud making the scene all the more dramatic. The only bird present up there was a Black-eared Wheatear.
Back at the top car park, three Ravens were swooping around looking for tourist scraps, while at the lower car park (in the pine forest), two Swifts flew over and a Firecrest showed well in the trees.
The remainder of the holiday was more of the same - lizards round the hotel (a Gecko and a Hummingbird Hawk Moth appeared on the last day), Collared Doves and Blackcaps along the roadsides and spectacular views around every corner. The bus journey back to Napoli was particularly memorable with the whole of the bay bathed in sunshine and laid out before us.