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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.

Friday, October 31, 2014

A Kestrel was on wires just outside East Kilbride on the way over to Hamilton first thing. What followed was an incredibly mild day for the time of year.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

An unknown number of Pied Wagtails were going to roost in the trees in front of Silverburn Shopping Centre this evening.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The first sighting today was of a Fieldfare (my first of the winter) chacking from a tree beside the house. Next were a dozen Whooper Swans (again, my first of the winter) at Blackstone Mains. A lunchtime walk around the Murdieston Dams produced the first Goosander since the spring plus increased numbers of Black-headed Gulls and Tufted Ducks, single Little Grebes on both dams (I usually see them on the main one only) and the two families of Mute Swans now relocated to the extreme east end of the site. Most intriguing however was a brief glimpse of a rodent scampering across the path and down a bolt hole. It was brown in colour and intermediate in size between a Brown Rat and a Field Vole. Surely Water Voles wouldn't occupy such an urban site.
Heading back to work via Greenock Cemetery, abundant fungi were near the north gate and a flock of Redwings "see-eep"ed over the houses on South Street.

Stop Press!  Two Waxwings reported at Caerlaverock.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

With the A8 flooded, today's commute required a detour via inland Renfrewshire and Inverclyde. A Buzzard was surveying the floods from the top of a telegraph pole at How Barnaigh.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Heading up the motorway this lunchtime, a dozen Greylag Geese were struggling to clear the pylons at Selvieland and a Buzzard was doing much better as it sailed above the railway line nearby. 
The "Seep, seep" of Redwings is everywhere just now.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Flocks of Starlings were a feature of a very rainy drive to Pollok today.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

A flock of Long-tailed Tits moved through the trees at the High School of Glasgow during this afternoon's rugby match.

Friday, October 24, 2014

A Kestrel was hunting in the gloom next to the M77/A77 interchange at dawn this morning.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Many species flocking up today: Starlings in Greenock, Mute Swans at Langbank, Lapwings at West Ferry. Around 20 Greylag Geese were low over the house in thick cloud first thing. Later, a Buzzard was over the M8 at Bishopton. This afternoon's meeting in Gartnavel was enlivened by the "seep" of Redwings wafting through the open window.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Around one hundred "grey" geese were present at North Commonside Farm this afternoon. In amongst them was a bird with leucism or some other aberrant plumage (possibly containing a bit of farmyard goose).
Bean Geese back  on the Slammanan Plateau today.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Reports of snow on the Cairngorms today.
Whooper Swans back on the Clyde floodplain.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Another mild one in west central Scotland (11 degress centigrade at 7am). The trees are putting on a spectacular show of autumn colour, although I suspect the tail of Hurricane Gonzalo due to hit us tonight may put paid to that.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Still enjoying the RSPB webcam at Abernethy. Crested Tits make occasional visit.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

A walk along the River Almond west of Livingston this morning produced Kingfisher, (singing) Dipper, Grey Wagtail, Moorhen, Bullfinch and lots of Redwings.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Haven't seen one of these at the RSPB Abernethy feeder before...

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Arrived at Ardmore Point at first light and enjoyed a couple of hours doing the usual anti-clockwise circuit. Bird highlights included a flock of 21 Canada Geese which arrived in North Bay from over the sea, a flock of  nine Greylag Geese over south, two Great-crested Grebes head-shaking out on the sea, Robin and Wren singing in the sunshine, Shelducks bickering on the flats, two Ravens calling over the middle wood and Rock and Meadow Pipits scrapping on the beach. Non-bird highlights included a bright orange fungus on Gorse stems, a nice patch of Polypody, Honeysuckle still flowering and Ivy flowers being exploited by swarms of wasps (photos below).
Back home, a patch of what I think is Shaggy Ink Cap has appeared on the back lawn.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

A ginger-coloured bee species (possibly Common Carder Bumblebee - Bombus pascuorum) was pottering about the garden today, no doubt benefiting from the warm autumn sunshine.

Monday, October 13, 2014

A short walk along the river this lunchtime produced two Kingfishers and four Redwings. The latter were my first local birds of the autumn. All were perched in the treetops and at least two were singing remarkably loudly for the time of year. I have heard flocks singing in spring (and I'm familiar with summer song from the few occasions when I've encountered the species in the Highlands in the breeding season) but this is the first occasion when I've heard autumn song.
An interesting plant (presumably a garden escape) with succulent leaves was flowering at the Bonnyholm Bridge. There was also some fantastic colour in the grounds of the old Bonnyholm Primary School.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Visitors to the garden feeders today included a single Goldcrest in a tit flock containing three Blue Tits and two Great Tits. Other visitors included a Collared Dove and two Feral Pigeons.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Had a great day walking in Glenmore and Abernethy Forests. Report as follows:

After a week of storms and heavy rain, today was dry and calm. The journey north provided the usual Pheasants, Buzzards, Mallards and Mute Swans – all large birds, easy to see from the train. More unusual was the Kestrel seen a few kilometres south of Dalwhinnie.

Arriving in Badenoch and Strathspey, the landscape was much browner than last month with any last colour from the Heather now completely gone. Yellowing Birch trees provided most of the colour in the landscape, particularly when viewed against a background of Scots Pine forest. Occasional Roe Deer were seen along the trackside but no Red Deer or Red Grouse yet, and indeed no Whooper Swans at the Insh Marshes so far.

In Aviemore, the usual Hooded Crow x Carrion Crow hybrids were hanging around the derelict Santa Claus Land. Singing Robins provided the bulk of any background noise (apart from the calls of Jackaws), with ten or more counted in a 15 minute walk. Also present were my first two Redwings of the winter (with Blackbirds on the Rowans at the Aviemore Highland Resort), a Red Squirrel nearby, and six Woodpigeons feeding on Beech mast.

Arriving at Glenmore village, four Goosanders were on Loch Morlich at the beach end while 30 Mallards (and a Chicken!) were feeding at the Visitor Centre. Four Reindeer were being unloaded from a trailer and attracting quite a lot of interest from passers-by.


The first section of the Ryvoan Pass walk (which climbs up through Scots Pine plantations) was very productive with a flyover Crossbill followed by prolonged views of eight birds feeding on high cones, single Great-spotted Woodpecker, scattered Siskins, Redpolls, Goldcrests, Coal Tits and Chaffinches, eight Song Thrushes over the treetops and 62 Pink-footed Geese high over in the direction of Cairngorm. Further on, two Bullfinches were calling from a patch of natural pinewood.

The Green Lochan was the greenest I’ve ever seen it. That particular stretch was quite busy with several groups of cyclists passing in both directions. As a result, the only bird found was a single Meadow Pipit.  A big hairy caterpillar was on the path. However as the path headed back into the trees, the variety of birds increased. Two Jays were calling and the first Crested Tit of the day was heard. Another of the latter was at the hairpin bend and a third beside the path up to Rynetin. A Redwing seeped over just before Rynettin Cottage where a herd of Black Cattle was being grazed.

The pine forest beyond Rynetin held another Crested Tit, with two more in a mixed tit flock. That particular stretch had a huge amount of Black Flies Happily they disappeared by the time Forest Lodge was reached.

Rynetin Cottage

The view from up there

The walk past Cuchanlupe and Straanruie had the usual selection of common woodland birds. Rymore had one of only two Goldfinches for the day and a single Meadow Pipit (the “Wagtail field” has not been cultivated this year). Nine Redwings flew over the brow of the hill just before Aundorach but a single Mallard was the only sign of life on Tulloch Loch. A detour through a nice patch of woodland produced only a calling Great-spotted Woodpecker while Loch Garten was beautifully still but also devoid of any birds.
Two more Crested Tits were encountered along the Loch Garten to East Croftmore stretch – one at the Loch Mallachie turn-off and one at the “Dragonfly Lochan”. Single Mistle Thrushes were at Caggan and Croftnacarn. Then a Great-spotted Woodpecker was calling from an exposed branch near Gartenmore. Seven Pheasants and two Woodpigeons were feeding in a field next to the Spey and seven Greylag Geese headed south east (possibly to roost at Loch Garten).

Loch Garten

The train yard at Boat of Garten held six noisy Mistle Thrushes squabbling over the Rowan trees. A pair of Chaffinches were mobbing the Thrushes, which added to the drama. Meanwhile a Starling singing from the highest train signal was including Buzzard and Swift calls in its repertoire. Along at Milton Loch, 25 Mallards made the most noise but a Moorhen, a Little Grebe and a pair of Wigeon in full breeding plumage all lurked in quiet corners while the local Jackdaws gathered to roost.

Milton Loch

Impressions of Strathspey in October:
It's colder - but still plenty of insect life on the wing.
It's less colourful, although the yellow Birches and orange Bracken help a little, and some of the village gardens contain red and ornage leaved shrubs and trees. 
It's noisy in terms of singing Robins, cawing corvids and chittering tit flocks.
It's busy with people (although I think this was a holiday weekend).
Some old snow is still lying in the deepest corries but the tops are still snow-free.
It gets dark early, and suddenly. 

Full bird list for the day:

Pink-footed Goose, Greylag Goose, Wigeon, Mallard, Goosander, Pheasant, Little Grebe, Buzzard, Moorhen, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Kestrel, Jay, Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, Hooded Crow, hybrid Carrion x Hooded Crow, Goldcrest, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Crested Tit, Coal Tit, Wren, Starling, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Redwing, Mistle Thrush, Robin, Dunnock, House Sparrow, Meadow Pipit, Chaffinch, Bullfinch, Lesser Redpoll, unidentified crossbill, Goldfinch and Siskin (40 species).