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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.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

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).


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