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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, November 30, 2014

The full bird list for yesterday’s Strathspey trip was Mute Swan, Mallard, Goldeneye, Pheasant, Cormorant, Grey Heron, Buzzard, Snipe, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Feral Pigeon, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, Hooded Crow, hybrid Carrion x Hooded Crow, Raven, Goldcrest, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Treecreeper, Wren, Starling, Blackbird, Redwing, Mistle Thrush, Robin, Chaffinch, Bullfinch, Lesser Redpoll, unidentified crossbill, Goldfinch and Siskin (38 species).

Impressions of Strathspey at the very end of November:

It’s still colourful, albeit with more subtle shades including the mauve of the bare Birch twigs and rich brown of retained Beech leaves (especially in the big stand of this species just west of Loch Pityoulish).

It’s still mild (remarkably so) with a fair amount of insect life on the wing.

It’s still full of life with corvids, tits, thrushes and finches particularly evident, having banded together into groups to forage for food.
It’s quiet in some locations, with a real sense that the resident birds have moved out for the winter.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

It was damp and overcast from the train to Aviemore first thing this morning. However, as often happens, the weather improved and remained dry, bright, mild and still all day.
Notable sightings from the train included a "good" Hooded Crow (with a Carrion Crow) at Dalwhinnie and a pair of Mute Swans on Loch Insh. Birds around the centre of Aviemore included the usual Collared Doves, Jackdaws and singing Robins, a smattering of Blackbirds and Redwings on the hotel lawns and a group of finches (two Bullfinches, three Redpolls and some Chaffinches) feeding on Birch seeds.
A single Herring Gull was on the roof of the Cairngorm Hotel with 40 more (and two Great black-backed Gulls) in a field opposite the entrance to Granish dump.

Arriving in Boat of Garten, the first notable botanical record of the day consisted of three small patches of Meadow Coral among mown grass and plantains on the road verge. Other fungi noted along the road to Coylumbridge included numerous patches of Lesser Puffball and hundreds of small and larger patches of The Miller (ranging in colour from cream to yellowy-brown).
A Grey Heron flew up from the river just before Street of Kincardine. Nearby was the first Long-tailed Tit flock of the day.
Ten Goldeneye were on the big loop of river at Auchgourish. At one point, eight of the flock lifted off together, making a fantastic whistling, creaking sound. Four Mallards were also along this stretch. Across the river at Kinchurdy, the first big corvid flock (of several) of the day contained around 50 Rooks and 50 Jackdaws.
Approaching Craig Pityoulish, 18 Feral Pigeons were perched on overhead wires while a single MistleThrush was on farmland nearby. Two Snipe flushed from a marshy area near the road were perhaps the most notable record of the day.
Loch Pityoulish was flat calm, the only bird life consisting of a single Cormorant on its regular tree and a pair of Mute Swans in the furthest corner. Raven, Buzzard and Great-spotted Woodpecker were present in or over the nearby woods.
A lunch stop near Drumchork produced Goldcrests and Coal Tits in the conifers and two Crossbills "choop"ing overhead. Another Long-tailed Tit flock also passed through the area.
A small corvid flock near the entrance to Guislich Farm consisted of ten Rooks, five Carrion Crows, a Hooded Crow and four Hooded x Carrion Crow hybrids. 200 Jackdaws were commuting between the area around Drumintoul Lodge and the deer paddock at the Dell of Rothiemurchus while another big Jackdaw flock was over in the direction of Aviemore. Also in the Dell were Treecreeper, Pheasant and Buzzard. Meanwhile the only Woodpigeon of the day was at the Episcopal Church in Inverdruie. A singing Wren in Aviemore (the third of the day) served as a reminder that in just three months the breeding season will be starting all over again.

Friday, November 28, 2014

The activity at RSPB Abernethy this morning reminded me of a a childhood memory...

Later, a walk around Mugdock Park found four Goldeneye (including two bright males) back on the loch.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

A dark and dismal day as we approach the winter solstice. Still uncannily mild.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Struggled along to the doctor's late morning and walked back along the river. The only notable records were a Goldcrest feeding among Brambles and a Great-spotted Woodpecker in the big Sycamore at the entrance to the estate.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Only natural connection of late has been with what feels like a nasty Streptococcal throat infection. Bah!! Cough cough.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Noticeably cooler today with frost on the car windows first thing.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

A short walk along a swollen River Cart through south Cardonald this afternoon produced a Moorhen in a new spot 50m upstream of the Mosspark Station footbridge, six Redwings, a Grey Heron, a possible Kingfisher (heard only) and a Red Fox (which gave prolonged views as it sat out in the open on the opposite bank).

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Four Greylag Geese were over West Ferry at first light, heading inland. At Port Glasgow, at least two Pied Wagails were flitting around the frontage of the big hyperstore.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Remarkably temperate in WCS again today. Lots of activity in the Coats Memorial Church tower today with the pigeons and Jackdaws constantly shifting as the uws graduations took place down below.  

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A pleasant day in west central Scotland again today. A Buzzard flew low over the A8 at Finlaystone. Later, the west end of Paisley was bathed in warm evening sunshine.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Another incredibly mild day, with the temperature at 7am already 10 degrees Centigrade.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Took advantage of a mild and sunny day to walk home from Pollok Roundabout. Common birds were in the majority along most of the route. The only exceptions were a single Redwing just before Mosspark Station and a Moorhen (by no means regularly recorded) a little further west. The most interesting sighting actually concerned a fungus. On a south-facing bank of mown grass off Dowrie Crescent, were two white fruiting bodies. They were about 2-3 cm across with a short stem (less than 1 cm), prominent gills and a velvety texture. On checking the books, the most likely candidate seems to be Clitopilus prunnulus. This is a widespread and common species (although I'd never seen it before) known by its common name The Miller.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

A Grey Wagtail, A Dipper, a Goosander, a Cormorant and a Grey Heron were all at the chanel draining the south end of Strathclyde Loch into the Clyde this afternoon.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Two Coal Tits were in trees at the front of Glasgow Caledonian University. I seem to remember searching for them in vain last winter.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

A Kestrel was flying through the St James Interchange at midday. Then there were 34 Golden Plovers and 60 Lapwings beside the M74 at Strathclyde Country Park.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Main natural connection of today is happening 500 million km away.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Commuting in darkness these days, so natural connections hard to come by. However news from the web is that more Waxwings have reached Scotland (Fortrose, Black Isle).

Monday, November 10, 2014

A Pied Wagtail was feeding around a puddle on the flat roof of the entrance block at UWS Paisley today.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

A walk along the River Cart from Cardonald to Pollokshaws produced numerous highlights including a Dipper just 200 m from home (unusual here), a Cormorant in the usual tree, a Kingfisher showing well in Pollok Park, Grey Wagtails at two sites plus a surprising number of singing Great Tits, Starlings, Robins and Wrens.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Birds seen from the footbridge over the River Forth north east of Stirling town centre included a single female Goosander, a pair of Teal, a pair of Mallards and a Grey Wagtail. Meanwhile a Grey Heron was on the river at Bridge of Allan. In between, a Cormorant was high over the Wallace Monument. A tit flock in the university campus contained four treecreepers and a Goldcrest.

Friday, November 07, 2014

A Grey Heron flew under the Bridge Street bridge in central Paisley at lunchtime today. No sign of the Ravens at Coats Memorial Church.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

Looks like an influx of Little Auks down the east coast of England. Meanwhile a work colleague reports seeing a Kingfisher on the foreshore behind the old T mobile call centre in Greenock a few weeks ago.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

A lunchtime walk around the dams in lovely weather produced a Grey Wagtail plus all the usual species. No sign yet of Goldeneye though, and last week's Goosander appears to have been only passing through.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

The sightings from Saturday's trip have now been uploaded to Birdtrack, and the bird list for the day stands as follows: Whooper Swan, Greylag Goose, Domestic Greylag Goose, Wigeon, Teal, Mallard, Domestic Mallard, Red-legged Partridge, Red Grouse, Pheasant, Grey Heron, Hen Harrier, Buzzard, Water Rail, Moorhen, Lapwing, Feral Pigeon, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Great-spotted Woodpecker, Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, Goldcrest, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Wren, Starling, Dipper, Blackbird, Fieldfare, Redwing, Robin, Dunnock, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Lesser Redpoll, Goldfinch and Siskin (41 species).

Monday, November 03, 2014

Looks like the white stuff has started to fall in the cairngorms...

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Mammals seen on yesterday's trip included Roe Deer at several sites going north (and three at Insh Marshes), two Red Deer on the return trip and Rabbits both around Insh Marshes and along the railway line (both west of Kingussie and at Glebe Ponds).

Impressions of Strathspey (well Badenoch) in very early November:
It's very mild - although this year has been exceptional in that respect.
It's changing colour - with the heather moorland brown, the trees a patchwork of shades of green, yellow and brown, and the aforementioned Aspen trees golden-yellow.
It's still colourful in places - with odd Thistle and Devil's Bit Scabious flowers still present, as well as Rose, Rowan and Hawthorn berries.
It's still busy with at least some insects - the flowers of umbelliferous plants being a particular magnet for flies.
It's relatively quiet - but with occasional Robin, Wren, Blue Tit and Starling song, and with the seeps, chaks, honks and whoops of passing visitors.
It's quiet busy with the English mid-term holidays still on for some. 
It's gull-free - but surprisingly, Lapwings were present (two at Insh Marshes and 10 at Balinluig).

Saturday, November 01, 2014

With my usual walking companion incapacitated (Get well soon, CJM), today’s trip to Strathspey turned into a gentle wander around an autumnal Insh Marshes reserve. Thankfully the weather co-operated to create excellent conditions for birdwatching, in spite of time being limited by a temporary railway timetable and an increasingly early dusk.

By the time the train arrived in Kingussie, the day list already contained Whooper Swan, Pink-footed Goose, Pheasant, Red Grouse, Red-legged Partridge, Lapwing and Dipper. The walk up from the station produced flocks of Redwings and Fieldfares plus another Dipper at its usual spot on the Spey. Over eighty Jackdaws were at Ruthven Barracks and small numbers of Rooks were commuting around the area. Meanwhile a big Long-tailed Tit flock was in the trees in front of Gordon Hall farmhouse.

Almost the first bird encountered at the Insh Marshes was a Water Rail giving its characteristic squealing call from an area just east of the barracks. It was nearly drowned out by at least 120 Mallards concentrated in the Gordon Hall area of the reserve. These birds were very wary, all putting their heads up and quacking noisily in response to any activity on the nearby road. Their behaviour made me wonder if they are northern birds, newly arrived for the winter, rather than local residents.Also in that part of the reserve were two Lapwings which seemed to be displaying over a small area of marsh.

Heading up to the reserve entrance, the avenue of Aspen trees there provided a welcome splash of colour. Some of the trees lower down the reserve had lost most of their leaves but these were still resplendent with their golden-yellow foliage. Land birds in that area included Pheasant, Great-spotted Woodpecker, Chaffinch, Coal Tit, Blue Tit and Great Tit.
Looking out from the main hide, the Mallards in the Gordon Hall area were accompanied by at least 10 Wigeon and at least 20 Teal. Birds flying over the reserve included a few Rooks, a small group of Greylag Geese and five Feral Pigeons (including an all-white bird). Further east were a Grey Heron, two distant Whooper Swans and a further 100 Greylag Geese (alighting at Invertromie).
Small flocks of mixed thrushes were at various points around the reserve and several small groups of Redpolls flew over, calling. Back at the look-out, a ringtail Hen Harrier put on quite a show as it flew around “the island”, flushing the local Rabbits and Carrion Crows.
Back in Kingussie, the Glebe Ponds area held five Moorhens (perhaps indicative of local breeding) together with 70 Mallards and an assortment of domestic ducks and geese. The area around the station added Woodpigeon, (singing) Starling, House Sparrow and Collared Dove. The final sighting of the day concerned around 100 Jackdaws feeding in a cow field at Aultlarie.