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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, February 28, 2015

The weather forecast for today's Strathspey trip was for rain all day. In the event it stayed dry until about 3pm, by which time the bulk of the days walking had been done. Many of the most interesting sightings were from the train up including my first inland Oystercatchers and Black-headed Gull of the year, 200 Pink-footed Geese, two Shelduck and a dozen Wigeon near Carsebreck, two groups of Whooper Swans (of 10 and 12) on the Insh Marshes, the usual Red Grouse and Ravens over Drumochter summit and numerous sightings of Red Deer, Roe Deer and Rabbit (including a striking piebald one of the latter).
The ski car park once again failed to produce any Snow Buntings in spite of searching. A consolation was three Red Grouse giving very good views as they displayed to each other. Birds in the forest included Crested Tit, Crossbill and Siskin (the latter seem scarce this winter). Birds on Loch Morlich consisted of Mallard, Tufted Duck and Goldeneye (with Goosander on the Spey). Surprisingly, no Dippers were seen, in spite of searching. The absence of Grey and Pied Wagtails was less of a surprise. A big Wood Ant nest was completely inactive. A dozen or more Herring Gulls were circling over Aviemore. Singing birds included Great, Blue and Coal Tits, Collared Dove, Wren and Robin. 
Heading south, there were groups of Greylag Geese at Kincraig (five) and Pitmain Farm (c100).
Some early impressions of Strathspey in late February consisted of:
It's subdued in colour with the heather patches earth brown and the grass dull straw.
It's still mostly quiet, with birdsong, if present, only muted.
Its showing evidence of flood damage - possibly due to melting snow.

Friday, February 27, 2015

A Pied Wagtail was singing quietly (but still audible above the building works) at UWS, Paisley today.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Two Long-tailed Tits were in the car park next to the old Transport Museum today.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Two Buzzards beside the M8 today, one perched opposite the Erskine Bridge off-ramp and a second flapping over the St James Interchange.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Another day of low temperatures, sunshine and wintery showers. Two Common Frogs were in the garden pond but there was no sign of any spawn as yet.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Today began with Starlings and a lone Pied Wagtail singing from the roof of the County Hall building in Lambeth. A walk through St James's Park then produced a riot of exotic wildfowl including Black Swan, Egyptian Goose (one pair with four young), Bar-headed Goose, Barnacle Goose, Hawaiian Goose, Snow Goose, Red-breasted Goose, Ruddy Shelduck, Shelduck,  Pintail, Wigeon, Red-crested Pochard, Hooded Merganser and four pelicans! (but also including genuinely wild species, namely Mute Swan, Canada Goose, Greylag Goose (+/-), Goldeneye, Mandarin (-/+), Cormorant, Great-crested Grebe (nest-building) and Ring-necked Parakeet).

A day trip to Brighton produced only common town and village birds, but the train journeys yielded interesting botanical records including Primrose in flower and Cuckoo Pint in leaf.
Back in London, a walk across Vauxhall Bridge produced numerous Cormorants flying in squadrons over the Thames and another Ring-necked Parakeet calling from the grounds of Lambeth Palace.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Highlights of a long train journey today were five Whooper Swans west of Dunbar (with two more in fields north of Durham and a flock of Lapwings near Alnwick.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Wren, Coal Tit, Robin and Goldfinch were singing during a short walk along the river this morning. All quiet in the pond.

Friday, February 20, 2015

A walk down to the centre of Paisley this lunchtime found the river level considerably higher than normal (I'm not sure why) with the "duck island" at Forbes Place almost completely inundated. Two Mute Swans were feeding peacefully next to the cemetery embankment.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

A kerfuffle in the Silverglade Pond this lunchtime proved to be caused by at least eight Common Frogs jousting with eachother, presumably arguing about mating rights. Every so often, all the frogs would stop fighting and float motionless for a few minutes before resuming their fighting.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

A drake Goosander was hauled up on a bank at the Hammils today - they have bright orangey-red feet.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Spent far too long at work today, so no daylight for natural connections. However news from the web is of more Lapwings and Oystercatchers moving inland, and more Song Thrushes and Mistle Thrushes singing.

Monday, February 16, 2015

All the local gulls rose squawking loudly into the air over west Greenock at 8am as a female Sparrowhawk shot through. 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

The usual walk along the river in South Cardonald this afternoon produced three notable sightings:
(1) A Little Grebe just downstream of the Mosspark Station Bridge (moulting into summer plumage).
(2) A Chaffinch singing strongly (the first I've heard locally) from the fragment of pine woodland between the river and Linthaugh Road (at a spot where I often encounter the species).
(3) A pair of Mute Swans feeding contentedly just downstream of the Cardonald Place Farm Bridge (only my second record of this species in ten years of watching this area).

Saturday, February 14, 2015

A mild spring day in Linlithgow and Bo'ness produced numerous singing birds and a general feeling of re-awakening after the winter. One of the first birds of the day was the long-staying Long-tailed Duck giving excellent views as it plowtered in Linlithgow Loch just a few meters offshore. Nearby, a drake Goldeneye was in vigorous display. A group of Goosanders in the extreme south east corner of the loch included the recently-arrived female Smew. Presumably the bird seen in the last four or five winters, it gave great views, again down to a few meters.
Walking over the fields to Bo'ness, Bonnytoun Farm again failed to produce any Tree Sparrows. Bo'ness itself was full of common birds. The foreshore area produced some good sightings including a female Red-breasted Merganser, a male Goldeneye and a Little Grebe on "the Dock", a Grey heron in the harbour and Teal, Mallard and Shelduck on exposed mud. A patch of disturbed ground associated with recent waterworks held a pair of Bullfinches, two Redwings and an  immature Pied Wagtail (moulting into adult plumage and showing a lemon-yellow face). Redwings were actually encountered at several other sites, including at the railway bridge just a few hundred metres from home.Perhaps the best sighting of the day concerned nine Golden Plovers circling in low cloud over the "windmill field" next to Fishers' Brae. Also notable nearby was a mixed flock of nine Mistle Thrushes, four Redwings and eight Starlings on wires. The complete bird list for the day was as follows: Mute Swan, Shelduck, Teal, Mallard, Domestic Mallard, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Long-tailed Duck, Goldeneye, Smew, Red-breasted Merganser, Goosander, Cormorant, Grey Heron, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Buzzard, Moorhen, Coot, Oystercatcher, Golden Plover, Curlew, Redshank, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Herring Gull, Feral Pigeon, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Magpie, Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Wren, Starling, Blackbird, Redwing, Mistle Thrush, Robin, Dunnock, House Sparrow, Pied Wagtail, Chaffinch, Bullfinch, Greenfinch and Goldfinch (49 species).

Friday, February 13, 2015

Astronauts on the International Space Station have taken a lovely photograph of the Aurora Borealis over Scotland.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The local Mistle Thrush was leading a one-bird spring chorus at 05:45.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Numbers of Tufted Ducks and Black-headed Gulls have begun to swell on the Murdieston Dams. A Pied Wagtail was skipping about the Town Dam. 
News from the web is of Oystercatchers and Lapwings moving into the straths.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

A Crested Tit was on the Abernethy feeder first thing, but was soon seen off by the arrival of the local Coal Tits. 
Garden wildlife at home consisted of the usual Feral Pigeons, Collared Doves, Blackbirds, Blue and Graet Tits, Dunnock, Robin and Grey Squirrel.

Monday, February 09, 2015

After two very cold days, today was much milder (seven degrees centigrade at 9am). A Mistle Thrush responded by singing strongly just over the back fence. He was still singing at dusk, as was another individual at Seedhill Playing Fields in Paisley. In between, a trip to Callander produced all the usual village birds plus a single darke Mandarin at "the Meadows".

Sunday, February 08, 2015

An early start at Ardmore Bay found the tide well out, the sea choppy and a low sun all making viewing dificult. As a result, only five Slavonian Grebes could be found. These were accompanied by a good selection of wildfowl including Wigeon, Teal, Mallard, Goldeneye, Eider, Red-breasted Merganser and Shelduck (but unfortunately no Long-tailed Ducks or Pintails). Greenfinches were numerous and breaking into song. Other species singing included Great Tit, Blue Tit, Wren, Woodpigeon, Starling and Chaffinch (the latter, my first of the spring). Snowdrops were flowering on short grass near the northernmost point.
Over at Jamestown, four drake and two duck Mandarins showed themselves in a hidden corner. It is amazing how elusive this species can be. Other birds in the area included Grey Wagtail and Goosander. The total species count for the day was: Shelduck, Mandarin Duck, Wigeon, Teal, Mallard, Eider, Goldeneye, Red-breasted Merganser, Goosander, Pheasant, Cormorant, Shag, Grey Heron, Slavonian Grebe, Buzzard, Oystercatcher, Curlew, Redshank, Black Guillemot, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull. Feral Pigeon, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Magpie, Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, Goldcrest, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Wren, Starling, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Redwing, Mistle Thrush, Robin, Dunnock, House Sparrow, Grey Wagtail, Rock Pipit. Chaffinch, Greenfinch and Goldfinch (48 species).

Saturday, February 07, 2015

A frosty morning around the mouth of the River Leven produced some good sightings including seven Little Grebes, lots of Goldeneye and Goosander plus singing Blue Tit, Great Tit and Coal Tit. Snowdrops were flowering in the woods. The full bird list for the morning was: Mute Swan, Muscovy Duck, Mallard, Domestic Mallard, Tufted Duck, Goldeneye, Goosander, Cormorant, Grey Heron, Little Grebe, Buzzard, Moorhen, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Feral Pigeon, Woodpigeon, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Magpie, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Blackbird, Robin, Dunnock, House Sparrow, Chaffinch and Goldfinch (32 species).
A Crested Tit on the Abernethy feeder this evening was briefly joined by a second. The first bird arrived when the feeder was empty, but succeeded in holding off a Coal Tit for a few minutes.

Friday, February 06, 2015

A female Blackbird appeared in the garden today and was quite bold as she explored the new territory. The resident male seems to have accepted her.
Keeping an eye on the Loch Garten feeder, it was evident that a Crested Tit only appeared when the other birds had disappeared (and was then displaced with ease by an arriving Blue Tit).

Thursday, February 05, 2015

A Common Frog was under the ice in the silverglade pond first thing. I carefully lifted an edge of the ice to leave a breathing gap / escape route. Visitors to the garden feeders included two Woodpigeons.

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Another cold one today but really noticeable how light it is getting these mornings. In Greenock, two Dunnocks were singing almost full spring songs.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Two Buzzards showed well as I drove down to Greenock this lunchtime. Once there, a Pied Wagtail was flitting about outside the District Court.

Monday, February 02, 2015

The final species count for Saturday’s Strathspey trip was as follows: Mute Swan, Greylag Goose, Mallard, Red-legged Partridge, Red Grouse, Black Grouse, Pheasant, Sparrowhawk, Buzzard, Feral Pigeon, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, Raven, Goldcrest, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Wren, Starling, Dipper, Blackbird, Robin, House Sparrow and Chaffinch (27 species).

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Removed a huge mass of Iris roots from the garden pond this afternoon, clearing some water surface for the Common Frogs which should be coming to breed soon. The root ball is currently sitting on the lawn next to the pond in the hope that any displaced small creatures will be able to crawl back in.