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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.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

A day of frost, snow and sleet. Ten Lapwings were hunkered down in a field near Longhaugh Point.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Frost to begin with, then sleety rain all day. Not like British Summer Time at all.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Busy working today so no natural connections (apart from two Dunnock, a Robin, a male Blackbird, two Magpies, a Feral Pigeon and a Woodpigeon visiting the back garden). 
Reflections on Strathspey in late March:
It's still fairly colourless, with the straw colour of dead grass and the earth-brown of heather dominating the landscape (although Birch trees coming into bud are now tinged maroon).
It's much noisier with various birds singing (including Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Coal Tit, Chaffinch, Meadow Pipit and  Greenfinches (in all the villages) particularly evident).
There is lots of evidence of wildlife spreading out from winter quarters to re-occupy farmland and other breeding areas.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

The full species list for yesterday was: Mute Swan, Whooper Swan, Pink-footed Goose, Greylag Goose, Teal, Mallard, Domestic Mallard, Tufted Duck, Goldeneye, Goosander, Red-legged Partridge, Pheasant, Grey Heron, Little Grebe, Sparrowhawk, Buzzard, Oystercatcher, Lapwing, Ringed Plover, Curlew, Redshank, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Herring Gull, Feral Pigeon, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Great-spotted Woodpecker, Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, Goldcrest, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Skylark, Long-tailed Tit, Wren, Starling, Dipper, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Robin, Dunnock, House Sparrow, Grey Wagtail, Pied Wagtail, Meadow Pipit, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Lesser Redpoll, Unidentified crossbill, Goldfinch and Siskin (55 species).

Friday, March 27, 2015

Decided to use an un-used day of annual leave to take a trip up to Badenoch and Strathspey. Divided up the day into a walk around the riverside and lochs north of Aviemore in the morning and a walk from Kincraig to Kingussie via Loch Insh in the afternoon. Among the notable sightings of the day included: Whooper Swans still present in small parties at various sites throughout the Insh Marshes; Greylag Geese at several sites including two pairs east of Dalwhinnie Distillery (one on a pool and the other on the moor), a pair at Pitmain Farm, Kingussie, four at Lynwilg House, two on Loch Alvie, two over Kincraig, eight over Kincraig Shinty Field, two over Lynchlaggan, two pairs over farmland east of Insh, seven toether on Loch na Deal-eich, a pair in a field at Tromie Bridge, 14 (seven pairs) in a field near the Insh Marshes Visitor Centre, a pair in a field in front of Gordonhall Farm, a pair on adjacent marshland, 33 in the field opposite Ruthven Barracks and two in the darkness over Kingussie Station; eight domestic Mallards at Loch Insh Watersports Centre; five Tufted Ducks at Loch Insh and a single on an un-named loch north east of Aviemore; Goldeneye at a large number of sites including five pairs and two singles along a stretch of the Spey north of Aviemore, five sub-adults on the un-named loch north of Dalfaber Golf Course, a pair on a little lochan in the woods, two males on Loch Alvie, a female at Kincraig Bridgea and a pair near the south shore of Loch Insh (with at least three more further out); a pair of Goosanders on the Spey at Dalfaber; single Little Grebes on the Spey at Aviemore and on the un-named loch north east of Aviemore; an interesting selection of waterfowl on the un-named loch northeast of the golf course consisting of Teal (6), Mallard (6), Goldeneye (5), Tufted Duck (1) and Little Grebe (1); a Sparrowhawk giving excellent views as it swept over the fields on the edge of Aviemore; Lapwings at various sites including through the Drumochter Pass and on moorland around Dalwhinnie; Oystercatchers at numerous sites including eight on Kingussie High School playing field, several along the Spey and a pair at Granish Farm; a Ringed Plover with eight Oystercatchers and a Curlew on the shingle spit at Dunachton Burn; a Redshank on the south shore of Loch Insh; Curlews and Oystercatchers on Farm fields near Insh and Lapwings on farm fields near Ruthven; a big gathering of birds on flooded fields near Pityoulish consisting of 40 Herring Gulls, 20 Black-headed Gulls, 10 Oystercatchers, 20 Lapwings four Teal and four Mallard; a big concentration of birds at Granish Tip with around 150 Herring Gulls, 100 Black-headed Gulls (one pair displaying to eachother), 30 Rooks and 50 Jackdaws (with another 200 of the latter at nearby Granish Farm); Pied Wagtails particularly widespread with two on Aviemore golf course, one in a cow field on the northern outskirts of Aviemore, one in a stony field outside Kincraig, two on Kincraig Shinty Field, one on the shingle spit at Dunachton Burn, one on the south shore of Loch Insh, one on a rooftop in Insh village; several Meadow Pipits on territory with at least two singing birds at the golf course and a display-flighting bird just north of there; a singing Skylark at the extreme north east edge of the golf course; singing Greenfinches in Aviemore, Kincraig, Insh and Kingussie; Long-tailed Tits at four sites; Mistle and Song thrushes at several sites including one of the latter running along a woodland path near Farr and another singing in the darkness at Kingussie Station; two Dippers at Ruthven Bridge and another in the centre of Kingussie; and the usual scattering of Rabbit and Roe Deer sightings (although ten of the latter in a small area of the Insh Marshes were notable) and a big Dor Beetle which blundered into the lights of Kingussie Station.
Impressions of Strathspey in March to follow...

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Carrion Crow nest in Hamilton had grown since yesterday, although neither bird was present.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Working in Hamilton again today. Welcomed by singing Blackbird and Goldfinch. A pair of Carrion Crows were building a nest on an access gantry near the top of the Caird Building. No doubt it will be removed when discovered by the authorities.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

A Raven passed low over the office in central Paisley first thing. A search at lunchtime revealed a nest at exactly the same spot as last year. One of the pair was on the nest at the time, with the other commuting between there and nearby rooftops. Meanwhile two Grey Wagtails were on the Cart at Forbes Place before disappearing over adjacent tenements. Finally, a Blackbird sang in the gardens to the north of the UWS campus. 

Monday, March 23, 2015

First back-garden Bumble Bee of the year today.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

A walk from Cardonald to Pollokshaws first thing this morning produced a number of interesting sightings including:
Kingfishers at four sites (although probably just involving two individuals).
Dippers at two sites: under Shawholm Bridge and on the river beside Holmbank Avenue.
Recently-used Sparrowhawk plucking areas at two sites.
New additions to some of my 1km square species lists including Kingfisher and Mute Swan for Cardonald, Jay for Pollok Country Park (sw corner) and Buzzard for Pollok Country Park (visitor centre).
Greenfinches singing at four sites.
Magpies, Carrion Crows and Jackdaws all showing signs of nest-building.
A pair of Mute Swans at a new site behind Cardonald Animal Re-homing Centre.
Pre-migration, tree-top assemblies of winter thrushes including 40 at Linthaugh road bridge (consisting of 15 “chak”-ing Fieldfares and 25 singing Redwings) and 15 Redwings (singing) near the east gate of Pollok Park  (with c40 singing Starlings in another tree).
Drake Goosanders at two sites (Pollok Country Park and Holmbank Avenue), possibly local breeders with mates already on nests.
A Jay flying up from the ground just east of the M77 underpass.
A pair of Buzzards displaying over Pollok Park.
Male Mallards greatly outnumbering females (the latter presumably on eggs).
A Grey Heron in the upper branches of a bare tree, being mobbed by around 20 corvids.
No summer migrants yet.

The total bird list for the walk was: Mute Swan, Mallard, Tufted Duck, Goosander, Grey Heron, Buzzard, Moorhen, Coot, Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Feral Pigeon, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Kingfisher, Magpie, Jay, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, hybrid Carrion x Hooded Crow, Goldcrest, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Wren, Starling, Dipper, Blackbird, Fieldfare, Song Thrush, Redwing, Mistle Thrush, Robin, Dunnock, House Sparrow, Grey Wagtail, Chaffinch, Greenfinch and Goldfinch (39 species)

Saturday, March 21, 2015

For once, a full day of sunshine coincided with a day off work, allowing some interesting natural connections. Highlights of a trip to Lochwinnoch and Castle Semple included Whooper Swans and Greylag Geese at the Old Schoolhouse, singing Reed Buntings at Aird Meadow, lots of Wigeon on Barr Loch and flowering Coltsfoot near the entrance to the RSPB reserve. A later visit to Balfron produced a pair of Oystercatchers looking like they might be planning to breed on a ploughed field. The full bird list for the day consisted of the following 37 species: Mute Swan, Whooper Swan, Greylag Goose, Wigeon, Mallard, Tufted Duck, Goldeneye, Grey Heron, Buzzard, Moorhen, Oystercatcher, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Woodpigeon, Magpie, Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, Raven, Goldcrest, Blue Tit, Coal Tit, Wren, Starling, Blackbird, Mistle Thrush, Robin, Dunnock, Pied Wagtail, Chaffinch, Bullfinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Siskin and Reed Bunting. Oh, and the first frogspawn of the year has appeared in the silver glade pond.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Lots of birds on the move on  the way up from Greenock to Paisley this lunchtime. Two Magpies and a Carrion Crow were nest building in Erskine while a Pied Wagtail was giving its cheerful little call nearby.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

A Greenfinch was singing outside the house at 07:00, with another two heard on arriving at UWS Hamilton 40 minutes later. In between, a Pied Wagtail was on the off-ramp from the A77 to the M77 extension. Also today, there appears to have been an arrival of Chiffchaffs into central Scotland.

Wednesday March 18, 2015

Today was a really beautiful day in west central Scotland with glorious, warm sunshine all day. In fact, it has been a week of meteorological and astronomical sights with the Aurora Borealis on Tuesday, a Super Moon tomorrow and solar eclipse on Friday.
Tonight, a pair of Common Frogs were in the back garden pond.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The species list for Saturday's Strathspey visit was: Whooper Swan, Greylag Goose, Domestic Greylag Goose, Teal, Mallard, Domestic Mallard, Red-legged Partridge, Red Grouse, Buzzard, Moorhen, Oystercatcher, Lapwing, Curlew, Redshank, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, Goldcrest, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Crested Tit, Coal Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Starling, Dipper, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Robin, Dunnock, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Bullfinch, Greenfinch, unidentified Crossbill, Goldfinch and Siskin (41 species).

Monday, March 16, 2015

Impressions of Strathspey in March:
It's getting noisier, with lots of birds breaking into song.
The snow is retreating, with only a few patches down to ground level in the Drumochter Pass.
It's still fairly monochrome, with the first shoots of spring not yet through.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Heading west from Upper Raitts, the landscape was rough and undulating with heather moorland broken up by extensive patches of Juniper scrub. Birds were fairly scarce with only Chaffinch, Coal Tit, Robin and Buzzard recorded (although a low cackle was probably made by a couple of Red-legged Partridges). Repeated scans of the snow-covered tops to the north failed to turn up any other raptors.
Dropping down through Tom Baraidh Wood, the variety of birds increased with Mistle Thrush, Crested Tit, Crossbill species, Siskin, Coal Tit and Goldcrest all present. Long-tailed Tits were building a nest in a tree next to the Gynack Burn (a second pair constantly interrupting the process). Walking up to Pitmain Lodge, the ubiquitous Chaffinches and Coal Tits continued to be heard and seen. However Dippers refused to appear, possibly because the river banks there have been subject to recent strengthening works. At Pitmain Lodge, a male Bullfinch was singing from right at the very top of a tall conifer. I kept watching for Dippers all the way back to Kingussie but none appeared.
A quick detour to Ruthven Barracks before the train arrived produced at least six pairs of Rooks attending nests in the conifer belt south of the level crossing, five Oystercatchers over the river, five Lapwings near the barracks, 24 Whooper Swans at Gordonhall and a Dipper at Spey Bridge (at last).
Heading south, the fields at Pitmain Farm held 60+ Woodpigeons, 30+ Oystercatchers, eight Greylag Geese and three Rabbits, several small parties of Greylag Geese were between Kingussie and Newtonmore, a few Rabbits also there and four Red Deer hinds near Drumochter.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Today's Strathspey trip was notable for the weather - sunny and dry, with virtually zero percent cloud cover but still cold (particularly when exposed to the wind). The journey north was notable for Wigeon and Shelduck on trackside pools (especially in Strathallan) and the usual Pheasants plus newly arrived Oystercatchers and Black-headed Gulls (especially in Highland Perthshire). With the snow retreating, trackside Red Grouse and Red Deer were much less numerous with only two of the former seen (just south of Dalwhinnie). Similarly, Ravens were absent from their usual station in the Drumochter Pass. Roe Deer, however, were common and a Brown Hare was south of Kingussie.
Lapwings and Oystercatchers appeared again around Newtonmore with two Red-legged Partridges a nice addition. 
Kingussie seemed to be full of birds with singing Chaffinches and chirruping House Sparrows the most evident. Thirty Jackdaws rose to mob a Buzzard which appeared over the Main Street. At the Glebe Ponds, two Black-headed Gulls were new, and a single Moorhen emphasised that this is one of the most reliable sites in the region for the species. Other village birds included Dunnock, Robin, Collared Dove etc.
Kingussie Cemetery had two pairs of Oystercatchers (classically calling from the cemetery walls) and a singing Greenfinch. The extensive marsh to the east of there held up to a dozen Teal, a few Mallards, Lapwings and Oystercatchers and what seemed to me to be a very early pair of Redshanks (must check the books). 

The main marsh across the road held calling Curlews and two overflying Greylag Geese. Lynchat Loch had a pair of Mallards and the village there had more House Sparrows plus singing Greenfinch and Chaffinch.
Two pairs of Buzzards were over the underpass behind Lynchat. Climbing up past the souterrain, a group of 20 Carrion Crows were attending the sheep flocks with two Jackdaws and a Lapwing also present. Over to the west, a distant song might have been from a Redwing. Looking south, the views to the Cairngorms were fantastic, with the Insh Marshes spread out in the foreground.

(Part II tomorrow).

Friday, March 13, 2015

Spring seems to have sprung at the UWS Paisley campus with Blackbird and Wren singing and a Mistle Thrush behaving like there may be a nest nearby.

Thursday, March 12, 2015


Wednesday, March 11, 2015

A frosty start today.
An Osprey pair already back in Tayside.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

After several years of promising to do so, my neighbour has finally taken down the enormous spreading Sycamore that was in his back garden. It has been reduced to a bare stump, and the branches chipped and spread on the weedy patch at the entrance to the estate. The tree was easily 100 years old, and had no doubt lived through the demise of the old Cardonald Place Farm, the establishment of South Cardonald after WWII and the building of our own estate. It was the last of the four great trees which were such a feature of the area when I moved here nine years ago. No doubt the arguments for its removal were the same as those for the other three_ a mixture of safety and amenity. But today I feel greatly diminished by its loss.

Monday, March 09, 2015

A lunchtime walk around the Murdieston dams in blustery conditions found numbers of Herring, Lesser black-backed and Black-headed Gulls all increased since last month. Three Great black-backed Gulls provided a good contrast as they floated next to their smaller relatives,
At home time, 50 Starlings were in a shifting flock over the Sugar Sheds with a few smaller groups flying in to join up.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

Seven Common Frogs in the garden pond today including a pair in amplexus.
A walk along the river this afternoon found yesterday's Song Thrush still singing beside the old Cardonald Place Farm and a Cormorant fishing between there and Mosspark Railway Station.

Saturday, March 07, 2015

Sand Martins have arrived in the south west of England.
A short walk up to Crookston Castle this afternoon found quite a collection of birds exploiting the scrubby area just north of there including a single Fieldfare, a loose tit flock (containing Long-tailed, Great and Blue Tits), three Bullfinches, ten Greenfinches and a couple of Chaffinches.
The river was swollen due to recent rain and was consequently devoid of birds. The woods were full of Snowdrops with naturalised Daffodils and a wild Plum tree just coming into bloom.

Friday, March 06, 2015

The first few Ospreys, Wheatears and White Wagtails have been reported over the past few days.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

A Cormorant was high over the White Cart Viaduct at tea time tonight.

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

After the frost of the past few days, today was one of warm spring sunshine.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

A small flock of Lapwings were hunkered down against the wind and snow on the sands near Finlaystone first thing.

Monday, March 02, 2015

A Mute Swan was an unexpected sight on the flooded dry dock at Victoria Quay, Greenock this lunchtime.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

The full bird list for yesterday's Strathspey trip consisted of: Whooper Swan, Greylag Goose, Mallard, Tufted Duck, Goldeneye, Goosander, Red Grouse, Pheasant, Buzzard, Herring Gull, Feral Pigeon, Collared Dove, Great-spotted Woodpecker, Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, Raven, Goldcrest, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Crested Tit, Coal Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Wren, Starling, Blackbird, Robin, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, unidentified Crossbill, Siskin and Reed Bunting (33 species).
The only natural connection today concerned a single Pied Wagtail on the pavement near Cardonald Parish Church.