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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.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

A Lesser Black-backed Gull was visiting the space behind an extractor fan on the roof opposite the Greenock office again this morning. There is almost certainly a nest tucked in there.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

One of the Paisley Ravens was dive-bombing passing gulls near the nest site this morning. The absence of any activity on the nest itself suggests that the young have fledged (or at least climbed/tumbled out of the nest, as they did last year).

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

A Grey Heron was flying up to Finlaystone from the shore at 6:45 this morning.

Monday, April 27, 2015

There was much wing-flapping going on in the Paisley Raven nest this morning. Assuming hatching took place on 2nd April, and going by the estimates in Ferguson-Lees, Castell and Leech (2011), I would expect fledging to take place between 7th and 12th May. However the books say that birds often leave the nest before they can fly, so I will be watching out over the next few days. Last year, the young left the nest on 28th April so the timing this year seems about the same.
This evening, a walk along the river produced a couple of interesting records in the form of a Grey Heron fishing behind the estate, a female Goosander a little east of there and a Common Sandpiper under the Mosspark Railway Station Bridge. 

Sunday, April 26, 2015

The full bird list for yesterday’s visit to Badenoch and Strathspey consisted of Greylag Goose, Domestic Greylag Goose, Wigeon, Teal, Mallard, Domestic Mallard, Goldeneye, Red-legged Partridge, Pheasant, Grey Heron, Buzzard, Osprey, Water Rail, Moorhen, Oystercatcher, Lapwing, Curlew, Common Sandpiper, Redshank, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Feral Pigeon, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Cuckoo, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, hybrid Carrion x Hooded Crow, Raven, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Skylark, Swallow, Long-tailed Tit, Willow Warbler, Blackcap, Wren, Starling, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Robin, Redstart, Wheatear, Dunnock, House Sparrow, Meadow Pipit, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch and Siskin (53 species). Other species seen on the journey were Mute Swan, Pink-footed Goose, Shelduck, Tufted Duck and Magpie.
Impressions of Badenoch and Strathspey in April are as follows:
It's showing signs of new life with green grass shoots appearing through last year's growth.
It's getting a little more colourful with some deciduous trees and shrubs (Hawthorn Rowan, Broom, Dog's Mercury etc) coming into leaf and a few more plants in flower (Gorse, Primrose, Dandelion).
It's altogether busier with Mallard, Osprey, Lapwing, Redshank, Black-headed Gull, Jackdaw, Rook, Robin, House Sparrow, Starling and Long-tailed Tit all showing signs of nesting or nest-building (although it remains to be seen how they will cope with the wintery weather which took hold in the three or four days following my visit).
It's still cold (although yesterday was remarkably sunny) with a cool, north-westerly breeze blowing all day and still quite a lot of snow on the tops.
It's noisier, with many species singing (particularly Willow Warbler, Chaffinch, Blackbird, Wren and Robin), but a few singing less than they were last month (Song Thrush and Mistle Thrush).  
Some birds are still on the move (e.g. the 20 Meadow Pipits seen in a field at Tolvah) but others (based on a significant fall in number of records) seem to have moved through or settled down to breed (Pied Wagtail, Lapwing). 
Some birds have clearly moved up to higher ground with the improving weather (e.g. Red Grouse, Raven). Red Deer seem also to have moved uphill as only one small group was seen.
It's still virtually deserted with only two pairs of walkers, two cyclists and two drivers encountered along the section between Feshiebridge and Drumguish.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Highlights of the train journey to Badenoch and Strathspey this morning included a flock of 200 Pink-footed Geese still in Strathallan and a Red-legged Partridge near Dowally. Black-headed and Common Gulls were at numerous points along the route but Oystercatchers were scarce and Lapwings completely absent (or at least not as visible as in previous weeks). Mammals seen on route consisted of Rabbit, Brown Hare, lots of Roe Deer and a small group of Red Deer.

Took a walk around Kingussie while waiting for the bus to Kincraig. A Willow Warbler singing along the main street was followed by another five at Glebe Ponds. Among the water birds there were a single Moorhen and a female Mallard with 12 young. Black-headed Gulls (perhaps the bird of the day due to their presence at so many sites) were here, on the marsh at the cemetery and on the pond at Lynchat (with four Greylag Geese).

The area around the bridge over the Spey at Kincraig held a Common Sandpiper, four Swallows, two of the Watersports Centre’s Domestic Mallards, a pair of Goldeneye and a Grey Heron. Nearby, a singing Blackcap was the only one of the day. The walk from there to Feshiebridge produced a Buzzard, a Great-spotted Woodpecker, several singing Willow Warblers, the first singing Redstart of the day, several Siskins and a Red Squirrel.

Birds encountered on the walk between Feshiebridge and Drumguish (via Ballintean and Corarnstilbeg) were mostly fairly predictable with lots of Chaffinches, Willow Warblers, Wrens, Robins etc. However a male and female Wheatear at the footbridge near Baileguish (with a Skylark singing nearby) were a welcome change (I see very few of them during my wanderings in the area). Also, a Cuckoo calling just west of Feshiebridge was my first local bird of the year. Meadow Pipits were widespread, mostly in small numbers although at least 20 were together on rough grassland near the road to Tolvah. Another Buzzard, another singing Redstart and some tree-nesting Starlings added variety. Notable by their absence were Pied Wagtails, so common last month but not encountered at all today.

Great-spotted Woodpecker and a singing Greenfinch were the most notable birds in the Drumguish area. Tromie Bridge was (again) quiet. Birds In the RSPB Insh Marshes area included a cruising Osprey (the third sighting of this species for the day) mobbed by a Raven, lots of displaying Redshanks, a few Wigeon and a passing Hooded Crow x Carrion Crow hybrid. A Water Rail called from the usual site east of Ruthven Barracks.

Heading back south, two Red-legged Partridges just before Newtonmore Golf Course and a probable Greenshank between there and Dalwhinnie were the highlights.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Two Shelducks, flying high over the A8 first thing were presumably heading inland to a breeding site.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The pair of Carrion Crows nesting on the Caird Building in Hamilton were attending their nest this morning. This afternoon and evening, the lovely weather that we have enjoyed for the last 2-3 weeks continued. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Another glorious day in west central Scotland. At home, a Blue Tit was taking feathers into the nest box on the back wall.
This evening, a walk along the Clyde at Erskine produced a Raven flying about the pylons and five singing Willow Warblers. On the way back to the car, a group of seven Swallows (my first of the year) twittered over. 
Also notable were naturalised Cowslips and a big container ship heading upriver. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

A real red-letter day today. Tried to avoid the traffic on the A8 by heading home via Auchmountain Road. At the top of the hill (just after the cemetery), two Common Cranes appeared flying north west, heading in the general direction of Helensburgh. The birds were so close, and the views so good, that I could make out the black and white facial/neck markings.
Once I had parked the car, I tried to find the birds again but without success. However a Cuckoo singing from above Knocknairshill was my first of the year and a nice consolation.
This evening, Moorhens were in two places, on the river and on Rosshall Park Pond. Meanwhile a female Mallard with four tiny ducklings near Rosshall School was my first breeding record of the year. Back home, a Blue Tit was taking nesting material into the box on the back wall.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Today's WeBS count at Murdieston produced two pairs of Mute Swans incubating, at least two pairs of Coots attending nests, two active Rook nests in the micro-colony, a Blackbird carrying food and a Chiffchaff singing. Meanwhile, a Blue Tit was taking nest material into the bird box at work.

The day ended with a glorious sunset over Barshaw Park.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Swifts being reported from various sites around Scotland, according to twitter.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Two Great Tits and a Coal Tit were visiting the garden feeders again today. Their agitated behaviour made me wonder if they were taking food back to young, although perhaps it is too early for that. Hopefully more natural food will become available now that the weather has warmed up.
An exceptionally loud series of high-pitched calls just over the garden fence proved to be being made by two Goldcrests displaying their crest feathers and hopping about in a very agitated state. I must try and find out if this behaviour is typical of a courting pair or rival males.
An afternoon walk along the river produced two Kingfishers, four Long-tailed Tits, a Great-spotted Woodpecker showing well, a hybrid Hooded x Carrion Crow, two Moorhens on Rosshall Park Pond (the most I have ever seen there has been one), two female Goosanders at the Levern / Cart confluence and the Mute Swan pair looking like they are settled on territory. 

Friday, April 17, 2015

Back in Edinburgh today.
A pair of Grey Wagtails were scolding a Magpie on the roof of a tenement in Stockbridge. I have seen birds feeding in the guttering of tenements in Greenock and elswhere. Is it possible that they could nest there as well?
Mute Swans were incubating on Inverleith Pond and a Willow Warbler was singing in Trinity.
This evening, a short walk on the Glennifer Braes failed to produce any Cuckoos but did turn up a male Reed Bunting and more singing Willow Warblers.

Thursday, April 16th, 2015

Ospreys laying in various nests around the country (according to reports on twitter).

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

A report from a family member of around 40 bats over Barshaw Park Pond at dusk tonight.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The final bird list for the week was: Mute Swan, Whooper Swan, Greylag Goose, domestic Greylag Goose, Canada Goose, Shelduck, Mandarin Duck, Wigeon, Teal, Mallard, domestic Mallard, Tufted Duck, Eider, Goldeneye, Red-breasted Merganser, Goosander, Red Grouse, Black Grouse, Pheasant, Red-throated Diver, Fulmar, Cormorant, Shag, Grey Heron, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Slavonian Grebe, Red Kite, Buzzard, Osprey, Moorhen, Coot, Oystercatcher, Lapwing, Curlew, Redshank, Snipe, Sandwich Tern, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Feral Pigeon, Stock Dove, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Kingfisher, Green Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Magpie, Jay, Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, hybrid Carrion x Hooded Crow, Raven, Goldcrest, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Skylark, Long-tailed Tit, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Blackcap, Nuthatch, Wren, Starling, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Robin, Stonechat, Wheatear, Dunnock, House Sparrow, Grey Wagtail, Pied Wagtail, Meadow Pipit, Rock Pipit, Chaffinch, Hawfinch, Bullfinch, Greenfinch, Linnet, Redpoll, Goldfinch, Yellowhammer, Reed Bunting and Corn Bunting (91 species).

The sites visited are shown in the map below: 

Monday, April 13, 2015

The latest New Naturalist is imminent...

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The first singing Blackcap of the year in Cardonald was heard at 10:00 today. An afternoon trip to Balgray Reservoir produced a singing Willow Warbler and a few other interesting birds including Reed Bunting, Cormorant and displaying Great-crested Grebes. Back to work tomorrow, but have managed to pack quite a lot of natural connections into my week off with over 90 bird species seen plus six mammals.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

An early morning stop at Hogganfield Loch produced nothing remarkable but at least two pairs of Whooper Swans still among the Mutes. Later, a walk from Polmont to Linlithgow via the canal towpath produced a total of 13 singing Chiffchaffs. The full bird list for the canal walk was: Mallard, Grey Heron, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Woodpigeon, Magpie, Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Chiffchaff, Wren, Blackbird, Robin, Dunnock, House Sparrow, Pied Wagtail, Chaffinch, Bullfinch, Goldfinch (22 species).

Friday, April 10, 2015

Another early start enabled me to get to a local Black Grouse lek just before dawn. As the light improved it became apparent that at least four males were present. They were much more active than I had witnessed before - possibly due to the presence of a female in the middle of the group. After about ten minutes I slipped away, leaving the birds to keep fighting.
The next stop was Rowardennan on the eastern shore of Loch Lomond. Five Goosanders were sailing serenely on the loch. Nearby, two pairs of Common Gulls were squawking loudly in reaction to a Herring Gull which had alighted on their nesting island. Two Pied Wagtails (presumably a pair) were bickering on the shore and a Great-spotted Woodpecker was drumming nearby.
Spent the afternoon enjoying the sunshine at Irvine. Notable sightings there were two Sandwich Terns repeatedly catching small fish at the mouth of the River Irvine, a male Stonechat in scrub behind the Beach Park dunes, singing Chiffchaffs at several sites and a surprising 33 Wigeons on the boating pond behind the Magnum Centre. There were plenty of common birds on the saltmarsh and mudflats opposite Irvine shore. Also present were five Grey Seals pulled out on the mud and a Roe Deer hiding at the edge of the marsh.
Heading home, two Hooded Crow x Carrion Crow hybrids were near Fairlie and the verges around Dalry were full of spring flowers including Coltsfoot, Lesser Celandine, Dandelion, Daffodil, Primrose and especially Butterbur (with the most extensive patches of the latter I have ever seen).

Thursday, April 09, 2015

An early morning trip to Old Scone found the area alive with songbirds. A female Hawfinch was in the top of a tree near the archway. A male joined it after a while and there was a brief bout of courtship feeding before the pair flew off together. A third bird flew over the area. Roe Deer and Rabbit were also present, with Brown Hares in the general area.
The next stop was Loch of the Lowes. The reserve was still closed so had to be content with a wander along the path on the south shore. Managed to spot an Osprey roosting in a dead Birch and heard a Green Woodpecker yaffling from the woods near the golf course. Also of interest were two Oystercatchers roosting on the roof of one of the hides.
Drove part of the way up Glen Quaich and found the area absolutely alive with Lapwings, Oystercatchers, Black-headed Gulls, Curlews, Greylag Geese and Canada Geese. A pair of Redshanks displayed at the head of Loch Freuchie and two Great-crested Grebes were a surprise on the open water.
Further up the glen were two Wheatears and lots of Meadow Pipts. Even further up were 8-10 very active Red Grouse (calling, displaying and chasing eachother) and a displaying Snipe.
Heading south, three separate Red Kites and a Raven were showing well in the Comrie area.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

A late morning visit to the SWT Falls of Clyde reserve produced a Jay, a singing Chiffchaff and a Peregrine calling overhead.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

A lunchtime trip to the Paisley town centre Ravens found two heads poking above the rim of the nest. One of the adults flew up and had a look into the nest but did not seem to deliver any food. The other adult called from a perch nearby. Down by the Cart, four Grey Wagtails were chasing eachother and looping over nearby tenements.
A quick check of the Leverndale Raven's nest found plenty of nest material in place but no sign of any birds in the area.
This evening, a walk along the Cart from Cardonald to Paisley produced four Kingfishers and a Chiffchaff singing at Bonnyholm.

Monday, April 06, 2015

Decided to take advantage of the beautiful spring weather by heading to Fife for the day. Arriving in the East Neuk, the sound of singing Corn Buntings started wafting through the car's windows almost immediately. Skylark song was also evident. However I failed to turn any stones or clods of earth in field corners into Grey Partridges.
In Crail, Fulmars were ensconced on the cliffs and a Linnet was singing from allotments above the shore.A Small Tortoiseshell was my first butterfly of the year.

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Around 50 Greylag Geese were heading north over the house at 10 this morning (I think these - and those seen over Ardmore Point and Balloch yesterday - must be passage birds that have wintered further south). All day, a succession of small birds including Great Tits, Robins and Feral Pigeons have visited the garden feeders. A trip over to Linwood revealed four Whooper Swans and a couple of dozen Greylag Geese still in the flooded field next to the old schoolhouse. This evening, a Cormorant was high over the river at Cardonald Place Farm (seems a strange date).

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Headed for Ardmore Point first thing and enjoyed a couple of hours wandering round the perimeter path. Best birds were the Slavonian Grebes with at least 22 present. These consisted of singles and small groups (including one of five individuals). Round at North Bay, a pair were displaying to eachother and pecking at pieces of seaweed (possibly a precourser to the weed-dance display). Two Red-throated Divers were also present and one was giving its evocative, wailing call. Perhaps the most notable record of the trip was a yaffling Green Woodpecker. The bird was calling from the vicinity of the "big house" and was heard to call three times in the space of ten to fifteen minutes. Other sightings included:
A flock of 38 Greylag Geese heading north.
A Stock Dove singing from mature trees and another feeding in "the paddock".
Up to ten Meadow Pipits feeding around a field pool.
A singing Chiffchaff
Seven Great-crested Grebes swimming together in a flotilla over in the direction of Helensbugh.
A Little Grebe close in to the south shore.

Friday, April 03, 2015

The Ravens in Paisley Town Centre were active again all day. This evening, a pair of Blackbirds were scolding a Magpie which got too close to what I assume is their nest site behind the shed.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

At lunchtime today, one of the Paisley Ravens flew from the nest site with an eggshell in its beak. Presumably this means that the young have hatched.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

My first Chiffchaff was singing in the garden at 12 noon today, quite late as I normally start hearing them in late March. However this is considerably earlier than the first date of 13th April in the very cold and late spring of 2013.