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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, June 30, 2015

Twenty-two Swifts were high over the west end of Greenock at 7:30am today, the most I have seen in the town.
At the other end of the day, two Grey Herons were soaring over the clifftop woods at Woodhall.
At home, a single House Martin was feeding high over the garden, over 20 mixed Bumblebees / Honey Bees were feeding on a single flowering shrub and an interesting moth visited the honeysuckle flowers.

Monday, June 29, 2015

A Grey Heron was over Woodhall on the way to work this morning.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

New cover art for the forthcoming New Naturalist title.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Marked today's wedding anniversary with a day in (mostly) sunny North Ayrshire. First stop was Ardrossan Harbour where interesting records included four Eider ducklings being accompanied by five females, three Rock Pipits including a fledged juvenile, two Black Guillemots showing well and a single House Martin buzzing around the flats at the entrance to the harbour (but no sign of any nests on the buildings concerned).
At "The Waterside", a Swallow was brooding either eggs or young in a nest under the covered walkway.
In Largs, four or five House Martins were feeding over the Gogo Water but a prolonged watch failed to confirm where they might be nesting.
At the end of the day, a single Gannet was feeding in the bay opposite "The Pencil".
Not many natural connections, but a day free of rain was a bonus in itself.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Had to go to a meeting in Tarbet this afternoon. It rained all the way up and back, but a Spotted Flycatcher was in the garden of the Tarbet Hotel and a pair of Swallows had chicks in the hotel basement.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Two House Martins were along Cardonald Gardens first thing. Some good birds were around uws a little later included five Swifts screaming through the tenements and two Ravens calling and flying around the spite of Coats Memorial Church. Probably most notable was an Oystercatcher calling as it flew past the main building.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

A day of two surveys started with a count of the water birds on the Murdieston Park dams. The number and variety of birds present were unexceptional, but there were plenty of broods of young around, consisting of Mallard, Coot and Mute Swan ( with Tufted Ducks, as usual, still to appear). Two Swallows and a House Martin were also notable. 
This evening, a survey of the 1km square between Cowcaddens and Port Dundas produced breeding evidence for Pied Wagtail, Swallow, Lesser Black-backed Gull and Oystercatcher plus a single Raven and a sizeable flock of Goldfinches (but no House Martins).

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Today's bright, sunny weather prompted a single House Martin to loop-the-loop over the Cardonald Gardens micro-colony first thing (I have looked for them every day over the past week or so but they NEVER seem to show in wet, cold or overcast conditions.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Four Swifts were feeding low over the house just before dusk (around 10pm) this evening.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Impressions of Strathspey in June (from last weekend):
It's more colourful, with the yellow flowers of Broom particularly noticeable.
It's more noisy with the sounds of squeaks and chatters coming from young birds but also with lots of song (most noticeably from Chaffinch, Willow Warbler, Song Thrush and Blackbird).
It's a great time to see birds in the pine forest (with Crested Tit and Crossbill both very evident).
It's a great time to build up a good bird list (with 60 species seen, compared to day-totals as low as 20 in winter).
It's biodiverse, with lots of insects on show plus mammals consisting of Red Squirrel, Red Deer, Roe Deer and Rabbit.
It can be quite inclement, with constant drizzle this week.
It's still mostly devoid of human life (away from the main centres) with virtually no-one seen through the forest, along the Tulloch Mhor road and down the anglers' path.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

A chilly day in Linlithgow produced Swallows and Sand Martins feeding low over the loch and a Pied Wagtail attended by a juvenile outside the public toilets behind the Kirkgate car park. A single Swift was over the high street.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Working in Dumfries today. Stopped brefly at Lochmaben on the way down where a Reed Warbler was among five warbler species present. Drove back via Wigtown Bay (where a distant Little Egret was showing well) and Pinwherry (where three Helmeted Guineafowl were pottering about along the roadside). Biggest "birds" of the day were two Hercules transport aircraft flying low beside the A75 west of Dumfries.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Some of the local Starling juveniles are moulting into their first winter plumage.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The juvenile Lesser Black-backed Gull on the roof opposite the office is wandering about, putting itself at risk of falling off.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Confined to the dining room table with on-line work today. Only company was provided by a pair of Blackbirds (one carrying food), a Collared Dove and a nice male Bullfinch. Thought I heard House Martins overhead on two occasions.

Monday, June 15, 2015

A Hedgehog was unfortunately a road traffic victim on the M8 off ramp at West Ferry first thing. At work, the nesting Lesser Black-backed Gulls on the roof opposite the office have their first mobile chick. Back home, a medium sized Ground Beetle, a Harvestman and an Earthworm were all nice to see in my normally sterile garden. 

Sunday, June 14, 2015

No time yet to write the report on yesterday's trip. However here are a few notes about the first third of the day:
Garden Warbler singing at the railway bridge in South Cardonald.

A House Martin leaving a probable nest in Cardonald Gardens.

A Blue Tit visiting a nest site in the porch of a shop in Nethybridge.

A fledged brood of Coal Tits along the river in Nethybridge was accompanied by a Treecreeper (suggestive of early flocking – or just the Treecreeper coming to investigate the begging calls) Another fledged brood of Coal Tits was at Duackbridge. The birds were very confiding, allowing a very close approach.

A Rook, a Jackdaw and a Greenfinch were feeding on Nethybridge football field.

Chaffinch song was a feature of Nethybridge village and the Abernethy forest.

Other birds in the Nethybridge area included:

A Robin carrying food,

An Oystercatcher calling overhead,

A Curlew calling in fields to the north

Two Pied Wagtails (presumably a pair) on a rooftop with one bird flattening itself against the roof with wings and tailed fanned.

Birds seen during a walk around Abernethy Forest included:

Single Crested Tits at three sites in

Singing Chaffinches outnumbering singing Willow Warblers 63:6

Singing Tree Pipit at four sites

A flock of at least 8 unidentified crossbills feeding in tree-tops. The sound of discarded pine cones hitting branches as they rained down from above was quite loud and very distinctive.

Only one Spotted Flycatcher was encountered during one hour walk spent in Abernethy Forest (although many more were seen at other sites later in the day). Other species consisted of Chaffinch (63 singing males), Coal Tit, Wren, Siskin, Crossbill (8), Goldcrest, Willow Warbler (6 singing males), Crested Tit (3) and Redstart (2).

Other wildlife in Nethybridge consisted of flowering Sweet Cicely and Broom and a yellow daisy growing in great profusion. Also lots of calls of young birds.

Other wildlife in Abernethy Forest included:

Many black slugs (attracted out of cover by the damp weather)
Violets and cotton Grass in flower, Bracken fronds nearly fully unfurled, Bilberry flowering in places,
A single Red Squirrel at Inchdryne.
A Green Woodpecker heard yaffling briefly along the Tulloch Mhor Road
Three broods of Coal Tits (including five and six) along the Tulloch Mhor Road (the latter being chased by a Willow Warbler)
Whinchat interacting with / chasing one of several Meadow Pipits along the Tulloch Mhor Road
31 singing Willow Warblers (19 singing Chaffinches) and one Blackcap along Tulloch Mohr Road
A few singing Tree Pipits and Spotted Flycatchers along Tulloch Mohr Road
A Yellowhammer singing on Heather moorland at the west end of the Tulloch Mohr Road with another singing from wires over the road at East Croftmore
Several Song Thrushes in song distributed between various sites
Four House Martins nest building on a house in Street of Kincardine
15 singing Willow Warblers (and 14 Chaffinches) were around Street of Kincardine
Dandelions, so bright last month, are now almost completely spent. Flowers present included Bilberry and Chickweed Wintergreen.

Swallows, Sand Martins, House Martins, Swifts, Black-headed Gulls, Pied Wagtails and Spotted Flycatchers all taking insects low over the Spey in cool, damp weather.
Two pairs of Oystercatchers alarm-calling from fields along the Spey.
18 singing Willow Warblers (and one singing Blackcaps) and 11 singing Chaffinches along the Spey
Jackdaws attending sheep in riverside fields
Ten Common Sandpipers at intervals all along the Spey between Boat of Garten and Aviemore
Pied Wagtails (and a single Grey Wagtail) at intervals all along the Spey between Boat of Garten and Aviemore
At least eleven Goldeneye were present in ones and twos along the Spey between Boat of Garten and Aviemore.
Two Red-breasted Mergansers (including one bird catching a fish and being mobbed by Black-Headed Gulls) near Kinchurdy Cottage
Two broods of Long-tailed Tits (and one of Blue Tits) along the Spey
An agitated Snipe was showing well (and possibly protecting young) in marshy ground near the Spey south of Boat of Garten
A flock of 6 Mistle Thrushes (presumably a fledged brood) fed on grassland near the Spey, then escaped to the treetops. This is a site where I have seen a large flock later in the year.
Small numbers of Lapwing, Oystercatcher and Curlew in fields along the Spey
A Song Thrush carrying food and an adult Pied Wagtail with young beside the Spey north of Aviemore
Starlings flocking on grassland north of Aviemore
Very small numbers of Herring Gulls around Aviemore
Roe Deer on Aviemore Golf Course (and also in Perth Station and Strathallan).
50 Red Deer near the Drumochter Pass railway sign.
A flock of 15 Greylag Geese (consisting of both adults and half-grown juveniles) was at Blair Atholl
Heather moorland still mostly grey-brown in colour but with some green coming through. Much Broom in flower (probably the dominant colour in the landscape) with Rowans also in flower and Birch trees now fully in leaf.
Four Song Thrushes, a Blackbird, a Starling (accompanied by a begging juvenile) and 8 Rooks were feeding (with 6 big Rabbits) on the hotel lawn along the main road through Aviemore.
Flowering plants in Aviemore included Violet and naturalised Welsh Poppy.
The full species count for the day was: Mute Swan, Greylag Goose, Mallard, Goldeneye, Red-breasted Merganser, Red-legged Partridge, Pheasant, Grey Heron, Oystercatcher, Lapwing, Curlew, Common Sandpiper, Snipe, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Herring Gull, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Swift, Green Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, Goldcrest, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Crested Tit, Coal Tit, Skylark, Sand Martin, Swallow, House Martin, Long-tailed Tit, Willow Warbler, Blackcap, Treecreeper, Wren, Starling, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Spotted Flycatcher, Robin, Redstart, Whinchat, Dunnock, House Sparrow, Grey Wagtail, Pied Wagtail, Tree Pipit, Meadow Pipit, Chaffinch, Bullfinch, Greenfinch, Redpoll (Common/Lesser), unidentified crossbill, Goldfinch, Siskin, Yellowhammer (60 species).

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Today's walk took place in constant drizzle but still produced lots of interesting sightings. Full report to follow tomorrow.

Friday, June 12, 2015

A busy day meant, sadly, no natural connections. However heading to Aviemore tomorrow (just as the weather seems set to turn).

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Spent a lovely day in sunny Dumfrieshire / South Lanarkshire. After the morning's work was done, the rest of the day was spent in Gretna (singing Pied Wagtail on the roof of the outlet village), Moffat (three Swifts over the old graveyard) and Biggar (a flock of 40 Feral Pigeons over the town centre).

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

A sunny day in Greenock, with lots of bird activity but unfortunately no Swifts present.
Back home, the Blue Tit nestlings have definitely fledged as I have heard no sound from the box for at least two days.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Two days of dry weather meant the grass really had to be cut. However the two clumps of Cuckoo Flower (the first I've ever had here) were carefully mown around.

Monday, June 08, 2015

A Robin was the only sign of life in the garden today. I wonder if the Blue Tits have fledged as the parents certainly don't seem to be around.

Sunday, June 07, 2015

The Blue Tit chicks in the box on the back wall of the house were peeking out of the entrance hole today. The adults were frantic in the garden, especially when any of the local cats appeared. However, by nightime, a least some of the chicks were still in the nest.

Saturday, June 06, 2015

An extremely blustery day here in west central Scotland.

Friday, June 05, 2015

After a slow start, many correspondents on the web are reporting very good numbers of Spotted Flycatchers (a very welcome turn-around in fortunes, if accurate).

Thursday, June 04, 2015

1 degree C in Aviemore this morning (!).

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

The Blue Tit chicks are still in the nestbox.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Single Swifts were over Houston and Crosslee as I drove over to Greenock this morning. Swallows and House Martins were feeding under Sycamores near Kilmacolm.

Monday, June 01, 2015

June 1st and fresh snow on the Cairngorms.