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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.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Three Swallows were over garages in central Greenock today.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Once again, two House Martins were over the micro-colony on Cardonald Gardens, SW Glasgow today.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Spent  a lovely late summer's day in Edinburgh.  A Grey Heron was (successfully) catching fish among the Water Crowfoot in the Water of Leith. Back home one of the junior connectors reports that two House Martins were still around the Cardonald Gardens colony.

Friday, August 28, 2015

A single House Martin was twittering high above the house at 6pm today. Good to hear on the web that at least one pair of Sand Martins have successfully fledged a brood at Forbes Place, Paisley.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Gartnavel Hospital was quiet this afternoon. A singing Robin was the only sound, with no sign of any hirundines overhead.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Sixteen Greylag Geese were fighting up from the estuary as I drove down past West Ferry at 7am today - my first flock of the autumn.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Himalayan Balsam along the river is now in full flower and attracting hoverflies, their abdomens covered with pollen like a dusting of icing sugar.
Two Hoodie hybrids were at Bonnyholm Bridge.BBack home a Sparrowhawk swept silently through the estate.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Single Swallows were over the A8 at two sites in Port Glasgow this lunchtime. A Goldfinch was singing lustilly from a tree in the Caird Building Car Park in Hamilton this afternoon.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Both House Martin and Swallow were over the back garden during another sunny day in west central Scotland. I haven't seen a Swift for a week but birds were reported over Glasgow yesterday and Paisley today.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Spent a lovely mild, calm afternoon in Mugdock Park. Amazed at the absence of bird life. I don't think I saw a single bird (apart from Mallards and gulls on the pond) the whole afternoon (although it was primarily a family trip so I wasn't trying too hard). However the profusion of flowering plants (and attendant bees, butterflies and other insects) more than made up for it. Most notable were Rosebay and Greater Willowherb, Common Knapweed, Thistles, Oxeye Daisy, Corn Sow-thistle, Cow Parsley, Meadowsweet and Common Ragwort.


Friday, August 21, 2015

Two Ravens flew up and landed on the weather vane on top of Coats' Memorial Church at 4pm today.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

A mild day today in west central Scotland - still 18 degrees centigrade at 10pm.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The number of Tufted Ducks on the Murdieston Park dams has increased to at least 63. Monkey Flower has spread around the main dam, particularly in the north east corner.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Another sign of the imminence of autumn: the Mute Swan flock at Langbank is swelling and starting to look very impressive.
After last month's fledging of one Lesser Black-backed Gull chick, a new one has appeared on a neighbouring roof and is loudly begging to be fed all day.  

Monday, August 17, 2015

The meadows south of the motorway at Longhaugh Point are being harvested - a sure sign that the year has turned.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Still at least one bird at the Cardonald House Martin colony. this morning.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Spent an hour at RSPB Baron's Haugh this afternoon where the highlights were four Snipe, a Black-tailed Godwit, a Ruff and a Moorhen with tiny chicks. 


Friday, August 14, 2015

The full species list for yesterday's Strathspey trip was: Greylag Goose, Mallard, Pheasant, Sparrowhawk, Buzzard, Oystercatcher, Curlew, Black-headed Gull, Herring Gull, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Swift, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Jackdaw, Raven, Goldcrest, Blue Tit, Crested Tit, Coal Tit, Swallow, House Martin, Willow Warbler, Starling, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Spotted Flycatcher, Robin, House Sparrow, Pied Wagtail, Meadow Pipit, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, unidentified crossbill, Goldfinch and Siskin (36 species).

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Planned today's trip to Strathspey to coincide with the best weather of the week. Sure enough, it was a warm, sunny and mostly windless day.



The day started with four Swifts among Swallows and House Martins beside the A9 at Baldow. Thereafter, a short walk in Aviemore confirmed that the Sand Martin colony on the Spey behind the water works appears to have been deserted. It could be that the breeding attempts have already been completed for this year, but the relative absence of nest holes suggests that the colony may have been destroyed by the loss of part of the sandbank. Also, the lawns in front of the McDonald Strathspey Hotel were completely deserted where I would normally expect them to hold feeding corvids, thrushes etc

A quick walk around the hotel complex revealed no sign of Swift activity but a Pied Wagtail was shepherding a juvenile at the back of the main resort centre. Just north of the centre, three Oystercatchers were still in a damp field by the SNH offices.

The main walk of the day was along the road through Sliemore and on to just before Dorback Lodge. Some of the highlights were as follows:
Puffball and Elfin Saddle on the roadside verge at Badanfuaran.














Crossbills at four sites including one flock of twenty

Crested Tits at one site.
A single Spotted Flycatcher on wires at Dorback Schoolhouse.
A Raven high over Ellon.
Meadow Pipits at seven sites including 16 together on wires at Ballintuim.
Eleven Mistle Thrushes flying through a stand of pines south of Sliemore.
House Martins breeding at Blairgorm.
Lots of Willow Warblers, some in song.
Swallows around farm buildings and twittering on wires.
Buzzard young calling at at least two sites.
Goldfinches on ripening Thistle heads.
Six Greenfinches in a weedy field.
Butterflies were a constant feature of the day, particularly the Scotch Argus which was very common. Also recorded were a couple of Small Heaths, a single Common Blue and a single Small Tortoiseshell (both in particularly insect-rich field margins at Blairgorm). Moths were mainly of the micro variety, but a Poplar Hawkmoth was clambering over a Ragwort plant before flying off into the forest near Laggandhu.
Other insects included numerous bees (including Bumble Bee, Red-tailed Bumble Bee and numerous solitary bees), a couple of Bee Flies (no Bee Beetles I'm afraid) and just a single Soldier Beetle (but masses of Crane Flies, true flies etc).
Many of the nettles along the roadside were affected by the rust fungus Pucinnia urticata. This was evident in the large number of stems and leaves swollen into large, contorted galls.
Field Gentian in roadside verges around Muckrach and again near Sliemore.



Chicory in a neglected field of dock plants.
A Sparrowhawk disturbed whilst drinking from or bathing in a puddle, a cock Pheasant sunning itself in a sandy hollow, a Song Thrush foraging in a ditch and a Roe Deer munching quietly in a roadside meadow.
A Curlew out on the moor in the direction of Lurg.
Mammals for the day included two separate Roe Deer, a Red Squirrel at Laggandhu, regular Rabbit sightings and, sadly, a big Badger dead on the roadside between Garlyne and Blairgorm.
Flowering plants included White Clover, Red Clover, Tormentil, Cow Parsley, Pignut, Wild Carrot, Yarrow, Curled Dock, Foxglove, Herb Robert, Common Nettle, Daisy, Heather, Bell Heather, Ragged Robin, Devil's Bit Scabious, Foxglove, Common Ragwort, Spear Thistle, Marsh Thistle, Bugle, Buttercup, Birdsfoot Trefoil, Harebell, Honeysuckle, Chickweed, Wild Rose, Tufted Vetch, plus Bearberry and Wild Raspberry in fruit.
The day ended back in Aviemore with over 100 Jackdaws going to roost and a single Swift scything low over the railway station.
Impressions of Strathspey in August:
It's sunny (Hooray!).
It's full of insect life with various species flicking up from the path ahead or competing for space on flower heads.
It's colourful with many flowering plants in bloom.
It has elements of autumn with fungi starting to appear and birds flocking up

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Honeysuckle in the garden was attracting a good number of Bumble Bees today.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Two House Martins were over the South Cardonald colony when I checked this morning.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Awakened in the early hours by a Tawny Owl calling loudly from the woods adjacent to the house. The same thing has happened periodically over the years. I suspect a wandering bird arrives, calls a few time to see if a prospective mate is present, then moves on.

Sunday, August 09, 2015

News from the web is of Swifts still feeding young in Cumbria (as they were in Mayo last week). No sign of any over South Cardonald today. It has been a poor year for them. 
I notice, from a quick web search, that renovations on Ochil Road, Renfrew earlier this year were threatening one of only two Swift colonies in the town. I don't know what the outcome was.

Saturday, August 08, 2015

The journey home began first thing with a walk along Lough Lannagh to Castlebar. Sand Martins were over the car park and along the greenway (mixed with House Martins, at least some of which were this year's fledglings).

Friday, August 07, 2015

Took a trip to Westport this morning, a lovely, holiday town, full of colour and life. The river is particularly attractive but mostly devoid of life apart from a few eclipse Mallards. 
















Took a walk out of town in the direction of the coast. Didn't get too far but enjoyed lovely views of Crough Patrick and Westport Bay. A couple of Hooded Crows wee among the Rooks, Jackdaws and Starlings in rough fields on the edge of town.












In the afternoon, a walk around Castlebar produced the same species as before: Pied Wagtail (including an adult feeding young), House Martin, Swallow, Jackdaw etc

Thursday, August 06, 2015

Checked out of the hotel and took the LUAS tram over to Heuston Street Station. 











The train journey to Mayo was fairly unremarkable except to confirm that the typical railway verge plants are the same as at home - Rose-bay Willow Herb, Meadowsweet, Ragwort etc. 
On arriving in Castlebar, immediately noticed extensive hedges of naturalised Fuchsia magellanica, very much a feature of the west of Ireland (see photo and  map).
Spent the evening walking around Lough Lannagh and learning about the Swift project at the lodge.






Wednesday, August 05, 2015












Spent today in Dublin. Highlights were Trinity College Library and the Book of Kells. The other photos are of the General Post Office and O'Connell Bridge.


Tuesday, August 04, 2015

In Dublin for a few days. Too soon to make up my mind about how wildlife-friendly a city it is yet. Only sightings have been of rows of Starlings on wires near the airport, some big gulls on the Liffey and a Woodpigeon singing near Pearce Street.




Monday, August 03, 2015

Took a walk around South Cardonald to look for House Martin nests this morning. I reckon there are at least three nests - one on each of three adjacent houses in Cardonald Gardens.

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Another day spent at the marking table - the summer will be over at this rate! Only a male Blackbird kept me company (I wonder if he has a second or third brood on the go somewhere).

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Found myself in the centre of Paisley today where a high tide and heavy overnight rain had raised the water level in the Cart quite dramatically. Two Sand Martins were gleefully feeding over the floodwaters and still entering their nesting pipes at Forbes Place. 
News from the web is of two pairs of Bee Eaters nesting in a sand quarry in north Cumbria. Pity the news hadn't broken when I was down there last weekend.