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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, March 31, 2016

The latest addition to the New Naturalist series:


Wednesday, 30 March, 2016

Birdsong is starting to peak in south Cardonald with all the resident species involved. The dawn chorus this morning was very impressive. Only the migrants to join in now.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

A Chiffchaff was singing outside the house when I arrived home this evening.
Later, a Ring-necked Parakeet was calling in Victoria Park when a Sparrowhawk glided silently into a nearby tree.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Had to spend my holiday Monday catching up on paper work. Had the video feed from RSPB Abernethy in the background and picked up the following sounds:
Chaffinch: song from 08:45
Curlew: song at 09:00
Meadow Pipit: song about 10:30
Steam train: whistle at 10:50
Carrion Crow: call at 12:00
Crossbill: flight call at 14:30

Later, my first Chiffchaff of the year was singing from a Poplar near the railway line in South Cardonald.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

The first day of British Summer Time meant more light in the evening. Had a dusk walk along the river which produced a single Collared Dove at the unusual site of Bonnyholm.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

A very soggy walk along the river failed to reveal anything of note. The Mute Swans which have been present recently were nowhere to be seen, although I notice from my notes that wandering pairs have visited the area in each of the previous two Marches.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Two clumps of frogspawn were in the silverglade pond this morning. This is the latest first laying date since I created the pond in summer 2006. First dates over the last nine years have been:

21st March 2015
8th March 2014
3rd March 2013
22nd February 2012
9th March 2011
19th March 2010
6th March 2009
2nd March 2008
18th March 2007

Managed to squeeze in a walk around Mugdock Park this afternoon. Best birds were a displaying Buzzard and two Meadow Pipits on Peitches Moor, a good total of eleven Goldeneye on Mugdock Loch and a Treecreeper near the castle. 

Thursday, March 24, 2016

An evening walk around Ralston produced a strangled call near the gates of the golf club which may have been the "Kee-wick" of a female Tawny Owl.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Two Mute Swans were again on the river behind the house first thing. Spent the rest of the day in Edinburgh where a walk across the Meadows was accompanied by the almost ubiquitous sound of singing Goldfinches. The Redwings which visit there in autumn and spring appear to have moved on.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Todays outing was to the Cairngorms where the highlights were: very confiding Ptarmigans at two sites, Red Grouse also showing well, lots of Whooper Swans and Greylag Geese still on Insh Marshes, plenty of Song Thrushes in Aviemore, a Common Frog and a Dor Beetle along the Alt Mor trail, three Dippers at two sites plus Crested Tit and Crossbill at Loch Morlich.
The full account was as follows:
Twelve Common Gulls at Blair Atholl showground.
20 Jackdaws on cropped grass near Blair Atholl with another seven at Newtonmore and 25 around the centre of Aviemore.

No Red Grouse in the Drumochter area (presumably they are either less visible now due to the absence of snow or they have dispersed back to higher ground).
Single Jackdaws carrying nest material in Dalwhinnie and Aviemore.
Six Lapwings over rough pasture just south of Dalwhinnie with three on improved grassland just before Newtonmore.
Five Feral Pigeons at Dalwhinnie.
Small numbers of Mallard on pools north and south of Dalwhinnie.
45 Greylag Geese on improved pasture just before Newtonmore (with Jackdaws) and groups of 50 and five (with Woodpigeons) on similar habitat just east of Newtonmore Golf Course.
A Hare near Newtonmore Golf Course.
Two groups of around 50 Woodpigeons on improved grassland between Newtonmore and Kingussie.
A single Black-headed Gull at Kingussie Station (the only one of the day).
Two Rooks at their colony in Kingussie with another ten in Aviemore.
28 Whooper Swans in small groups spread out across the Insh Marshes next to the railway line.
A single Buzzard (the only one of the day) behind Aviemore.
Two Oystercatchers on grassland just north of Newtonmore with two more on cropped turf at the Aviemore resort and another two over in the direction of the fish farm.
A Rabbit in the Aviemore resort with another beside the skiers’ car park on Cairngorm.
Three Song Thrushes and five Blackbirds feeding on rabbit-cropped turf at the Aviemore estate, with another Song Thrush and a Mistle Thrush south of the centre, a Song Thrush singing near the station and a Blackbird singing south of the centre, the latter two towards evening.
Lots of Robin, Greenfinch and Chaffinch song in Aviemore.
A singing Meadow Pipit in the skiers’ car park on Cairngorm and another at the fork in the ski road.
A singing Robin just above the Day Lodge on the approach to Cairngorm.
A male Ptarmigan (in mostly white but some mottled brown plumage) showing well as it called from a boulder half way up the Sron a Aonach ridge. His feathered feet and red wattles were particularly noticeable.
A pair of Ptarmigan (the male half-moulted into summer plumage, the female still virtually all white) next to the main Coire Cas ski run. The male was intent on shepherding the female so  paid little attention to me.
Lots of evidence of Ptarmigan activity around the top station including footprints in the snow, piles of droppings and a discarded feather (with a white tip).
12 Red Grouse scattered between the skiers’ car park and just above the White Lady Shieling. Most were single calling birds (mostly unseen, so they may have been in pairs) but a pair were flushed beside the main Coire Cas ski run and circled high over the White Lady Shieling before settling again.
Few birds in the forest bordering the ski road except for a single, singing Meadow Pipit, a single Great Tit, six Coal Tits and six singing Robins.
Heron’s Field, Glenmore held three Mistle Thrushes, three Woodpigeons and two Chaffinches, all feeding on the cropped turf.
A good selection of birds around the Glenmore campsite including singing Chaffinch, Coal Tit, Robin and Dunnock, single Woodpigeon, Crested Tit and Crossbill, two Dippers, a Mallard, a Blue Tit and a Crossbill.
Only six Siskins were heard/seen all day – four in Aviemore and singles at Heron’s Field and the Glenmore campsite.
Birds on Loch Morlich consisted of 10 Mallards and a distant Whooper Swan.
Quite a good day total of 36 species consisted of: Whooper Swan, Greylag Goose, Mallard, Red Grouse, Ptarmigan, Pheasant, unidentified diver, Buzzard, Oystercatcher, Lapwing, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Feral Pigeon, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Crested Tit, Coal Tit, Wren, Dipper, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Robin, Dunnock, House Sparrow, Pied Wagtail, Meadow Pipit, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, unidentified crossbill and Siskin.

Impressions of Strathspey in March:
The snow is retreating with none left at track level in Drumochter and incomplete coverage in the corries and on the plateau   
The days are starting to stretch with a fair amount of daylight left by early evening
There is lots of birdsong in the towns and villages but very little deeper into the forest or at higher altitudes.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Took an afternoon walk along the Cart as far as Pollokshaws, then followed the Auldhouse Burn as far as Kennishead and the Brock Burn between Silverburn and Crookston Castle before picking up the Cart back home. Highlights included two Kingfishers entering a nest hole in Pollok Park (with singles at three other sites), a pair of Grey Wagtails under Shaw Bridge (with three bickering near Kennishead), two Dippers on the Auldhouse Burn (including a singing male), a singing Nuthatch in waste ground behind Stonehouse Drive and an Oystercatcher on Auldhouse Recreation Field. Other wildlife included a mouse sp in a bin in Pollok Park, Hawthorn and Larch coming into leaf, flowering Coltsfoot on the bridge over the Cart on Pollokshaws Road and flowering Willows near Crookston Castle (with a bee sp taking advantage of the supply of pollen).

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Nothing too remarkable on today's riverside walk. Certainly no sign yet of any early warblers.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

A sunny walk from Callander to Strathyre Forest Resort today produced the following:
Two Common Frogs and one clump of spawn in a small pool in Coilhallan Woods.
A pair of Bullfinches near Kilmahog.
A singing Dipper and a pair of Grey Wagtails at the Falls of Leny.
A Chaffinch attacking its reflection in the mirror of a car parked in the Ben Ledi walkers’ car park.
A pair of Goosanders on the river at Coireachrombie.
Eight Canada Geese and two Goosanders at the south end of Loch Lubnaig.
A Nuthatch calling at Creag an t-Sionnaich.
The full bird list for the walk was: Canada Goose, Mallard, Goosander, Buzzard, Woodpigeon, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Magpie, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, Goldcrest, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Nuthatch, Wren, Dipper, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Robin, Dunnock, House Sparrow, Grey Wagtail, Pied Wagtail, Chaffinch, Bullfinch, Greenfinch and Goldfinch (28 species).
Later, three Green Sandpipers were showing well at the Causeway Hide, Baron's Haugh (with 12 Whooper Swans there also, as well as flowering Lesser Celandine and Coltsfoot).

Friday, March 18, 2016

An Oystercatcher was an unusual visitor to the UWS Paisley campus this morning, calling briefly as it flew over.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Heading down to Greenock today, the drake Smew was showing well at Lochwinnoch (where a pair of Wigeon were grazing on short turf near the visitor centre and a Treecreeper was squeaking quietly). A Kestrel was in a bush near the turn off for Haigh Bernaigh and a Pied Wagtail and 50 Starlings were near Pomillan.
The weather at the end of the day was truly wonderful with clear blue skies from horizon to horizon.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

A hybrid Hooded x Carrion Crow was beside the M8 near the airport at home time today. Highlights of this evening's walk along the Cart were a Treecreeper in Rosshall Park (located by its high-pitched song) and a pair of Goosanders near Cardonald Place Bridge.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Highlight of today's lunchtime walk was a Nuthatch calling loudly and then showing very well as it explored the boughs of an old tree in Greenock Cemetery. As far as I can remember, this is my first record in Greenock (after firsts in Hamilton and Mugdock Park earlier in the year). A Grey Wagtail was over the burn next to inverkip Road, a bee (my first of the year) was near Greenock Golf Club and three Goldeneye (including a first winter moulting into adult male plumage) were on Cowdenknowes Dam.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Popped over to Victoria Park, early evening. The sun was just setting but two Little Grebes were pottering about close to the edge of the pond. No sign of the Ring-necked Parakeets that have been reported there - will have to go back in the daylight.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Today was another one of those mild and gentle Scottish days (we have had quite a few of them recently). A walk along the river in the direction of Corkerhill Road found an increase in singing Blackbirds and Song Thrushes while a big Red Fox was trotting through the "nature reserve".
News from the web is of Wheatears in Cumbria and Nairn and Sand Martins at varous sites across the southern half of England. 

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Took an afternoon walk along the river in the direction of Paisley. Lots of birds about (32 species in total) including four Goosanders on the river and at least one of the local Ravens making its presence felt. Highlight was the stirring sight and sound of at least 200 mixed Fieldfares,  Redwings,  Starlings, Song Thrushes and Chaffinches chattering and singing in the treetops beside the White Cart in the grounds of Leverndale Hospital. The whole flock periodically dropped down onto the stubble field just over the river to feed. I assume these are either local birds "flocking up" prior to their departure north or return passage birds. Certainly this spot has some winter thrushes present all winter but numbers were definitely up today.
Earlier, a detour along Linthaugh Road produced the exciting spectacle of a female Sparrowhawk "strafing" the Feral Pigeons on the roof of a row of tenements. Virually everything in the area (pigeons, Jackdaws, crows and gulls) took to the air in a panic but one Feral Pigeon was too slow, the Sparrowhawk doing a "hand-brake turn" mid-air to drop onto it.
The Raven behaviour was interesting. There was no activity around the nest on "the Tower" (although the nest itself has grown considerably) but one bird was calling loudly from a patch of trees just west of Leverndale Hospital boundary which I know the pair sometimes frequent. After calling for a few minutes, the bird took off in the direction of the Duchray Drive pylons. A few minutes later I heard one calling over Rosshall Park and then I saw one (presumably the same) perched on the roof of Rosshall School before being chased off by two Carrion Crows.

Friday, March 11, 2016

A Collared Dove was singing in the grounds of Cardonald Parish Church first thing.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

The lovely spring-like weather we have enjoyed over the past two days has prompted a further increase in birdsong. This morning, two Dunnocks, a Wren and one of my first Blackbirds of the year were singing strongly from the railway line near the house.

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Leaving Greenock about 3:20 this afternoon, noticed three Carrion Crows on the ground outside the Cruise Liner terminal gate attacking what I thought was a Brown Rat. On getting out of the car to investigate, the victim turned out to be a Woodcock. The crows had been pecking at its head and had dislodged quie a few feathers. However the bird was quite lively and appeared unharmed. I therefore picked it up and placed it in a dense flowerbed nearby. The crows were still hanging about and several Herring Gulls were also circling overhead, their raucous calls adding to the general malee. However I hoped the Woodcock would stay hidden until dark. 
Arriving at the SECC a short time later, I immediately noticed two tern-sized gulls perched side by side on a piece of metal projecting out of the Clyde. The features which struck me were noticeably short legs (giving the impression of the stance of Arctic rather than Common Tern), hunched posture, black smudging on the head and black bill (although the distance and lack of optics meant I couldn't be sure). One of the birds took off and circled around, showing dark grey underwings and a disproportionately-short, square tail (appearing almost tail-less from some angles). Might be worth checking to see if any Little Gulls turn up over the next few days.

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

The bird list for today's lunchtime walk around the west end of Greenock featured singing Goldfinch and Greenfinch, Feral Pigeons entering the doocot in an old stable block and a single Collared Dove (the latter a very uncommon bird locally in my opinion).

Monday, March 07, 2016

Two men were working on the spire of Coats' Memorial Church this morning. The Raven pair were quite agitated but settled on a couple of perches waiting for the coast to clear.

Four Cormorants, a Mute Swan and a Grey Wagtail were along the Clyde during a walk to a meeting in the centre of Glasgow this afternoon. Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Dunnock, Robin and Wren were singing nearby.

Sunday, March 06, 2016

A walk along the Kelvin behind the Botanic Gardens provided excellent views of a Kingfisher as it perched next to the west footbridge.

Saturday, March 05, 2016

A good birding day with 48 species recorded.

Arrived in Glasgow too early for the train this morning so took a walk around Dobbie’s Loan. It really is a little oasis in the city, full of birdsong at that early hour on a spring day. Nineteen species were located in just a few minutes, the best being four Redwings singing softly from a bare tree.
Heading north, sightings of Roe Deer were particularly numerous with at least 18 seen between Glasgow and just north of Perth. Other interesting sightings included 50 Greylag Geese at Airntully, a pair of Canada Geese at Laguna and my first two inland Oystercatchers of the year just past Murthly. Eighty more Greylag Geese were just past Newtonmore Station with another ten (and 30 Woodpigeons) in the “Golden Plover field” next to the golf course. A single Goldeneye (the only one of the day) was on a pond just west of Kingussie.
The remainder of the day was spent walking around the Kingussie area and visiting a few of the hides at the Insh Marshes.   

Friday, March 04, 2016

A quick lunchtime walk around the centre of Paisley saw the male Raven swooping in (silently) and landing on the dome of the John Neilson Institution carrying a food item in his beak. The female then flew in and the male proceeded to feed her while the two made soft gurgling calls. Three Goldfinches were singing loudly nearby.

Thursday, March 03, 2016

Lunch today was a very brief stop at Erskine where five Teal were present but little else.

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Heading down to Greenock this lunchtime, birds offshore included three Goldeneye and a single, unidentified Grebe. A Chaffinch was singing at Woodhall.

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Today's lunchtime walk in the west end of Greenock was notable for good numbers of singing Goldfinches, Jackdaws checking out roof spaces and Herring Gulls staking out tenement rooftops.