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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.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Managed to upload all the sightings for the week away. The final total was 95 "species" (including a few races / subspecies etc). The map of sightings is below. The full list is as follows:

Mute Swan, Greylag Goose, Domestic Greylag Goose, Teal, Mallard, Domestic Mallard, Tufted Duck, Eider, Goldeneye, Goosander, Red Grouse, Pheasant, Black-throated Diver, Fulmar, Gannet, Cormorant, Shag, Grey Heron, Little Grebe, Slavonian Grebe, Red Kite, Sparrowhawk, Buzzard, Moorhen, Oystercatcher, Lapwing, Whimbrel, Curlew, Common Sandpiper, Redshank, Puffin, Black Guillemot, Razorbill, Guillemot, Sandwich Tern, Common Tern, Kittiwake, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Feral Pigeon, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Swift, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Kestrel, Magpie, Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, Hooded Crow, Hybrid Carrion x Hooded Crow, Raven, Goldcrest, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Skylark, Sand Martin, Swallow, House Martin, Long-tailed Tit, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Blackcap, Whitethroat, Sedge Warbler, Wren, Starling, Dipper, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Spotted Flycatcher, Robin, Wheatear, Dunnock, House Sparrow, Tree Sparrow, Grey Wagtail, Pied Wagtail, Tree Pipit, Meadow Pipit, Rock Pipit, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Linnet, Lesser Redpoll, Goldfinch, Siskin, Yellowhammer, Reed Bunting and Corn Bunting.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

The Dipper (now in full adult plumage) was back under Howford Bridge this lunchtime (when seen there a few weeks ago it was still in immature plumage).

Friday, July 29, 2016

The drive home from Buckie via Deeside was fairly unremarkable except for two Wheatear and a Lapwing beside the old military road south of Braemar. Arriving back in South Cardonald, a House Martin was on the wing in spite of a cool west wind.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

A day's shopping in Inverness allowed little time for natural connections, although a short walk around the Ness Islands produced two Grey Wagtails, a Hooded Crow, a Grey Heron and the only Long-tailed Tit flock of the trip.
Later, an evening drive around some sites in inland Inverness-shire produced some nice birds in the form of Black-throated Diver (a preening adult), Slavonian Grebe (a pair feeding young), Red Kite, Greylag Goose, Spotted Flycatcher and roadside broods of Red Grouse and Pheasant. Heading back to Buckie via lower Strathspey, two Swifts were over Charlestown of Aberlour and three Magpies were near Broadley.
Signs of the end of summer included 25 Swallows on wires at Mulben and mixed gulls, corvids and waders following a silage harvester at Tomatin.
Back at Buckie, a pair of Swallow were attending a nest under the porch of The Tesco superstore as a House Martin twittered overhead

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

A strong south westerly wind which continued unabated all day put paid to any serious birdwatching. A long walk from Buckie to Spey Bay was directly into the wind. Only the strongest birdsong such as that of Yellowhammer, Corn Bunting and Whitethroat could be heard. No doubt many other birds were missed, including the hoped-for Stonechat.  Highlights included three Whimbrel at Portgordon, lots more seals (including several Harbour Seals) and a wader sp. on a burn which could have been Green. The only shelter along the way was provided by a small conifer plantation which also produced the highlight of the day: two Speckled Wood  butterflies. 
An equally windy Portsoy held a single Swift and at least two occupied House Sparrow holes in a "terraced" nest box.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Some behaviour notes from Strathspey sites today include:
Greylag Goose - in noisy groups along the far shore of Lochindorb
Mallard - loafing in groups in eclipse plumage
Oystercatcher - flock of 25 on grass at Broomhill Bridge. Small numbers loafing along the edge of Lochindorb
Raven - one coming to road carrion between Grantown-on-Spey and Bridge of Brown
Sand Martin - still visiting nest holes near Broomhill Bridge
Swallow - "playing" around Cromdale Church
Swift - restlessly feeding over the Spey at Cromdale and the Old Spey Bridge or screaming excitedly over town and village centres
Meadow Pipit - numerous birds on the road and overhead wires near Dorback
Dipper - shuffling quietly, shoulder-deep in the Spey at Broomhill
Spotted Flycatcher - feeding quietly on the edge of the tree canopy at the Old Spey Bridge
Passerines - trees full of tweets and cheeps from broods of young birds. Some half-hearted song, possibly from this year's birds
One of the notable things about the bird life of coastal Moray is the number of Hooded Crows and Hooded x Carrion Crow hybrids around. The picture is confused by the large number of juvenile birds around right now, many of these with aberrant plumage. Today, two near full Hooded Crows were in Elgin first thing. Three more, this time showing more Carrion crow were in Forres. At lunchtime, a begging juvenile Carrion Crow at portgordon had pure white primaries and this evening, a full Hooded Crow was on mown grass in Nairn.
Another notable thing about today in particular was the number of mammal species encountered. A vole sp. ran across the Dava Moor road first thing. Later, a Roe Deer buck was feeding in a marshy field near Dorback. Heading back from there, a Red Squirrel was running along the road at Sliemore. Then, in Granton-on-Spey, three Roe Deer and a Rabbit were in the woods near the lochan. 
Arriving back in Buckie, 56 seals were on rocks at Portgordon. Almost all were Grey Seals, but two looked good for Harbour Seals. Finally, a Brown Hare was in fields on the outskirts of Nairn.
With the breeding season coming to an end, many bird species are either attending nestlings or have fledged young in two. Some examples today included: fledged broods of Pied Wagtail, Chaffinch and Blue Tit at the old Spey Bridge, Great Tit fledglings coming to a feeder at Bridge of Brown, Sand Martins visiting nest holes at Broomhill Bridge, a Great Tit brood in the woods at Grantown-on-Spey lochan, three immature Sandwich Terns with seven adults on rocks at Portgordon, a Mute Swan with seven young on the River Nairn, four young Goldfinches begging an adult for food near there, seven juvenile Black-headed Gulls with 105 adults on Nairn playing fields with good numbers of juveniles among a flock of 27 Pied Wagtails. Nevertheless lots of species continue to sing ( some only half-heartedly) including Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Chaffinch, Coal Tit, Yellowhammer, Corn bunting and Wren.
Other good sightings today included Raven, Goosander, Little Grebe, Spotted flycatcher, Tree pipit, Sparrowhawk, Redpoll, Dipper, Grey Wagtail, Buzzard and swifter still at several sites. 

Monday, July 25, 2016

A day spent dodging the showers along the Moray and North Aberdeenshire Coasts produced numerous highlights including singing Yellowhammer, Sedge Warbler and Reed Bunting, a Rock Pipit, four Linnets, six Eider, 16 Goosander and ten Swifts around Buckie, two Tree Sparrows, more Linnets and a juvenile Kittiwake around Gardenstown, more Linnets and breeding Pied Wagtail, Swallow and Rock Pipit in Crovie, dozens of Linnets plus Gannet, Guillemot, Razorbill, Puffin, Fulmar, Kittiwake and Burnet Moth at Troup Head, a Corn Bunting at Rosehearty, a Black Guillemot at Fraserburgh Harbour and two Common Terns fishing along Fraserburgh South Beach.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

A drive up to Buckie began with a single Buzzard south of Cumbernauld. A brief stop in Pitlochry produced two Swifts and four House Martins. Another stop in Aviemore brought another Swift, this time entering a presumed nest hole in a cottage near the village centre. Prior to that, a stop at Glebe Ponds, Kingussie had produced Moorhen and another at Loch Insh, Goldeneye, Tufted Duck and Mute Swan. A Rabbit was at Glebe Ponds and a Roe Deer was near Loch Alvie. 
The drive to Buckie (through persistent drizzle) was fairly uneventful but a Kestrel on Dava Moor was welcome. Arriving at Buckie, Yellowhammers and Corn Buntings were on roadside wires and fifteen Swifts screamed over the town centre. 

Some behaviour notes from the Strathspey sites visited today consist of:
Common Gull – Adult with attendant juvenile (presumably fledged elsewhere) in th shallows of Loch Insh.
Teal - A female was preening quietly beside Kingussie’s Glebe Pond.
Oystercatcher – Three birds were calling from the rooftop of the leisure complex in Aviemore village centre.
Corvids – 100 Rooks, 50 Jackdaws and ten Carrion Crows were feeding on stubble near Boat of Garten.
Feral Pigeon – Ten were on the roof on the Craiglynne Hotel at 15:50pm on 24th but none were present the next morning.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Honeysuckle is fantastic at home this year.
Flocks of Starlings are at Shieldhall Dump.

Friday, July 22, 2016

A walk around the local patch in South Cardonald this morning produced a good 27 species including late singing Blackcap (2) and Willow Warbler (1), a pair of Bullfinches, fledged Blue Tits and Robins, a pair of Stock Doves and still lots of song from resident birds, particularly Wren, Blackbird and Song Thrush (3). The council has flailed the paths around the area, clearing quite large areas of encroaching vegetation.
Later, a Buzzard was being mobbed by crows over Montgomery Court near Arkleston Farm. Incidentally, most of the fields in Arkleston Farm have been left unplanted this year and are now covered with rank grassland and weeds. Presumably the tenants are finding their sand and gravel business so lucrative that it is no longer worth raising crops. 

Thursday, July 21, 2016

A busy day working on the kitchen meant few opportunities for natural connections. In fact the only two were at the local dump: a Harris's Hawk (presumably used to scare birds) and an alarmingly life-like plush Tiger reclaimed by the staff and propped up on top of a bin.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

A walk to Rosshall Park this evening found a magnificent patch of Royal Fern (Osmunda regalis) which is now at its best with well-developed "flower" stalks and enormous fronds spreading above the pond. The two Moorhen juveniles on the pond there seem to be more-or-less independent now, with no sign of any parents on the last two visits (although they may be hiding somewhere).


Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Confined to the marking table all day today, even though it was the hottest day of the year! News from the web is that returning migrant waders (Common Sandpipers and Greenshanks) are starting to appear at favoured waters through central Scotland.

Monday, July 18, 2016

An evening walk from Craigton to Cardonald produced very little of note - the summer doldrums having now completely set in. Blackbirds continue to dominate the soundscape with singing birds on several chimney pots.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

An evening walk from Castle Semple Loch to the RSPB Visitor Centre produced some interesting birds in the form of a family party of Canada Geese, a tit flock (containing Long-tailed Tits and an autumn yellow Willow Warbler) and three or four singing Sedge Warblers. More notable was the truly spectacular show of flowering plants along the edge of the marsh. Some of the species I could identify were Rose-bay and Greater Willow-herb, Devil's Bread, Meadowsweet, Pineappleweed, Comfrey, Indian Balsam, Teasel, Red Clover, White Clover, a ragwort species, a St John's Wort species, a thistle species, Broad-leaved Dock, Common Nettle, Chicory, Common Bindweed, Common Knapweed, Common Vetch and Bramble. Some of the species which evaded identification are shown below:

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Birds in the Paisley suburb of Oldhall first thing consisted of Goldfinch, House Martin, Wren, House Sparrow and a Song Thrush carrying food. 
This afternoon, it was apparent that aerial feeders had again moved into the South Cardonald / Crookston area, presumably to find insect food in short supply due to the cool weather. At least 28 Swifts were between home and Bull Wood. A Swallow was a very unusual sight near the Cardonald Place footbridge and 17 more were over fields (or on fence wires) in Hawkhead Farm. House Martins were few and far between and no Sand Martins were seen.
The other notable record was of a Reeling Grasshopper Warbler in the field north of Leverndale Hospital (my first record for the whole tetrad). Other singing Warblers consisted of three Blackcaps and a single Chiffchaff. Two singing Song Thrushes and numerous singing Blackbirds (it has been a great year for the latter) were also notable.
On Rosshall playing fields,  the small group sof Black-headed Gulls which has been building up all summer again included two immature birds, one of which was begging loudly. Finally, two Bullfinches were a nice sighting in Rosshall Park. 
In other news, the local Guelder Rose bushes/trees are covered in blooms.

Friday, July 15, 2016

A walk up to the university in Paisley first thing found two Whitethroats again singing beside Oakshaws Steps and a Chiffchaff singing near the observatory. At lunchtime, three Swifts and around 15 House Martins were feeding over Paisley Abbey while six immature Black-headed Gulls included three together begging from two adults. Grey Wagtail, Grey Heron, Goosander and Mute Swan were on the river.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Working far too hard for any natural connections :-(

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

A Buzzard soared northwards over south Cardonald this evening, being harried by a Lesser Black-backed Gull. 
The waterside vegetation is reaching its peak with the following plants in flower (or in the case of the last one, in fruit): Himalayan Balsam, Meadowsweet, ragwort sp, thistle sp, Meadow Cranesbill, Red Clover, Purple Loosestrife, Giant Hogweed, Bramble and Wild Raspberry.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

A short walk around the west end of Greenock this lunchtime produced most of the usual species with lesser Black-backed Gull, Jackdaw, House Sparrow, Blackbird and Goldfinch the most prominent.

Monday, July 11, 2016

A walk around south Cardonald this evening found an exceptional eight Swifts feeding low over the river. Presumably the cool, damp conditions of late have made finding food quite challenging. Also present were three House Martins with as many as four other birds commuting between there and the micro colony a little to the north.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Our short trip down south ended with a walk through Park Hill Recreation Ground in South Croydon this lunchtime. Singing Goldcrest was probably the highlight.

Saturday, July 09, 2016

Today was spent in Brighton where the principal avian residents appeared to be Feral Pigeon and Herring Gull. A Pied Wagtail was on a rooftop near Brighton Dome and a wander around the grounds of the pavilion produced a possible Spotted Flycatcher and a singing Chiffchaff.

Friday, July 08, 2016

The whole of the day was spent at the All England Club so natural connections were extremely limited. However a Pied Wagtail kept up its "chis-irrip" call throughout all the action on Number 1 court. A white butterfly floated through at one point and later, a Goldfinch was singing.
Back in Croydon, a Peacock butterfly was showing well in Park Hill Park.

Thursday, July 07, 2016

A day spent in Croyden produced only fairly typical urban birds such as Goldfinch, Carrion Crow and Feral Pigeon. Magpies seemed scarcer than they are at home but a jay was a bonus. Some other nice natural connections included Blue-bodied Chaser and Blue Damselfly at Wardle Park and a rather neglected Ginkgo biloba tree in the town centre.

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Walking up to the university first thing, there were lots more birds around Oakshaw steps than usual including two singing Whitethroats, a singing Blackcap and a presumed juvenile Willow Warbler practicing its song. A Raven was unusually on the church spire, the birds having been apparently absent for the last month.

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Birds in the centre of Paisley this lunchtime included two or three House Martins (I wonder where they nest), the Sand Martins back around their tunnels and three broods of Mallards (two tiny ducklings, three middle-sized ones and ten nearly full grown). The female tending the latter was shepherding them away from a stalking Grey Heron.

Monday, July 04, 2016

A House Martin was along Cardonald Gardens first thing. Later, the centre of Paisley held two female / juvenile Goosanders, a Grey Heron and two Swallows. The latter were dealing with the heavy rain by concentrating their feeding under the bridge. 
This evening, a Song Thrush with a beak full of worms in front of the house presumably had a brood nearby.

Sunday, July 03, 2016

A short walk through Cardonad this afternoon produced little bird activity due to a strong, cold westerly wind.

Saturday, July 02, 2016

Four House Martins were over their nesting sites in Oldhall, Paisley first thing this morning.
This afternoon, two singing Blackcaps, a Hooded Crow x Carrion Crow hybrid, four Swifts and flowering (and fragrant) Guelder Rose were the highlights of a walk along the river. 

Friday, July 01, 2016

A Song Thrush was singing and a single bat was over the river at 10:30 tonight.