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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, April 30, 2017

Managed to get all the sightings from our four days in Strathspey, Strath Avon and Moray uploaded to Birdtrack. The full list is: Mute Swan, Greylag Goose, Shelduck, Wigeon, Teal, Mallard, Domestic Mallard, Tufted Duck, Long-tailed Duck, Goldeneye, Red-breasted Merganser, Goosander, Red-legged Partridge, Red Grouse, Reeves's Pheasant, Pheasant, Red-throated Diver, Cormorant, Grey Heron, Little Grebe, Slavonian Grebe, Buzzard, Golden Eagle, Osprey, Moorhen, Oystercatcher, Golden Plover, Lapwing, Curlew, Common Sandpiper, Redshank, Woodcock, Snipe, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Feral Pigeon, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Cuckoo, Kingfisher, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Kestrel, Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, Raven, Goldcrest, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Skylark, Sand Martin, Swallow, House Martin, Long-tailed Tit, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Blackcap, Wren, Starling, Dipper, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Robin, Redstart, Stonechat, Wheatear, Dunnock, House Sparrow, Grey Wagtail, Pied Wagtail, Tree Pipit, Meadow Pipit, Brambling, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Linnet, Goldfinch, Siskin and Reed Bunting (83 species).

Saturday, April 29, 2017

A walk down the Almond found two Dippers taking food to a nest above a fish ladder and Stock Dove, Chiffchaff and Blackcap (but not Willow Warbler) all in song.
A walk out to Cramond Island revealed the main avian inhabitants to be Linnet, Meadow Pipit, Greenfinch, Wren and Blackbird.

Friday, April 28, 2017

An early start this morning produced some nice birds at RSPB Abernethy including Osprey, Wigeon, Brambling, Common Sandpiper, Redstart and Cuckoo (but no Capercaillie). Later, Aviemore had Rooks feeding nestlings, Craigellachie held numerous singing and displaying Tree Pipits while Loch Insh had the usual Long-tailed Duck plus two Red-throated Divers and three Shelduck.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Spent the day exploring different villages and towns in Moray. First stop was Chapeltown of Glenlivet . The glen there was full of prospecting Lapwings, Oystercatchers and Curlews in addition to Common Gulls and corvids. The Rookery in the conifers around the church was just as noisy as I remember it being last time I was there, 28 years ago. Recent cold temperatures still prevailed, so the only signs of hirundines were the remains of four of last year's House Martin nests on the main tower of the distillery buildings.
A brief detour to Tombae to look at the church there produced a Dipper and a Common Sandpiper on the river and flowering Primroses on the sloping banks they seem to love so much.
Next stop was Dufftown where flowering plants included Wood Anemone, Few-flowered Leek, Gean, Birds included all the "regulars" plus the first Goldfinches of the trip.
Another detour, this time to Craigellachie, found two Dippers feeding two fledglings under the Telford bridge and both Blackbird and Pied Wagtail taking food to nestlings.
Two hours in Elgin was enough for a good walk around Cooper Park and along the River Lossie.  Birding highlights included a Mallard pair with seven tiny ducklings on the park pond, a Grey Wagtail nearby, two singing Willow Warblers, seven singing Blackcaps, a single singing Chiffchaff, two Linners, single Dippers at three sites and Kingfisher at one. Two Mute Swans were another new species for the trip. Plants in flower included White Dead-nettle, Yellow Cordyalis, Gorse, Broom, Cuckoo Flower, Dandelion, Garlic Mustard, Bluebell, Sweet Cicely and Green Alkanet.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Birds seen during an afternoon excursion into Upper Glenlivet consisted of: Greylag Goose (two pairs prospecting for nesting sites), Teal (one pair on the river in open grouse moor), Mallard (pairs at three locations), Red Grouse (displaying males very common on the moor, the females probably having lost their first clutches due to recent heavy snow), Pheasant (in woodland and farmland), Grey Heron (two singles hunting along the river, probably from the heronry at Auchbreck), Oystercatcher (mostly on farmland), Golden Plover (groups of seven and three, on a stubble field and sheep pasture, presumably having been driven down from the hills by recent snow), Lapwing (loafing birds and displaying pairs on both farmland and mixed heather/grassland), Curlew (small numbers on farmland), Redshank (a single on farmland, presumably having been driven off higher ground like several other species), Snipe (common and very obvious against the snow in mixed heather / rough grassland), Common Gull (at least 50 attending the lambing as they do every spring before moving to higher ground to breed), Feral Pigeon, Jackdaw, Starling, Blackbird, House Sparrow (around farm buildings), Woodpigeon (on farmland and over some upland areas), Skylark (four on stubble),
Song Thrush (searching for worms on village lawns at the start of the trip), Mistle Thrush (small numbers on farmland), Dunnock (singing in the village), Pied Wagtail (two singles on farmland), Meadow Pipit (mostly displaced to farmland but a few on the moor) and Chaffinch (a flock of 20 on last year's stubble).
Earlier in the day, a walk around Tomintoul produced all the usual highland village birds (Starling, House Sparrow, Dunnock, Blackbird, Collared Dove, Jackdaw, Greenfinch, Chaffinch and Siskin) plus a few pairs of Lapwings, a pair of Curlews, two Snipe and an Oystercatcher sharing snow-covered fields with numerous Meadow Pipits and twelve Skylarks. Heading out of Tomintoul towards Grantown-on-Spey, a Wheatear was on the roadside near the quarry. 
Some notable birds near the Glenlivet Community Hall were six House Martins (possibly preparing to nest) and a singing Willow Warbler (the first of the trip, as the temperature starts to rise and the snow continues to melt.

Mammals recorded today include 93 Red Deer on a distant hillside, two Roe Deer near Drumin Castle, three pairs of Brown Hares, a single Mountain Hare and large numbers of Rabbits. 
Flowering plants along the lower reaches of the Livet and Avon were Gaen, Marsh Marigold, Opposite-leaved Golden Saxifrage, Dog's Mercury, Wood Anemone, the last of the Coltsfoot and emerging Sweet Cicely.
Birds of the day were a Reeves's Pheasant on the edge of a conifer stand, two immature Golden Eagles displaying over a distant hillside and a Woodcock flying over the car at dusk.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Heavy snow has meant being confined to the area immediately around Balneden Farmhouse, Strath Avon for the last 24 hours. Birds seen in the tetrad so far are:

Mallard (two pairs, one in suitable breeding habitat), Goosander (a drake and two ducks on the Avon), Red-legged Partridge (small numbers –usually twos – at multiple sites), Pheasant (released birds encountered everywhere), Buzzard (up to two soaring and mewing over a conifer plantation), Oystercatcher (several pairs flying up and down river, calling), Lapwing (small numbers - up to six together - waiting patiently in snow-covered fields), Curlew (one singing, unseen, and one flying overhead), Black-headed Gull (small numbers – ones and twos – commuting through the strath), Common Gull (larger numbers – six to eight – wandering around farmland), Feral Pigeon (up to five birds frequenting Easter Fodderletter farmyard), Woodpigeon (ubiquitous, with around 30 together feeding in a single field), Great Spotted Woodpecker (one bird in the vicinity of cottages – possibly visiting bird feeders), Kestrel (a male hunting near Kirkmichael House), Jackdaw (up to 40 birds around Easter Fodderletter Farm buildings) Rook (one with other corvids at Easter Fodderletter Farm), Carrion Crow (small numbers at various locations), Raven (a single flying near Kirkmichael House), Goldcrest (singing birds, lone birds and one in a feeding flock with tits and Meadow Pipits), Blue Tit (singing birds, small numbers and as part of a feeding flock), Coal Tit (singing birds, small numbers and as part of a feeding flock), Wren (singing birds here and there), Blackbird (singing, calling and flying across the lanes), Song Thrush (one or two feeding quietly), Mistle Thrush (noisy, common and prominent. At least one feeding young. Others chasing intruders), Robin (singles at many sites), Grey Wagtail (a male in suitable breeding habitat), Meadow Pipit (the most ubiquitous species. Many lurking in channels of meltwater flowing through the snowfields), Chaffinch (ubiquitous, some singing), Greenfinch (at least two singing near houses) and Siskin (quite large numbers (c20) in conifers and alders at one site along the river) [31 species]. 

The snow eventually began to thaw about tea time, which permitted a short trip to a few favoured sites. In particular, the north eastern corner of Boat of Garten (between the road bridge and the sawmill) produced the following: Mallard (a pair on Milton Loch), Tufted Duck (a pair on Milton Loch), Goldeneye (five, including two pairs, on the Spey), Red-breasted Merganser (a pair on the Spey), Goosander (a single female on the Spey), Little Grebe (a pair on Milton Loch), Moorhen (one on Milton Loch), Oystercatcher (one in fields east of the Spey), Common Sandpiper (one, alarm-calling, beside the Spey), Black-headed Gull (six in fields east of the Spey), Herring Gull (one over the Spey), Woodpigeon (6 in fields east of the Spey), Jackdaw (30+ going to roost at Milton Loch), Great Tit (one in roving flock with Chaffinches), Sand Martin (30+ feeding very low over Milton Loch), Swallow (one feeding very low over Milton Loch), Dipper (one downstream of the bridge over the Spey), Song Thrush and Mistle Thrush (one singing male of each), Meadow pipit (around 30 feeding in fields east of the Spey in the company of 20+ Siskins), Chaffinch (singing) and Siskin (see entry above) [22 species}. Finally, a Stonechat was on a fence line in the unlikely setting of the northern edge of Grantown-on-Spey (near the caravan park) and six Starlings were on wires back at Easter Fodderletter Farm.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Aviemore was covered in a thin layer of snow this afternoon. Breeding birds however (including Oystercatcher, Goosander and Dipper) seemed to be getting on with things unperturbed. Most incongruous were the eight Sand Martins dodging falling snowflakes over their colony. Much more snow had fallen in Strath Avon, no doubt causing some problems for the sheep lambing out on the open hill. The most obvious birds in the area were Pheasant, Red-legged Partridge, Mistle Thrush and Meadow Pipit. Mammals consisted of Rabbit, Brown Hare and Roe Deer (adding to a huge Red Deer, sadly dead, by the side of the A9 south of Drumochter).

Sunday, April 23, 2017


Saturday, April 22, 2017

A walk between Polmont and Linlithgow along the canal towpath produced lots of singing Chiffchaffs,  Willow Warblers and Blackcaps plus lots of flowering plants including a big patch of Woodruff.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Paisley Raven activity today was as follows:
08:05     Two birds came in, low, from the south west, landed briefly on the dome of the JNI, then flew off north (who is minding the nest?)
08:45     One flying strongly south east from tower and over top of UWS campus
10:30     Bird standing on edge of nest
10:45     One bird perched near top of tower
11:50     Bird standing on edge of nest
About 13:30, while I was out for lunch, a bird flew (silently) along Oakshaw with a beak full of food and landed on JNI.
No further activity all afternoon.
This evening, an attempted clear-out of the silver glade pond disturbed a lovely male Palmate Newt.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

At least seven pairs of Black Guillemots and a singing Rock Pipit were in Greenock's East India Dock this lunchtime.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Activity at the Paisley Raven nest consisted of the following:
08:20     Adult flew up from low perch on tower to edge of nest where it stood, dipping into the nest. It was still there ten minutes later.

13:30     Adult on dome of JNI making gentle croaks unlike the usual prruutts and cronks, before flying up to and alighting near the top of the spire. Other adult in nest with only head showing. Nest and ledge now heavily soiled with white droppings.

15:00     Adult again on edge of nest

16:00     Adult again on edge of nest

16:15     Adult flew from nest edge to Orr Square church (other adult on spire of CMBC), then returned and alighted on the spire next to its mate.

17:10     Adult on edge of nest

18:00     One bird drinking from guttering. Other heading SE from tower with food in its beak

Other birds around oaks haws this lunchtime included singing Willow Warbler (2), Chiffchaff (2)and Blackcap (1) and a Mistle Thrush singing from the topmost branch of the highest tree on top of Oakshaws ridge.
This evening, a walk along the river found the Moorhen still incubating (How have the local foxes not found her?) and newly flowering Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata), Yellow Archangel (Lamiastrum galeobdolon var. argentatum) and white-flowered Honesty (Luniaria annua). Plants continuing to flower included Ramsons and Few-flowered Leek.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

A frosty start to the day in south Cardonald with the car windscreen covered in ice.

Monday, April 17, 2017

An evening spent in south Ayrshire produced some interesting birds as follows:
Maidens: Gannet, Shelduck, Sandwich Tern, Rock Pipit (including a male singing from the mast of a moored yacht), Collared Dove, Sand Martin (4), Swallow (1) and Linnet (11).
Girvan:  Black-throated Diver, Eider, Sandwich Tern (4), Rock Pipit (3), Pied Wagtail (6), Collared Dove, House Sparrow (nest building) and Linnet (2).
Crossraguel Abbey: Kestrel (1).
Flowering plants included: Common Scurvey Grass, Red Campion and Bluebell at Maidens and Cowslip on the embankment beside the A77 through Kilmarnock.


Most of the bank holiday was actually spent marking at the dining room table. Having the video stream from Loch Garten at least allowed some natural connections with the following bird species heard:

Sunday, April 16, 2017

A rainy walk over to the west end produced a Kingfisher near Mosspark Station, a Collared Dove on Clunie Road (I think they are getting quite local in SW Glasgow these days), two singing Willow Warblers (in Cardonald Cemetery and Kelvingrove Park) and a singing Blackcap (in Urdale Road, Pollokshields).

Saturday, April 15, 2017

A walk through Cardonald and Crookston this morning found lots of bird species getting on with their breeding cycles. Highlights were a Kingfisher watched for an extended period as it fished from a branch, a Dipper close to the spot I saw one a week ago, a pair of Goosanders fishing together, a Nuthatch (again) singing in Rosshall Park and the Raven pair noisily defending their territory. Plant species newly in flower this week were Sweet Cicely and Few-flowered Leek. I guess Ramsons and possibly Bluebells will be next.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Two Common Gulls were scavenging on the road near their previous nest site in Port Glasgow first thing. They really are the prettiest of the common species, especially in fresh breeding plumage.
At lunchtime, two Sandwich Terns were courting on the rocks off Battery Park.
This evening, two bats and a Red Fox were seen on a dusk walk to Bonnyholm and back.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

A fledged brood of Mistle Thrushes and an adult singing from the highest treetop were the highlights of a walk up Oakshaws Brae first thing. The usual lunchtime walk into the centre of Paisley revealed Dandelions and Chickweed flowering in profusion along the railway path and a Mistle Thrush behaving like it might have a nest at the council buildings. There was little activity at the Paisley Raven nest for most of the day. Single birds were on the JNI dome at 9am and again at 1:30pm. Then at 5:30pm a single bird arrived low from the east and alighted on the nest.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

A wander down to the esplanade at lunchtime produced a calling Black Guillemot on the water and the usual selection of garden birds including numerous singing Goldfinches.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Two pairs of Coots, two pairs of Rooks and a pair of Mute Swans were nesting at Murdieston Dams this morning where Marsh Marigold was flowering. Later, Primroses were flowering on their usual bank at Newark Castle.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Quite a lot of Raven activity in Paisley today,  although the amount recorded probably reflects how often I looked up from my desk rather than what was REALLY going on. Anyway:
One adult made four brief visits to the nest between 0745 and 08:00. Between most visits it returned to a perch on the tower but between the third and fourth visit it hopped into the guttering (possibly drinking or picking up water for the chicks/sitting bird). After the final visit it flew off north and perched in a treetop.
One ad on edge of nest at 12:45, then flew to tower of Orr Church.
At 13:25, one adult on the edge of the nest flew off and was replaced by the other which had been watching from Orr Church tower.
At 14:30, a bird which had been standing on the roof of a tenement just to the east of the nest flew up and round the tower, theatrically dangling it's legs and scattering the neighbouring Jackdaws, before alighting out of sight (presumably on the north face of the tower).

Sunday, April 09, 2017

At least two Chiffchaffs are currently singing within hearing distance of the house, with another one over by the Bonnyholm Bridge.

Saturday, April 08, 2017

The usual Saturday morning walk along the river through south Cardonald, Crookston and Hawkhead produced a bird species count of 41 plus: Dippers at two sites; Raven, Buzzard and Grey Wagtail at one each; singing Stock Dove and Nuthatch; a pair of Goosanders; Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps widespread; flowering Wood Sorrel, Ramsons and Cuckoo Flower; emerging Dog's Mercury; and my first singing Willow Warbler of 2017.

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Birds seen on the way to work today (through rural Renfrewshire) consisted of two Lapwings (potentially breeding), two Greylag Geese (ditto), a Hoodie hybrid, a pair of Ravens (possiby nesting on a pylon), two Buzzards, an Oystercatcher and a bubbling Curlew. Rooks were visiting their nests in the Howwood rookery.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Lots of Lesser Black-backed Gulls were bickering over nest sites in the west end of Greenock today. Meanwhile, Ospreys in Perthshire and Rutland already have eggs.

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

A Blackcap (my first of the year) was singing when I left the house in South Cardonald first thing this morning.
Raven activity in central Paisley today consisted of:
08:30 - Lots of activity around the nest with both birds in the air at one time (being pursued by Lesser Black-backed Gulls), both birds at the nest and one removing something (possibly an eggshell) at one point. Presumably the female eventually settled on the nest, whereupon the male set about exploring various ledges and niches on the church itself and on nearby buildings (activity I have not seen before).
13:55 - Fifteen minutes of fairly intense activity around the tower with both birds soaring together and much exaggerated sweeping up to the nest, peering in, then swooping away again. Twice, one bird appeared to entice the other off the nest. On one occasion they perched in a tree together. On the second they flew low off west. Definitely more interest in the nest contents today. 
18:10 - The sitting bird got up and flew around the tower a few times before returning to brood. At one point it dangled its legs – presumably stretching them after sitting for so long.  
Other birds around Paisley at lunchtime included a singing Chiffchaff on Oakshaws and a Goosander on the river.

Monday, April 03, 2017

Despite the heavy rain, a Chaffinch was "pink"ing loudly in Ardgowan Square this lunchtime.

Sunday, April 02, 2017

Not such a good day for natural connections but a walk through Kelvingrove Park produced singing Greenfich, Goldfinch and Chafficnh as well as a hunting Song Thrush and a rattling Mistle Thrush.

Saturday, April 01, 2017

A morning walk along the White Cart through four 1km squares in SW Glasgow produced a good total of 38 species:

Mallard (several birds just standing about in pairs, as they do at this time of year), Buzzard (one being mobbed by Carrion Crows over the Leverndale Hospital field), Moorhen (up to three pairs including one on eggs), Lesser Black-backed Gull (ditto the comment for Mallard), Herring Gull, Feral Pigeon (including courtship and display), Stock Dove (in all four squares, with a pair visiting a probable nest site in one), Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Kingfisher (in three of the four sites and including a pair interacting), Great Spotted Woodpecker, Magpie (including copulation and nest building), Jackdaw (including nest building), Carrion Crow (including nest building), Raven (including one bringing food to another at a previous nest site), Goldcrest, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Chiffchaff (singing birds in all four squares), Nuthatch (singing birds in three of the four squares, two being my first records there), Treecreeper, Wren, Starling (including nest building), Dipper, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Robin (including nest building), Dunnock, House Sparrow, Grey Wagtail, Chaffinch, Bullfinch (a pair), Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Siskin and Yellowhammer (a singing bird, my first locally for five years). Other notable sightings included flowering Lesser Celandine and Butterburr, and a Mink running along the bank. 
This afternoon, a walk along the Avon on the edge of Hamilton produced similar birds (Grey Wagtail (7), Dipper (4), Kingfisher (2), Chiffchaff (5) and a single Stock Dove) plus flowering Butterburr, Lesser Celandine, Wood Anemone, Coltsfoot, Opposite-leaved Golden-saxifrage, Dandelion, Daffodill, Willow and Blackthorn.