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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.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Highlights of today's wanderings in Strathspey included a Kingfisher at Milton Loch, Chanterelle in the forest and assorted mammals consisting of Roe Deer, Brown Hare and Rabbit. More tomorrow.
The following notes added 1st October 2017:

A late evening wander down to Milton Loch to look at the stars found a Grey Heron “franking” in the darkness, accompanied by the laughing of the Mallards. The next morning, headed out first thing and was down at the same site just as the sun was coming up. Wigeon numbers had increased to three (all in eclipse) and five female/eclipse Teal were plowtering in a quiet corner. Two Moorhens were again present, along with a Grey Heron and a Dipper. A Great Spotted Woodpecker flew over, followed by three Buzzards. Rooks and Jackdaws (and Woodpigeons) were flooding out of their roost as the sun came up. A passing Kestrel attracted some attention from the corvids. A Pheasant flew over the fields where two Roe Deer were feeding. Three Mistle Thrushes then flew over at tree-top height and a single Chiffchaff sang next to the sawmill.

Heading back up the road, a Kingfisher dashed along the back of the loch calling as it flew. It continued to move around near the hide, for the next 20 minutes, calling intermittently. Other birds in the village included singing Collared Dove and Starling and calling Dunnock.
Began the walk back to Aviemore about 10am. Entered the forest about half an hour later and within minutes had seen Chaffinch and Great, Coal, Blue, Long-tailed and Crested Tits. The diversity of bird life fell off away from the edge with only Coal Tit, Goldcrest and the occasional Crested Tit encountered. Wood Ant nests were still active on what was a mild day, small flies and day-flying moths were everywhere and a dead Common Toad was on the path. About an hour into the forest, came across a really nice patch of Chanterelle mushrooms. They were on a north-facing slope with a more grass-dominated under-storey than the more typical vaccinium and heather.
As the moorland edge was approached, a few Wrens were encountered. Out on the moor, several Meadow Pipits were present. A tit flock in some Birches consisted of ten Long-tailed Tits and small numbers of Blue, Great, Coal and Crested (just one of the latter).
The road from Glencairn to Pityoulish produced some interesting sightings including Chaffinch, Meadow Pipit, Robin, two Goldfinches and two single Buzzards. Further south, two Jays were at Drumchork (including one bird flying well out in the open) and a mixed flock of Herring and Great Black-backed Gulls (about 20 in total) was flying from (presumably) Granish Tip to bathe in Loch Pityoulish. A Brown Hare was disturbed at the edge of the road and a single Roe Deer was browsing in rough grass. The loch itself was very unproductive with five Mallards being the only birds present.
The Guislich Farm area produced fair numbers of Carrion Crows, Jackdaws and Woodpigeons plus a Meadow pipit on one of the hay bales and overflying Redpoll and Crossbill (two). The only other species of note was rabbit from the train at Kingussie.
Impressions of Strathspey in late September:
Windy, sunny and mild, but changeable with rain never far off.
Still very green but little other colour with the Heather now past its best, Rosebay Willow Herb gone to seed and flowering plants (Hawkweeds, Knapweeeds, Ragwort, Harebell, Herb Robert and Devil’s Bit Scabious) providing muted rather than spectacular shows.
Goldeneye remarkable by its complete absence.
First leaves (of Birch) falling but Oak and other trees still green.
Some ornamental trees starting to colour up.
Air (out of the wind) quite full of gossamer and flying insects.
Hay fields either harvested and already baled or (a few) still awaiting harvesting.  
Peak fungi season has been reached with the roadsides and forest floors showing an amazing variety.
Some interesting mammals to see, consisting of Roe Deer, Brown Hare, Rabbit and vole.

The total species list for the two days was Greylag Goose, Wigeon, Teal, Mallard, Goosander, Red Grouse, Pheasant, Grey Heron, Buzzard, Moorhen, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Feral Pigeon, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Kingfisher, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Kestrel, Jay, Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, Goldcrest, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Crested Tit, Coal Tit, Swallow, Long-tailed Tit, Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Wren, Starling, Dipper, Blackbird, Mistle Thrush, Robin, Dunnock, House Sparrow, Grey Wagtail, Pied Wagtail, Meadow Pipit, Chaffinch, Lesser Redpoll, unidentified crossbill, Goldfinch, Siskin and Reed Bunting (48 species).

Friday, September 29, 2017

Highlights of a bright and breezy day in Strathspey consisted of: Two Red Grouse at Drumochter, two singing Chiffchaffs at Aviemore, a family party of seven Swallows near Kinchurdy Cottages, Goosander and two Grey Wagtails on the Spey, Wigeon, Non-birds included Roe Deer, Brown Hare and a vole sp. Plus Red Admirals at two sites and Dragonfles at a further two.

The following details added on 1st October 2017:  The train north produced two red Grouse flushed from the side of the track at Drumochter, a single Feral Pigeon on a house roof in Dalwhinnie, seven Teal on one of the flooded peat diggings just east of there and a Buzzard overhead. Newtonmore had 15 Woodpigeons and three Pheasants on stubble and five Carrion Crows flying over. A small lochan west of Kingussie held twelve Teal, two Mallards and two Greylag Geese while ten Jackdaws were around the station.

Arriving in Aviemore, at least three Robins were in song, accompanied by the squeaks of Coal Tit and Great Tit. More surprising were two Chiffchaffs in song along Dalfaber Road.

Decided to walk along the Spey to Boat of Garten. The Alders along many stretches of the north bank of the river were beginning to drop their leaves and many of these showed evidence of infestation with Alder bead-gall mite (Phytoptus laevis).

The river was quiet apart from 16 Mallards flying upstream in a loose flock and another eight (possibly part of the same group) in front of the chalets on Dalfaber Drive. The only other water bird along the entire length of the river from Aviemore to Boat of Garten was a Goosander flying downstream at Auchgourish. Goldeneye, Tufted Duck, Grey Heron, Cormorant, Kingfisher, Dipper, Grey Wagtail and Moorhen were notable by their complete absence.

Land birds along the river included a flock of at least 12 Long-tailed Tits giving their three-note call as they moved through the trees, fifteen Feral Pigeons (including several "fancy" birds) in a flock over the golf course, single Buzzards at three sites, two Mistle Thrushes feeding on cropped turf, three Teal on Loch Bann, seven Swallows (including several young birds) on wires just north of Kinchurdy Cottages and a single Meadow Pipit calling, unseen, from a rushy field.

Other wildlife highlights consisted of two Red Admiral butterflies on the plastic sleeves of saplings in Aviemore (with another at the Boat Hotel), a hairy caterpillar sp., a Violet Ground Beetle and a vole sp. crossing the path, a Brown Hare disturbed near Loch Bann, a Roe Deer grazing near Pityoulish, a large, olive-coloured dragonfly sp. near the Auchgourish fishermans hut and a similar-sized but more brightly coloured dragonfly in Boat Woods..

Flowering plants were fairly scarce but included knapweed sp., ragwort sp., Devil's Bit Scabious and Harebell. Rosebay Willow Herb has now seeded and the plants' red stems were notable. The first Birch leaves were beginning to yellow and fall.

An evening walk along to Milton Loch produced 18 Mallards (now almost back into breeding plumage and starting to posture and whistle), a female/eclipse Wigeon and two Moorhens. An extension along the Spey produced two Grey Wagtails, four Siskins and 50 to 100 Chaffinches feeding in an unharvested wheat field and commuting back to bushes and fence-lines.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

A sunny afternoon in Glasgow had Robins singing well but most other birds very quiet. news from the web is of the first few Redwings trickling through.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Today's lunchtime walk into the centre of Paisley produced a Kingfisher, a Grey Heron and two Grey Wagtails.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

A lunchtime walk down to Greenock Esplanade produced very little in the way of birdlife with only a few Herring Gulls and a pair of Mute Swans present. 
In the evening, a Grey Wagtail was over Paisley Road West.

Monday, September 25, 2017

A midday walk along the river produced a Cormorant roosting on a stone, a Kingfisher calling, unseen and a flock of 20 Siskins. A dead conifer had interesting "growths" protruding from its bark, which were probably the fruiting bodies (nibbled by squirrels) of Honey Fungus. Shaggy Inkcap was emerging in the grounds of Rosshall School.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

An afternoon visit to RSPB Mershead produced a respectable bird list as follows: Mute Swan, Pink-footed Goose, Greylag Goose, Canada Goose, Wigeon, Teal, Mallard, Pintail, Shoveler, Little Grebe, Lapwing, Curlew, Greenshank, Snipe, Feral Pigeon, Stock Dove, Woodpigeon, Magpie, Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Skylark, Wren, Starling, Robin, Dunnock, Meadow Pipit, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch and Reed Bunting. Other highlights included at least 12 Red Admiral butterflies and a large dragonfly. The Hawthorn crop there is fantastic, and will soon be feeding winter thrushes. A stop off in Dumfries added Grey Wagtail, Grey Heron, Goosander, Black-headed Gull, Great Black-backed Gull and House Martin (39 species in total).

Friday, September 22, 2017

Two nights this week, I have heard a strangulated "kee-wick" from the woods next to the house.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

A quick walk around Murdieston Dams in Greenock this lunchtime produced a Common Darter dragonfly - the first I have seen at the site.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Today's lunchtime walk into Paisley produced a single Goosander with the Mallards at Cotton Street. A five-minute watch at the Hammils failed to produce any leaping Trout.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

A cold start to the day with the car thermometer reading 6.5 degrees C first thing. Two Grey Wagtails were in central Paisley where the trees are now showing a lot of autumn colour.

Monday, September 17, 2017

Starlings were singing in the Greenock sunshine this lunchtime. One of the Black Guillemots on East India Dock was already in winter plumage.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

A walk around Dalry and up to the canal produced only a few Mallards but also Coal Tit and Great Tit singing in the sunny weather.

Saturday, September 16, 2017


Thursday, September 14, 2017


Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Very few birds down at the Greenock waterfront this lunchtime. Only the odd House Sparrow, Starling and Feral Pigeon.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Only Mallards and a single Moorhen on the Cart in Paisley today.

Monday, September 11, 2017

A lunchtime walk around the Murdieston dams found the female Tufted Duck on Town Dam still with her three young. They are nearly the same size as her and look very similar apart from having grey instead of yellow eyes. The males are moulting into their breeding plumage, with full crests but still dusky flanks. Another brood of three well-grown young was on the main dam. Last month's Teal was also there, showing a speculum consisting of two white bars on either side of what looked like a black one. 

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Around 30 Starlings were in a tight ball over central Cardonald this afternoon.

Saturday, September 09, 2017

Eight House Martins were over Dunchurch Avenue, Oldhall, Paisley first thing. Later in the day, a Raven and a Kestrel were sparring over Hunter's Bog in Holyrood Park, Edinburgh.

Saturday, September 09, 2017

Friday, September 08, 2017

Two Buzzards were flying in formation over the woods near Nerston Bridge as I was driving over to Hamilton this morning.

Thursday, September 07, 2017

News from the Stirlingshire natural connectors is that there are still lots of Swallows and martins about up there.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

It has been a good year for berries with everything from Wild Rose and Bramble to Hawthorn and Rowan bearing masses of fruit.

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

It was mostly quiet during walks in Greenock and Glasgow today. Only Robins are singing.

Monday, September 04, 2017

A fair amount of autumn colour in the street trees in central Paisley today. A lovely sunset in SW Glasgow this evening.

Sunday, September 03, 2017

No natural connections today but thirty Black-tailed Godwits on the lawn in front of Stormont was an interesting aside from Sky News.

Saturday, September 02, 2017

Three House Martins were still over their micro-colony in Oldhall, Paisley this morning.

Friday, September 01, 2017

A Raven was giving an unusual, high-pitched croaking call from the tower this afternoon. This evening, a Chiffchaff was calling from trees behind the house.