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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.

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.

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