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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, May 31, 2018

A walk along the river late afternoon produced an excellent record in the form of a female Goosander with seven tiny ducklings, presumably very recently hatched. In spite of their young age, they were diving and surfacing with confidence like bobbing corks. Also unusual was a Buzzard soaring high above the back garden, being mobbed by a Carrion Crow. A single Black-headed Gull was hawking flies along the river and a Greenfinch was singing from the top of a tree opposite the house. Earlier in the day, a Swallow was over the Hammils in the centre of Paisley. I had been becoming increasingly anxious about the Raven family as I hadn't seen any around the nest site for at least a week. However the good news today is that four (presumably "my" birds) have been seen at Paisley Abbey.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Heard the scream of a passing Swift through the Greenock office window twice today (at 10:30 and 13:40). A quick walk down to Victoria Dock produced a Black Guillemot and a Rock Pipit. Yellow Flag and Honesty were flowering in the wetland behind the Waterfront leisure centre.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Greylag and Canada Geese both had young out on the lochside  when I passed the James Hamilton Heritage Park this afternoon. Back home, the local male Chiffchaff which had been silent for a few weeks has resumed singing again (perhaps starting a new brood).

Monday, May 28, 2018

Had a nice lunchtime walk around Greenock Cemetery. With temperatures in the high 20s, lots of insects were on the wing. Listened hard for Spotted Flycatchers (it seems perfect habitat for them) but to no avail.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

An early start in the Overtoun Estate was meant to be a quick check for Green Woodpeckers prior to heading to Ardmore Point but ended up taking the whole morning. Lots of birds were about with the addition of clouds of flies, regular butterflies, two species of damselfly (Common Blue and Large Red) and plenty of flowering plants. Bird highlight was a very showy Spotted Flycatcher which gave away its presence by its thin, raspy call but then proceeded to fly between several prominent perches including the top of a lightening conductor (!). Green Woodpecker resolutely refused to materialise but Whitethroat, Willow Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Chifchaff, Tree Pipit (2), Raven (1), Buzzard (4) and a distant Cuckoo were some compensation. On Loch Bowie, the Mute Swans have eight cygnets but any Mallard, Tufted Duck or Little Grebe young are still to show.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

The local Whitethroat sang just over the garden fence throughout another lovely sunny day.

Friday, May 25, 2018

No Swifts or House Martins over the west end of Greenock this lunchtime, in spite of blue skies and much searching.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

The only natural connections of a busy day were the birds singing along the footpath into Gartnavel Hospital (Collared Dove, Goldfinch and especially Blackbird). Sadly no Swifts over Hyndland again. This used to be a very reliable site.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Today's sunshine and clear skies produced at least one Swift over Hamilton at lunchtime and two over South Cardonald in the evening. An evening walk along the river found Roe Deer and Red Fox in an inaccessible area behind the railway and six Grey Squirrels in Rosshall Park. Two "pouter" pigeons were over Bonnyholm and clouds of flies were over the river.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

A walk around the east side of Hamilton today produced singing Chaffinches and Starlings, Blackbirds and a Mistle Thrush all feeding young.

Monday, May 21, 2018

This evening's walk along the river produced flocks of Goldfinches (suggesting first broods have fledged), newly unfurled Hart's Tongue Fern fronds and flowering Solomon's Seal. Earlier, a walk around Murdieston Dam found Mallard, Coot and Mute Swan all with young. 

Sunday, May 20, 2018

A walk along the river this afternoon produced 32 species including a pair of Whitethroats (the male singing from the top of a Birch tree while the female skulked in a bramble patch), lots of Starlings carrying food back to their nests, the now regular Grey Heron (but still no Kingfishers - did the wintery spring affect them?) and the first House martin of the year over the Cardonald gardens colony. A female Mallard had managed to get five ducklings to about one third of full size. Marsh Marigold was showing well and Red Campion has now appeared.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

A morning spent in West Lothian produced two Swifts over Bo'ness and another two over Linlithgow. Most prominent of the species singing from the farmland and woods in between were Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Whitethroat, Chaffinch and Yellowhammer.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Highlights of a day off spent in Galloway were Swifts entering nest holes on the Big Water of Fleet viaduct, a single Willow Tit at the Ken-Dee marshes and lots of Red Kites and Buzzards, particularly in the uplands

Thursday, May 17, 2018

At least one Raven was around the nesting site in Paisley this afternoon. A single House Martin was along Paisley Road West not far from the Cardonald colony which remains unoccupied.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

A House Sparrow feeding a brood under the eaves of a house on Moulin Road and several Starlings collecting food items from long grass in Rosshall Park were the most notable records from an evening walk around my home 1km square. Bluebells were out in force in a corner of Pollok Wood in addition to a nice patch of Stitchwort and smaller patches of Comfry, Ramsons and Garlic Mustard. Two Orange-tipped Butterflies were enjoying the nectar bonanza.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

A Pied Wagtail on Great Suffolk Street was the only natural connection of a busy teaching day in London.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Whitethroat, Chiffchaff and Blackcap all singing just over the garden fence this lunctime.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

An afternoon spent in the Trossachs produced some really excellent sightings. The uplands held nine singing Whinchats, three Stonechat territories, six singing Cuckoos (and a bubbling female), two Hooded Crows and 26 singing Willow Warblers. On or near the water were 12 Common Sandpipers and a pair of Red-breasted Mergansers. The oak and birch woods held Pied Flycatcher (1), Wood Warbler (2), Blackcap (6) and Tree Pipit (6), and a conifer belt held at least 30 Common Crossbills. House Martins were breeding at three sites. Two Schedule 1 species were possibly breeding and can't be mentioned here for that reason. The drive home produced Jay and three Black Grouse. The day total was 48 species. Some photos added below:

Friday, May 11, 2018

The Raven pair in the west end of Paisley have fledged two young again this year. Just like last year, one of the fledglings spent the day either perched on the church wall or pacing back and forwards at the top of the church steps. The other fledgling was much more confident, exploring neighbouring rooftops and chimney pots, and flying around with the two adults. One of the adults spent a lot of the day perched above the church door watching the first fledgling while the other adult mostly accompanied the other one. Hopefully they find somewhere safe to roost tonight.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

An Otter was unfortunately a road casualty on the M8 just east of West Ferry this evening. Later, the local Whitethroat was unusually singing from the very top of a riverside tree.

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

The Paisley Raven's nest was busy today with both adults visiting the tower and one of the nestlings flapping its wings on the nest.

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Single pairs of Dunnock and Blackbird are behaving as if they have nests in the back garden. However the Blue Tits seem to have stopped visiting their nest box.

Monday, May 07, 2018

Another busy admin day meant missing most of a gloriously sunny day in west central Scotland. The local male Whitethroat kept up his scratchy song for much of the day. An Orange Tip Butterfly flew through the garden.

Sunday, May 06, 2018

A busy marking day so not many natural connections (although Whitethroat song could be heard from the scrubby area behind the estate for the first time this year).

Saturday, May 05, 2018

House Martins were twittering over Oldhall first thing. Later, a Long-tailed Tit's nest on Moulin playing field had clearly been predated, possibly by the local Magpies. Sighting of the day was a female Mallard on the river with nine tiny ducklings (probably hatched today). Ominously, four Magpies were following the family along the bank.

Friday, May 04, 2018

The journey south from Pitlochry took place in warmer weather and produced the first House Martins of the trip. A brief stop at Corrymucklock led to some good inland wader records including three pairs of Lapwings and one each of Oystercatcher, Curlew and Snipe. The drive through Glendevon added Reed Bunting to the trip list. At Crieff, flowering plants included Ramsons, Bluebells, Sweet Cecily, White Dead-nettle, Variegated Dead-nettle, Stitchwort and Chickweed. At Tilliecoultry, an Oystercatcher was looking like it was nesting in a car park.

Thursday, May 03, 2018

A day spent around Pitlochry, Dunkeld and Blairgowrie produced a good inland total of 64 species. Highlights were twelve singing Wood Warblers, displaying Common Sandpipers and Grey Wagtails, Dippers feeding fledged young at two sites, Jays feeding young at one, a pair of Red-breasted Mergansers (I love finding this species on freshwater), calling Cuckoo and some other good migrants including Wheatear and Osprey. Some of the ones that got away were Stonechat, Whinchat and Peregrine (all seen/heard too briefly for a positive ID). One species that was notably missing was Lapwing with none seen all day. Of interest were two Song Thrushes incorporating Nuthatch song into their repertoire (two "real" Nuthatches were also recorded). Mammals consisted of Red Deer, Fallow Deer, Red Squirrel and Rabbit. Flowering plants included Wood Sorrel,  Forget-me-not and lots of Cuckoo Flower.

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

A drive through the Sma' Glen today produced some notable birds including two fly-through Sand Martins, singing Cuckoo and Ring Ouzel and hunting Kestrel (2) and Buzzard. Aberfeldy had House Martin, Swallow, Dipper and a rookery with 30+ nests. Pitlochry at dusk had a singing Song Thrush competing with 10+ Blackbirds.

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Marking all day today, with the sounds of Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Bullfinch and Long-tailed Tit wafting up from the estate below through the open window. A few days off now.