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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, August 31, 2019

Largs, like the rest of Scotland was cold, wet and windy today. Plenty of Pied Wagtails were on the cropped grass along the seafront and five Red-breasted Mergansers flew past close in. Swallows were over the farmland surrounding the town.

Friday, August 30, 2019

A blustery west wind accompanied today's walk along the Union Canal and the Water of Leith from Hermiston Gait to Haymarket. Some highlights included Dippers singing at two sites (presumably establishing winter territories), a Kingfisher calling at one and a pair of Mute Swans with a very impressive nine cygnets.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

There was no sign of any Spotted Flycatchers on Dumbrock Muir or Muirhouse Muir today, although some compensation was provided by two Kestrels, large numbers of Meadow Pipits (roosting in the grass), a family group of Bullfinches and a flyover Tree Pipit.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

A busy day painting the bus shelter in the back garden, so the only natural connections were with wildlife passing or moving through. Highlights were a calling Great Spotted Woodpecker, a singing Chiffchaff, a tit flock containing at least one Long-tailed Tit and a couple of Swallows twittering overhead.

Monday, August 26, 2019

A walk around Hogganfield Loch this morning found 22 Pochards in a loose flock near the island. Also notable were a half-grown Tufted duckling and a singing Willow Warbler.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Several Peacocks and a Painted Lady were on a Buddleia bush in north Cardonald. Later, a female Sparrowhawk was over the bowling green.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

A female Tawny Owl was calling next to the house for the second night this week. At least four House Martins were over their colony at Oldhall. Later, a visit to Mugdock Park produced numerous Peacock Butterflies (along the path to the reservoir and on a buddleia bush at the centre), a few Painted Lady butterflies and a single Darter sp dragonfly.

Friday, August 23, 2019

A change to calmer and warmer weather may have been what caused a Chiffchaff at Moulin to break into song. Later, a lone bat fluttered over a barbecue in a Pollok garden.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Today was a fairly miserable day in terms of  bird sightings with the strong wind keeping most birds in cover. However two unusual finds were a ground beetle and an Elephant Hawkmoth caterpillar, both crossing the path at Moulin Playing Fields.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

I happened to be awake at 03:30 today when a female Tawny Owl was calling loudly and repeatedly from the woods next to the house. This afternoon's weather forecast was for heavy rain so headed out first thing in the morning and was at the RSPB Skinflats reserve by about 10am. The tide was well out (I will have to time my visits better in future) so the scrapes were mostly empty. However a couple of Common Sandpipers were present, plenty of butterflies were along the field edges and a male Kestrel was hunting over the marshy area to the north. A flock of over 50 Goldfinches was on thistles and around 20 Tree Sparrows were flying between a hedge and a stubble field. Heading back to Kincardine for the bus, several of the wild rose bushes along the approach road were infested with the hymenopteran gall wasp and were growing the characteristic "Robin's Pincushions".


Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Spent part of today walking around the north end of Falkirk and into Stenhousemuir and Larbert. The summer doldrums have afflicted that whole area too. However it was good to see four House Martins (including at least one begging juvenile) over the traffic at Grahamaston, small groups of Swallows at several sites, Common Buzzards at two (including a begging juvenile near Falkirk Cemetery) and a single Common Gull back on the playing fields at Langlees. 

Monday, August 19, 2019

Another day of sunshine, showers and wind (there have been a lot of them recently). Signs of (presumably) a successful breeding season consisted of 14 Swallows (including many juveniles) on a house roof next to Lochar Park (with four adults feeding over the playing fields) and 40 House Sparrows (again including many juveniles) in a tiny conifer hedge across the road. Also at Lochar Park were a brood of Bullfinches in a conifer hedge. After having been virtually invisible for the past few weeks, over 30 Mallards took to the air and flew up and down the river before landing back at their usual spot near the Cardonald Place Bridge. A flock of 50 Lesser Black-backed Gulls on Lourdes Academy playing fields again contained many juveniles.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

The summer doldrums continue locally, with most species silent and hidden from view.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

A walk along the canal between Dalmuir and Bowling (and then on to Milton) provided further (anecdotal) evidence that this has been a good year for Moorhens with birds (including a pair with a brood of three chicks) heard or seen at regular intervals.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Another damp day with continuous rain until the afternoon.When the sun DID come out, few birds were visible but a Kingfisher called from the river and the woods were full of disembodied squeaks and churrs of tits, Chiffchaff and Blackcap.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Today's walk along the river produced 21 Mallards. The species has been viurtually absent (or at least well hidden) for a number of weeks. Over in Barshaw Park, at least two House Martins and a Swallow were feeding above the treetops.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

The usual walk along the river was initially unpromising as the rain which had persisted all day still continued. Nothing was on the river because of its swollen state and the turbidity of the water. However a Kingfisher was found, having relocated to the park pond. Also in the park, a female Sparrowhawk which seemed to be coralling small birds into the top of a tree flew off when we appeared. The local birds were also disturbed by a Grey Heron which flew low over Bonnyholm Playing Fields in the direction of the weir. At least four Collared Doves were on lamposts at Bonnyholm where the Hoodie hybrid had reappeared having been absent over the summer. Back in the park, a Blackcap was giving its "Tuc Tuc!" call (in a different spot from yesterday). Finally, down by the river, three Stock Doves seemed to be showing some mating behaviour, one repeatedly bowing to another with its wings open and tail fanned. Perhaps the breeding season is not over yet for this species.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

A busy day meant very little time for natural connnections. However a circuit of Hogganfield Loch found quite a good count of 17 Pochards (eleven males and six females), a species I seldom see these days. Other notable sightings included a Brown Rat near the duck feeding area, four Gadwall, a female Tufted Duck with four half-grown young and a Coot with a tiny chick.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Enjoyed a very nice walk from the centre of Musselburgh to Port Seton today. Some of the highlights were House Martins still feeding nestlings at Prestonpans, a few Velvet Scoters among a large raft of Common Scoters off Westpans and excellent views of Turnstones (some in summer plumage) beneath the sea wall.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

A day of incessant rain meant that birds were very few and far between during a walk along the river. In fact the only notable sighting was of three juvenile Jackdaws feeding on Moulin playing field.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

A walk from Paisley to Cardonald this lunchtime started with the rough section between the new estate at Hawkhead and the river. The land there is very damp (probably exacerbated by recent heavy rain) so the going was quite difficult. What was notable was the number of Common Toads present with a full-grown adult, a medium grown individual and several tiny toadlets all seen. Also present were good numbers of Peacock Butterflies. Meanwhile, five Stock Doves (two adults and three immatures) in a tight group at Rosshall Park were clearly a family group and suggest local breeding. Also in Rosshall Park, a loud "Tuc! Tuc!" call emanating from an Elderberry bush proved to have come from a Blackcap.
The afternoon was spent in Stirling city centre. Birds were unsurprisingly few and far between but a Buzzard was over Springkerse and Swallows were at six sites.

Friday, August 09, 2019

Six Stock Doves were the highlight of a walk along the river this afternoon.

Thursday, August 08, 2019

A few glances over the parapets of the various bridges in the Yorkhill and Partick areas found some great local birds including Grey Wagtail, Dipper and Sand Martin. The latter species is almost certainly breeding again in the retaining wall of the River Kelvin under the Benalder Street bridge. At least five birds (probably double that number) were flying over the adjacent river and at least four nest holes were being visited. Also notable in the general area were an adult and two juvenile Ravens, presumably locally-bred.

Wednesday, August 07, 2019

A walk along the Clyde foreshore between Park Quay, Erskine and Mar Hall Golf Course revealed a remarkable number of Redshanks (at least 275), with smaller numbers (in descending order) of Oystercatcher, Dunlin and Curlew. Painted Lady and Peacock butterflies were on the wing.

Tuesday, August 06, 2019

Spent a sunny day down in Inverclyde. First bird seen was an Osprey circling over the Clyde near Newark Castle. There were two broods of Tufted Ducks on Town Dam - one of two medium-sized chicks and one of four tiny ones. An unusual Mallard was also present. It had quite exaggerated colours and a lot of white patches. Down at Gourock, two Black Guillemots were in the bay, three Swifts were overhead and a Sandwich Tern flew past, pursued by two juveniles.

Monday, August 05, 2019

Highlights of a wet and windy walk along the canal and the River Carron in Falkirk today were a Grey Wagtail and Swallow mobbing a Magpie, two singing Yellowhammers, three confiding Rabbits and the first Teal joining the local Mallards.

Sunday, August 04, 2019

The first natural connection of the day involved a Tawny Owl calling at 1am. Later, the calls of at least one Willow Warbler and one Chiffchaff confirmed that they are still in the area. However Swifts and House Martins were absent.

Saturday, August 03, 2019

A whistle-stop trip to Rowardenan did not allow any time for birdwatching, although Oystercatcher and Common Gull were calling while I was there. Back home, the Moorhens on Rosshall Park Pond had yet another brood (of one newly-emerged chick), their third by my reckoning. Also noteworthy were a Buzzard being mobbed by corvids and a single Painted Lady.

Friday, August 02, 2019

Four Swallows were over the Bent Brae Cemetery, Hamilton this morning.

Thursday, August 01, 2019

Spent some time in central Paisley today. A pair of Moorhens had four well-grown chicks and were chasing away any Mallards straying too close. Nearby, a large Buddleia bush was covered in at least 50 Painted Lady butterflies (plus a Small Tortoiseshell and a Peacock). Back home, three martins were chattering over the river but too high to properly identify, and a single Swift flew over the garden.