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What’s Happening

(To see more about an item, click its link in the list in the next column)

  • We start the year with Chris Spray’s wildlife blog for January.   And we note that we’ve been campaigning for 13 years.
  • The official report on Stirling Council’s draft Local Development Plan has been released.   It gives complete support to the preservation of the Hill as green space.
  • Our recent open Board Meeting was held on 9th November 2017 in the Cathedral Halls.   We publish the agendas and minutes of meetings here.
  • We were at the Girl Guides Christmas Card Sale in the Victoria Hall on Saturday 4th November.
  • Spooks darkened the air above Holmehill on Sunday 29th October, when we held our Spooky Fun event, a perennial favourite with young families.   As usual it was in the Braeport Centre.   This was the fifth year that we’ve offered blood-curdling games, story-telling, and tea & cakes.   After lots of activities, eats and storytelling, a gaggle of excited children went up the path from Braeport to the parting of the ways at the top on a perfect night – dark (just in time) cool, crisp, clear with an amazing residual west light creating really sharp silhouettes on the horizon and lots of leaves to kick.   But all eyes were focused on the spooky subjects to be found closer to hand!   Sound effects courtesy of our resident Tawny Owl.   Thanks to all the spooky helpers.
  • Chris Spray continues his monthly wildlife blogs.
  • As usual we were at the Fling by the River.   On Saturday 27th May 2017 the Holmehill marquee welcomed old and new friends.
  • The hearing scheduled for 25th April in the Cathedral Halls was cancelled.   Allanwater Developments withdrew their Purchase Notice, lodged last year with Stirling Council
  • Allanwater Developments’ original appeals against Stirling Council’s planners were rejected on the 2nd of March.
  • We were at the Community Summit held on the 20th of February.
  • Now 12 years old: we held our first meeting on the 3rd of January 2005.
  • You can now follow @Holmehill on Twitter, and “Holmehill Community Buyout” on Facebook

These blog postings cover recent activities and news.   All the material is copyright Holmehill Community Buyout.   If you would like to reproduce anything in other publications, you should ask us for permission first.   For full information on our aims and history, click here to visit our website.

Our Meetings

We publish the agendas and minutes of our meetings on our website: click here to see the latest documents.

Click here to see the dates of forthcoming meetings.

Wildlife Blog May 2018

Wednesday May 23rd 2018

This was a cool morning, at least at 6:15am when I ventured out, but with no wind and dry conditions it was still a pleasant start to the day. At that hour, not surprisingly I had the hill to myself, though a buck Roe deer watched me as I walked along the road. The deer was feeding on the leaves of a small Oak tree, creating a ‘browse line’ at the height it could reach. Tree leaves are all young, translucent and tender at this time of year, so maybe it was more attractive than mouthfulls of old grass. Around it, the white flowers of Pignut are just emerging, especially on the slope facing the Perth road, whilst elsewhere the Bluebells are looking great. One clump was a very distinct bright pink! A much paler pink was shown by several Cuckoo flowers, whilst one or two Primroses linger on, as do a few clumps Wood garlic, and there were several spikes of Red Campion now to be seen. A clump of Solomon’s seal with its dangling white flowers is presumably a ‘garden escape’, one of several escapes, such as Rhododendron that colonise the hill, whereas a splash of yellow from a Broom or Whin bush could either be wild or an escape.

Birdwise, other than the cacophany emanating from the Rookery, the main noises were coming from numerous singing Wrens. And at last I heard a Chiffchaff this year, two to be accurate both singing at the same time. Two Blackcaps were producing a much more melodious song, and the scratchy sound of a single Whitethroat completed three Summer migrant warblers. By comparison the Blackbirds have gone quiet, as have the Stock doves, though both were present. A solitary Long-tailed tit and a Coal tit were both far too busy feeding than having time to stop and sing, and there seemed to be far more Rabbits around this time than before.

Click here to see the bird report for May 2018.   Links to all Chris’ blogs, and a note about his survey method, can be found here.

Chris Spray

Image: Wikipedia.   Conopodium majus; public domain.

Wildlife Blog Apr 2018

Saturday April 28th 2018

I thought I would get out early and avoid the threatened rain, but it was actually dry throughout and a very still morning.   With the leaves on the trees just beginning to come out, it was also the last time I would be able to get a good count of the rookery; the final total being 70 nests (up from 54 last month).   The majority are in the colony above Ramoyle, but a second group of 20 nests are in the south west corner above Holmehill Annexe.   Most nests now have sitting birds, but there were still some Rooks flying in with sticks to build new nests.   The Jackdaws, by comparison seem all well set in ther various holes in the trees nearby.

A male Great spotted Woodpecker was very vocal all morning, drumming on a series of different dead branches, producing a range of different notes, and seemingly unconcerned by my presence watching just below.   A pair of Roe deer were also not too concerned as I approached them in the Braeport meadow, the buck still with his antlers in velvet.   What was missing from the hill though was any Chiffchaffs, the first time I have not recorded singing birds in April.   It seems many of our returning Summer migrants are late this year, but Chiffchaffs have been around elsewhere for a while now, so their absence was a surprise.   It may be that their previously favoured area, the small trees and bushes where the old house once stood, which was flattened a couple of years back is now not so attractive, but hopefully they will re-appear in next month’s survey.   And neither could I find any of the Hawfinches that stayed on the hill over winter, so they have probably moved on.   At least I did find one returned Summer migrant, a male Blackcap singing from the undergrowth near the northern path entry.

Daffodills are still very much out, as are some clumps of Primroses, and I found a few yellow Celandines beneath the trees.   A single clump of Ramsons or Wood Garlic was not yet in flower, and neither is much else, though the emerging pale, translucent leaves of young Elm and Beech trees are very attractive at this time of year.

Click here to see the bird report for April 2018.   Links to all Chris’ blogs, and a note about his survey method, can be found here.

Chris Spray

Image: Wikipedia.   Ron Knight: A male Eurasian Blackcap.   License CC BY 2.0.

Wildlife Blog Mar 2018

Saturday March 24th 2018

A beautiful, clear and relatively warm sunny morning, with no wind – ideal for hearing and seeing whatever is on the hill, with the possibility of even an early Spring migrant Chiffchaff.   However, although there were indeed lots of birds singing and many others starting nest building, there was no sound of a Chiffchaff and, actually there was still a small flock of 7 Redwings here from earlier in the winter, feeding in the leaf litter below the trees.

The Rooks are well in to breeding and I counted 41 nests in the main area above Ramoyle (up from 8 last month) and another 13 in the south west corner above Holmehill Annexe.   A pair of Carrion Crows are building a nest high up above the main path and there are numerous pairs of Jackdaws investigating nesting holes, and several pairs of Stock Doves.   A large branch of one of the Beech trees came crashing down about 3 weeks ago, breaking off from the main trunk at a point where there used to be a large hole, used at least for roosting by Tawny Owls in the past.   Rotten branches elsewhere were providing perfect sounding boards for a couple of Great Spotted Woodpeckers; the pitch of their drumming being markedly different from the different branches.   Equally vocal were several Nuthatches and a male Pheasant.

It was a good moring for a variety of finches, though surprisingly Goldfinches, the second most common on the hill, were absent.   Along with several singing Chaffinches and a couple of ‘wheezing’ Greenfinches, I located one male Bullfinch calling from a Birch tree and then found a large male Hawfinch, with possibly a couple of others nearby, feeding in another Birch behind it, so it’s good to know they are still around, at least for the moment.

The Daffodils that were about to burst into flower at the end of February have clearly been held back by the cold weather, and the ‘beast from the east’ is no doubt responsible for there still being very few flowers at all.   By comparison, there are several banks of Snowdrops and I did find one group of Primroses, though not yet in flower.   A buck Roe deer with its antlers still in velvet was consorting with two does out in the Braeport meadow and I watched them for some time as the buck seemed to be nibbling the doe’s ears!

Click here to see the bird report for March 2018.   Links to all Chris’ blogs, and a note about his survey method, can be found here.

Chris Spray

Image: Wikipedia.   Andreas Trepke: Redwing.   Creative Commons Licence CC BY-SA 2.5

A Fallen Giant

Photo of fallen branch

Another branch came down last week with the weight of snow – a much bigger one than the two previous ones!   It is on the Perth Road drive at the bend before the fork at the top.   Enough has been cleared to allow walkers through.

David Prescott

Image: © David Prescott

Wildlife Blog Feb 2018

Saturday February 24th 2018

A beautiful, cold and bright morning, with the frost rapidly disappearing as the sun warmed up the hill.   The sunshine and the warmth encouraged a few birds to start singing, with Dunnocks and Great tits the most vocal.   The Rooks have already started nest building, with eight nests already taking shape in each of the main rookery areas, and many birds collecting twigs and flying up to the colony to start new nests.   These are still pretty flimsy structures at this stage and there was a lot of robbing of nest material going on.

A Great spotted Woodpecker flew across and started drumming on an old, dead branch, the resonance being particularly good, and far more impressive than the drumming sound of its rival, emanating form somewhere off to the east.   Later on, I saw another woodpecker feeding on pine cones, but as I was watching the drumming bird, my eye was caught by 2 small, chunky birds high in the canopy of a Beech tree behind.   They looked interesting, but difficult to make out, but when eventually one came in to view and turned its head, there was the unmistakable, massive bill of a Hawfinch.   So, perseverence had finally paid off and a new species has been added to the regular monthly count totals, one that had been seen by other birdwatchers last month on the hill, but which had, up until now eluded me.   There were 3, possibly 4 in the tree tops, feeding on the end of the twigs.   And later on, I saw another bird, much lower down and closer to me, so I was able to get a much better view of that bill.   There are still groups of Hawfinches being seen in lots of areas further south in England, so it will be interesting to see if these birds stay around; the problem being that they are so quiet and secretive, they are easily overlooked.

There were few other finch species to be seen today, just the usual Chaffinches, but a Pheasant was an infrequent visitor.   Three Roe deer does were lying up in their usual haunt in the Braeport meadow area and whilst the predominant colour at ground level is still brown, there are now lots of clumps of vibrant white Snowdrops and, amongst the emerging Daffodil leaves I located one bright yellow flower.

Click here to see the bird report for February 2018.   Links to all Chris’ blogs, and a note about his survey method, can be found here.

Chris Spray

Image: Wikipedia.   Mikils: “Male Hawfinch near Florence, Italy”.   Released under CC BY-SA 4.0.

Fallen Branches

Heavy Snow

Heavy snow fell in Dunblane this week: falls of eight inches were recorded in back gardens.  
On Holmehill the snow brought down branches from the beech trees lining the path through the site.

Since these photos were taken a path has been cleared, allowing walkers to get through.

Fallen Branches A
Fallen Branches B

Images: © David Prescott

Wildlife Blog Jan 2018

Sunday January 14th 2018

A dreich, dark and thoroughly unpromising morning, indeed even at 9:30 when I started it felt like it might rain any moment and I might have to give up.   However, I persevered, not least as I was keen to see if I could find the group of three Hawfinches that had been reported on the hill and along Smithy Loan this last week.   There has been a small ‘invasion’ of these chunky finches (with a bill that can crack cherry stones!) in to the UK, mainly further south this winter, though small numbers are resident as well.   In the end, the answer was no, but I scanned each tree top and listened hard for their calls and did at least pick up various other finches.   Most notable was a flock of 12 Bullfinches, in itself a surprisingly large number for this secretive finch, with another pair elsewhere, a solitary Goldfinch and a flock of 6 Siskins; all in addition to the usual Chaffinches.

The cold weather of the previous weeks has put paid to any early nest-building and there were only 6 Rooks anywhere to be seen in the colony tree tops, though some 26 Jackdaws were around.   I saw a Hooded crow on the Laighills at the end of December, had two Ravens on the hill last month and heard a Jay calling from the hill last week, but the only other corvids today were 3 Carrion crows and 5 Magpies.   In much greater numbers were various tit species, a combined flock of some 20 Great, Blue and Coal tits feeding amongst the brambles near the path.   A small group of 8 Redwings and single Mistle and Song thrushes were joined by 3 Blackbirds feeding in amongst the leaf litter, with a Great spotted Woodpecker and various Nuthatches calling above.

And although it remained a dull and dark morning, with little of colour to note, two Roe deer were feeding near the hilltop and the first Snow drops are out.

Click here to see the bird report for January 2018.   Links to all Chris’ blogs, and a note about his survey method, can be found here.

Chris Spray

Image: Wikipedia.   Mark Medcalf: “Male Eurasian Bullfinch in Lochwinnoch”.   Released under CCA 2.0 Generic.

Christmas Greetings!


Homehill Community Buyout
wishes all friends

a very happy festive season




Image: © Caroline Crawford

Wildlife Blog Dec 2017

Saturday December 9th 2017

Another impressive sunrise and a morning with absolutely no wind and, at least for the most part a cloud-free sky.   The ground though is rock hard and the frost was still lying when I started out, so it will be difficult conditions for birds trying to probe the soil or feed in amongst the grasses.   And it was very quiet, so I had to work very hard to locate any birds, with none singing, and the majority being intent on feeding and making very little in the way of calls while doing so.   A party of a dozen Long-tailed tits. for example were feeding high in amongst the outer branches and twigs of some Silver birch trees, but I had walked right underneath them before picking up the sound of a contact call and realising they were there.

More obvious, and indeed a first for the Hill was a pair of Ravens!   As I left the house this morning, I heard and then saw a pair flying over Dunblane, a not too uncommon sight in itself, but to my delight, I then found them an hour later, now on the top of one of the large Beech trees on the hill giving their distinct ‘croaking’ call, and where they stayed for a half-hour before flying off towards Sherriffmuir.   Another obvious large bird was a single Buzzard, though it was being chased by a pair of the resident Carrion Crows.

There was a good number of Blackbirds and a small flock of Redwings but, again these were very quiet and hard to locate at first.   Several Jackdaws were exploring some new holes in a partly fallen tree, while two skeins of Pinkfeet geese flew low overhead in the sunshine.   All the leaves have now fallen from the trees, but the leaves of the Brambles still provide a splash of green, as does the ivy climbing up some of the older trees.

Click here to see the bird report for December 2017.   Links to all Chris’ blogs, and a note about his survey method, can be found here.

Chris Spray

Image: Wikipedia.   Dave Croker: “Long-tailed tit”.   Released under the Creative Commons by-sa licence.