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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 Jun 2018

Sunday June 17th 2018

After all the recent glorious weather, this was a cool, indeed damp morning following overnight rain, but with no wind at all, so there were lots of midges around!   Perhaps not surprisingly therefore there was a group of swifts scything their way through the air low down and hunting over the open areas.   The impact of the recent gales though was very evident, the ground being littered with small (and not so small) twigs and leaves of Sycamores, Limes and the ocassional Oak, along with a spattering of beech nuts under the avenue of Beech trees.   The overall feel of the hill now is ‘green’ – with the tree canopy now closing in and birds difficult to see in among the leaves where many of them are now actively hunting for caterpillars and other insects.   Other than the odd splash of white from emerging bramble and elder flowers, and the now slightly faded Pignut, only the Meadow buttercups provided any real colour, though careful loking at ground level also revealed the delicate blue flowers of Speedwell.   Careful looking at the grasses, nettles and brambles also revealed many caterpillars, such as those of Red Admiral, and in the Braeport meadow numerous brightly coloured banded snails, most probably brown-lipped snails, one of the most colourful and variable snails in the UK. Their shells vary In colour across yellow, brown and pinkish, with a series of horizontal bands across each shell.

A buck Roe deer barked a warning as I approached, but most of the noise this time round was coming from families of newly-fledged Jackdaws up in the trees above.   I counted well over a hundred in total, so they must have had an excellent breeding season.   Other familes of young birds were also out and about, chasing their parents for food through the foliage, including Blue, Great and Coal tits, and a family of Nuthatches.

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

Chris Spray

Image: Wikipedia.   Mad Max:   “The brown-lipped snail (Cepaea nemoralis)”.   CC BY-SA 3.0.

Charity Buys The Hill

A new owner for the hill

David Prescott, Chair of Holmehill Group, writes:

Over the last 13 years, we have sought to secure this lovely green space for public access and have successfully opposed several planning applications to build over Holmehill. We are overjoyed that a newly established local charity has bought Holmehill, expressly for the benefit of the community. This is an exciting new phase for Holmehill and for all of Dunblane, and we look forward to working with the new owners, who have committed themselves to involving the community in the future of Holmehill. They plan to start consulting on their plans in the next few months.

Image: Holmehill Community Buyout.

A New Owner

A new owner for the hill

David Prescott, Chair of Holmehill Group, writes:

Holmehill Community Buyout is delighted to be able to welcome the new owner of Holmehill to the next Holmehill Group meeting in the Cathedral Halls at 7.30pm on Thursday 7th June. The new owner will introduce themselves and explain the reasons why they have bought Holmehill. This is a new and very positive phase in the Holmehill story, so I hope that a good number of members will be able come to the meeting to hear first-hand what the future offers.

Image: Holmehill Community Buyout.

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.