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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.

What’s Happening

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

  • We are overjoyed that a newly established local charity has bought Holmehill, expressly for the benefit of the community.
  • 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 6th June 2018 in the Cathedral Halls.   We publish the agendas and minutes of meetings here.
  • Chris Spray continues his monthly wildlife blogs.

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.

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.

Reporter Backs The Green Heart

The current Stirling Local Development Plan, dating from 2014, is under review and is expected to be replaced by Local Development Plan 2 early in 2018.   These Plans are very important for us: they set out the Local Authority’s planning priorities for the next four years, and are crucial for our defence of Holmehill as green space.

The Council has now received its Report of Examination for the new local development plan, which has been prepared by Reporters appointed by Scottish Ministers.   This report confirms the current status of Holmehill.   It can be seen here on the Council’s website.

Davis Prescott writes:

Holmehill Community Buyout welcomes the publication of the Reporter’s decision, following their review of the new Stirling Local Development Plan, which reinforces the importance of protecting Holmehill “as an open space audit site and a green corridor”. It rejects the arguments made about the Section 50 agreement “made 30 years ago and set within a different policy context to that of the present day” and supports our view stating “I consider the site to be highly sensitive to landscape changes”. We believe this endorsement of our position vindicates the hard work over the years to protect the site from inappropriate built development.

Wildlife Blog Nov 2017

Sunday November 19th 2017

This was a stunning morning to be up on the hill.   Not so much for the wildlife, of which there was relatively little to be seen, but for the gorgeous golden browns and yellows of the leaves on the beech trees as they were caught in the low, early morning sun.   It was definitely the time to have had a camera with you (sadly mine left at home), as the combination of hard frost and ice on the leaves on the ground and the sun glinting through the beech trees was memorable.   The limes and many of the other trees have already lost their leaves, but those on the large, mature beech trees along the top of the hill were all caught in the low sunlight and practically sparkled.

With no wind, bright sun and an early start, I thought I might see quite a few birds, but despite locating some of the ‘quieter’ species, such as Bullfinch, I only recorded 16 species in the hour.   The Bullfinches were sitting high on the top of one of the lime trees, so the male’s bright red cherry colours were easy to see. Less obvious were some 16 or so Redwings which, having eaten out most of the yew berries appear now to have turned their attention to the holly berries, along with a small group of Blackbirds.   Ten Chaffinches was a larger number than usual, but despite their occurrence at several local sites this month, I couldn’t find any Bramblings in amongst the Chaffinches.

The Rooks were in their usual good numbers high in the colony trees, and three Roe deer does were down in the Braeport meadow.

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

Chris Spray

Image:© Caroline Crawford

Wildlife Blog Oct 2017

Saturday October 28th 2017

After the sudden and unexpected frost on Tuesday morning, today was much warmer and totally overcast, though with the threat of rain any moment.   The rain didn’t eventually materialise, but it was a dull, even dark morning, so the Autumn colours were somewhat muted.   There are still lots of leaves on the trees though, so the winds haven’t yet blown them all off.

All the past two weeks I have been seeing flocks of Redwings flying overhead, so I was hoping some might have landed on the hill after their migration down from Scandinavia, the berries on the old yew trees being the obvious main attraction.   And sure enough, the tops of the yews were where I found them – fifteen at least, probably more, but they were mixed in with a couple of Blackbirds, a group of seven Song Thrushes and another seven Mistle Thrushes.   With this much attention, the berry crop won’t last long!   The other, much rarer bird I was on the look out for was Hawfinch, as small groups of these impressive finches have been seen all across the UK these past couple of weeks.   It’s not a species I have yet seen on the hill, and still haven’t; indeed there were very few finches of any sort this morning, not even Greenfinches or Goldfinches, though the quiet calling of a Bullfinch alerted me to one of these.

A huge stem of an old Beech tree has recently come crashing down in the corner of Braeport meadow, and groups of tits were feeding in the outer branches, now at ground level.   Rather like the ravages of the famous ‘hurricane’ that hit the UK 30 years ago this month, toppling thousands of trees in its wake, it has opened up a good area to sunlight, so it will be interesting to see how the vegetation develops in this patch over the next few years.   The aftermath of the 1987 ‘hurricane’ is now being seen in a much more positive light all these years later, as folk see what new plants appeared to ‘fill’ the gaps left by the fallen trees.

A lone Buzzard drifted over; a pair having been very evident this past month, so maybe they will stay and breed next year.   And after several visits without seeing our resident Roe deer, I saw four this morning, though only briefly as they disappeared amongst the trees.

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

Chris Spray

Image: Wikipedia, “Redwing (Turdus iliacus, right) and Fieldfare (Turdus pilaris, left) picking rowan berries”