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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.

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”

Spooky Fun 2017

Spooky poster

Wildlife Blog Sep 2017

Saturday September 30th 2017

The overnight rains and total cloud cover when I started my count did not bode well for an uninterrupted survey, but gradually the weather improved and eventually the low sun was brilliantly lighting up the autumn leaves against a dark clouded backdrop.

As yet, not many leaves have actually turned orange or even a golden brown, but they are not far off, and there is little sign of any other fresh flowers or foliage anywhere to be seen, just tired greens, brown and mud!   The yew trees at least have their red berries, but they don’t seem to be as plentiful as last year, and there were no birds feeding on them as yet.

It was pretty quiet bird-wise, with a brief spell of drumming from a Great spotted Woodpecker and the odd calling Nuthatch, but mainly it was the sound and sight of pairs of Jackdaws swirling around the tree tops that caught the attention, whilst a few Rooks were still bringing in twigs to their old nests up in the tree tops.

Much, much less conspicuous and quieter were the ‘seep’ call notes of Song Thrushes, hidden up in the canopy or below the beech trees feeding on the mast in amongst the fallen leaves.   These must be migrant birds having just arrived from Scandinavia, as usually there is just a single or a couple of resident Song Thrushes, whereas I counted at least 24 this morning.   Looking back to last year, I counted 53 Song Thrushes at the start of October, so this is clearly a pattern of arrival.   Nothing else in terms of winter birds were present, though I have heard of small numbers of Icelandic Whooper swans and geese being seen elswhere this week.

No sign of any of the Roe deer again this morning, so I am not sure where they can be.

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

Chris Spray

Image: Wikipedia.   Taco Meeuwsen “Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos) singing in a tree in the Netherlands”.   CCA 2.0 Generic license.

Wildlife Blog Aug 2017

Sunday August 27th 2017

An early morning with no wind and no rain, so an enjoyable time to wander round the hill, albeit the ground was wet from overnight dew and recent rain, and there was total cloud cover.   It is all looking slightly bedraggled and very green – brambles, ground elder, nettles and the foliage of Rosebay willowherb – with only the bright yellow flowers of Ragwort, the red berries on the Rowan trees and the purple flowers of the Willowherb itself providing any other splashes of colour.

Autumn is not a time with a lot of obvious activity on the hill, at least from the hill’s bird population as individuals undergo their annual feather moult and there is little, if any territorial display or singing.   Our summer visitors are thinking of leaving, and migration is well underway along the estuaries and coasts, so this is the season when odd rarities can turn up anywhere including, for example a Quail which spent a few days in a barley field between Dunblane and Doune earlier this month.

At night Tawny Owls are again beginning to call, but on the hill there was virtually no song at all to be heard.   Some 40 or so Rooks however were back in the trees up at the colony, many of them bringing twigs to ‘rebuild’ summer nests, not that these will be used this season.   This behaviour just reflects a reaction to the changing Autumn day length (roughly now equivalent to the Spring day length) when hormone levels rise in the Rooks stimulating a brief bout of ‘nesting’ behaviour.   Other species were far more occupied feeding and preparing for winter.

The most vocal birds were several family parties of Great tits, which have clearly had a good breeding season, given their numbers.   The loud call of a Jay was easily recognisable, though this is an unusual record for the hill, but not too unexpected as Jays wander wide across the countryside at this time of year, looking for nuts and other food.   Rabbits and Grey Squirrels were also feeding actively, but there was no sign of any of the Roe deer this visit.

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

Chris Spray

Image: Wikipedia.   Carl Axel Magnus Lindman – Bilder ur Nordens Flora no. 20.   Public Domain.

Wildlife Blog Jun 2017

Sunday June 18th 2017

It was very warm, but with total cloud cover and even threatening to rain when I started out at 7am: however it it stayed dry and with no wind, and proved a pleasant morning’s stroll round the hill.

Undoubtedly, the stars of the day were the Jackdaws – everywhere I looked there were families of young Jackdaws, the young ones chasing their parents through the upper branches of the trees and begging for food.   A gathering of some 30-40 were also on the ground in the centre of the Braeport meadow, the adults in each family group working hard finding food in amongst the grasses to satisfy their brood’s demands!   The rooks, by comparison have virtually all left the colony now, so it was left to the Jackdaws to provide the sights and sounds of the morning.   Indeed, the group on the Braeport meadow were being watched by a very fine buck Roe deer, its coat now a rich russet colour, as also that of a nearby doe which was also watching the Jackdaws’ antics while feeding herself.

Elsewhere, a Sparrowhawk passed over, causing momentary panic amongst the Jackdaws, and there are broods of young Blue tits, Coal tits and others to be seen lurking in the undergrowth.   The delicate white flowers of Pignut are coming to an end, but this is a lovely small plant typical of open woodland and ungrazed dry grassland.   As its name suggests its roots and tuber underground, the buried ‘nut’ at the base of the plant, was once dug up by pigs to eat.   And although we have no pigs on the hill, the plant has its own small dark moth, the Chimney Sweeper Moth and, as these are day-flying, they are present on the hill at this time of year.   Chimney sweepers are sooty black all over (hence their name), except for a very small white fringe at the tips of the forewing.

The white of clumps of Elderflowers is also very noticeable right now, amidst what is otherwise largely a green sea of growing plants, brambles and rosebay willowherb in particular.   The beech trees have a huge number of nuts on them at present, so we could have a good mast year.

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

Chris Spray

Image: Wikipedia. John Haslam, Dornoch, “Jackdaw – up close and personal”. CC BY 2.0