Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Wednesday 31st March 2010

The island has taken a beating from the weather over the last 36 hours, with continuous rain, then snow, with very strong cold north winds. The effect of the weather today has been: some snow, lots of flooding and no electricity for a large part of the island (most of the Rhinns). Luckily for the birds it is such a late Spring, that none of the breeding waders had started to lay eggs and hopefully the flooding will subside to allow them to get back on territory.
Whooper swans have been hitting the news again, with migration struggling to get underway. Two whooper swans radio tagged at Martin Mere have been on the move, with Gordon managing to get to Iceland over a 5 day period stopping off on Tiree for a break. The other bird Tony has made it to Islay and decided to wait out the weather. We haven't found Tony, but he should be out there somewhere.
Whooper swans have been in evidence today with 18 at Ardnave Loch. At Gruinart 2 merlins were seen hunting in windy conditions and the little egret was still present. On Loch Indaal near the Uiskentuie strand GJ spotted 3 wheatears, 2 stonechats, 1 greenshank and 23 turnstones.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Tues 30th March

The old saying that "March comes in like a lamb and out like a lion", is certainly holding true. Today has been a day for staying inside, there was a steady rain through the day, but this evening it turned to sleet/slush and now at 10pm it is snow, not too nice, and the wind is up too. The Colonsay sailing has already been cancelled for tomorrow!
Back to birds, and Malcolm had seen a Wheatear along with a Fieldfare close to the water works up the back of Port Charlotte when he was out Goose counting today.
Chris & Tony Johnson were in contact to say that two of the "radio tagged" Whooper Swan from Martin Mere had headed North, with one stopping off on Islay, and the other on Tiree.
Paul Hathaway had seen 12 Siskin down in the wood at Bridgend over the weekend.

Monday, 29 March 2010

Mon 29th March

Another great image through from Danny Arnold, taken last week. The question put to me by Danny was, "Should it not be wrestling Hares, rather than boxing Hares?" We will just have to get some "boxing Hares" for Danny!
Louise was in touch to say that she too had some Siskins on her bird feeders over the weekend, as well as a couple of Goldfinch. On her way to work, as she was on the ferry from Jura to Islay she saw a White tailed Sea Eagle over the Sound of Islay.
Another good piece of news today is that Michal Sur has returned from his 6 month stay on The Seychelles. So it will be good to catch with him and see some of his images. Come to think of it I doubt if Michal will think much of the weather that is forecast for the next day or two!

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Sun 28th March

This is an image of a Mottled Grey moth that was caught by Danny Arnold.
Today, we saw our first Wheatear round at Ballinaby, I had been looking at other places where I had seen them in previous years, but the Balllinaby sighting was the only one today.
Down at Bruichladdich, directly in front of the Distillery, were 6 Purple Sandpiper and a few Rock Pipit. Back up near to the coal yard were 9 Pale bellied Brent on the eel grass, on Loch Indaal 8 Red breasted Merganser were close to the shore with a pair of Great Northern Diver further offshore Some of the Common Gull appear to be pairing up and at prospective nest sites. It is quite noticeable that a lot of the Greylags have paired up and starting to be split off from the groups that are still present. Although not having seen any hares boxing so far, there were 10 together at one field and then 2 groups of 6 in other fields, as well as another group of 8 in a different field.

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Sat 27th March

Danny Arnold who had been over for the past week, has now migrated South again, but before he left Danny had seen a Wheatear yesterday round at Saligo. Through the week he felt that he had seen an increase in the numbers of Stonechats seen round Loch Gorm, and also good sightings of Reed Buntings. In his moth trap, one night he had a Mottled Grey Moth.
Paul and Louise Holinrake from Orkney were the tour leaders over with a group of birders and have sent us in contributions this past week too. By all accounts they had all enjoyed their stay here on Islay. Many thanks to Danny, Paul and Louise for their input.
Over at Gruinart today, and James had a Whimbrel. Down in Bridgend Woods this morning and Paul Hathaway had a pair of Bullfinch, and this evening had seen a Barn Owl out on the wing.
At Bruichladdich, and Malcolm had 22 Pale bellied Brent Geese this morning, and this afternoon 7 Whooper Swan flew up Loch Indaal. There were 2 separate parties of Whooper Swan on Loch Gorm, the larger group had 49, and the other totaled only 8! In one of the fields here at home there were a pair of Red legged Partridge.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Fri 26th March

Catherine had carried out a count on Loch Gruinart the other day and the totals were as follows, 286 Oystercatcher, 54 Turnstone, 145 Curlew, 144 Shelduck, 8 Sanderling, 8 Ringed Plover, 515 Dunlin, 13 Red breasted Merganser, 2 Eider, 6 Redshank, 3 Great black backed Gull, 1 Lesser black backed Gull, 21 Black headed Gull, 13 Knot, 2 Mallard, 252 Bar tailed Godwit and 77 Wigeon. Many thanks Catherine for the figures.
Today, Ewan one of the vols at Gruinart, had seen 2 Wheatear and also an Otter while up at Ardnave.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Thurs 25th March

It was great to hear that the female Osprey has returned to Loch of the Lowes, another sure sign that Spring is just round the corner. I have also noticed a few more lesser Black backed Gulls flying around, no doubt on the lookout for a sheep that may "couped" on it's back or for a weakly lamb.
Down in the field beside the Coastguard cottages today, the "congregation" of Golden plover were present and it was good to see that the majority of them were starting to show their summer plumage.
James had seen the Little egret out in front of the hide this afternoon and also a male Gadwall, he also reported that more Shoveler were present, but he was not too sure of extra Teal around.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Wed 24th March

I forgot to say last night that I was cutting the grass yesterday, and looked what happened today, the rain came down, and quite a lot too.
There had been a flock of over 200 Golden plover towards Coull yesterday, and today the Siskin were still on the feeders at home as well the odd Greenfinch! This afternoon, I noticed quite a few Teal down at "smelly corner", whether they are some returning or not, I am not sure, but I will check with James to find out if there are more again on the floods at Gruinart.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Tues 23rd March

Looking back over the blog for the past few days, I had overlooked some sightings from Bob Medland who added his sightings on the comment box last Saturday, many thanks for that Bob.
Other birders over for the week were in touch today. They had seen over 200 Twite and some Linnet down on the Oa, and on their travels round Islay today, they had 7 different sightings of Hen Harriers as well as an Eagle being mobbed by a couple of Buzzards!
Tracey sent through the figures for the Goose count carried out yesterday and today. In total, there were 33,776 Banies and 5,924 Whitefronts. Thanks again to Tracey and the team.
Back here at home, and there were 2 Siskin on the feeders, along with 6 Goldfinch, there were only a few Chaffinch and no Greenfinch. I had to make do with a Peregrine flying past the kitchen window at teatime!
Over at the reserve at Gruinart, James had managed to get out of the office to spot some birds for us. There was no sign of any Whoopers, and also James felt there was a lack of Greenfinch, which backs me up! Out in front of the hide, the Little Egret is still present. On the flats, James had a Moorhen while out on Loch Gruinart there were 73 Turnstone, birds on the move as they were in a large group rather than several smaller groups. A male Harrier was seen displaying. James also carried out a Goose count for the reserve today, there were 5,205 Barnies, 156 Whitefronts, 19 Greylag and 1 Lesser Canada, hutchinsii.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Mon 22nd March

I knew I spoke too soon yesterday, talking about the good weather that is, as today we have to report squally showers especially this afternoon.
Our visitors from Orkney were out in Bridgend woods this morning where they heard a Tawny Owl, saw a few groups of 3-4 Siskins while on the River Sorn they had a Dipper and up at The Woolen Mill, they saw 2 Grey wagtail. In the afternoon, a visit to a Distillery was time well spent, out of the rain! Other birders, Dave Pullan and Emma Perry have headed home after a good week and thanks for their input.
Malcolm had been on the Bridgend to Bunnahabhain run today for the Goose count, and had not seen many Whoopers on his travels, only 3 on Loch Finlaggan.
Tracey emailed through the figures from last weeks International Goose count on the 16/17th March, in total the figures were 38,621 Barnacle Geese and 5,745 Greenland Whitefronts. Thanks again for the figures Tracey.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Sun 21st March

Another great day out here again, both weather wise and also for bird watching! This morning when I was outside, 63 Whooper Swan flew over heading North. A short while later, I decided to have a look to see if they had come in to rest up, but there was no sign of them on Loch Gorm, or over at Gruinart or up at Ardnave Loch. The one bird that did turn up while on this recce was a Sparrowhawk which we followed for over half a mile. This afternoon, and Margaret saw 3 Stonechat while up on the small crag beside our house. Visiting birders from Norfolk, also commented on seeing a few more Stonechat around today.
The visiting birders from Orkney had seen 2 Wheatear on the Oa today, a mixed flock of around 120 Twite with a few Linnet. They also had Golden Eagle on their travels. At Lagavulin they saw a Red throated Diver while at Bowmore there were some Goldeneye on Loch Indaal as well as Great Northern Diver and Slavonian Grebe, all starting to come into their summer plumage. A Siskin was on a bird feeder at Bridgend.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Sat 20th March

James saw his first Wheatear of the year up at Ardnave today, possibly the first one this year as I have not heard of any others being seen. Also at Ardnave, he had 4 Purple Sandpiper, on Ardnave Loch were 10 Whooper Swan, while down on the reserve at Gruinart, James had 41 Whooper. There are still 18 on Loch Gorm.
One set of visitors who left for home today were Chris and Tony Johnson from Bolton who had given us some of their sightings through the week. Another birder just arrived last night had seen a pair of Golden Eagle today, and later on down at Portnahaven he had a ringtail Hen Harrier.
Back here at home there was no sign of the Siskin, but there was a Reed Bunting on the feeders, and the temperature rose to double figures!

Friday, 19 March 2010

Fri 19th March

There are not so many Swans down on Loch Gorm, and no word of them turning up at either Gruinart or at Ardnave Loch, so perhaps they have left. Talking of Ardnave Loch, and James had 9 Goldeneye there this morning. Back here at home, and we had a first for the year, a pair of Siskin on the feeders at lunchtime. They were not to be seen later on again, but I will certainly keep an eye out for them tomorrow. I heard that somebody had 14 on their feeders over at Port Ellen, earlier on this week.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Thurs 18th March

Another image of the Iceland Gull taken up at Bunnahabhain taken by our friends. They also had a good sighting of a male Hen Harrier out on the wing over some gorse bushes on the "High road".
The visitors from Orkney had seen a pair of Golden Eagle while they were out, also a Kestrel as well as another male Hen Harrier in a completely different location. They had seen some of the Pale bellied Brent Geese on Loch Indaal, just North of Bruichladdich.
The wind outside tonight has fairly picked up!

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Wed 17th March

Visiting birders from Orkney had seen the Little egret in front of the hide at RSPB Gruinart on Monday, as well as a Greenshank, 20 Pintail and 10 Shoveler. Over the top of Loch Gruinart they had a Peregrine and also Buzzard fly past. Waders at the top of Loch Indaal included 38 Bar tailed Godwit, 20 Dunlin and 30 Eider. They also had 2 Great Northern Diver down beside Port Charlotte lighthouse. Yesterday, they had 13 Pale bellied Brent Geese near to the coal yard on Loch Indaal, down on the Oa they seen a lot of Skylark and also Twite. Over at Claggain Bay, Razorbill and Red throated Diver were present. Between Port Ellen and Kildalton they had seen 4-5 pairs of Buzzard.
Other visitors, this time from Norfolk had seen 2 separate lesser Canada Geese, hutchinsii and a male Hen Harrier on the Gruinart flats, a pair of Stonechats up towards Ardnave, and a male Merlin up there too. On the Ballinaby side of Loch Gorm they had seen a female Merlin and at Rockside a Female Stonechat.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Tues 16th March

Our visiting birders had seen a Buzzard making the most of a road kill, probably a Hare. Talking of road kills, and coming back home I noticed on our road up from the coal yard, that there were quite a few frogs, both dead and also some live ones!
Our friends also had a small flock of 30 Twite down at the reed bed beside the Coastguard cottages and also a Reed Bunting, but commented that they have not seen any Stonechats so far. The Whooper Swans are still on Loch Gorm, with another 4 up on Ardnave Loch and a solitary, lonely bird on Loch Tallant.

Monday, 15 March 2010

Mon 15th March

Visitors over on Islay for the week contacting us late this afternoon with some birds they had seen today. This morning they had been down in Bridgend Woods and had 2 pair of Treecreeper, 2 pair of Dipper at different places on the River Sorn, and at The Woolen Mill a Grey wagtail. In the woods again they had a Tawny Owl, heard a Goldcrest, and at one point in the tree canopy, had around 80 Redwing and Fieldfare carrying out "pre migration chatter". In the afternoon over on Loch Gruinart, they had 2 Greenshank, a Peregrine flying past close to them, and finally down in a field beside the Coastguard cottages, there were 80 Golden Plover.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Sun 14th March

One gets the feeling that the weather is going to break down, we certainly have had a tremendous spell, but going by the long range weather forecast, we are going to get some rain!
James had been down at the hide this morning at Gruinart and had 2 Greenshank, 9 Whooper Swan and 12 Shoveler. The Shoveler numbers as with Wigeon and Teal as down on what we would normally expect at this time of year, but due to the prolonged cold spell earlier on, we suspect that most of them did move South. The lesser Canada Goose, hutchinsii, was seen on the flats at Gruinart, while the Swans are still present on Loch Gorm, and here at home we had a couple of Red legged Partridge, the first I have seen this year, but I am not sure whether many were released last year.

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Sat 13th March

There was a new bird on the bird feeders first thing this morning, and again late afternoon, one of the Pheasants was up perched at one place, and was able to reach over to peck at the nuts, at the seed feeder as well as the fat balls. As if he could not wait to get fed on the ground as he normally does!
There were a pair of Buzzards hanging about all day, whether they were out having a look to find a suitable nesting site. The Fulmars that have been on the crag over the last few days have gone back out to sea again. Down on Loch Gorm, the Swans were still to be seen, and late afternoon, some visitors had seen 20 Chough down on the dunes at the back of Machir Bay.

Friday, 12 March 2010

Fri 12th March

The Swans were still down on Loch Gorm again today, but rather being all together they had split up into 3 different groups and all over on the Ballinaby side of the Loch. At Ballinaby, there were 75+ Golden Plover while at Coull there was a large flock of them on the wing, perhaps the balance of the birds seen just over a fortnight ago. We saw a Stonechat round at Ballinaby, and also over the last few days I have noticed a few more Wrens here at home. George had seen several Fieldfare at Grainel this afternoon as well as the Little Egret out in front of the hide.
Margaret had found some frog spawn today up the hill, the first here this year, but we have since heard through Malcolm that some frog spawn was seen at Carraig Fhada over at Port Ellen on Tuesday!

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Thurs 11th March

It was great to see that the group of Whooper Swan are still down on Loch Gorm, all 56 of them, but some friends had a closer look this afternoon and noticed that there is a single Mute Swan along with them, so that only leaves 55 not 56 on the Loch!
I was down at the hide at Gruinart this morning and by chance James was there too taking one of the guided walks with some visitors. They were well pleased with the sighting of the Little Egret which was relatively close to the hide, and James spent some time with showing them the various ducks present, as one of the visitors was not too sure of some ducks id. Also to be seen were Redshank, Greenshank and also a couple of Bar tailed Godwit, so all in all they had a great time!
There was a slight dampness this afternoon, had to put the wipers on while out driving!

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Wed 10th March

Today, George had seen a couple of Otters on Loch Indaal, as well as quite few Great Northern diver and Scoter. He was also saying that he was noticing Shelduck pairing up, and also the same with some of the Chough.
Also today, James thought that there were both Skylark and Meadow Pipits moving through.
Coming out of Bowmore, and the family of Mute Swan are still all together, to think that only on Friday they were almost round at Port Charlotte when I saw them then. There were 19 Pale bellied Brent Geese at Bruichladdich this afternoon, and on Loch Gorm, we counted 56 Whooper Swan, originally at 12.45 and they were still all there at 16.30.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Tues 9th March

Thinking back to last Friday, the day I took the image on last night's entry, well if I remember correctly was the first time this year that I had heard a Skylark singing and since than I have seen a few Lapwings displaying too. Certainly the birds in the wood here at home have been more vocal too! Also on Friday, there were 13 Whooper Swan on Loch Gorm.
The sky outside tonight is full of stars, no light pollution out here!

Monday, 8 March 2010

Mon 8th March

This Black Guillemot is one of the pair that are often seen down at the pier at Bruichladdich. There were some more Guillemots down below Carn between Port Charlotte and Portnahaven the other day too. Returning back from Portnahaven late afternoon the same day, and we saw 6 different Buzzards, in fact there were 3 perched on the top of telegraph poles in the space of only 7 poles! Some of the Great Northern Divers appear to be losing their winter plumage. Another sign that Spring is not far away, is that some of the farmers have made a start to ploughing the fields in readiness for sowing crops come April.
Tracey e mailed the figures from the Goose count, carried out last week on the 3rd and 4th, in total, there were 35,752 Barnacle Geese and 6,234 Whitefronts. As ever many thanks for the figures.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Sun 7th March

Another great day over here, perhaps a bit cold, but we had blue skies and the sun out. So, mid afternoon we went over to the hide at Gruinart and managed to get this Teal. He had been dabbling in the water and just brought his head out of the water. There was a great variety of birds to be seen, Pintail, Shoveler, Wigeon, Teal, Mallard, Heron, Redshank, 2 Greenhank, Red breasted Merganser, Mute swan, Whooper swan, Greylags, Whitefronted Geese, Barnacle Geese, and also the Little Egret. On the way over there was a male Hen Harrier on the wing, close at hand. This morning, up in the garden of Shepherd's cottage there were 39 Greylags, I had noticed droppings there yesterday, but had not realised that there were as many.
Today, James had some signs of Spring, 2 Lesser Black backed Gulls on Loch Gorm and also a Honey bee out flying.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Sat 6th March

Perhaps you do not recall an entry on the blog last month referring to 2 Mute Swans and their 5 young seen over at Blackrock. Well yesterday at around 9.30 am George had seen them below his house at Bruichladdich on Loch Indaal, and just by chance I took this image of them at about 10 am, by which time they were almost at the lighthouse at Port Charlotte. I take thito be the same family group that was at Blackrock last month as I have not heard or seen any others around.
Earlier on in the week, George had 60 Lapwing in a field at Bridgend, and 23 Pale bellied Brent on Loch Indaal as well as 70 Scoter. Down on the Oa, he had seen a Golden Eagle, 2 Chough and also 30+ pairs of Fulmar on the cliffs. He was also commenting that he was noticing more Rock Doves at Bruichladdich, especially since the pier has been "upgraded". He said that apart from perching on the structure, they were often seen on the rocks on the foreshore. On his bird table he had his first Goldfinch of the year, but has not had any Greenfinch present for some time. Whether Spring is here, but some of the Greylags appear to be pairing up!

Friday, 5 March 2010

Fri 5th March

When Malcolm was out Goose counting this week on the Rhinns of Islay at Octomore, he had 120 Fieldfare and 20 Redwing. Fiona McGillivray and Becky Williamson had been on one of the other routes at the other end of Islay, and over at Bunnahabhain had a White tailed Sea Eagle with yellow wing tags but were unable to identify it. They also had seen another 2 Sea Eagles on the same route the same day.
Louise had been in touch to say that with the longer day light, especially on her way home in the evening on Jura, that she has been noticing Short eared Owls as well as Hen Harriers. Yesterday she had seen a pair of Golden Eagles mating, and had 356 Golden Plover but not at Ballinaby! Over at Port Askaig, she saw 3 Bottle nosed Dolphins in the Sound of Islay.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Thurs 4th March

Whilst in conversation earlier on this evening with a couple of birders on mainland Argyll, and both of them were commenting on the lack of sightings of Wrens and of also Stonechats. Gordon Yates who was over on Islay for the last fortnight had not seen any Stonechats at all. I have seen one this year, but that is all. We will just have to wait and see what Spring brings, there is always the possibility that some of the birds may have moved on.
I took a quick run round past Coull and Ballinaby this morning, and there was no sign of any Lapwing or Golden Plover, in fact there no Geese either, only a couple of Buzzards. Just before we left home there was a small flock of 37 Lapwing which landed just over the dyke!

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Wed 3rd March

I have just been watching an excellent program on BBC2 on the Yellowstone National Park which leads me on to Gordon Yates's DVD on Polar Bears. The footage was taken mainly last year when Gordon was up in Spitsbergen. As well as the Polar Bears, there are shots of several species of birds, and of wild flowers, Arctic Foxes, Bearded Seals. It's all there for you to admire. For more details, click on the link to Gordon's web page and then the link to Polar Bear DVD, well worth it, enjoy...

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Tues 2nd March

One day last week while looking out the kitchen window I saw this odd looking goose. It was with some Greylags and a few Whitefronts and quite noticeable with having so much white. After speaking with Malcolm, it was put down to probably being a Greylag hybrid, a hybrid with a domestic goose or even possibly a partial albino. Whatever it was, I have not seen it again!
Still on Geese, and Tracey sent through the figures for last weeks' count, in total there were 37,434 Barnacle Geese and 6,515 Whitefronts. Thanks for the figures again Tracey.
This afternoon, there were 30 Greylags across in one of our fields, it is not often we get any geese here at home at all.

Monday, 1 March 2010

Mon 1st March

Another month in, a dry month for here, only 2.5"and obviously a lot colder than we normally expect! Even this afternoon we had some more snow, the tops of the hills have been really white for quite some time now. The sun was shining on Mull when we came home today and looked really nice.
With this cold snap, the other day I counted 24 Pheasants out on the front grass, we had just had a couple of big straw bales dropped off and the birds were making the most of any grains that they found. Yesterday, I saw my first Wren of the year, I just hope that there are some more around. Today there was one singing away in the wood, that was before the snow came.
The Little Egret was seen on the flats at Gruinart again today.