Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Wed 31st Dec

Sorry, not much birding done today, no sign of the Woodpecker, but the Trecreeper was seen along with over 60 finches in and around the feeders at midday. They were mainly Chaffinch, Greenfinch and Goldfinch. The Coal Tits are still visiting the bird table regularly. I cannot recall seeing a Blackcap so far this Autumn, other years there has usually been a single bird for a few days. Come to think of it, no sign of any Siskins either.
On that point, I am going to sign off for 2008, and I wish you all a good New Year when it comes. I would also like to thank all the folk out there who have sent me in their sightings throughout the year, be it residents here on Islay, or from visitors over here on holiday. Thanks must also be given to James How at RSPB Loch Gruinart who does the blog whilst I am off Islay, and also to Michal for his images which have been included through the year.

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Tues 30th Dec

Not everyone is on holiday here on Islay, with James and Catherine being no exception....
Catherine had done a farm bird survey, and her highlights were 47 Skylark, 16 Rock Doves, 24 Reed Bunting and also a Red legged Partridge.
James had been out for quick sortie on the reserve at Loch Gruinart and had seen 2 Golden Eagles, 6 Whooper Swans on the floods, along with 3 Black tailed Godwit and also a flock of 28 Shoveler all in one group. He also had a Barn Owl, while out on the salt marsh there was a Peregrine Falcon resting up.
This evening I am glued to the TV, watching the series "The Life of Birds" which was first shown a few years ago.

Monday, 29 December 2008

Mon 29th Dec

Yes, after claiming twice to have seen a Great Spotted Woodpecker, today it was seen again. This time for quite a while, and I even managed to get an image of it to share with you all! It sure was enjoying pecking rapidly on a dead branch. We take it to be a female as there was no red nape which the male bird has. Also an adult bird, as juvenile birds have a red crown.
Whilst out yesterday, I noticed several groups of Curlews at different places round Islay, with all the groups being of at least 30 - 40 birds.

Sunday, 28 December 2008

Sun 28th Dec

Outside tonight, as I write the blog, the stars to be be seen are something else, no clouds and no light pollution just a blanket of stars to be seen all around. It was the same last night and then we were fortunate to see a shooting star earlier in the evening and a further two later on.
Malcolm has returned from his trip to Antarctica, and e mailed in at lunchtime to say that he had a couple of Whooper Swans flying high, up Loch Indaal, and another six later. James had also nine at Ardnave yesterday, while I had the family group of 4 on Wednesday. Surely these are not birds returning from Ireland already!
And now for a harmless plug, checkout and if you look at the section relating the For Argyll Awards 2009, you can vote away in the various categories. Any votes much appreciated by those involved....

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Sat 27th Dec

On our way over to Gruinart at midday today, we had a really good view of a Merlin, armed with the camera I was determined to get an image of it. But it thought differently, when you followed it along the road and about 20 metres away, van stopped, window down, camera out, almost done, the bird had flown on along to another perch. The joys of photography....
On returning home later on, we took a walk out onto the crag and up to the "sword makers" house, and dropped down onto the Machir bay below the 3 gates, returning home by the Coastguard cottages. It was a grand walk and with the light being good in the late afternoon, we could see over to Donegal and up to Mull. Just before we got home there was a flock of Chough returning to the roost, just as the light was starting to fade.

Friday, 26 December 2008

Fri 26th Dec

Too much food yesterday and hence no entry for Xmas Day, was it too much Turkey?
I forgot to say the other day that there had been 2 adult Whooper Swans along with their 2 cygnets on one of the small lochans at the roadside over towards Glenegedale.
Tony Johnson who was over in late October, and has just had the report back from BTO on a dead Guillemot that he had found on Loch Indaal on the 29th of October. It had originally been rung earlier on this summer, on the 21st of June at Castle Craig in the Highland region, around 258 km from here.
Today, whilst on a run over to Bunnahabhain, we had a good sighting of 2 Sea Eagles over the Sound of Islay. The were initially ahead and relatively close to us, but as we got closer they flew out over the Sound and away from us. We were able to note that they both had yellow wing tags, but we were unable to actually read them. Also on our way there, at Carnain, there appeared to be a few more Shelducks to be seen.

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Wed 24th Dec

Whilst going over to the Airport earlier this morning, we had a tremendous sighting of several thousand Barnacle Geese still on the roost at the top of Loch Indaal, and by the time we returned about 45 minutes later, the vast majority had flown off. Also seen on our way to Glenegedale, was a male Hen Harrier out on an early morning flight at about 08.45.
This afternoon we went up to see what was on Ardnave Loch. We were not to be disappointed as amongst the Tufted Duck, there was a Goldeneye and also a scruffy looking Long tailed Duck.

Monday, 22 December 2008

Mon 22nd Dec

James had been out this afternoon and carried out a Goose count on the reserve at Gruinart. The scores on the doors were as follows, 5,246 Barnies and 323 Whitefronts. He also saw a Greenshank, 2 Peregrine Falcon and a Hen Harrier.

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Sun 21st Dec

A 'phone call this evening, from a friend over on the other side of Islay who had been out for a run in his car this afternoon, and at one point they had been watching Sea eagles, not one, not two, but SIX in total. Oh, this drink is a powerful thing. Some of the birds had wing tags and I will try and check tomorrow as to their ages.
Yesterday, while going out to get the papers there was a Peregrine out hunting, and on our return there was a Sparrowhawk at a different place. Nearer to home, there was a flock of around 100 Lapwing flying between Coull Farm and Rockside.

Friday, 19 December 2008

Fri 19th Dec

It may have been dry for a short time this morning, but then on came the rain and the wind picked up too. The surprising aspect about today is that we have been fortunate that there has been no disruption to the ferry crossings, although it was diverted and used Port Askaig rather than Port Ellen. We are certainly lucky in have the option of 2 ferry terminals here on the island.
Back to the birds, and Tracey forwarded me on the figures from last week's Goose count which totaled up to 33,521 Barnies and 5,943 Whitefronts. Thanks to Tracey and the team for the stats.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Thurs 18th Dec

James has just been on the 'phone with some figures from through the week. On Tuesday, he had done a count on Loch Gruinart itself tallying out at 305 Oystercatcher, 186 Curlew, 193 Bar tailed Godwit, 360 Dunlin, 27 Sanderling, 16 Turnstone, 1 Great northern Diver, 105 Redshank, 2 Long tailed Duck, 16 Knot, 2 Greenshank and 3 separate Hen Harrier. The sighting of the Long tailed Duck was a good one as they are not often on Gruinart, and more often seen in Loch Indaal when they are to be seen.
Yesterday, Wednesday and a quick trip round Ardnave gave a good count of 29 Purple Sandpiper, a Grey Plover, a flock of 54 Twite and a single Merlin, but no sign of Catherine's Snow Buntings. Again the Purple sandpiper was a good figure.
Today, on the floods in front of the hide at Gruinart, James counted 964 Teal, 145 Wigeon, 54 Pintail, 56 Mallard, 2 Whooper swan, 47 Shoveler and 2 Greenhank. The Pintail figures were a good record too. JRH
Thanks to James, for those figures.

Monday, 15 December 2008

Mon 15th Dec

Catherine had been out round Ardnave during the weekend, where she counted 41 Snow Bunting. Meanwhile, I read with interest that Stacey has arrived in Antarctica, you can read her blog on

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Sun 14th Dec

The bird table has been busy this morning with Blue tits, Coal tits and Great tits. House sparrows and Dunnocks were seen, as were Chaffinch, Greenfinch and Goldfinch. There were also the odd Blackbird, Starling and Robin as well. Certainly there appear to be more birds in total feeding so far this year. Susan over at Ballygrant has also had the good fortune of having a Goldcrest visiting her table.

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Sat 13th Dec

A much better day here, compared to yesterday and no rain thankfully, though the sea was roaring away good style. May be I should not count my chickens before they are hatched, as there were a few Fulmars soaring along the front of the crag this morning. Other times when this has happened, usually it turns out a sign of some stormy weather coming in a few days time.
I saw another Great spotted Woodpecker at lunchtime today, whether it was the same bird as back on Monday 24th November or a different bird I am not sure. The last couple of days I have seen a few "larger" Robins whilst out and about, possibly Scandinavian birds was James's thoughts
James had been over on Jura the other day, and seen an Otter, 3 Hen Harriers, 4 Kestrel, 2 Great Northern Diver and a Woodcock. Also the other day, while checking his sheep he had a large female Sparrowhawk.

Friday, 12 December 2008

Fri 12th Dec

It possibly has been catch up time today in the weather front, but honestly there is a happy medium. At least it is dry for a while again this evening, the burns are running full and there was a lot of surface run off from the fields leading to flooding at some places, coupled along with the high tide at dusk.
The figures in from Tracey and the team from SNH for last week's Goose count are just in, giving us 34,148 Barnies and 5,591 Whitefronts.

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Thurs 11th Dec

Well, it's been a long week for everyone over here, and it is now time to try to put it all behind us and move on. It will take a long time that's for sure, but with the community here, I am sure we will all rally round and do our best.
I had an e mail through from Tony Johnson, the other day relating to a Whooper Swan that he had seen down beside Loch Gorm back on 26th of October, KS1. This bird was originally rung in August 1999, in Iceland. It overwintered that year at WWT Martin Mere. It put in a brief appearance in Nov 2001 before heading over to Co Monaghan. It was at Martin Mere again briefly in 2002, and since then sightings have all been in Ireland. Infact the time previous to Tony spotting it this year, was back in March 2005.
Louise had seen some Goldcrest as well as several Long tailed Tits in the forestry over on Jura. Not to be outdone, Gordon, her other half, had 9 Short eared Owls last night!

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Wed 3rd Dec

With the recent tragic road accident here on the island, there will not be an entry on the blog for a few days, as all our thoughts are with the families concerned.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Tues 2nd Dec

Forgot to mention last night, that the November tally for rainfall was 4", while October was wetter with 5.5". The tally for the year is slightly ahead of last year, so we will have to wait to the end of the year, rather than making any rash predictions!
Yesterday, James had a Golden Eagle up at Ardnave as well as a Kestrel, down on the reserve itself at Gruinart, there was a male Hen Harrier out hunting, while there was a Peregrine on it's prey, a duck! On Loch Gruinart itself, with the tide being out, there were 238 Curlew resting up. In the evening, at home James was greeted with a Barn Owl coming out of one of his sheds.
On to today, and James had the female Hen Harrier out, a Barn Owl at a different location, a Merlin and 33 Red Deer on the reserve. He also had a Canada Goose, which looked like a minima sp. James also noted 9 Blackbirds round at Foreland. JRH
George had been out today as well and had seen a Kestrel, close to where we had seen one last week, and he had seen several Hen Harriers at different locations. GJ
Coming home earlier this evening, we saw a Barn Owl on a fence post beside the road, the sooner this new camera comes the better......

Monday, 1 December 2008

Mon 1st Dec

Michal had been out yesterday and got the image of this Barnie getting picked upon by his mates round about him!

Speaking of Barnies, when Steve Percival was over during late October he managed to get another 90 caught and rung, to add to the data base he has amassed over the last 20+ years.

The cold weather continues, and the morning flight was delayed due to ice on the runway here on Islay!