Thursday, 20 January 2022

Thursday 20 January

It still comparably warm here, there is a green colour to the fields with signs of fresh grass. The geese will be in fine fettle on departure if this keeps up.  The scanner was on the Island this week for the first round of livestock scanning. A case of counting your chickens before they hatch, (or your lambs before lambing) and feeding them accordingly. I got a shock with 3 sets of triplets forecast in my modest flock of sheep! But Scan-man Ryan noted that most farms he has been to are up 10% compared to last years scanning. 30% in mine! A sure sign of good sheep condition, in turn reflecting the grass condition.  The geese on Spain might not have needed to detour so far for the mild weather! (see Mondays blog).

Nothing to report on the bird front today, luckily I saved some sightings in from Peters last contribution with his birding group on Monday:

"My birding group had a very productive last day that they all thoroughly enjoyed, starting with an Otter just outside the Port Charlotte Hotel where they are staying. We first went to Bolsa Track outside Port Charlotte where we got a brief glimpse of Red Grouse plus a young male Hen Harrier and a pair of reed Buntings. At Portnahaven we counted 190 Grey Seals and 25 Ringed Plovers on the offshore islands and some good Red Deer stags along the way. Up at Loch Gorm there are still 3 Pochard - now on their own as most of the accompanying Tufties have disappeared. Machir Bay produced the first distant Choughs and a flock of 35 Ringed Plovers. By the time we got to the Viewing Platform overlooking the S. hide in the afternoon it was glorious sunshine that stayed with us for the remainder of the day. Nothing unusual from the platform, but masses of the expected geese and ducks looking fine in the sunlight. Up at Ardnave we connected properly with the Choughs - the flock of 40 or so giving some fine fly-by and feeding views in bright sunshine. Turning our attention to the mouth of Loch Gruinart we scoped a couple of sub-adult White-tailedEagles that eventually flew over and spooked the masses of Barnies on the flats. A 3rd bird joined them, then a 4th from the direction of Ardnave Point. During this excitement one of the group spotted a Golden Eagle perched up, first on the dunes then briefly on a fence-line and in flight, giving some very reasonable views of a bird they'll not be seeing back home in the SE of England."

Wednesday, 19 January 2022

Tuesday 18 & Wednesday 19 January

Sorry folks, skipped yesterday due to a failed internet connection. Not to worry, all is back today and I have these stunning images to share with you from Morag Stirling who stumbled across these WTEs on the Big Strand today.



Breathtaking photos, I'm sure you'll all agree.

Yesterday Lauren had 3 little egrets in front of the South Hide, plus 2 male bullfinches on the Woodland Trail.  Later while she was digging nettles to create early corncrake cover, she was entertained by 2 WTE harassing the barnacle geese.   Gary, meanwhile, spotted 2 WTE at one of the regular haunts: the old wreck at the top of Loch Indaal.  Also a kestrel around the wood below Coullabus.

Today was a little quieter with the strong winds but Lauren still located a treecreeper in the woods despite the weather.  While at Claddach I saw a hen harrier in the wind along the coastal edges.

Morven over at Nature Scot sent through this months International Goose Count figures:

"The count was done on the 11th and 12th of January with figures of 35,196 barnacles, 6801 white-fronts and 1424 greylags."

Thanks to everyone contributing today.



Monday, 17 January 2022

Monday 17 January

 A gift of sunshine and (relatively) warm weather today. Together with the snowdrop shoots appearing, you'd almost think it was spring...almost. Its only 3 weeks into 2022, best not get ahead of myself.

Easing myself back into the blog today with a bit of cut-and-paste from Steve Percival with some interesting information about a wandering Barnacle goose...

I think this could be called a clever goose. I think if I found myself in Spain for winter I might have stayed put too!

"NBH – Ecotone tag deployed in October 2020 on Islay. We obtained full winter movements across Islay. The spring migration track (for departure April 2021) was more patchy as the battery was fairly low before departure. However, we have a full migration track for the autumn migration (after a nice summer charging up). This bird never staged in Iceland, instead it appeared to be blown off course and missed Islay in the autumn. Instead it is currently in Spain. A track in December appeared to show the bird attempting a flight back towards Islay before returning to Spain where it appear to have remained according to its last GPS fix. "



I think this could be called a clever goose. I think if I found myself in Spain for winter I might have stayed put too!

Sunday, 16 January 2022

Sunday 16th January

A bright and breezy day for the most part. Little egret and whooper swans at the Gruinart South Hide, and good light for ring-reading, with barnacles ringed in Sligo, Inishkea and Durness amongst the now very well-dispersed and scattered flocks.

Peter continued his stubbornly photo-free Magical Mystery Tour, fearlessly crossing the Laggan to South Islay. He and his group started at The Oa, walking to the American Monument and were rewarded with 3 WTE (1 adult and 2 sub-ad) performing some aerial displays, before they saw 2 golden eagles. Back at the car park, they had fantastic views of 30+ twite all around the bird feeders. In the afternoon they went up to Claggain Bay and saw 6 GND and a male bullfinch. A good day.

Other nice news coming through the grapevine was that one of the two WTE chicks from the first Islay breeding attempt (since they naturally recolonised here) in 2010 has been confirmed as the breeding male at a site in Eastern Scotland. The parents of this bird were both tagged on Mull in 2006, nicely showing how that population has grown and spread over the years. Thanks to all involved for that information. 

Finally, I was walking the Sorn at Bridgend recently, wondering when the usual winter kingfisher would turn up. Lo and behold, Malcolm reported that Niall Colthart had a kingfisher today on the Kintour river where it flows into Aros Bay, right down in the SE corner. An unusual sighting for those parts, possibly only the 3rd record.

Mary's back tomorrow (hooray!). Thanks to all the above for their sightings and to all of you for reading. 

Saturday, 15 January 2022

Saturday 15th January

My washing was on the line for 6 hours today and was exactly as wet when I took it in as when I'd put it out. It was that kind of day. 

Peter and his gang were out and about again. 6 long-tailed ducks, 2 slav grebes and a black-throated diver were at Blackrock. A dipper was at the Woollen Mill and they had their first hen harrier of the trip (a male) at Finlaggan. Looking across the Sound of Jura at Bunnahabhain they had c10 great northern divers and 6 tysties, in a variety of plumage stages from winter to breeding. Finally, they had a 1st year glaucous gull on the beach between Bruichladdich and Uiskentuie. The bill was pale with a black tip, so definitely wasn't Colin's possible hybrid from earlier this week.

George Jackson had 2 black-throated divers at Port Ban, with a smart male red-breasted merganser and an otter not far away. It could have been one of the 4 otters that Gary saw in front of Bruichladdich distillery this morning. Finally, Colin Bushell managed to squeeze in a last couple of sightings before he left. A pink-foot was with a group of barnacles just outside Bowmore and an Iceland gull and 34 brents were seen from the lay-by just south of Bridgend. 

Thanks to all for your sightings. 

Friday, 14 January 2022

Friday 14th January

Here we go with our daily game of Bird Bingo. Eyes down for a full house.

Peter and his group of birders all the way from Sandwich Bay Observatory in Kent had a steady first day of their tour, starting on the east shore of Loch Gruinart with 3 WTE, 2 little egrets, a greenshank and great views of an otter on the loch itself. Lauren had probably the same otter strolling around on the mud flats at low tide. In the afternoon Peter et al were at Loch Skerrols, looking at what is now 2 lesser scaup (a female and a 1Y male) and an "ever-dwindling" array of wildfowl. Around Blackrock, they had 12 PB brents, a few common scoter, red-throated and great northern divers and plenty of red-breasted merganser. The water was too rough for picking out long-tailed ducks or slav grebes. 

Lauren also had a WTE at Gruinart before her hen harrier roost survey in the NW Rhinns produced a good total of 7 birds, 4 grey males and 3 ringtails. 5 of the birds were very active at the roost, chasing off a passing buzzard and giving a great show. 

Colin was back up at Gruinart trying his luck for the cackling goose again, but no joy, sadly. He did have 81 pintail on the floods. Colin put yesterday's funny seagull on Twitter, and told us "the few responses that came back all favoured a hybrid with glaucous gull, although as Chris Batty of RBA said, it's uncertain that anyone has ever proved that parentage. Chris sent this link for reference"

http://www.irishbirding.com/birds/web/Display/sighting/86119/Great_Blackbacked_Gull.html

While I'm sharing links, RSPB on Islay are recruiting a new Community Information and Tourism Officer, so if you or anyone you know fancy 7.5 months being surrounded by this kind of wildlife, then have a look at this link. The closing date is Sunday. 

https://www.rspb.org.uk/about-the-rspb/about-us/rspb-job-vacancies/vacancies-listing/

A couple more of Phil Edwards' pictures from December to finish. Many thanks to him and all the contributors today. 




Thursday, 13 January 2022

Thursday 13th January

A quiet day today. Mary had 5 whoopers flying low over Portnahaven, with one of her pals seeing a WTE just outside the village this morning. 

Colin Bushell had a WTE at Laphroaig, then spent the afternoon in search of a cackling goose. He didn't find one, but had 28 PB brents and 2 WTE at Blackrock, and then up at Gruinart had 14 whoopers, a (ringtail) hen harrier and a fieldfare with 7 mistle thrushes. Colin wins Bird of The Day for the below unusual gull on the flats at Loch Gruinart, which seems to be getting votes as a leucistic great black-back, though any further thoughts would be welcome. 



That's all, folks. 2022's first bird tour group has arrived on Islay, so should be a longer read tomorrow.