Friday 29 February 2008

Thurs 28th Feb

It is a bit like the buses, in the sense that we had no previous images of Snow Buntings and then on 2 on days back to back, 2 images included on the blog although they were diffefrent birds, with this one up at Ardnave! There were the usual group of 4 to be seen there at that time, while on Ardnave Loch itself there were 10 Whooper Swan, about 50 Wigeon, a few Teal, some Mallard and a pair of Goldeneye. On the lochside there were Oystercatcher and the odd Lapwing and overhead several Chough were out flying around, and as usual being very vocal. At Sanaigmore, there were a few Ringed Plover noted. Earlier on, we were fortunate to see 3 Golden Eagle soaring above us, were they the same birds that Malcom had on a previous blog? At the start of our short trip out, the male Hen Harrier was seen out hunting. IKB

Thursday 28 February 2008

Wed 27th Feb

With the lull in the current stormy weather there was a chance to carry out the "Beached Bird Survey" on the Big Strand below Laggan Point towards the Airport. The only casualties found were a single Shag and also a Razorbill. Possibly with the recent high winds other birds could have been buried in drifting sand, or on the other hand there were no other birds which in itself would be good!
Also on the shoreline was this single Snow Bunting at the mouth of the River Laggan, there were 35 Black Backed Gulls, 150 Common Gulls, 120 Oystercatcher and 2 Buzzard which were soaring overhead. MS
Returning from collecting the papers, there were 4 Heron together, so were they back checking on last years nest site? Down below in the young grass field there were around 250 Skylark on the ground.

Monday 25 February 2008

Mon 25th Feb

The weather has not relented with strong winds and blustery showers common today. The 4 Snow Bunting were to the fore up at Ardnave, whilst down at Loch Skerrols, there was a Little Grebe along with 51 Goldeneye, with the 14 drakes displaying to the others. GDY
There was also today, before the weather really deteriorated, a pair of Buzzard were displaying, the male initially carrying a large twig/ small branch in its talons and doing a fly past, several times, before eventually coming to land down beside the female. AJ
On Saturday night, we saw a total of 28 Frogs in the cars lights whilst out and about, one or two had already been struck by previous motorists. The other surviving frogs appeared to be dazzled in the headlights and did not hop off...

Saturday 23 February 2008

Fri 22nd Feb

With the stormy, wet weather continuing, there is not a lot to report today.
Therre were 30 Goldeneye sheltering on Loch Skerrols and 24 Purple Sandpiper on the shore at Bruichladdich. GDY
I do not know if you remember the film footage that was once on the TV of a Sparrowhawk wending its way through a woodland scene, tucking its wings in to get through between various branches and posts, it was really amazing to watch, well recently a similar sighting here has been witnessed on Islay. The bird initially tucked its wings in to fly through the mesh of a rylock deer fence, and then again on the fence around the owner's dog run before getting it's prey from the bird table. It has been seen doing this several times. RAS

Thursday 21 February 2008

Wed 20th - Thurs 21st Feb

I must apologise for not putting an entry on last night, but I was watching the football and forgot, or was it an age thing coupled with memory loss, a senior moment? The weather has broken down today with a strong wind and some squally rain showers.
Walking round Ardnave Point the other day, 20 Purple Sandpipers and also 20 Grey Plovers were seen, while over at Bunnahabhain, the Iceland Gull was still around. Today, again at Ardnave, the 4 Snow Bunting were seen, but they proved to be very elusive, even camera shy infact, much to my annoyance! Also an immature Golden Eagle was seen on a fence post. A single Snow Bunting was on the road over on Jura, but it too did not want its photo taken either! There were no visible signs of Otters in the usual haunts. GDY
Yesterday, in one of the stubble fields at Aoradh, on RSPB Loch Gruinart reserve, the following were noted, 110 Rock Dove, a flock of 80 Skylarks, 30 Twite, 120 Common Gull, 20 Linnet, 25 Reed Bunting, and a male Hen Harrier was out on the moorland hunting. Another Iceland Gull was seen flying north over the reserve too. MS

Tuesday 19 February 2008

Tues 19th Feb

Having just received a copy of Gordon Yates' DVD, "The Wildlife Gems of Islay", I managed late last night to sit down and view it. The whole DVD is around an hour in all, and the DVD is well presented, with Gordon's excellent photography to the fore. One gets a feel for Islay as he goes through the seasons, from storms to sunsets, we get it all. Gordon has done his own voice over, a nice touch I thought. In all, more than 90 species of Islay's birds are shown, along with footage of Otters, Deer, Seals, Adders and some of our wild flowers, including splendid views of Bridgend Wood carpeted with the Snowdrops. Also noted were Marsh Fritillary and other butterflies. All told I would certainly recommend this DVD to anyone. You can get a preview of it on line on and order it direct with Gordon.

Monday 18 February 2008

Mon. 18th Feb.

Another great day, has Spring arrived early? To cap it all some Frog Spawn was found in a ditch in Glen Astle on the Oa, this must be early. Also on Glenastle Loch there were 15 Tufted Duck and near the actual loch on the ground were several Rock Pipits. Over on the Rhinns, close to Claddach at Portnahaven, a single Grey wagtail was spotted along with 2 Pied wagtail. S.A.

Also yesterday, 12 Whooper Swans were seen flying over Bruichladdich heading north. G.J.
The above image was taken this morning by Malcolm Ogilvie and it shows the geese resting up after feeding all night by the light of the moon.

Sunday 17 February 2008

Sun 17th Feb

With the recent spell of better weather, it is not just us humans that are in the mood to catch up with work, especially outside chores that have to be done sometime! This week when doing one of my chores, I have been watching a pair of Ravens flying back to their nest with fairly big twigs/ small branches to help build their nest ready for another season. Even altough they were carrying material in their beaks, they were still being quite vocal at the same time! The Raven is one of our earliest nesting birds. Also this week, a pair of Buzzard were floating about, were they the same pair that nested here a few years back, on the lookout for a new nest site? On a different tack, the number of hares to be seen around is on the increase with 27 noted the other day in some fields close to each other. Sadly the number of Hares seen as "road kills" has increased too. IKB

Saturday 16 February 2008

Sat 16th Feb

This Purple Sandpiper was down on the shoreline at Bruichladdich, infact just outside the Distillery, It was there along with some Turnstone, but unfortunately the light was not as good as earlier on this week.
Returning home from Bruichladdich, there was a flock of around 170 Twite in a field at Sunderland, the largest number that I have seen here in one group.
We forgot to list seeing a pair of Grey Wagtails whilst out on the walk yesterday. IKB

Fri. 15th Feb.

Another great day weather wise, so could not resist going for a walk... We saw and heard Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Coal Tit, Blackbird, Wren, Stonechat and Meadow Pipit. We also saw Red and Roe Deer hinds. When stopped for a well earned rest and a cup of tea, we watched a Golden Eagle soaring on the thermals. Lots of geese to be seen all over the island, and here at Kilchoman there is an increase in the number of Greylag Geese on the fields. MAB

Thursday 14 February 2008

Thurs 14th Feb

As promised from yesterday's entry, I have got some news on the choughs from Maria Bogdanova who has been working on them for the past few years.

Unfortunately, I cannot say anything cheerful about 2007, it turned out a very bad year for chick survival. The breeding success in 2007 was normal but the majority of chicks died relatively soon after they fledged (in the first 3 - 4 months). There are hardly any left now (less than 10%). It seems that the high mortality was caused by a combination of bad weather and lack of food during the critical time when the parents were feeding the chicks in the nest and also in the period after the young fledged when they still lacked foraging experience.The only good news is that many of the young born in 2006 (which was a good year) are still doing well. The young birds have been in the main 2 flocks, in the areas of Ardnave and Kilchoman, throughout the winter. Many thanks to Maria for her input to the blog.

Some of you may remember this image of a chough that I took early on last summer, it was in a bit of a sorry state, although I went to look for it later on that day there was no sign of it. I also believe there was quite a high mortality due to "Gape worms" last year. IKB

Wednesday 13 February 2008

Wed 13th Feb

This is an image of a male Brambling that was on our feeders last March for a few days, and recently there have been reports of some sightings. A female was over feeding in a garden on the south side of Islay on Sunday, and there was a pair in the same garden on Monday. RAS

At the weekend, up at Ardnave, on the dunes there were 61 Chough counted in total, all probing and eating grubs. I will try to get an update on how last years Chough offspring have fared, and will inform you soon once I get some details to hand. Also in a field at Ardnave, there were 104 Fieldfare. CF
Just as I write this entry, I have just been told that Gordon Yates has produced a DVD titled "Wildlife Gems of Islay", a new addition to Gordon's bow. You can get more details of his hour long DVD by clicking onto the link with Gordon's webpage, through our weblinks. We will all get a viewing of it when Gordon and Pauline come over this weekend. IKB

Tuesday 12 February 2008

Tues 12th Feb

The light here today has been really good, so the cameras have been out in action making the most of this spell of weather. The wren was taken on my return up the track from the hide at RSPB Loch Gruinart reserve. What an elusive bird it turned out to be as it preferred to skulk about in the background, rather than coming out into the better light and pose for me! I managed to get some other images of other birds, but they can wait for another entry!
The image of the Golden Eagle was also taken today by Malcolm Ogilvie, whilst he was out Goose counting! There were actually 2 Adults and one of last years youngsters together. One would have thought by now that the youngster would not have been in the vicinity of the eyrie as the birds will soon be laying again in the next 5 - 6 weeks.
It has been a good day for observing Raptors, as Catherine had a Sparrowhawk up at Killinallan and also a Merlin when returning from Ardnave late afternoon. On the floods at Gruinart I watched a Peregrine in pursuit of a Curlew, and surprisingly enough the Curlew got away safely!

Monday 11 February 2008

Mon 11th Feb

It has been a busy day on the Islay birds front, busy for everyone else apart from me, so here goes!
Tracey and Margaret forwarded me last weeks Goose counts, which tallied up to give 41,516 Barnacle Geese and 4,551 Greenland Whitefronts. It will be interesting to see the figures that they give me next week, as this week is the International Count, so we will wait and see, plus the weather forecast over the next couple of days looks promising. Thanks for the stats to Tracey and the team.
Over at RSPB Loch Gruinart, 2 separate counts were done this afternoon. Firstly, on the floods and along the flats gave the following tally. 1168 Teal, 220 Wigeon, 66 Mallard, 47 Shoveler, 54 Pintail (a good count for Gruinart), 8 Mute Swan, 578 Lapwing, 2 Little Grebe, 90 Curlew, 2 Moorhen, 13 Snipe, 7 Whooper Swan, 7 Black headed Gull, 20 Common Gull, 27 Greylag Geese, 1 Redshank, 2 Heron and a female Otter with 2 well grown Cubs possibly summer born cubs.
The other count was done out on the Estuary, 158 Common Gulls, 184 Oystercatcher, 124 Curlew, 316 Dunlin, 35 Shag, 147 Herring Gull, 11 Redshank, 10 Red-breasted Merganser, 234 Bar tailed Godwit (another high count for Gruinart), 161 Wigeon, 1 Cormorant, 1 Heron, 5 Greater black backed Gulls, 1 Great northern Diver, 3 Turnstone, 9 Mallard, 80 Ringed Plover,
7 Black Headed Gulls, 3 Purple Sandpipers, 1 Greenshank and 106 Shelduck. JRH, CF et al
The Bar headed Goose was seen over at Port Ellen, by folk out on their horses with the youngsters in the group thinking that the Goose looked "cool" with its stripes!

Sunday 10 February 2008

Sun. 10th Feb.

Some entries from George from through the week, there were 34 Brent Geese and numerous Wigeon at Blackrock. Over at Loch Skerrols there were 24 Goldeneye and also some Scaup. On Wednesday, a Treecreeper was seen in Bridgend Woods. Just on the darkening on Saturday evening, around about 60 Greylag Geese came into the pools behind Bruichladdich. GJ.
Here at home the Fulmars have come back to the craggs, is there another storm coming? Round at Ballinaby, there were 73 Lapwing. IKB
Also today in Bridgend woods, 2 Bullfinches and 6 Long tailed Tits were seen. SA & MS

Sat 9th Feb

The Bar-headed Goose has been seen again in the fields at Cornabus over at Port Ellen, so it has not left us yet! Dave P.
The Glaucous Gull is still at Ballinaby, as are the Iceland Gulls in the Saligo area, as reported in the blog of Wed 6th February. There was a 1st winter Glaucous Gull seen off the pier at Bruichladdich, along with the following Divers, 9 Great Northern Diver, 4 Red throated Diver, 1 Black throated Diver, 7 Slavonian Grebe and 8 Common Scoter. On the Shoreline there were 12 Purple Sandpiper below the Distillery.
Up at Ardnave there was a group of 5 Snow Bunting on the track just beside the silage pit before you come to Ardnave Loch itself. An immature Golden Eagle was seen flying over RSPB Loch Gruinart reserve. Down at Avonvoggie, a male Crossbill was seen and heard singing, will it remain to breed, one asks? RAS
Up at Sanaig, there was a single Great Nortern Diver out in the bay and 20 Turnstone were on the shore. MAO

Saturday 9 February 2008

Fri 8th Feb

When going over to Bridgend this afternoon, I was fortunate enough to see a group of 47 Pale Bellied Brent Geese, just past Glenburn. Other times when I have mentioned these Geese recently, they have been split into small groups, and certainly never counted to 47 in total at this time of year. Normally, it is reckoned that there is a flock of between 20 - 30 birds that overwinter.
Round at Carnain, there were a lot of Wigeon, numerous Teal to be seen along with a Pintail, and several Shelduck.

Thursday 7 February 2008

Thurs 7th Feb

Well, I am sorry to report that I did go out this afternoon to try to locate the dead Pilot Whale, but to no avail, so perhaps the tide along with the wind through the night possibly took it back out to sea. Perhaps it will be found on a more accessable beach next time! IKB
There have 2 separate sightings of single Snow Bunting on the South coast of Islay recently and also some separate sightings on the Oa, but certainly not the large flocks of around 50 birds seen a few years ago on the Oa. RAS
Whilst out Goose counting today, there were around about 200 Lapwing along with 200 Golden Plover at Duich, 35 Teal on Loch Tallant and 150 Lapwing at Gartbreck. On the return home there were 18 Brent at Glenburn on Loch Indaal. MAO & CF
Over at Ballinaby, this morning there were 175 Lapwing and 55 Golden Plover in the turnip stubble, while across the road on the wet grassland there was a solitary Turnstone amongst a group of 12 Ringed Plover. The Glaucous Gull was still to be seen there too. Down at Machir Bay, 19 Curlew flew overhead as did 170 Oystercatcher late afternoon. 5 separate Snipe were flushed out too. MAB

Wednesday 6 February 2008

Wed 6th Feb

We have just had a report of a sighting of another dead whale, here on the West coast of Islay, but this time it is a Pilot whale. All going well I will try to locate it tomorrow morning, but it has definately been identified as a pilot whale already.
Still on the West coast, some sightings of Gulls, a second winter Glaucous Gull was at Ballinaby on Monday, as was a first winter Iceland Gull at RSPB Loch Gruinart reserve. In the Saligo area, there have been a first winter and a third winter Iceland Gulls. RAS
Over at Gartmain near Bowmore, there were 3 Pink-footed Geese in amongst some Greylags. A single Shoveler was also there. Round the top of Loch Indaal at various locations there was a total of 20 Brent Geese. This morning at the back of Bruichladdich there were 80 Greylag Geese in a field. GJ
Out and about today produced 4 Merlin on the Rhinns of Islay. MH
Over at the RSPB reserve at Loch Gruinart, there were 8 Whooper Swan, an additional 6 from the previous entry. Also seen out quartering their territories were 2 female Hen Harriers, and a Peregrine was out upsetting all and sundry on the flats! JRH

Tuesday 5 February 2008

Tues 5th Feb

Another day and believe it or not, another dead whale has been found. Another Cuvier's beaked whale was reported dead on Machir Bay, this time it was a female. It still had its tail flukes, dorsal fin and flipper intact but had not been dead as long as the previous Cuvier's as reported on the blog on Sunday. It is interesting to note that Cuvier's are not normally known in waters shallower than 3oom, so perhaps that they both died out at sea and then were beached thereafter. Cuvier's are are not often seen in Scottish waters, sightings are usually only limited to a single one annually, and here we have 2 having been found dead within a few days and in close proximity. For those of not in the know, relating to the geography of Islay, Machir and Saligo Bays are adjacent bays about 2.5 km apart on the West coast of Islay. MAO
Also today, the weather was certainly a lot kinder, infact it was an odd sensation being outside with no wind blowing, and many of the garden birds were singing away as if was a Spring day, a Curlew calling in the distance and a Raven cronking away overhead.

Mon 4th Feb

A short entry from Tracey and Margaret at SNH giving us the figures on the Goose count last week which gave a total of 47,057 Barnacle Geese and 5,126 Greenland Whitefronted Geese. The Barnies are up in total, but not quite as many as early December, but the Whitefronts are down.

Sunday 3 February 2008

Sun. 3rd Feb.

This is an image that was taken today of a Cuvier's Beaked Whale which was reported dead on Saligo Bay last week, and is only the second record for Islay. The previous record was also at Saligo Bay in March 2002. Strandings of this species of whale is rare. During the goose count last week (figures to follow) the 7 Whooper Swans that have been on Loch Gorm recently, were seen on a pond behind Sunderland Farm sheltering from the stormy weather. MAO
Still on the subject of whales, there was a report in the Ileach (local newspaper) of a dead Minke Whale washed up on the Ard over by Port Ellen. It is not yet know what caused the death of this whale.

Fri 1st - Sat 2nd Feb

The winds have dropped, as has part of the trusses on the roof of the former Kilchoman Church denying the Jackdaws and Starlings of a roosting site at night. The rest of the weather forecast was correct too, in the aspect that snow was predicted. We got some but not a lot, and it was soon all gone, probably just as well as the Council workers would have to look out the snowplough which will probably not have been used for several years.
The rainfall here, for January was 7.25", compared with 8" in January 2007. Refering to the weather, the total rainfall for 2007 was 48" and we usually reckon an annual total average of around 55".