Sunday 30 March 2008

Sun 3oth March

These are just a few of the Golden Plover in flight, taken this evening, down at the ploughed field at the Coastguard Houses. The whole flock got up, what startled them I do not know, but they were an impressive sight as they flew around before coming back into land. I saw my first Wheatear of the year down at Machir Bay, infact there were 3 there in total. As we headed back to our car there was a group of 15 Chough flying overhead. Back at home, this morning Margaret saw the pair of Shelduck having a look at their nest site, we wonder if they are the same pair that were on "Springwatch" last year! IKB
Yesterday, after the heavy rain at lunchtime, James had 97 Sanderling in one flock, along with 1 Knot and 6 Grey Plover at the head of Loch Gruinart.
Donald James MacPhee reported to James that he had seen a White tailed Sea Eagle with yellow wing tags on Friday, was it the same bird that James and Andy had the other day at Loch Gruinart? We believe that the yellow wing tags are birds that were born in 2006, but I am waiting for conformation that this is correct. DJ's bird had the letter "P" , while neither James or Andy could not see any lettering on the tags on their bird as it was further away. JRH

Saturday 29 March 2008

Sat 29th March

Mick Durham and his friend Edmond, who are over here at present wildlife watching, kindly gave me some entries for the blog. On Friday evening, down at Machir Bay, they had 2 Wheatear. Today they had a Merlin along towards Loch Gorm, and down at the ploughed field at the Coastguard Houses, there was a flock of 150 Golden Plover. This field was where the Dotterel was seen in May 2006. Today, it has been rather wet with the ground saturated, and already we have had over 5" of rain this month, even allowing for the drier spell which we had earlier on in the month. Tonight, it is drier and the stars can be seen clearly. IKB

Friday 28 March 2008

Fri 28th March

A new bird for Islay was seen earlier this week at Craigens, a Little Bunting. It was observed by Jez Blackburn who works with the BTO, and was over here for the week birdwatching, with his family and a few friends, and it was them who saw the Sand Martin last Saturday on arrival at Port Ellen. The Little Bunting was a first for Islay and only the third record for Argyll, the first was found dead at Skerryvore Lighthouse in 1985, with second seen on Tiree in Oct '07 by John Bowler. Malcolm says that it is regular in small numbers in the Spring and Autumn, but most records are from Orkney, Shetland and down the East coast. West coast records are uncommon. MAO
Michal was out doing the last round of the winter "farmland bird surveys" for the season and had a group of 40 Rock Doves, 25 Reed Bunting in a cattle feeding area, as well as a Brambling and a single Redwing. On Ardnave Loch there were 11 Whooper Swan. MS
Also, on Loch Gorm there were 16 Whooper Swan, as well as 2 separate sightings of groups of Whoopers on Loch Indaal, so perhaps the start of them moving North too. There was also a single Great Northern Diver at the top of Loch Indaal. IKB

Thursday 27 March 2008

Thurs 27th March

Stacey, from over on Oronsay reports to say that they had their first Wheatear of the year on Wednesday, and while on Colonsay a Water Rail was seen. Whilst doing the International Goose count the other day, the total absence of Barnacle Geese on Colonsay was noted, although there were a few on Oronsay itself. SA
Meanwhile, back here on Islay, James had a Tawny Owl and 2 Barn Owls on Tuesday, as well as 2 Woodcock, and 3 Hen Harrier consisting of 1 male and 2 females. On Wednesday evening, James saw a male Hen Harrier "sky dancing". JRH
Today, over the pools at Carnain, Andy had 2 Sand Martin swooping, hunting for food. RAS

Wednesday 26 March 2008

Wed 26th March

These 2 cock Pheasants were letting the hormones get the better of them in the garden and were setting up for a scrap. The pheasants have certainly been seeing each other off lately and trying their best to woo the females. Some of the Red legged Partridges that were released locally for shooting back in last August, that survived through the winter have also been seen out in pairs at various different places. Certainly with the mating season being here again with the birds, it has given me a greater opportunity to get the camera out in use again. The birds themselves have obviously become more aggresive and territorial, so giving me some useful shots.
Down at Rock Mountain today, there was a fall of 117 Meadow Pipit. The cold winds from the North have gone, and instead we have had rain today with a raw edge to it. IKB

Tuesday 25 March 2008

Tues 25th March 08

Andy from RSPB reports in today saying that there has been quite a passage of both Song , Mistle Thrush and Blackbird. Also noted were increase in numbers of Goldfinch and Stonechat.
This female stonechat was taken yesterday sheltering from the cold wind in a dyke.
Andy also gave us the following sightings, 2 Wheatear, 1 at Lower Cragabus the other at Ardilistry Bay, 6 Lesser Black-backed Gull along with 1 Adult Mediterranean Gull in Port Ellen Bay.
3 White Wagtail were seen on the RSPB Oa reserve, while at the weekend at Ardbeg a Magpie was seen, the first for a few years. RAS
There were 35 Chough counted at Machir Bay at the weekend, and I noted a Chough taking wool into a nest site, was that because of the cold winds to line the actual nest better?

Monday 24 March 2008

Mon 24th March 08

This lapwing was seen leaning into the wind up at Ardnave Loch today. There was around another 50 birds in flight above it but this one preferred to be down on the ground! Also at Ardnave Loch this afternoon were 18 Whooper Swan and 2 Mute Swan, and a Sparrowhawk was over the dunes. There were still 47 Whoopers to be seen down on the floods at RSPB Loch Gruinart reserve. IKB
Mick Durham, a visiting wildlife photographer, kindly gave me some of his sightings today. A Golden Eagle was close at hand down beside Loch Gorm earlier this morning while a walk round Ardnave Point this afternoon gave 12 Ringed Plover and 14 Purple Sandpiper beside the Lobster Pots. Over Nave Sound, there was a single Gannet, and a Great Northern Diver in the water. There was a further Great Northern Diver at the mouth of Loch Gruinart. The cold Northerly winds continue, having a tattering effect on any flowering Daffodils that are out.

Sunday 23 March 2008

Sat 22nd March

Not a lot to report today, but significant news all the same. James had a couple of Greenshank over at Loch Gruinart. JRH
Malcolm had a report from visiting birdwatchers of a sighting of a Sand Martin, as they came off the ferry at Port Ellen, the first for 2008. The cold Northerly wind still continues, so perhaps the Wheatear that Andy had the other day, and now the Sand Martin would preferred to have stayed somewhere warmer for a few more days! MAO

Friday 21 March 2008

Fri 21st March

As I write this entry, late on in the evening, the lapwings were calling out in the field when I shut the dogs into their shed for the night. The wind last night veered round to the North, as forecast, bringing with it quite a wind chill factor. The Fulmars have returned out to the sea again. Just think, next weekend the clocks change and "summer time" is here, mind you the days are certainly stretching out all the time. IKB
Over at RSPB Loch Gruinart reserve, James had a pair of Gadwall on the floods, as well as a Little Grebe. He also saw a Peregrine being mobbed by a Buzzard as it sat on a fence post. On his way home at lunchtime, James witnessed a Merlin swooping in amongst some Skylarks but to no avail. JRH

Thursday 20 March 2008

Thurs 20th March

As the weather has not been very good today, I have an entry relating to Wednesday from Malcolm.
Out Goose counting on Kildalton and Oa again today. There was definately no Bar-headed Goose at Cornabus today (Wed) either. Both the male and female Hen Harrier were seen again at Cornabus.
81 Barnacles at Kinnabus for the second day running. They are not very usual here, the nearest ones being at Cornabus, making me wonder whether they are arrivals from Ireland, stopping off at the first point they reached and joining the c.400 Whitefronts there.
The collared Whitefront seen by Catherine, must I think, have been FOL, which was seen in the Lyrabus-Blackpark area back in November, but not seen since. It was originally caught and ringed at Wexford, Ireland, in winter 1995/6, came to Islay the next winter and then returned to Wexford for the following winters. It returned back to Islay in 2001/2 and has been here every winter since, and almost always in the same area around Uiskentuie and Lyrabus. MAO
Yesterday, here at home we had 8 Meadow Pipits, and a first with a pair of Lapwings displaying in the field. As far as I can recollect, it was our first Lapwings seen here. Today, the Fulmars are back on the crag, and as I write tonight, the wind has certainly started to pick up. IKB

Wednesday 19 March 2008

Wed 19th March

This is an image taken down on the RSPB reserve at Loch Gruinart, showing some Whooper Swans along with Mute Swan and a Greylag Goose in the middle left hiding in the rushes. There were 62 Whooper Swan in today when this was taken by Michal. Michal also had a female Hen Harrier. Also, today on the reserve, James had a Redshank with a "leg flag" on it, we believe that this was one that had been "rung" over 3 years ago when some research was done here then. Catherine had the Canada Goose, hutchinsii sp., again out in front of Visitor Centre while she was doing the Goose Count. She also spotted a Greenland Whitefront with a neck collar on, but only 2 letters were clearly visible, OL, normally there are 3 letters. Up at Ardnave there were 33 Chough and a small flock of 43 Golden Plover. MS, JRH & CF
Malcolm reports that yesterday during a goose count covering the Oa and Kildalton, 27 Whoopers flew in from Ireland and continued north over Ballivicar at no more than 150 feet.
There was no sign of the Bar-headed Goose at Cornabus, despite a very careful look through c.3,000 Barnacle Geese. 3 Hen Harriers were seen on the Oa, 2 at Cornabus and 1 at Risabus. There was also a lot of Buzzard activity, with birds soaring, marking their territories out. MAO

Tuesday 18 March 2008

Mon 17th - Tues 18th March

Apolgies for not doing an entry yesterday, but for some reason or another I was unable to gain access through Internet Explorer....
At this point I would like to welcome another new contributor, Louise Gregory. Louise lives on Jura and "commutes" every day, weather permitting, to her job with SNH based in Bowmore, but her area takes in Islay, Jura and Colonsay. She hopes to give a weekly update of what she has been seeing whilst travelling back and forward to work.
"Spring has sprung and finally I am commuting in daylight! The horozontal rain has also let up and conditions are much better for bird spotting. At home, at Gatehouse, I have seen my first Great and Blue Tit on the bird table, the first since moving here". This past week, there were 12 Whooper Swan in Tarbet Bay, 20+ Fieldfare at Ardfin, also at Ardfin there was a Golden Eagle seen as well as a pair of Kestrel while at Inver there was a juvenile White-tailed Eagle. Still on the Birds of Prey, on a 3 mile stretch of the road one day, there were 3 separate female Hen Harrier. One evening, there were 50+ Barnacle Geese returning to the roost at Inver Fish Farm.
Apart from the Great and Blue Tit on the bird table, there was also a pair of Siskin. Snipe were also heard drumming up at Gatehouse. LG
On Monday, there were 62 Whooper swan on the floods at RSPB Loch Gruinart reserve, while on Loch Kinnabus on the Oa reserve, there was a count of 250 Greenland whitefronts and 50 Barnacle Geese. Several Meadow Pipits were heard singing and a single male Hen Harrier was spotted at Glen Astle. 14 Chough in total were seen in different groups around the reserve. A single adult Golden Eagle was seen flying overhead, about 30 metres above us at the end of the day. CF &MS
A late entry for Sunday was the sighting of a Bumble bee at Gruinart reserve, whist today there was a White tailed Sea Eagle soaring on the thermals. This bird had yellow tags, which year that is I will check on tomorrow. The Jura bird had white tags indicating it was a 07 bird. Primroses are starting to flower now and there has been a slight increase in the number of Song Thrush seen. JRH & RAS
Finally, back here at home, I was watching a pair of Chough taking nesting material back to their nest site, and also here on Monday was my first Bumble Bee of the year. IKB

Sunday 16 March 2008

Sat 14th - Sun 15th March.

The male Hen Harrier was seen out hunting again up behind Bruichladdich. GJ.
Snipe were heard drumming here on Islay and on Jura. MS. LG.
On Sunday morning, there were 70 Whooper Swans heading north up Loch Indaal. MAO.
As the weather was much improved, with blue skies and sunshine, though still a little cold, MS. took a walk at Ardnave and found the remains of one of the Snow Buntings on a rock. A female Hen Harrier was also seen. MS.
At Kilchoman, there was a group of 24 Chough out flying and being vocal as usual. MAB

Friday 14 March 2008

Fri 14th March

There were 12 Whooper Swan on Loch Gorm this morning, and our return from Bridgend, a Merlin swooped into a Gorse bush, after what I do not know. In the early afternoon, there were 2 Eagles out soaring on the thermals, while this evening on my way out to a meeting a Sparrowhawk flew from out of a field and almost struck the side of my pickup, just missing it! On my return later on there were several frogs out on the road, but no signs at all of any Owls, possibly because it was raining quite heavily at the time! IKB

Thursday 13 March 2008

Thurs 13th March

As we have it, breaking news just in from Andy Schofield, of the sighting this morning of his first male Wheatear of the season, down between Aros House and Kintour over at Ardtalla on the SouthEast coast of Islay. He also had his first Whimbrel, again this morning. The previous piece about the Wheatear and Whimbrel was entered at lunchtime, but since then Andy has had an Australian Black Swan this afternoon over at Claggain Bay, no doubt an escapee from somewhere although if memory serves me correctly there was one over on Colonsay a few years back! Yesterday, the Bar headed Goose was seen amongst the Barnies over at the back of Kilnaughton Bay. RAS
There were another 4 Whooper Swan flying North up Loch Indaal yesterday, and a male Hen Harrier was seen out quartering up the back of Bruichladdich. GJ
This morning there was a female Hen Harrier out after the recent winds, on the way over to RSPB Loch Gruinart. IKB
A Barn Owl was seen out hunting about 10 o'clock at Island Farm on the Low road between Bowmore and Port Ellen last Friday night. Dave P.

Wednesday 12 March 2008

Wed 12th March

Tonight, we welcome a new contributor, Stacey Adlard who has just taken the role of Assistant warden at RSPB on Oronsay. Oronsay is about 5 miles North of us here on Islay, and can be reached from Colonsay when the tide is out by crossing The Strand either by vehicle or by foot. Oronsay, although North of us here, often sees Spring migrants quicker than we do, such as Wheatear and later on Corncrake.
Stacey has noted seeing a lot of Greylag Geese as well as several Canada Geese, the Canada Geese present over there being resident. Birds are starting to pair up now and picking territories. A pair of Stonechat were seen last week. Lesser Black backed Gulls are also starting to appear in small numbers as on Islay. Now the challenge is on for the Wheatear, will Stacey get one before ourselves on Islay? SA

Tuesday 11 March 2008

Tues 11th March

A recent count on the reserve at RSPB Loch Gruinart, here on Islay gave us the following counts of these birds, 643 Teal, 175 Wigeon, 57 Shoveler, 50 Pintail, 39 Mallard, 2 Little Grebe, 2 Heron, 1 Snipe, 173 Lapwing, 12 Whooper Swan, 6 Mute Swan, 22 Redshank, 66 Curlew, 1 Greylag, 1 Moorhen, 2 Greenshank and 3 Red-breasted Merganser. The Teal numbers are well down on the last count, as are the numbers of Mallard, but this may be possibly due to the fact that the Mallard are starting to pair up and have moved on. JRH
The wind as forecast has picked up since late afternoon, so we wait to see and hear what holds out for through the night. The evening ferry has already been cancelled! IKB

Monday 10 March 2008

Mon 10th March

The Lesser Canada Goose, hutchinsii sp, was observed in a flock of Barnacle Geese at Sunderland Farm this morning. JSA
Down at Bruichladdich, also this morning there was a group of 9 Whooper Swan seen flying North, up Loch Indaal and a further 2 were seen this afternoon at Loch Gorm. There are a few reports of small numbers starting to move through. GJ & MAB
The figures are through for the International Count on 12th and 13th of February, which gave us a total of 45,236 Barnacle Geese and 6,416 Greenland Whitefronts. Once again, many thanks to Margaret and Tracey and their team for their input.
There was another sighting of a single Lesser Black-backed Gull over at Gruinart today. MS

Sunday 9 March 2008

Fri 6th - Sun 8th March

During the better weather on Thursday, a Water Rail was seen over at RSPB Loch Gruinart reserve, the skylarks were singing away while the Lapwing were displaying, definately more signs of Spring! Some more Frog spawn was found again on the reserve, remember that Stacey had some down in Glen Astle back in February! Also seen on reserve was a Moorhen skulking about! There were definately only 2 Snow Bunting to be be seen up at Ardnave, so possibly the Merlin that Roger had observed has had the other 2 birds right enough.
On Friday itself, there was a separate Goose count on the reserve, producing 4,733 Barnies and 138 Whitefronts, 9 Greylag, but time was taken out to count a large flock of 470 Skylark.
Today, Sunday and there were some Woodcock seen at Woodside and also further along the road at Moulin in the rough grass in a garden. A Sparrowhawk was also at Grainel. JRH
The other day, down at Carnain there were several Pintail in amongst the the other Duck present, mainly Mallard, Wigeon, Teal and Shelduck. On Saturday, at Bowmore, there were Goldeneye and Eider Duck close inshore. Coming home last night there was a Barn owl out hunting, the first that I have seen for quite some time, perhaps I should go out more often! At lunchtime today, there was a Golden Eagle to be seen from the back door, while late afternoon there was a male Hen Harrier flying about 50 feet up across the garden. There have been a small flock of 13 Greylag Geese in the fields here at home recently. IKB

Friday 7 March 2008

Thurs 6th March

Some more entries from earlier this week, just in....
An Otter came ashore down at Bruichladdich to finish eating its catch on Monday. GJ
Also on Monday, another Otter was seen over at Claggain Bay, while at Blackrock there were 22 Pale bellied Brent Geese. Also at Blackrock, another sign of Spring was the sight of several ewes and newly born lambs out in a field. Going back to the mainland on the ferry on Wednesday afternoon produced several Great Nortern Diver. C & TJ

Thursday 6 March 2008

Mon 3rd - Wed 5th March

Well, I woke the other morning and looked out the window, just to see a Magpie, was I dreaming? No, I was back being your Paisley correspondent for a few days, so not really an Islay bird! But here goes for the birds seen on Islay. Before going over to Paisley, we had a pair of Buzzard mating, and also that day there was a Golden Eagle being mobbed by a group of about 15 Chough. Back at home here on the lawn there was pile of black feathers, possibly from one of our Blackbirds that had been a victim of a "birdstrike" IKB
On Sunday, at RSPB Loch Gruinart Reserve, there were 2 Merlin, a male Hen Harrier and over 100 Skylark. The next day, up at Ardnave 32 Chough were seen and also a Peregrine Falcon. We were wondering why the Snow Bunting numbers were declining from 6 to 4 last week, and now down to only 2. Roger Boughton, a sound recordist who was over here working for the BBC, may have solved the problem as he observed a male Merlin taking and eating one of them.
A Sparrowhawk was seen at Gruinart on Tuesday taking a Starling.
Finally, on Wednesday at Gruinart a Canada Goose, Hutchinsii sp was seen. JRH.
Latest goose figures from SNH are, on 27/28 Feb. there were 42,391 Barnacle geese and 6,102 Whitefronts and on 3/4 March there were 37,990 Barnies and 4,879 Whitefronts. Thanks to the team at SNH for these figures.

Sunday 2 March 2008

Sun 2nd Mar

Over at RSPB Loch Gruinart reserve, here on Islay, the following birds were the pick of today, a Merlin, Male Hen Harrier and 7 Whooper Swan along with usual ducks and waders. Yesterday, Sally How, James's wife heard her first Skylark singing of the year, while James himself had 2 chipping Snipe, this being the sound they make before they start drumming. A Lesser Black backed Gull was also there, the first of the returning birds that he has seen. JRH

Saturday 1 March 2008

Sat 1st Mar.

March has come in like a lion with high winds and lashing rain, GDY drove a 1000 miles around the island during their 2 week stay and only saw a male Hen Harrier on their last mile going to the ferry this morning! He only remarked yesterday, it was the first time in over 25 years of visiting Islay and Jura that they had not seen a Hen Harrier.
This morning at Blackrock, Loch Indaal there were 4 male and 1 female Long-tailed duck close inshore. This afternoon from the same viewpoint, 4 male and 2 female Common Scoter along with a single male Velvet Scoter which was showing its prominent white wing patches were seen. Up at Bunnahabhain on the Sound of Islay 3 Great Northern Diver and 1 Red Throated Diver were observed. Inshore, 2 Mute Swan were there with 2 of last years cygnets, there were also numerous Black Guillemot flying up and down the Sound. Several Shag were fishing in the Sound also. C & TJ
On Jura, one day last week, 3 Hen Harrier were seen within a 3 mile stretch from the road. L G.