Tuesday 30 June 2009

Tues 30th June

As I write this entry tonight, I have the funny feeling that there is a change working in the weather, there is definitely a different feel to the air outside this evening, so we will just have to wait and see what happens!
Nothing much out on the bird front, but the scent from Clover in the fields, Honeysuckle on some of the dyke backs and the Meadow Sweet has been very strong over the last few days.

Monday 29 June 2009

Mon 29th June

This spell of great weather continues on, but no doubt some of the Distilleries may well be keeping a close eye on their water supplies.

Caught this young Wren on camera up the back of the wood here at the house the other day. I saw a male Redpoll there this evening, along with several Stonechat families, and also a female Siskin in the wood too. There was a small group of Chough returning to the roost while further out there was a some Ravens on the wing and a Buzzard was soaring round on the thermals above the crag.

Sunday 28 June 2009

Sun 28th June

A final contribution from our visiting friends, Chris and Tony Johnson, who left for home yesterday. Many thanks for your entries over the past fortnight.
"Saturday 27th June. The last day of our holiday. There were Whitethroat, Redpoll, Greenfinch, Dunnock and Willow warbler singing at Bunnahabhain, but a different song was detected. Sure enough it was the Common rosefinch which had been reported earlier in the week, singing loudly and distinctively from the power lines and looking like a slim Corn Bunting. out towards Rhuvaal, and the moorland was starred with the yellow flowers of Bog asphodel. Painted lady, Red admiral, Marsh and green fritillaries were seen. Along the way, families of Whinchat and Stonechat were noted. The final species of the two week visit, was the elusive Yellowhammer, with 2 male birds singing from the power lines. As we left Bunnahabhain, a brave Swallow was mobbing a ringtail Hen Harrier over the distillery. On the way down to the ferry, Grasshopper warblers were reeling, and a Kestrel was mobbing a Buzzard.
From the ferry, good views were had of a Golden Eagle over the Islay hills, a wonderful farewell for a wonderful holiday".

Friday 26 June 2009

Fri 26th June

Getting a bit forgetful in my old age, I forgot to mention yesterday that while we were out with Rory on the guided walk at RSPB Loch Gruinart reserve, we had splendid sightings of Hen Harriers. At one point there was a Ringtail (female) mobbing a Buzzard, if memory serves me correctly we had 7 different sightings during the walk, at one time we had both the male and female together. I was speaking with George earlier this evening and he too had been commenting on seeing more Harriers out on the wing, hunting for food for their young. James commented on this to but with reference to Short eared Owls.
Another entry which I forgot was seeing a Lizard while over on Colonsay on Wednesday while returning back to our car after being at Pig's Paradise.

Thursday 25 June 2009

Thurs 25th June

Another contribution from our visiting friends,
"Morning visit to monitor the current state of the sea bird colony at the "Tooth rocks" at Saligo. The Auk population is disastrously low, in comparison to Colonsay yesterday. There were no eggs, no young and little out at sea. 4 Chough were seen there, plus another 18 at Machir Bay, while there excellent views of Whinchat at Coull.
The afternoon was spent looking again at the wonderful flora on the Killinallan dunes. The Pyramidal orchids were even more splendid, and numerous Frog orchid spikes were seen. Other species are now coming into bloom, providing even more colour for future weeks with Field Gentians just starting to show colour. A Golden ringed Dragonfly and a Marsh Fritillary butterfly were also seen. Redhank and Oystercatcher were very vocal around the rocks on the foreshore.
Grasshopper warblers were "reeling" again at Kilchoman and also down at Bridgend. Back at the cottage, and the Cuckoo was calling late this afternoon." Yet again, thanks folks.

Wednesday 24 June 2009

Wed 24th June

Another great day over here, so much so that I just had to go to Colonsay for the day along with our friends, it did not take too much arm twisting!

Our main intention was to go out to Pig's Paradise, to visit what is believed to be Argyll's largest sea bird colony. After speaking with other friends and reading about the decline of other sea bird colonies elsewhere, we were pleasantly surprised to find that the numbers present appeared to be quite healthy. We were fortunate to find this Razorbill chick being fed , and we reckon that its' parent carried in around 8-9 Sandeels. Apart from the Razorbills, we also saw Guillemots along with many Brindled Guillemots amongst them, Kittiwakes, Fulmars and Shags were also present. No puffins were noted, not even out on the water. There were a few Chough around too. We went up to the dunes at the back of Kiloran Bay later on, but were slightly disappointed to see so few Chough there. A couple of Corncrake were heard calling on our way to Kiloran Bay. Returning back on the ferry and there were a few Manx Shearwater on the wing, while there was a Black throated Diver on the water.

Tuesday 23 June 2009

Tues 23rd June

The sea mist, or haar as folk from the East coast talk about, has gone, and the service plane was back on the go, the first time since Saturday, so on the positive side of things the ferry has been busy! It really did turn out to be a great day, as someone said this evening, it was even too warm for the midges!
Mid morning, while working on the sheep, we had the spectacle of a Kestrel seeing off a Buzzard, the Kestrel kept harassing it, with the Buzzard eventually giving up its' vantage point on the face of the crag. The Cuckoo is still calling in the wood. Later on this afternoon, the family of Ravens were out and about, croaking away to each other, just generally making a nuisance of themselves. Our friends had been over at Ardnave this afternoon and had seen a raft of 25 Merganser at the mouth of Loch Gruinart as well as Little Terns off Ardnave Point.
On our way home this evening, there was a Snipe on top of a telegraph pole, just along the road from where we saw the Gyr Falcon earlier on in the year.

Monday 22 June 2009

Mon 22nd June

Well, another day of the haar , or mist in from the sea, and luckily for me another entry from our friends!
"What can I say about today, rain, then drizzle and the sea mist? Certainly not the best bird watching conditions, but you just have to concentrate!
The Cuckoo and 3 different Corncrakes were calling at first light. Swallows, House martins and Sand martins were all feeding around the wood. On the Machir Bay, there was little to be seen, but we concluded that Common gulls were definitely the most attractive of the gulls in view.
The sea mist or haar, made us hone in on our bird call skills, chacking Wheatears, twanging Twite, anxious Oystercatchers and Ringed Plover too. Then the calls of Arctic Terns attracted our attention and an Arctic Skua flew past.
Back at home the haar was even thicker, but the Cuckoo was still calling.

Sunday 21 June 2009

Sun 21st June

It may well meant to be the longest day of the year, but it was longer dark this morning due to the overcast sky and rain, and then mist/ sea haar came in, so for most of the day we have not seen the crag! Due to this, bird watching has been minimal!
One piece of news that I did hear was that the Eagle which was found dead on Jura, had died of natural causes probably old age, it was a rung bird and it was initially rung 22 years ago.
While out in the garden this afternoon (in the mist) it was good to see a family of Stonechats on the garden wall. I commented the other day about the number of young Starlings around, well there appears to be more around again, or possibly I am mistaken between them and the mist!

Saturday 20 June 2009

Sat 20th June

"Sand Martins were visiting their nest holes along the dunes first thing this morning, with family groups flying close by. Stonechat, Wheatear, Corncrake and Cuckoo could all be heard.
A visit to the South east of Islay produced numerous seals hauled out on the islands, and Red breasted Mergansers feeding close to the shore. Off one bay, Arctic Terns were plunging into the sea for food, whilst others sat on the shore preening. Shags and Black Guilliemots were also seen, but no divers.
A Buzzard dropped into a woodland, carrying prey in its' talons. In another wood, Redpoll were displaying, and a Spotted Flycatcher was catching insects. The Thistle heads now have some seed, with Goldfinch being seen on the seed heads.
On the return leg home, an Otter was watched for some time in a small bay, as it dived for food and munching the results!
Close to home, a pair of Hen Harriers were over the hill, and later on a Kestrel was hovering, in search of a meal."
Once again many thanks to our visiting friends for their input.

Fri 19th June

Another entry from our guests,
"Thursday 18th. An outing to Ballygrant Woods to look for some interesting flowers. The Lesser Twayblade were in abundance with at least 200 flowering spikes. The patches of Adders Tongue were in seen in the usual place. A Hedgehog moved across the track in front of us, but stopped long enough for a photo!
The Mute Swans had 3 cygnets on the loch, and Dabchick and Tufted Duck were also seen. Redpoll, Siskin and Blackcap were also seen along with Whitetroat in the scrubby areas.
In the evening a Barn Owl was watcthed for sometime up the back of Port Charlotte.
Friday 19th June. A pair of Shelduck on the edge of Loch Indaal had 16 well grown young.
It was good to see small groups of Twite along the roadside over at Coullabus.
The afternoon was spent on the hill, looking at the ruins of the old dwellings and wondering about the hard life of those who once lived there. The wild flowers were colourful and varied, Heath spotted Orchids, Bird's foot Trefoil and Thyme were particularly impressive. There were lots of Wheatear along the way, and a Kestrel was mobbing 3 Buzzards which were hanging in the wind. The first Grass of Parnassus flower of the season was found, above the Machir Bay.
On the way back, there was a family of Stonechat on the fence beside the track, and 2 Hares were spotted "boxing" and chasing in a field."
Thanks for that folks.

Thursday 18 June 2009

Thurs 18th June

Another day busy with helping out at the Commonwealth Fly fishing competition, again down at Loch Gorm. The fishing was not so good today, as the wind was stronger as well as several squally showers through the day, at least I was better prepared for the weather compared to yesterday! Twice through the day, there was a Lesser Black Gull getting mobbed by a pair of Oystercatcher who may well have just had one of their young predated by the Gull. There were also several Sand Martins on the wing out looking for food skimming quite close to the surface of the water.
Michal e mailed in figures from the second Corncrake survey carried out on Monday night/ Tuesday morning. At present, the tally is 72 calling males, similar figures to last year, some areas are a bit lighter while others are up a bit.

Wednesday 17 June 2009

Wed 17th June

At long last, on the West coast of Islay, we have had some rain, not a lot, but a start! As I was busy today with Commonwealth Fly Fishing competition, it was left to our guests for their input again, thanks folks!
"2 Swifts, which are unusual here, flew over the road near Loch Gorm while a Whitethroat was singing nearby from overhead wires.
Later, a walk along the shore from Saligo was accompanied by families of Wheatears, the usual noisy Oystercatchers, and pairs of Common Sandpipers. Fulmars were seen nesting on the cliffs. Offshore there was a constant movement South of Gannets and Shearwaters. Over 100 of each went by in an hour. Also offshore were Terns, Shags, Razorbills, Guillemots and Black Guilliemots.
In a sheltered bay a group of Herring and Common Gulls were loafing about, while Turnstones and Dunlin were feeding in the sea weed along with family groups of Pied Wagtails. A small number of Eider only had 2 young.
On the way back, a Golden Eagle was seen tussling with 4 Ravens. Further on, a pair of Hen Harriers were out hunting in the afternoon sun, and finally a Kestrel was seen hovering over the hill.

Wed 17th June

Tuesday 16 June 2009

Tues 16th June

Great, another entry from our visitors, saves me the job!
"A day of wildlife watching on the Killinallan side of Loch Gruinart. Beautiful, sunny weather again, with views across to Colonsay and Mull, lovely silver sand beaches all the way.
The bird life was restricted to Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover, Curlew with Terns off shore. Redshank were calling from their vantage points on fence posts. The dunes were full of Skylark, Meadow Pipit and Linnet. A single Diver was seen off Ardnave Point, an immature Black throated Diver.
The day was spent mainly looking at the wild flowers, with many species of orchids about, the pyramidal orchids appear to be having a good year.
A Golden ringed dragonfly was patrolling a small burn, and Four spot chasers were over a wide pool, while large red damselflies were seen, flitting along the pool edges.
Only occasional Painted Ladies were seen, but Burnet moths were numerous.
Sand Martin and Swallow were feeding along the dune edges as we returned back home to our cottage."

Monday 15 June 2009

Mon 15th June

A contribution in from one of our visitors,
"Sun 14th June. A leisurely circuit of Ardnave in the sun, with wildlife watching and paddling! There were masses of "comic" terns fishing off Ardnave Point and flying to the offshore islands. Gannets were plunging in for food, and a Great Northern Diver was preening itself. Seals were heard singing offshore! Oystercatcher and Ringed Plover were abundant along the water's edge with the occasional Redshank and Sanderling. On Ardnave Loch itself, the pair of Mute Swans had 4 cygnets, and also present were some Tufted Duck and Teal.
Painted Lady Butterflies were still to be seen, and it was nice to see some Marsh Fritillaries on the wing. The flowers along the way were beautiful, with the orchids and butterwort coming into bloom.
Mon 15th June. A morning visit to Bridgend Woods found the Woods full of young birds, Robins, Wrens and Tits.
The Dipper and Grey Wagtail were seen at The Woolen Mill. Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler and Blackcap were all singing, and a female Blackcap was collecting food. A pair of Treecreeper were around their nest site.
The highlight of today was the sight of several Demoiselle Damselflies. Chimney sweeper Moths were flitting along the edge of the track through the Wood. Speckled wood and Painted lady butterflies were also seen.
Before coming home, the Little Egret was seen again at the head of Loch Indaal."

Sunday 14 June 2009

Sun 14th June

As you can see from Michal's image, another great day out here with not a cloud to be seen, only a Redshank on a flypast! Yesterday, at the Beach Rugby at Port Ellen, there had been a couple of heavy showers, but none over this side of Islay, and again this afternoon we had no rain but it was rather black over towards Jura!

This morning, we met in with George at the head of Loch Indaal. He had already seen the Little Egret, but it had flown off after it had been disturbed by someone out walking their dog! So, nothing for it but to park up, and wait and see. Sure enough, we were fortunate to relocate it and it obligingly landed in the water not far from us. On our way home later on, on the strand at Uiskentuie, there was another person out walking along the shoreline, getting dive bombed by the Terns. Obviously the birds were protecting their territory, but why did the person persist on walking on?

Saturday 13 June 2009

Sat 13th June

Another week almost in and also another changeover day in the cottages too. Gordon and Pauline Yates who have been over for the last 3 weeks left today. Whilst waiting at Port Askaig this afternoon for the ferry, Gordon not only heard, but saw a male Redstart! When out and and about around Islay, they had heard a Wood warbler, and also through their stay had heard several Grasshopper warblers, but they felt not as many as in previous years. On the positive side, apart for the weather being really good, there appears to be more Short eared Owls around.
Gordon and and Pauline have left and other birders arrived, with one couple having a good sighting of the Little Egret at lunchtime, down at the head of Loch Indaal, George went down about a couple of hours later, but there was no sign of the bird then.

Friday 12 June 2009

Fri 12th June

Well, as promised we did go out and carried out a quick Corncrake survey on our patch, and were into bed by 1am! We managed to count only 9 calling birds, a few down on the earlier count, but perhaps they have got mates and are a bit quieter. It was certainly a very peaceful night, without a breath of air, and down to 4 degrees, a bit cool for June!
I heard this morning that there had been a Little Egret seen flying over the reserve at Gruinart yesterday, but as far as I know, it was not seen again today. Back home, this evening there was a flock of over 100 Starlings, which is a large number for here. The young birds that have been building in numbers of late, are quite comical, in many ways, especially trying to gain entry to the bird table. We are also seeing a lot of Greenfinches around and also Goldfinches too.

Thursday 11 June 2009

Thurs 11th June

A few sightings in from James over the past few days, on Monday he had a Water rail on the reserve at Gruinart, Tuesday and he heard 2 Red Grouse calling and saw a female. It is good to hear that are still a few left here on Islay. Wednesday, and he saw a Redpoll, a Whitefronted Goose, 33 Ringed Plover, 28 Dunlin, 18 Arctic Terns as well as an Adder! JRH
Earlier on in the week, down at Glenburn, at the top of Loch Indaal, I saw a Barnacle Goose, but as the road was busy I was unable to stop and get a better look at it. Tonight, as it is a calm evening, Margaret and myself are going to do a quick Corncrake count round our patch, and hopefully be back in by 1am! More figures from that on tomorrow's blog.....

Wednesday 10 June 2009

Wed 10th June

Another amazing image through from Michal, please note the blue sky with not a cloud to be seen, how long is this going to last, the weekend at least according to the weather forecast!
The Corncrake continues on calling through the night, although it is not heard as much through the day, but at 2.30am, we had enough and the bedroom window was shut firmly,in an attempt so that we might get some sleep!
Through the day it is the turn of the Cuckoo, more so in the evening. I tried to get some more images of the them the other day, but although they were vocal and are relatively easy to locate, by the time you got anywhere close, they were one step ahead and had moved on!

Tuesday 9 June 2009

Tues 9th June

Michal sent me through this image of a female (ringtail) Hen Harrier which he managed to take the other day.
After a bit of discussion, I decided to go down on Rory's walk on the Oa today, with Rory's carrot of seeing a Golden Eagle there was no stopping my friend John and myself! True to his word, Rory produced the bird, initially there were 2 on the wing, then we lost them, but later found them both perched on a stoney outcrop. They may have ben a long way off, but with our scopes we certainly had tremendous viewing of them. The sun was shining, and the plumage was showing to its best. For quite a few folk on the walk, it was their first sighting of an Eagle. It was certainly worth the trip and I would recommend Rory's walk on the Oa on a Tuesday morning or at Gruinart on a Thursday morning.

Monday 8 June 2009

Mon 8th June

Another great day, with tremendous views all around, over the sea to Northern Ireland and Donegal, back to the Mull of Kintyre and up North to Mull and beyond.
Over the weekend, Malcolm had seen a family of 5 Chough fledge from their nest on the Rhinns, one of the youngsters was not too good on the wing, and actually landed on a branch of a tree, where it was a bit unsure of its balance, and so it returned back to where it started out from it came. Later on it did again and no doubt, practice makes perfect! MAO
Michal had been out last night on a Corncrake survey and had heard a Nightjar down near Bridgend. One was heard last year in a different location by another birder.

Sunday 7 June 2009

Sun 7th June

The weather may have been a bit of a disappointment yesterday, but today it was back to normal, with the sun shining. So much so, that I made a start to clipping the sheep, so the ewe hoggs are going about a bit lighter, and hopefully, some more haircuts tomorrow please!
Back to birds, and James gave me some sightings since Friday. On Friday itself, he had a Ruff and a Gadwall on the reserve at Gruinart. He also saw his first Marsh Fritillary of the year. Up at Ardnave yesterday, and he had seen some Little Terns, a single Bar tailed Godwit, 22 Sanderling and 12 Dunlin. Through the night, into the wee small hours, James had done a Corncrake count on the reserve, and had 13 calling birds and also a Water rail. This afternoon James had seen Small Copper Butterflies on the wing, Green Hairstreak , some Four Spotted Chaser dragonflies and an early sighting of a Golden ringed dragonfly.

Saturday 6 June 2009

Sat 6th June

Though not forecast, the weather broke down today and out came the midges, so we went inside, not like Simon King the other night in Wales on Springwatch when he had clouds of the blighters around him!
This week there has been quite an increase in wild flowers in bloom, the Thrift, or Sea Pink at the head of Loch Gruinart is quite impressive, some of the Orchids are starting to show, Foxgloves too, as well as Ragged Robin along some of the verges of our roads. The Machir is coming out, a tremendous sight in itself, often seen in many photographs. On the other hand some of the Gorse is getting past, as are the Bluebells in the woods.

Friday 5 June 2009

Fri 5th June

As the sunny weather still continues, we are all certainly making the most of it, the visitors in the cottages cannot believe their luck, here for a week and no rain, although today, it is a bit cooler. I forgot to mention yesterday some butterfly/ moth sightings from James. He had seen over 200 Painted Ladies Butterflies on a clump of thistles the other day. I certainly had seen several here at home too, but certainly not that many. James himself cannot remember seeing such a large concentration in one place before apart from over on the continent itself. James also had six spot Burnett Moths and a Cinnabar moth too.

Thursday 4 June 2009

Thurs 4th June

The present great spell of weather rolls on, I even went on the guided walk with Rory at Gruinart this morning, wearing only my shirt, no need for a jersey let alone a waistcoat. Some of the folk on the walk were wearing shorts, not that warm I thought! Rory had seen a pair of Golden Eagles defending their territory, the other day against a female Hen Harrier. James had a similar tale over at Gruinart itself of a passing Buzzard getting mobbed and attacked by another 2 Buzzards, possibly a pair, it took place over quite a while, initially in the air and then finally on the ground. It took place quite a distance from James, but he is convinced that the final outcome was that the passing bird was killed, as he did not see it fly off at the end. A sight that he had never seen before. Onto happier sightings, and James reports that he has seen several broods of both Redshank and Lapwing having successfully fledged. While out on his survey work, he has seen 2 separate Short eared Owls, while a Corncrake has been seen quite a lot recently, out in front of the Visitor Centre at Gruinart.

Wednesday 3 June 2009

Wed 3rd June

The warm, sunny weather continues, although just before lunch it dulled down for a wee while just to fire up again later on, so as the weather continues, we made the most of it and cut the grass. On the downside, this evening there was precious little air while I was watering the poly tunnel, and sad to say the midges were out so the plants got a quick soaking! Certainly the House Martins were getting easy meals from the midges! Earlier on I noticed quite a few Starlings about, possibly some of this years' brood out already. Believe it or not, the birds are still eating quite a lot from the bird table, it is interesting to see some hen pheasants out, possibly there for a quick feed before returning to their nests. The cock pheasants are not to be seen in the same numbers around the feeders as they were earlier on.

Tuesday 2 June 2009

Tues 2nd June

Another nice and sunny day over here today, but by the sounds of the weather forecast for tomorrow, it is to be a bit cooler, we have certainly appreciated it when it was here!
The Corncrake was still calling strongly last night, so much so that in the middle of the night, the bedroom window got shut, to give us a bit of peace. Then through the day, the Cuckoo has been calling with his mate responding back to him. Michal was in touch with the latest Corncrake tally of 55 birds so far, very similar to last years' figures.
Round the Loch tonight, and we saw 2 Lapwing youngsters, and I was amazed at their size already. Also seen were 32 Greylags on a barley field at Rockside, 16 on a grass field at Ballinaby and a further 40 in another grass field also at Ballinaby. So far I have not seen any goslings yet. Talking of youngsters, and there has been no sign recently of the "springwatch" Shelducks, if memory serves me correctly there is usually some activity by now.

Monday 1 June 2009

Mon 1st June

Another month in, with rainfall for May totalling 4.2", a lot wetter than 2008, but the total for the year so far is only slightly ahead this year. No rain today, just basking in glorious sunshine, a nice complaint to have! Thinking back to last year, and we were in the middle of a dry spell, with several of the Distilleries having shut production down, due to a lack of water. This year at present, Ardbeg is sorting out a problem on the dam face at the source of their water supply.
Back to birds, and I noticed that the Mute Swans and their 5 cygnets down at Carnain are still all together, with nobody missing as of yet. The House Martins over the last few days have been busy building new nests, as several appear to have fallen down, possibly the mud mix is too sandy and not binding together. Meanwhile the Swallow in the dog kennel/shed is sitting on her clutch of 6 eggs, but the other swallow in the garage does not appear to have laid any eggs at all.