Monday 30 November 2009

Mon 30th Nov

Firstly, many thanks to James for writing the blog while we were away on holiday, that's it all done and dusted for another year. Who suggested staying in the UK in November, it certainly was n't me! On a positive note though, not trying to blow ones' own trumpet, but certainly I felt that here on Islay, there are more birds to be seen, but again that's only my view..... We did have, as James said, Nuthatches, Jays, and also Squirrels which we do not have over here, and also the sight of many mole hills. The moles perhaps got drowned out with all that rain!
Back to yesterday, and James saw an Otter and her 2 cubs from the ferry, on the rocks at the mouth of Loch Tarbert. James was saying earlier this evening, that the Little Egret was still around down at Bridgend. Also yesterday, Carl Reavey had a white winged gull down towards Portnahaven, but was not close enough to get a positive id. Carl also had a Merlin at Rockside and lots of Redwing over at Lyrabus Croft. Coming home tonight from work, and he had a Barn Owl at Springbank.

Tuesday 24 November 2009

Friday 20th November to Tuesday 24th November 2009

I have not managed to write a blog for a few days, because I have been busy sun bathing, or at least I would have been if the rain had stopped and the gales hadn't blown away my deck chairs. The weather has been stormy making wildlife watching difficult, however looking at the records I have; everyone must have been busy in the good spells.
On the 20th a Golden Eagle, Hen Harrier, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel and Woodcock were all seen at Gruinart. On the 22nd there was another Woodcock and 2 Hen Harriers a male and female seen again at Gruinart. The 23rd was clear enough for a belated Webs count at Gruinart, the highlights included:
1360 Teal, 294 Wigeon, 4 Little Grebes, 2 Gadwall, 92 Shoveler, 40 Pintail, 6 Whooper Swans, all on the flooded fields.
137 Oystercatchers, 161 Curlew, 332 Bar Tailed Godwits, 74 Ringed Plover, 220 Lapwing, 690 Golden Plover, 99 Turnstone, 670 Dunlin, 5 Purple Sandpipers, 3 Greenshank, 40 Redshank and 4 Great Nothern Divers on the Sea Loch.
Also reported on the 23rd was an Arctic Skua on Loch Indaal (a late migrant) from Bruicladdich and also at Bruichladdich 100 Curlew and 6 Common Scoter (GJ).
Today 24th, a goose count on the reserve at Gruinart revealed 7,395 Barnacle Geese, 434 White Fronted Geese and 24 Greylag Geese on the reserve as well as a Merlin and a Kestrel. On Jura a Brambling was reported from a garden north of Craighouse.
Some intersesting late records include:
A Whooper Swan that was seen with a group of 7 at Ardnave, which had a ring U3X, this bird had been ringed in Iceland on the 29th July (thanks to Tony for this record).
On the 15th Novemebr 30 Whooper Swans at Loch Skerrols, 340 Golden Plover and 15 Pale Bellied Bents at Bridgend (GJ).

Thursday 19 November 2009

Wednesday 18th and Thursday 19th November 2009

With wet and windy weather heading in, there seems to have been a small movement of birds in from the north. On the 18th, 40 Whooper swans were reported from Loch Gorm and another 8 flew through Gruinart, as well as lots of Redwings in the gorse bushes around Loch Gorm. Also from the north 14 Snow buntings were reported at Ardnave (CF)- there were 52 Twite by the shore at Gruinart- and just to add that Mediterranean touch, in very un- Mediterranean weather the Little egret was seen from the hide at Loch Gruinart. The rain came down on the 19th, but through the mist a Greenshank could be heard at Gruinart. Records from the sun seekers in the rainy south, included: Dippers, Nuthatches, 1 Magpie, Jays and Red Squirrels (Dumfries and Galloway)

Tuesday 17 November 2009

Sunday 15th November to Tuesday 17th November

First, I have a confession to make, which also answers the comment on the last post. In my haste to get to market and shinty on Saturday I assumed the egret at Bridgend was still the cattle egret. Thankfully I have since had a couple of reports which confirm that the egret is a little egret. So for all those interested in the cattle egret, I have had no reports.
I have also received a report of a Kingfisher again at the mouth of the Sorn at Bridgend. Another report on email concerned some interesting behaviour, seen on the 4th November, at Gruinart. A visitor to Islay noticed a buzzard lift off from the ground in the woodland area, on investigation they found a half eaten barn owl.
Recent records include: 5 Gadwal, 32 Pintail, 1 Sparrowhawk and Otter from the hide at Gruinart on the 15/11. On the 16/11, Little grebe, male Hen harrier and Woodcock again from Gruinart. Today the 17/11 there has been an international goose count, watch the blog for the results. Although a Hutchinsii lesser Canada goose was noticed again at Gruinart.

Saturday 14 November 2009

Friday 13th and Saturday 14th November 2009

Like everywhere in Britain the weather was not the best for wildlife watching today, which was lucky because I spent most of the day watching primary school shinty (it was nail biting stuff). It was worth going to the shinty as I happened to see the Cattle egret at Bridgend on the way to shinty via the sale at Bridgend. On the way back we flushed a Woodcock at Gruinart.
Friday the 13th was thankfully a lucky birdwatching day with sunshine and crystal clear air, giving the birds a crisp appearance through the scope, a really good west coast day. At Gruinart there was 1 Brambling, 372 lapwing, 1,295 Golden plover (I couldn't find any American golden plover amongst them), 220 Bar tailed godwits, 1 Greenshank and 2 grey wagtails.

Thursday 12 November 2009

Thurs 12th Nov

Tracey e mailed the totals for last weeks Goose counts. The Barnies tallied at 50,145 and the Whitefronts at 5,464. The Whitefronts have certainly come in since the previous count, and there appear to be higher percentage of juvenile birds along with them compared to previous years. Thanks Tracey for the figures. While Malcolm was out on the count yesterday, on the Ardtalla/ Oa route, he had seen several groups of 100+ Redwings.
Our visiting birders had gone over to Jura today, and had seen a couple of Swallows down beside the distillery at Craighouse. Malcolm told me last night that the latest record of a Swallow been seen on Islay was on the 24th of November in 1989, although there have been later sightings than this on mainland Argyll.
I shall be away on holiday for the next fortnight or so, so James will be looking after the blog while I am away. Margaret and myself are going to Dumfries and Galloway at the start, so hope to catch the sighting of the Starlings going to roost at Gretna. We may be even see the Red Kites at Loch Ken, and everyone talks about the geese, a bit of a busman's holiday..... We also hope to catch up with relatives and friends while we are there too.

Wednesday 11 November 2009

Wed 11th Nov

Remember the poser about the snails yesterday, well one of you readers out there reckons that the collective name for snails is a "rout", any other suggestions?
Some birds news now, I have not heard of any recent sightings of the Cattle Egret since Albert and Hazel Percival saw it last Friday, but there again it disappeared for a few days before showing up again.
James had a couple of Brambling yesterday on the track leading to his house at Grainel. Also yesterday afternoon, and also on the reserve, a visiting birder over for the week, had seen the Taverner's Canada Goose, and was well pleased. He had spent a lot of time scanning through numerous flocks of Barnies! Today, down at Bruichladdich and George saw a late Swallow in the morning, as well as a few Woodcock.

Tuesday 10 November 2009

Tues 10th Nov

I took this image of some snails the other day, thought it might amuse some of you! I am not sure of the collective name for such a "gathering" is, answers on a postcard...
Back down on Loch Indaal and there were 24 Pale bellied Brent Geese down at the spit on the Strand, and another 4 at Bowmore, possibly the small group that overwinters with us is here! Also on the foreshore were a few Turnstone, and some small groups of Eider offshore.

Monday 9 November 2009

Mon 9th Nov

Remember back to the other day, when I was talking about having seen the Cattle egret and the Little egret together, and how it was good being able to compare the two birds. Well, tonight I was speaking with some friends, when the topic came up about Eagles, and one of the friends said that they had seen a Golden Eagle and also a White tailed Sea Eagle, and again they also commented about comparing the birds when they are relatively close to each other.

Sunday 8 November 2009

Sun 8th Nov

Danny Arnold who was up for his 3rd visit of the year last week, had seen 6 Barn Owls throughout his visit, including 3 on his journey to the 7am ferry on Friday! Danny was fortunate to see the 7 Otters on one day on his visit, and gave us images of Moths earlier on in the year.
Another visitor today had the good fortune of seeing a male Hen Harrier seeing a Buzzard off, also an Otter in Loch Indaal out in front of Bowmore Distillery, and commented on the large flocks of Geese present.

Saturday 7 November 2009

Sat 7th Nov

James was in touch with some sightings from the past few days. On Thursday, apart from the Cattle Egret at Blackrock, he had a Coot on the reserve at Gruinart, perhaps common on the mainland, but not that common here. James also had 64 Whoopers passing through.
On Friday, James carried out a goose count on the reserve, 12,880 Barnacle Geese, 775 Whitefronts and 31 Greylags. The count for the Barnies was quite high, while the whitefronts were almost 100 up on last year at the same time, with more juvenile birds to be seen, so perhaps they have had a better breeding season this year. On the mud flats there were 665 Golden Plover.
Today in the wood beside Gruinart Farm, James had a Chiffchaff, a Treecreeper, a Woodcock and 2 Mistle Thrush.

Friday 6 November 2009

Fri 6th Nov

Only a brief entry tonight to say that the Cattle Egret is still here, back in the field where it was first seen a fortnight ago! The blog is light as I have been busy doing books on the computer and have not been in touch with any of the others! Sorry folks, but....

Thursday 5 November 2009

Thurs 5th Nov

James had spotted the Cattle Egret again this morning on his way down to Port Ellen, down at Blackrock, but when he came back the bird was not to be seen. Undeterred, we went down later on, and took a different tack and had a look from a different viewpoint, and after looking around for a few minutes, hey presto, the Cattle Egret was in a different field. It was still there late this afternoon, where it has been since last Wednesday I do not know, but it is still here for sure!!!
Malcolm had an e mail through from Clive McKay who used to work at RSPB Loch Gruinart. Clive had seen on the WWT website about tracking the Whoopers, and that one had left Iceland at 15.00 and was on Islay the following day before 12 noon! Another Whooper tale was by Andy Schofield on the Oa, who had seen the Whoopers fly past the other day, as did the Golden eagle who was a bit hungry and had a go at trying to catch one of the juvenile birds, but with no joy!

Wednesday 4 November 2009

Wed 4th Nov

This Redwing was caught in camera this afternoon below James's house at Grainel. I was on the lookout for the 3 Yellowhammer that were close by earlier on, but no luck! James had counted 365 Golden Plover and 520 Lapwing resting up on the mud on Loch Gruinart shortly afterwards, and the Green winged Teal was seen on the floods today by one of the vols.
Malcolm had 13 Pink footed Geese at Rockside while carrying out the goose count round Loch Gorm. They were in 3 different groups, rather than all together.
Several different groups of Whoopers have been seen today, the largest in number being 35 flying down Loch Indaal around 15.30, seen by Malcolm's wife, Carol. These were possibly the same birds that were seen earlier, on Ardnave Loch at lunchtime.

Tuesday 3 November 2009

Tues 3rd Nov

One of our visiting birders last week had a good sighting of a Merlin, the downside was that it was eating its prey at the time, a Meadow Pipit. Another regular visitor yesterday had seen 7 different Otters while he was out and about yesterday! Back to today, and the weather has been a bit mixed with squally showers, with a definite drop in temperature too. There have been some more Whoopers on the go again, but not as many as yesterday. Today was the first of this week's goose counts, so it will interesting to see if any more Greenland whitefronts have arrived.

Monday 2 November 2009

Mon 2nd Nov

Thank goodness the rain did stop, we had 1.75" up to 9 am today. The footbridge across the burn down at the Machir Bay was not to be seen as it was underwater, and today the burn was back down almost to its correct level, with no sign of any damage done, I thought that the banks might have got washed away in places, but thankfully no!
Back to the birds, and a great day for Whooper Swans, just after 9.30 am and we had 83 fly directly over the house. There were several other large groups, James had a total of 81 birds at Gruinart, while Malcolm had 2 groups, 38 just after 1pm, and then 46 around 16.40. James reckons that Malcolm's first group were originally from Gruinart. We had 33 just below the coal yard, and had counted 138 in total through the day along with several smaller groups.
Apart from the Whoopers, one of the vols at RSPB had seen a Kingfisher down at the mouth of the River Sorn as it enters Loch Indaal below Bridgend. One of the other vols had a Brambling on the track leading to Grainel. On the game crop at Grainel, there were 150 Twite and 50 Linnet. There was also the sighting of a Merlin chasing after the Twite! James also had a Taverner's Canada Goose on the reserve at Gruinart today.

Sunday 1 November 2009

Sun 1st Nov

The total rainfall for October here at home was 4.25" in all, it might have been less but I normally empty the gauge out at around 9 am. At that time this morning it was raining quite heavily and had been prior to that time. Since then, there has been 1.5" and it is only gone 6 pm!
Steve Percival was back in touch with an update of the goose ring that was on as an image a couple of days ago, VHZ. This goose was initially caught and run by Steve and his colleagues back on 10th November 2001. It is a male bird and over the years been seen on Islay a total of 95 times, the majority of which were at Gruinart Farm, a few times up at Ardnave and once over near to Loch Gorm. As Steve says, "a very site faithful bird". It was retrapped on 26th Oct 2006, when its image was taken. It was also very faithful to his wife and partner, UNR. Steve had indeed seen VHZ every day last week, through from Monday to Friday inclusive! Thanks for the info, Steve.