Saturday, 20 December 2008

Bons fetes!

We are now in France on leave and looking after our friends farm whilst they go on holiday. Hen Harriers, Lapwing and plenty of thrushes too.
Thank you for your support this year and welcome to a new one soon!

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Birds and Van Gogh ... Real fun.....

yes was. We found ourselves in Arles and at a delightful hotel next to the Amphitheatre - wonderful and fabulous. And not forgetting the painting country of Van Gogh.
The birding was something else. Normally, when I bird elsewhere there always seems to be a little niggle as to whether it will be as good as Islay. (I know I'm biased - I'm sure you all have your fave spots!) The Camargue did not let us down and was much better than I remember from fifteen years ago. We enjoyed exploring the area and finding birds from Cirl and Rock Bunting to Wall Creeper and Flamingo. Plenty of Egrets, Slender Billed and Yellow Legged gulls and raptors too. I cannot wait to go back. the food was fab we found two cracking wee restaurants and had time to take in the atmosphere too. Kevin and I will be leading a small group there in the spring. We will be doing it in 'retro ' style using trains to get there and enjoying the ambiance as well as birding too. If you are interested just let me know.

Sunday, 30 November 2008


Off tomorow - Monday - with Kevin Allenby from Birds of Britain to recce the Camargue for a possible spring birding trip.
Back with a report on Friday.

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Snow Eagle

A cracking cold day with such crispness and plenty of snow. High clouds and then ones full of snow. Yellowhammers on pheasant feeders at Ardtalla, a probable Black Necked Grebe(!) at Seal Bay and then a male Hen Harrier and time to watch Barnies in the snow - fabulous. Best of all a Golden Eagle with a white, white background. So ends our last Goosefest of 2008 - brilliant.

Friday, 28 November 2008

Birds of the Day!

On our return this evening when I asked - what was your bird of the day? I received five different answers! That is how diverse the day was. Starting at the ICCI we had; Whooper Swan, Barnacle and Whitefront Goose, Wigeon, Scaup, Long Tailed duck, Red Breasted Merganser, Knot, Redshank, Godwits, Oystercatchers, Slavonian and a single Great Crested Grebe to name a few and then we headed out to Ardnave. Two Lesser Canadas on the way. There, of course, were skeins of Barnies , Purple Sands, Tufted duck and Dabchick (not common for Islay) Twite as well as a handful of Snow Buntings.So... Bird of the day - what would your have been?

Bird of the Day?

On our return this evening when I asked - what was your bird of the day? I received five different answers! That is how diverse the day was. Starting at the ICCI we had; Whooper Swan, Barnacle and Whitefront Goose, Wigeon, Scaup, Long Tailed duck, Red Breasted Merganser, Knot, Redshank, Godwits, Oystercatchers, Slavonian and a single Great Crested Grebe to name a few and then we headed out to Ardnave. Two Lesser Canadas on the way. there , of course were skeins of Barnies , Purple Sands, tufted Duck and Dabchick (not common for Islay) Twite as well as a handful of Snow Buntings.So... Bird of the day - what would your have been?

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Geese Roost High Water

This was the start of our last Goosefest of 2008. It was a wee bit blowy today and in order to get our eyes in we watched Whitefronts and Barnacles along the high road. Spectacular in their bright green habitat and sunlight hills beyond. the sky danced with clouds and then we headed off around Loch Indaal to keep up with the light. Red Throated Divers, Purple Sandpipers,  Turnstones and velvety Pale Bellied Brent along the shore line. Later we watched Chough, Merlin  and a Kestrel. A cracking Ringtail had us all excited as we watched it hunting sending up Snipe, thrushes and Skylarks too. Night followed quickly and we enjoyed seeing the Barnies in to roost at Bridgend with a high water merse before catching a handful of Woodcock heading out to feed. A brilliant, if a little baltic day!

Friday, 21 November 2008

Crazy day

Crazy day! The wind was from the north west and cold with it and our photographer was up for anything! We headed inland beyond Skerrols and were rewarded with fantastic views of a Sparrowhawk hunting over the wetlands. It perched on a fence stob and some fabulous images were taken from just 20 metres away.  The landrover is a super hide! We then met up with the beat keeper and congratulated him on his management of this land for Islay Estate  - plenty of wee finches )chaffies, Linnet,  Rockdoves and Red Stag on the hill. Returning to Indaal we watched Scaup, Great Northern Diver and a Long Tailed Duck.  Later as dusk fell we rounded off with Woodcock, Barn Owl and a lovely coffee at Debbies where our photographer met with Carol Ogilvie who illustrated plenty of wildfowl books by her husband Dr Malcolm Ogilvie - he had one from
the USA which she duly signed and drew a lovely Barnacle goose for him. What a day ...Crazy!

Thursday, 20 November 2008

3d in 1 bin

Waking up to rain and picking our client form the airport things did not look too good birding wise - however the cloud lifted and we headed around the loch.  Photographing Purple Sandpipers outside 'Debbies' and then the same with a lovely flock of Pale Bellied Brent geese. Just off the rocks we had Great Northern, Black and red Throated in one 'bin' full! The light played peekaboo but a male Hen Harrier at Carn Duncan and a couple of Merlins made the flat light bright for us!

Monday, 17 November 2008

Great Northern

We spent the day birding the Rhinns. Although wet later we escaped the early dampness and watched Loch Indaal. There were plenty of Barnacles roosting at the Merse - especially at 'smelly corner'! Down at the spit were 24 Pale Bellied Brent and one dark one.  A pair of Chough were good to see - we did not need the scopes - we just observed from the Landy. We stopped again at old St Michael's Church pull in past Port Mor and saw a cracking Great Northern. A field of redwing and Fieldfare were a delight and  Golden Plover, Whitefronts, young Gannet and Shearwaters kept us looking around Portnahaven. The rain crept in on our return it was almost dark by 16:00hrs!

Friday, 14 November 2008

Merlin and Hare

We based ourselves in the north Rhinns today. The weather held good and although there was cloud the light improved as we progressed. At the back end of  Machir Bay we watched Chough, Wigeon, Teal, Oystercatcher, Linnet and Twite. Unfortunately no Snowbuntings this time. We enjoyed three Hare - running and then stopping - just amazing to see.
Plenty of gulls, and at Saligo, Gannets and a Great Northern Diver passed. We the had the wonderful experience of watching male Merlin hunting  - unsuccesfully - although pipits and finches did explode from every direction.  A male Hen Harrier delighted us at Sanaig  and along the way back to Port Charlotte in the open land a family of Roe Deer presented themselves perfectly for a photo opportunity! 

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Long Tailed Ducks

It was a fabulous day all round. birding along Loch Indaal from the ICCI (Gaelic Centre) through
to Port Charlotte.  Plenty of duck; Scaup, Scoter, Eider, Teal, Wigeon, Shelduck, Megansers and seven Long  Tailed Ducks. We also had cracking views of Slavonian Grebes too. (this is especially for our Grebe fans in Leamington Spa!) After the past three days of storms the water was still and both views and light were superb.  A group of Whoopers arrived and then set off just as quick heading south - magical. On the hills behind us two Golden Eagles circled. Barnacle roosting on 
the sand - they have been feeding by the moon over the past days. 
It was good to get out with clients after the past ten days of looking after the homeschool - a change is as good as a rest!

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Austrian Journalists and a week story

On Friday I was out with a couple of Austrian Journalists. We enjoyed the Rhinns on a stunning winter's day and John, who will also be helping out next year came along too to see how it was done. We watched Chough,  saw a Gannet off Port Weymss and  generally explored the landsape and they took loads of photos...of course. There was the most gorgeous salmon sunset over the  Orsay lighthouse. With the fresh northerly weather we now have Redwings and Fieldfare everywhere!

 I send a weekly roundup to 

 if you are interested.....


Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Waxwings and Homeschool

I do not normaly post when I have no clients HOWEVER toady was not normal. Twelve Whoopers over the house at dawn was followed by cracking views of a single Waxwing near the Youth Hostel, just opposite the editor of the Ileach's house. Brilliant. The girls and I loved seeing it before it headed off for Daal Terrace.

Monday, 27 October 2008

Awful weather - back for dolphins and otter

We had awful weather at the weekend but did the ride and went to the the festivities afterwards - we raised with 300 other folks £40,000 for young scottish riders! On our return there were Dolphins in the Sound of Islay and this morning whilst out with the homeschool we watched an Otter off Port Charlotte beach. Tink is away at the moment on family business so I am acting head at the homeschool!

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Bad Weather Braveheart

Despite the awful weather over the past days, and a couple of Swallows still scooting around Port Charlotte,  we are hoping to get to the mainland this weekend for the Braveheart ride raising funds for young Scottish riders. 

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

good to be out

It has been pretty awful weather wise here over the past few days and yesterday was no exception - I was supposed to be guiding but the private cruise boat could not get in...and nobody in their
right minds would go hereby hangs a tale! Today was a different story and we headed out with some delightful seniors around the Rhinns. We had Chough overhead, Whoopers towards Ireland, Merlin, Hen Harrier and Sparrowhawk as well as geese and a great flock of Redwing at Portnahaven. It rained and the wind blew but we ad steady hands and found enough shelter in between the sunny bits! 

Monday, 20 October 2008

Harrier, Hawk and Merlin

Although it was a foul and wild day we did struggle over the OA reserve walk - we were the ONLY folks mad enough to be there. A pair of  Chough, single male Hen Harrier and Gannets out at sea. Everything else was buried to save themselves from the tempest!  Along to Ardbeg for a cracking  Sparrowhawk,  Buzzard and Merlin too. Plenty of deer 'though; Red, Roe and Fallow.

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Redwing and Blackthroat

A very wet and stormy day - however we had some good birds: Scoter, Eider, Scaup and Whooper Swans as well as a cracking Black Throated Diver. Chough on the Rhinns and
plenty of Barnacles and Whitefronts. On our return to Port Ellen a wee flock of Redwing burst in front of us. A single Swallow swooped around Bruichladdich Distillery and a comic Tern - (it was too wet and windy to get a full id) off Port Weymss.

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Canadian Birders Golden Eagle

Yes, a couple from Canada are out with me birding for two and a half days. Picking them up from the ferry we immediately had Buzzards and Snipe too!  Up on the Glen Road we watched Red deer and Raven as well as a cracking Merlin sitting and then flying right in front of us. Further down we watched two Golden Eagles perching on the conifers and flying off.  Towards Port Ellen there were plenty of Whitefronts, a handful of Greylag and Barnies and then three Pink feet too!

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Four Birders Five Raptors

Birding in good light again - a wee bit of cloud and rain on occasions but we headed for Sanaig
and found a male Hen Harrier on the way, Merlin, Kestrel and Buzzards and then there on a post sat an Eagle and behind it ...another! We watched for an hour, the kelly kettle doing sterling service. It was superb. Later we enjoyed thousands of Barnacles and White fronts too. I found a Lesser Canada hanging around the Barnies too.  With Snipe and Buntings, Twite and Linnet it was quite a day.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

All three Divers and Long Tailed Ducks

A good day's briding and light to enable excellent views too. We worked our way around Loch Indaal from Bowmore to Bruichladdich. All three Divers- Red, Gt Northern and Black Throated, Scoter, Scaup, Wigeon, Teal, Slavonian Grebe, Whooper Swans and Long Tailed Ducks - three. Plenty of waders as well; Dunlin, Redshank, Godwits (both flavours!), Curlew, Sanderling and
a single Grey Plover. Sunshine, cold wind.

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Tern and Swedish Journalists

Back to Islay and this afternoon I was out on a photo shoot with some Swedish Journalists from Svenska da Bladet - one of the national newspapers. Common Tern at Bruichladdich and a handful of Purple Sandpipers. Plenty of Geese; Barnies and Whitefronts and great light for their photographer too! Interestingly it is strange how birds affect people; whilst in London at the cycle show (I was reporting for I got talking to someone mainly about Kingfishers and their behaviour! Hey ho! The fact that they lived on the River Thames may have had quite alot to do with it. Birding and biking...there's joy!

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Days of Rain

Yes it has been that today. We still have Swallows around the house and Geese flying over.
I am away till Friday reporting for
at the Bike Show. Hopefully by my return the weather will have dried up and i will definately
be out birding!

Sunday, 5 October 2008

This Week's Round-up

From the start of this year I have been sending Ron at a weekly nature report.
maybe some of you do not see it so I thought I would oblige by posting it here too!

Big news this week is that the Barnacle Geese arrived. I witnessed some arrivals on Friday with clients - 2000 plus in the morning and by today over 26,000 have touched down. This really signifies that winter has arrived. Other birds have also been seen: a couple of Lesser Canada, Whitefronts, Pale Bellied Brent, Ruff and plenty of sea duck. We also had a wee flock of Black Tailed Godwits from Craigens interspersed with Bar Tailed Godwits. The local Sparrow Hawk causing havoc. On Loch Indaal we have watched large flocks of Scaup, Scoter and Wigeon.Yesterday there were two very late Arctic Terns in Bruichladdich and Gannets fishing too.There are still plenty of Swallows, so it is strange to see the cross over of migrating birds arrivals and yet to depart. some of these barnacle records are of Geese that have come from
 the European race in North Norway and Svallbard etc..
For interest sake I know many nationalities read this so here are some translations of Barnacle Goose: Ca: Oca de galta blanca Da: Bramgås De: Weißwangengans Es: Barnacla cariblanca Fi: valkoposkihanhi Fr: Bernache nonnette It: Oca facciabianca Nl: Brandgans No: Hvitkinngås Pt: Ganso-de-faces-brancas Sv: Vitkindad gås US: Barnacle Goose Ru: Белощекая казарка thanks to I am also including latest record notes of arivals of Barnacles this season - the Argyll one was mine!
12:15 04/10/08

Barnacle Goose

N Yorks

Long Nab, Burniston

21:15 03/10/08

Barnacle Goose




20:20 03/10/08

Barnacle Goose

N Yorks

Nosterfield LNR

17:17 03/10/08

Barnacle Goose


Pilling Lane Ends

14:08 03/10/08

Barnacle Goose


Whitburn Coastal Park

11:00 03/10/08

Barnacle Goose

E Yorks

Flamborough Head

20:42 02/10/08

Barnacle Goose


Aberlady Bay

20:06 02/10/08

Barnacle Goose


Martin Mere WWT

19:51 02/10/08

Barnacle Goose


Cresswell Pond NWT


17:23 01/10/08

Barnacle Goose


Budle Bay


Most of these will have arrived from Greenland/Iceland although the east Coast birds may well have set off from Svallbard/Norway.

Of course there will be plenty of birders about looking for rareities amongst them and I know that a Snow Goose has been seen farther north...maybe it will arrive on Islay.

Let us not forget the Red Deer that have also been busy this week with the rut and Otters that have been see in several spots on the island.

With all this migration excitment though one can hardly not really recognise the importance of new arrivals and all that that entails for this wee Hebridean island right on the edge of Europe.

Saturday, 4 October 2008

What a Day!

I spent sometime with folks from the Royal Botanical Gardens and Camera Obscura and a posh hotel in Edinburgh today (on Islay!). Not a day to be out - foul weather till later. We talked and discussed many things. We watched Gannets from Port Mor and then when it brightened at Bruichladdich we saw 2 Arctic Terns fishing and 4 Purple Sandpipers. Fab.

Friday, 3 October 2008

Geese Arrival!

This morning with clients, we awoke to a continued Northerly that has been blowing for a day or two. I decided to head up to Gruinart and see what was happening. A Sparrowhawk sent up all the waders on the sand and then we noticed some Barnies and Whitefronts. We travelled to Bun an Uilt and then we saw them arriving. Small groups and steady some coming from the south of loch Indaal having run along the west coast. (They had over shot and were making their way back.) Cracking and wonderful at the sametime.
Strangely enough as I write, a Swallow has just flown over the house.......

Sunday, 28 September 2008

To the Capital

From tomorrow ( Monday) till Thursday we are away to Edinburgh with the homeschool.

Red Deer and Sparrowhawk

Out this afternoon birding and Red Deer watching. Plenty of Stags but not much action. A lovely flock of Golden Plover on the hill, Linnet and Mipits as well as Skylarks. In the glen near Ballygrant Loch, a cracking Sparrowhawk storming through scattering Woodpigeon.

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Merlin and Cuckoo!

What a strange day. Rain in the afternoon and what with the few Barnies and Whitefronts from Craigens as well lots of Greylags we headed around Gorm. A 100+ mixed flock of Linnets and Twite were great to see and a Merlin on a post but the most amazing was a juv Cuckoo on the wire who obligingly sat for sometime on a telegraph wire at Carnduncan.

Friday, 26 September 2008

Whitefronts and Peregrine

Up around Gruinart this morning with a client from Sussex. We enjoyed wader watching; Sanderling, Bar and few Black Tailed Godwits, Lapwing, Dunlin and Redshank. 13 Greenland Whitefronts resting up and the 10 Barnies feeding busily. Wigeon, Eider, Mergansers and Mallard. A Peregrine perched watching for an opportunity....

Thursday, 25 September 2008

LATEST LATEST Migration news

Ten Barnacle seen coming into Loch Gruinart today and some Greenland Whitefronts at Gorm yesterday.

French Film Red Deer

Out early once more today - before first light - I had dropped off our visiting photographer in the hide and then picked up th eFrnech Film Crew. We were hoping to film Red Deer. By mid morning the mist on th ehill had lifeted we had had some great views and had recorded some good bellowing. We then found a very tight family with a large stag and several females. The team managed to get a good hour on film and everybody was happy! On returning to pick up our photographer he had the news that although he had got some nice images of Rock Pipits he had noticed a distinct lack of waders, it was only when he looked out of the window of the hide there was Peregrine siting ten metres away from him! Just as he had sorted out his gear to caputre it - it flew off -- grrrrrr. Poor chap!

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

New Arrivals

Once again an early start before light but well worth it. We had Pintail, Scaup, masses of Wigeon, Slavonian Grebe, Pale Bellied Brent, Scoter and Red Throated Diver. Not as bright today but better viewing light. Wonderful to see and welcome our winter arrivals!

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

And then...Eagles

A custom tour today to see Chough and Eagles. We headed for the highlands and spent some time watching the Red Deer Stags start their rut, bellowing and 'bumping' each other but no full on battles. In the early morning light we saw three Chough, very close and watched them for sometime. Then onto the north Rhinns - a distant Eagle was being mobbed by a Buzzard. Twite and Linnet and more Chough and then cracking views of an adult Eagle, firstly perched then flying and landing once again. What with Peregrine, Hen Harrier, Merlin taking a M'pit and Kestrel we did well for raptors. A cracking day!

Monday, 22 September 2008

Otterly Fantastic

Out before dawn with a Frnech Film crew and will be most of this week. We filmed Geese, saw Barn Owls, Hen Harrier and lots of waders around Bun an Uillt and then we had a family of three otters. Fantastic! There was also time to place a photographer from Suffolk in a hide too - (we did not leave him there all day)!

Friday, 19 September 2008

100's of Pale Bellies!

Yes that is right. Teaching a one to one Nature and Wilderness day and we started up at Killinallan to witness the arrival of large flocks of Pale Bellied Brents Geese. By the time we got down to Craigens we counted over 600 birds. A Ringtail flew over and spooked them and some headed for Strangford Loch in Northern Ireland. Others rested a wee while longer. Kestrel, Twite, Linnet and Curlew and then onto Dail Brush to Raven watch and do soem coppicing and bushcraft. Great fun. Long Tailed Tits, Goldcrest and Blue Tits accompanied us as we explored and enjoyed the magical woodland as the rain fell on th ehigh hill. Every so often a Red Deer stag bellowed. Autumn is just around the corner.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Thursday is Bushcraft Day!

Took a couple of chaps out today bushcrafting. It was driech and then it rained so we headed for our woods. Raven welcomed us and Blue and Coal Tits were constant companions. Fire husbandry, shelter building and water purifying were the orders of the day - all successfully achience although th erecent wet weather tested the fire lighting skills!

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Rhinns no Rain!

Yes, there was no rain today - after yesterday's continuous downpour it was an absolute delight to be out with folks and bird dry! We headed around the southern Rhinns. Plenty of highlights including seawatching Shearwaters, Gannets, Auks and gulls. Inland; Wheatears and Hen Harriers., Chough and large flocks of Goldfinches as well as Linnets too.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Islay Dawn

Have been following the jazz festival over the past three days and this morning I was taking some Japanese folks out pre-dawn. We watched a Barn Owl hawking in the early shadows and then went onto Gruinart to witness the hundreds of Greylag Geese that have been arriving ove rthe past couple of weeks. (A report of a handful of Barnacles arriving yesterday). Against the salmon sky they were spectacular leaving for newly cut
barley fields. We then headed away down to Ardnave; Chough, waders and a single Hen Harrier. Yesterday as I was returning from a gig I walked from Foreland Road End to Port Charlotte. Scoter on the sea and two Slavonian Grebes with remnants of summer plumage.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Film on frontpage

Last year in the winter, Patrick Glotin of Canal Plus (France) made a film about DJ Macphee and myself, how our jobs were similar and how they were different. DJ is the head keeper at Dunnlosit Eatate, his daughter Rhona has been working with us this summer. Anyway, I sent a copy to Ron at and he has edited it to post on his and our here it is (scroll down to the bottom of the page) . Enjoy.

Cracking Day...

...yesterday. We headed out on the Rhinns starting in the north with a birder from Nottingham. We immediately saw a Golden Eagle and Buzzard, Corvids and Finches and Greylags on Gorm. On to Machir Bay where there were plenty of Choughs and Gullls too. A good flock of Linnets drinking in the burn was good too. Then we headed south for a bit of seawatching - Frenchman's Rocks gave us lots of Gannets, Shearwaters, Waders passing and a fine flock of Twite and another Eagle. On the eround we found 31 Marsh Fritillary nests. On our return we had a couple of White wagtails and a superb male Hen Harrier. What a day!

Sunday, 24 August 2008

Gathering till 5th September

Rhona and I are off to teaching and run workshops at the Gathering on Monday. We are meeting up with Tink down there.

Stuart is here running walking safaris. Hurray!
We will not be back till 5th September

Rhinns and French

Another perfect French day! We dropped in to see Stuart - who runs our Walking Safaris and ended up drinking coffee and birding from his terrace. Thanks! Loads of seabird movement; Gannet, Shearwaters, Auks and Kittiwakes too. Up along the west coast and Ringtails twice and Chough too. Linnet and Twite in wee groups. The off to the airport to bid them farewell.

Saturday, 23 August 2008


Yes, we went to Jura today. It was good for our French folks experiencing a really remote place. With sunshine and rolling clouds as well as a later storm! We had time to visit the marvellous gardens and also see Hen Harriers, Kestrels, several Corvids and plenty of sea birds: Gannets, Guillemots, 4 Scoter, Eider and the odd young Balck Guillemot too. We called in on Bruichladdich distillery on the way back and Debbies for a grounding coffee and debrief - it was raining by then......

Friday, 22 August 2008

French Folks and Missing Wife

Day one of a three day custom tour with a couple from Northern France. Down along the South East coast birding and whisky tasting - Laphroaig, Ardbeg and Lagavullin - goes very well! We had cracking views of Gannets and a couple of Skuas too as well as Merlin, Swallows, Martins, Common Sand and Oystercatchers. Then returning to Bruichladdich via Kilchoman and Machir Bay. Chough, Buzzards, Raven and two Golden Eagles. As to the missing wife ...well I hope that my responses to your emails are almost as good as Tink's! She is in another country at the moment way down south in Devon visiting family. Missing wife - I sure do!

Thursday, 21 August 2008

ITV and Otters

Today I was out with Martin Clunes of ITV making part of a programme about islands and Islay especially. We were watching and filming a great big dog Otter, trying wild food and having fun in the wilderness! Yesterday was spent preparing. Excellent chap, good fun crew to work with.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Sea Food Bisque!

Out in the south east teaching adults wilderness living skills. Today they were honing their wild cooking and having made a superb shelter and kept the fire going - no easy task in these damp conditions the skill of wilderness cuisine came into play. Plenty of birds to keep us occupied - Oystercatchers, Heron, Gannets and gulls and early this morning I watched a Treecreeper just at head height on a Beech tree finding breakfast too. With Mussels , Cockles and Limpets prepared on a bed of Sea Lettuce and Sorrel it was quite a feast. To finish a cup of Nettle tea in the warming sunshine. 

Saturday, 16 August 2008

Wet and Wild

After yesterday and a family bushcraft day where we did all the usual wilderness living skills AND witnessed lots of Sea Trout literally boiling in a pool at Gruinart this morning the tour was very wet and wild. Around the Merse where we found some shelter we watched waders; Dunlin, Sanderling, Redshank and Oystercatchers, the odd Bardwit and Curlew too, as well as the pair of Buzzards just sitting damp in a tree. It started to dry early afternoon but our folks had a ferry to catch and carried with them memories of a great holiday on Islay.

Friday, 15 August 2008


..was show day and it seemd that all of Islay were at it. Little rain and mostly bright meant
lots of folks having a good time, chatting, watching the beasts and horses and enjoying the falconry display. Rhona and I had plenty to do at the Islay Birding Stall as well as lots of visitors too. A good day was had by all.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Dawn, Merlin and Islay Show

We were out at 0400hrs today. Still dark but when we got to Ardnave the light was showing and th emist hung like a morning/mourning mantle. Four Chough sat on the barn roof and Greylag called from the loch. Lots of gulls were coming in and more Greylag too. In one group there were over 100 birds. There were alot of waders: Barwits, Dunlin, Plover, Oystercatchers and Curlew. We saw a Tawny Owl and lots of Buzzards and on our return a Merlin shot low over the moss. Later in the day Rhona and I with the help of her boyfriend Finn (thanks) prepared for the Islay Show tomorrow. Hopefully the sun will still be shining.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Back from the Wilds

Having been running yet another wilderness living camp since the weekend - this time for boys. Rhona and I taught fire husbandry, selter building, water purification and finding food. They had plenty of fun, meanwhile Stuart was guiding folks at th ebottom of the Rhinns, plenty of Gannets, a couple of Bonxies and a possible Pom. Skua so good for him and his gang too!

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Saturday Birds

Yesterday despite the foul weather in the morning I was out with folks as it promised to clear by midday and by 11.00 we were wader watching on Gruinart: Sanderling, Dunlin, Barwits and Curlew, Plovers as well as plenty of Oystercatchers and the odd Grey Heron as well. We headed southwards seeing hirundines feeding at Couillabus and Red Deer on the hill. Raven footered about on Borachill Mor. At Carnain there were more waders yet no sighting of the poss. Bairds Sandpiper from earlier in the week. Buzzards hung around on the trees behind us and Pied Wags were feeding young. The sun even managed to shine!

Friday, 8 August 2008

Bushcraft and wilderness living day

Out on the South East coast today. Lovely weather and a great time. Teaching an extended family how to be comfortable in the wild places: Fire Husbandry, Shelter building, finding food and water. Such fun an dlaughter. We watched Grey Herons, Herring Gulls, Oystercatchers, Turnstones and Curlew. On our way back a Sparrow Hawk exploded from a scruby hedge sending finches everywhere!

Thursday, 7 August 2008


So it was. We travelled from Caol Ila to Bruichladdich. No Otters at the distillery but good views of Jura, Mull and a superb view of a Ringtail at Finlaggan - we watched it for a good 1/2 hour. Wheatear, Linnet, Dunnock, Goldfinch and Buzzard too. Then down to the Merse. We scanned
the departing tide line and found plenty. Dunlin, Sanderling, Ringed Plover - including an albino one and a Little Stint too. Then a possible Bairds Sandpiper. We all looked carefully noting the diagnostics including the long projecting primaries but the light was variable and it was quite mobile so I was not happy to call it 100%. I telephoned Catherine at the RSPB to pass on the message and John Armitage too. We headed on and found Andy form the RSPB at the other end of Uiskentiue and told him. He had a suspect one the day before but again too far to commit. We left him to head off to find it. We ended at Debbies, Bruichladdich, for a coffee; Great Northern Diver, Gannet and Black Throated Diver for afters! Returning to the Merse, via Blackrock; Scoter, Eider and Shags, to finish and drop off our clients. The sea was even further out so viewing was not as good, although as we arrived everything went up as a Peregrine stormed through. Cracker!

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Snipe 3 Swifts 2

A cracking day's birding with some superb vews of super birds. Apart from Gannets and Shearwaters at Claddach, earlier we had 2 Swifts float past at eye level and 3 Snipe flying overhead. With Linnet, Pipits, Chough and to finish, a Golden Eagle, sitting on a post which, obviously, was the icing on the cake of a marvellous day.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Family Wilderness Day

having spent the last Saturday drying out and sorting kit then going on to oragnising and riding
The Ride of the Falling Rain VC d'Ardbeg 100mile cycle event on Sunday, today found Rhona - our high capable assistant and I teaching a family about wilderness living skills. We had time to seal watch and carefully observe four Eider Duck eating mussels - just hwere we wanted to be. Most amusing. The sun shone and we enjoyed the good weather - fishing, fire lighting and cooking wild food. Fantastic. Meanwhile Stuart was out with a birding family watching Gannets at Claddach.

Friday, 1 August 2008

Wild Stramash and baby Vole

Back home after a week in the wilderness. Hen Harrier, Goldfinches, Linnet and a handful of Twite as well as plenty of Swallows too. Lots of plants to ID and insects as well - like this Gold Ringed dragonfly.
The youngsters explored, did some conservation work (Rhoddie bashing) and spent a night in the caves. They also realised how hard it can be when the rain is non stop for three days! Meanwhile Stuart - yes the splendid knowledgeable chap who runs the Walking Safaris has also been busy with showing folks the Gannets feeding off Portnahaven, enjoying wee birds and Buzzards too. Best all all though he was with a group this afternoon observing a baby vole. There's something!

Saturday, 26 July 2008

Whimbrel and Wilderness

As a three day two night bushcraft expedition ended I managd to wash and get some sleep before being out again straight away this morning birding. On the hill we watched Hen Harriers, Arctic terns from the sea at Proaig and a pair of Swans as well. Common Sandpipers called and flew across the mouth of the river and Plovers fed along the beach. Lovely plants including some cracking heather and Blaeberries too.

This morning at Garra Ellabus there were 97 Whimbrel which we enjoyed watching and discussing thier long distance migration - now under way heading south once more.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Whimbrel passing

Early this morning I had a largish (49) Whimbrel in a field at Coultorsay and the Corncrake was
still calling by the kirk. Off today on anothe rwilderness expedition to the east of Islay on Ardtalla Estate. Back on Saturday.......

Saturday, 19 July 2008

Goldcrests 2 Crossbills 7!

A cracking morning birding with regulars from Oban. We headed out towards the new abbatoir
where we immediately had a small flock of Crossbils, then there were in total. Then we enjoyed a pair of Goldcrest working along the larches and Martins and Swallows picked up food in the lee of the wind. Down onto the Merse there were plenty of Dunlin, Plover and
Barwits. Gannets fed off the shore line and a pair of Buzzards floated above. Wonderful.

Friday, 18 July 2008

Wildwood Wisdom Camp and Eagles

Another week long wilderness camp with local children based on the Ardtalla Estate. Wonder/wander times; exploring and fishing and nature watching with sixteen kids! We found an Otter skull, watched Common Sandpipers and nests, Gannets fishing too and did lots of campcraft activities. At night Roe Deer bucks barked and a Barn Owl screeched.

On our return a pair of eagles circled overhead. Superb.

Saturday, 12 July 2008

Rhoddie, Snipe and Harrier

We all had a great week in the wilderness. Snipe calling throughout the night and occasional drumming too. Harriers passed us on the hill and we were able to remove alot of Rhoddie bushes as part of the childrens conservation part of their John Muir Award. Campfires, songs, playing in the river, sleeping in caves, running on the beach, wild swimming in high pools, laughing and joking and just being in the wild. A wonderful Stramash camp!

Monday, 7 July 2008


Out today for a whole week with children form the county learning wilderness living skills, nature watching and doing their John Muir Award. Hopefully it will be drier this week! This image is from last Stramash Camp. More at the end of the week.

Saturday, 5 July 2008

Wet wet and very wild

We survived a wilderness camp with sixteen children. And boy did it rain! However it did not stop us having lots of fun, identifying plants, watching Buzzards and Raven, listening to Great and Long Tailed Tits and doing the John Muir Award. The youngsters built a footbridge out of coppiced Hazel as well as a camp kitchen!

Monday, 30 June 2008

Wildwood Wisdom Camp

Arrived back on Islay yesterday afternoon. Racing through Northern France with plenty of others hardcore cyclists was something else and the odd time I did manage to get my eyes to th esky I saw plenty of Swifts, Herons and the odd raptor too. The sun shone. back to the wet and today we depart for a four day local youngsters camp. We hope it will not rain all week!

Monday, 23 June 2008

Next Monday

Today we were running Wildwood Wisdom with the Young Adventurers at Port Ellen and then at Bowmore too. Tomorrow I am off to London with Brian Palmer he of
fame to ride as a team 'Velo Club d'Ardbeg', from there to Paris in three days - a mere 600 kms, in the international cyclo -sportive Londres-Paris, crazy thing to do,but should be fun. Not only will we be racing Tour De France style (closed roads, transponders and masseurs) but also for charity. (Thanks to all who have sent support). We will be back on Islay next Monday.
meanwhile, Stuart Graham is running the walking Safaris, with Tink in the office.

Saturday, 21 June 2008

Marsh and Hen Harrier

Around the Rhinns again today. Cracking views of Arctic Terns on the shingle and a Scoter on a wee lochen! Chough a wee bit laetr and then, a male and female Hen Harriers doing conecting around a nest site - no food being passed although we suspect that is why the female rose. We also watched a Skylark feeding young and a Marsh Harrier around Claddach. I wonder if this was the one that we last saw a couple of weeks ago? A Grey Wagtail sat on a rock enabling us to have great views and Fulmars are busy on their nests at Kilchiran.

Friday, 20 June 2008

Hen Harriers and Buzzard Snake

We headed up into the hills in the morning on a bright and sunny day - it had rained during the night. We watched Curlew, Red Deer and a distant Eagle. Then onto the south Rhinns where there male and female Harriers, Lapwing Chough and Raven too. Gannets out to sea and an occasional wet afternoon. We watched a Buzzard with an adder in its tallons - amazing sight and close enough to be really clear. Redpoll, Twite and Wheatears in quiet places and now, as I write, the sun is shining and it is warmish too.

Last Night Early Morning

Having spent most of the day preparing for the all th esummer camps we organise I headed out with clinets for another dusk tour - still light at 2300hrs. We watched Terns, Arctci and Little, Eider in eclipse and listened to bats on the 'bat-o-meter'. 5 Corncrakes all calling and rustling about and 2 Barn Owls hunting. Did not get back till this morning! A fantastic time and still dry although wet during
the night.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Barn Owl Bonanza!

More of the owls later, for this morning we were watching Hen harriers, Common Sandpipers, Chough and Lapwing. Then to the coast and strand for Little and Arctic Terns; fabulous. By dusk we headed for Gruinart and listened to five Corncrakes and watched a Barn Owl hawking for over 30 minutes! Then we saw another and a Tawny Owl popping out of th ewoods, dropping down to take a mouse and head back in. With bats flying too we had the most amazing day!

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Hen Harriers

We had a wet and windy day today - great - the land needs it so much - and it did not detract from the birding too much. Little and Arctic Terns, Gannets, Manx Shearwaters, Seals, Greylags and Turnstones as well as Curlew and 6 Whimbrel off the sea at Lossit. The highlight was a male and female Hen Harrier together. Stuart, who runs our walking safaris
also had a wet but successful morning with his group; Heath Spotted Orchids, Ragged Robin and plenty of Bog Cotton too. They got great close views of a Siskin, saw a Heron being mobbed by Common Gulls and watched Seals, Plovers and Redshank along the coast. Very enjoyable.

Monday, 16 June 2008

Open Day Port Ellen

We were at the Port Ellen School open day sharing the experiences of building the Round House with parents and grandparents. Good fun despite the rain that edged us indoors by the end.

They collected alot of bits and pieces for a time capsule that we are going to bury beneath a 'new' standing stone.

Friday, 13 June 2008

John Muir Award

Spent the morning at Keills giving out John Muir Awards - 74 children on Islay have got them and we still have more going for the next level. The youngest ones are 7 and the eldest 14, so good news for everybody. On our return we made time to watch the Terns on the strand.

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Gorm Scoter

Colder today with a brisk northerly becoming NWesterly. At Storakaig we watched a high male Hen Harrier passing over Ben Bhreac heading west. Then over to Loch Indaal to watch Arctic and Little Terns. In the afternoon we ended up at Gorm, 2 Scoter on the freshwater and another two Hen Harriers too. A lone Pink Foot hung out with a gang of Greylag. Sixty species today!

Wednesday, 11 June 2008


Strange but true, after birding all day with folks we were out agian till this early morning Owl watching and listening to Corncrakes. It was chilly and the sky was clear so even at 2300hrs it was still to be dark. During th eday we had some amazing views of Arctic terns and Sanderling as well. Chough and Godwits too. From Bruichladdich pier we had Great Northern and Black Throated Divers. But most amazing, and the bird of the day, was a male Hen Harrier that circled us, caught two items of prey - vole/mice and then flew alongside the landy - overfilling our binoculars. Quite extraordinary.

Monday, 9 June 2008

Arctic Tern Grey Sky!

The rain fell this morning and it was certainly damp although it did not erode our views of some magnificent Atctic Terns at the Uiskentuie Strand. The landy meant we had a mobile hide and we were able to get really good views without disturbing these long distance travellers. We also watched Dunlin, a couple of Sanderling and Eider too. Onto Machir Bay for plenty of Chough, Sandmartin and Lapwing. Great.

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Golden Eagle, Blue Sky

.....Yes, it was and warm too! Up in the hills beyond Bridgend and Dun Nosebridge we watched Ravens, plenty of them and then high above a Golden Eagle floated across - right across the Glen and back again, a Buzard was there for comparison and the Ravens gave it a hard time. nearby the landy a Reed Bunting fed on the ground. Curlew, Redshank, Shelduck and Oysercatchers added to our Australian and Peebleshire clients enjoyment of the day.

Saturday, 7 June 2008

Wilderness Living

For the past two day we have been out in the wilds, living off the land and watching nature, discovering plants and njoying wonderful beetles and Butterflies - especially plenty of Marsh Fritillaries. We have seen everything from Orchids, Sundews, Worts and seaweeds through to Cinnabar Moths, Buzzards, Fulmars, Redshank, Lapwing and nesting Curlew. Magical. Cooking seafood on open fires, leaving no trace of our whereabouts and tracking deer and otters too. The weather has been kind for us and we returned bronzed and with spirits lifted. Red Deer watched on as we hiked back heavy in our sadness to leave but lighter with raised hopes and new skills to practice and develop.

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Hen Harriers and Orchids

The sun shone till midday then became overcast and as I write now is raining. However
we saw all three Terns on Loch Indaal, Arctic, Common and Little. Gannets out west and two male Hen Harriers too. Plenty of Shelduck and Eider as well. On the hill we found Tormentil, Orchids and Lousewort as well as Milkwort and Bog Cotton. At the merse; Ringed Plover, Dunlin and a single Knot amongst them. Very strange! A good day's birding.

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Gannets and Puffins

A cracking day birding on the Rhinns again - spending a considerable time at Frenchman's Rocks. Gannets by the dozen, Shearwaters, Razorbill, Arctic Terns and two Puffins really close in on the sea just below us. We also had a glimpse of a wee pod of Dolphins moving through too. A great day for our custom tour honeymoon couple from Germany!

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Golden Eagle 1 Trout 30!

We headed for the hills on Friday and have just returned. Guiding three chaps from Kent who usually only see Islay in the winter whilst coming here for the geese. Well, summer was really here and we watched an Eagle fly over our wild campsite and a Peregrine taking a Mallard just thirty steps from where we camped, witnessed a Hen Harrier hawk the hill, listen to Snipe drumming and a cuckoo calling well into the night and enjoyed Common Sandpipers as we fished the rare and high lochens. Plenty for tea each evening and enough catch to put back too!

Dragon flies, Otter prints, Adders and beetles kept using looking and watching for three uttterly peaceful and magical days.

Thursday, 29 May 2008

Golden Eagles

A cracking morning birding, Chough, Raven, Greenfinch, Skylarks and Mipits. We then spent a considerable amount of time watching a pair of Eagles above Ben Tart a Mhill on the southern Rhinns. the sun shone and sky cleared.

Tomorrow I am off into the hills agin guiding, wilderness living and exploring with folks from Kent till Sunday....more news then.

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Dawn and Day

An early start this morning with Corncrakes at Gruinart, Rooks and Jackdaws and we watched a Willow Warbler in and out of a nest for half an hour. Really wonderful to see. A Grey Heron stalked frogs in one of the ditches and Arctic Terns were along the strand. Certainly more than yesterday. Later we had a family bushcraft day - based at Carnain beach and accompanied by even more Terns, Oystercatchers and Shelduck . We watched a two parents with 10 young heading out the merse. Ringed Plover, Swans and Eider on the sea. The rain started to fall and is still doing so - even through Young Adventurers and now the 'flying teeth' AKA midges are having a ball!

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Hen Harrier heaven!

We headed around the Rhinns and up to the hinterland too. Thrushes, Auks, Seals and Chats. We waited for eagles but no show - however we had five Harriers - four males one hen all in different locations. Superb - and the last one was yards from the landy. We all stood in awe watching it hawk. It was so very clear and close, binoculars became superflouous!

Sunday, 25 May 2008

Setting sun at the end of a long wilderness week

We went and returned - the whole week living in caves, watching sun sets and amazing ourslves at the wildness of Islay. In the north of this magical place lies even more. Following the transhumance route the Cuiart Breac expedition found everything form Miwort and Orchids to Green Hairsteaks and emerging Marsh Fritillaries to seabirds and terns and a single male Hen Harrier. Common Sandpipers were busy on the high wee lochens and we feasted on Limpets, Pignut and Wild Goat. Marvellous. The folks did their John Muir Awards and managed to get completely intot he swing fishing and nature watching - even if the Red Deer were recipricating the watching at times! Whlist I was leading this trip with Roger from Bison Bushcraft, Stuart was taking folks out on walking Safaris watching Golden Eagles on the Rhinns - so we had it all ways...

I know...we are SO lucky!

Saturday, 17 May 2008

Friday's Birds Saturday

I am writing this a day late - sorry! On Friday we had a great time around Loch Indaal and
down to Claddach. Arctic Terns, Plovers, Eider, Megansers and Gannets too. A Hen Harrier
and Merlin and Buzzard too. Greta Northern Divers were cracking in fuull summer plumage. Two Barnacles and Whitefronts as well. Today we headed northwards to Askaig for the afternoon. At the Merse the Carnain Swans with their cygnets still were around and there were huge numbered of Shelduck again. More Buzzards, Razorbills and other Auks too. Sedge, Willow and a Wood Warbler was a good find.

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Wood Sandpiper Hen Harriers

A morning tour started with Shelduck at the Merse, Terns at Ionad Challium Chille Ile and the Carnian Swans with seven cygnets. From Eresaid we spotted a male Hen Harrier and a female in the heather doing what they do at this time of year - it is spring after all! In the distance, a Golden Eagle. In the afternoon, having seen a Wood sandpiper on a pool behind Bruichladdich, we took Ron and Manuela, of fame, out for a Bushcraft Sausage Sizzle up beyond Killinallan. It was such a perfect day and Campbell's sausages were delicious, cooked over and open fire on the beach. Brilliant. Mark Hancox, photographer, phoned to say that there was now a male and female Garganey at the RSPB wetlands on Gruinart. Thanks.

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Marsh Harrier

Out again with Mark Hancox photographing Gannets at Frenchman's Rocks. The light was superb and opportunities wonderful. However, even more interesting was a female Marsh Harrier passing over us and heading out to sea! That and Manx Shearwaters, Puffins, Guillemots, Razorbill and a Peregrine kept us busy all day!

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Photographer's Special

Out at 0400hrs this morning till dusk with Mark Hancox
a wonderful image maker who is here for a week. He wanted Gropper, Whinchat, Hen Harrier
and Golden Eagle and.... we got all of them (joy)- also some cracking pictures of Chough preening each other. All from the Landrover - a terrific mobile hide - save the Eagles,which were a wee
walk in the hills on a stunningly beautiful Islay day.

Monday, 12 May 2008

Pale Bellied Brent arrival and departure

this morning with clients we were looking around the top end of Loch Indaal. 37 PB Brents arrived up the loch and hung around for an hour then up and left climbing high and heading North. A wonderful sight and we were so privaledged to witness. Handfuls of Whimbrel are still coming in and so are Arctic Terns too. The sun shone and it was good to be biridng in the warm spring air.

Sunday, 11 May 2008

Whimbrel and Arctic Terns

On the Rhinns again today with a group of Canadian birders. Excellent light and views of Divers on Loch Indaal, Common Sandpipers and a cracking male Hen Harrier at Port Wemyss. This is rarly seen there, more often on the Portnahaven side. Plenty of Lapwing, Gannet fishing
and Manx Shearwater. Several young Lapwing too and lots of wee birds with food for young.. Whitethroats, Willow Warblers and Sedge as well. A report of a Marsh Harrier is interesting at Portnahaven. At Frenchmans' Rocks therewere over 50 Arctci Terns resting up. We headed back with 8 Chough overhead at Tormisdale and Fulmars at Kilchirian.

Saturday, 10 May 2008

Corncrakes and Hen Harrier

At 0400hrs it is still dark but when I set out for our dawn tour and picked up the folks, the light was coming through but unfortunately, no sun! (If that makes sense!). We really enjoyed a dawn chorus behind Islay House and as the light improved were delighted to see a Roe Deer Fawn, hear tits, finches and Thrushes welcoming the new day. A Buzzard drifted over the field and as it was so still the flying teeth(midges) started flying. They were not enough to put us off and soon a Corncrake started crexing. Later along one of field edges we enjoyed seeing a male Hen Harrier sitting on a post waiting for the morning mist to burn off. Dawn. Islay. Brilliant!

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Corncrakes and Whitethroats

What a glorious day! Full sunshine and good views. Stating at the Gruinart flats where we met Ian and Margaret Brooke busy birding - check out their which records RSPB and friends sightings. Very good and up to date. We listened to Corncrakes, watched Lapwings and several ducks on the wetlands. Then off down the Rhinns, grey Seals, a cracking Roe deer doe with a newly born young suckling and, of course, Gannets, Shearwaters and small group of feeding Storm Petrels. A singleGolden Eagle casting it's shadow across a well groomed field and Chough too. Shirt sleeve order all day!

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Spotted Crake Sunset

A cracking tour starting early morning and ending late tonight. In fact I have just got in at 23:35 hrs.! We saw Whooper Swan, female Garganey and plenty of different waders and corvids too. An Osprey disappeared over Ballygrant towards the loch. Then having headed out for Gruinart in the evening we witnessed a most exquisite sunset from
Borachill Mor - the sun relecting in a wee lochen - unforgetable. Down over the flats and towards Ardnave Snipe drumming, Corncrakes, Chough in the dusk and silent too, Barn Owls, and Tawny. And.... a Spotted Crake to finish. Utterly magical!

Monday, 5 May 2008

Sea Har Whimbrel

The day dawned well but as we headed down towards Port Weymss and having seen Lapwing, Auks and Buzzards as well as several Warblers; Willow, 'Gropper and Sedge, we became enveloped in mist. Luckily it rose by midday and we had great views from Frenchman's Rocks of Gannets, Seals and Fulmar. Whimbrel moved norh out of the Har and were great to hear. A distant Golden Eagle over Tormisdale ended our sunny and glorious day.

Saturday, 3 May 2008

Whooper Swan - Red Deer

The weather broke this morning, cold and wet but by the time we headed off the clouds had lifted. We headed up to the high hills to watch Red Deer and on a wee lochen we found a single Whooper Swan hanging out with a Shoveller, Teal and Mallard and loads of hirundines (Sand and House Martins and the odd Swallow too) fly catching. As we climbed higher we came across several Stags who watched us curiously but were settled. It was great to see against such a dramatic background of hill, heather and dancing light.

Friday, 2 May 2008

Golden Eagle

Down to Portnahaven where we spent time watching the Seals - amd listening to them! Gannets and Shearwaters passing and Common Sandpipers piping. A sunny day and gentle wind. Later we watched an Eagle hunting and returning with prey. Fanatastic; what with Chough, Fulmars and a pair on Dunlin on a crofters muddy pool - it was quite an outing.

Thursday, 1 May 2008

Whimbrel and Divers

We headed out along a flat Loch Indaal this morning; 7 Great Northern Divers off the pier in assorted plumages - most interesting for our Flemmish birders. Then Razorbills, Common Guillemots and Black ones too! We headed up along to Gorm and found Chough, Sedge Warblers,4 White fronted Geese and plenty of Lapwing on nests and very protective too! And a single Black Tailed Godwit.

Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Common Sandpiper - Peregrine

The dya th eweather changed and yet we managed to get some cracking biridng in, in th esouth eats. At Claggain we had Common Sandpipers all three Divers, Gannets , Eider and Mergansers as well as jumping Sea Trout! On our way out a Peregrine stooped infront of the Landy and shot off down the beach. We headed inland we watched a Ringtail going to ground and in the rain had a Snipe fest! Plenty flying up and down and one on a post too.

Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Golden eagle 2 Whimbrel 127

Having sent off our French folks on the plane with tears in their eyes and seen the Purple Sandpipers yesterday today we were watching Common Sandpipers, Whimbrel and a cracking fifteeen Black Tailed Godwits in full summer plumage. In the morning on the Rhinns we saw an eagle and then in the afternoon having picked up another group we had another on the high hill.
What a day, that with three Hen Harriers (2 Males) we were really enthralled at so many opportunities.

Sunday, 27 April 2008

Corncrake Dawn

What a dawn; still and clear. The French team and I headed for Gruinart and the RSPB hide.
Not much at first light but with the rising of the sun and warming of the day we saw 13 Black Tailed Godwits in summer plumage, a female Garganey and a young Whooper Swans....then came the call - crex-crex, crex crex. Then...another. In the fields beyond we saw 27 Whitefronts and one Barnacle. What a morning and back for late breakfast.

Saturday, 26 April 2008

Otter, Golden Eagle, Cuckoo

I was with some French folks who had come over from the Baie du Somme -Northern France.
We watched and they photographed an Otter at the strand at Loch Gorm House. We spent a good hour doing this in bright sunshine and excellent light. We then headed off for Red Deer and managed to find a Golden Eagle too, along the glen road. There were Golden Plover and Curlew on the high grounds and earlier a Cuckoo was heard calling. Brilliant.

Thursday, 24 April 2008

Golden Eagle, Red Deer

After a rain filled night the day dawned bright but cloudy and it just got better by the hour!
We watched Red Deer on the hill at Storakaig and then just as we were finishing coffee a Golden Eagle flew down the glen and then right in front of us. Fabulous views in great light. Golden Plover, Lapwing and Corvids too and down at Lochindaal we had all three Divers too, in full sunshine and a warm westerly wind.

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Peregrine, Owls and Bats

A dusk tour, and we headed out around Gorm, plenty of Hare and Curlew too and a cracking peregrine on a post before it flew off across the peatland. Up around Gruinart we spent a time with the bat monitor picking out Pipistrelle and Long Eared Bats. A cracking Barn Owl flew infront of us and then perched for all to see. Magical. On our way back a Tawny Owl sat in a tree for us to have a good look at before headed into the woods to hunt. What an evening!

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Waders and Merlin

This afternoon we headed out with some regular clients. Immediately we found a hen Merlin just outside Port Charlotte storming across the fields. We headed for the high ground via Mulindry - a Glaucous Gull flew along the wee glen at Raw and we watched a Snipe and a Carion Crow.
We were out looking for eagles but they were busy elsewhere, however, there was a fine flock of Golden Plover all black and gold flying doing aerial acrobatics - superb! Returning to the Merse and Carnain we wader watched: Turnstone, Black tailed Godwit, Dunlin in summer plumage and 3 Curlew Sandpipers too. Such fun!

Saturday, 19 April 2008

Seven days in the wilderness

Having said good bye to the Texa Rangers I am now back on Islay and they are homeward bound. It was a week of extremes in every way. We had some fantastic nature moments, discovering plants and new birds for many. Living off the land and coping with the wind chill that took the temperature to down to -5c. Brrr! Sorrel, Dock, Wood Sorrel, Primrose, Sweet Violet, Stinging Nettle, Hawksbit, Pignut, Lesser Celandine, Oarweed, Eggwrack, Sea Lettuce, Caragheen were all tasted and experimented with and we all now are working towards 101 ways to cook a limpet. It was too cold for fish, and some crabs were available but not as many as we all had hoped.

We looked at the archaeology and tried to imagine what it would have been like for the folks who inhabitated Texa and made a humble living from it. We did our bit too and became adept at cave dwelling, wall building and keeping a meagre fire going to warm and cook on as well as keep up our spirits. Wonderful. We made time for practising rescue techniques and field first aid too.
Below is not an oven ready bushcrafter but two of the guys training with a blizzard blanket.

We counted over 100 wild goats and as the days went by they became quite used to us and were watching us regularly. We spent time learning, sharing and observing. Golden Eagle, Peregrine, Gannets, Shearwaters, a handful of Sandwich Terns, Meadow Pitpits, numerous gulls inlcuding a Glaucous and a young Iceland Gull too. Shags and Greylags on nests. Raven and Buzzards were regular visitors as were Hoodies!

Watching the Golden Eagle - amazing for all!

Another year and yet another expedition passed....can't wait till the next!

Saturday, 12 April 2008

To Texa

Went to Texa this morning - flat calm and dropped off fellow intructors to prepare for the Bushcraft course starting this evening. Eider, Gt Northern Divers and Shags dotted about and on our return a Peregrine shot over us. I will be there, teaching, till next Saturday so more news then.......

Thursday, 10 April 2008


Yes it is up and running and if you have not seen it yet have a look at

Whinchat today at Saligo as I was out training with the Glasgow Wheelers guys.

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

April - May Blossom

We were lucky today with the Wildwood Wisdom programme and with lots of children in the Hazel coppice learning about woodland management and building habitat piles. A Raven interrupeted our cocoa time - or did we it? Flying overhead and noisily commenting on our presence. We explored the woods, found some wonderful May Blossom and plenty of Primroses where we had cleared over the winter time. Although it hailed and rained a short while we were sheltered and the fire kept our spirits up. By lunchtime it had cleared up and we wandered around, finding a Roe Deer walllow and plenty of flora emerging too. Having made the habitat pile there was time to make bows and arrows and some hazel swords too. The new Factor came to visit and helped us back down the hill. A good time was had by all.

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Ardtalla Adventures

Day two of three day camps. This time in the South East. We had a delayed start with a landy full of children and an Otter off Port Charlotte pier. Earlier, whilst out on my bike, 0700hrs,
the loch was still and there were three different groups of Pale Bellied Brents from Black Rock back to Bruichladdich. At Ardtalla there were plenty of lambs and on the coast Eider pairs, Oystercatchers and Great Northern Divers. We had the wee ones making hot chocolate on open fires, making shelters, playing games, cleaning the beach, watching the occasional fish jump (!) and listen to the Buzzard overhead.

Monday, 7 April 2008

Wildwood Wisdom on the beach

Running a Young Adventurers camp today for wee Islay People. We were based at Carnain
and set up the Tentipi early to give us shelter from the strong - gusting F7 - and cold northerly wind. We took advantage of the low tide and set out as an Arctic expedition to see the wreck that
lies at the mouth of the Sorn. It was quite a trek and we got the children to hold onto the rope that pulled Dylan, one of our young members who relies on an all terrain buggy to travel around in. It was great for all the children to do this and enable him to get there too! We played nature games, made a bird sculpture pictured here....
and did a beach clean too. Oh yes, and we stopped numerous times to watch the geese fly over head and see the Scaup just off the shoreline!

Thursday, 3 April 2008

Otter, Snipe, Woodcock, Owl!

No, not the title of a new dance or song but highlights of the day. At midday when I was coming back from training there was an Otter feeding just outside Debbie's Coffee House in Bruichladdich. This evening, out for a dusk tour and as well as the magnificent experience of the Barnacles heading to the roost we also heard Snipe drumming, saw Woodcock roding and watched two, heard one, Barn Owls. Earlier, a Lapland Bunting had been seen at Ardnave too. What a super day!

Monday, 31 March 2008

24hr Stag

A stag group in the wilderness was really good fun. The guys had travelled from all over Britain to be here and with such magical weather from Sunday to this morning we were really blessed with good times! Learning firemaking, water purifying, coastal foraging (seafood bisque!) we also had time to watch the stars, Red Deer, Sparrowhawk and Buzzards as well as Fulmar, auks and
on our return a pair of Canada geese alone on the sun swept beach. Superb.

Saturday, 29 March 2008

Golden Plover Golden Eagle

It was a wet start and pretty awful weather wise for most of the day. Starting with a distant Eagle up on the hill beyond Borichil lMor. We worked our way around, Reed Bunting, Skylarks
and M'ipits as well as Lapwings and Curlews displaying. The sun was shining when we stopped at Kilchoman and Choughs were on the ground and easily spotted. Sandmartins and Wheatears were seen earlier by clients, but best of all were over 300 Golden Plover in summer plumage. Fantastic!

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Texa Rangers

A beautiful and blue sky day and we headed off to Texa to recce for a course next month.
Eider in the water with Shag and Gannet and a pair of Peregrine on the cliff edge. Plenty of wild goats and lots of Lesser Celandine Grain-aigein and Scurvy Grass Carran in flower. Wonderful.

Monday, 24 March 2008

Gannet - lots, Harrier 1

Around the Rhinns this afetrnoon with guests from Delhi, India. Great to share experiences and to show Islay off on a reasonable sunny but freezing cold day. Curlew, Barnacles, Whitefronts, Divers and plenty of Gannets too but best of all and most time consuming was a male Hen ahrrier hawking one of the glens beyond Port Charlotte. Fanatstic to watch it working every
nook and cranny.

Friday, 21 March 2008

Chough 2 Goshawk 1

After yesterday's start with rain and poor visibility today I was out with clients in bright sunshine and plenty of wind. We started just south of Ardnave and headed southwards. Chough watching from the accommodation pick up point and then onto watch the Barnies and Whitefronts loafing in the fields. The light was so very good we could see all the details very clearly. We headed along Gruinart flats; Lapwings very much on territory, Curlew, more Barnies, Skylark and plenty of Whooper on thewetland. Then further on along the road from some cover near Coillubus a large-ish hawk exploded outwards sending plenty of 'wee brown jobs' into panic. We watched as it flew right infront and then across the Landrover and up into the sky. We got great views of a white supercilium and brown chequed underneath, heavily barred tail and we had to think for a moment what it was. 'Goshawk!' two of us called and we 'pursued' it up the glen. It flew quite high on pointy wings then dropped into more cover further on. After such good views we lost it. We waited but had' no luck. Being so brown and chequed it was a juv. and as it was quite a large bird - more likely to be a female. I immediately telephoned Catherine - the RSPB warden and the office to get the word out. What excitement.
We had an elderly lady with us, who two years ago witnessed an Osprey feeding at Gorm. She obviously brought us good luck! Onto the Merse where we enjoyed Goose watching and waders at a distance.

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Lesser Black Backed Spring Kit!

Out early this morning at up behind Port Charlotte were 2 Lesser Black Backed Gulls.Very rarely seen in winter, they certainly show spring is on it's way, as well as the odd Wheatear that has been seen too. Sandmartins are streaming over in Southern Britain but I still await them here. With the cold north winds things are certainly been held back! Our Megan, eldest daughter, saw a Bumble bee yesterday whilst emptying the compost.

I have been sent a poem form a bushcraft student who is pictured here leaving Port Ellen after the Feasach Ile course last year!. Thanks Dave Bliss - you make it all worth the wilderness !

Ninja Kit List - Dave Bliss

I'm travelling light this weekend,

The forest won't know that i'm here,

My knowledge is light as a feather,

And my Bushcraft is 'without peer'.

I'm carrying just the essentials,

I've pared it down to the bone,

I've got my waffer thin laptop,

And a Gucci pouch for me phone.

My new pants are made by Thermos,

I've a thing that makes Bushcrafty toast.

I couldn't decide which hammock to take

......So I finally settled on both !

My seating system is awesome :

A cammo recliner and stool,

It's made from tubes of titanium,

Upholstered in 'merino' wool

These binos are made by NASA,

Ranulf Ffiennes tested me socks,

And the chap that designed my combats,

Also did Princess Di's frocks.

My fare will be authentic and wholesome;

Just dried beans (for mountain man stew)

I've also got pot noodles,

and sweeties,Oh, and chokky bits too

Knives, to me, should be simple;

Function and form, hand in hand

The handle of this one is Dodo Shin :

There's only five in the land

Truthfully ? Axes bore me ;

You seen one, you seen em' all,

So I keep it down to the basics,

And just carry three..... as a rule.

You gotta know about water,

And how to make it pure.

I 'Pre-mac' and boil it 'till Sunday( and use "Volvic", Just to be sure).

I've got twelve ways to make fire

And I know that three of them work ;

I got a magnifying glass and "Swan Vestas"

( me "Zippo" is, just a perk ! )

I'm " keepin' it real " in Bushcraft,

My mates all think that I'm great,

But they had to change the venue

And didn't tell me 'till late .

So here I am , in the forest,

Just nature and nothing but dark.

That's it......I'm off home early :

Stuff that for a lark !!!!

I am sure it is the same for birders too.......

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Pale Bellied Brents

Spent sometime midday watching these Pale Bellied Brents at Bruichladdich. With Spring arriving these long distance migrants will be leaving and other summer birds will take their place. Last evening having spent the afternoon and early evning running the Wildwood Wisdom programme with local school children we headed back along the loch. Whooper Swans and Barnacles roosting and today, bright with northerly winds, I am off out this afternoon.

Saturday, 15 March 2008

24 Hour Wilderness

Have just returned from a Wilderness 24 Course. Five students aged from 9- 60 years and plenty of wildlife too: Red Deer, Fulmars, Oysters, Limpets, mussels and news skills taught to folks from Glasgow and Edinburgh. Lapwings were on territory and Skylarks were singing in the fresh clear air.
On our return this morning a blue (male) Merlin followed alongside. Marvellous. The North wind blew and we had magnificent views of a snow covered Ben More on Mull and up the mainland coast too.

Sunday, 9 March 2008

Gannet and Fulmars

It was heavy and cold from the west this afternoon with hail, snow and rain in fits and starts. Spent the afternoon overlooking Kilchiaran Bay. Counted 35 Fulmar nest sites and plenty more Fulmars in and out investigating, such a superb flight and their skillful landing and aerial acrobatics are a joy to behold. A pair of Chough sauntered past and Oystercatchers busied themselves on the beach. A single Gannet headed southwards.

Friday, 7 March 2008

New Jacket - all Islay

Jon Paul Lameroux of Nature Trails, tests the new Wilderness Shirt, last autumn with Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall of River Cottage.

After months of testing and and two years of designing my friend, Roger Harrington
and I are now offering the following for birders and bushcrafters.
Made totally on Islay and by hand too we hope it will bring pleasure to all who use it.

I have scribed a few words below to explain...

Why do we need yet another item of clothing?

When is it that you need something that you did not realise you could not live without? Well, I became fed up with the petro-chemical, large business like global corporations keen on improving financial status than customer need, and realised that even well meaning companies were growing beyond their supposed local limits. Whereas I would have purchased something that had a ‘small is beautiful’ feeling and spirit, when I looked into it – things were not quite what they said they were. A meeting with Roger Harrington of Bison Bushcraft, several years ago meant that I had had crossed paths with a similar mind and genre and we soon were talking of the same things. Why couldn’t we get things that we needed to do our jobs? Obviously he, as one of Britain’s best handmade knife makers, realised that that there was more to life than things made in China. Also we knew that cheap was not always the answer and that there are some of us that would not accept that situation, no matter how tempting – especially cost wise. Also, however convenient it maybe to us ‘rich’ westerners, unfairly traded goods are unacceptable to the way we think and operate.

Our work as outdoor teachers, guides
and practitioners require very particular items that really have longevity, solidness and meets with nature’s mirror thus allowing us to blend in and therefore be part of, rather than in conflict with, the wild. So, like the adventurers and explorers of yore we decided to make our own!

Therefore, it had to achieve several things at once:

Natural camouflage
Be weather resistant
Made of natural materials
Be breathable
Be biodegradable
Be strong and functional
Be warm in cold weather and cool in warm weather
Be totally fairly traded
Made in Britain by skilled crafts people

Quite a list and quite high expectations too!

This is when we reached upon Islay. Already there is sheep production, there are wild goats (for the leather trimming), there is a woollen mill, we have button makers and seamstresses, and so all we needed to do was get these together and rather like a great recipe make sure it all worked! It was also very convenient because I happen to live here so bringing all these aspects together would be easier!

Last summer things were ready to go with the design, and by the autumn we had
the wool woven and produced the first garments. We now had to try and test them.
Although this is a continual process, there was an intense period over the winter where we really hammered them! I took one to France and wore it continually; in rain, hail, snow, wind and freezing conditions. It worked just as we had planned! Meanwhile back on Islay one was out with a Stalker and one with a crofter. After a few tweaks and alterations we had the garment ready for the public! So we were then able to take orders. They have been coming in from all sorts of places: Nature watchers, birders, fishermen, rangers, game keepers, land owners and countryside workers and all who like the quality and handmade too! We offer two colour plans – The Highland and Lowland. The Highland is a typical Scottish Tweed and the Lowland version is the same but of a green/brown herringbone pattern.

So how does it work?
The ‘shirt’ is in heavy duty weave that can be worn over a T shirt or pullover. It is a layer that although not waterproof, can be worn in rain as wool has its own waterproof-ness by soaking up to 30% of its weight before ‘leaking. If you need a full waterproof jacket then you need to go for a wax cotton top. Being wool it is flexible, does not rustle (good for nature watching), and is warm and/or cool depending on the weather and climate! The buttons are handmade from Islay antler and the leather trimming from wild goats! So you can use it for a multiple of uses.

The Wilderness Jacket has a cashmere rich hand warmer and lining to the large hood which you can pull right over your head. Good for covering up or even taking a wild nap! Again with the same qualities of the shirts we hope that customers will not need to replace this for many years.

Both items are made to measure – so if you want one, like all good things – you will have to wait!

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Snow Buntings - Rain

An early start up to Ardnave. We walked around the east to west, trying to keep dry in the squalls. 7 Whooper Swans, Tufted Duck, 47 Chough and a wee mobile groupetta of Twite with
a couple of Snow Buntings. On our return, loitering around the landrover,
were two more Snow Buntings. We had good views but not enough quality light to photograph. We stored them in our heads instead!

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Great Northern

After the cold snow that arrived yesterday it was the turn of big skies and blue lochs. This morning we headed out with the homeschool to explore on foot along to Port Mor. Plenty to see including four close Great Northern Divers, Oystercatchers, Shags and gulls and a pair of Stonechats singing in the warm still air. Practising their fieldcraft and then returning to the classroom to use ID skills and books it was a great time. On our return, in the distance, a wee Scoter flock but no sign of the Velvet Scoter spotted late last week.

Saturday, 1 March 2008

Merlin WET WET WET Chough

Today I went down the Rhinns with the homeschool to look after some friends menagerie
whilst they are away. Between the heavy bouts of western downpours we stopped at Octofad to take in the scenery. A female Merlin exploded from a wee wall sending a flock of finches into mass panic. On our return we followed a pair of Chough all the way to Port Charlotte and because we could we continued to follow them up the Glen towards the Chough house. As we dipped down at the bottom of the glen we lost them and waited. Hey ho - that's birding! We retruned and the rain set in for the remains of the day.

Thursday, 28 February 2008

Twite and Training

I went out training on the bicycle this afternoon. Sun shining and great views inbetween the squalls. As I headed out towards Port Weymss I spotted a Kestrel hawking and hanging on the wind. Geese occupied wee meadows and a Great Northern Diver and Black Guillemot, in full summer plumage, loafed about near Craigfad, on a pretty calm sea. On my return around a silage pit I stopped to watch a mixed flock of Twite, Redpoll and Linnet busy feeding.

Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Roe Deer, Factor

I had the pleasure of guiding the new Factor today. We had a great time and watched Roe deer - this buck in velvet, especially, for some of the morning, as well as enjoying Chough, Skylarks, two Golden Eagles and plenty of Red Deer. We looked at alot of different habitats and discussed history and how it is all relevant to todays landscape. Great fun.

Sunday, 24 February 2008

Bushcraft and Buzzard

Out today at the coppice running a team building day for the Harbour Inn of Bowmore.
They had a great time and me too - learning fire husbandry, shelter building and playing all sorts of fun games. As we did so the resident Buzzard mewed above with a handful of Raven joining in mid afternoon.

Saturday, 23 February 2008

Friday Birds

Yesterday, I am writing this on Saturday, was wild, wild wild. Force eight and rain/hail too! We still went out. Spent the morning in Bridgend Woods; Siskin, Coal, Blue and Great Tits, Greenfiches and 3 Dippers - very clearly in different spots. The photographer amongst us
got some cracking images. Later we ventured around Gorm. Large flocks of Skylarks and Reed Buntings in fields - up to 50+ at a time, Black Headed Gulls with 'black' heads and geese clinging onto the grazing lands. Stopping at Crosshouses we saw 3 Snipe and several Teal as well as Curlew, Dunlin and Plovers on the sea shore. Despite the wildness we still saw 60 species of bird. Not a bad day!

Thursday, 21 February 2008

Dunnock and Sparrowhawk

The day the weather broke and again I was picking up clients from Port Ellen. We had clear views till Bridgend but we took our time as we had plenty of Whitefronts and Barnacles to watch. Then right infront of the landy a Sparrowhawk appeared, dropped down in the hedgerow and flushed a Dunnock. It caught it and then mantled it. Amazing. One of our folks had their camera ready and captured some cracking images. After a wee while it flew off with the prey. We headed for Skerrols; Pochard, Tufted Duck and Little Grebe. Later onto Ardnave. The wind blew up to F8 and we watched Chough flying backwards!

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Displaying Eagles

Up into the Glen today having watched Whitefront and Barnacle geese in various south eastern fields. We stopped for a drum up - the kelly kettle doing sterling work. A wee flock of Goldfinch,
Hoodies and Starlings and Red Deer in the distance. Then we saw them, crossing the hillside and breaking the horizon, a pair of Golden Eagles, and they were full on displaying, turning with folded wings and dropping like stones. Utterly amazing to witness. We eventually dragged ourselves away as they headed off too and we went onto Bunnahabhain to see the Glaucous Gull, Red Throated, Black Throated and Great Northern Divers. On our return via the Loch Indaal we saw a handful of Knot, Pale Bellied Brent and Wigeon, Teal and thousands of Barnacle roosting up. What a day.

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Bar Headed - Merlin

We spent the day on the south east of Islay. It was colder and the sun disappeared mid morning.
However it did not discourage us from spending most of the time watching Great Northern and Red Throated Divers at Claggain as well as two Otters. Fantastic. Later, the Bar Headed Goose was amongst the Barnies at Kildalton feeding quite happily. Up to the Oa area where we watched wild Goats and not alot more, 'till we descended to the Cornabus glen where we had numerous gulls inlcuding over 100 Common, 70 Lapwing and a blue Merlin too.

Monday, 18 February 2008

Eagles 3 Birders 4

What a day - as soon as I had picked up our birders in Port Ellen we were watching a Golden Eagle above Laphroig. Amazing start to the five days! We headed for Loch Indaal: Redshank,
Curlew, 327 Lapwing, thousands of Barnaces - they are feeding by the moon at present - and
of course Scaup, Wigeon, Red Throated Diver, further along towards Port Charlotte; Great Northern and Black Throated too as well as Purple Sand, Turnstone and Oystercatchers.
On the far side we stopped after lunch to watch a pair of Golden Eagles flying and sunning themselves and 5 Buzzards displaying too. Brilliant.

Sunday, 17 February 2008

Raven and Rabbit

What a day! The sun shone later but it was dry all the time. The final day of the goosefest and we headed for Ardnave. A Merlin on a post greeted us and allowed good views. On the shoreline there were Purple Sandpipers, Turnstone, Grey Plover, and Curlew. A wee group of possible Snow Bunting passed high overhead but we were intent on looking at a Raven busily despatching a rabbit. Quite extraordinary! It disappeared when it realised we were watching and as we turned to see a flock of Twite the Raven returned to finish it off. A Peregrine flew by easily seen and later we had another at Gorm, just sitting on a post. It was a cracking day's birding with a glorious sunset to finish for our South Lincs. RSPB group.

Saturday, 16 February 2008

Merlin and Glaucous Gull

Although we began the day in the dark and well before dawn we took advantage of the early
start with a glimpse of a Barn Owl at Eresaid. Then onto the platform at the Gruinart Reserve to see the geese depart. On our arrrival a Woodcock drifted by and things just continued to get even better. After the Geese extravanganza we headed for Loch Indaal: Slav. Grebe, Long Tailed Duck, Scaup, Scoter, Shelduck, Divers and Mergansers too.
Later we headed for the hill and although in a flat light our photographers captured some cracking images of Red Deer. Bunnahabhain gave us a Glaucous Gull and then we were sent packing by an enormous bonfire spewing noxious black smoke across the bay. I will leave it up to you decide.....! On our return to the Merse we had superb views of a male Merlin and then back onto Gruinart east for a spot of wader watching: Grey Plover, Redshank, Barwits and a small wader that after much discussion we concluded it could only be a Baird's Sandpiper. However I am not going to call it as the light was fading fast to close upon another brilliant day's birding.

Friday, 15 February 2008

Eagles and Chough

Although today was the start of a three day Goosefest however having travelled around the Rhinns watching Whitefronts and Barnies we waited for the Eagles and found one on a post then the other appeared. We watched their antics for three quarters of an hour. It was superb and magical at the same time. The visibility was so good and we were amply close enough to see the golden heads and bright legs too. Chough seemed to accompany us this afternoon and we were
very happy to see a hen Peregrine with some prey on the ground. We watched and then it watched us...taking off with its prey - a Chough! There were also cracking views of Roe Deer too. The four photographers managed nearly 800 pictures between them!

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Lapwings and Blue Sky

What a cracking day on the Rhinns. The sun was shining, the sea pretty calm, Gannets passing Frenchman's Rock with the odd Shearwater too. Long Tailed Tits at Balimony, Buzzards and Ringtail at Claddach as well as 97 Lapwing and 35 Golden Plover. Whitefronts and Barnacles in odd small groups loafing around!

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

White Fronts and World on the move

Later this afternoon we were out with the homeschool. Bar and and handful, 8, Blackwits on the merse, Shelduck, Scaup and Long Tailed Ducks, Eider and a couple of Scoter too. Chough at Uiskentuie and Great Northern Divers too. A lone Slavonian Grebe was diving regularly. It was flat calm so great for looking over the sea. Managed to see some cracking Whitefronts too!

The crocii and narcisii are now out in sheltered places and today is fabulous. Made even more so by coming in and listening to the BBC radio 4 programme World on the Move. Many will know we do not have a televison (the pictures are much better on the radio) and I urge you to listen to this fascinating programme on Tuesdays. Not only following Barnacle, Whitefront and Pale Bellied Brent Geese but Salmon, Arctic Sea Birds, Insects and Frogs and Toads. You can check it out by looking at
Enjoy and marvel!

Sunday, 10 February 2008

Shelduck and Glaucous Gull

This morning whilst out with VC d'Ardbeg, despite the heads down mile eating clubmates, I did have time to notice a male Brambling at Mulindry. I was told stop birding and cycle. I should really know this as I have already made the mistake of multi tasking two years ago when I was watching some Pale Bellied Geese, came off my bike and broke a collarbone! This afternoon I took the girls out for a couple of hours birding around the Merse. At Bridgend we saw a Treecreeper, then onto the Merse: 112 Shelduck, numerous waders and gulls. One stood out and was quite alone; an adult Glaucous. Then onto Cross Houses to look over the sea. A very white Barnacle was spotted and a Lesser Canada too. Then sea watching: Two huge flocks of Scaup, 2 Great Northern Divers, a single Black Throat, Slavonian Grebe and 12 Pale Bellied Geese towards Black Rock. On our return 72 Curlew were feeding in the shorefield just before Port Charlotte.

Saturday, 9 February 2008

Wind and Wheels

A dry day but lots of wind as I was out training with a pal. As we we doing base miles we had to keep our heart rates below 130bpm so there was time to watch and stare - when the wind was not too strong. At Traigh and Luig there were 2 Chough, Oystercatchers and Curlew too. Up at Knocklearoch the were a couple of Whooper Swans on one of the duck pools and plenty of Whitefronts too. As we passed the farm the large flock of finches went up getting blown everywhere. My eyes latched onto one and I had a glimpse of white in the wings - was it a Snow Bunting? We 'll never know as we pressed on and they blew away! The sun shone on us to Port Ellen and on the low road we witnessed a distant Ringtail and soon we were back at Bruichladdich and, 74kms later, the Chough were still on the beach!

Friday, 8 February 2008

Bunting and hazel

Early this morning whilst picking up a colleague to help with the coppicing he told me about a couple of Snow Buntings near his croft. As we headed out there amongst a wee finch flock near some feeding cattle were a pair of Snow Buntings! Great. It was going top be a good day!
We climbed up the lane to the Coll/Hazel and as we headed up there were Whitefronts in the damp corners of the fields. The sun was shining and it (whipser) felt like Spring was in the air. Primroses were showing in the understory and it is noticeable what difference it is making by coppicing. A mewing Buzzard sloped up above and Blue and Great Tits moved about. Three Mistle Thrushes in the field and Blackbirds and Song Thrushes were in good tune. As we stopped for lunch two Chough called although we could not see them through the trees to the slopes beyond.

Thursday, 7 February 2008

Whoopers and Lapwings

Just a quickie today - early morning and clearish - between rain. At Port Charlotte there were 6 Whooper Swans - all adults and on the field beyond 81 Lapwings.

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Merlins and Whale

Yes, it was a Merlin day and we saw four! One on the way west in the bright sunshine over Kilchiran way as well as a Kestrel too. Then later we went with the Homeschool to look at the second Curviers Beaked Whale at Machir. This was a female and had been quite battered around.

It was good for the youngsters to see such a beast in the raw. It was such good weather we picnic-ed with Choughs over head and a hen Merlin stormed right past us creating Stonechat havoc! On our way to run the young Adventurers Wildwood Wisdom programme we had another two along Gorm North end.

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Owls and Whales

Last night on my return from a first aid exam I spotted two Owls hunting each side of Bridgend. The wind had dropped and temperature rose and so they had the opportunity to feed. Although it was a dark night there were easily seen as floating ghosts amid the gorse.

Today Dr Olgilvie of the INHT was going to inspect a Curviers Beaked Whale washed up on Saligo. Interestingly Cuvier's beaked wales can be from 5 to 7 metres plus in length and appear to be one of the most abundant of the beaked whale family. With their gently sloping foreheads it becomes a slight beak which is less obvious with age. They have two teeth which are just visible when the mouth is closed. They can be black to brown with white or cream coloured blotches and circular 'scars' on the underside and sides. Older males have extensive white areas from the beak to the top centre of the body.. Their flukes are broad, being up to one quarter of their body length with no middle notch. They eat fish and squid. You can see a picture here: Ian and Margaret Brooke on their local birding website have a picture of the whale here:
I am awaiting info as to what the other whale is......

The Barnacles loaf in the fields behind Port Charlotte and as I went around the Rhinns this afternoon they were in smaller groups as were the Whitefronts. A male Hen Harrier was driving up pipits and finches around Cultoon. No wind and moist rain!