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!

Saturday, 2 February 2008

Snow - Geese

As the Barnacles flew over Port Charlotte this morning to their feeding grounds the whiteness was all around. Snow, silently and stealthily, during the darkness had covered everything and that included the grass! They were airborne for quite sometime as if looking for the best opportunity.

The children did not have the same problems - they were up and out playing and four hours later still doing so! As we watch from the window a Robin alights the fat ball and proceeds to feed. The House Sparrows which inhabit the walls of our wee house attack the peanuts in a squabble of hecticity! The Herring Gulls circle the vilage loking for ...anything. They are spectacularly white and grey in the brightness of the early morning.