Tuesday, 22 September 2009

car free day

every so often we have to have a re-think.
it happens to all of us.
over the past year we have been looking very carefully at our code of conduct
and our policies.
we try to live without too much impact on planet earth,
it is frustrating at times.
we are realising that unless we, as individuals, take responsibility then little will change.
big governments are big ....and slow
and even those who care about the future of our planet seem to have their hands tied.
we know that there are things we can control,
and we have choices:
sometimes hard,
hard before one makes them, and then easy once done.
we are at that point now.
today is world car free day and we are doing just that.
from the end of this week we will be car free as a business.
we will now use bicycles, tandems or feet.
if you wish us to guide you from a vehicle we can do one of two things: use yours or rent one for you with us driving ................
today is a good day for rethinking - thank you for helping us to be better

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

green rant!!! climate change....

10:10 is being launched today, Franny Armstrong of The Age of Stupid (if you do not know about this movie then go and find out about it NOW!) and The Guardian newspaper have got together to get people into action rather than just talking about it! there are plenty of people out there who know about climate change, and the challenges that it brings but now 10:10 is about old-fashioned ideas of responsibility (a rare thing nowadays!) but also about a more enlightened understanding of our collective self-interest - (which means letting go of ego). It is about an optimistic view of what ordinary people can achieve, and of human nature itself. Now over to you.

Friday, 28 August 2009

Raptor-ous Friday!

The folks who were out with us already had had some great birding
with Stuart on the walking safari earlier during the week and
yesterday it was the cherry on the cake. Having spent the morning
watching three Golden Eagles, numerous Raven and Pipits, Goldfinches,
and lots of Linnets, we headed to Bridgend a had stunning views of
Peregrine hunting waders and a Ringtail too. Fantastic!

Busy week

Taking out a lovely couple of families earlier this week was great.
We watched Whimbrel and other waders coming in from the north
foraged the shoreline, wild cooking and spending time just being and
absorbing the wonders of nature.
The rest of the week has been spent working onthe new TWMP
tweed cycling jacket that will be launched in London at the cycle show
in October. Gill from Mosquito who is working with us on this project
has spent three days with us.it has been fun and we have been out
biking and birding and discussing too!

Friday, 14 August 2009

rain and away

Time has caught me again and so has the rain. What with preparation for the show and then the grass track racing with 35 kids the rain came down on Friday. Gannets fed on the loch - fabulous against the wild grey sky. Am off to catch the bus this am to take our eldest to the capital - she is playing at the Edinburgh Festival in an orchestra. We are staying with friends and doing bits and bobs on the mainland. back soon!

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

sunday onwards

It was glorious and we enjoyed fishing and trying to catch sea trout whilst listening to Curlew, watching Redshank coming in and
wee groups of Dunlin too.A great Northern Diver flew overhead as the youngsters slept in! Although no trout happened upon us there were plenty of mussels and cockles for our wilderness paella on the beach - fabulous. The following morning was still as a still thing and the flying teeth were out in strength. Luckily the wind blew up ofr our cooked breakfast and then fire husbandry training afterwards.
Tuesday was much harder with rain and sea har and the group consisted of Swedes who were great fun. Birding was challenging and we managed till lunchtime and then - it was not worth it for anybody so we called it a day - we had had Chough, grasshopper warbler, Swallows, Starlings, Linnets and Eider amongst others. Oh and of course the numerous Buzzards that loiter of ever other post!
Today, Wednesday we were setting up the Port Mor Wheelers track for the Islay Show tomorrow - it rained a bit!

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Saturday already!

Have been busy all week and somehow overlooked the blog....have been taking folks and families birding, biking, bushcraft and fishing too.
Gannets, Chough, Hen Harriers, Greylag geese, Merlin, Peregrine, wee Stonechats, Whinchats and waders too. Also plenty of fish have been caught and cooked as well as foraging for shellfish and seaweed and eating it too! A grand week!

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

windy round the rhinns

after yesterday's (sunday) wonderful sunshine Monday was wet and very windy but we still still managed to get a family out around the Rhinns watching Gannets, Chough and we found a very young seal at Portnahaven, waiting in a wee cleft for the tide to rise once more. A few Fulmars flew around but none were on the ledges at Kilchiran. Plenty of M'ipits, Reed Buntings, Skylarks and Linnets too.

Friday, 31 July 2009


..we were camp with the Wildwood Wisdom kids our friend Kevin who is a webmaster extraordinaire was busy here birding - not only was he satisfied with White Tailed Eagle and Golden eagle too but also was enchanted with tree Sparrows and Merlin amongst the numerous birds he spotted but best of all for him were the Black Guillemots hanging around Caol Ila. Great!
The Wildwood Wisdom camp went went and all enjoyed their experiences of being out of doors (youngest aged 7 to oldest of 14 years) in variable weather doing a variety of wilderness tasks form cooking and camp making to wood carving, fly fishing and nature watching as well as plenty of time to tell stories around the camp fire.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

birding fishing and biking

yes we mixed all three and it was good - saw Hen Harriers, Whinchat, Merlin and Sparrowhawk, Buzzards, Gannets and Auks, caught Mackerel and enjoyed the views...and weather. Fabulous.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

rain and rain

For the first time for a couple of week the rain started at kelly kettle time and carried on for the rest of the day. Somewhat disappointing at first but we had some good sightings all the same: Buzzards feeding young, Skylarks, Pipits, Wagtails, Terns, Mergansers and a resting Otter too! A hen hen harrier was also a good spot too. Plenty for our french folks(family of six) who arrived from Orleans by public transport - chapeau!

Monday, 20 July 2009

rhinns birding

Good morning tour with a couple of folks from San Francisco. Gannets, Chough, Buzzards, Merlin, Oystercatchers and Fulmars as well as plenty of lbj's! Also lots of interesting plants in flower too.

Monday, 13 July 2009

Esther's Photos

further to the biking bushcraft here are esther and warren's photos - fantastic



Tuesday, 7 July 2009

wildwood wisdom camp

off till the end of the week running wildwood wisdom camp back friday

Monday, 6 July 2009

wilderness food and nature

We avoided the rain, and watched a Golden Eagle, Common Sandpipers and Pipits too. Finding plenty to forage and cook on an open fire on the beach. Wonderful. Wild gourmets!

Sunday, 5 July 2009

nature report

summer summer summer..and orchids everywhere!

.............and other wonderful flowers as well as skylarks singing.

this week i was with a couple of folks and we were riding bikes traveling through the nature. It is such a great way to experience all sorts of happenings. Time to watch, time to slow down and easy to stop. Time also to sniff the ever changing air as it is now full of all sorts of smells. there are now amazing flowers that have suddenly appeared. It also allows one to hear a wilderness orchestra and how it changes as one progresses. the really nice thing is that as one rides a bike one finds oneslf within the nature and can become part of it. I have noticed that birds and animal are less disturbed by bikes than when one is on foot. Strange but true! We watched Chough, Buzzards, Eiders, Linnets and plenty of Oystercatchers as well as Arctic Terns and Hen Harriers but best of all we saw plenty of wild orchids.

On the folklore side of things it is commonly thought that any purple orchids were magical plants ("lus an Talaidh" - herb of enticement). Used in love charms. It has two roots, one larger than the other, representing a man and
a woman. The plant is to be pulled by the roots before sunrise, facing South.
Which-ever root is used is to be immediately placed in spring water; if it sinks the person in question will be the future husband or wife. The root can also be ground up and placed under the pillow to bring dreams of your future partner.

Of course I would not recommend this as it is illegal to pick any wild flower.....but who knows what would have happened in the past!

for a full report see www.isleofislay.info

biking bushcraft

We had a really great time exploring the wilds on bike and camping, foraging and watching. We were lucky with the weather and although there were a handful of clouds and wetness we remained mostly dry and enjoyed looking for flowers and plants that sustain and nourish and heal - brilliant. The birds were, of course great too: Chough, Terns, Harriers and Oystercatchers. A large Sea Bass also launched itself just as we were cooking an evening meal on the beach - fantastic!

Monday, 22 June 2009

help me to help others....

here is my just giving site....every penny counts and goes towards the fund - we have covered the costs of the race ourselves- and there has been a separate collection on Islay....


Off to paris!!!

In the morning I begin the long journey to London - bus, boat and train then bike from London to paris. riding in the London to paris Sprortif and raising monies for the Geoff Thomas Foundation. 600 Kms on fixed wheel.....back next week.

4 days of wilderness

Last week we were wildness living with two franco-americans - brilliant fun. Not only foraging, finding and exploring but alos we were lucky enough to see Sea and Golden eagles, Gannets, Chough, Fulmars, Red deer, kestrel, Buzzard, Skylarks, pipits, yellowhammers and numerous others too. Plants were good too: orchids, mosses and lichens - fabulous. We also had plenty of time for reflection and just being...

Monday, 15 June 2009

harrier harries eagle!

Out on the Rhinns and we missed the rain. Great Northern Divers, Auks, Gannets, Atlantic Grey seals, Chough, Cuckoo and this afternoon we watched eagles. Firstly being mobbed by corvids on a cliff then being chased by them and a male Hen Harrier too. Soon it was right over the landrover and ourselves. Fabulous views of one specifically - so close it was too much for binoculars!

Saturday, 13 June 2009

wilderness 24

returned from a 24 hours in the wilderness with a biologist from the Isle of man. An excellent time - plenty to see - sea birds: Fulmar, Auks and Ducks as well as superb plants both edible and non edible. Good night around fire and sleeping in caves. Long talks about education, folklore, travel and everything in between....wonderful trip

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

around the rhinns

Brilliant weather and great birding today: GND's, Arctic Terns, Sedge Warblers, Hen Harrier, Gannets and Sandpipers - and a Golden Eagle too. Marsh Fritillaries at Claddach were a delight to see amid Orchids, Eyebright and Sea Pink. Fabulous day.

Monday, 8 June 2009

walking portnahaven

Walking safari today. excellent weather and light meant that our folks got great sightings of wee bird: Sedge Warblers,
Whitethroats, Chough, larks, Roe Deer, Gannets, Lapwing, Curlew and Common Sandpipers. we heard three Chough too. Plenty of opportunity for the camera to click! Later after lunch was enabling a family to discover the wild of the coast, foraging and eating it's bounty - lovely!

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

gravity gathering

off on Thursday with a bunch of kids from Port Mor Wheelers to the World Cup mountain bike championship, camping and biking in Nevis Range - back on Sunday......

Monday, 1 June 2009

golden eagle afternoon

Guided a regular group of clients who come over mainly for the golf but they love their nature as well.It was a splendid afternoon, warm, bright with distant views of Ireland and the Garvallachs in opposing directions. we were high on the Glen Road, having spotted several Warblers, Raven, Kestrel and Red Deer. we did not have to wait long for the eagle but at first it was quite a distance away on a thermal, it dropped and delighted us all by getting considerably closer - so much so it filled the binoculars! Brilliant.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

todays afternoon and yesterday's...

...dawn. good birds again - Harrier, Curlew, Merlin, Stonechat, Chough, Fulmar, Gannet, Redshank, Lapwing and Oystercatchers...brilliant. After the wet dawn a lovely afternoon today. We then headed off with a landrover of kids to the home Coming Parade in Bowmore - marching with the YA's - excellent fun thanks to the distillery organisers - Jim McEwen and John Cambell

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

lovely day lovely....

..families to guide. Excellent views of many species today: Raven, Curlew, a cracking Peregrine right in front of us, Buzzards, male Hen Harrier, Seals, Eider, Shelduck with young, Stonechats, warblers including a Gropper and Little Terns at the head of Loch Indaal. A calling Corncrake after our sausage sizzle was good too!

Monday, 25 May 2009

Cuiart Breac

Eagles and Harriers and Gannets and Auks and Fulmars and Swallows and Adders and Toads and Wild Goats and Red Deer and wee brownies (wild brown trout) and edible plants and time to be..... and just watch, listen and enjoy.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

until saturday...

I am away till Saturday running the Cuiart Breac wilderness expedition...until then.....

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Wheels and wings.....

Our first one today and what a great one to do it on! Sun rain and wind. We enjoyed great Northern Divers, , Eiders, Terns,
Ringed Plover, Oystercatchers, Swallows, Martins, Wren, Raven and Whitethroat as well as Willow Warbler. We enjoyed the riding too and the coffee and hotchocolate at Debbies during the debrief! Excellent and eco too!

Monday, 11 May 2009

shearwaters and skua

We headed onto the Rhinns today in brilliant sunshine and warm. Diverse Divers, Gannets, Guillemots, Razorbills, Terns and Fulmars then a Bonxie stormed through good to compare size against a nearby Gannet - not much difference! Later we found out that it had been over Tormisdale too. Hen Harriers and a distant Golden Eagle, Buzzards and Whitethroats too. A warm day birding wise and weather wise too!

Sunday, 10 May 2009

nature notes

April showers.....

...ran into May this week and ran fast too! The wind was furious and those poor folks who were camping had a hard time of it! May is such a good time to come to Islay and a hopeful one too. Unfortunately not so this week. The weather patterns meant some interesting birds though: Iceland Gulls at Coull Farm and the delight of a glimpse of Hen Harrier being rushed across a field by storm force winds. It has also been cold so we have been wrapping up too! In between the rough and wild weather there have been some fantastic moments, like earlier this week when i was out guiding - we were stuck in the landy when all of a sudden the rain stopped and Skylarks started to sing and flash! like a lightning bolt a Peregrine falcon stormed through them all. We waited for a kill but no luck - the falcon left.... hungry.

Except for today, Sunday, whence it has been glorious and spring like. This morning out on the moss below Foreland Bog Cotton was beginning to show and earlier this week Cuckoos were calling too. The ground is still wet from inches of rain and with the sun the grass grows strong and verdant. Violets, Marsh Marigolds and willow are Bluebells are flowering well.

Oystercatchers are on eggs and so too are Lapwing with there vigilance on high alert as Raven, Gulls and raptors seek food in the form of eggs and chicks.

Whimbrel have been stuck here in the gloom till today, and have been heading off north to their breeding ground in the arctic region. In fact, last night I was able to hear quite alot move through over our wee house. It is nice to see folks out enjoying the nature and the wilderness, on bikes as well as on foot. Plenty of birdwatchers are around too. Watching Little Terns, Great Northern Divers, Gannets and Mergansers on Loch Indaal. Eiders are paired up as well. It is a fine time to watch and just catch some rays of warm. Indeed, it has been the only time this week to do so...long may it continue!

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

iceland gulls

Early dawn was dry but, of course, as we headed out, the wet stuff came down and stuck with us all day. Whimbrel, Greylags, a single Greenland Whitefont, Common Sandpipers, Grey Wagtails, Chough and superb views of a male Hen Harrier behind Port Charlotte.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

wet whimbrel wet

From early dawn till now it has been raining. Lots of it and windy too. However we were not to be disappointed. Around Loch Indaal we traipsed; Common Sandpiper, Sandmartins, Turnstone, Dunlin, Great Northern Divers and Ringed Plovers too. We enjoyed seeing a Snipe displaying and then dropping in 10 metres from us to look at for a good time. Up behind Black Rock we spotted a cracking male Wheatear and going back for a good look I picked out 4 Whimbrel - superb, busily feeding and sheltering from an every building wind. On our return a Peregrine stormed out infront sending everything into a mass panic. At the spit we delighted in terns and watched a little Tern offering a Sand eel to it's partner - fabulous.
A great custom tour ended with a debrief at Debbies warming ourselves with hot chocolate and espressos!

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

things can be this good

It was warm and bright and Ardnave was spectacular today. Some excellent views of good birds. Buzzards on posts, Snipe underfoot, Chough in the air - we had it all. The blues of the atlantic and far views of Mull and beyond were fabulous. Otter tracks on a beach, rock Pipits, Plover, Curlew and Black Tailed Godwits resting before heading northwards. It was good.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

latest nature report....

April showers bring forth May flowers. maybe an old fable but the rain and the warmth seems to be infront of itself and as i rode through Bridgend today the Bluebells were beginning to show. Marsh Marigolds/Kingcup - a very important plant in the past, that farmers would have used to increase their milk yield. Even nowadays there are folks who believe that by hanging garlands around the horns of cows will be especially favourable. The cows do not eat it and at this time of the year - Beltane - connections to past folklore are still hugely important - and - even more so - in the outer isles such as North Uist; it was said to protect the cows from witchcraft and the evil eye. the gaelic name is A'chorra-fhod (f) from corra meaning
a heron and foid or fod meaning clod, peat or turf. 'The heron of the peat'. interestingly the family name is Ranunculus and comes from the Egyptian word ranah, the Gaelic word ran and Latin rana all which mean frog presumably because the places that these plants inhabit are also frequented by frogs! not only Marsh Marigold but, Wood Anemone, Columbine, Hellebores, Love-in-a-mist, Meadow Buttercup, Lesser Celandine and Crowsfoot too.

Beltane is the the start of the time of light and end of the dark times. When things start to move, grow and become open and in the past when cattle were taken to the high pastures. gardens are plated, women marry, men would have gone to battle and the women would be left to look after the house and livestock. interestingly enough these dates were not fixed in the celtic calendar. The calendars turning was of determined by nature, after the spring equinox, bright light, warm enough on the ground to plant and cattle and sheep bringing young into the world. A positive time for all. nowadays we take a holiday - May day and from way back in the Celtic times it is still celebrated. Beltane can be translated as 'the fires of Bel' connected with the ancient and old sun god Belanos from Gaul. It was a time of celebration for the darkness had been conquered and frosts beaten. Planting could begin and the migration well underway.

we have had plenty of interesting birds this week: Marsh Harrier, Iceland Gull, Lesser Yellowlegs, Long Billed Dowitcher, Common Sandpipers, Black tailed Godwits and as my young son and I rode back from Debbies this evening we delighted in a wee group of Whimbrel in the field near Port Charlotte.

This week the Wildwood Wisdom programme begins in schools funded by The Mactaggart Third Fund and the children will be enjoying the spring nature explorations as much as the rest of us!

Saturday, 25 April 2009

french agents

Welcomed our French agents today and took them to visit lots of places and see even more. Wheatears, Arctic Terns, swallows, Skylarks, Hen Harrier and a single Pale Bellied Brent Goose as well as several gannets feeding too.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

nature report

Spring has arrived and the geese are gone. green grass is abundant - well early and the lambs gambol in the meadows. it is warm save for a chilling easterly that started to blow this week.

Arctic Terns have started to come in -I love them and their acrobatics too. Soon the air will be filled with new summer noises, different light and smells too.

Plants begin to shoot too, we notice primarily the primrose and lesser celandine, both yellow and sunlike. Interestingly enough in some parts of the world Lesser Celandine is a weed!

Irish Gaelic - Grán Arcáin
 Latin family: Ranunculaceae

Lesser Celandine is one of the first flowering plants to appear at the end of the winter (February to May). The plant itself is small (5-30cm tall) with dark, heart-shaped leaves. The flowers, which appear on a short stalk, form a carpet of yellow stars in woodland and bogland edges (more common on Islay), under hedgerows, in ditches and along streams.It is found on damp soils in the pH range of 4 to 8, but is more commonly found in pHs of 6 to 6.5. Lesser Celandine is an important early nectar source but, in wet and windy weather, the petals close.

However, Lesser Celandine is an herbaceous, perennial plant and sis part of the buttercup family (Ranunculaceae). Plants have a basal rosette of dark green, shiny, stalked leaves that are kidney-shaped to heart-shaped. The flowers open in March and April, and have 8-12 glossy, butter-yellow petals that are 1 inch wide, and are borne singly on delicate stalks that rise above the leaves. Pale-colored bulblets are produced along the stems of the above- ground portions of the plant, but are not apparent until late in the flowering period. The root system is made up of a cluster of tuberous roots. When in bloom, large infestations of lesser celandine appear as a green carpet with yellow dots, spreading across the shady and sometimes wet field edge floor. This plant reproduces by seed and underground bulbous tubers. interestingly it was know as pilewort and used thus as a cure all for such. made into a poultice and rubbed on the accusing areas (ouch!) . There is no evidence that it worked but like a lot of these these folklore medicines it obviously had some kind of efficacy to survive the old stories in order o be passed down from generation to generation!
It was even mentioned by Shakespeare!

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Wildwood Wisdom

We have been running camps with today being the last, for local children on Islay. Discovering nature and becoming aware of it's amazing powers - especially in springtime noting and watching new growth, birds moving through and having time to racket about in the wilds. A Peregrine falcon flew over us yesterday and we enjoyed observing Scaup and Eider on the sea too. Leaving no trace has meant cleaning up areas and removing masses amount of human debris from plastics to tyres along coastal places. Last day today.

Monday, 6 April 2009

wilderness living....

..in the wind and rain this afternoon. Time to watch Pintails, Pale Bellied Brent and Teal. Shelduck all over the place.
The family that were out were lovely and enthusiastic. Learning and having fun. They even managed to get a wee wilderness fire going. Well done!

Sunday, 5 April 2009

friday to sunday....

Friday was great for birding and we headed around Gorm but firstly we spent the morning at Sanaig. Good light, Golden Eagles, Chough and Great Northern Divers. later barnacles, lapwing and Linnet - wonderful. A storming Merlin and Buzzards making whoopee were good highlights too!

Here are Sunday's nature notes as published in Ron's islayinfo.com pages:

Spring comes goes and then ......

It seems to have stayed! As I write the sun is setting in a calm western sky. Campers enjoy the still midgeless air at Port Mor and Gannets dive into a bright blue loch. If you are very lucky and look even more carefully you may even see the Otter heading for Port Charlotte.

New growth is everywhere, Celandine, Daffodils, Whin/Gorse and Primroses. It is a place full of joy and expectation. The geese are gathering in groups and soon they will be gone. We will need to get used to the silence until our ears become accustomed to Skylark, Tern and Lapwing. Curlew display beyond our house on the hill accompanied by Pipits and even, this week, a Chiffchaff warming to the summer call.
Today there was a green tinge and fringe to the woodland edges. Great!

We have seen Swallow and Martins hawking for insects over wee ponds and lochs. Sea duck such as Scoter, Scaup and Eider swim about, display and chase females. The divers; Great Northern and Red Throated, are floating numerously on Loch Indaal. The Golden Eagle leaves it's nest to hunt for food and then return and Harriers do the same too. This week we were witness to Buzzards mating - not a particularly romantic sight and happened all too quickly but it did signal that changes were afoot! The Gyr Falcon has been seen again this week, in several different locations which is nice to witness for these lucky to be in the environs. being aware of such hunting birds means that be aware of such predators means that one may well be able to see Merlin ( a blue/male if lady luck is on your side!) storm about field margins causing havoc - or a peregrine high in the the sky preparing to stoop and attack a flock of Golden Plover. On the shore line Turnstones and Dunlin feed busily and Oystercatchers stomp about with great self importance.

So the light changes, the temperature is on the rise and as some birds depart whilst other arrive. The season is definitely on the change and we are happy with it. It has been a long winter, let us hope that the summer, which is in the wings brings equal joy and as always fascination.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

sunny day jack snipe

Full sunshine all day. GND's on loch as well as pletny of duck too. Pale Bellied Brent, Barnacles, Whitefronts and Greylags seemed everywhere. hen Harriers both male and ringtail were spotted and a Golden Eagle too. Gannets and Shear waters and a brilliantly clear jack Snipe that dropped in right next to us clear enough to see short tail and gold stripes down to its tip end! And then walked (springing) off before flying directly away 10 metres dropping quickly. Great sighting!

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

swallows and martins

The wild wind has certainly brought in plenty of early migrants and we enjoyed watching Swallows and Sandmartins busily hunting over the wee ponds at Cross Houses. We also had cracking views of Wheatear, plenty of thrushes and ducks too. Scaup, Eider, Goldeneye and mergansers. Although the day was grey we were lucky with great views of all species and wader watching was fabulous at the Merse until the tide poured out and left wide expanses of sand. Oystercatchers, Godwits, Plovers and Turnstones too. A Great Northern Diver finished our day perfectly!

Tuesday, 31 March 2009

peregrine fly by

Cracking afternoon having got back from teaching kids in Keills about the benefits of cycling I was out with folks around Gorm till dusk. Sandmartins, Barnies, Whitefronts and Greylags. the good light enabled us to get excellent views of Teal, Goldeneye, Curlew, Lapwing and a Peregrine storming by. On our retune to Port Charlotte we enjoyed watching Great Northern Divers and coo-ing Eiders.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Vote Earth

what are you doing this saturday night....?


make your vote count

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Gyr falcon and correction

Lots of us went Gyr falcon spotting today - Ian Brooke found and photographed it - brilliant - well done! Yesterday I omitted the final calculation in the plane vs ferry - it has now been added so check the entry. For 5.1 full (29 seats) flights in/out of Islay you can use the ferry all year! On an average 'flight-out-of- Islay' week, it would mean that you only have a couple of days worth of flying compared to a year of the ferry...hmmmmmm

Friday, 20 March 2009

back from London out birding

Fabulous to be back. having travelled down to London all on public transport WITHOUT flying. Interestingly I was asked today about flying vs the ferry and coach to Glasgow. So I spent some time researching and using the magic calculators. If you have a return flight to Islay you use a total of 100kg of CO2 per flight - the smaller ferry uses approx 1500 tonnes of CO2 per annum - so if you wish to fly, then for 150 flights alone you could use an empty ferry for the whole year! ( and yes, it is possible to travel off Islay by other means than flying) As the plane only takes 29 passengers then it would only be 5.17 full flights to reach your ferry equivalent If you still insist on flying then try offsetting. Getting here needs consideration. Here's the good news: birding today was magical. Golden Eagle, Hen Harriers, Peregrine, Sanderling, Wheatear and House Martin were high lights. Finally at Killiallan a full summer plumage Red Throated Diver was a delight.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

sundays nature notes

It is that time again, the circle is almost full with the arrival of spring, the long winters have drifted back to a mostly distant memory. geese are spread out and seem to be more mobile, thinking of heading off. Divers are starting to take on their summer plumages and this week I noticed, and was able to share with clients, (which was even better) a Red Throated Diver in full summer plumage. Wonderful.
When one sees such a sight one cannot help but marvel at the box of unlimitless suprises that nature can gift us.

Spring is nearly upon us and already the lighter mornings and longer evenings bring people out of houses and preparing gardens, talking of nature and generally observing with eyes afresh. The light is always good at this time of year, clear and true. Showers pass and wind rattles doors and windows to remind us that winter can recall it's favour to spring.

This week I saw the first two lambs, banks of daffodils, Fieldfare and Redwing arriving and Long Tailed Ducks (Old Squaw) yet to leave. behind the house in sheltered corners Lesser celandine - Ranunculus ficaria - is clearly seen and Willows are in bud.

With the recent full moon barnacle geese have been flying and feeding at night and sometimes one can hear them over the house and quietly feeding in the fields at the back of Port Charlotte, as well as lots of other places. We must enjoy them to the last for soon they will be away , far away to iceland then Greenland to breed before their cycle begins once again.

Today, Lapwings and Curlews displayed and guarded territories, a hen Merlin sat in the lea of an old stone gate post and Gannets drifted past Saligo. The light was just perfect.

Spring, full of new hope and growth, is really nearly upon us. It is welcome and like the new born lambs we are happy!

Friday, 13 March 2009

Long Tailed Ducks

It was a strange day - weather wise. damp and misty but from a birding point of view we had some cracking views of ducks and waders. Pale bellied Brent at Blackrock - close enough for photgraphs and then a lovely Scaup flock just off shore. Barnacles rose from the grass to settle again as a grey heron flew over. From the Gaelic College we had superb views of Divers, Barwits, Turnstones, Dunlin - two with dark bellies, and a handful of Knot too. Displaying Goldeneye were a delight as well as 3 Scoter, a couple of Slavonian Grebes, one great Crested and a pair of Long tailed Ducks - as we picked them up the sun burst through for a magical moment. We finished at Skerrols with 26 Whooper Swans gently calling to each other amid rafts of Tufted duck.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Sun later with Golden Eagle

It started damp, and wet and windy and sort of cold but we had the landy to bird from and we found all three divers; Gt Northern, Red and Black Throated, Purple Sandpipers, Turnstones and Mergansers too. We then headed south from Bruichladdich along the west coast. Lunch was spent eagle waiting..... we were rewarded having watched Barnacles, Whitefronts and lapwing. the the eagle rose up into the, becoming blue, sky. fabulous. We finished with Chough and more divers. and now, as I write the sun shines in an evening sky.

Saturday, 7 March 2009

Birding Japanese

Despite the utterly foul weather today we got out birding with Japanese folk. Starting in Bowmore we headed around Tallant, watching displaying Lapwings, Starlings and Heron too. Upon the hill a Golden Gagle was spotted being mobbed by ravens. It then disappeared, we got the kelly kettle out for some warming hot chocolate and then we picked it up again further down the glen. It closed on us and we could see it's golden mantle, head and plumage too through the murk. Later we had Chough, Buzzard, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, Barnacles, Whitefronts, Fieldfare, Whooper swans and of course plenty of wee birds too including a cracking flock of Reed Buntings. Plenty of new species for our Japanese guests.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

connections....too stupid to save ourselves

...isn't about time we stopped whinging and actually took responsibility?

reading today

it is serious for birds and if you follow:

It shows that maybe the age of stupid is really upon us.

I have been struggling with how to lessen the use of our landrover and use a carbon offset scheme (even those have oddities about them). We already use biodiesel when it is available. One needs to sit down and spend a bit of time thinking about it. I have come up with a wee solution, making sure the routes I chose are more economic, and of course, less is more. Do I need to run the landy on a particular day. Can I walk or bike? We have had a serious eco policy for the time that we have been operating and stick by it!

As of today I am introducing Birding and Biking - and last year we came up with Walking Safaris - also, suprisingly more popular than we thought. Ask me more....

The main problem, as I see it, is over use of vehicles and office buildings. Why oh why, with the age of video conferencing, twitter, emails, ichat and skype do large organisations that purport to care about nature still insist their staff fly???!!! This is even more galling when I know that they really care about the environment yet cannot see that they are part of the problem. In fact we all are. Last week we had some highly eminent avi-scientsts on Islay to discuss the plight of the Greenland Whitefronted Goose. They came from Greenland, Iceland, Eire and the UK. They showed us how they had used aircraft to monitor and study the birds, in fact they arrived by plane. Hmmmm! An they said they all believed in global warming. It was seriously adding to the fall in numbers of these wonderful birds.We know global warming/climate change is caused by man's activities - and largely by flying. Can they not see the irony here? There are alternatives, yes some do take longer, some are not so convenient BUT how long have we got to stop this downward spiral? We, surely cannot be THAT stupid to realise this?

I think it is about time we started to help these organisations by getting them to look at their own actions and talking responsibility. Let's ask them, how green they really are, how many flights, how many car journeys, how much heating, how much lighting...? I think the answers maybe shocking. Afterall, whether we are an individual, large corporate or charity we have responsibility to make a difference. We have a reached a point now of, it is not what you do but rather what you don't do that makes the difference.

Start now. go on - press your go button! Don't be stupid!

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

back from the mainland

...yes, i'm back and although Cuckoos have been reported in southern england here scientists gather, hosted by SNH to chat and discuss Greenland Whitefronted Geese. There numbers are dropping despite plenty of conservation. have a couple of places available on next month's goosefest - welcome.

here's my report for islayinfo.com

I have been on the mainland and travelled slowly through it. I was on a bicycle and on such one does have th elxury to notice things and be inthe picture so much more than remotely from a car. I travelled by ferry too.

What did I notice as I crossed argyll? well it was wet, but that did not matter, I had decent clothing and was warm. i was in the nature and moving with it.

it is but a wild place, this in which we live, few houses, small roads sitting atop the bog and rock. And I noticed, as I climbed plenty of wee birds, Blue and Coal tits, a tree creeper and the odd Sparrowhawk too. And then out on the hill a buzzard lazily glided up a glen as i pulled my way up! The further in i got the less the birds appeared. Thick and dense this forest seemed impenetrable and so I rode along the narrow roads with passing places allowing odd vehicles to head in opposite directions. Reaching a lochen a couple of Teal swam around gently and a Grey Heron looked at me suspiciously.

I made my way aware of my slow intrusion and pedalled up the brae. The water ran down in rivulets a mixture of road dirt and earth from the grassy edges.

The future spread ahead of me as the view sprang to my eyes, emerging as I topped the small road that broke the horizon. The county stretched before me and I was feeling every moment, wet, bump, smell and sound.

It did not stop till I had reached my destination.

Eider Ducks greeted me from the Clyde river, cooing and wooing as I entered my digs.
i had time to reflect on the day and the week as I stood under the hot hot shower and my clothes were being washed beneath my feet too. The day flowed down the drain with its accumulated dirt but the memories lived on and I was please with what I had been part of.

That night I lay in bed the window ajar and the sound of Oystercatchers called my sleep quickly - like all days in nature it was drawn to a close and within I still held those experiences tight.

Monday, 16 February 2009


Not cold this morning and we headed from Port Charlotte in the dark to Gruinart where we witnessed the wonderful sight and sound of the Barnacles leaving their roost. A Ringtail put up the Teal and 4 Whoopers were having a stand off with a couple of Mute Swans. A good handful of Fieldfares and Redwing in the fields around. I am away to the mainland this afternoon to listen to our daughter play in a couple of concerts for the county concert band. Will try and twitter from there!

Sunday, 15 February 2009

twitter and nature notes

I have got into twitter and it certainly is proving popular.
Monday am I am out for a dawn with a couple of folks then to help out at the junior Feis before heading off to the mainland to see our daughter play for the argyll schools concert band.

Here is the nature report as posted on www.islayinfo.com

Simply put, you do not have to go very far to watch birds. True, if you want to see species not common to your locale then travel you must, and where better than Islay? No need to answer, this is a rhetorical question....!
Sometimes, though, it seems to me that those who travel to far away places have strange expectations. I would like to add at this moment that my clients are excluded from this observation. i delight in the our natural surroundings and enjoy all the aspects that they my bring.

Unfortunately, sometimes, expectations become greater than reality and although I always tell folks "We hope for everything and expect nothing and therefore we are then never disappointed." it seems it does not work of everybody.

Today, for instance, the was a sea har and seeing anything was going to be nigh impossible. I met some birders in Debbies and they looked very dispondant, despite the marshmallow topped hot chocolates in front of them! I asked them if they were having a good time/ To which the response was no, they had come all this way and felt let down by the weather.

It got me thinking to the time when a traveller met a local shepherd:
"What weather are we going to have today?" he asked
'The kind of weather I like." replied the shepherd.
The traveller who thought himself somewhat smarter than the wee man sitting by the wall responded "How do you know it will the kind of weather you like?"
The shepherd paused for a moment and then said "Having found out, sir,I cannot always get what I like, I have learned always to like what I get. So I am quite sure we will all have the kind of weather I like."
and he headed off up the hill.

I walked out of Debbies, and there right in front, if you looked carefully enough, were 4 Purple Sandpipers hunched up next to a couple of Turnstone. Like the folks indoors, they were waiting for better weather too! i popped ack and told them so, I was on my bicycle so it was not too much a a bother.

"Oh," was the response., 'but it isn't clear enough for a Great Northern Diver."

I left and climbed on my bike. What more could one say?

Later that day, the sea lifted and I was gifted with Long Tailed ducks, Snipe, Merlin, a Sparrowhawk and thousands of geese heading for the roost. It was 1730hrs and still light. What a pleasure.

The snowdrops shine in the woods and a few crocii are pushing through too. In some really sheltered places I have seen primroses too.

Nature is dynamic, it does not chose to show itself just because we are present, or that, because we have travelled so far, it owes us. It happens because it is here and now and we may be lucky to be there at the same time.

Sunday, 8 February 2009

this weeks nature notes....

..as provided for www.islayinfo.com

Quickly, winter once again hit with a vengence this week. Apart form ice and snow on the hill it was a bitter north wind that had everything looking for even the slightest shelter. The garden birds ate and ate and ate. Peanuts and seeds being decimated on a daily basis. and so when winter bites it does so with sharp teeth. This is good for us all. The geese are still busy finding food and going from field to field and we see more birds round and about too. lapwings and Golden Plovers and Curlew between Bruichladdich and Port Charlotte, always a delight to see and hear too.

Up the glen across to Kilchirian the resident Hen Harrier and Merlin fly searching for wee birds to hunt. There are plenty of those that the moment, meadow Pipits, Skylarks and Finches abound and will exploded from the landscape at the slightest sniff of a raptor(bird of prey). Some creatures are no so fortunate as we witnessed this week with a untagged Sea Eagle that had taken, we think, a Grey Heron. of course the Heron would have also had it's fill of wee fish or frogs...and so the circle continues.

This seems a wee bit doom and gloom on reading back, however it is nature and it is red in tooth and claw, a Hare gets hit by a car, a Buzzard has breakfast. It is the way things work and without such then it would be a very different place.

Then there is the calmness of the view in the early morning, from here in Port Charlotte. The sun rising over a white backdrop, Bowmore nestled in a blanket of peat smoke and glistening reflections of a blue loch. Look carefully and maybe an Otter will (wow!) appear or a Great Northern Diver float along. If one is very lucky, like this week, an Iceland Gull will fly in front of you, distinguishable by it's all white wings telling one of the lands that it has come from. Interestingly I was cycling at the time, heading out to Bridgend to see the Barnacle Geese. My cycle computer read 25kph and as I rode the gull flew alongside - both of us checking each other out! For half a kilometer it flew beside me and then it dived off over the Pale Bellied Brent Geese. It was looking for something to scavenge.

We know it is winter, and as we return from our wrapped up watching we can sit around the peat fire, savouring a dram and sharing stories of what we have seen this day. sometimes it is very little, sometimes lots. But it is enough to know that we liev here and witness what we see on a daily basis. There is no rush.

Monday, 2 February 2009

day 3 goosefest

So, whilst much of Britain was under snow here the sun shone, clouds scudded across blue skies and we headed east. Fallow, Roe and Red deer were seen well as Barnacles and Whitefronts too. At Ardbeg we gad Wigeon, Mergansers and a couple of GND. Buzzards, Snipe, Woodcock and a distant eagle and on a wee hill lochen, a pair of Whoopers and two young. sad to say goodbye to our Goosefesters but as in the words of the film star "They'll be back!"

Sunday, 1 February 2009

goosefest day 2

Every day is a good birding day no matter what the weather. That being said, sometimes, if one is extremely lucky on has an excellent day. Today was one of them!

It has been a week of variables. Cold, wet, dry and windy and even sunny.
when the light bursts through her eon Islay it is like an orchestral happening - maybe there is no sound but the explosion of light is immense and joyous and there is a sound within ones that is magnificent. We are lucky to live here.

The air was crisp and clear. geese fed in green fields and every so often one would see the Whitefronted geese pop their heads up through the heavy rushy wetland plants. we were in the north west Rhinns, on the very edge of Europe. We were looking and waiting for the Golden eagle. I knew in my heart and had a good feeling that today was going to be good for showing them to my clients. We did not have to wait long. The Kelly Kettle started to boil. Coffee was made and flapjack was handed around. We chatted and laughed, we were happy, the light was good, we had already seen Hen Harriers, Lesser Canada Geese and several deer too. The wind started to rise, gently, but enough to take an Eagle right in front of us. It was using the wind to cut across the hillside, fast even furious in it's purpose. It's golden head turning each way looking for food. We watched in awe. Then there were two. We watched and the clock ticked on. Three hours passed but it seemed like minutes. It was extraordinary. And then there were gone, over the ridge and elsewhere. We headed off too. merlin, Golden Plover and a couple of possible Ruff they were in amongst the Plover and flying fast . The sun was falling quickly too and we ended our day with a Peregrine and at Bridgend watching the Barnacles arrive for the night.

Yes, everyday is a good birding day but today was excellent!

Saturday, 31 January 2009

Goosefest 5 raptors

It was extremely windy today - and infact very wet first thing, but soon dried and the clouds scudded across a cold sky. Plenty of Barnacles and Whitefronts and a super male Hen Harrier. We then scurried around Loch Indaal Bowmore side and found Wigeon, Scaup, Scoter, Slavonian Grebe and GND. Cracking! Purple Sandpiper, Curlew, Barwit and Turnstone were along the shoreline.
At the back end of Bridgend we had superb views of a Peregrine seeing off a pair of Raven, 21 Whoopers on Skerrols and some Tufted as well as a Pochard, Scaup and displaying Goldeneye. Wonderful.

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Nature Notes

I post this on


and just in case you do not go there here it is for your delectation!

The rain has been pretty incessant. In order to obviate such wetness we escape out doors away from the cosiness of a warm stove and cups of tea into the teeth of the gail.

Sometimes, I can join both my favorite outdoor activities together: naturewatching and cycling. If you have a bicycle it is a great tool for getting you close to nature and being part of it without any disturbance. You can stop and start whenever you need or feel the urge to. It is non polluting and keeps you fit too - and if you want to you can stop at Debbies in Bruichladdich for a coffee and look for Great Northern Divers off the beach - it happens!

Riding this week along the top of the Loch Indaal a fabulous group of Oystercatchers took off right in front of me gliding along a wee whilst keeping me company then sheared off heading for the beach. The light was just spectacular and for a moment everything was enhanced, the black and white of the birds, the steel blue grey of the sea and the streaks of wind whistling across the strand. Earlier, on the same ride I had met up with brian palmer, he of the magnificent Washing Machine Post www.thewshingmachinepost.net. We rode out beyond
Red Houses and up the glen and eventually returning via Mulindry. I noticed a hen Merlin on a post and then she flew alongside us, in the field next to the road. We were travelling at 30kph and the bird was equally happy. All of a sudden it took off across the greeness. What a view.

'Merlin' I cried but it was to no avail - we had already seen it and it was gone. Passing a moment in time.

In the past I have had some amazing encounters awheel with birds. I remember one late evening, and unlikely for Islay, still spring night and as I rode along I was aware that I was being accompanied. i looked over my left shoulder and just above me no more that 1 metre away was a Barn Owl. We rode together for 1 kilometre! It was an exquisite situation.The stillness and quietness and my globe of light cutting a way through the darkness. Never to be repeated.

It is not always like that, a friend of mine was once attacked by a Buzzard - he did have alot of brown hair and it was the in the days before helmets - maybe it thought he was a rabbit. It was quite a shock!

Anyway back to this week, what with the Barnacles in new fields trying to find more grass and Purple Sandpipers finding yet more ways to get out of the wind line and House Sparrows (that we share our house with) tucking into the fat balls and peanuts, it has been an eventful week.

If you wish to keep up with my adventures on a daily basis have a look at my twitter (yes truly)


Friday, 23 January 2009

Merlin Twite and Plover

We had a cracking afternoon and dusk around Gorm. Plenty of geese as expected and Chough too. Then a large 50± Twite and lots of Golden Plover too. A hen Merlin on a post was brilliant and then we headed for the goose roost at Bridgend. The kelly kettle supplied hot chocolate and kept us warm whilst we waited. Terrific.

Monday, 19 January 2009

Happy New Year

Lots of new things on offer;

Carmague trip

more later