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!