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!