Wednesday, April 30, 2008

29th April, 2008.

An early morning seawatch produced nothing compared to yesterday except a few Whimbrel coming in or sweeping north. The most surreal aspect of the two hours was the absence of wind noise and a flat calm sea , which itself produced no sound as it met the shore. Whilst you have perhaps to have lived "next the sea" to appreciate this , the scenario makes for a silent, almost frozen landscape as if seen on a canvas. With thoughts turning to art it was a good indication little was happening as far as birds were concerned!!!

The remainder of the day was spent on census work with little or no time for birdwatching. The early evening still saw Whimbrel arriving on to the shores of Loch Indaal, a migration that we usually see continuing well into May. The local Snipe commenced to display last night for the first time noticed this season with this activity usually being the sole indication of their presence.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

28th April, 2008.

Car problems prevented anything happening before mid morning but it saw the odd shower out of the way first. Variable light winds and a fine, sunny day then provided good conditions for birding, and so it proved!

The sea offered an early focus with several parties of Red-throated Diver moving north, single Great Northern Diver, Arctic Skua, and a Great Skua north and some Common Scoter. Manx Shearwaters were moving south , as was an Arctic Tern. Auks were clearly moving back northwards to their breeding colonies with endless "strings" passing by.

Over the day several parties/singles of Whimbrel seen, or heard , again, a party of Light -bellied Brent Geese resting , presumably having come in from Ireland, and two Goldcrest in a completely atypical habitat showed things to be on the move.

A single Little Tern, 40+ Barnacle Geese, Cuckoo, more Swallows and a couple of good broods of Mallard certainly indicated spring has now arrived . The relative absence of wind allowed some survey work to proceed as it was possible to hear birds in song and the odd Green-veined White was on the wing in sheltered spots.

Monday, April 28, 2008

27th April, 2008.

Another day given over to a mixture of surveying the area local to the house for the BTO Atlas , admin. and domestic matters. I've come to a ( flippant ) conclusion there ought to be a habitat category called " unprepossessing" which doubtless would include all open sheep pasture up and down the country as it carries so little interest!!!

As a slight exception Wheatear numbers are still up, the local Raven chicks are growing apace but seeing both male and female harriers around suggests they've not yet settled down. The second lot of small Rabbits appeared from the warren developing in my garden!!! All very nice and cuddly but it's only April!!!!!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

26th April, 2008.

Changeable weather early then became a very pleasant day although with a brisk cold wind ( again ). Whilst there was a lot of activity over the sea it was confined to the usual species with no passage noted.

A couple of parties of Whimbrel, unseen but heard , went through north and five were at Loch Gorm. Golden Plovers, the "northern " form in resplendent plumage, were obviously on the move with two groups being seen totalling ca. 190. Two Sedge Warblers in song and a single Grasshopper Warbler were clearly new as were four Knot arriving at Loch Indaal.

A local Sand Martin colony was alive with activity with 10-15 holes being examined or excavated. Eight Greenland White-fronted Geese still around but, finally, a day when no Barnacle Geese were seen, not even the odd straggler remaining due to being out of condition, as sometimes happens. 16 Black-tailed Godwits at Gruinart were possibly the remnants of the large group seen the other day. A pair of Pintail were new after the remaining pairs left us several days ago and two pairs of Wigeon but three separate males suggested nesting might be happening.

Friday, April 25, 2008

24th April, 2008.

Tied to home awaiting delivery of a Landrover I'm to use on some survey work. It at least allowed some time to catch up with paperwork!!
A few forays out showed little or no change in local bird populations although news suggests there has been some good arrivals of many species on the south coast of Britain and elsewhere.
A time for patience!!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

23rd April, 2008.

A drastic change in the weather brought light winds, sunshine and warmth to such an extent that I had both Green-veined White and Small Tortoiseshell butterflies during the day, the first for the year. For once birds could actually be heard singing as opposed to everything being subdued by the wind!!!

A very obvious fall of Wheatears throughout the whole of the recording area in the morning with numbers even increasing in the late afternoon. Odd numbers of Whimbrel passing northwards again with a group of 12 feeding at the head of Loch Indaal, as was a Common Sandpiper alongside one of the nearby streams. Strangely, and despite searching extensively, few other summer migrants were in eveidence other than Willow Warbler numbers having increased with singing birds now being heard quite widely.

Good numbers of feeding Gannets (150+ ) off the SW in the morning but little else of note. A routine "sweep" of various lochs found a Greenshank, Goldeneye and, at Loch Gruinart, 51 Black-tailed Godwits on the RSPB reserve. 67 Barnacle Geese out on the merse had apparently arrived from on high, quite literally, the previous evening and were now resting before setting out on the next leg of their migration northwards. Various people keep commenting about the numbers of Goldfinch visiting their feeders and it seems apparent that we're probably in the midst of their arrival back from wintering further south and generally filtering through.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

21st April, 2008.

The strong winds are finally abating and evidence suggests migrants are now beginning to trickle through. Hen Harriers are beginning to get serious about territories and Ravens already have grown young in some nests.

Whimbrel was the obvious candidate with a "static" bird, and two parties of three flying north. The begining of what is usually a concerted passage well into May. A newly arrived Common Sandpiper on the coast and 2 Sandwich Tern were new. A party of five Grey lag Geese and a Pink-footed Goose suggested newly arrived birds too. We only ever have odd birds of the latter in the wintering goose flocks plus a noticeable passage in early autumn. Waders are certainly now coming through with parties of Ringed Plover, Dunlin and Turnstone although none are in numbers. A very tight feeding flock on coastal grassland of almost 20 Meadow Pipits indicated passage northwards wasn't over despite many of our local birds being on territory.

Whilst there are more Wheatears and Willow Warblers around numbers are still low set against normal levels. For once the total of accumulated numbers ( 21 ) of Greenland White-fronted Geese exceeded those of Barnacle Geese ( 12 ), White Wagtails are more obvious, with one party of ten birds.

I rejoiced in the news that Scottish Ministers had turned down the proposal to allow 180 wind turbines to be located on the Isle of Lewis. After working on bird surveys there for two summers the richness ( and importance ) of the bird life has to be seen to be believed with many species being drawn from Schedule 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act. It would have been an absolute tradgedy to disrupt, or even destroy, such communities. Thought must be given to the dashed aspirations of the local community for which the proposal would have held the prospect of increased employment for a considerable period in an area , as here, where job opportunities are not easily come by. My guess, dare I say prediction, is that there will be a change in central government policy relating to the use of nuclear generation and that one of the locations for a large station will be here.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Google Maps

Google Maps: " Map showing area covered on Isle of Islay, Inner Hebrides, Scotland.
View Larger Map"

19th April, 2008.

A day given over to survey work which, if I'm honest, didn't really produce all that much and underscored the fact that, whilst we're in the midst of a spell of continuos fine weather, summer migrants are still generally awaited and many birds haven't yet settled down to breed.

Hopefully the next few days will see a few additions and improvements to the site ( limited, of course, by the extent of my technical comprehension!!!! ).

Saturday, April 19, 2008

18th April, 2008.

And still we have easterlies!!!! Many's the time when spending autumn weekends years ago at Spurn we'd pray for easterlies of this intensity......

Despite the wind not all that much is changing. The sea was more "active" in the morning with Fulmars being very much in evidence after their previous absence. Gannets were more abundant with ca.120 off Portnahaven obviously taking advantage osf some food source. 6 Common Scoter , all males, went south and almost 20 Manx Shearwater moved north, not always that numerous this early in the spring.

In a sheltered bay 2 Wheatears, a White Wagtail and a Whimbrel were present , all evidence of passage occurring. Later a Jack Snipe was found, quite unexpectedley, along a little used track. 32 Curlew in a very tight flock were on/above Loch Indaal ( late migrants? ) and Ringed Plovers were more apparent.

Wheatears appear to be more generally spread , as are Willow Warblers, although not in great numbers as yet. 24 Barnacle Geese and 3 Greenland White-fronted Geese were all I could find signifying we're now very much seeing the final remnants of our wintering populations of well
over 40,000, with Barnacle Geese being in a majority. Odd hirundines keep appearing, and moving through , with certainly the "resident" pairs of Swallows seemingly yet to appear. The odd Great Northern Divers dotted around are moving into resplendent plumage , the last of which will remain well into May with even the odd non breeding bird summering with us. Scaup still remain with over forty present .

Thursday, April 17, 2008

16th April, 2008.

Things are happening at last!!! Whilst there was little that was new over the sea some large groups of auks going north were clearly destined for their breeding colonies. Strangely enough a steady trickle of Kittiwakes moved south!! Having waited for the wind changing, it has, with a vengeance, in that we have a Force 5 ENE that's also quite cold. Two Canada Geese (nominate race ) came in from the south and then continued northwards.

Various woodland blocks were visited but produced only a few Willow Warbler and a single singinging Chiffchaff. By contrast Gruinart had two Black-tailed Godwit, 4 pairs of Gadwall, several singing Willow Warbler , a Swallow and several Sand Martin, ample evidence that things are actually now beginning to change. Good numbers of male Shoveler were around with not one female in view suggesting they're already down on eggs.

Barnacle Geese numbers appear further depleted and very few Greenland White-fronts now remain. Viewing Loch Indaal was a little difficult but certainly several Great Northern Divers remain, waders are much depleted with the Arctic migrants awaited and the anticipated ( hoped for ) arrival , or passage of terns, was absent. [ by contrast my son reported having had 27 Sandwich Terns over the centre of Rotherham, South Yorshire, in the morning, evidence that easterlies were having an effect elsewhere!!! ]

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

15th April, 2008.

A day which gave out a definite feeling of being in limbo!!

Beautiful weather and visibility and yet nothing really happening! No discernible changes in bird populations/species with still several hundred Barnacle Geese " hanging on", plus a few Greenland White-fronted Geese, but little or no evidence of any general arrival of migrants. Having said that Chaffinch , Greenfinch and Goldfinch numbers continue to increase and fluctuate widely locally with some evidence of passage.

A meeting associated with survey work (Ravens ) and details arriving of the RSPB Merlin Survey, all of which can be added to the burgeoning list needing input ( Heronry Census, Breeding Bird Squares, Waterways Breeding Bird Survey and, of course, the Atlas!! ).

The arrival and influence of the predicted period of easterly winds for this part of the country is awaited as doubtless they will alter the above situation ( and be colder!! ).

Sunday, April 13, 2008

12th April.2008.

An enforced day behind a desk completing survey forms , or similar, despite the great weather. It provided the opportunity to keep an eye on the open moorland opposite and the bird feeders. April signifies a light, but very noticeable, passage of Goldfinch occuring here and yesterday provided ideal weather conditions. At least three parties arrived/fed and then left the garden flying directly northwards. A single White Wagtail locally was the first I've had this spring.

Managed to complete most of the paperwork!!! The British Trust for Ornithology is currently organizing a huge survey , lasting through from 2007-2011, mapping out the wintering and breeding distribution of Britain's birds at tetrad level (2x2km ). A huge undertaking , but already 1000's of records are flowing in from enthusisatic volunteers. As their representative for Islay, Jura and Colonsay the task of gaining coverage, collecting forms , contacting volunteers etc falls in my lap but has its compensations of gradually seeing the overall picture emerge. As we have only a few resident and active birders on the islands anyone contemplating visiting on holiday is encouraged to contribute!!! Please get in touch by E-mail if you can assist as your contribution will be invaluable, particularly on Jura.
Well, folks, that's the end of the commercial!! Now off birding!!

Friday, April 11, 2008

11th April,2008

A day with little change in evidence except the exodus of a significant proportion of our wintering Barnacle and Greenland White-fronted Geese yesterday. The winds have altered from the northerlies of several days to light westerlies which , combined with the pleasant weather of yesterday, clearly provided the impetus causing the birds to move. Whilst some still remain the island is suddenly enveloped by relative silence, soon to be replaced by the general arrival of countless lambs!!!

A trio of Wheatears near home were obvious migrants and the only ones seen all day. A stunning male Merlin on the coastline was probably a migrant bound for Iceland as were 7 Whooper Swans. Following several reported on Wednesday a single Willow Warbler at Gruinart and a couple of Sand Martins comprised all that appeared to be new.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

8-9th April, 2008.

Finally got around to setting up this Blog after threatening to do so for ages!! Will progressively improve the site as time allows! After returning from Ethiopia recently, and then having my two young daughters with me for a week, birdwatching has been a bit of a catch up process over the last couple of days. Thankfully not much appears to be on the move here as yet.

Little in evidence. Single Black-throated Diver and Manx Shearwater north over the sea, 3 Gadwall and increased numbers of Shoveler at Gruinart ( with two pairs elsewhere ) suggested new arrivals, a Sand Martin and a handful of Wheatears completed the list of obvious "movers".

Great Northern Divers, Scaup, Long-tailed Duck, Goldeneye and Slavonian Grebes still around, as are appreciable numbers of Barnacle and Greenland White-fronted Geese, doubtless held back by the recent northerlies. Both the latter are now very restless and obviously ready to leave for their breeding grounds as soon as suitable weather arrives.
Some good accumulations of Herring Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull and Common Gull on ploughed land or where muck spreading has occurred. Birds of prey noticeable with displaying Buzzards, regular Merlin and Peregrine and an obvious presence of male Hen Harriers in particular.