Friday, May 9, 2008

9th May, 2008.

It seems rather strange completing a Blog entry before the end of the day but, the truth is , as will become obvious from the comments below, there's precious little bird news likely to arise from the remaining hours of today!!!! I'm intending to be away from early tomorrow until the very end of May and so will be closing the Blog down unless I can discover a way to "register" entries en-route. I'm in Central Scotland, South Yorkshire, Norfolk, Poland, Berkshire, South Yorkshire and , then, return!! More news later.

Today was a bit frenetic with various counts, Raven work, a couple of discussions about Ravens and some other survey work squashed in prior to returning home to make final preparations ( read one-off preparations !! ) for being away. In between, managed to see the male Ring-necked Duck down on The Oa, but missed the Shorelark that had been there yesterday, the first in Argyll for 32 years!!! The very early WeBS counts on Loch Indaal showed some Great northern Divers still hanging on, and in pristine condition too, but the majority of species being reduced. The reliable favourites of the moment, Whimbrel , are still passing through but their passage northwards will no doubt have come to an end by the time I return.

Whilst Goldfinches are still around , their passage through appears to have reduced being replaced by ever obvious numbers of Linnet that have arrived back in numbers over the past few days and are now very widespread.

Doing a repeat survey ( for a comparison to last year ) of a stretch of beach where Ringed Plover
breed, I was surprised to find only two ( yes, 2 ) birds present where there had been many pairs last spring. Perhaps "ours" are late in returning this year? It poses the question of how best to determine survey dates across the UK when, clearly, things can prove to be so different along a south to north axis!!

Given I shall be birding most of the time I'm away I hope I can sort out the means to post updates of what is happening to an Islay itinerant!! Will be in touch.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

7th May, 2008.

A rather mixed day combining Atlas work, discussions on Ravens with various people and necessary " domestics" before being away at the weekend.
Common Sandpiper figured prominently , without much effort on my part, as they're much into display and nest site selection and determining six different territories was pleasing! A necessary tidying up of my log pile was frustrated by the discovery of a Pied Wagtail nest, with four eggs, right in the centre, demanding some delicate camouflage and engineering work. The bird was completely unfazed and zoomed back in within minutes!!
Noticing 11 Small Tortoiseshell butterflies fluttering about in the barn windows I caught them all up and released them together. To my surprise they went off high and fast over the moor, in all directions, like children spilling out through a school gate!! Same approach to freedom I guess!!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

6th May, 2008.

An electricity supply failure at the very point of my wishing to sumit this previously caused it to be late, for which apologies!!!! The joys of living in the remote countryside can be various and unexpected even during such a spell of continuing , absolutely glorious weather!!!

If I was a financier I suspect I'd be talking about a net reduction in assets as such appears to be the situation with some of our birds compared to even yesterday!!! Both on Loch Indaal and Loch Gruinart the number, and variety, of waders has reduced so we await the next wave of passage. Numbers of terns were much reduced and other species had clearly moved on. Two redpolls heard, and then seen for a short period, were not Lesser Redpoll but, for the male bird, appeared to be typical C. flammeus and will have to be the subject of a report to the County Rarities Committee.
Yet again Whimbrel featured prominently with several groups seen, one even feeding on damp pasture above my house. Whilst it is doubtless a feature of this year's passage and weather conditions combined various people are noticing and commenting about them . These are presumably all bound for Iceland having wintered on the western and southern coasts of Africa and are simply using Islay as a staging post. Interestingly enough, when I was associated with the Wintersett Ringing Station in West Yorkshire many years ago, migrant spring Whimbrel were most often seen to move directly north eastwards presumably as part of the Scandinavian breeding population.

Monday, May 5, 2008

5th May, 2008.

The intended long seawatch was frustrated by fog which enveloped the whole of the South Rinns until almost 0900hrs. Picnic breakfasts in a soggy atmosphere with little to occupy you have little attraction!! By contrast the "developing day" was probably the warmest this year so far and an absolute joy with birdsong and butterflies abounding!!!

Small groups/parties of Whimbrel, too numerous to mention, were on the move. I've never known them this obvious with possibly the largest numbers yet to move through. Arctic Terns are now obvious, with their calls echoing around the Inner Loch ( Indaal ), and with a group of around thirty resting together, giving the impression of having just arrived. A small party of Bar -tailed Godwit and, similarly, Black -tailed Godwit were on Loch Indaal.

Whitethroat is now beginning to arrive, with several in evidence, and Grasshopper Warbler and Sedge Warbler are increasing in numbers and distribution. Despite having been here for a while Willow Warblers are obviously still arriving, or moving through, with several seen in atypical spots or habitats, including the very centre of Bowmore!
The last of the wintering Scaup are still around with birds seen on Inner Loch Indaal. Three Pale bellied Brent Geese seen, presumably on their way northwards from Ireland given our wintering birds moved on some time ago. Good numbers of Red-breasted Mergansers are evident although the numbers of Eider are now begining to reduce as birds move on to breed.

At Gruinart the group of Black-tailed Godwit remains, raising hopes further that they might decide to breed! Similarly, all but one of the Wigeon males in evidence had no female present which suggests ( surely and hopefully!! ) that they are breeding!!!
Although there were various waders present at Loch Indaal numbers of everything, other than Oystercatcher, were low. At Gruinart a flock of at least 150 Dunlin flew off ( towards Indaal ) with around 40 returning later. From now on the turnover of waders will increase with numbers of Dunlin and Ringed Plover en route to their northern breeding grounds changing almost daily into early June.

For those who prefer to avoid midnight forays some consolation might be drawn from the fact that at least three Corncrakes were calling at Gruinart at 1340hrs this afternoon!!!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

2nd May,2008.

A rather belated entry due to telephone line problems? over the past 24hrs ( the 3rd ) followed by an atrocious day today (4th ) with rain and mist!!

Three Pink-footed Geese locally were clearly on the move. A sea watch mid-morning, after completing some survey work, had several parties of Red- throated Divers moving north, a few Manx Shearwaters north and small numbers of Whimbrel. Later a party of the latter were seen to arrive at the head of Loch Indaal and commence feeding voraciously along the incoming tide.
Two resting Sandwich Tern in the late afternoon were new.

A male Whinchat singing from the same posts and telephone wires as last year must surely have been the same individual announcing its arrival. A sole Purple Sandpiper had either elected to remain at a regular haunt or was on the move. At Gruinart several House Martins were new, six Black-tailed Godwits raised renewed hopes, as last year , of the possibility of them remaining to breed and a single Barnacle Goose feeding alone quite vigorously suggested a migrant.
A count of Grey-lag Geese at various locations suggested yet a further increase in our island breeding stock, which counts of broods later in the year will doubtless confirm.

Friday, May 2, 2008

30th April-1st May, 2008.

Two days of survey work and associated admin has left little time for "recreational birding" but , from conversations with various people, I get the impression not very much is happening that is new. Cuckoo, Wheatear and Willow Warbler certainly seem to be in better numbers than last year but Grasshopper Warblers and Sedge Warblers still appear to be arriving. Thankfully the anticipated rain was short lived showers, which was a bonus!!