Saturday, February 21, 2009

20th February,2009.

A reasonable day,a cold breeze along the coast ,but calmer elsewhere. It then spoilt itself with rain coming in during late afternoon.
A day spent completing BTO WeBS counts (Wetland Bird Surveys). A short seawatch was quite enjoyable with good visibility over towards a hazy Ireland. Ca.30 single Gannets were sailing around, with odd birds going through N, along with a Kittiwake. Numbers of Fulmars were similarly patrolling offshore having returned to their breeding areas, making occasional "inspection checks" of their cliff face sites. Occasional Auks sped past, all underlining the fact that another year of productivity is imminent.

A count of Outer Loch Indaal showed numbers of Great Northern Divers and a few Red-throated Divers to be present, but little else, other than a flock of Common Scoter. It's noticeable how feeding Common Gulls are recently prevalent on some pastures, with single birds beating their way up Loch Indaal from the sea to join the ever increasing flocks, doubtless having travelled up the Irish Sea from wintering quarters further south.

Whilst taking a break at Traigh an Luig the 1st winter Glaucous Gull sailed past at eye level, appearing slightly more "creamy" now in colour than its biscuit tones of the past few months. After a round of visits to various waters a period spent overlooking Inner Loch Indaal showed no sign of the Canvasback and numbers of Greater Scaup remain low! Odd Long-tailed Duck, Slavonian Grebe, Black Guillemot, and resplendent male Red-breasted Mergansers, plus other regular species, made up for the absence!

On to Loch Gruinart where an assemblage of duck included absolutely wonderful male Pintail and Shoveler on show and a lone Greenshank. My timing (again!) was in error as I couldn't find the Lesser Canada Goose still present in that area. Noticeable generally in NW Islay is the concentration, in some areas , of Lapwing and Golden Plover and, increasingly, flocks of Starling, which are much more widely spread , all indicators that spring is not far off. But, at present , all these factors are reinforced absolutely by the tremendous show of Snowdrops carpeting the woodland floor near to Bridgend, a lovely sight and a promise of what is in store. Occasional singing Skylarks and disjointed snatches from Song Thrushes, some more continous and practised than others, are now approaching commonplace on better days, but pride of place must go to a Mistle Thrush I heard singing at Bridgend on the 6th January!! A wee bit optimistic I fear!!!

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