Thursday, April 30, 2009

29th April,2009.

A mixed day in many respects with strong easterlies and showers. Weather to pray for on the east coast of Yorkshire in autumn!!!

Whimbrel now are moving into their main period of passage through Islay with several groups seen, the majority feeding in coastal fields or resting on the shoreline. Flock numbers are begining to increase too. Each season I resolve to try and assemble a total of birds seen, which I will do this year, as I guess we'll be quite surprised at the outcome.

A new Corncrake, odd additional Sedge Warbler and, finally, the passage of Goldfinch appears to have reduced. Siskin and Lesser Redpoll are still coming through in very small numbers. The sea was very quiet with a few auks north and Gannets, as ever, patrolling offshore.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Back to normal!!

An early post so awaiting the flypast goodie at home this evening!!!

A pleasant day with lots of sun and light easterlies. Perhaps we need to await the benefit of the conditions as clearly nothing had really changed today!. A few Sedge Warblers, a Grasshopper Warbler and a Common Sandpier were at Loch Gorm but nothing new at Loch Gruinart or at loch Indaal. Indeed, I got the impression even more birds had "moved out" as duck numbers were certainly reduced at the RSPB reserve Nothing was moving over the sea either!!

On a different front, the first Green-veined White of the year was at Loch Gorm, newly emerged and struggling a bit against the fresh breeze.

Back to normal!!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Somewhat of an anticlimax!

A pleasant day following a period of quite heavy rain overnight. Light winds and plenty of sunshine. Again Northern Wheatears noted in numbers throughout the Rinns including one fine male "Greenland" type
Seawatching to commence with produced a steady passage of Kittiwakes north, languid processions of Gannets north and south, a few Manx Shearwaters north and a group of Whimbrel arriving and then resting on the rocks off the SW shore. The hoped for skuas were missed or by passed us completely!!
Travelling up the Rinns another pair of Common Sandpiper was found, the first Mallard ducklings of the spring seen and a group of seven Black-tailed Godwit at Easter Ellister.

A running total of Great Northern Divers for both the Outer and Inner loch Indaal area eventually reached 27, but strangely with no Red -throated encountered! At the head of Loch Indaal a restless flock of ca.90 Black-tailed Godwit, all in resplendent summer plumage, and a quite separate loose flock of Bar-tailed Godwit, in winter plumage still, were in evidence but an extremely low tide meant most waders were at a considerable distance out from the shore. Ten Whimbrel flew around, adjusted and went off nortwards and a further four other rested up at Uiskentuie. The remnant flock of ca.65 Greater Scaup were still around and a total of 24 White Wagtail was noted in the Crosshouses area. A number of Black-headed and Common Gulls wheeled and swooped in the manner of terns near Bridgend providing a trap for the unwary or inexperienced, although later a single Sandich Tern was north of Bruichladdich. Some nice pairs and small groups of Red-breasted Merganser, similarly Eider, were scattered around but the loch is begining to lose its volume of birds as the breeding season advances.

At the RSPB Gruinart Reserve an intensive search for the two waders seen yesterday proved unsuccessful. However the Corncrake called as persistently as ever , the Barnacle Geese, single Pink-foot, and a small flock of Greenland White-fronted Geese were around, a flock of "Northern" Golden Plover sped nortrhwards and a male Blackap conveniently showed itself. As a further example of time and events inexorably moving forward, Michal Sur reached the ripe old age of 31 (!) providing a fine excuse for the magnificent chocolate cake produced by Sally How celebrating that event! A more than adequate compensation for the disappointment of vanishing waders!!

26th April, 2009.

Well, certainly a day to be out of convalescence!! A call that a couple of American waders had turned up at RSPB Loch Gruinart Reserve and needed pinning down sent me , and a few others(!) hightailing up to the floods. Fairly quickly the Lesser Yellowlegs was "sorted" and, more progressively, as views improved, a Long-billed Dowitcher comfortably identified. And then , for a brief period, the male Green-winged Teal appeared nearby such that three American birds were scoped together!! In the background a Corncrake called at intervals whilst, at the head of the loch, but on the other side, almost 50 Barnacle Geese and a single Pink footed Goose fed contentedly.
The era of the mobile telephone came into its own and we managed to "call in" most of the visiting Argyll Bird Club members before they departed for the afternoon ferry. What a day!!
On a more routine front it was obvious more Northern Wheatears had arrived, as had several White Wagtails, 20/30 Sand Martin, a large party of Whimbrel further south on the Rinns and 2/3 Common Sandpiper at traditional areas. Late in the afternoon , and as I returned home, three Greater Canada Geese were noted. Much later, and as I again returned home, a lone, somewhat forlorn looking Barn Owl atop a fence post, scanned around in pouring rain in a frustrating attempt to locate prey.
All in all, an extremely good day with a reflection on Islay of the very many good birds which have been recorded in the UK over the past couple of days!!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Back in harness!!

After acknowledging some obvious improvement, and indulging in a couple of tentative driving "experiments", I decided enough was enough and that even bad backs had to be subjugated in the cause of necessity and sanity!! So I spent the afternoon and evening at the meeting, and then dinner, of the Argyll Bird Club, who were visiting Islay for the weekend and incorporating their Spring Meeting whilst here. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing, finally, many of the members whom I'd never had the opportunity of meeting previously as it's so difficult to get to day meetings on the mainland from here, and then get back again in the single day. The lecture programme was good with presentations about RSPB Reserves on Islay, Choughs and geese.

And so,after four days of being cooped up, I'm ready to launch into fieldwork once again, particularly after learning of what had been picked up on the field trips today.......Marsh Harrier, Dotterel and Sandwich Tern. I suspect this week has been good for passage generally which, regrettably, I've missed!! The feedback from the Solway shows Pomarine, Arctic and Great Skuas to be on the move with some similar reports emanating from the Outer Hebrides too. Much closer to home, i.e. on the Rinns, reports of Short-eared Owls suggests several pairs may now be present after a number of very "lean" years.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Hors de Combat!

The last two days have seen me more or less out of things due to an injury to my back , sustained last week. At various intervals I'm afraid I've more assumed the posture of an Arabian potentate, supported by cushions whilst reading trip reports and the like ( and minus the grapes, dancing girls and wealth let it be said! ).

So I'm bored, but have had time to study the flow of common passerines which are moving inexorably northwards. Lesser Redpoll, Siskin, Chaffinch, Goldfinch and increasing numbers of Greenfinch are on the move, but, temporarily , taking up residence in the garden. A fine male Sparrowhawk depleted the Goldfinch and sped away with its prize after being disturbed. At least I've had some opportunity to catch up with admin work and help with some of the arrangements for the Argyll Bird Club visit this coming weekend. Whilst I'm not yet sure I shall play much of a part the forecast looks good and augurs well for a productive time. The main priority now is to be back into fieldwork be it BTO Atlas work, moth recording (on Jura ) or some new mammal recording I've set up.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Whimbrel passage commences!!!

Yesterday, Saturday 18th, was a bit hectic with family farewells, transfers to the ferry and so on. However, the first party of five Whimbrel were seen at the head of Loch Indaal in the morning, a further fall of Northern Wheatear had obviously taken place and some Sandwich Terns were reported by Matthew as the ferry left Port Ellen. The adult Iceland Gull is still present at Bunnahabhain, which, if my memory serves me right, will now be the 5th winter season it has been visited Islay, its first time being when it was a 1st year bird!! It's now so white it seems to radiate sunlight from its plumage....magnificent!! In addition to the immature bird still around Tarbert on the mainland Matthew reported a further bird, feasting on bread, at Inverary!!

Today, Sunday, had the first Grasshopper Warbler reeling just after dawn near the house. The song was a liitle disjointed, but improved with time ,and I wondered if it had perhaps only just arrived overnight? A long seawatch saw just over 3000 Auks being counted moving north in two hours, 8 Whimbrel resting up, 5 Light bellied Brent Geese flying north and odd passerines (Goldfinch, Swallow ) moving through.

The feeders in the garden have been busy with both Lesser Redpoll and Siskin visiting and varying numbers of Goldfinch and Greenfinch. Numbers of the former are usually around 12 but, at times, have been over 20 which suggests migrating birds are being drawn down as is a "regular" male Sparrowhawk.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Classic Great Northern Divers !!

Given the easterly wind had reduced significantly ( although it did increase later ) sea passage was better than yesterday. A quite marked passage of Manx Shearwater, all south, occurred way off shore, around 200 in an hour,and Gannets were more numerous, although moving in all directions on feeding movements.

Later we had a few "obviously newly arrived" Bar-tailed Godwit at the very head of Loch Indaal and a couple of absolutely classic Great Northern Divers in utterly resplendent summer plumage. Not all that long ago, when doing a diver count, none of the birds were this advanced and either these were newly arrived or they have an ablity to move into new plumage very quickly.Other than Eiders and Red-breasted Mergansers little seemed to be in evidence off shore although 6 Pale bellied Brent Geese at the head of the loch were new.

Much of the remaining time was absorbed by a visit to Finlaggan ( the seat of the Lord of the Isles ), the nigh on essential "distillery tour" and exposure to other essential elements of Islay culture , including a culinary creation by "The Dad" somewhat later.

A demanding day with an even greater demanding ending !!!!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

An absolute surprise!!!

An early morning watch saw very few birds over the sea, as is fairly usual with easterly winds. Odd Gannets and single auks were all that occurred, but a flock of nine Purple Sandpipers on one of the outer skerries were obviously migrants. Travelling northwards, up the coastroad, it was apparent that there had been a fall of Northern Wheatears with quite a number of birds seen but nothing else seemingly involved.

After breakfast we all set off to tour the island, see the sights and, hopefully, locate some particular species which Matthew doesn't see very often!!! I'd had reservations about seeing Chough but, in the end, we saw at least eight! Peregrine, Twite, Greater Scaup,( where around 90 remained on Loch Indaal), all fell to our persistence plus seeing some of the nicer areas on Islay and fitting in a visit to Bowmore ( "the capital" ) too.

Best of all though, and an absolute surprise, was our visit to the RSPB Gruinart Reserve where we looked through the remaining dispersed Barnacle Goose parties and found the Lesser Canada Goose amongst one of them!!! We had absolutely excellent views and were very satisfied with the result. The day ended with a selection of photographs being taken by Rose, one of which may yet grace the banner headline of this Blog!!!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Birds on the move!

Most of the day spent doing routine distributional survey work locally and preparing for the arrival of my son, Matthew, and his girlfriend, Rose, later this evening.

Limited time at home saw several commoner species on the move ( Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Siskin ). Given the house is in rather an isolated position, with very little cover around it, birds dropping in to feed are easily picked up. Likewise birds moving straight through can also be seen/heard without difficulty. Numbers of Goldfinch ranged from two to twenty + and Siskins numbers could be worked out through the combinations of male/females when birds dropped in to feed. Set against some of the exciting "finds" in the UK today ( Glaucous-winged Gull and probable Crag Martin ) little locally was of any real note!!!

A message from Venezuela brought depressing news relating to the further expropriation of ranches in the Llanos!! Apparently Hato El Frio has been expropriated after a government visit came to a view that its sustainable agricultural methods were "lacking in justification of optimum production".

Only Hato Pinero remains of the important conservation ranches, but one wonders for how long? A smaller ranch nearby, containing a primary dry forest reserve, was confiscated last year on the grounds of it being needed for " socialist indoctrination, reorientation and agricultural projects". The reality of the following months saw the Water Buffalo being sold, the woodland felled and the larger fauna hunted out. The place is now derelict!! One suspects the only people to gain benefit in the short term were Party officials!

Is this really what our group of "supportive" Labour politicians consider worthy? One can only surmise they also support Zimbabwe too and its past akin policies!! Perhaps the Chairman of the UK Labour Party "Support Venezuela Group, Colin Burgon, could explain as I, amongst many, am at a complete loss to understand what could be claimed to be the positive advantages arising from such vandalism!

When I visited the Llanos ranches I felt both priviledged and impressed that such "modern" approaches to sustainable farming were being practised,until I learned that, in many cases, they were following principles that had been utilised for long periods of time. Farming, diversification, conservation, all encapsulated within their approach such that one felt we had lessons to be learned. Now I fear we are witnessing the final throes of what could have been a successful case study, from which much could be learned, to something which will be consigned to the rather more shameful elements in a country's history.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Bit of a wasted day!!!

Sporadic rain overnight then turned into a rather more persistent series of heavy showers throughout the morning and early afternoon. Now, in early evening it's lovely and,I believe, destined to be so for several days!!!

After attempting to get up to date with paperwork ( does it ever really happen?) I took advantage of the improving weather to check out a couple of raptor breeding sites locally and Raven sites. Yesterday I'd had a really interesting conversation with an Islay farmer about Raven predation on lambs. Believe me, it does happen, and on stricken ewes too, when they and Hooded Crows peck at eyes and backsides and transmit disease as well as injury!! But not always! It's very difficult to determine whether Ravens and Hoodies actually kill sheep of any age, or whether they injure them and complications then arise. Some would say there's little difference!! Certainly they feed on the castings and lambs that have died. I was actually interested to hear of instances where locally nesting Ravens had never interacted with local lambing flocks at all, of areas where they had been seen to be feeding on dead lambs but not apparently cause any other obvious problem and. conversely, where they had been a damned nuisance at lambing time!!! Over the past few months there has been a lot of Press comment on the issue, as well there should be, but, perhaps as usual, with them highlighting the more dramatic side of things rather than the whole story. There is certainly a need for the appropriate Scottish Government Ministry to take a look at what is a complex problem and to then determine an honest and non-political approach such that farmers don't get vilified for over-egging the pudding and , for those that are suffering a problem, some form of recompense exists. Utopia, maybe, but we've to remind ourselves that we have included Ravens on a Schedule of protection ( Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, as amended ) because we value their presence, but we also have to acknowledge that that "presence" can generate problems too. On a slightly polemical note I was also interested to hear a local crofter question the current legislation that demands that all dead animals are removed and disposed of with clinical efficiency!!! Would leaving the odd dead sheep carcase around perhaps divert the attentions of Hooded Crows and Ravens such that they then didn't become interested in lambing ewes and their offspring? Or is it simply that, where there is a diverse and sufficient food supply anyway at the end of the winter period, the birds don't get drawn to more easily available opportunistic feeding? One thing is clear, when it rains , it's time for a good rant!!!!

Monday, April 13, 2009

And so they moved on!!

The restless behaviour of the geese at the end of last week was an obvious indication of them being ready to take advantage of suitable weather for their long flight north should suitable conditions arise. A relatively slight alteration in the wind towards SE saw most of them leave either during the day yesterday or overnight into the 13th, i.e. last night. The SE wind was fairly fresh and would have obviously provided good supportive conditions for the onward flight to Iceland. Remarkably I counted less than 500 Barnacle Geese and only around 150 Greenland White-fronted Geese today after what can only be described as an exodus. The landscape is now strangely silent in certain favoured places and the sky bereft of packs of disturbed birds or skeins moving to roost. They might now spend a short period in Iceland before continuing on to Greenland, an utterly remarkable event which, I suppose ,is why so many of us are hooked on migration!!!

In a seawatch this morning almost a 1000 Auks sped northwards heading for their breeding colonies I suspect.The majority appeared to be Razorbills. A single Manx Shearwater and three Common Scoter similarly moved north as did a female Merlin . Feeding Gannets are now a common sight offshore and doubtless will remain so until autumn.

Previous to setting off a single Siskin appeared at the feeders at home, joined by two others which cascaded out of the sky , fed for a couple of minutes before all erupted northwards. Later a flock of 22 Turnstone were found resting on rocks at the coast, unperturbed by my presence and clearly migrants at rest. Odd Swallows were at several places, Willow Warblers are now well established around Loch Gorm where a single male Goldeneye remained.

At Loch Gruinart RSPB Reserve Willow Warblers were in evidence, 3 Gadwall were new, as were 10 Black -tailed Godwits in absolutely splendid plumage and several Sand Martins and House Martins flying around. Shoveler, Wigeon and Pintail are now paired and one hopes as many as possible remain to breed.

A sad day, in a sense, with the departure of the geese that provide such a daily spectacle during the short days of winter but, on the other hand, a time of parallel emergence with other species moving in and replacing them as our summer breeding residents.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

12th April, 2009.

Sorry folks, the entry dated 12th April, ( Slow but sure ) refers to Saturday 11th April. A penalty of putting in a title for the post and picking up the date automatically. If you do it on the same day then that's OK, but if you do it next morning, as I did, then you pick up that days date. Attempted to edit it but clearly difficult to go back in time!!!

To add in further confusion I've picked up on some tasks today that mean I'll not be birding . so the next post will be on Monday ( night to avoid the day following, get me? ) Happy Easter!

Slow but sure!

Both the weather and activities were much the same as yesterday!

The sea produced very little with far fewer birds on the move. I tracked down the ca.150 Golden Plover I thought were migrants yesterday when they suddenly swirled around again. They're using an area of "dead ground", taking to flight only occasionally, and are all "Northerns" in resplendent plumage. Completed some BTO Atlas work ( Roving Records )and pulled in one or two useful records, e.g. Snipe. Willow Warblers are now more widely spread , although not yet arrived in full force.

Survey of woodlands at Skerrols produced Bullfinch, which is by no means a common bird on Islay, although quite widely spread. Another common species, Black-headed Gull, which breeds here but whose numbers reduce quite markedley in winter, is now back near the nesting areas and I was quite surprised to find ca.110 at the head of Loch Indaal. You can tell all the interesting species have virtually gone when you start counting Black-headed Gulls!!!!! Odd Swallows completed the round of what was a day largely given over to survey work but, nonetheless, hugely enjoyable.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Migrants moving in!

After bidding fond farewells to the girls yesterday ( Thursday ) I decided to use the day to complete overdue chores and admin tasks as the wind was very strong and an absolute pain!!! It finally died down during the night with today ( Friday ) turning out to be quite nice eventually with plenty of sunshine!!! Whilst local reports suggested not much was around I decided to give the whole recording area a "bashing" to see what might have arrived.

An initial seawatch showed an endless procession of Gannets N and S offshore, doubtless engaged in feeding movements. Local Fulmar, Shag, Eider, and Black Guilemot were in evidence and a few Kittiwakes moved north, a handful of Manx Shearwater moved in both directions, Auk parties sped mainly north and several Red-throated Divers moved north too. A flock of ca.150 Golden Plover whirled around in the low cloud and may just have arrived.

In Loch Indaal Great Northern Diver numbers had reduced quite dramatically and several were asleep suggesting their being migrants at rest. Odd Red-throated Diver and a single Black-throated Diver complimented the trio!. At least four Slavonian Grebes were found, a pair of Long-tailed Duck and almost 50 Greater Scaup indicating the last of the Arctic visitors were hanging on a little. In the north of the island some quite large packs of Barnacle Geese were present, with small parties repeatedly peeling off and around suggesting they're restless and preparing to go!

The Loch Gruinart RSPB Reserve showed a good selection of duck, including the male Green-winged Teal, which I've been trying to see for ages!! The flooded area, whose water level had been drawn down to assist breeding Redshank and Lapwing, showed a worrying increase after the heavy rain we've experienced over the past couple of days suggesting some early attempts at breeding may have been thwarted.

And so to migrants! The day total for various species was Wheatear 2, Willow Warbler 4, Chiffchaff 2, White Wagtail 1 and Sand Martin 1+. Finally it's begining to happen!! Whilst there has been odd individuals appearing previously it now seems we're likely to be seeing better numbers arrive with us!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Passerines on the move!

Both overnight and throughout the morning the weather was dreadful with heavy rain. During the morning the Goldfinch numbers were high around the feeders but dropped dramatically immediately the weather improved as birds moved away. A little later an appreciable number of Greenfinches "came in" and then departed, with this pattern repeating itself at least three times with differing numbers of birds involved. Even the odd Reed Bunting cascaded down from the sky and spent time feeding and resting. All birds that had seemingly followed through in the wake of the advancing front! Bird movements must be terribly complex and flexible as they respond to the vagaries of the weather affecting their progress.

Late afternoon saw some sun and a pair of Wheatears had turned up locally. My daughters arrived to have part of their Easter school holiday here on Islay after a very packed ferry journey We only having one boat in service at present due to an unfortunate "grounding" last week on the approach to a terminal which saw the boat holed!!! And we talk about the difficulties of birds finding their way......

3rd April,2009.

Another very nice day but tending to become rather hazy from mid-afternoon.

Another day goose counting, which leaves little opportunity for general birding. Goose numbers appear not to have reduced so,presumably, they're remaining a while longer! A flock of almost thirty Goldfinch descending on my feeders was a great sight ,and, given the house is located amidst open moor, a sound indication these were migrants!

News that the Gyr Falcon had been seen again saw me assume a series of watches, ( a "patience of vigils" I thought was an appropriate collective), at various likely spots until late in the evening, but to no avail! Later, rain came in that will certainly hold down this bird and the geese!

May I offer a correction, thanks to Malcolm Ogilvie, associated with the comments I made previously about the local wave generation plant. It has actually been linked into the grid in the past, but no longer, being used in an experimental capacity nowadays from time to time. If only I'd three kilometres of cable........

Thursday, April 2, 2009

2nd April, 2009.

An absolutely glorious day to the extent I didn't wear a hat!!! Blue sky, sun , warmth....this is it, folks!!

Goose counting all day, which I guess will be one of the last given the winds have turned southerly. The geese have an uncanny ability to "read" the weather and seemingly take advantage of it, in this case gaining the support of a southerly wind for a non-stop flight to Iceland. However they did seem rather placid, as opposed to the restless atmosphere which sometimes seems to pervade the flocks previous to departure. As this spell of good weather is forecast to last for several days it will be interesting to see how the theories hold out!!!

Clearly small parties of Sand Martin were moving through and also present in a couple of areas. Odd Wheatear around but they're not yet generally spread and I haven't yet had any at home. Contrasted against my comments in a recent post Pied Wagtails were generally distributed around many farmsteads, but several parties of both Meadow Pipit and Skylark were seen despite many birds being on territory. I'm intrigued by Ravens!! Two groups of 10/12 were seen in my home area, a sudden increase, which I don't believe included local breeding pairs.

!st April,2009.

Unfortunately a day of administrative emphasis (a DAE ). Productive and necessary as it happens. It also coincides with the commencement of the third full summer BTO Atlas Survey aimed at establishing the distribution of bird populations in the UK and Ireland. A big "ask" you might think, but immense numbers of volunteers have already contributed records for the preceding winter and breeding seasons and tremendous inroads into the coverage necessary has already been made. With only a small number of resident birders we're beavering away but I'm confident we shall manage more than the minimum coverage required.

I've been thinking about Annual Ornithological Reports, constructed around the convenience of man's calendar as opposed to reflecting the more "natural" elements of our bird populations, their movements, arrival and departure times etc. I've decided to try and produce a report for my recording area which commences at the very end of March ( when most of the winter visitors have gone, except geese!! ), when our summer visitors are arriving, be they from sub saharan Africa or France and Iberia. Our resident and immigrant populations can then be reported on as far as the outcome of their breeding season, the numbers remaining throughout or their progressive departure dates commented on , contrasted against autumn arrivals or passage birds. Full reportage can then be given on our winter visitors , their fluctuations and their eventual departure the following spring. I suppose the system falls down for many areas farther south where summer migrants arrive early and previous to the departure of some winter visitors. At least the general picture holds firm here to a large extent. I do so hate the entries that read, "Smew... the bird reported on in our previous report remained until late February, etc etc". We shall see.....

I was saddened to see a doe Rabbit in the garden suffering from the advanced stages of myxamatosis. Such has cleared out the big warren nearby ( see earlier posts ) and I thought it would have perhaps worked its way through the population by spring , but not so! She evaded capture but doubtless will appear again.

All of a sudden Goldfinch are begining to move through with several pairs or small groups appearing around the feeders at various points during the day.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

31st March,2009.

At last, a day of reasonable weather. Light SW winds, cloudy with even a short period of warming sun in the afternoon. Is winter now behind us?

A seawatch saw good numbers of Auks flying north, mainly in groups of 20/30 and probably totalling in the low hundreds. Light sea mist confused things a little!Surprisingly little else seemed to be on the move!

A full circle of the recording area saw around a hundred Grey lag Geese in evidence, many in pairs, so earlier comments need to be followed through. Greenland White-fronted Geese are to be found in small groups in all sorts of rough corners not used earlier in the winter, although Barnacle Geese are still mainly in the most regular areas. I had the distinct impression there was fewer around so some may have already departed northwards. Counts at the end of the week should give an insight into it all.

Finally , a count of divers on Loch Indaal revealed almost 70 Great Northern Divers, very few Red-throated Divers and no Black-throated. Groups of 6/7 of the former suggest them gathering together prior to moving, although they might also be ones gradually moving north and simply using this overall area as a collecting ground, much as the convoys did in the Second World War. A couple each of Slavonian Grebe and Long-tailed Duck seemed to be all that was left of their wintering populations, even Light bellied Brent Geese were in very low numbers ,unless some were tucked away somewhere.

Hopes of migrants were realised by a single Wheatear, an obvious increase in Pied Wagtails, but not as high as I have seen in the past, a small party of Twite and two Whooper Swans present at East Ellister spending time calling and preparing themselves prior to a noisy and spectacular "wheel around" before heading off on a NNW bearing as true as any one of us could have plotted!!!