Saturday, June 27, 2009

26th June,2009.

A day necessarily sacrificed to admin work, which, nowadays means long periods in front of a computer screen. It's amazing to reflect that one can be surveying birds during the day in a fairly out of the way place and , on that very evening, the results can be residing within a national database, available and ready for summary and analysis too.

I received some information today which compounds the value of such facilities. It showed the progression northwards in range of several moth species over the last three decades. One of these, Blair's Shoulder-knot has advanced around 226 miles northwards in this period. Other species ( Orange Footman, Pine Hawk-moth, Shuttle -shaped Dart, Red Underwing and Lime Hawk-moth ) have shown similar dramatic changes to their ranges , which are thought to be a result of climate change. All such was brought about by the ability to analyse an amazing 5.5 million moth records stored in a computer system and to produce the necessary distribution maps depicting the results. As an innovation that has largely come about during the latter part of my life , and seems likely to grow in complexity and capability, I find it both fascinating and awe inspiring. That one of the celebrated early space craft could have gone about its business with little more than the computing capabilty of a modern day mobile phone is also worth pondering about!!! I guess it will only be the peopple who have seen it all happen that are utterly impressed by it all. Successive generations are already taking such for granted as an integral part of modern day life with amazement only being reserved for the additional "mega" improvements which keep arising. We've come a long way since the abacus!!!!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

25th June, 2009.

A day on Jura doing BTO Atlas surveys supported by wonderful weather!! Young birds of various species are begining to appear, whilst other species, e.g. Wood Warbler , have gone entirely quiet and are no longer in evidence at all!!! In the fringeing woodlands of the north east coast of Jura one of the later migrant species, Spotted Flycatcher, was in evidence, with several birds being seen. Similarly a number of House Martins at Ardlussa were collecting mud from a pool for their nesting attempts on nearby buildings, suggesting their recent arrival to the area. Further north a Short-eared Owl was seen within its nesting territory. Overall a successful day with lots of positive registrations of breeding in the tetrads concerned.

Back on Islay we checked out the area at Bunnahabhain where the Common Rosefinch had been found by a visiting birding group led by Peter Roberts. After quite a time without any success we then had the bird singing in a couple of spots nearby to the distillery, but giving disappointing views. Eventually it went quiet altogether , which determined the need for a further visit!!

Finally, spent the evening at the Islay Natural History Centre at a lecture given by an RSPB contract warden, Rory Crawford , based on the time he'd spent on Aride in the Seychelles last year assisting with conservation work. Absolutely first class and an occasion not to be missed, be it from the presentation, the content or the photographic material.

And really finally!! Thoughts are with grown up daughter, Ashley, who is in transit as I write, on her way to spending six weeks in Africa on what is described as the "Ultimate African Odyssey". This includes three days camping and canoeing in the Okavango Delta and other such places of global renown. I feel no envy of course......

24th June, 2009.

The conditions overnight from the 23rd had been calm and warm, although a slight wind sprung up early in the morning. Consequently the moth trap had taken a good catch which took me all morning to process and identify. Over a hundred moths were present , the most abundant being Gold Spangle and then White Ermine with 38 and 28 respectively. A single Buff Ermine was also present , which occurs in much fewer numbers up here than its near relative. Old favourites like Buff-tip, Poplar hawk Moth and Elephant Hawk Moth were also present in addition to a whole series of single records of individual species.

A trip up to Gruinart to discuss odd things with James How, the warden, also provided the opportunity to do some general birdwatching. Whilst nothing special was around the "super sunny" conditions were a real treat and provided excellent viewing conditions.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

23rd June,2009.

Well, I did press the button, it did work but then, in rolled the sea mist , which persisted for two whole days. Hearing vehicles "feel" their way along the road below the house was both strange and amusing!!

By contrast, today has been "the" day, with temperatures soaring and sunshine from end to end. It was a sheer joy to be out birding again. Rather than chase all over the place I deliberately remained "local" and thoroughly enjoyed it.The sea was like a shimmering sheet of glass, with ghostly images that were ships passing in a distant haze and the outline of northern Ireland appearing in dark relief, sometimes clear, and sometimes obscured by swirling banks of sea fog. Birds were few but Gannets glided by in the calm conditions and odd shearwaters had to rely on their own energies to make any progress.

In the late afternoon, over Portnahaven, 29 Common Swift swirled and screamed after arriving in from the south. Gradually they made their way northwards at quite a height. Swift records here are intriguing, as the only usual breeding areas on mainland Argyll are at Dunoon and in Oban. Whether these were on a feeding movement, or late arriving birds, is difficult to say, but I was later reminded the latter could be the case when I had 5 House Martin around the house for a short period. After feeding they also headed off north in a determined fashion!!

And so, back in harness and with some relief too!!

At the risk of being dubbed "Jonathon Ross Armitage" may I recommend a film I saw a couple of nights ago? "The Boxer" starring Daniel Day Lewis, is set in the time of the Irish troubles prior to peace and the release of internees being fully gained. It's stark, profane and beautiful, compassionate and violent and pays testament in so many ways to the diverse character of human nature, idealism and morality. In many senses it's a little "Old Testament", but in all senses it is powerful, don't miss it!!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

19th June,2009.

I have to confess this is just as much about testing my success in "fine tuning" my PC, and its arrangements with the Internet, as it is in imparting information about birds!! Most of my time recently has been spent immersed with the former, so it's a good thing that it's June with not a lot happening!!! Your reading this will signify success....the alternative is not worth contemplating!!!

I was intrigued today to see a dozen or so female Bar-tailed Godwits on Loch Indaal as it's getting a bit late for migrant birds that still have a long journey to complete. However, there they were with an assortment of gulls and Oystercatchers. In a perverse way it won't actually be very long before the first waders begin to return from the Arctic. Early July often sees a few Redshank and Black-tailed Godwit parties offshore as the harbingers of what will then be a process extending over three to four months for a wide variety of species. An exciting time!!!!

Well, folks, I've to press the button at some point, so here goes.......

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

17th June,2009.

A very early post mainly due to not having achieved terribly much today!! The old "Certification Error" problem appears to have arisen again on my main computer, and yet I'm sitting next to it using this laptop, after checking all settings are the same , without having any problems. I suspect, well, hope really, that the entry I submitted to the Blog for yesterday ( the sea trip checking seabird colonies ) will still miraculously appear out of the ether!! I'm begining to get paranoid about all this as I just cannot identify the cause.........any ideas anyone? And I'm increasingly browned off that our friendly security provider , Symantec, sees fit to start reminding me 77 days in advance that my subscription needs renewing!!

The weather broke overnight with rain until midday today. Nonetheless took a run out this morning to check various waters and try and get some brood counts of Grey lag Geese. On one small water six broods held 22 youngsters, the highest being of six, so I doubt we'll see a lessening of numbers this year!!!

OK, let's see if this one works!!

Monday, June 15, 2009

13/14th June,2009.

Two days spent struggling to clear a virus on my computer has met with partial success, but not eveything! The orinator has my heartfelt wishes for the future and the direction it might take!!

The last two nights has seen a lot of Curlew activity and calling after dark. Whether this is a consequence of young being about, I've no idea, or is some reinforcement of territory perhaps, but it subsides afterdawn other than in response to overflying Hooded Crows. It won't be long before the fells are quiet and both Curlew and Lapwing leave for feeding areas closer to the shore. I happened on a "local" area a couple of years ago, not that far away from the breeding grounds, where birds fed and rested up for several weeks in a sheltered swathe of land where very little disturbance occurred. And just to add to the avian concert a Barn Owl called from near the house, a strangled cat type call guaranteed to bring a return to restful sleep!!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

12th June,2009.

A group of us on Jura for the day completing BTO Atlas work. What a joy, absolutely glorious weather, hardly a breath of wind and the colours of the surrounding landscape showing through to full effect!!

As might be suspected there were no surprises in terms of species seen but it was good to get some positive breeding confirmations. I was disappointed not to see any terns associated around the islands north of Craighouse, although I didn't have a lot of time to check. Numbers appear to be down on Islay too this year. The weather brought out the butterflies with Small Heath, Marsh Fritillary in good numbers and odd Green-veined White and a Painted Lady thrown in for good measure.

Finally, Happy Birthday to my eldest daughter , Ashley, who I tried to ring at various points during the day, but failed, other than to leave messages!!! Doubtless recourse to a "normal" landline will resolve the problem.

Friday, June 12, 2009

11th June, 2009.

This is the second time I've attempted to post under this date as the first submission appeared to be rejected due to some security certification problem. Not Blogger's problem I imagine. Anybody out there wit advice??

Anyway, sorry for the absence of postings , but I've been out of things with a virus infection, ear problems etc in addition to the Tyre saga ( not yet resolved incidentally!! ).Finally, after a fortnight, I went up to RSPB Gruinart to discuss some survey arrangements and then to restock on stores, after working through the "laid in" provisions!! Whilst birding was slow and uneventful it was great, just like starting again!!

I finally got back home and then had a call to say a Little Egret had turned up at Gruinart Floods. Nice to be back inti things!

11th June,2009.

Apologies for the lack of postings, folks, but I've been out of it with some strange virus, ear infections etc in addition to transport problems (not even yet resolved) so have had nothing to report.

On the mend and feeling impatient ( a good sign of recovery ). Went up to RSPB Gruinart to arrange various survey work. Absolutely glorious weather , although with a cutting northerly wind if you were out of shelter. It was good to be mobile and just like starting birdwatching again!! Nothing specific, but wheeling Arctic Terns probably took the award. Learned that a Slow Worm had been recorded and photographed last week north of Bridgend, something that is not supposed to be here, although it does occur on Jura.

A little time after I got home, following stocking up with provisions after eating through a good proportion of laid in items in the last two weeks, I had a call reporting a Little Egret had turned up at Gruinart reserve!! Good to feel in the swing again.