Sunday, August 30, 2009

29th August, 2009.

A fine day but with a fresh SW/W wind, but no rain!!

Seawatching was somewhat disappointing as a fresh westerly over the last day or so ought really to have produced more, but failed to do so. Nonetheless counts over the first two hours produced just over 2000 Manx Shearwater, much reduced numbers of Gannet, but increasing numbers of Kittiwake and Fulmar. Most birds were hugging the coastline whilst moving south. At times like this it would be entirely possible to have birds almost passing below you , or at least very close, if you were positioned at the very edge of the rocks. However, the possibility of getting "washed off" by the occasional strong, high wave crashing through puts paid to the idea! As it was , spume carried on the wind was a nuisance and required optics to be cleaned every 20 minutes or so!

A single Great Skua made heavy progress south, as did a Red-throated Diver and 3 Puffin sped through with only two other auks being recorded. Puffins are now quite uncommon here and sadly appear to have ceased breeding here sometime during the mid-eighties. Four Turnstone were the only waders recorded and along with odd LBBG and Herring Gull more or less completed everything on the move south. Despite the disappointment expectations remained high and it was good to simply sit and have tremendous close views of birds sailing by. Additionally, taking time out to watch the changing moods of the sea as varying light conditions exploited, or muted, its colours was an additional bonus.

Strangely enough, as the volume of passage reduced and a decision to deliberately look for quality for a couple of hours was taken , the overall quantity of everything went down! Typical!!

Friday, August 28, 2009

27th August, 2009

A really mixed day for weather with a light SW wind and almost calm conditions, increasing wind and rain half the afternoon and then sunnier times, ending with a wild wind and lashing rain in the evening.!

Seawatch counts over 2 1/2 hours showed bird numbers differ substantially from day to day with 2700 Manx Shearwater and around 600 Gannet moving today, no waders other than 2 Turnstone and virtually no auks again and passage finishing much "earlier" even though the conditions were better. Similarly virtually no Fulmar were on the move, but variety was provided by several Arctic Terns, Arctic Skua and Great Skua. Kittiwakes appear now to be moving as almost 60 went south, some being of mixed parties of adults with beautifully marked juveniles.

At home the sudden arrival of 2 Northern Wheatear and a Whinchat suggested some passerines were on the move too, as had happened yesterday with the brief appearance of 2 Common Whitetroat, young birds that were obviously moving together.

Having been hooked on migration since an early age details of what routes birds used , where they went and how quickly they completed their journeys was a mystery until the recent use of satellite technology. Ringing recoveries showed their presumed eventual destination, but even this was complicated by some species moving around significantly , e.g. Swallow, in their winter quarters. Fascinating details are now increasingly being revealed that takes us another quantum leap forward in our understanding of migration . A report yesterday relating to Eurasian Hobby, based on work carried out by Meyburg and colleagues , is no exception. Large numbers of Eurasian Hobby have been ringed but virtually no recoveries ever received. A bird fitted with a transmitter in 2008 in Germany left its breeding area in mid August and went south to the island of Elba, where it took a "week out". It then continued south into Africa into its winter quarters in Angola, the whole journey taking 49 days with the average distance travelled being 174 km. per day ( more if you take out the "rest week" ). Absolutely stunning and underlining the fact that even the Common Whitethroats moving through the garden at this time of year may be an appreciable distance away the next morning!! My utter and permanent conversion into being permanently in awe of this phenomenon happened many years ago. Spending time on the east coast of Yorkshire, at Spurn Bird Observatory, and witnessing the arrival of Goldcrests from continental Europe in autumn was an almost religious experience!! The fact that a little bundle of less than 5 grams could make that journey across the North Sea, with all the potential accompanying difficulties, turned me into the obsessive nut I am today when it comes to anything to do with migration!!!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

25th August,2009.

Five hours of seawatching was both thoroughly enjoyable and quite productive. Counts over a four hour period produced almost 1400 Gannet and nearly 2200 Manx Shearwater moving south. Other species on the move included a few parties of Whimbrel, over 50 Fulmar, odd Ringed Plover, a couple of Great Skua and a single Common Scoter. Perversely very few Auks were seen, which presumably means they are using different feeding areas.

Later, at home, a single immature Sparrowhawk put up 60/70 Meadow Pipits in the rush ladened field in front of the house, a good indication that numbers of the latter are moving towards their peak.

Monday, August 24, 2009

24th August,2009.

A fresh SW wind and fine conditions after the deluge of yesterday augured well for seawatching, and so it proved to be. An incessant stream of Manx Shearwater flew south including a single Balearic Shearwater which showed quite well. As the tide welled up at the southern end of Frenchman's Rocks 350+ Gannets milled around , diving incessantly into the frothy turbulence. A single Great Skua went through and a distant party of what appeared to be Bar-tailed Godwit struggled in the increasing wind. Three Whimbrel were also found on a rocky islet offshore . A small passage of LBBG had occurred previous to 1100 hours, the birds hugging the coastline as opposed to being offshore, a habit noticed many times previously, indeed small parties of birds sometimes move down the valley where the house is located in marked contrast to other seabird species.

Nearby a party of 7 Northern Wheatear suggested overnight migrants poised to make their next move!

Sadly the quality of the day deteriorated rapidly with the news of the death, in a boating accident in the Highlands, of Dr Mike Madders and his son , Daniel. A friend and colleague who'll be missed enormously and an ornithological research talent, especially on raptors and in connection with windfarms, whose loss will have reverberations worldwide.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

22nd August, 2009.

A couple of things of note. In the post I put out about Cambodia the web address of the Sam Veasna Centre is slightly wrong. Sorry! It should be , it's an "a" not a "u" at the end.

Had to be based at home but managed some time out locally. Given I'm surrounded by wilderness and only a kilometre from the sea, local birdwatching can be as productive as anywhere!! As it was there was little of particular note except what I suspect to be the last , or close to it, of Northern Wheatear and Whinchat. We may yet get odd "Greenland" Wheatear through on migration.

Friday, August 21, 2009

21st August, 2009.

Well I've just spent what has resulted in two whole days organizing survey work, talking on conservation issues and similar matters without having had any opportunity for fieldwork. Sometimes the preparatory arrangements or follow up work required far outstrips the actual time spent achieving the objectives!! It's a mad world!!

Today , at Rutland Water in Leicestershire the British BirdFair commenced for three days. The proceeds this year will go towards the Preventing Extinctions Programme being administered by BirdLife. It is expected that over 20,000 birdwatchers will attend the event over the three days. One element of the above programme is that BirdLife are to initiate enquiries into 47 bird species not seen within living memory , some of which for up to 184 years. Whilst this may seem a little strange, the locations and habitats of most of these are predominantly in remote, little visited , hostile environments, some of which are isolated islands. The thinking behind this initiative acknowledges the need to publicise losses and extinctions, about which there is ample evidence, but that it would also be irresponsible to allow some of these little known small and fragile populations to possibly slip into extinction without first being sure nothing can be done to retain their presence, whatever their numbers. Some stories we are all familiar with , but if efforts are made they sometimes can bring about extraordinary success , as with the Seychelles Magpie Robin, which in many respects was in precisely the same situation until action was taken.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

19th August,2009.

Yet another day of rain and mist, but with the dreaded midges emerging en masse too due to the mild conditions.

Spent the whole day sorting out BTO matters, arrangements for the upcoming survey of Grey lag Geese and collecting a moth trap for a neighbour. The trap was provided by Butterfly Conservation some time ago and left with the Islay Natural History Trust for easy transfer. A couple of identification guides are also available to make life easier! Whilst its use might only result in some of the commoner species being recorded it will extend our knowledge of the distribution of moths on Islay which is grossly under-recorded . It links to the mains electricity supply so there's no fiddling around with car batteries and the like!

Can recommend the film " Vantage Point". It deals with a supposed modern day assassination attempt of a US President. It's violent, and not a very comfortable film to watch , but it employs some intriguing flashback sequences, presenting a different theme and perspective on each occasion for the same time period until the final uninterrupted "run" to the end.

Numbers of Siskin, Lesser Redpoll, Goldfinch and Reed Bunting have been visiting the feeders. Based on adult males and numbers I guess up to five families of Siskin have been in attendance with all the squabbles that entails. An apt opportunity for identifying the differences between the juveniles of all the different species given they're just outside the window.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

18th August,2009.

News recently, via BirdLife International, that a higher count than anticipated (161 ) of White-shouldered Ibis at Western Siem Pang, Cambodia had been realised was most encouraging. Contrasted against this , another source of information reported that studies since the 1980's of Kenya's wildlife showed it to have reduced by up to 40%. A far less reassuring comment that global conservation was progressing in a consistent fashion. In the latter report a particular comment caught my eye, which I personally believe is critical to the success of many of the initiatives now being undertaken. It was acknowledged that , where there was local community involvement, the declines and degradation of habitat had been significantly less. Having seen such at work, particularly in West Africa and Cambodia, I would very much agree with the conclusion.
In Cambodia the Wildlife Conservation Society, an American organization founded in 1895 and currently involved in over 500 conservation projects in 60 countries ( see ) , has been involved in various initiatives aimed at improving the populations of ibis, stork and vulture species and several others . It has provided help and guidance to the Sam Veasnu Centre ( SVC ) which, in turn, has links with various community based schemes in the country similar to those alluded to above.
In 2008 , as part of an Oriental Bird Club tour, I had the privilege to visit many of the key sites in Cambodia and see several species that are " on the brink" , including White-shouldered Ibis. The SVC provided a guide (see below ) in addition to the services of BirdTour Asia.
Sophoan Sanh spoke good English, proved to be an experienced birder, was well travelled within her own country and others nearby and extremely knowledgeable about Cambodian culture. Supporting her was a group of drivers and ladies who did the cooking whilst we were in some of the more remote places.

That year only 130 people visited the Tmatboey community based project , mostly within January and February when weather conditions are at their best. This particular community protects the Giant Ibis and White-shoulderd Ibis within the adjacent dipterocarp forest areas besides overseeing the provision and cleaning of the accomodation facilities which have been built. Income is fed back to the community from such visits and it's pleasing to report that 2008 met its financial targets and the objectives of the business plan ( you can't escape business plans nowadays , not even deep in the forest!!! ). A year round presence , not just aimed at showing visitors birds, but ensuring hunting is controlled, watching for forest fires and ensuring habitat is maintained and census work undertaken, is all a part of the service provided.

Simple, straightforward, but effective and a lifeline for both the birds and the community that itself would have had to depend on natural resources within the 30 years of civil strife that ravaged the country. Now, with economic prosperity improving, conservation is part of the fabric of opportunity that is benefitting both isolated communities and the wildlife in their adjacent environments.

In 2009 the SVC ( see ) organized two SVC Super Tours, birding trips which visited 11 sites in 14 days!! A wide selection of birds was seen at mouth watering sites such as that shown here.

These are to be repeated in 2010 ( in January and February ) besides there being another Oriental Bird Club Tour.
There are other areas under review in Cambodia. Kae seima, Mondulkiri, in Eastern Cambodia sounds enticing to say the least. Until relatively recently this area only had one road linking it to the country's infrastructure, is said to have the most diverse range of habitats in Cambodia, has elephants, eight species of cat , including tiger, and a wide variety of bird species. It's certainly the one I hope to visit at some future point.
So, to everyone who has not yet visited SE Asia, give it a try , sign up for a real adventure and see sites and birds you'll never forget. It is truly fantastic, utterly unspoiled and the food is unbelievable! Contact the SVC and they'll do the rest. Believe me whether it's exploring the backwaters of the Sonle Tap by small boat, camping deep in the forest near to a trapeang that attracts White-winged Duck or venturing out on the vast Mekong River to see the newly described wagtail that lives out its existent on the small islands in the middle, you'll come back with memories that I suspect have no match with any others previously. At the same time you'll be chanelling the much required income directly into front line bird conservation schemes that deserve our support as they're linked to world threatened species! Do it!!!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

17th August,2009.

A day necessarily combining birding and domestic calls, although it meant I could cast around more widely than usual. Quite pleasant weather with some good viewing conditions.

Almost calm conditions over the outer loch (Indaal ) enabled a good examination for divers. It was actually devoid of birds!! An odd gull and nothing else, which was a surprise. We appear not to have had any summering Great Northern Divers this year, although ,of course, birds could move on to the open sea as conditions improve. Whilst odd reports arise from time to time, feeding Shag way out in the loch's centre are likely to have confused the unwary, but even these were absent!!
In the inner loch waders are improving in numbers almost daily and various groups of Dunlin and Ringed Plover were present along with larger species too far out to gain a view of given the tide state . As yet duck have not begun to arrive and a few mergansers and Eider were the only representatives. The lone Barnacle Goose , wary as ever even after a lazy summer, strutted along the strand , quite separate from the gathering of 500+ Grey lag Geese on the edge of the Merse.

At Gruinart waders were again much in evidence and the tide state more convenient for viewing. Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Sanderling , Redshank, Greenshank, Knot, Black-tailed Godwit, Bar-tailed godwit, Curlew and Oystercatcher.....a veritable bonanza that kept me going for ages!.
A lone Osprey sat out the tide on an emergent sandbank, diligently preening for ages and then simply resting after what, one imagines, might have been a long flight previuosly.

At home Siskin and Lesser Redpoll families feed with Goldfinch and Reed Bunting and single Northern Wheatear, Whinchat and a Common Whitethroat were nearby. "White" wagtails are now more obvious, with some really handsome individuals, doubtless arrived from Iceland.

Monday, August 17, 2009

16th August, 2009.

Up and "on station" before dawn given a WSW F6 wind that was surely going to produce some good seawatching. Well it did, in the sense of close views of birds forced close to shore, but I hadn't reckoned with the heavy squalls in the early part of the three hours and the much reduced visibility that went with them. Counting was hopeless and very wet but , thankfully, no exceptional passage was in play. Interestingly very few auks were in evidence , the only noticeable slight "lift" in numbers being from Manx Shearwater with about 2000 going through , but little else. A nano secondsworth of a possible Sooty Shearwater, that would have been seen easier from Ireland (!), was the only bit of excitement. The weather did improve, but bird variety remained low and so I eventually squelched my way home after checking a few other sites. I actually prefer to be running wet than " warm and wet , a particularly disgusting condition in my view!!!

Warblers finally seem to have gone past peak with birds at home now being predominantly Siskin, Reed Bunting, Goldfinch and Wren at the feeders with a few other species just visiting the garden , including three Song Thrush which spend an inordinate amount of time in mock battle.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

14th August, 2009.

It's hardly credible that the weather could be so different!! Rain, mist and, around 1700 hours , the Postie arriving like a wet sponge! Had all this been yesterday it would have been tractors and 4WD's called in to clear the car park!!

Working on the adage that , if it's fine then you're out, if it's wet and really horrible , get the fire in and play catch up with all the outstsnding jobs! Such was today, one of paper and computer work!

Recently some disappointing news has come in from my contact in Venezuela. Apparently Chavez is , in effect, closing down the country with a whole series of totalitarian laws and actions. Seizure of property, as I reported on previously, threats to State employees, new education laws are all now part of the upheaval affecting the country. It shouldn't be forgotten that there are many who will favour such actions given raised aspirations for an improved lifestyle and, in many respects, I can understand and fully support initiatives aimed at improving the social and economic conditions of people less well off . Sadly it's the methods employed that appear to let down the resolve!! The seizure of Hatos El Cedral and El Frio, both designated Important Bird Areas, with a future intention of putting both areas under rice cultivation is disappointing at best. International NGO's appear to be showing no interest , which is probably understandable given Venezuela is outside of any "network" within which they can exercise any influence.

One can only hope that, in future times , this independence, born of a Cuban model (?) , will see the same maturity emerge that affected the latter island wherein tourism , and birdwatching in particular, brought about a renewed vision of its natural habitats and the part they could play in the economy. Having said that, I see various trips are still being advertised by "Bird Tour" companies to Venezuela , so all is not lost quite yet.

Friday, August 14, 2009

13th August, 2009.

The day of the Islay and Jura Agricultural Show, with even the weather being kind.

Warblers local to home now seem to have "dried up" , although an odd Northern Wheatear and a Whinchat put in an appearance. I suspect we are to see some really large numbers of Meadow Pipit in the next couple of weeks as local presence is already high even before the main passage from the north reaches us.

An enjoyable day at the Show. It seemed larger than normal numbers of stock had been entered and an increased number of displays to be present. The RSPB even managed to win the Show Champion slot with a young white heifer, whose value at the winter sales will doubtless now be enhanced by the recognition. A large part of the day is spent talking to friends and acquaintances , as it's a misnomer to believe that just because you live on an island you're forever bumping into everyone you know. For me there was an opportunity to check who had Grey-lag Geese visiting newly cut silage fiels or emergent re-seeds, to check with a couple of the keepers how "their" local pair of eagles had done this year and to have a good long chat with "Pat the Bat", an RSPB volunteer who hails from Surrey and who visits annually to help with work on the reserve. During these visits he's put a few good bat records " on the map" and is always full of sound advice and assistance. A good day and a deserving one for all the hard work which is put into the event by the local organizers.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

12th August, 2009.

Not that pleasant a morning , finally improving by mid-afternoon with sunshine and open skies!

Seawatching might best be described as "routine" despite a light westerly! To a visitor the array of seabirds parading past the south west point of the island would have seemed somewhat of a bonanza, but sadly it contained no surprises .Our terns seem largely to have gone and so any future sightings will be of passage birds. Whilst most of the seabirds seem to still be on feeding movements doubtless this will alter very shortly with birds being on the move. This is when the pattern changes and all movement is predominantly south, as opposed to an equitable mixture as was today.

A good selection of waders with some real mixtures of plumage apparent, particularly in Dunlin. Other migrants seemed in short supply, but a few Northern Wheatears were apparent and the odd Willow Warbler. "Alba" wagtails seemed to everywhere, mainly along road margins, but also in beach areas . A loose party of 12+ Rock Pipits in one local area was a nice surprise, a species much ignored in many respects. Another species which receives occasional mention , but little else, is Rock Dove ( the genuine sort, that is! ). Soon they'll be forming roving flocks with numbers usually showing that they appear to do quite well. After being relatively "quiet" during the breeding season birds suddenly can be found zooming around the sky in ones and twos, to what end I'm not at all sure!!

Loch Indaal carried very little other than Eider and a couple of collections of Red-breasted Merganser in moutlting parties. My main interest was in pinning down Grey-lag Geese, many of which are still in distinct groups at various locations. One gathering of nearly 300 had a further 100+ join them over the succeeding hour, dispersed over six groups and all coming in from the east or south.

It would be inappropriate to pass by the "Glorious Twelfth" without some comment. For foreign readers this is the date when the shooting season for grouse begins in the uplands. Over recent days the blatant destruction of a late Hen Harrier nest containing young in the Forest of Bowland , Lancashire is yet another example of the complete disregard for the law those involved in the management of such areas can display. Given this occurred on a tenanted shoot on land owned by the water company, United Utilities, one imagines they will be pursuing something so much at odds with their declared "green credentials". It's a matter of national shame in my opinion that an appreciable number of our most magnificent raptors ( Hen Harrier, Golden Eagle, Red Kites and others ) are now being lost to the depradations of those involved in managing uplands in order to artificially "crop" populations of Red Grouse that are then significantly reduced by shooting every year. To those who are about to enjoy the "spoils" at dinners around the country, I would ask for a few moments of reflection on what the accompanying costs are to our natural heritage. A little selfless compromise wouldn't go amiss within a system so replete with selfish indulgence!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

11th August, 2009.

Back in the fold , but with the weather being utterly unco-operative with rain and mist , little could be done!!

The joys of being on the Atlantic seabord!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

5th August,2009. (additional posting ).

Based on some information passed by a colleague the following are facts that, in England at least, might receive serious consideration by the Government's Agency, Natural England, and its overarching role relating to the natural fabric of the countryside and the wildlife it contains!

I understand that up to 86% of grouse moors in England may be designated as , or within, SSSI's ( Sites of Special Scientific Interest ). Given that , in many cases , the very justification upon which that designation rests includes the species present , or using, the area , some of which are now being persecuted, leads one to a realisation a little more should be done to scrutinise why such national wildlife " value" is being undermined. To bring in a cultural analagy again, if the roof of the National Gallery was leaking one would expect the Trustees, or whoever is responsible , to do something about it.

Under designation a series of "damaging acts" can be scheduled which are deemed detrimental to the value of the site and should not implemented. Given the applied elements of grouse moor management include, in some cases , the reduction of raptor species that are seen to be in conflict with the aims and productivity of the moor, the way forward would seem clear! Until such time as persecution ceases Natural England should ban grouse shooting as a damaging act , a radical move that I guess would indicate how seriously the situation has become.

Given past history with our Government agencies I doubt such a possibility would even get to committee stage for consideration!! And perhaps that's the real problem ! But given that the whole system seems to be in melt down, perhaps we should accept that such agencies are little more than Nero's footsoldiers and turn to prayer!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

5th August,2009.

Yes, this is a very early post covering both yesterday and today!! Both days will have been devoted to writing various articles and comments about raptor persecution and what is needed in the future!

Within 24 hours of my talking about such matters in Angus a Golden Eagle was found poisoned on a private estate within the county. Found, because it was fitted with a satellite transmitter that allowed the corpse to be located. Sad, because this individual was the one whose transmitter was fitted around two years ago at a site in the Highlands by Roy Dennis and whose movements have been followed and enjoyed by many via a web site link. Obviously the police will investigate and one hopes those who are guilty will be brought to book. Yet another demonstration of the targetted management activities employed on grouse moors gaining another victim! Strong words from politicians and lots of hand wringing from others , but what action will result to bring about change? A difficult problem admittedley but one that , quite frankly, is ludicrous if it continues . It's not just the fact that the law is being broken, but that is being broken deliberately and persistently by a minority who obviously believe they are above its constraints. Such arrogance usually precedes a major fall from grace in my opinion, however long one has to wait for the result!!

I'm fast coming to the belief that driven grouse shooting should be banned! Our immersion in looking for ways to limit or eradicate persecution is leading us all away from a main "component" in the overall equation. If an activity is persistently seen to involve the law being broken then it should be stopped! High handed? Tough!! Given the absolute lack of willingness on behalf of those causing the problem to offer any compromise strong action is needed. It's the only way as it avoids the mealy mouthed , insincere and hypocritical utterances that one sees from time to time issued in support of this grand activity that will culminate on the 12th August in a frenzy of killing! So we are seeing some of our most magnificent members of the avian raptor community killed to better accomodate the slaughter of endless other birds reared under " artificially" supported circumstances, i.e. the removal of any possible factor that involves a threat, be it mammalian or avian. This is the 21st Millenium , folks, lets get real about all this!

I shall have spent a lot of time within these 48 hours cogitating this problem. Realistically , it seems to me, that only if estates can demonstrate that their areas actively support populations of raptors should they be allowed to run shoots. A little while ago the RSPB proposed some form of licensing, details of which I'm still trying to get hold of. I suspect the initiative may have hit a few problems but the emergent lesson is that the thinking is maturing in the right direction. I have certainly no sympathy for upland or lowland shoot owners who deliberately encourage the law being broken. Instructions given " on the nod" are just as implicit as direct orders in my book. Perversely, I do have some sympathy for keepers who find themselves with a family, in a tied house, on limited earnings, against whose endeavours there are high expectations held from employer and clients alike. High fees, poor bags are not a combination those in charge of the sport appear tolerant about it would seem! And yet, in my book, anybody even able to contemplate operating a shoot is not likely to be drawing State Benefits ( well, not from the Post Office but possibly via subsidies!! ) and, therefore, should be willing to accept a reduction in bags that the presence of , say, a pair of harriers is held resoponsible for. Given some of them claim knowledge of absolutely everything they will, of course, be aware that prey/predator relationships are unlikely to result in them being knee deep in " the damned things" ( such, of course , are never referred to by name but by allusion ).

I've begun to openly advocate to colleagues that a full blown campaign is needed to bring a bout cahnge. A campaign that expresses the indignation of the general public, not just birders and conservationists! The question we must ask ourselves is whether we care enough or, as in so many instances, "they" are held to be the body that must sort it out. Our environment, its wildlife and their habitats, are a function of what we hold to be valuable, both as individuals and as a nation. I've little time for the "also rans", the "barrack room lawyers" and those whose silence at times when action is needed tells all about their real commitment and integrity. Time will tell, but in the words of Jeanette McKay the other day, "If the public really knew what was happening, there'd be an uproar".

As a feature within our modern day society raptor persecution is a tradition emanating from Victorian times and before, bringing no benefit to the ordinary man and redolent of a time when indulgent pastimes were the order of the day for those with time and wealth to enjoy them. In some aspects little, therefore , has changed.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

3rd August, 2009.

A pretty miserable day, contrasted against yesterday, with a strong blustery wind and rain. Everything seemed to "have its head down" and be hard work. Up to RSPB Gruinart to sort out some arrangements provided an opportunity to spend time at the reserve , but to little positive effect. Around 40 House Martin feeding on the lee side of Gruinart Wood was quite a good gathering for here, although they seem to have been in higher numbers generally this breeding season.

Called to see Clive McKay and family , who are over on holiday. Clive is leading the development of a bird recording programme that subsequently will be made available to all Scottish County organizations and their supporters. It will provide a consistent application out of which both county and the Scottish Reports can be prepared more easily, besides supporting the easy extraction of material for other "facilities" such as the Rare Bird Breeding Panel and others. Its ability to store dataover a protracted period will allow many useful summaries to emerge on breeding and wintering communities. The whole project is being backed by the Scottish Ornithological Club and the British Trust for Ornithology. We did talk of other things as well!!! Clive and Jeanette formerly lived on Islay, but are now in Angus so there was a little discussion on harrier persecution in eastern Scotland too!!

Had a further run around various sites but conditions were poor so returned home mid-afternoon. An immature female Sparrowhawk streaked down the road in front of the car on the stretch north of Portnahaven and managed a very respectable 35mph for quite a distance!!

Monday, August 3, 2009

2nd August,2009.

mA completely different day with warm sunshine and blue skies until cloud began to build in the late afternoon in advance of the impending weather front.

An initial seawatch showed plenty of birds to be around , but doubtless all were on feeding movements. Shags, Gannets, Manx Shearwaters , Fulmar and Auks were all in evidence and a noticeable movement northwards of Kittiwakes. My guess is that these were also returning to their breeding colony, perhaps some from Sanaigmore cliffs, after feeding off The Oa.

Moving northwards a single Merlin moved south in a determined fashion over an expanse of farmland. Outer Loch Indaal carried virtually no birds at all. Somehow I'd got the tide times wrong so, once I arrived at the Inner Loch, the birds were way out on the mud besides vision being distorted by glare and heat haze. Nonetheless a few birds were seen. Flocks of waders were around and identified with patience ( Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Curlew, Oystercatcher and Bar-tailed Godwit ), a Red-throated Diver flew over and a couple of Northern Wheatear were on the edge of the beach. All of the Shelduck present recently appear to have moved away, presumably to moulting grounds.

Over to Loch Gruinart where the same waders species were in evidence but also 4 Greenshank and Turnstone. By contast 38 Shelduck were present on one of the sand bars. Overall on the Rinns I'd counted around 530 Grey lag Geese with the majority being on the RSPB Loch Gruinart Reserve on newly sown pasture!! The build up has started this week and seems a little earlier than in previous years, but the food source may have been the attraction.

A "purple patch" at home on my return showed various species to be around the garden which suggested birds were on the move ( Sedge Warbler, Willow Warblers (3), Whinchat, plus young Reed Bunting, Stonechat and Song Thrush that were presumed to be more locally bred.).

Sunday, August 2, 2009

!st August, 2009.

A bit of a miserable day in reality with mist, showers, rain and little change! A call from a local keeper led to an opportunity to examine two Puss Moth caterpillars he'd found near his home. What magnificent creatures they were too! Bright green with a lavendar coloured "saddle" on the back and a two pronged tail!!

Went through to Andy's for a meal with James and Elsie Wolstencroft and family. An evening where we put conservation to rights, considered skua passage routes around Islay, lamented various emergent problems in Africa and enjoyed the inevitable "craic"! Great to see them again , even if we can't match the weather with that of Tanzania. In a local context, Andy mentioned he thought one pair of " his" Tree Sparrows on The Oa may have laid a second clutch!! Wouldn't this be great if this was the start of a permanent presence!!

The journey back from the south east of the island to the south west produced multiple good sightings of various mammals.........Red Deer, Fallow Deer, Brown Hare, Rabbit, and Hedgehog.