A day of utter contrasts to yesterday!! Rain, strong wind squalls, threatening cloud cover and, altogether , a washout generally. The last inclement day recently, with drizzly rain , backed by a light SE wind, covered my windows in salt, a penalty of living close to the sea. This one, but with much stronger winds and lashing rain, cleaned it all off!!!
I'm at the point of re-joining the BTO Garden Birdwatch scheme. I'd withdrawn due to my absences away abroad etc, but Mike Toms, ( Head of Garden Ecology, BTO ) assured me that gaps in observations don't affect the national statistics coming through , so I'm poised to recommence recording the birds which visit and feed in the garden. Increasingly, particularly in bad weather, gardens are playing a key role in sustaining our wildlife. Whilst here on Islay, with its wide expanses of countryside unaffected by intensive development, the situation is far less critical than some areas elsewhere, but our weather is probably a tad worse than theirs!!! I haven't a large garden...........a square of grass surrounded by a low wall containing three stunted bushes and set in the middle of an isolated moor!! The wind affects everything, including the feeders which quite often have to be retrieved from the fields nearby after a particularly strong blow!! Nonetheless it is enjoyable and doubtless produces some data of value. My personal interest is noting the contribution it provides to the birds on passage as, obviously, little cover is provided for any resident species ( Starlings in the chimney, Swallows in the barn!! ). I actually let the garden "overgrow" this year completely, an action I suspect my landlord is still trying to work out!! It arose from having a Corncrake in a nettle bed just over the wall and thinking I could provide some more undisturbed cover in the garden! Well, it didn't work as the bird soon passed on to somewhere else! I did leave the burgeoning vegetation and have been utterly surprised at the numbers of birds it has attracted during the late summer and early autumn. Wiilow Warbler, Common Whitethroat, Northern Wheatear, Linnet , Twite, Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Siskin, Lesser Redpoll, Reed Bunting , and, later, Meadow Pipit all came for a poke around, the advantage being that I knew they weren't "local" birds but those dispersing from either nearby or from much farther afield. I'll not bore you with what has visted in the past, but it's quite impressive and goes to show how gardens can provide a temporary haven for birds on the move.
I'm now faced with strimming the whole lot down and confusing people further as the only person undertaking garden maintenance at the onset of winter!! Strange people , birdwatchers!!
Seriously may I recommend taking part in the Garden Birdwatch scheme if you're in the UK as it's a worthwhile conservation exercise in itself and brings a lot of enjoyment. It's that BTO website again !!