Wednesday, November 25, 2009

25th November,2009.

A very early post , as the sensible option for today is to remain linked to this computer and stoke up the fire!!! The weather is pretty bad , which is in contast to the previous few days as it's been relatively calm with odd showers only. Long walks with the dog have been rewarded with my being within woodland, always a pleasure away from Islay, although we do have some small blocks of deciduous woodland, not being besieged by a constant wind and an array of the commoner bird species. A vain attempt to find Crested Tit was tried, but failed! Whilst nothing is too numerous I get the feeling that commoner passerines , e.g. Chaffinh, are in better numbers than we enjoy back home.

From forecasts it would seem the ferries are cancelled off the west coast so no respite there either!!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

21st November,2009.

Early start to get the 0700 hours ferry, but the weather held firm and no problems encountered.
Uneventful journey up the Great Glen with very little in evidence. I'd expected more Redwing and Fieldfare to be on show , but such was not the case. A flock of about 90 Redpoll sp. near Drumnadrochit was nice to see and a walk in the woods nearby to Kirkhill shortly after my arrival renewed an acquaintance with a variety of easily seen passerines.

And then , the crowning glory to a full day.......Scotland's success in the rugby!! What a match, what a defence, 27 years in the waiting and worth every minute!!

19th/20th November,2009.

With several parts of the country suffering from floods, and Islay having its share of inclement weather too, the loss of my water supply was a mixture of frustration and embarassment!!! The connection to the spring-fed supply had broken and all supplies on store had been drawn down. A problem then emerged with the pump governing the supply to the house so I was pleased to be moving off early on the 21st. Hopefully the necessary repairs will have been completed by my return!!

Local forays between weather fronts showed nothing over the sea, but areas close to the house produced a couple of Woodcock records. The fells are at their most forlorn at present with very little attendant wildlife. Given our recent heavy rainfall the ground is absolutely saturated and not the best conditions to be in to face the upcoming winter months. Returning home at dusk two Red Deer hinds leapt across the road and narrowly missed the car ( too "narrowly" for my liking! ). Doing an emergency stop in wet conditions on a road with ditches either side has the potential for dissater!!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

18th November,2009.

A busy day amending arrangements around my needing to be up in Kirkhill, Inverness from the weekend. The weather forecast for both Saturday and Sunday started off pretty poor with the distinct likelihood of cancelled ferry services. Having decided on a "window of opportunity" on early Saturday morning the matter is now in the lap of the Gods! Such is the downside to living on an island when ferries can be affected by high seas/wind and the flight service can be affected by high winds, fog and runway condition. Leaving "connections" to the last miniute to any appointments etc on the mainland is foolhardy at best! Having decided all that the last weather update of the day saw the overall situation ameliorating slightly !!

What remained of the day spent considering future plans relating to this Blog site and others I intend establishing. Had a look at a whole selection of Blogs for tips, comparisons and the like. Some appeared to be utter drivel , with no effort made to really communicate or educate, some were so repetitive in their content and style one could almost predict what was coming up based on what had gone before in the preceding month /year and some definitely needed to improve on writing style. I must be getting old as I'm afraid I don't find the move towards abbreviated English in texts, E-mails or on the social network sites to be at all attractive!! There's an interesting aspect to all these sites. Do people read them because they find them a source of information, or they like your opinions or they simply enjoy the style and subject content? I'm sure some sites endeavour to be the first to put out the news , an aspect I'm not really interested in , although breaking stories re political hot potatoes must figure amongst these. Anyway, watch this space for changes!!!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

17th November, 2009.

The second day of the International Count, thankfully graced by much better weather. Mild, even sunny at times, but with a fresh wind. I was counting on a different route so comparisons between the counts weren't possible. Wintering geese appear to be broadly hefted to given areas within which they move around, some being very "loyal" to relatively small sectors. Our count on the Rinns wasn't grossly at odds with yesterday, which was a relief!. Of interest was a small group of 35 Grey-lag Geese "roosting" out on the open moor north of Kilchiaran picked up by Kevin Wiggins. Not easy to see and I suspect in a location that couldn't be seen from other vantage points other than the very high hill holding the , now defunct, transmitter ststion. I wondered the extent to which the same location might have been used by local birds as a moulting spot earlier in the year as they appeared to go missing at times! And were probably missed on counts too!

Whilst Grey Wagtails are not uncommon birds here, given we have them breeding and as passage birds , it was nice to see birds at four different locations and to again pick up a couple of Twite flocks too.

16th November,2009.

The first day of the Greenland White-fronted Goose International Survey. On Islay this is organized by Scottish Natural Heritage within the normal goose management scheme. In recent years the numbers of this distinctive subspecies have been reducing and, therefore, a close eye is kept on the population figures. A little under 6000 was counted recently but, hopefully, the figure will rise as more birds arrive.

Sadly, an absolutely filthy day at the onset, but which improved later. Due to the wind all geese, both Barnacles and Greenland White-fronts, had sought out sheltered spots and some guaranteed locations were bereft of birds just to add a challenge to the day. Little else of interest was seen ,but a final hour 's birding at the head of Loch Indaal saw quite a lot of activity amongst the resident duck and waders as a high tide inundated much of the merse

Friday, November 13, 2009

12th November, 2009.

Grabbed a couple of hours before the weather set in with a vengeance. For two to three hours in the afternoon there was very heavy continuous rain. The house is located in a shallow basin with a road running across it N/S and a ditch diagonally across the centre. Such was the ferocity of the rain storm that a huge lagoon built up due the the ditch overflowing, a feature I've never seen here before despite some bad weather. I'd visions of my own local "reserve" developing but, sadly, over several succeeding hours the water ebbed away!

Winter thrushes are a feature at the moment with Blackbirds and Redwings scattered everywhere, but Fieldfares in much lesser numbers. Twite flocks , or smaller parties, are in evidence and Reed Buntings are noticeable generally, a pleasing aspect given their reduced numbers at many sites within the UK.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

10th/11th November, 2009.

Goose counting on both days supported by wonderful weather that I suspect has provided everyone with a nice break after recent less pleasant spells!!

As always travelling around vast tracts of the more rural areas of Islay you see a tremendous array of good birds. However,an incident on the 11th will stand for a long time as a quinessential image of birds and the island landscape. As we moved northwards across the Ardnave Penninsula a party of seven adult Whooper Swans could be seen flying across the sea between Islay and Colonsay. The "canvas" of these birds against a background of a wonderful blue sea coupled with views of Colonsay,Oronsay, and farther north a glimpse of Mull, was fantastic, particularly as everything was bathed in bright sunlight. Later we found them resting on a lens of water at Killinallan, doubtless thankful of reaching their wintering grounds after what might have been well in excess of thirty hours of flight from Iceland. A nice memory!

Monday, November 9, 2009

9th November, 2009.

A day exclusively given over to playing catch -up with E-mails, phone calls, correspondence etc!!

The 1st November signified the commencement of the third year of the BTO Winter Atlas. Almost unbelievably one volunteer has already been up to Jura and completed four tetrad surveys, the second "batch" of which can be completed during one of our team visits after the year end. With a fairly clear run of time until Christmas I'm hoping to complete an appreciable number of tetrads and make inroads into those remaining to allow us a greater " free rein" in the final year when we can concentrate on mopping up activities!!

A press release, issued by Natural England, relating to the lack of success in Hen Harrier breeding this season makes for solemn reading. I do wonder about the current situation. Passive commentary from the Government's body responsible for overseeing conservation matters and, similar outpourings from the RSPB, appear lacking in both fire and resolve. The release provides more emphasis to the fact that a pair of harriers has nested in a cereal field in southern England than to exclaiming that a particular effort will be made to tackle persecution next season and improve the lot of the species once and for all. Other agencies claiming no persecution has taken place for the last four years appear to be utterly divorced from reality and one wonders whether they should be involved in the debate at all!! A sad situation no better than thirty years ago! In my view our justification for castigating Mediterranean countries where shooting of raptors still persists, but is slowly improving, is brought into question in the light of the persistent depradations against Hen Harriers in the UK !!

8th November,2009.

As one might imagine the return journey to Islay was held in extremely good weather, calm, sunny and a complete contrast to what had been endured over the past week!! Surprisingly, very little was seen over the whole day, an outcome that is becoming a reality all too often and a comment on how much our native bird populations have fallen!

Little of particular note appears to have occurred on Islay during my absence , although the Cattle Egret, present before I left, is still here and an immature Black Redstart had been picked up dead in Portnahaven during the last week. Set against our efforts at Flamborough this is not just a cruel irony..... Portnahaven is my closest village!!

Friday, November 6, 2009

6th November, 2009.

An early departure to the east coast lured by the possibility of possible migrants and a report of an Olive backed Pipit. Visits to former valued sites fed little other than nostalgia and the day became increasingly disappointing. A few passerines were obviously on the move ( Blackbird, Fieldfare, Redwing, Siskin, Skylark ) and a couple of parties of Whooper Swan totalling around 40, but little else.

The day ended with a return journey with heavy traffic and a flat tyre. Not the best..........

5th November,2009.

A busy day in some respects, but late morning found us at Edderthorpe Flash, near Darfield, which is west of Doncaster. This whole area has been transformed by a major reclamation scheme as, previously, it was the site of a large coal mining disposal tip and accompanying subsidence flash.

This body of water has become a particularly interesting site for waders and duck, and other migrants. An absolute feast of wildfowl met our eyes ( Mallard, Teal, Wigeon, Gadwall, Shoveler, Tufted Duck, Goldeneye,Pochard ) plus many Coot, some Whooper Swan, a large flock of Golden Plover, and some Lapwing. Our quarry was soon immature Little Stint in absolutely stunning condition, a delightful bird!

Sadly the weather again intervened, badly, and we had to leave mid afternoon and find solace in football.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

4th November,2009.

An early start (0600 hours) with a trip through to Spurn Point Bird Observatory, east of Hull, and on the most south east point of Yorkshire. The weather in Sheffield was foul with heavy rain but all this improved as we travelled eastwards and, eventually, we had a pleasant day.

All in all we had nothing of particular significance but, nonetheless, had a good day! Odd late Chiffchaff, good views of a whole variety of waders, some sea passage of Common Scoter and Pink footed Goose, a female Sparrowhawk arriving over the sea from Continental Europe and clearly being close to collapse, and, generally, taking time to visit a whole series of different areas was really enjoyable. At the end of the day managed to meet up with past friends and colleagues staying at the Obsevatory from which arose the inevitable crack, wit and exchange of stories that provided an apt end to a very fulfilling day visiting an area I first set foot on in 1958!

3rd November,2009.

A "parental" day!! Went through to Doncaster to meet with eldest daughter Ashley, who had travelled down from Newcastle by train, so that we could have a day of gossip and updating. All such was accomplished successfully ( ! ) within an enjoyable late morning and afternoon before I took on the much changed traffic systems of Doncaster and she returned northwards.

Had an enjoyable evening with Matthew and Rose, previous to her departing for Venice on a study tour for a few days, and Matthew and I planning our birding trips, cuisine and the football matches we were to watch on TV!! Essential man fodder!

2nd November,2009.

After transferring the car in for bodywork repair we visited a whole series of sites in the west B,arnsley area of South Yorkshire. I'm quite impressed and surprised at the number of woodlands which have Nuthatch in them nowadays. When I left South Yorkshire in 1999 few, if any, of the woodlands in the Barnsley area held Nuthatch, so the increase and expansion has been pretty swift!

Whilst we had a good selection of woodland species our quarry for the day, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, remained elusive! Redwing were clearly arriving, and moving west, and records of Kingfisher and Water Rail were good in a local context. An enjoyable day that, additionally, produced a lot of good memories but, also , reminded me that the process of environmental change marches inexorably forward, be it with the reclamation of previously wild areas, the conversion of ruined buildings or even the introduction of new facilities within the countryside

1st November 2009

Apologies for the lack of presence in the last few days, but I've had quite a lot of personal matters to attend to. I'm now in South Yorkshire for a few days ( in Sheffield ). My son has accused me of bringing Islay weather with me as, for several hours today, it rained really heavily together with a good F.6/7 wind!!

We managed to get out to various areas to the west of Sheffield in the afternoon and I thoroughly enjoyed being in old " stamping grounds".Whilst all of the watercourses were swollen with the recent rain we still managed to see Dipper near Deepcar, but then moved to near Broomhead where we were extremely fortunate to have quite good views of a male Northern Goshawk over a plantation. Sadly one of the plantations in which they nested has been partially felled and recent feedback suggests persecution is as bad as ever. A great shame for what is a magnificent raptor!!

Local reservoirs produced a somewhat predictable array of duck and the conditions once again started to deteriorate. So, home James, for what was then a rather spectacular firework display at the nearby training ground of Sheffield Wednesday football club!