Wednesday, June 30, 2010

30th June, 2010.

A day spent on Jura completing survey work. An initial bonus was a Short-eared Owl in the early morning on moorland north of Feolin and,later, two dark phase Arctic Skuas high above the Sound, which then turned east over the adjacent grass moor and commenced to "sail and circle" over what used to be a quite important breeding area for several pairs within the last fifteen or so years. Numbers have dwindled, and become more widespread on the island (Jura), making them difficult to survey, but any presence is to be welcomed. A report from 2009 suggested a pair had actually had a territory on Islay but no firm breeding evidence was available. Certainly a survey I completed for the RSPB on Jura in the early part of the decade suggested the population was down to single figures, several previous "colonial" breeding areas had been abandoned and that birds (then) were much more dispersed. My concerns, even then, was that it seemed likely we might lose them (locally) altogether, so current sightings are exciting to say the least! The population is distinct,of course, in being the most southerly regular enclave in the UK.

As I write this the weather is beginning to flex its muscles and there seems a likelihood we can expect both strong winds and rain within the next 24 hours. Hopefully so, as we can certainly do with the latter as some grassland areas on poor,thin soils are already turning a golden brown more reminiscent of grassland in the Mediterranean than one bordering the Atlantic!! By contrast, the good, dry weather of late has seen a frantic dash to get silage cut and gathered in advance of any unsettled period.

29th June, 2010.

Essentially a necessary admin day acknowledging the need to sort out a variety of tasks. Initial preparations are now in hand to carry out Low Tide Counts for the BTO this winter on ( Inner ) loch Indaal after arrangements last season had to be halted. Whilst there is no absolute imperative to have this information, given it appears unlikely there will be any imminent major developments around the loch, past experience elsewhere has shown it is always useful to have such data to hand as new initiatives can suddenly emerge.

The day brought arrangements too relating to the wildfowl counts for a variety of water bodies on the island. Other than Loch Indaal and Loch Gruinart none are spectacular as far as their wildfowl numbers go, but, in aggregate, there is certainly a worthwhile interest. With the sheer number of waters here it would be good to have more field workers available but, as elsewhere in the UK, and despite the burgeoning interest in birdwatching, willing volunteers with the necessary expertise can still be a rare commodity. Possibly the regularity of monthly counts is off putting but occasional, one off counts, even from visitors, can still be a valuable source of data to the system.

Discussions with some local fisherman saw some real concerns expressed about the offshore wind farm proposals for western Islay and fears that any development would lead to problems within the lobster fisheries in that area. Similarly the suspicions associated with the proposed siting of an underwater turbine in the Sound of Islay link more with the feasibility, and man's ability to actually install such technology on site, than with interference effects with any natural history value. Currently the necessary work to evaluate such proposals is taking place and will hopefully provide answers to such concerns in due course.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Successful season?

Our continuing good weather certainly seems to have produced a good breeding season for birds , so far! First, or even second, broods of youngster are increasingly apparent and occasional song suggests some species are still on territory and involved in breeding. I was impressed today with young Blackbirds at various locations,which have suddenly appeared, besides Goldfinch, Willow Warbler and others. Species which have not yet got to that stage show adults in frantic activity moving back to nests to satisfy the demanding needs of their youngsters. My contribution appears to have been the appearance of three male Swallows, which whizz around and squabble but, nonetheless, are bereft of female partners. The barn is sadly silent!!

Raven broods are now large and independent and, strangely, Rock Dove adults seem to be feeding together at suitable locations (I don't understand Rock Dove behaviour!!).
Similarly Hooded Crows ( adults in moult ) are obvious, without young, way after other corvids have their offspring on show!! Predation perhaps or something!!

At Gartmain, Loch Indaal around 100 Oystercatcher grouped together on a high tide and other individual pairs sought sanctuary on high outcrops of rock around the Inner Loch. Few other waders were on show. On the Inner Loch several adult Black-headed Gulls fed, accompanied by only one young bird, suggesting they had had yet another poor season. A single, obviously injured, Barnacle Goose came in on the high tide at Gartmain.

In an international context read the posting under "Conservation Concerns" ( link above ) relating to the Spoon-billed Sandpiper, a species I suspect many of us would like to see but for which the opportunities might be running out!!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

26th June,2010.

Increasing numbers of young birds are continuing to appear and, all in all, it seems to have been a good season. Early evening saw one of the events which can , periodically, sometimes cause chaos! A very heavy, cyclonic rain "shower" treated us to some well needed water. Thankfully it wasn't too long in duration and damage to ground nesting birds in particular would have been minimal.

Things still somewhat static, although a single Swift moving north through the Sound of Islay was of note.

The birding community at large appears at odds with the reported Bridled Tern record from Northumberland, with some accusations of it being a hoax and the photographs being faked! The way in which it was reported, and other similar aspects, do seem a bit strange. It does bring into focus the motives of some people, whichever camp they're in. I find the most satisfying aspect of birding is to adopt stringent personal standards and take real enjoyment from birds seen , leaving the rest to formulate their own actions and live out their needs.

Friday, June 25, 2010

25th June,2010.

News that local Chough sites had been successful with four sites producing young and upwards of 21 birds being around at different times and in different combinations. Other sites have apparently not been as successful with young birds perishing in the nest at an early stage.

Less welcome is that two of the traditional Golden Eagle sites have failed even though there was activity at each of them early in the season and incubation commenced. With greater access to the countryside occurring nowadays I wonder the extent to which even inadvertent and non-deliberate disturbance is having an effect on some species. For all such well known, traditional sites I feel a moratorium should be created within which no licences to visit should be issued by Scottish Natural Heritage be it for nest recording, photography or ringing purposes. It would do no harm for a period. Initial feedback from an informal "experiment" elsewhere, related to a quite different species, suggests some success might be attributed to such actions.

Quite out of the blue yesterday I picked up a reference advising that trichomoniasis, caused by a parasite, is reported to have caused the death of a fifth of the UK's Greenfinches. One of the "vectors" by which such diseases are transmitted, and over which we have some influence, are bird feeders which can be the source of the various agents responsible unless kept scrupulously clean. See the full report at

Thursday, June 24, 2010

23rd June,2010.

I suppose this fortnight, until the end of June, could be said to be the quietest of all the year on Islay in many respects. Last evening that vast expanse of water, Loch Indaal, carried an almost insignificant number of birds compared to its role in winter when hordes of duck and waders abound, and at passage periods when successive waves of migrants occur. The passage of high Arctic waders has finished, indeed the first returning birds will soon be encountered. However, resident numbers of breeding birds remain such as Mallard, Shelduck, odd Teal, Mute Swan and waders like Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover, Curlew and Redshank. Some are failed or non-breeders, some accompanied by their clockwork broods of youngsters. The occasional Red-throated Diver can be encountered too, feeding well out in the loch along with odd auks.

Occasionally an odd Whooper Swan or Barnacle Goose might remain due to being slightly injured and unable to undertake the long migration back to their breeding grounds. At the moment a single, injured Greenland White-fronted Goose has been in the Port Charlotte area consorting with Grey lag Geese and spending its time wandering up and down a valley from one wetland area to another.

We ought not to grumble,of course,given our long list of "avian attractions" we play host to ( Golden Eagle, Hen Harrier, Chough , Corncrake, Black Guillemot, even Hooded Crow ) , all of which are apt reward for the visitor. On the other hand, anticipation of the commencement of autumn migration fires up every birder's enthusiasm and such is not now long away.

Two species continue to register as being around in lower numbers than previously. The normal colonies of Arctic Terns appear not to have formed to the same extent as in previous years and Greenfinch now seems to be at a very low ebb. This latter trend commenced at the end of last breeding season with few juveniles around, very few birds over the winter and seemingly depressed numbers of breeding pairs this spring. Terns do fluctuate, of course, and they can soon move away if first breeding attempts fail, but both trends are worrying.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Juvenile dispersal afoot already?

I was a little surprised to see a young Common Whitethroat in the garden for a short period. There's certainly been no immediately local pairs around so one imagines its wandered off on becoming independent. It won't be long before the first birds begin to move away altogether. Cuckoos suddenly seem to be both quiet and less obvious, suggesting , perhaps, some of the adults are already moving out. Contrasted against this I had a House Martin gathering up mud from a "streamside" intent on nesting on a nearby farmhouse where no birds had been present previously. Are these birds returning from the farthest point of their wintering quarters, and arriving later onto the breeding grounds due to the distances involved, or failed breeders or victims of nest collapse even?
An interesting conversation with a colleague on the Oa, where the Tree Sparrows have again turned up in force and are breeding at a couple of locations. These birds disappeared during the winter, but have dutifully turned up again in May. Both of us had had similar experiences with House Sparrows, with birds suddenly appearing late, including a youngster with a female here, but with no regular evidence of presence beforehand. Whilst they're pretty resident features in the villages, their distribution can be patchy outside of these "centres", with small populations at isolated farms and no birds necessarily at locations in between. More work needs to be done on what they do in winter, whether their range temporarily retracts to the villages or whether they remain in situ.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Monday,21st June,2010.

Mist early, but a generally fine day thereafter. At least the mist tempered the effects of the dawn, whose light can begin to penetrate my east facing house well before 0400 hours at the height of summer. Today, as the longest day, still saw it possible to read a newspaper outside at 2245 hours, a situation that will now gradually diminish until it reaches its lowest point on the 21st December,2010 with dusk then being at around 1530/1600hours dependent on cloud cover. Rather a stark contrast, with first light being after 0800 hours!!

Hen Harrier pairs are actively foraging, suggesting broods have been produced successfully. Indeed, the spring, being relatively dry, has not been bad at all for ground nesting birds, which will have helped many species. Local Stonechat and Northern Wheatear were again obvious, with a couple of non-fatal collisions of the latter into the house windows during the afternoon! A loud frenzied fly past of 13 Chough a couple of times could then be followed all over the nearby moor as they covered the larger area.

Welcome news has come from the now most important breeding area for Hen Harrier in England. Last year only ten birds were reared from four successful nests in the whole of the country. This year 22 young have been produced, all nests but one being on the United Utilities land holding. Whilst this is a resounding success, set against recent trends, the fact that there is so much similar habitat in the area ( the Forest of Bowland in Lancashire ) with an accompanying general absence of birds on immediately adjacent areas, despite them being around in spring, suggests persecution is still rife both there, and in other suitable areas of England too.

It shouldn't be forgotten that the United Utilities's ( then North west Water ) landholding was largely managed as upland shoots, under tenancy arrangements, until a Board decision was taken to severely limit these. Such has proved to be a very positive decision for conservation that now lends itself to the area providing an essential lifeline to a species under serious threat in England overall! Whilst I've criticized United Utilities on occasions, mainly on policy matters over which I've disagreed, this is one aspect for which they should be roundly applauded as , over the years, it hasn't necessarily made them popular with surrounding shooting estates! This good news might hopefully now assist in repairing the rifts that have appeared within the tense, bleak periods previously.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Sunday 20th June,2010.

Given things are fairly quiet the day had two objectives. One was to check out access etc to a couple of new seawatching sites ( for cetaceans) and the other was to do some brood counts of Grey lag Geese. Whilst the geese were obvious on some waters they appeared to have disappeared at others, with some figures clearly needing to be chased!!

The first Northern Wheatear and Stonechat broods were in evidence and lots of other young birds are being fed suggesting the breeding season has not been too bad. At several places the anguished calls of Curlew and Common Sandpiper caused me to move away from their nearby broods! Outer Loch Indaal's calm, sun-dappled, shimmering surface yielded little other than a Guillemot and a few scruffy male Eiders commencing moult. A visit to a Heronry saw young birds present, and adults entering to feed others. I thought they'd been deterred from using this location due to the usual Ravens moving, this year, into the very centre of the herons' preferred nesting area. Whilst Ravens have always used this site their own nesting location has usually been on the periphery.

Finally , who says birds don't adapt? The sight of a male Hen Harrier repeatedly visiting an isolated garden, swooping in over a large hedge and producing tight loop like turns in pursuit of its quarry, all witnessed whilst we were "taking afternoon tea", was mind blowing. The accompanying chorus from a group of panic stricken House Sparrows goading it on from the confines of the hedge were equally as entertaining!!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

17th/18th June,2010.

The overnight Corncrake survey proved to be somewhat disappointing. Despite birds calling at various points in the days previously, the night provided a poor showing with only two territories being recorded. Conditions were not the best with an onshore NW breeze that brought the "sound of the sea" washing over the landscape. The ambient temperature was lower than previously, which I also believe makes a difference. All previous sites where presence had been registered were covered, but to no avail, except our getting devoured by midges at some points!! Corncrakes should be well into breeding by now and it may well be the imperative to attract mates, or announce territory, coupled with the less than perfect conditions simply produced a less than perfect survey night!

Whilst various waders were calling from time to time odd Grasshopper Warbler and Sedge Warbler were still stoically singing at various points. Strangely enough not much else was seen ,i.e.owls or mammals ,which, again, was rather disappointing.

During the day , and on the higher grass moor opposite, two Ravens had attracted my attention. Visible signs suggested they were an adult and a full grown youngster. Their behaviour almost suggested the youngster was being given one to one "tuition" in combing an area for invertebrates as the adult would search a given spot and then step back and watch as the youngster went through similar behaviour. Whether or not this was imagination on my part is difficult to say, and later reference to Derek Ratcliffe's superb monograph, "The Raven" sadly provided no corroboration. That they were adult and young was confirmed later by a close "fly past", with the adult showing obvious wing moult set against the typical more juvenile plumage of the other bird. I suspect that this behaviour pattern is gone through by many, if not all, birds but the challenge is actually coming across such intimate moments without disturbing the proceedings!!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A lost opportunity for Hen Harrier conservation?

For foreign readers of these entries, the repeated references to the Forest of Bowland,Lancashire England, Hen Harriers, government institutions, conservation charities and the like must, at times, fill them with confusion. Repeated rhetoric and calls for action must, inevitably, generate questions as to what actually is going on in this location, all of which is understandable. Given I've more than a personal concern for the place, accompanied by a passion for Hen Harriers , such regular references are inevitable I'm afraid.

The start point is that this upland area holds the last remaining, regular breeding population of Hen Harriers in England, probably no more than 12 pairs in a good year. The area comprises upland private shooting estates and a large, upland water catchment area owned by United Utilities. Ever since organized shooting of Red Grouse began the Hen Harrier has been loathed by those involved, as it has expensive tastes. It predates Red Grouse chicks, the eventual quarry of its concerned managers! Oh yes, the young birds the harriers predate are destined to die at some point to provide entertainment for shooters!! In times past , previous to conservation laws arising, the widespread practice of killing raptors began, to rid the moors of their threatening presence, and such persecution has continued to this day despite, now, being utterly illegal. In England this remnant population is under threat from such activities, as much in winter after leaving the uplands, as on its breeding grounds. Therein lies the concern of conservationists and bird lovers , but the specie's predicament continues unabated year by year. The vast majority of birds are present on United Utilities' land, a large corporate organisation, which has designated part of its landholding to support wildlife conservation.

The dilemma the conservationists encounter is that they cannot easily identify sufficient evidence to prove persecution, although undoubtedly it continues. On such a large upland expanse the number of breeding birds should be higher and, indeed, has been higher in past years. The area is designated as a Special Protection Area, with all the accompanying regulations, need for compliance etc directed at those who manage the area. That the current level of "successful" harrier presence is in accord with the target figures within the SPA description undermines the potential contribution the area could offer to this species in my view. Higher aspirations for the area might engender a greater commitment to confront persecution, or disturbance, as opposed to an apparent acceptance of the current situation. So,the struggle continues with endless sound bites, petitions, press releases and so on.....but limited success for the resource all this is directed at!

With such a declared commitment to improve matters one would think those involved would have jumped at an opportunity I was informed about yesterday. The shooting tenancies of two areas owned by United Utilities have just been advertised and leases issued, or so I was reliably informed. Part of their upland "estate" is still let out for shooting . Such areas carry harriers and to lesser mortals , such as I, the opportunity for a major conservation organisation to take on the lease, manage the land and have an even greater "hands on" presence would have been sensible in order to have greater control over circumstances. Surely the annual costs involved couldn't exceed the current time commitment of involvement in all the arguments etc etc that pertain at present? On a day when Natural England has withdrawn from the proposed scheme to introduce White-tailed Eagles (or was that white elephants ? ) into East Anglia, leaving its partner, the RSPB, to soldier on alone, this alternative, doubtless, much cheaper proposal, would have been a much better "target" and be in accord with their declared intention to take action to improve the status of the Hen Harrier and inject some success into the current sorry state of affairs in Bowland. Maybe it wasn't offered to them, but somebody should have been sufficiently on the ball ( it is the season of the World Cup as well!!) to espy the opportunity and lobby vigorously for an involvement. Maybe they submitted a bid and failed! In which case a close look needs to be taken at the declared conservation policies of the corporate owner!! Many years ago the RSPB did actually bid, unsuccessfully, for a similar tenancy, so the precedent has been set in terms of its Council's approval to pursue such matters.

A lost opportunity or an oversight? At a time when so much is being said about the precarious state the Hen Harrier in England is actually in, any new approach is to be applauded and supported. Whilst there are many more breeding pairs in Scotland, not all sporting estates are sympathetic and, also, birds moving to England in winter may not be entertained with a generous eye either! Whilst it has all been said before, in this day and age intolerance, arrogance and the selfish pursuance of self interest are all at play in this scenario. Although shooting is not the exclusive preserve of the wealthy it once was, the partial inference of a minority ignoring the law, and the wishes of the majority, to indulge its own interests smacks of an attitude not very far away from exercising subjugation come what may! And who says we've moved on!

Monday, June 14, 2010

13th June,2010.

A quite pleasant day with lots of sunshine but still cool at times in the fresh northerly.

Whilst this time of year is inevitably quiet a period at Gruinart produced a few duck, Moorhen with young, a couple of parties of presumably non-breeding Grey lag Geese, calling Corncrake and a fine male Hen Harrier out hunting. Sedge Warbler and Common Whitethroat were in song and a Cuckoo called for a short period.

Outer Loch Indaal was very quiet with a few Razorbiill and a single Great Northern Diver, possibly the last of the non-breeding lingerers. It's ever possible that odd birds remain throughout July and August, but I've never recorded them in the loch itself then. I suspect they don't return that far northwards, but remain at sea taking advantage of the ranging fish stocks. At present Common Gulls are quite numerous over inland pastures, in flight or "on foot", seeking out invertebrate prey. Over 150 adults gathered alongside Loch Indaal perhaps suggested they had had an unsuccessful breeding season. Over the last few days there has been an obvious arrival of "new" House Martins with a couple of people commenting on attempts to colonise their properties.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

12th June,2010.

Friday,(the 11th )was a bit of a write off, with mist persistently playing back and forth across the adjacent moors and time skimming past due to E-mails and telephone calls relating to this wretched Eagle Owl issue in the Forest of Bowland. The latest accusation that the RSPB has killed the adult owls beggars belief and has to be the product of misinterpretation , a wild imagination or pure mischief. An article I've submitted to Raptor Politics calling for restraint and a "new beginning", in terms of information dis-semination by the main conservation bodies and others, will doubtless fall on deaf ears, but at least the offer has been made. Half the problem appears to be the lack of straightforward and honest communication! The current situation appears convoluted at best and I hope beyond hope that something positive emerges such that Hen Harrier protection can continue there, ( should that be commence?), as well as the owl issue being resolved and better results forthcoming. At the moment efforts appear more linked to cataloguing disaster than recording success!!!

Saturday, whilst fine until late, was rather cool in the northerly wind. A day devoted to survey work so sightings were a little confined. The season moves on with Starling flocks out on the hill, and in numbers, that suggests they've had a good season. Waders everywhere continue their frantic behaviour whenever anything passes within appreciable distance of their concealed young! Now is the time of bird calls from the bushes that suggests our learning a whole new suite of variety as youngsters call out plaintively offering a clue to feeding parents as to their location.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

10th June, 2010.

A day of birding , seeing friends and enjoying life! It's also sunny and warm.

A mixed day of watching a pair of Short-eared Owl hunting over an open moorland followed by an immature Great Northern Diver on Loch Indaal provided the contrasts that Islay can offer at this time of year. Whilst much beyond was routine, although singing Blackcap was a nice find, the day was gentle, but productive. All in all, a good day linked with submissions to other sites on current issues ( see Raptor Politics ).

Return to the Eagle Owl saga.

Whilst yesterday ( Wednesday ) was intended to be a day of recovery, reflection and "getting sorted", it turned out to be a convoluted nightmare! Rain throughout the morning justified the confinement to home, improved weather thereafter provided a denied opportunity to escape from a potential problem that will lead, in my view, to immense debate and dis-agreement.
In short, an Eagle Owl has been caught on CCTV film attacking a female Hen Harrier on the nest in the Forest of Bowland, Lancashire. Loyal readers of this Blog will already know of my personal involvement with the area and its harrier population before taking early retirement from RSPB some ten years ago. So, a personal attachment and concern!!!

The filming has been "commissioned" by Natural England and RSPB, one imagines to investigate provisioning behaviour at the nest and to "patrol" illegal activities. What has occurred will no doubt delight various factions, be it those who wish to justify the eradication of a supposed non-native species (Eagle Owl)or to identify an excuse that avoids them having to confront the real culprits associated with the administration of private shooting estates, who are really responsible for the demise of Hen Harriers in England. Whilst I have tried to view the film involved the links have failed ( if indeed they ever really provided access anyway). I have been urged by colleagues to see same and reach an opinion ....a view that both intrigues and frustrates as it suggests inconclusivity!! The comments put forward by Dr. Mark Avery ( RSPB ) drawing attention to the film having recorded "just part of the picture" , and that the situation re the status of Eagle Owl still requires to be studied,and a body of solid evidence produced ,is, thankfully, reasoned and reassuring.

Dr Tom Clew ( Chief Scientist, Natural England ) attests that Eagle Owl is a non-native species and a recent arrival in Lancashire. I can assure him records of the species, in Bowland, reach back to 1985 when a bird was seen in Hareden, following which we managed to markedly raise the productivity of Hen Harriers in the area through a lot of hard work and difficult confrontations with landowners out of which came mutual respect and continuing success, at least for a period. In other words, get in there, mix it, and aim for a solution instead of adopting the pussy footing techniques of professional Civil Servants. His assertions that the footage confirms suspicions that the Eagle Owls are impacting on the breeding success of Hen Harriers in Bowland is utter, convenient nonsense and an excuse, at best, to allow Natural England to hide behind that fact and avoid them dealing with the real problem of human persecution. How many pairs of Eagle Owls does he feel are in Bowland for Gods sake? And if the Hen Harrier population enjoyed a major extension on hill ground and elsewhere in England, what does he feel the threat would be from the ( minimal ) population of Eagle Owls in the UK?. Will this realisation now threaten the introduction proposals for harriers proposed for elsewhere in the country?

I feel the current conclusions are hurried and terribly convenient. If I'm wrong I will admit such and pay recognition to alternative opinions and evidence. The fact that the press release suggests a rather hurried emission would pay tribute to the techniques of Government spin doctors! "The Owl was still present a few hours later, and the incubating harrier has not been seen and its nest has now failed". When was that conclusion reached and can we now have an update please?

After spending twenty years involved in fighting for Hen Harriers in Bowland I feel dismayed, disappointed and completely pissed off ( sorry folks for the language, but I've little else to offer ) given the current scenario is being overseen by such a bunch of detached, amateur opponents of the real problem about whose efforts I can probably sadly write the final Act. Where is the real commitment to the birds, for Gods sake?

A bad day in my book!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

8th June,2010.

Finally back on Islay after a hectic trip, but returning with what is now a fully functioning automobile!!! What a relief and a pleasure to be able to contemplate uncomplicated days ahead laced with opportunities for birding, survey work etc.

An evening visit into the Peak National Park last weekend saw us enjoying churring Nightjar and be surrounded by at least three Tawny Owls exchanging calls. Beyond that either the weather or lack of opportunity ensured little other birding could be done before my return.

Setting aside various admin work and domestic chores I thoroughly enjoyed a few hours on Islay simply doing general birding in advance of being able to launch into "fully active mode" after a necessary day sorting various things out on Wednesday. June is always a relatively quiet time compared to many other months with far less birds on the move and the emphasis being on breeding activity, feeding movements and so on. RSPB Gruinart Reserve was a hive of activity with frantic Redshank parents seemingly everywhere. A presumed family of young Snipe was fascinating to watch as they explored absolutely everywhere and then disappeared amongst the emergent vegetation. Six Black-tailed Godwits hung about on one of the lagoons, a presence which seems to get later with each year bringing with it hopes of breeding. I suspect the truth will be that, with the first spell of good weather , they will be off and straight up to Iceland!!! Throughout my stay a Corncrake called persistently and mechanically from the drier area of the lagoon.

An enjoyable time thankfully timed previous to the arrival of rain!.

Friday, June 4, 2010

3rd June,2010.

A day that started early, on the day before in fact, although only just!!

The night of the 2nd/3rd June was that on which the "all island Corncrake count" took place. Organized by the RSPB it establishes the number of calling male Corncrakes and obviously then links in with population monitoring both on Islay and throughout many other places in Scotland.

Due to ( my ) transport problems I joined two colleagues to cover the southern part of the Rinns. Conditions were ideal in that it was virtually calm , the only interruption being from the tidal swell of Outer Loch Indaal on its western side. We had five birds with a possible two others counted previously not performing on cue. A good count and one which sees the population being sustained , if not improving slightly. Overall there was around fifty birds island wide, a figure which can be compared with the next count in around three weeks time.

Despite the good conditions few Snipe were heard although several Grasshopper Warbler and Sedge warbler were heard.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

1st June,2010.

All is not well, folks! A fault has developed/returned associated with the Exhaust Gas
Recirculation Valve ( EGR valve )on my vehicle which I'm going to have to get fixed. This probably means going off island again as dispatching parts, with all that that entails in terms of time, and getting fitment of them here is not really an option. I need to be mobile!!

Certainly not the Year of the Car!