Thursday, March 31, 2011

Divers galore! 28.3.2011

From SW Islay the coast of Northern Ireland showed as a dark silhouette across a milky grey sea carrying some mist in the distance. Despite this the visibility was remarkably good, with no wind and a calm sea that allowed birds to be picked up much further out than normal.

Over a couple of hours the most significant movement was of Auks, predominantly Razorbill where they could be identified, flying north in long lines with a final total being between 550/600. Gannets were also on the move with small groups totalling around 250, mainly moving north in leisurely fashion on what was presumed to be feeding movements. Black Guillemots were much in evidence with displaying birds buzzing about and an estimated 30+ being involved. Far out offshore a skein of 24 Grey lag Geese made their way northwards, doubtless on their return journey to their breeding grounds in Iceland.

Following this, and given little systematic coverage is often given to the whole of Loch Indaal ( it's big and takes several hours!! ), I spent most of the day covering the Outer Loch and then the Inner Loch areas. My main interest was with diver numbers given the conditions were perfect for counting.

I wasn't disappointed as Great Northern Divers appeared to be everywhere , particularly in the most central area. In all I had 101, many of which were like the above in plumage which, to some extent made them look a bit scruffy. Others still remained in full winter plumage which I suspect are sometimes considered by some to be Black throated Divers given they appear so well "demarcated" in their markings!! In addition to these 25 Red-throated Divers were present, one party of which were all asleep suggesting they were new arrivals and resting after a long journey. Of similar interest was a total of about 190 Common Scoter spread out over quite a distance in the central loch.

Later in the Inner Loch 4 Long-tailed Duck and 4 Greater Scaup were found, possibly the final remnants of our wintering birds. Despite a search no Slavonian Grebe were found but, as with a precise count for divers, the area is vast and individuals can easily be overlooked!

A quick visit to RSPB Gruinart Reserve showed some splendid Wigeon, Pintail, Shoveler,and Teal to be present , a couple of Gadwall and Red breasted Merganser and a single Moorhen ( not the most common species on Islay!! ). High overhead a party of 15 Sand Martin and a single House Martin circled over the pools. All in all a very satisfying day!

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