Saturday, July 2, 2011

Half way through the year!! 1st July,2011.

Whilst it's still a bit early for much to be happening I had a lengthy, largely unproductive spell of seawatching during the first part of the day in what was very nice weather. The dark, hazy backdrop of Ireland provided a useful screen against which to pick out birds moving over a lumpy sea.

Endless strings of Gannets plied north and south, a stream, albeit in low numbers, of Manx Shearwaters moved south, with lesser numbers of Kittiwake, Fulmar , Shag and Razorbill. A single Puffin flew south raising the vexed question of whether odd pairs are present on Islay. Of more note was the incessant movement of Arctic Terns from a couple of colonies on the islets off the southern tip of the Rinns. This species generally seems to be more in evidence this year, although nowhere in big numbers, but certainly noticeable at various sites around the island. As the sun lifted young Shags stood out on rocks and activity levels generally increased!

This breeding season seems to have had a confusing edge to say the least. Very young Lapwing chicks yesterday suggested retimed breeding locally but, despite the dreadful weather at odd times, certain species appear to have done well. Wheatear young are now very obvious but Swallows seem to have faltered and House Martins simply disappeared!!

For people interested in Chough a fascinating paper is presented within the June edition of British Wildlife ( "Supplementary feeding of sub-adult Choughs" by Caitlin and Eric Bignal. British Wildlife Vol.22, No5. June 2011 ). Based on work carried out on Islay the paper describes efforts to provide food for sub-adult Choughs at critical periods, i.e. during periods of poor weather or when food sources are thought to be low, following a realisation that survival rates of the birds had decreased significantly. In 2009 and 2010 44 nests were monitored which, overall , produced 143 young. These were duly marked using unique combinations of plastic rings which allowed them to be discretely monitored. From these the only known survivors are the 28 birds which regularly fed on the mealworms provided, a situation against which the alternative doesn't bear thinking about!! Over the years Eric and members of his family have spent an enormous amount of time monitoring this species from which the outcome of this particular work seems a fitting accolade.

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