Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Throwing light on a couple of things! 27th September. 2011.

Out early with the dogs I was intrigued how quiet it was on the outward leg of the walk. An odd Robin "ticked" and the Yellowhammers remained in roost and consoled themselves with very quiet "chic" calls , as opposed to erupting as they normally do when we're slightly later. On the return leg, and with the first rays of sunlight appearing, all was different and calls and activity were as expected. Whilst we're used to the "dawn chorus" in the breeding season, when birds are declaring their territoriality at the onset of light, it seems outside of this period things may be a bit more relaxed and linked to increasing light intensity. Something to check on further.

Included in the upsurge of activity was a tit party from which came a couple of phrases of song of a Chiffchaff. Despite best efforts on my part it refused to show itself!

Later, in the evening, and whilst I was waiting to give my daughter a lift,I was fascinated by the behaviour of a Common Buzzard. It appeared out of a small plantation and commenced to slowly "hover" over a nearby stubble field, first at around 60 feet , and then at half that height. It changed location a few times. The interesting fact was that daylight was drawing to a close, cars on the nearby A9 were all using headlights and distant hedgerow lines with standard trees were all in silhouette. To all intents and purposes it was dark!! Casting my mind back I don't believe I've ever noticed crepuscular activity before by Buzzards. It looked like some great owl as it circled around and returned to cover over the car!!!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A bit of variety. 26th September,2011

Decided I'd have a trip out to Munlochy Bay and see what was in the offing. Unfortunately the bright sunlight wasn't too kind and the sheltered bay was bathed in bright light throwing everything into silhouette on the surface of the dappled waters. All very atmospheric and contextual, but not much good for viewing birds. I'll have to remember to visit in the afternoon or evening in future!! Small parties of Wigeon were flighting in to join numbers of birds already present, together with Mallard and Teal. A few Oystercatcher, Curlew and Redshank roosted and fed on the adjacent margins and odd Grey Herons stood patiently on vantage points.

I then moved on to Chanonry Point, although I didn't expect any particular movement to be occurring given the wind direction. A few Gannets circled around and then headed back out to the sea, odd Cormorant were in evidence, a Red-breasted Merganser and a couple of Razorbill were all that was on offer. Travelling back I noticed some good "accumulations " of Black-headed Gulls on stubble fields already being put to the plough, which perhaps accounts for the absence of birds the other day! Nowadays the turn around time associated with arable fields is so short in places where planting of spring crops can occur, contrasted against the stubble fields being left in situ on Islay where the practice is not followed. Such rapid usage of the land and the absence of stubble habitat for birds must have had a profound effect on various populations over the years, coupled with the use of much more efficient harvesting machinery and less grain spillage. The price of progress!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Slow progression into autumn. 25th September, 2011.

Circumstances dictate that the majority of time I'm "out" is within either woodland or open countryside at the moment. However, some time down on the nearby Firth showed few waterbirds about, the odd Grey Heron and an extraordinary absence of gull numbers. In fact it was pretty quiet all round!

The only real indicator of autumn at the moment appears to be the numbers of presumed "continental! Robins which are around. Early morning has calling birds seemingly everywhere, with few showing themselves. Presumably these are those within the initial phase of what will prove to be numbers of birds arriving to winter with us.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Autumn cometh! 23.9.2011.

According to my diary the 23rd September is the "official" date on which autumn commences. Up here near Inverness conditions are certainly quintessential from the point of view of weather.....some misty mornings, mellow, sunny with odd showers and breezy conditions aiding the commencement of leaf-fall. Some cereal fields have not yet been cut, but others are finished already, with straw bales now awaiting collection. As yet I've seen none of the usual wintering goose flocks in evidence, but I suspect their arrival is imminent. Many of the fields demand a second look, as with extremely short stemmed crop varieties being used nowadays it's difficult to determine whether odd fields are stubble or remain uncut. The days of "waving fields of corn" are now despatched to history it seems, but with the memory of those circumstances being depicted in some of the great landscape paintings of the past.

As might be expected finch numbers are evident with the calls of Chaffinch ever present, mostly from unseen birds, as autumn movements proceed coupled, contrastingly, with the absence now of the few hirundines which were present earlier in the week. The usual complement of hedgerow and woodland birds abound locally, including a nice flock of Yellowhammer, but the Tree Sparrows usually present in the immediate vicinity are obviously using a different area altogether as none are in evidence.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Enforced downtime!

On the mainland at the moment, but coming across little of particular interest from a birding point of view. Much involved in putting together ideas etc relating to a possible future "campaign" relating to birds of prey, which is proving more demanding than first thought! In the meantime, the reportage of persecution incidents carries on as ever before!

Amidst reports of reducing numbers of birds in the US of A, the disease affecting birds like Greenfinches in this country now being detected in Europe, increasing costs affecting the attendance of birders on the Scilly Isles, a sense of doom and gloom appears to surround the resource we all hold dear! Still, we could live in Greece.......

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Baird's Sandpiper relocated. 10.9.2011.

I'm now returned to Islay from "the south" and have commenced a week's birding on home turf with a visiting friend. The weather promises a fairly mixed bag of conditions with today being fine, except at the very outset, but with a stiff south east wind.

Whilst we did some seawatching in the morning , nothing particularly exceptional was happening, although the procession of Manx Shearwater, Fulmar, Gannet, a few Kittiwake and an odd Red-throated Diver provided interest. Four obvious "Greenland" Wheatear were near to Portnahaven ( as were two later at Gruinart ) but little else appeared on the Rinns.

After an initial scrutiny of Loch Indaal we moved to Loch Gruinart which was alive with waders! Several hundred Dunlin and Sanderling fed out on the exposed Flats together with lesser numbers of Redshank, Curlew, Bar-tailed Godwit and Ringed Plover. Out on the merse 16 Barnacle Geese were feeding and resting and we had a nice party of five Pintail feeding below us in a channel All in all we located at least five Greenshank, possibly seven, feeding along one of the longer lenses of water before we left to go back to Loch Indaal and catch the tide coverage in an optimum state (we didn't ).

Unfortunately the south esat wind had forced the tide well in to the upper parts of Loch Indaal and waders were all over the place. We set up close to one of the usually favoured roost positions where numbers of Dunlin and Ringed Plover were in evidence along with a couple of groups of Common Gull and Black-headed Gull. Suddenly a more interesting wader walked slowly across the sand and shingle, along with a Ringed Plover and Dunlin, and settled behind a line of detritus to gain a little shelter. Its slim shape, smaller size than Dunlin, and, most importantly, attenuated wings, indicated the Baird's Sandpiper, which had been around in this area a few days ago, was obviously still here!! Great stuff. Whilst we had reasonable views of it the blustery conditions weren't very kind and eventually all the waders moved off elsewhere and couldn't be located. A good start to the week!!

Friday, September 2, 2011

In the ornithological doldrums! 1.9.2011.

After the indication of the evening previous that an east wind might be rising , it was disappointing that it then died down overnight! I still followed my intended plan of going to Holme NWT Reserve in the hope that something had arrived in the scrub along its coastal boundary. In a word....nothing! To add insult to injury, whilst going through a fabulous wader roost on a spit off the coast I missed a Honey Buzzard overflying. Not a good omen.

The wader roost was good with large numbers of Knot and Bar=tailed Godwit, many in summer plumage ,or its remnants, in addition to Grey Plover, Turnstone, Ringed Plover, Curlew, a grewat assemblage. I then moved east along the coast, dipping into various sites but not coming across anything new. The numbers of Little Stint at Cley had increased and a couple of Spoonbill showed well. A seawatch , as before, produced very little with 5 Arctic Skua, all young birds close in to the coast, <15 Common Scoter west, an Arctic Tern .....and that was it for just over two hours of effort. The most encouraging thing was a rising easterly wind (F4+ ), which was promising. An even better end to a good week anyway?

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Things seem static at the moment!! 31.8.2011.

I've long promised myself a visit to Holkham Hall Park where I had the time to do a full circuit of the area, as opposed to a walk through the woods and along the lake. So this was the day, plus I considered the exercise would do some good. It was really enjoyable, with a selection of woodland birds and endless encounters with fallow Deer. One major attraction for me is simply walking within tracts of mature deciduous trees of varying species which is not something on offer back home.

Around the back of the Estate and back towards the house, the residence of the Earl of Leicester, and a fine example a building in Palladian style. I stopped here to sit and watch over the lake, which had the usual species for late summer. I'm not sure about the reference to wintering Barnacle Geese from the Arctic, but having said that then saw a Little Egret on the shore opposite. Ten years ago I suppose we'd have suspected the origin of that species to possibly have been a local collection!! Having taken all that in I suddenly found moving off was a problem and had to remain "fixed" for quite a while (damned backs!). It took a while, within which time I could have been suspected of being a sculpture within the Park ("Man in Prone Position" by Rodin!! ).

Eventually moving on, and encouraged by a probable Hawfinch overflying the area, I drove on to Cley again. Little appeared to have changed so I settled in for another seawatch. Over the three hours 4 Great Skua and 27 Arctic Skua went through east, an adult Red-throated Diver and 5 Common Scoter flew west and a couple of Whimbrel went east. The most bizarre sighting was seeing a rather bloated dead grey seal moving westwards in the current offshore. Atop it was a very determined G.B.B.G attempting to feed while the carcase rolled and moved with the tide. After half an hour it what still persisting with its quest as I lost it to view!

A more limited day! 30.8.2011.

Truth is over the last couple of weeks I've had trouble with my back. This was a bad one with my walking around slowly, very slowly. Not something I suffer from so no idea what the remedy is. For this morning, at least, I decided a good session of photography at Titchwell would be a sensible remedy.

It turned out to be a routine day with a Cetti's Warbler singing off the main track and waders everywhere. Having settled in the first thing that happened was that a Greater Flamingo flew in from the south and landed on one of the pools. Who's lost that one then? The waders were a bit skittish and moved around quite a lot. Best of all, for me , were the Curlew Sandpipers!

The morning progressed on with nothing new moving through but with other opportunities arising , particularly with the Ruff that were ranging over the whole freshwater marsh.

Eventually I made my way off site and parked up for quite a while at various vantage points , although to no avail. I then went to Cley again and did a seawatch, the lure of messages of Long-tailed Skuas further north being too much to ignore. Sadly, precious little was on the move although a Manx Shearwater flew west and odd Arctic and a couple of Great Skua moved east. As I returned along the edge of Arnold's Marsh several Bearded Tits appeared in the reed beds below the path and showed well for a short time. Of further interest was a young Black=tailed Godwit carrying leg flags about which I'll get the details of its movements in due course. A day that eventually turned out better than forecast!!