No trip to south-west Scotland is complete without a visit to the Kite feeding station at Bellymack farm, Loch Ken.,It is nearly four years since my last visit and during that time a new viewing platform has been constructed together with a gift shop and cafe! Despite this commercialisation it has taken nothing from the sight of more than one hundred Kites in the air at once. Feeding takes place at 2.00pm and the drive from Manchester may take 3 hours so it could be considered an alternative to Gigrin farm in Wales. Click here
A lecture tour of Dumfries and Galloway last week provided a perfect opportunity to photograph the exceptional colours showing this Autumn. Even better, overnight one night three inches of snow fell making it a unique combination of Autumn and Winter rolled into one. I managed to visit Clatteringshaw Loch, Loch Ken and Loch Stroan enhanced by five degrees of early morning frost.
One of the wildlife highlights was watching more than one hundred Red Kites being fed at the end of the day by Loch Ken. – photos of these next week. The strangest sight was a leucitic Oyster Catcher feeding on the shore at Stranraer. Apparently this same bird has been returning to Stranraer in Winter for the last eight years.
For the birdwatcher two of the main attractions of Islay in Autumn are the Geese and the Chough. From mid October more than thirty thousand Barnacle Geese arrive from Greenland. After feeding in the fields during the day they descend onto the estuary for the night and provide one of the greatest bird spectacles in Europe.
During last weeks visit I was able to catch up with Chough feeding in the Machair and also a Bar Tailed Godwit, a species I had never filmed in close-up before. Click here
Having gone to Chanory Point near Inverness especially for Dolphins and failed to obtain any jumping shots it was an absolute bonus last week when we were on Islay to succeed. Not only did we have eight passing Dolphins one jumped in the perfect spot with the lighthouse in the background.
Autumn on Islay is always special and last week was better than ever. Four days of high tides produced good feeding conditions for Otters and we had sightings of ten Otters during that time. One female came out of the sea with a fish for its young and all this was captured on film.
Redwings and Fieldfares were everywhere and these were continually chased by Icelandic Merlin. There were two colourful sunrises and only one day of rain which was better than what we normally see in Autumn. The Geese and Chough are always a spectacle on Islay and photos of these have been saved for next weeks blog. Click here
On Monday Parliament meets to discuss the Petition to ban Driven Grouse shooting. All wildlife interested people support a total ban and I only hope that as the debate is late in the day on Halloween that MPs give it the support it deserves. Don’t hold your breath!!
During the last week I witnessed another event that I have never experienced before. I was watching a large Hawthorne bush awaiting Redwings to come and feed on the masses of berries. Nearby was a lake and suddenly five Black Headed Gulls flew in and, hovering above the Hawthorne, plucked off individual berries and ate them while still hovering. They did this for a good ten minutes before returning to the lake. My camera, of course, was locked away in the car some distance away! Gulls eating berries is something I never thought I would ever see.
Another pleasing event last week was to encounter four Partridge on the edge of Hopwood woods. They are the first I have seen locally for some years and it is good to welcome them back.Click here
At long last Redwings are now eagerly devouring the wealth of hawthorne and rowan berries that are ripening for them this Autumn. It has to be one of the best Autumns ever for berries and in particular the hawthorns are hanging heavy with them but as yet no Fieldfares have arrived, despite weeks of favourable easterly winds.
During a lifetime involved with wildlife I had an experience in the last week that must be unique. I was making a routine check of a hollow in the hills that on previous days held up to fifty Redwings, all gorging themselves on the masses of Hawthorne berries. A first view of the main Hawthorne bush did not reveal any Redwings only a larger bird deep in the cover. As I approached closer this bird flew towards me and it was a large female Sparrowhawk. Remarkably it was followed closely by two male Sparrowhawks ,who all flew off in different directions!! Only then did thirty odd Redwings leave the dense ground cover, some calling as they scattered widely. As Sparrowhawks normally hunt on their own were these three adult birds hunting Redwings co-operatively? – This has never been recorded before. Click here