One species to have benefitted from the dry and sunny spring has been the Short Eared Owl. I have now found broods of three young and two young and have heard of another pair that have fledged seven young which is exceptional. The abundance of voles has also been productive for Kestrels and Long Eared Owls. The ultimate challenge for any Pennine wildlife photographer is to photograph a hunting Long Eared Owl. The male is normally nocturnal but when he has young to feed he starts hunting just before sunset. The light may not be good and you are pushing your camera to its limits but next weeks gallery will show my best results so far. Once the young Owls are independent the male disappears back into the forest and becomes nocturnal again. Click here
The cold spring and lack of vegetation is still having an effect on such migrants as Whitethroats. Whilst some males are singing few are feeding young and they will have a lot of catching up to do if this season is not to become a disaster.
Our last week on Islay brought days of glorious sunshine if still a little cold. It did mean that we were able to do some of the annual walks that until now had been held in abeyance.
Golden Eagles were seen regularly including one on a sheep carcass. The sight of hunting male Hen Harriers continued and must be one of Islay’s summer spectacles. In one remote glen a Sparrowhawks nest was found in the ivy growing on a Hazel tree. The four eggs could be seen from above and I have included this photo in this weeks gallery of Islay photos. Also included is a Roe Deer that swam across an estuary and seemed perfectly happy with its saltwater excursion. It has certainly been one of the coldest springs ever seen on Islay and may well result in migrants such as Corncrake, Whitethroat and Swallow only having one brood this year. On the raptor front some Golden Eagles have already failed and many of the Hen Harrier clutches contain infertile eggs which is normal in a cold spring. Click here
In the garden the male Sparrowhawk has been capturing juvenile Starlings to feed his growing young in a nest nearby. It was good to see that there are still Reed Buntings coming to feed as well as up to half a dozen Redpolls.
While people flock to Mull to see its Eagles how long will it be before the Hen harriers of Islay attract hordes of birdwatchers? Their plight in England is now quite desperate with illegal persecution rife on our grouse moors. On Islay that has never been a problem and where else can you go in Britain and see seven hunting male Hen Harriers in a single morning? Five different pairs were observed in a single day without ever stepping out of the car.
Harrier tourism looks ready to take off on Islay in the near future. This weeks gallery shows some of the photos I have taken under licence during this last weeks fabulous weather. Next week I intend to show in the gallery other wildlife and views taken on Islay over the last three weeks or should I say mainly during the last week! Click here
A second week on Islay and a maximum temperature of only 15 °C on one day! Whilst we have been waiting for warmer weather so have Islay’s Corncrakes. The benefits from our point of view is that the lack of summer vegetation makes filming Corncrake easier. The photos in this weeks gallery are all different birds(Although they may all look the same!).
During our two weeks on Islay we have had two gales that produced some wild seas. I was able to take some distant photos of Gannets and Eider as they struggled to fly along Islay’s western seaboard and these are also in this weeks gallery.Click here