Arctic Songster

March 16, 2019 at 6:31 pm

Snow BuntingIf there is one bird that typifies the high Arctic it is the Snow Bunting. It is a rare breeding bird in Britain and generally only occurs at an altitude of four thousand feet, where the climate is similar to the high Arctic!!
Having filmed them in Greenland, Alaska and Spitsbergen I tend to associate them with snow and last week in the Cairngorms there was lots of snow!
A magical two hours was spent in the car park on Cairngorm in the company of at least fifteen Snow Buntings. A pair came to within two feet of the car as they searched for food after a raging overnight blizzard. Better still was when four or five males began to sing and court the females – it was like being taken to the high Arctic once again but without the expense!! Click here

Jet Stream Disaster

March 9, 2019 at 2:45 pm

RN2A9969Everyone enjoyed that fabulous warm, summer last year but, unfortunately, it came at a price for Islays Barnacle Geese in Greenland. While we had the good weather all the Atlantic weather fronts that we usually have ended up on the east side of Greenland. As they were so far north, it was still very cold, they produced many feet of snow that ultimately covered the ground all summer. The result was that all our waders like Sanderling and Knot were unable to breed and this extended to Islay’s Barnacle Geese who all breed along Greenland’s east coast. When they returned to Islay in October they brought with them only one young per one hundred adults – the worst breeding season ever recorded.
In complete contrast the west coast of Greenland, where all the Greenland White Fronted Geese breed, had good weather and when they returned to Islay they brought record numbers of young!!
Click here for this weeks photos.

Goose Feast

March 2, 2019 at 4:49 pm

RN2A0084The one bonus of thousands of Geese on Islay in winter is that there are always sick and injured birds available for Islays raptors. The commonest of these is the Buzzard as shown in this weeks blog photo. This winter there are good numbers of juvenile Sea Eagles on Islay with some of these coming down from Mull and across from Jura to join in the Goose feast. However, there may be a down side to this food supply as recent X-rays of Geese caught for ringing has shown that more than a fifth are carrying lead shot. Long term the results of continually injesting Goose flesh laced with lead shot could be disastrous for the young Sea Eagles.
This weeks gallery also includes photos of what makes Islay so special in Winter. More to follow next week. click here

Well Chough-ed

February 24, 2019 at 9:00 pm

RN2A0266Any visit to Islay would not be complete without time spent with their special member of the Crow family – the Chough.
Despite inclement weather and strong winds I was able to spend time with forty seven Chough at Ardnave Point. Supplementary feeding has helped juvenile birds to survive to adulthood but even with this help out of the flock of forty seven birds only nine remained from last years young and ten from the previous years birds. It is clear that without help the Chough would be in a very precarious position.
The very mild weather of late has also had its effect on Islay with Daffodils in flower everywhere and on one day a temperature of 17C was showing in the car! The next two weeks blog will feature many other photos taken during our visit.Click here

Jack Snipe At minus 8c

February 17, 2019 at 7:06 pm

RN2A9918All winter I have been waiting for some severe weather to have any chance of filming Jack Snipe. I have several bogs that don’t freeze up in severe frost and occasionally Jack Snipe will remain in situ if you approach cautiously. This happened last week when late one afternoon I spotted a Jack Snipe but there was too much vegetation in the way to obtain a photograph. As it was only one hour before darkness I took a gamble that it would still be in the same bog the following day and it was. It had moved only two feet overnight despite the temperature dropping to Minus 8C! This time it was more in the open and I was able to take my photos. In fact if you look closely you will see that its tail is covered in frost! It will probably be the only Jack Snipe I photograph this winter but what an illusive little wading bird they are.Click here

Snowy Owl

February 9, 2019 at 5:39 pm

RN2A9799Well not quite a true Snowy Owl but a Barn Owl hunting in the snow. When this winter started I never thought that I would be in a position to photograph local Barn Owls during the day let alone take photos of one hunting in the snow. Nothing is predictable in wildlife and you never know when they will revert back to nocturnal hunting and my photo opportunities are gone. More recent photos of the Barn Owls are shown in this weeks gallery.
When you are involved in wildlife all your life all sorts of unscripted events occur out of the blue as happened this week while I was waiting for a Barn Owl to appear. I had been sat in a hedge under a camouflage cloth for more than an hour when a brown bird arrived from my right and alighted by my foot. I gingerly looked down and was met by the stare of a Woodcock that flew off as quickly as it had arrived!! Click here