Waxwings Galore

October 31, 2010 at 10:51 am


After the spectacle of the geese last week it is hard to imagine it getting much better on Islay but it did, with the arrival of my favourite bird the Waxwing. For three days we encountered up to four flocks a day with the largest being twenty five in Port Charlotte, which is where the photo above was taken. All our efforts were concentrated on checking berry laden trees and with in three days they had all moved on but what an unexpected bonus.

On another day we found a female Otter and two young, plus an adult Sea Eagle and a juvenile of the year. If that was not good enough we also saw three Swallows, a male Blackcap and a male Ring Ouzel. With a spectacular sunrise and sunset on the same day there can be nowhere in Europe that presents such diverse birding at this time of year but there is a price to be paid – seven days of wet and windy weather in between!

A trip to Jura produced more Waxwings an Otter and hundreds of Red Deer at the height of the rutting season. Many were by the roadside in the early morning and presented some good views of the stags.

We have not been to Islay and Jura for two years in Autumn and if you can endure the wild weather it certainly offers the greatest wildlife spectacle in Britain in Autumn.

The Wonder Of Geese

October 24, 2010 at 12:14 am


A week on Islay coincided with the arrival of 30,000 Barnacle Geese from Greenland. The wonders of migration are shown nowhere better than on Islay, for as these geese arrive four Swallows were having a last feed before leaving for South Africa. Todays photo shows some of the Barnacle Geese coming to roost on Loch Indaal at sunset, one of Scotland’s most spectacular sights in Winter.

Our week has brought sightings of Merlins, Sparrowhawks, Hen Harriers, Peregrine, as well as two sightings of KIngfishers, a bird that does not breed on Islay.

Whilst the weather has been quite wild it has not stopped us finding Otters and the first Grey Seal pups we have ever encountered on Islay. More than twenty species of flowers have also been found.

End Of Summer

October 15, 2010 at 8:12 pm

Bog Asphodel

Jacobs Ladder

This week’s photos are two of my favourite Pennine flowers, Jacobs Ladder and Bog Asphodel. The later evokes reflections of Summer in the high Pennines and the former the beauty of the Yorkshire Dales. They are two of the few flowers in the forth coming Pennine Birds DVD, both are included in their respective habitats.

Whilst I have had reports of Redwings and Fieldfares coming over the high tops from the East I have still not seen either locally, making it one of the latest Autumns ever. Two Cormorants were seen locally the other day and have already generated many comments from the fishing community.

A Redpoll was singing in a birch tree just over the back of our garden yesterday but as far as I know never made it into the garden so unfortunately it does not appear on the garden bird list!

Conkering Squirrel

October 9, 2010 at 7:48 pm


This Grey Squirrel has been taking conkers away from our garden. Pauline originally placed them in the rockery for ornamental purposes and couldn’t believe it when one hour later all twenty conkers had disappeared. More were placed out and this time we watched in anticipation for the arrival of the thief. Instead of the boy next door it turned out to be a Grey Squirrel! No matter what the size of the conker it was examined, then taken away, presumably for burial in the woods.

On Hopwood a good view of a Green Woodpecker was had and there were movements of Siskin, Redpoll and Grey Wagtails during the week. The wind direction recently has meant that no Redwings or Fieldfares have been seen so far this Autumn.

During the week in the garden the Collared Doves have peaked at a new record figure of twenty two. Four Long Tailed Tits fed on one day, the first visit for many months.

Hit And Miss

October 3, 2010 at 9:09 pm

Barn Owl

Barn Owl

The two photos show how difficult it is to photograph an Owl taking off without using an electronic beam to trigger off the shutter. Apparently there is a half second delay from the brain telling you to press the shutter and the actual flash going off. In that half second the Owl has flown about a foot which means you end up with a great shot of its talons as in the photo! You have to pre – empt its take off when firing the shutter and eventually you get it right and the shot you were after comes off.

This week it has been bad weather and lots of time working on the new Pennine DVD so not much birding. In the garden two different Sparrowhawks have been regulars. The Nuthatches come occasionally and on the third we had a record seven Chaffinches together – not a very high figure for this common bird but we have never had many Chaffinches in this area.