Corncrake Appears

June 26, 2011 at 2:28 pm

Pied Billed Grebe

Pied Billed Grebe

Our last week on Islay and still the cool weather prevails. It Is difficult to believe that after being here for three weeks we have not seen a temperature in excess of 18°C and have had in total seven days of rain.

After some searching I managed to film a Corncrake calling away in the open at 10pm one evening. There were good numbers of Corncrake on Islay this year and one was seen with twelve young on the 24th.

During the last three weeks I have spent in total seventeen hours in a hide hoping a female Hen Harrier would alight on a post near her nest. On most days it did not happen but then on one occasion she spent ten minutes on it preening. It was a long time to spend looking at the top of a post but when it works it was all well worth while. However, on one occasion when we arrived at the nest site the male Hen Harrier was on the post and of course he did not return while I was in the hide.

The flower season on Islay is very late this year and as we were leaving we found incredible numbers of Frog and Pyramidal Orchids at Killinallen and one hundred and seventy one Greater Butterfly Orchids flowering in one small area at Bruichladdich.

Seabirds Suffer

June 19, 2011 at 8:26 pm

Pied Billed Grebe

Another week on Islay and everywhere you go you are reminded of the gale in May with Westerly facing woodlands looking like they have suffered a nuclear blast.

I took the opportunity of visiting the seabird colonies on the West coast to ascertain what damage had been incurred in 100mph gale. Guillemot numbers were only half what they normally are and Razorbills were only slightly down on normal. However, whilst initially Kittiwakes looked to be in normal numbers a close inspection through the binoculars revealed another story. At least half the birds present were sat on empty nests and must have had their eggs blown out of their nests in the storm.

The weather has been very mixed and generally poor for Islay in June. Two sessions looking for Otters failed to find any. Hen Harrier sightings have been well down and even these ground nesting birds may have suffered in the gale or perhaps the recent days of pouring rain.

Flowers are now beginning to appear in good numbers with sixty four Lesser Butterfly Orchids in flower in one field. It is also good to see Roe Deer with their fawns at the just able to walk stage.

Short Eared Owl Stars

June 12, 2011 at 9:03 pm

Pied Billed Grebe

We have had another week on Islay. Some time has been spent trying to film a male Short Eared Owl as he brought prey to a brooding female, her nest being deep in the heather. The photo was taken through the video camera and was the only one I took, although I did obtain some spectacular film. Some days he did not alight on the post at all and then one day he brought four items in two hours alighting on the post each time. Nothing is predictable in wildlife filming and this is the first time in forty years that I have succeeded in filming a male Short Eared Owl, with prey away from the nest.

Since we left Islay a month ago there has been a hundred mph gale which has had a devasting effect on all wildlife. The woodlands look like Autumn with the leaves dead and shrivelled and many on the ground as a result of salt spray damage. Coming at the height of the breeding season there will be no caterpillars for young birds to be fed on or butterflies to follow and no one knows what the long term effect of the gale will be.

Redstart Delights

June 4, 2011 at 6:56 am

Pied Billed Grebe

Pied Billed Grebe

One day during last week I was filming Redstarts and Pied Flycatchers in the Forest of Bowland. The deciduous wood had at least eight pairs of each breeding and it was an absolute delight to await their next return to the nest with an ever changing array of insects and caterpillars. While the colours of the male Redstart are amazing it was the male Pied Flycatcher that took the prize for the most visits. During the hour I was at his nest he fed the six young at least once a minute, sometimes much less. Just to be in this wood with all the bird song and no man made noises is what early Summer is all about.

Another day I spent on a moorland reservoir filming Common Sandpipers and Little Ringed Plovers. Both species had eggs about to hatch, with the Plover’s nest vulnerable to any increase in water levels so lets hope we have a dry spell during the next few days. What was pleasing was that while I was filming a Snipe was displaying overhead on the neighbouring moor and I also found a great specimen of Butterwort in full flower and the first I have ever seen in the Pennines.

In the garden Goldfinches are now bringing their first broods of young to feed and hopefully more to follow during the Summer.