An Islay Goose Feast

October 30, 2011 at 9:01 pm

Pied Billed Grebe

Pied Billed Grebe

Last week we had our annual Autumn break on Islay.

We have already had three very wet visits to Islay this year so the four good days during the week were a bonus. No matter how many times you see the Barnacle Geese the spectacle of twenty thousand or more going to roost at dusk is spell binding. It was even more spectacular when a Sea Eagle was trying to catch them!

Flocks of Chough, Snow Buntings and Twite were all great to see. With good sightings of Golden Eagle, Hen Harrier, Sparrowhawk and even a female Merlin, bathing in a roadside pool of water, all made Islay special this Autumn.

Otters were watched fishing on two days and Grey Seals were found with their pups and Red Deer were watched on Jura at dawn making an Autumn visit quite special.

Goldcrest Drop In

October 23, 2011 at 4:46 pm

Pied Billed Grebe

The Southerly winds have delayed the arrival of migrants following the first Redwings, Fieldfares and Brambling last week. However, Goldcrest have been calling in the garden and also from parts of Hopwood Woods. As soon as we have an Easterly wind the remaining Fieldfares and Woodcock should come flooding in. Perhaps some Waxwings?

In the garden despite putting out very little sunflower seed we have had male and female Sparrowhawk, fourteen Starlings, fourteen Goldfinches, fourteen House Sparrows, four Long Tailed Tits and a daily male Great SpottedWoodpecker. Hopefully the disease that struck our garden birds will have disappeared and full feeding can soon resume.

Migrants Arrive

October 16, 2011 at 10:51 am

Pied Billed Grebe

On the 9th three Redwings flew over the garden heading South West on exactly the same date that I had my first sighting two years ago. A Buzzard was circling high over the garden on the 15th and a male Great Spotted Woodpecker has fed several times during the week.

Hopwood produced my earliest ever Brambling on the 14th as a single male flew over in the South West direction calling loudly. This was followed on the 15th by a single Fieldfare. At least ten Bullfinches were present on 15th along with Redpolls and Siskins. A Green Woodpecker called on the 14th and we had our first frost of Winter early on the same day.

The early part of the week was blessed with three days of rain so some time was spent on the new Raptors DVD.

Grey Wagtail’s Visit

October 9, 2011 at 3:16 pm

Pied Billed Grebe

The only food we are putting out at present in the garden are fat balls but this week we have been visited by an amazing number of birds. Two Grey Wagtails were the big surprise and as there is no flowing water in the garden I can only presume that these two were on passage from the hills of the Pennines. Three Song Thrushes together was a garden record and ten Long Tailed Tits was not far short of the record either. In addition we have had both Great Spotted Woodpecker and Wren on regular visits. The biggest surprise was a Red Legged Partridge in a neighbouring garden where there are poultry. This was a free flying bird and where it has come from is a mystery.

On Hopwood I have encountered a party of seven Redpolls and a party of six Bullfinches. Kestrel and Sparrowhawk were seen plus a very young Short Tailed Field Vole so it looks like they are breeding well. No migrant thrushes have arrived yet until the wind swings around to the East.

Crocus and Commas

October 2, 2011 at 7:33 pm

Pied Billed GrebeAt long last five days of constant sunshine with a maximum temperature of 27°C which is a local record for the 1st October.

There has been a massive increase in the number of butterflies with nine Commas,seven Small Tortoiseshell, three Speckled Woods, three Red Admiral and two Small Copper on Hopwood but strangely enough no Peacock Butterflies yet. Autumn Crocus have flowered well and the first migrant Snipe were feeding along the stream on the 1st. As would have been expected all the Swallows and Martins have now moved South in the exceptional weather.

Flying over the garden one day were three Kestrels, all heading South and only yards apart. Were they a family party on the move? Totally confused by the weather was a Chiff Chaff in full song on the 29th September!

Last Sunday was a sad day for wildlife photography with the passing of Gordon Langsbury. I had been speaking to him only two days before his death and as always he was enthusiastic about his next book on Hebridean Wildlife. A month earlier I had helped him arrange a cruise around Spitsbergen to celebrate his 80th birthday. He will now be there in spirit only next year.