Icelandic Merlin

February 28, 2016 at 9:12 pm

One of the reasons for visiting Islay in February is to catch up with the many raptors that winter on the island. As only one pair of Merlin breed on Islay in summer the winter sightings are of Icelandic birds that have come south in October with Redwings and like the Redwings they always seem darker plumaged than our British Merlin. This weeks photo is of a female stood in a stubble field looking for potential prey. I was lucky as she was near the road and I was able to take several photos from the car before she was on her way. Moments like that don’t come along too often and if your camera is not out ready you will still be waiting for the next one!!

It took us a week before we saw our first Hen Harrier and then along came five one day and six the next. For some reason most sightings were of males including one that flew over a Roebuck as it hunted. On one day a Golden Eagle flew over the car on a moorland road and on the same road a week later a Peregrine was eating a Redwing by the roadside and flew off still clutching its dinner. Sparrowhawks were seen on a regular basis and on one day the Buzzard total was twelve. With all these raptors competing for prey the poor Kestrel is the one to suffer and not for the first time we saw none! click here

I will include more photos of Islays wildlife in next weeks gallery as they certainly warrant a closer look.

Winter On Islay

February 21, 2016 at 10:02 am

A week on Islay and a mixture of snow, rain, gales and sparkling sunshine.

A walk around Islay’s beaches resulted in a flock of 80 Sanderlings being encountered in one sandy bay. It was great to watch their rapid feeding whilst uttering low contact calls. One bird had a multitude of colour rings on its legs and was probably ringed on its breeding grounds in Greenland Click here

There are still plenty of Starlings on Islay and we witnessed a fantastic stoop by a Peregrine in its attempt to split the flock and isolate one bird. At dusk one evening a Sparrowhawk was chasing a small group that were going to roost under a pier.

The most unexpected bird of the week was a female Kingfisher that landed in front of us as it fished one of Islay’s largest lochs.

Day Hunting Long Eared Owl

February 15, 2016 at 7:48 pm

During the last week I was able to witness a Long Eared Owl leave its diurnal roost then look for prey from a hawthorne hedge. It circled low over a rough pasture then returned to the very same roosting branch that it left ten minutes earlier. It had caught no prey and was harassed by Crows throughout its excursion. This is the first Long Eared Owl that I have ever seen hunting during daylight hours when there were no young in a nest to feed and it is another example of how this winter’s weather is having a detrimental effect on the survival of all our Owls. If more settled weather does not prevail soon then many of them will not be in a condition to breed this year. Click here

Manchester Shorties

February 7, 2016 at 5:34 pm

A hunting Short Eared Owl bathed in late afternoon sunshine with the rolling Pennine hills in the background. It would not go amiss in any of the Pennines National Parks but this photo was taken within five miles of Manchester City Town hall!! So far this winter I have known of four others all hunting voles close to the industrial scene. Quite clearly these Owls are attracted to an abundance of voles and must be part of the big influx last autumn of Scandinavian birds. Within the next five weeks they will return eastwards with Long Eared Owls that came across with them and our voles will be left in peace.Click here

The wet weather continues unabated and all the action comes from the garden. Two juvenile male Sparrowhawks clashed on the 6th chasing the thirty one Goldfinches that we had present that day. The Long Tailed Tit flock increased to ten on the 4th and the sight of three Buzzards together over the house one day would have been unthinkable up to ten years ago.