Last Night’s Fish Supper

March 31, 2019 at 7:08 pm

Late February’s superb weather encouraged Kingfishers back to their nest-sites and thoughts turned to the breeding season ahead. I spent a glorious ten hours watching a pair that included the bird in this weeks photo. Suddenly she appeared to be choking which, having witnessed this before, I knew was the start of her regurgitating a pellet of fish bones. Like Owls Kingfishers swallow their prey whole and at a later time the bones, in the form of a pellet, are coughed up and discarded. The sequence of this action is included in this weeks gallery photos.Click here
This is a great time of year to be involved in wildlife with the overlap in the seasons. One day this week I went from a Chiff-Chaff singing in the garden to Long Eared Owls, Woodcock and Jack Snipe in the hills. The following day I encountered fourteen Peacock butterflies enjoying the sun!

Rough Seas

March 24, 2019 at 8:58 pm

While up in North East Scotland last week we paid a quick visit to the Moray Firth hoping to film Long Tailed Ducks. None came within reach of the camera but the rugged coastline did provide good views of Turnstone and Purple Sandpipers battling the wild surf. The Caledonian forests around Loch Garten provided good views of Siskins and the illusive Crested Tits that had already paired off and were busy excavating nest holes. The bird of the short break had to be the Brambling with one field at Boat of Garten having a feeding flock of 200 which never came close to the camera ! The Waxwings that had spent all winter in the area had already left for Scandinavia three days before we arrived !! You can’t win them all! Click here

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