Home Again

November 6, 2007 at 10:05 pm


Well here I am back home again after seventeen days on Islay.

The first week provided some good weather for October but the last week has been dull and mild with one day raining all day – an unusual event for Islay.

There has been a continuous passage of Whooper Swans through Islay with some family parties not even touching down and flying straight on to Ireland. Not a bad feat after flying non stop five hundred miles from Iceland at 40mph!

Islay is always a brilliant place for raptors and on one day I saw five Hen Harriers on my travels around the Island but this time failed to see any Golden Eagles. The highlight was disturbing a Hen Harrier and a Hobby fighting one morning at dawn. The Hobby is a very rare visitor to Islay and late October is not the time of year you would expect to find one.

Ardnave is always one of Islay’s most popular places to visit and walk around and during my visits two Snow Buntings and three Slavonian Grebes were seen as well as thirty plus Chough feeding in the high tide seaweed.

In the very mild Autumn weather forty two species of flowers were found which is an incredible number for November – global warming perhaps?

I only went looking for Otters once and found two in the Sound of Islay. One of these climbed a rock to spraint and then entered a cave to sleep.

Writing from Islay

October 27, 2007 at 2:29 pm

Hen Harrier

Here I am writing from Islay after our first week. The weather has been sunny at times but there has always been a strong wind and rain on a couple of days.

As usual the Barnacle Geese have been very impressive, especially at dusk as they come to roost in their thousands at Bridgend.

I have had several sightings of Hen Harriers, Sparrowhawk, Merlin and one Peregrine. Thirty plus Chough were feeding in some seaweed on one day and a flock of forty eight Twite were in the dunes nearby.

There have been good numbers of Redwings and Fieldfares during the week and the highlight photographically has been filming the Fieldfares devouring the last hawthorne berries.

Siskins have been seen in several places and an exceptional number of cones on pines in one of the forests has produced five Crossbills. In fact we have seen Crossbills on all three visits to this plantation.

So far we have not looked for Otters , perhaps next week we can turn our attention to them.

We are off to Islay

October 18, 2007 at 9:44 pm


Only a few days since the last entry but we are now busy packing for a visit to Islay to complete filming there for this year.

On the 14th October two female Stonechats were on the golf course feeding and calling from the Umbellicas – only the second time I have seen Stonechat locally. Two Reed Buntings also present and the Green Woodpecker is still hanging on.

A Warbler in the garden also on the 14th proved to be a Chiff Chaff with the Nuthatches still present most days, in fact on the 14th we had eighteen different species of birds in the garden which is not bad for a garden measuring no more than 5 metres x 10 metres.

A visit to Dove Stones reservoir in the hills this morning produced twenty plus Siskins, twelve Fieldfares and a Comma Butterfly, the first and definitely last I have seen this year.

A Late Wheatear

October 13, 2007 at 9:25 pm


High pressure has dominated all week producing dull, cloudy and calm conditions. With only a light southerly wind there has been no further influx of Redwings and Fieldfares.

On the local Golf Course the Green Woodpecker is still very vocal especially in the mornings. Reed Buntings and Grey Wagtails are still present and even better a Dipper was feeding along the stream on the 13th – only the second in the area in the last twenty years. Better still occurred on the afternoon of the 11th when a bird feeding under some pine trees turned out to be a female Wheatear, the latest record I have for a passage Wheatear.

There has been considerable activity in the garden with a record count of nineteen Goldfinches on the 8th and then today, the 13th, a new bird, in fact not one but two Nuthatches feeding all afternoon. It’s taken them thirty nine years to reach our garden!

With a talk in Leek during the week I was able to watch over the North Staffordshire moorlands one evening and had a good view of a female Goshawk and one hundred fieldfares going to roost in a pine forest – perhaps Winter is just around the corner.

Fly Agaric appears

October 7, 2007 at 7:59 pm

Fly Agaric

As if to prove me wrong after last weeks prediction of no Fieldfares for a fortnight two arrived over the Golf Course on the 3rd – the earliest I have had locally in thirty nine years.

All the Swallows have now gone but there are still Willow Warblers and Chiff Chaff in Hopwood woods. In addition an encounter with a flock of thirty Redpolls was a nice bonus , watching them feed on the tops of some birches. Two Green Woodpeckers have been very vocal in the early morning on the Golf Course. Also on the Golf Course the first Fly Agaric has appeared and I would expect much more to follow in an Autumn that has produced an abundance of fungi.

In the garden the Goldfinches have now increased to a new record of sixteen.

Today has been a perfect Autumn day being calm and sunny with a temperature of nineteen degrees. A walk around Ogden reservoir produced two Great Crested Grebes, fifteen Long Tailed Tits and good views of the usual Little Owl – stood watching the Sunday walkers pass by.

Redwings Arrive

September 29, 2007 at 8:49 pm


Just over a week since my last entry and no filming during that time due to inclement weather and lack of subject matter.

The last week has seen a big exodus of Swallows and on one morning forty two Meadow Pipits were feeding on one of the fairways on the Golf Course. Green Woodpeckers are still present on the course but there is no way of bringing them in front of the camera as they are feeding on ants all over the course. Jays are everywhere at the moment with two starting to feed in our garden. More and more birds are coming into the garden with a maximum of thirty one House Sparrows and a garden record of twelve Goldfinches during the last week.

I received a report today of a Goshawk catching and eating a Jay in a garden a mile down the road from me. Whilst nine times out of ten it would have been a female Sparrowhawk the description was definitely a Goshawk.

The highlight of the week has to be the arrival of two Redwings today. It never ceases to amaze me how year after year the first ones come on or about 30th September. A week of north winds have meant they have arrived a day early! I wouldn’t expect to see any Fieldfare for a good two weeks but it depends on the wind direction.