Sunday, 14 March 2010

Return to Islay

Sorry for the paucity of posting but I have been away for bit. I got back on thursday from Islay. Another super trip. The weather was devine. Little wind, sun and flat seas! Was really enjoyable.

The trip up was a shock to the system with a 5am pick up from home but this gave us views of six Barn Owls on the A165 plus a gritting Woodcock on Garraby hill. Not much else was seen as we drove on to Islay save a handful of Buzzards. We arrived at Oban just after midday and were soon steaming on toward Islay - an 8 hour trip. A few Black Guillemots were seen as we left Oban plus Shag & Eider. Wigeon & Mallard grazed along the loch shores and the usual gulls were kicking about. As we entered the Sound of Mull I picked up a distant large raptor. It circled revealing broad wings and a white tail - White-tailed Eagle! I was ecstatic but my shipmates were less pleased as they only got onto it after a few minutes and could make out a large sillouhette and nowt more. My luck only improved as circling over Jura not long before dusk was a Buzzard and then behind this two much large rakish birds, Golden Eagles!!! I was pleased with the sighting but dissapointed with the views - no better than glorified dots. Just before we entered Port Ellen we heard that our survey could be more interesting - a Navy Submarine was operating in the area. This was the last we heard of the sub but no doubt it was close at hand occasionally.

The first days survey was to the west of Islay and was a long day with standard sightings of Gannet, Fulmar, Razorbill, Kittiwake & Guillemot. The highlight was a couple of finches that over flew the boat mid-morning, probably Linnets. Returning to Port gave corking views of Black-throated Diver plus more distant views of Great Northern Diver, Red-breasted Merganser and a few seals of both species.

The second survey was more of the same but a lot shorter as we had done a long shift on the previous day. The trip back to harbour was more productive with a single Slavonian Grebe, several Raven and a single Golden Eagle over the Oa. Slightly better views this time. When we got back myself and another surveyor decided to go birding and got corking views of 200+ Greenland White-fronted Geese on the Bowmore road plus a few Greylags. A flock of Fieldfare and Redwing came whizzing through as if spooked but no raptors were seen save for a distant Buzzard. After a while the thrushes became emboldened and the Redwing burst into song, not something I have heard much before. I assume these birds were Icelandic as they were darker than the birds im used to on the east coast (although it was bright sun). As we reached a boggy area next to a side road three Snipe exploded from beneath my feet. We returned to the village one of the Rooks made a funny noise - hang on thats a Chough six feet over my head. The bill wasnt crimson so maybe it was one of last years birds or perhaps it was soiled? Anyone care to hazard a guess?

The last day of surveying was between Islay and Kintyre and as usual was the most productive - Eider and lots of diver. The birds werent the highlight though. The sea was flat as a fart, blooms of Ctenophores caused riffles on a flawless surface and we had some excellent views of Harbour Porpoise throughout the day. Little else was noted as we steamed up to Oban comin in at 9ish.

The journey home was quite birdwise except for a super naked eye view of a Golden Eagle near Loch Awe. Awesome. Boy was I glad to be back with only 30 hours between surveys.

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