Sunday, 18 April 2010

Spring on the Sunny Sea

Again the pics will follow (I get access to the work photos tomorrow...). This week I have been mostly in the lovely warm inner Hebridean sun of Islay. On the way up we had a good haul of raptors with a few Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, multiple Buzzards, a Red Kite over the A1 again and a marauding Peregrine scaring the bejesus out some skanky Rock Doves in the southern uplands. Other runners and riders from the trip included a few Swallows and plenty of Curlew and Oystercatcher seen along the A66.

We landed at Kinnacraig for the ferry late afternoon and I quickly picked up two year ticks. Plenty of Willow Warblers were trilling away and I finally laid my peepers on a couple. Better than this was a vocal group of four Lesser Redpoll in the birch that surrounds the ferry site. On the ferry we had about 50 Great Northern Divers and 25 Black-throated Divers as we left West Loch Tarbert. Apart from a few Red-breasted Mergansers and Black Guillemot it was steady. Nothing much else was seen bar one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever had the privilege to witness.

An early start was required on Wednesday as we were doing two days surveying in one. We quickly saw good numbers of Manx Shearwater and a couple of probable Greenland White-fronted Geese were seen leaving Islay for more northerly climes as we started. A few passerines bobbed overhead with Meadow Pipit being the only put to species (nothing seems to call at sea). The sea was very calm but we managed no mammals. Sightings quickly dropped off and we had a slow day without anything of note even on the trip back. That night I had the pleasure of seeing Tottenham Hotspur beat Arsenal whilst supping a single malt...what could be better.

The second days survey was even slower than the first...the only decent birds were small numbers of summer plumage Great Northern Diver moving north up through the sound. A Skylark was seen 2 miles out at sea but the effects of the ash cloud reduced the visibility encouraging it to turn around and head back to Kintyre. We had quite a few contacts with Porpoise and a bigger cetacean turned out not to be a Bottle-nosed Dolphin as hoped but a log in a wave. Booo. We did manage to get back into port mid afternoon and three of us went on a jaunt up to Ardbeg distillery. We managed lots of Ravens, a circling Peregrine, a couple of Wheatears, some buzzy Lesser Redpolls and one of the showiest Pied Wagtails this side of christendom. We managed the three miles quickly and only just got to the distillery before closing time. No chance to sample their wares but a few minitures were acquired (Ardbeg costs a minimum £40 a bottle - on my wages no chance). We stumbled back, past Lagavulin distillery which was closed but a very generous woman offered us a lift. Nice. Upon returning we were gripped by a fellow surveyor who had a couple of feeding Arctic Terns in the harbour, the only ones of the trip. In order to sample our whisky we had to try the bar rather than open the minitures which stayed firmly full.

The trip back was least eventful bird wise probably due to observer fatigue but we managed 5 summer plumage Slavonian Grebe in West Loch Tarbert along with 65 Great Northern Divers, 20 Black-throated Divers and a couple of Red-throated Divers. No White-billed but we will persist! The Redpolls were still at the ferry station along with the Willow Warblers. And that was it...homeward bound.

How brains and birds become mutually exclusive