With a forecast that looked good I prepared the day for both formal and less formal birding activities. Given that odd skuas have already gone through the Solway Firth in the last few days I decided to have the first couple of hours after dawn seawatching. A steady swell, which occasionally hit the shore with its full weight reminiscent of distant gunfire, provided good viewing conditions, but little was in evidence. A few Manx Shearwater south accompanied the ever present strings of Gannet and Razorbill moving in either direction and a Red-throated Diver made its determined way north. Heavy rain clouds then moved in from the north west and were an intermittent feature of the next few hours, within which time I completed the more formal survey work of the day. In transit I managed a brief look at Loch Indaal, but had nothing special other than a handful of Slavonian Grebe, all in summer plumage, and various Great Northern Divers in a complete mixture of garb.
The afternoon was glorious, with soaring temperatures, which brought out several Small Tortoiseshell and Green-veined White butterflies and I managed to spend a little time at the RSPB Loch Gruinart Reserve until early evening. The whole surrounding area was littered with geese , predominantly Barnacle Geese, massing up before their departure to Iceland and thence on to Greenland. Feeding geese, sleeping geese, preening geese with, occasionally, large numbers of them "spooking" and flying around excitedly as a prelude to their imminent departure. Gruinart is their main arrival point on Islay in autumn and clearly many of them , not all, treat it as some form of departure terminal as well, the only difference to late October being in the massed ranks being more preoccupied feeding and, thereby, quieter than the rowdy time surrounding their arrival with us.
Concern is being expressed that they may not be in the best condition possible given the state of the ground and poor grazing conditions after a poor winter. Concern too that their imminent departure might also be a bonus given lambing for many is just about to commence and some spring bite would be appreciated!!
The reserve lagoons were alive with Redshank and Lapwing, although duck numbers are gradually reducing. Nonetheless some nice Pintail, Wigeon, Shoveler and Teal were on display, besides several Grey Herons, 3 Whooper Swan , a Greenshank and a very elusive Little Stint. Perhaps its this time of year that the reserve can be seen at its most dynamic and , therefore, well worth a visit. With a new hide to boot it's certainly not a place to miss, the whole area aptly overseen by its Trail Guide giving you background information.
And so a day, which had started off pretty horrid and caused me to doubt the large bright suns displayed on the Met Office widget, had done a complete and welcome U-turn.!!
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