Monday, October 8, 2012

Arrivals and departures!!

Well, in the spirit of a rejuvenated Blog, I'd hoped to have displayed at least one photograph of a Draconid meteor given a shower was predicted for yesterday evening and beyond nightfall. The forecast was for a "handful of languid" meteors suggesting it was never going to be that spectacular. By contrast, Draco has been known to produce many thousands of meteors within a given hour, but I'm not at all sure when. Anyway, cloud cover  ruined the potential of the whole episode, despite a couple of checks overnight.

A sunlit dawn was all too brief in extent, but provided a good backdrop to the roaring of Red Deer stags from the confines of the forestry beyond the grass moor looking east from the house. I suspect the newly arrived holiday makers at the cottage close to the plantations thought they'd somehow transferred to the African savannah such was the level of noise in the calm conditions.

Taking advantage of the good visibility and calm sea I spent the morning seawatching. Northern Ireland was clearly visible across the wide expanse of water moved only by a slight swell.  Gannets, a few auks and Kittiwakes were moving south together with a fine Great Northern Diver in seemingly full summer plumage and a dark phase Arctic Skua. A group of 23 Whooper Swans flew north along the coast having been heard in their approach for ages from somewhere south of Islay. Later, what I suspect was another group way over towards Ireland, followed a more normal route southwards towards their wintering grounds A little later a flock of Golden Plover came in off the sea from the south west and headed off  east, again birds undoubtedly gaining a " navigation fix " whilst on passage. We tend to presume birds move along very fixed lines of passage , but not always. At the height of the goose arrivals there's always some Barnacle Geese that seem to overshoot Islay and can then be seen excitedly moving north to gain their intended point of arrival at Gruinart to join up with the rest of the wintering population. Later on there are obvious exchanges with Northern Ireland, usually weather induced, which proceed on a much more leisurely and intended basis!!

In advance of any numbers of winter thrushes arriving, and by utter contrast, the presence of  wintering Robins is already noteworthy. Individuals seen alongside tracks, in isolated bramble patches and small tangles, pays testimony to the fact that the species is quite an early arrival in autumn to supplement what is not that high a breeding population.