The forecast suggested that the weather would be improving so we took a gamble and decided to spend the day on Jura. It was still cold in the wind, but the sun broke through eventually although still leaving some haze in the distance.
Such was perfect viewing conditions which increasingly began to pay off as the day progressed. Even before we got to Jura we'd had a single, although distant, Golden Eagle at one site and then watched another in display for a brief period at another location. On Jura itself it first looked as if it might be a harrier day given we quickly encountered an adult male, an immature male and , then, a female in a relatively short distance! Two or three Buzzards were in evidence and it began to look as if the conditions would entice raptors to display. In passing through Craighouse a small party of Light bellied Brent Geese was present along the shoreline, which might be yet another signal of them extending their local wintering areas as I have had birds in the Sound of Islay in previous winters as well.
As we moved north inquisitive Red Deer became a roadside feature, suggesting few people had passed their way in the early morning. Birds were less in evidence, although various passerines were seen around Ardlussa. The removal of the mature conifers along the approach route and south of Tarbert now brings an altogether different vista to the journey. Sadly the road has "suffered " and doubtless work will now be needed to upgrade it once again.
Mid afternoon saw us undertaking our return journey, after briefly calling in to see friends and almost "winning" a spaniel in the process. It managed to install itself in the car's footwell and look appealing until we discovered that such behaviour is its party piece!!! Thereafter provided some particularly exciting birding as we moved to the crest of an undulating bit of road and discovered a 1st W Golden Eagle coming towards us about 40 m. away. It provided the best views I've ever had of an immature bird as it veered off and then gradually circled away northwards. Soon after, or so it seemed, another sub-adult appeared, only to be joined by another bird , as they then made their way towards the coast. When we thought everything had subsided Matthew then found a further, but distant, adult bird which was soon joined by another!! The obvious smaller male of the two began to display and we were entertained to some brief, but breathtaking views of this large bird plummeting towards the ground before sweeping upwards in a huge arc during which time its larger mate drifted around nearby. Why is it such memorable birding always comes lumped together in this way!!
Later we actually found another two birds on Islay, admittedly distant but showing their golden heads nonetheless, which brought our total to nine different individuals, almost double that which I've ever had previously in a day and not something I'd like to try and equal. Luck comes in strange doses it seems.
We would have been selfish indeed to even expect any more from the day as we drove down the Rhinns. The day itself was drawing in and, with it, the temperature, which was dropping noticeably and heralding a cold night in store for us all. The frenetic activity of the day was now past, but leaving indelible memories that doubtless will never be repeated, even by boys from Barnsley!!
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