Sunday, March 17, 2013

Signs of winter's end. 16.3.2013.

A rolling grey sea, with far off mist shrouding views of Ireland, coupled with a north easterly wind, weren't the best circumstances for sea watching, although an advancing calendar inevitably signals a potential for change.  Increased numbers of Gannets offshore, all adults, and several parties of northward bound auks, mostly Razorbills when they could be identified, suggested this to be true. Local Fulmars stoically sat out the cold winds on their exposed corner of the island cliff on the opposite side of the bay and summer clad Black Guillemots whirred back and forth. Present too was a rowdy assemblage of Common Gulls on what will be there usual nesting area on a bluff above the beach, further signs that the season is moving forward.

Outer Loch Indaal provided further evidence of activity, with parties of Guillemot and Razorbill and numbers of Great Northern Diver dotted across the wide expanse of water, including a party of eight with two birds asleep, an indication perhaps of their recent arrival after moving north. Several Red-throated Divers were also present and a trio of Black-throated Divers, who noticeably kept close together and alert, almost acting nervously. A total of around 140 Common Scoter was strung out in the centre of the loch, riding out an increasing choppy surface and with no frenetic activity from the males as usually befits the season!  Further into the loch four Purple Sandpiper fed actively amongst the rocks at Bruichladdich as the tide advanced and , farther on, seven Light-bellied Brent Geese picked similarly at the edge of the moving body of water.

In the more sheltered waters of the Inner Loch the numbers of duck are now much reduced, an apt indicator in itself that birds have commenced on the first stage of their journey to their breeding grounds. A handful of Wigeon, a few Long-tailed Duck and odd Goldeneye provided the vestiges of what had gone before. A few Slavonian Grebe remain, now in resplendent summer plumage, but their usual winter counterparts, Greater Scaup  all appear to have departed. By contrast, numbers of Northern Eider continue to increase and Shelduck are more in evidence. Of interest was a fast moving flock of  70 Common Teal that "fled" the loch completely to the north west, either birds that had decided to move on or birds that were moving through.

Clearly a time of anticipation and change. Further north, in the increasing temperatures of mid afternoon, several Buzzards circled around over their prospective breeding territories and several Robins gave out snatches of song, all further indications that spring is on its way.