Saturday, April 13, 2013

Passage gathering momentum. 13.4.2013.

Dawn broke dull and cloudy and with a light south easterly wind. The sea was flat , but with a slight swell and viewing conditions were good for seawatching.  As previously, lines of southward moving Gannets were a permanent feature throughout the couple of hours applied and, similarly, northward moving lines of Auks provided the opposing effect! A few Kittiwakes and Manx Shearwater went through south, as did two Sandwich Tern ( 2013, 181 ). Later calls of this species were heard, without the birds being seen , and I suspect the same individuals were involved. A nice "collection" of  10/12 Black Guillemot remained on an area of upwelling water between two islands, prompting thoughts of them having deliberately selected the conditions given perfectly calm areas were nearby!!

Further round the promontory, three male Northern Wheatears fed together and a party of five male Blackbirds was present suggesting an overnight arrival of both. Moving north up the Rinns,  another Northern Wheatear was present, a Red-breasted Merganser male flew out of Loch Indaal and a loose flock of Common Scoter repeatedly broke up, not in display, but to fly increasing distances towards the mouth of Loch Indaal as if feeling some imperative to commence migration! For me, this time of year is always exciting in a variety of respects, and today was no exception, with the first "showing" at a couple of locations of new lambs. Predictable, anticipated but , nonetheless, tangible evidence of seasonal renewal and continuity!

At the head of Loch Indaal a mixed collection of geese , waders and gulls had concentrated, although the total number involved was quite small. Checking through them, I suddenly realised the group of resting birds was Whimbrel ( 2013,182 ), all the Curlew being nearby feeding out in shallow water. A little later, as if  some signal had passed between them , they rose in unison, uttering their wonderful tinkling call, and climbed in height before heading off north east. What a great sight!  Bon voyage.

I decided to check on two raptor locations and, stoically, over the next couple of hours checked for presence or otherwise, but without any success!!! By now overcast conditions had moved in and an increasing feeling of  "dampness"  hung in the air. I decided to return home, but not before checking a mixed flock of Barnacle, Grey-lag and Greenland White-fronted Geese at Kilchiaran, nine of the latter carrying prominent orange neck collars and white leg rings. Unfortunately they were out of range to ensure I could read the numbers on the collars,  but I strongly suspect them to be some of the birds that were successfully caught earlier at Ballinaby , near Loch Gorm and fitted with these aids to identification.  I'll be back!!

As if on cue, within ten minutes of reaching home the rain had started and the wind is now moaning and whistling in the background.  No surprise then that numbers of geese are still around. They appear to have an uncanny ability to identify the most appropriate time to leave on the first northward "leg" of their migration to Iceland. Usually this is preceded by them congregating in numbers at the north end of the island, which has not yet happened,  following which, as soon as suitable conditions arise they move off en masse other than for a few stragglers, the infirm or the unwilling! More reliable than some weather forecasts.