Sunday, April 20, 2014

More departures than arrivals. 19.4.2014

The weather promised to provide a good day again, although the SE wind was unlikely to provide the best conditions for seawatching, which soon proved to be the case.  However, well before then I had the experience of being woken by a "double alarm" clock without having set it!!

Just beyond the garden wall, on a small mound, a cock Pheasant has commenced to display each morning. It usually ensures I'm up by six am!!  The penetrating call, and whirring sound of its wings as it jumps in the air to advertise its presence, are extremely effective reminders of the time.  This morning proved to be worse! Immediately below the bedroom window is a bush, indeed "the garden bush", within which a Collared Dove was producing its most metronomic efforts.  Not the best start at a little past 0530 hours, but welcome in the sense that its not every Spring that this species is recorded at home. They're present around various villages on Islay, but from personal experience Spring is the time when the occasional bird can be found outside of these areas too.

A seawatch produced no evidence of birds "on the move" other than Gannets moving north and south on feeding movements and parties of Auks speeding northwards. Driving through the nearby village the sound of chirruping House Sparrows was redolent of what used to be another widespread sound which has ceased to be in many places in recent years. Atlantic Grey Seals were hauled out in the harbour and a small number of Eiders moved around calling quietly. On nearby Orsay island one, possibly two, Common Sandpipiers picked around, whilst Oystercatchers went through their noisy displays and flights, all the while with neighbouring seals stretched out on the rocks around seemingly unaffected by it all.

 Outer Loch Indaal unfortunately proved impossible to cover with morning light from the east producing an excessive amount of glare reflecting from the water surface.  Certainly the odd Great Northern Diver was present.  The various rocks offshore of Bruichladdich produced at least 36 Ringed Plover, Turnstone, a Purple Sandpiper, two Sandwich Terns and a couple of Cormorant.

On to the Loch Gorm area to complete various WeBS counts and give the site a good inspection. Firstly, though, the inner man and breakfast which, on this occasion, was accompanied by a curious Stoat appearing several times to check out what was happening.  Duck numbers were few and far between, but an overflying immature Golden Eagle provided excellent views, floating around in a clear blue sky and showing off its white tail with dark sub-terminal band and its wing markings to great effect.  Willow Warblers are now increasing and a single Grasshopper Warbler and several Reed Buntings added to the scene. A nearby lochan provided good views of a female Goldeneye and, as previously, two flocks of  Golden Plover totalling almost four hundred flew around to the east and again landed out of sight.

Later a male Peregrine replaced the Stoat at a late lunch stop and circled overhead for some time before slipping away northwards. Generally Northern Wheatears still appear in low numbers,  with only Willow Warblers arriving in strength so far.  The mainly clear overnight conditions have obviously allowed migrants to move through and the southerly wind conditions have supported a final clear out of geese. I saw none today ( other than Grey Lag Geese ) compared to a couple of days ago. A check at Loch Gruinart saw fewer Pintail and Wigeon present, the Black-tailed Godwits apparently gone with an altogether more tranquil scene in evidence.
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