Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A Whopping Day for Whoopers!! 28.10.2014

Finally, it seemed, we were to get a break in the successive days of poor weather and receive something more decent. Not only was the weather fine, with light winds throughout, but the warmth of the afternoon sun  was something to take advantage of !  Such "windows of opportunity" are quickly identified and exploited by birds and such proved to be the case with birds from Iceland clearly on the move.

Shortly after dawn I was outside, at home, and heard an intriguing combination of distant calls progressing towards me down the valley from the north.  Eventually they separated and proved to be two skeins, one of 10 Whooper Swans and the other of 30 Pink-footed Geese. What a magnificent sight as they passed closely overhead with the bugling and "wink wink" calls now clearly distinct. Both continued southwards doubtless towards Ireland or the Solway Firth/ NW England.

I'd arranged to meet up at RSPB Gruinart with Geoff Carr up here on holiday with family. It was a good choice as the area was heaving with birds. Whilst we were there a total in excess of 100 Whooper Swans arrived in varying sized groups, with some staying and resting or feeding out on the loch, but with others flying straight through. I'd seen others on my journey up to Gruinart with different groups seen on my way back too. Reports from the west of Islay suggested a succession of groups had moved through to Ireland and, although counts weren't available, there appeared every possibility that 300-400 birds had been involved throughout the day. I love Whooper days!

Besides catching up on gossip from South Yorkshire, discussing the woeful situation arising out of increased persecution of raptors in the Peak District and similar topics , we had some good birding too.  Geese were all around with some extremely confiding Barnacle Geese from the "New Hide". Grey lag Geese and Greenland White-fronted Geese were there too, with us having the benefit of an update on the latter from Ed. Burrell ( WWT ) who's back on the island for the winter to continue his research. On a couple of occasions we had an obliging White-tailed Eagle move languidly down the loch, creating absolute panic and havoc in its wake amongst the assembled geese. At intervals too the assemblage of Golden Plovers took flight and parties of Common Snipe moved around providing a dynamic, ever-changing scene.

We looked in vain for Green-winged Teal amongst the throng of duck out on the reserve lagoons, but the light wasn't very kind ( too direct and too intense...although we shouldn't complain! ). Later we tried similarly to see if the Lesser Scaup was still around on Ardnave Loch, but again without success. A female Goldeneye, Wigeon, Mallard, Mute Swans and, guess what, more Whooper Swans were present and Chough called around us as we took a late lunch.

And so, as I eventually wound my way southwards down the Rinns, the various groups of Whooper Swans seen at the onset of the day had mostly gone.  A couple of parties of Redwing were present, feeding up voraciously and no doubt preparing for the next leg of their own journey.  A good day.