Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Early stocking-filler news!

Hi everyone. Just an update and explanation given the lack of continuity in Blog posts recently. I've recently returned from Gartnavel Hospital, Glasgow after an operation on my left eye. This was entirely successful and involved removing a cataract affecting the lens ,which was obscuring my vision, and replacing  it with a brand new one. It's beginning to be a "common" operation nowadays with a very, very high success rate. The transition is remarkable and I'm damned sure my vision in that eye is better than it's ever been ( and I considered it very good in former times!! ). The extent to which staring out to sea for passage birds or into bright, blue skies counting raptors over many, many years might not have helped, although there's no evidence for this. With worries nowadays about UV levels though I guess it's sensible to take every opportunity to protect a resource that we all value so much because of our hobby (obsession? ).

With the pressure on our National Health Service in the UK being more severe than ever I'll simply say that, at every stage of the process, I was impressed and nothing, but nothing, could be criticized. It is an excellent organization! Any large organization is bound to have its problems from time to time. These can be resolved by good management. What can't be resolved so easily is endless revision  and interference from politicians who desire to put a different stamp on the process. Our NHS is the envy of the world, and rightly so! Certainly here is a very satisfied patient, utterly grateful and in awe of what can be achieved, and so thankful of the new opportunity to enjoy so many things for years to come. Thank you, NHS!!

Given the fact I'm not supposed to drive for a while I'm afraid "active" reports of birding will be absent. I'll try and insert a few entries of other things going on in the birding world until after the "sign off" date in December! I'm already plotting and planning visits , trips etc for 2013, however, I'm not, as some wag suggested, going to start a list of birds seen with my "new" eye!!!  Happy birding folks!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Geese, geese, even more geese!! 1.11.2012

Today saw the first real snow of winter with the conical summits of the  Paps of Jura  being covered to mid -level until part way through the day. Weather itself was mixed at best, with sleet, sunny periods, rain, relatively calm conditions then changing towards the end of the day with quite strong winds arising.! So, a mixture, which can also be said about the geese present on the island at present.

Today was also the first of the formal goose counts organized by Scottish Natural Heritage. Such are linked to the agricultural subsidy system , but also the monitoring of the various goose populations, particularly the Greenland White-fronted Goose, are additional critical elements that come out of the project. A full day of counting leaves little opportunity for "other birdwatching", but distant views of eagles were a bonus. Few winter thrushes were in evidence and, sadly, numbers of small passerines appear to be at a particularly low ebb.

Two or three large flocks of Barnacle Geese were present within our sector, the largest of which was present on Bridgend Flats. Passing this accumulation, on our way to a nearby area, we reckoned on over 4000 was present. Returning shortly afterwards our count only saw just over 3000 being still present, as groups of birds repeatedly left the area. Good views were had of a leucistic bird,which looks suspiciously like the one present last winter.  Some good flocks of Whitefronts  were seen and an indication of the numbers which have returned will soon be available once the International Goose count has been completed in November. Hopefully this will show that the population has not reduced as significantly as in recent years. Such reductions are suspected to be as a result of the competition arising between increasing numbers of Canada Geese in Geenland and the subspecies of White-fronted Geese also breeding there. Time will tell!

It seems to me that, should numbers of Canada Geese continue to increase in Greenland we might also see a marginal increase in their winter occurrence on Islay. Several Lesser Canada Geese appear to be present this winter and, almost as if wishing to register its presence on the first count of 2012/2013, a "blue" Snow Goose turned up yesterday too at Gruinart !!  This species arriving alongside the already present Red-breasted Goose  means Islay is currently playing host to a very good selection of goose species and will undoubtedly attract many birdwatchers wishing to "connect" with what is a significant assemblage of rare geese!! To these must be added Grey lag Geese, Light-bellied Brent Geese and the odd Pink-footed Goose!!  Some years ago, with a similar assemblage of individuals being present, I managed to see all but one ( Lesser Canada Goose ) in a single afternoon. Exhausting and with well in excess of a hundred miles completed within Islay itself,  all laced together , I suspect , with a great deal of luck!