Tuesday 30 July 2013

Islay 20-27 July

Another west coast holiday back on Islay, 125 miles pretty much due west of our home in the east but what a difference in habitat and bird life! First the spectacular scenery down the A83 along Loch Fyne, then the wonderful views of the islands from the ferry. A pair of Black-throated Divers overtook the ferry, then several Manx Shearwaters looking stunning over a glassy sea off Gigha.

Down at Port Ellen beach on Sunday got this series of a Ringed Plover, at times perfectly camoflagued. In careful obs I noted that this species is "semi-palmated" between the outer toes, it is only the inner gap that is completely unwebbed. At same location did an experiment with an old boiled egg and an expired fresh egg and found that Hooded Crows can spot eggs from a distance and really don't mind if they are cooked or not!

Usual owling trips failed again to find LEO in the plantation behind Cornabus (rumoured to have been there some years ago, no recent records from Islay), did get Barn Owl and Grasshopper Warbler there.

Some attempts at sea-watching off the Mull of Oa, after the weather broke we did get a bit of wind which produced a steady feeding movement of Manx Shearwaters, 950S/3N, and Gannet 376S/44N, in 3 hours from dawn on Thursday (interrupted by 2 hours fogged out) but other three days had too much fog. On same watch a few Puffins feeding offshore, closest breeding is a fair distance N on Iona/Mull.

Even watching at the farm was pleasure, with juvenile Twite on the garden fence (above), Willow Warbler numerous as ever around the washing line and feeding on ground amongst see-eaters, such as this Chaffinch eating plantain seeds.

A first visit to the west coast, Machir Bay, gave more stunning scenery and 14 Sanderling on the sands, ovipositing Golden-ringed Dragonfly in the burn, and 2 ringtail Hen Harriers inland. Amongst many Ringlets were a few Grayling and Common Blues such as this pair at Lagavulin (logged for the bigbutterflycount):

On the return ferry trip from Port Askaig the sea was literally covered in groups of auks in every direction, many with young, and a conservative count of 1150 nearer the path of the boat were 85% Guillemot, 15% Razorbill - with the latter concentrated closer to the coasts of Jura and Gigha; also 2 more adult Puffins. Again Manx Shearwaters over a glassy sea, these two with Gigha behind and an evening view of Islay+Jura: