We've been straying a bit further afield & it's paying off. Our walk today, just under 7km, added House Martin, Grey Wagtail, Linnet, Goldcrest & a singing Yellowhammer to our list, which now stands at 43 - not bad for the edge of the suburbs. Now we're after waterfowl and more of the summer visitors.
RegardsLyn & Simon
This morning we did a 9km walk to Rostherne and surrounds. At the Little Mere the Sedge Warbler was still singing - hope he's attracted a mate! Also 3 female Mallards with broods of 4, 2, 6. And a pair of Tufted Duck still present - they breed later than most ducks. Further along Mereside Road 1 or 2 Goldcrests were singing and a real racket from the Rookery - I wouldn't want to live next door! Then along Cicley Mill Lane to the angling pool - Sedge Warbler still there, the Great Crested Grebe still incubating, but the Coots seem to have failed. At Rostherne Cetti's Warbler made sure we could hear them, then to Wood Bongs. Twice one of the Treecreepers went to the nest with food items, but when it came out there was no sign of a faecal sac - rather thinking that the chicks are very small or feeding the incubating female - probably the former. We'll keep an eye on the nest over the days to come. Walked the rape fields but no sign of the Skylark - we were lucky to hear it the once! Back along Cicley Mill Lane, along the old A556, up the A50 and home.
One thing I forgot from yesterday - we haven't seen a Long-tailed Tit for a couple of weeks but in the afternoon I walked upstairs only to find a Long-tailed Tit flying around the rooms! Fortunately it was calmer compared to Blue and Great Tit which really panic, and managed between the two of us to get fly out of the window with relatively ease. Phew....
Cheers…. Sheila and Geoff
Islay and Birding - Part 2
Moving North from Port Ellen there 2 option, the ‘A' road and the ‘B' road! Well neither are busy as you can imagine, unless ferry departure or arrival time. But both have options. Firstly, the B road, the High Road. This is the quietest and single track and really is a keep your eyes open situation as cross the mosses. Towards Bowmore, the main town, there is Duich Moss where the RSPB and SNH (Scottish Natural Heritage) objected successfully years ago to a wind farm development, primarily because of geese and other species flight paths. On either road and across the island there is evidence of extensive peat extraction which is for the distilleries and household use. Initially in our house we burnt peat, it is allowed for domestic use to cut them in late summer, if you have a peat bed. We shared with our neighbour. Whilst it is a nominal fee for the rent it is extremely hard work, cutting, stacking and turning 2 or 3 times as they dry - at the midgiest time of year! Then into bags and transport home where you have to stack and cover them, but it gives the house a lovely background smell.
The ‘A' road, the low one is different. Only a short distance from Port Ellen is Islay International Airport, Glenegedale, with its numerous flights of 2 per day. Just past the terminal at the end of the fencing there is a road worth turning onto which goes across the old RAF base footings. Islay was a large RAF airfield in WW2 and further round Loch Indaal at Bowmore was the Flying Boat command (Short Sunderlands).This road goes down to the Strand (beach) which is I think 7 miles long. All manner of species can be seen, great for Wheatear, the beach can have species like Ringed Plover and Sanderling whilst Merlin and Hen Harrier quarter the peat bogs. Back on the road to Bowmore there are many pools within the peat bogs, but rarely have I seen birds on them. On entering Bowmore, another distillery here, you will see the round church at the top of Main Street, one of only 2 in Scotland, no corners for the devil to hide in! At the bottom of the street there is car parking, although that is never a problem in Islay, and the harbour. Well worth stopping walking to the end of the jetty, setting up the scope and looking out over Loch Indaal. This can be a great spot for Long-tailed duck, divers, Red-breasted Mergansers, Slavonian Grebe, Goldeneye and sea duck. Waders can be found on the rocky foreshore. This is the start of a real birding experience around the Loch. I will just give some ideas for birding around the loch before moving elsewhere but by no means mention all or everything.
On leaving Bowmore towards Bridgend, just before the junction where the B road joins the head of the Loch there are fantastic saltmarsh and tidal mudflats. This is sea duck and geese haven, with Wigeon, Teal, Shelduck and Mute Swans! Many thousands of Barnacle geese roost here at night and it is a real wildlife spectacle watching them come in and has been featured on a number of TV programs. Carrying on around the loch somewhere there will be a flock of Greater Scaup bobbing up and down, Eiders are all over the Loch. Luckily there are pulls offs to park in. In winter using the different places all Red-throated, Black-throated and Great Northern Divers can be found. Carrying on around the Loch a rocky ‘lump' can be seen Blackrock, another pulloff here and was the favoured place for the Scaup, the beach here is also very good for waders. Ignoring the road to Loch Gruinart on the right and carrying on round the loch we have well grazed land and along here often has Pale-bellied Brent geese feeding on the Eel grass. In Spring and Summer terns can be found here, Common and Arctic on the shingle spit jutting out into the Loch, with the added bonus in the winter of one of the White-winged Gulls, with luck. As we carry on round to Bruichladdich park and check the rocks and foreshore for waders, gulls and otters. On the rocks here, somewhere will be Purple Sandpipers, but they are notoriously hard to find. Another distillery here but be careful you don't park in the turnaround for the distillery lorries as I did! Again, tours are run here and well worth a visit, the Head Distiller is a friend so no favouritism! A milder and less peaty whisky available here. Well worth scoping from the jetty for divers and sea duck. Moving on towards Port Charlotte the road starts to rise above the Loch, but it does give excellent opportunity to look over the loch. In one of the fields here I had my one and only Kumlein's Gull. Red-breasted mergansers are usually everywhere and somewhere there will be flocks of Common Scoter. Port Charlotte has a hotel for refreshment and a small harbour again worth a look with the scope.
The road from here to Portnahaven isn't a great ornithological experience but can turn up a Hen Harrier. Islay is excellent for Barn Owl so if driving at night always worth looking as they often sit on fence posts and there are plenty of them. The inland woodlands (more later) have Tawny Owl. The village of Portnahaven is largely comprised of holiday cottages but the harbour can be spectacular in a storm with waves rolling in off the Atlantic. The back road from Portnahaven to Port Charlotte has some wonderful bays and scenery with small lochans that can hold Red-throated Diver in summer, the cliffs for Peregrine and other raptors. Lossit Bay is well worth exploring. It was a favoured area of mine for an early Northern Wheatear. The 3 of us working on the reserve were competitive in trying to see the first one of the year so a drive round would be in order, one year without luck. When we got home, I was asked ‘can I look at one of your bird books', which of course I passed over only to be told that is what I saw, a Northern Wheatear, grinding of teeth!!! Back into Port Charlotte and retrace our steps through Bruichladdich and then take the turn to Kilchoman (another distillery and a newly established one at that). Driving along this road before getting to Loch Gorm the road rises high above the heather and worth looking to the right for SEO and Hen Harrier. Further along Loch Gorm again on the right, not a great birding loch for some reason. It will have Whooper Swan, which usually stop on the way to Ireland for the winter, there will also be Greylag and Greenland White-fronted Geese. There will be some real Greylags, but the largest proportion are feral. Drive onto Kilchoman and take the small road to the left you will see cliffs in front and the ruined Kilchoman chapel. This is probably the best place to see Chough and small flocks can be seen around the area and the next-door Machir Bay which is worth driving down to and having a walk. Back to the road and carry on around and it becomes apparent why Chough are here on the grazed grassland in the distance you will be able to see sea cliffs that look somewhat like the Sydney Opera House and it is well worth looking for Golden Eagle around there! You will see on the left, just under 2 miles after Coull Farm, some old wartime remains. If you can park here take a walk down to Saligo Bay, it is spectacularly beautiful and, in a storm, amazing rollers. Anyway, back around and stay on this road past the small group of buildings at Carnduncan. Now we start to enter the heather moorland and Hen Harrier domain, at the junction turn left to Loch Gruinart and very shortly you are on the reserve. Between the junction and the reserve visitor centre, a distance of just over 3 miles is a great place for Hen Harrier, Merlin and Short-eared Owl. Tomorrow will be about the main RSPB reserve, somewhere imprinted on my brain and I love, and the rest of the island.
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