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Islay Nature Report 15 - Isle of Texa

Welcome to this weeks Islay Nature report. This week a comprehensive report and a lot of images, thanks to Jeremy Hastings who spent a whole week on a bushcraft/wilderness trip on the Isle of Texa. There is no news from the Owls yet, apart from the fact that there are six eggs so it's patience for now!


The chapel on the Isle of Texa, built in the late 14th century

The Islay Birds blog: Reports came in a bit slower than usual, probably because Ian Brooke is involved in the organization of Islay Walkweek which took place last week. Mark Unsworth submitted a nice report for those of you who are interested. Back to Ian's blog, report from Tuesday: "Tracey and the team from SNH forwarded on the final numbers for the year of the count which took place on the 3rd and 4th of April. The tally was 46,515 Barnies and 6,101 Whitefronts, just as well they were counted then as almost all the Geese have flown North, with the last big group moving out on Tuesday night. It was odd for a few days to have the Geese still here while we had the arrival of some of the Spring migrants." Continue reading.....This weeks Islay nature report by Jeremy Hastings from Islay Birding: So the Barnacle and Whitefronts went off to breed this week making their long journeys to Iceland then onto Greenland till September when the cycle begins again. (Or maybe this is when it begins – who knows.) There are empty fields and it is very strange to see. However, not for long as the sheep are busy lambing and farmers have many sleepless nights.

I have been on Texa this week – a wee island south east of Port Ellen, teaching people how to live of the land and literally survive on what they can find as well as enjoy nature and the magic of an uninhabited island. This was not always the case: Texa has tentatively been identified as the Oidecha Insula written about by St Adomnan. The etymology of the name is disputed – it may represent either the Old Irish tech (house – taigh in modern Scottish Gaelic) or Oideachd/Oideachas, a word for a religious seminary. Adomnan mentions that St Cainneach (Kenneth) used 'Oidecha Insula' as a stopping place on his journey between Iona and Ireland. Kenneth is said to have left his crozier on Iona on this journey, so St Columba blessed it, cast it into the sea, and it washed up on Oidecha where Kenneth found it.

We are not sure whether or not Texa is ‘Oidecha Insula’ – a religious island, was, like many others round the Scottish coast, used as an ecclesiastical settlement, and the remains of a chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary can still be seen. This was built, probably on the site of an older one, in the late 14th century by Raghnall/Reginald of Islay, son of Iain/John. This is commemorated today in the name Bàgh na h-Eaglais (Church Bay) and Tobar Moireig ([sic] Mary’s Well), which lies next to the anchorage. There are also many caves on the island, (which we used as homes for our week there) in which people who visited the island could live.


The Isle of Texa seen from the boat

The shaft of a cross stood east of the chapel, commemorating Raghnall. It is now in a museum in Edinburgh. Older history shows that: In the 12th Century, the Norse fleet of Somerled anchored near to Texa. The island’s name has been recorded several differnet ways. John of Fordun in 1385 refers to Texa as 'Helan ttexa' ('eilean/Helan' being an island in Gaelic) . In 1608, Andrew Knox, bishop of the Isles wrote from 'Ilintexa.' And, in 1614, it was referred to in a document as 'Ilantasson', and was chartered by the crown to Sir John Campbell of Cawdor, confirmed by a Scottish Act of Parliament in 1626.


A home from home, a cave on the Isle of Texa

Lastly… the sectarian divide even reached this wee island and in 1625, Father Cornelius Ward, a Franciscan missionary reported that there were twenty nine people living on the island, and most of them were Roman Catholic. (The island was inhabited until the early 19th century.) The six who were not Catholic, he converted. The 'Statistical Account', a 150 years later, records that 'formerly [the inhabitants] were wont to bury those who were of the popish religion' in the chapel, but that no 'Texans' were Catholic anymore.


A mystical sunset seen from the Isle of Texa

So we had a great time and survived and learnt lots too. We saw plenty of birds and this week we have had: Whimbrel, Sandwich Terns, Iceland Gull, Glaucous Gull, the odd Barnacle left behind and a single Pink feet yesterday and Merlin, Peregrine and of course Golden Eagle. Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs are around too. Today with clients we had Dunlin, Turnstone, Black Tailed Godwit and 3 Curlew Sandpiper at Carnain. Brilliant!


Watching Golden Eagles


More Texa Images in the Media Gallery

Tag: texa birding wilderness bushcraft nature

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