Welcome to this weeks Islay Nature and Wildlife report with a contribution from Jeremy Hastings, the highlights from the other wildlife and birding blogs on Islay and a wee contribution of myself.
One of my favourite plants on Islay is definitely Cotton Grass, which flowers in spring and can be found anywhere near a peat bog. Cotton Grass looks like tufts of cotton wool swaying in the wind. It's also called bog cotton and isn't in fact a real grass at all, but a type of sedge. The "cotton" is made of long white hairs that help the seeds to disperse in the wind. Furthermore the grass is particularly abundant in arctic tundra regions. The latin name is Eriophorum in the family Cyperaceae, the Sedge family.
The Islay Birds blog: Ian also mentions the Cotton Grass on Islay being very abundant this year, and shows a picture of a Curlew between the white cotton balls in his Sunday article. On Monday Ian writes about the lack of rain: "This spell of dry, warm weather continues here on Islay, the rainfall last month did not even add up to an inch in total, add on April's 2" and things start to dry up." altough Thursday there was a bit of rain: "Well the rain came and went but did not amount to much, although there is a dampness in the air this evening, with that, the dreaded midges are out!" On Saturday 7th June not really a special bird sighting but interesting enough to write about: "Not exactly breaking news, but some late news from earlier on this week, is that a Minke whale had been seen off Islay, in fact it was seen going round the green buoy beside Carraig Fhada over at Port Ellen!"
John Armitage from Portnahaven, who runs the Islay Birder Blog, was very active last week. John reports on the 1st of June: "A couple of Basking Sharks off the south coast of Islay were relatively close and seen well." On wednesday John writes: "Later in the evening a further excursion for Corncrakes and Spotted Crake was successful. On returning home a Corncrake was located immediately opposite the house but thankfully far enough away not to interrupt sound sleep!!!" Continue reading.....This weeks Islay nature report by Jeremy Hastings from Islay Birding: With the sun shining most of this week we have had a brilliant nature time on Islay. Unfortunately all is not good as the drier the weather the more the land struggles. With two nights of rain we thought things may improve but unfortunately the land is parched as before. Burns are dried up and rivers thin and struggling.
Eagles fly in the thermals â€“ we see them regularly in different spots and areas. Some out looking for food for themselves, others for their young. Buzzards hang above Bridgend woods and Shelduck with young march out to the Merse. Gulls hang around in the hope of an instant meal but the parents look after their charges well. From Killinallan we watched 70 odd Bar Tailed Godwits on the beach with over 50 Atlantic Grey seals on the sand bar beyond. We headed north and Lapwings were looking after their young, Curlew and Redshank too. A Merlin charged through scattering Meadow Pipits and Stonechats. Skylark song fills the air and we keep on seeing male Hen Harriers â€“ the hen birds are on the nests and if one is lucky, very lucky one may be able to witness a food pass.
The plants are superb at the moment and Purple Orchids, Pyramid Orchids, Blaeberry, Tormentil, Butterwort, Sundews, Yarrow, Milkwort and Lousewort. At the head of Loch Gruinart the Sea Lavender is extraordinarily stunning! On the sea Gannets have been busy moving past Frenchmanâ€™s Rocks and we had Puffins too! Arctic, Little and Common Terns are now noticeable and are nesting along gravely strands trying to keep dogs and dog walkers away by dive bombing them. Butterflies and Moths are apparent in the warm weather, Marsh Fritillaries and Cinnabar Moths abound. Wonderful.
Although not really wanting it we need the rain and hopefully it will fall soon.... in the meantime the Swallows are enjoying taking the midges!