Welcome to this weeks Islay Nature and Wildlife report with, as usual, news from the Birds Blogs on Islay and a Nature report from Jeremy Hastings.
First of all I would like to tell something about a bird which is family of Chough, Jackdaw, Jay, Magpie, Raven and Rook. The birders among you already know which bird I'm referring to. It's the Hooded Crow, or hoodie, which I spotted on the Rhinns in May. The bird wasn't scared at all and I could easily take a few pictures. The RSPB writes about this bird: "The hooded crow is closely related to the carrion crow, which until recently was regarded as the same species. In areas where the two species overlap there may be some interbreeding with hybrids showing a mixed grey and black body plumage. Like carrion crows, hooded crows also feed on dead animals. Unlike crows they can be more sociable in the feeding habits and groups of them may be seen together in fields. The Hooded Crow is found in N and W Scotland, N Ireland and on the Isle of Man, where it replaces the carrion crow. Outside the breeding season it is found across the breeding range and is also found, but scarce in E Scotland and even rarer down the eastern side of England. Most of the winter visistors come from Scandinavia.
The Islay Birds blog: Ian took a cracking picture of a Buzzard on a peat stack which he posted on Tuesday. Despite the poor weather there was enough interesting wildlife to see: "Andy had a Basking Shark on Monday in Port Ellen bay, between the lighthouse and the green buoy, for those of you who know the bay. On Sunday, over at Ardtalla, he had an Otter and 3 cubs in the bay there". With the start of autumn some of the birds are preparing for their long migration: "One of our neighbours had been up at Sanaigmore on Thursday evening and commented on the number of Swallows flying over the fields there, possibly birds gathering before moving south." Continue reading.....John Armitage from Portnahaven, who runs the Islay Birder Blog reports about the coming migration of the birds on Saturday: "The day started with a count of 117 Meadow Pipits on the telephone wires outside, an apt reminder of them being an iconic September migrant." and in his same post he mentions the following information: "And then a surprise! A party of Barnacle Geese flying up the loch and cutting northwards overland. Certainly the first I've seen and quite early. A few Light-bellied Brent Geese were new but were then seen to fly off heading towards Ireland."
This weeks Islay nature report by Jeremy Hastings from Islay Birding: Another week towards the migration and already birds are starting to move. Hirundines have been gathering and Sand Martins mostly gone. House martins and Swallows are still enjoying the warm sunshine and plenty of midges when the wind drops. Chough are busy where they have a couple of good 'schools' or 'youth groups' at Ardnave and Machir. This week we have witness Eagles to Goldcrests - the biggest to the wee-ist. Keep an eye on the sea for twice this week Dolphins have been seen from the ferry and Scoters, Gannets and Shearwaters are on the move. It is that time of year. More and more Greylag Geese seem to arrrive daily and glean the dropped barley in the freshly harvested fields. The winter winds are yet to appear although this past week we did have a practice blow to just prepare us all for what lies ahead. In the quiet moments it is possible to walk along the shoreline and maybe see a young Grey Heron practicing it's stalking moves, carely lifting one foot afetr the other in shallow still pools. Otters in Port Charlotte seem to be making regular appearances and to the delight of us who are out watching make the day even better with their antics.
It is mushroom picking time and if you are lucky you may be able to find quiet feast from large steak like Field mushrooms, Puffballs and Fairy Ring Champignon to Chanterelles, Ceps and Shaggy Ink caps in the woods. Really, if you know a little about gathering fungi then you must obey the following rules: Only pick what you know - Do not pick speciemens that have started to decay - Do not pick on overly wet days, plenty of mushrooms soak up lots of moisture and the flavour disappears and decay sets in quickly - Do not waste time peeling them, just brush off and 'dust' with a good fungi brush.
If you get a chance go out with an expert. There are plenty of places in the autumn offering fungus forays and the people who run them are hugely knowledgeable. Then go and practice and enjoy! Have fun at the tail end of summer.