Welcome to this weeks Islay Nature and Wildlife report with news from the bird blogs on Islay, a nature report from Jeremy and a detailed (almost live) storm report. (The first picture shows the Currie Sands yesterday in grim conditions)
If there is one word that would describe this week best it would probably be wind. There has been lots of it, causing all kinds of trouble including disrupted and cancelled ferries. Storm isn't unusual in this time of year, although it happens more in the winter, but the sometimes gale force winds of last week were very persistant and lasted almost the whole week, which isn't very usual. Luckily Teresa Morris of Islay Wildscapes, live reporter for the week and good friend, was on the island and sent me many impressive pictures, mainly of the huge surf at Saligo Bay. Yesterday, another day with severe gales, was Teresa's last full day on Islay and she made a final trip from which she sent a report and, again, many pictures:
Teresa: The storm developed by lunchtime and peaked by 3pm. Loch Indaal high tide was up to the road. No sign of many geese, they had headed to the fields for shelter. Waves were breaking over Black Rock with Bowmore in murky distance in the heavy squally rain and spray. Port Charlotte Pier was being lashed by waves. Port Wemyss cliffs were being battered by the awesome westerly swell on the incoming tide. The swell was surging into Portnahaven bay with massive waves crashing over Orsay island. Claddach wave power station was working overtime with waves breaking over the top. Plenty of foam and surf raging with seaweed being washed up onto the shores. By 1700 the sea was starting to calm and the ferry services were restored to normal. Continue reading.....Ian Brooke from the Islay Birds blog has some reports from guests on his blog, as well as a couple of his own sightings and scribbles. Also for Ian the wind was a topic given his post on Sunday 19th October: "Today has been a day of strong winds and heavy showers, but still birds were seen. The morning ferry was cancelled, with the evening ferry diverted to Port Askaig, as happened last night too." On Monday one of his visitors writes: "Another very windy day with heavy showers, encouraged us to take to the woodlands. As we were leaving Kilchoman, a Raven was feeding on a dead Pheasant on the roadside, and a single Fieldfare was blown overhead." On Tuesday the same visitors write: "A colder day, but still windy with showers. At first light, small groups of Whooper Swans were moving, and as usual thousands of geese too."
Huge waves at Portnahaven
On Wednesday Ian writes about a "visiting birder" and if I'm well informed he is talking about Gordon Yates: "The "visiting birder" left a message to say that he had 2 Snow Buntings, a Sparrowhawk, a Peregrine and to cap it all, a Red Admiral butterfly. Possibly, it could be the last butterfly for the year, if the expected weather forecast comes through!" A couple of days later Gordon Yates writes the following in his blog: "A surprise has been finding a Red Admiral butterfly sunning itself during one of the brief sunny spells." Gordon also included a nice picture of Port Charlotte. And finally Ian writes about the cancelled goose count due to the adverse weather conditions. Hopefully more on the goose count in the coming weeks. The weather forecast for the week doesn't look too bad although the temperatures will drop considerably.
Portnahaven bay and Orsay island
This weeks Islay nature report, nr 42, by Jeremy Hastings, the Islay Wilderness Guide: Another challenging week for nature watching and guiding too! There have been some amazing birds and experiences to have been witnessed this past week. In between shocking deluges and wild winds Hen Harrier, Merlin, Golden Eagles and lots of Geese including a view of a Bar Headed goose. (This may well be the one that had first arrived last year with a flock of Barnacles - it looks like it has returned with them once more). A Little Gull has also been seen around Loch Indaal. Earlier during the week there were two Swallows still floating around Port Charlotte. We have been able to get good views of Divers - all three; Gt Northern, Red and Black Throated. Slavonian Grebes, Long tailed Duck and lots of Scaup too.
Most farmers are now clearing their fileds of sheep and cattle. There have been some good sales of stock and now the fields lie in wait for the Barnacle Geese to have a feast - it is a bit like an enormous green table being set and all that needs to arrive are the guests! Goose counting was cancelled this week - the weather did not stop the geese but it certainly held the counters back...... Winter is nearly here and with it come Snow Buntings - at Ardnave the counts have been growing - 19 max and at the Oa a couple have been seen in a flock of 100 Twite! Whooper swans continue to move through - this early morning we have a good flock - 12 - over our house. At Laggan on the loch Dr Olgilvie counted 176! On the ferry yesterday we were able to witness a wee pod of Dolphin off the ferry all the way up the Sound of Islay - an extra ordinary sight for the end of an extraordinary week.