The first picture in this post, not of Islay, shows the Beinn Eighe Scotch pine forest on the banks of Loch Maree in Wester Ross, one of the last remaining parts of the Caledonian forest that once covered vast areas of Scotland. The Beinn Eighe nature reserve, Britain?s first national nature reserve, is an important habitat for the pine marten and other wildlife. Why this picture and not an Islay one? This week I would like to write something about an organisation, not present on Islay (yet) as far as I know, which protects these particular kinds of habitats in Scotland. The Scottish Wildlife Trust (SWT) is a leading conservation organisation, working to protect Scotland's natural environment and wildlife since 1964. Where the RSPB have their main focus on the protection of birds and their habitats throughout the UK, the SWT focusses mainly on all the wildlife and natural habitats in Scotland itself. The SWT website: "The SWT is a non-governmental membership organisation and as a charity is reliant on many different supporters. Funding comes from grants, membership subscriptions, donations and legacies. There are over 27,400 members and the work of the Trust is carried out by 89 staff both full-time and part-time, over 700 active members and other volunteers". The SWT manage 123 reserves all over Scotland and most of these reserves are located on the mainland in the southern part of Scotland. As said, the SWT doesn't have a reserve on Islay and the one closest to Islay is probably Largiebaan in Kintyre which is important for birds, flowers and mammals and another one rather close to Islay is the Knapdale Habitats Partnership Reserve near Lochgilphead which is important for its butterflies and insects, flowers, freshwater life, lichens & mosses, plants and trees. The SWT have a photo gallery on their website which, unfortunately, doesn't show many pictures but the ones they do have are of a very high quality. Continue reading......Probably due to the very sunny weather of last week the Islay Birds Blog has seen daily updates together with some very nice pictures of a golden eagle, a wren and a chough. About the last one Maria, chough researcher, writes: "Unfortunately, I cannot say anything cheerful about 2007, it turned out a very bad year for chick survival. The breeding success in 2007 was normal but the majority of chicks died relatively soon after they fledged (in the first 3 - 4 months). There are hardly any left now (less than 10%). It seems that the high mortality was caused by a combination of bad weather and lack of food during the critical time when the parents were feeding the chicks in the nest and also in the period after the young fledged when they still lacked foraging experience." Isn't there any good news? Yes there is: "The only good news is that many of the young born in 2006 (which was a good year) are still doing well."
This weeks Islay nature report by Jeremy Hastings from Islay Birding: The week began with the sea har lifting on Sunday evening giving excellent views of the geese coming into Bridgend. This is one of the best places to see the geese coming to roost as, with the setting sun over the Rhinns it is quite spectacular.
The goose counters have been busy again: 41516 Barnies and 4151 Whitefront. Next week is an International count and those who are involved and others too (including me) get very excited about the numbers. However, I do not think the geese realise it is an international count!!!! Also on Tuesday we were out and about with the Homeschool. From the ICCI (Ionad Challuim Chile Ile) it was flat calm and we could see Scaup, Long Tailed Ducks (rare here but globally one of the most common sea duck), Scoter, and Waders: Godwits, Bar and a handful of Black Tailed, Ringer Plover and Redshank. Lots of Wigeon too. No sign of the Glaucous gull. 116 Shelduck was good to see too. Spring is on its way! (Hopefully). In the distance over the hills a lone Golden Eagle soared.
Wednesday was also perfect and the International count continued. We headed around the Rhinns and enjoyed Lapwing, Golden Plover and Gannets on the sea. Interestingly the Barnacles passed over the house at 0747 hrs this am and left for the roost at 1735hrs. Good light and warm skies despite the early frost. The next couple of days were brilliant with sunshine and Eagles! A Peregrine was seen taking a Chough at Craigfad on the Rhinns and the Juv Golden Eagle has started to hang out at Ellister. A male Merlin has been in action around Borachill Mor as have the 3 Pink feet that have been here all winter in quite a small area.
The Glaucous Gull is still at Bunnahabhain. Whooper Swans at Gruinart. A Woodcock was seen on Saturday, early dawn, too. Later, 15 Purple Sands at Bruichladdich. Sunday dawned another bright day and I had the last day of three on a Goosefest. We headed for Ardnave and found plenty of Geese, a Raven killing a rabbit, a Merlin, grey Plovers, Purple Sandpipers, Chough and a Peregrine Falcon too. 5 Whooper Swans easily glided around the Loch and there were Tufted duck and Wigeon too.
The sunset magically ending yet another superb week on Islay.