In this weeks lengthy report I would like to start with the largest wildlife conservation organization in Europe. It's the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, the RSPB. The RSPB speaks out for birds and wildlife, tackling the problems that threaten our environment and was founded in 1889. Their work is focussed on the species and habitats that are in the greatest danger. The RSPB is a charity with over one million members, including nearly 150,000 youth members, a staff of over 1,300 people and over 13,000 volunteers. They have an income of over ?50 million per year and manage 200 nature reserves covering 130,000 hectares which are home to 80% of our rarest or most threatened bird species. Indeed a most important organization and their website contains a wealth of information covering almost everything you want to know about the birds that inhabit the UK. The RSPB is also present on Islay where they run a visitor centre near Loch Gruinart and manage two important Islay nature reserves being Loch Gruinart and the Oa Nature Reserve.
Among the many informative pages the RSPB have a birds by name index from the aquatic warbler to the yellowhammer with very detailed information, their habitats, where to find them and even a sound sample. Another very interesting feature is the bird identifier for uk garden birds which currently holds 117 most common garden birds. A quick and interesting way to find the matching name of a bird you spot in your garden. Also tips on feeding birds in the winter, explaining how to feed, what to feed and what kind of birds are you likely to see in your garden can be found. There is a section with advice for farmers with tips on creating a lapwing nesting plot on set-aside and other useful tips to attract more birds to their land. An online shop is also available and with every item you purchase you support and help fund this important organization. If you like to stay up-to-date with the latest news you can also sign up for their newsletter.
The Islay birds blog mentioned that 200 Rooks were spotted on the spit at the head of Loch Indaal looking for food and Ian also mentioned, same as Jeremy, that the snowdrops are well out already and in the sheltered woodland near the burn was a very early daffodil. Are the first signs of spring showing despite the snow of last Saturday? At least the rainfall figures were less than usual and Ian reports the following figures: "The rainfall here, for January was 7.25", compared with 8" in January 2007. Refering to the weather, the total rainfall for 2007 was 48" and we usually reckon an annual total average of around 55"."
Jeremy Hastings Nature Report of last week: Well, that?s January gone and already we are one twelfth into 2008. What a week so far. We have seen Otters on the Rhinns. Always keep a look out for these interesting mammals. Remember they are predators that not only like shell fish but will happily take an eel or a flat fish or even rabbits up on the hill. Interestingly in Gaelic there are six different names for Otter. Most common here is: Dobhran but Beist-dubh (black beast) and Cu-odhar are also used. On the way back from supper at a friend?s house we had two Barn Owls on posts. Later on in the week, Wednesday, I was in the coppice again with Mistle Thrushes in the lee of the Hazel feeding on the fields. Although some think these are rare birds here you just have to know where to look and understand what their necessary habitat is too. Similar with the roost of Woodpigeon we have in the woods too! The Buzzards call as usual and swoop down above us every so often as if to check out what I am doing! Also on Wednesday I witnessed a Peregrine striking fear into the waders at the Merse and lunching on a Dunlin. There were plenty of Shelduck and Teal too. A large flock of Wigeon were pretty mobile too.
On Thursday the wind got up as well as hail, snow (earlier) and piercing rain. The pier at Port Charlotte disappeared under the waves. Wow! It was a real winter storm. A mass of Corvids, Rook and Jackdaws up to 200 were feeding just east of Traigh and Luig ? quite a sight. Then on Friday as the Geese were blown all over it became a lock down for anything that moved. I was again in the coppice allowing shelter and time to get on with more cutting. It was a privilege to be below five Ravens - glimpsed through the fingers of Hazel - tumbling in a steel grey sky. They called and cronked. I watched and marvelled. Saturday started with an all white delight of snow, the Barnacles struggling to find a good spot to feed. Children on the other hand had no such problems, tobogganing and snowball fighting! And as I file this weeks report the Barnacles pass over the house to their roost across the loch at Laggan. Dusk. It has warmed up, the snow now gone and wind dropped - the start of another week on Islay.
The Snow on Islay seen from the pier at Port Charlotte