Islay Geese Make Jazz

When you've seen and heard the geese in the wintertime on Islay you probably never forget the sound they make make when thousands of these beautiful birds take off at the same time. It's a unique sound and two composers visited Islay in the winter and they are trying to turn the geese and other bird sounds into jazz music. A quote from the Scotsman: "The music, inspired by the sound of tens of thousands of wild geese preparing to migrate from Islay to their arctic breeding grounds, will be given its world premiere at the Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival next month. Jazz composers and musicians Stu Brown from Glasgow and New York-based John Hollenbeck travelled to Islay in the Southern Hebrides to listen to the geese and other birds before creating a jazz suite aimed at attracting a wider audience to jazz."

The RSPB write on their website: "One half of the duo, Stu Brown commented: “Being on Islay was a stunning experience. There were so many different natural sounds all around us constantly, the music just sprang to life from that. “I was particularly inspired by the sounds created by thousands of barnacle geese all calling together, which produced these complex polyrhythms, and the lapwings with their almost electronic calls.” Stu and John were shown around the reserve by RSPB site manager James How, who helped them locate different species of birds for their recordings, including geese, rooks, oyster catchers and choughs, a rare species of crow found in the western fringes of the Britain Isles. They even caught sight of a solitary egret, the only one on the island." In case you haven't seen or heard the geese on Islay I can recommend one of my video's below:

On Sunday the 8th of August Stu and John along with Theo Blackman (vocals), Julian Arguelles and Jorrit Dijkstra (saxes), Gary Versace and Paul Harrison (keys) will premier the music that was inspired by the bird song. They will also be taking some of the music outdoors at Edinburgh’s Botanic Gardens that afternoon. Hopefully the local bird life will join in. Naturally Inspired Concert World Premier 8th August The Hub, Edinburgh, 8.30pm Tickets £12.50 available from 0131 473 2000 and

Tag: geese music jazz

Growing Geese Numbers needs Management Rethink

What many people don't realise when they watch the geese on Islay or elsewhere is that these lovely birds can cause quite some damage to farmlands. Shortly after the geese arrive on Islay in the autumn they spread over the island to feed from the grass which is sometimes grazed almost to the root. When the geese leave the island in April parts of the grasslands on Islay aren't suitable for cattle or sheep to graze on because it needs to grow back first before the animals can use it. This is of course bad news for the farmers and that's one of the reasons why they are financially compensated by the government in so called goose management schemes. For more information on the management scheme visit the Scottish National Heritage website. Where one country in Europe offers a payment to support geese on their farmer's lands, in other countries such as the Netherlands geese are being shot by their thousands for causing damage to farmlands, but these are a different species. The geese on Islay and other parts of Scotland have a habit to travel around and graze in areas not being covered by these schemes, that's why the farmers believe it is time for a change in the schemes:

The Ileach: The National Farmers Union (NFU Scotland) has called for goose management policy in Scotland to be revived to reflect the significant levels of damage being done to agricultural and crofting land not currently covered by the existing goose management schemes. The call was made as the Union staged a national membership workshop in Stirling today (Tuesday, 23 March) to discuss further the Scottish Government's 2010 Review of the National Goose Management Policy. Continue reading....

Marine Wildlife and Geology of Islay

Another new page is born on the Islay Info website and it's a very special one. When I asked Susan Campbell if she was willing to help me out on a wee section about Islay and the Sea I couldn't foresee that we would end up with two large pages and there were even some sections we had to skip. There is so much to write about Islay that we could perhaps have filled a 100 page website about Islay's seas alone, but that's not the aim of this website. The first page that Susan finished was the Islay and the Sea webpage where you can find information about the sea's essential influence on Islay's history and geography.

Besides history, sea fishing and geography there is more to write and show about the rich waters that surround the island. Those that dived the waters of Islay know that, besides the many shipwrecks, the sea is very rich in wildlife and plants. According to the Scottish Government, the seas around Scotland support approximately 6,500 species of plants and animals. That's why we decided to make a second page dedicated to the geology and underwater wildlife. Again this is not an extensive overview but an introduction to how Islay was shaped over thousands of years and you get to see some beautiful images from beneath the blue waves.

The beautiful underwater images on the new page and in this blog post are taken by Susan's son Colin of CDCampbell Marine Contracts based on the Isle of Jura.

Tag: marinelife sea photography geology wildlife

Further recognition for Scotland’s Golden Eagles

Areas important for golden eagles along Scotland’s west coast may be in line for additional protection. Following a recent decision by the Scottish Government to look at recognising more areas in Scotland important for this bird, Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) is about to ask the public what they think. On 11 January SNH launched a public consultation, on behalf of the Scottish Government, on the proposal to create a new Special Protection Areas (SPA) for golden eagles at Glen Fyne, Glen Etive, Moidart and Ardgour and the islands of Jura, Scarba and the Garvellachs. SPAs are protected under European legislation covering rare or vulnerable populations of birds in the European Union.

The west coast sites are part of a series being consulted on in Scotland. The other sites are Foinaven; Glen Affric to Strathconon and the Cairngorms Massif. Scotland already has eight SPAs for golden eagles but the Scottish Government has decided to look at adding up to six more to supplement the conservation of this important bird. Golden eagles once ranged over most of Britain but since the 18th century they have been restricted to the more remote and upland areas of Scotland and are still vulnerable. Continue reading....