Sunday 31 October 2010

G'night John-boy

Sunset over Loch Gorm this evening. G'night all...


I was enrolled into the very fine grouping on Twitter earlier this week


There was some irritating chap up in the north east earlier today twittering about how he was watching 1,000 of the blighters coming in off the North Sea and settling on his decorative Rowans.  Did I need to know that?


Wildlife Photography Competition - Steve and Liz Lonsdale

Steve and Liz, who live in my home county of Derbyshire, have entered this fine shot of a Roe deer. Many thanks to them.

Wildlife Photography Competition - Nicola Halsall

Many thanks to Nicola for this colourful shot of a curlew

Wildlife Photography Competition - David McEvoy

Thanks to David for this shot of funghi, probably growing out of a cowpat?

Wildlife Photography Competition - Chris Bell

Thanks to Chris for sending us this classic Islay wildlife shot of a seal lying on the rocks down in the harbour at Portnahaven.

Wildlife Photography Competition - Last Day for Entries!!

Its the last day for entries to our Wildlife Photography Competition.  I am delighted to say we have had a few last minute ones already which is great.  Keep them coming!!

Hygrocybe splendidissima - Sanaigmore

I have this really great book 'The Encyclopedia of Funghi of Britain and Europe' by Michael Jordan (presumably its what he did when he retired) and the excellent photographic illustrations contained therein have enabled me to propose these splendid specimens (found at Sanaigmore) to be the marvellously monikered Hygrocybe splendidissima.  Which sums them up perfectly.
Can't remember where the book came from, but I'm jolly glad I have it!!


Identification puzzle

A visitor here the week before last sent in this photograph and asked for help with identifying the plant. She thought it might be a Vaccinium (bilberry) but couldn't decide which. I wasn't certain, either, because the leaves didn't seem to fit what is known to occur here, so I consulted some experts at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh who came up with the answer. Rather than reveal what they said straight away, I'll wait to see if anyone would like to have a go at identifying it and then repost the photo and the answer in a few days time.

Lovely colours at Sanaigmore

Lovely colours at Sanaigmore yesterday.  We walked east from the Gallery along the shore, eventually reaching what Marie McEwan calls 'The Mushroom Rocks', which are huge boulders that have been undercut by the sea into all sorts of weird shapes.  The tide was too high for us to really see them properly, but they are still impressive, with the waves surging round them.  You can easily appreciate the abrasive power of the water that has created the formations. When the tide is right it is possible to walk right round some of them.
Birdlife on these remote rocky shores is actually quite limited.  A flock of around twenty Ringed plover flew off the sandy bit of the beach when we first arrived, and Rock pipits constantly complained about our intrusion into their airspace as we moved along. A large, dark winged wader with a white rump flew out of one of the wee coves, but it was a long way off before I caught up with it with the binoculars.  Probably a Greenshank, but only probably.  Out at sea, a steady stream of small parties of Auks were all flying right to left and there were a few very distant small gulls, almost certainly Kittiwakes.  Closer to the shore there was a steady movement of individual Herring, Common and Great Black backed Gulls, again the vast majority of which were flying from east to west.  Back at the Outback there was a huge flock of barnacle geese in the fields over the road, and a small group of around six Twite bounced past.  Some Chough called.  It was a great day.  Coffee was good too...

Grey Seal - Sanaigmore

This was taken up at Sanaigmore yesterday.  There is some great BBC live video from Orkney following the Grey seal pupping season right now.

Juvenile Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus)

Feeding near top of Storakaig

Saturday 30 October 2010

Wildlife Photography Competition - Steve Wrightson

This unusual shot of two Wild Goats has been entered by Steve.  Nice one!!

James R Macdonald - Argyll Bird Photography

Wildlife Photographer from Campbeltown.  Great pictures on Jimmy's website

James R Macdonald

Sea Thrift (Armeria maritima)

I searched on the internet for a picture of Sea thrift, or Sea pinks as it is perhaps more commonly known (Armeria maritima) in Autumn, but failed to find any.  There were bazillions of pictures of the plant in Spring - covered in pretty pink flowers - but anyone can take a picture of pretty pink flowers....  What is needed is more pictures of stuff in Autumn, when the flowers have long gone and things are difficult to identify.

So this is what could be an internet first - a picture of autumnal Thrift....

Back in the good 'ol days, we used to buy our sweeties with things called 'Thre'penny Bits', which were small twelve-sided brass-coloured coins.  While they did of course have a picture of our Sovereign Leader on the A side, the B side featured a picture of Thrift.   Its amazing what Wikipedia will tell you...

Wildlife Photography Competition - Fiona Skinner

Thanks to Fiona for sending us this lovely shot of a nestful of young swallows

Moth hunting!

One of the most interesting parts of Danny Arnold's highly informative talk on Wednesday was his description of several moths which he would expect to see on Islay but for which there are currently not any records. There seemed to be a couple of species that favour bramble leaves, not something that we are too short of here, so I spent this morning rummaging around Gruinart Wood looking for evidence. It's typical of the kind of crazy rock n roll lifestyle that I lead.

For those that missed the talk, apparently these moths lay their eggs on the leaf, which then hatch into larva that eat their way through the leaf, leaving (no pun intended) a ever widening trail as the caterpillar grows. As you can see below, I eventually found something that looks pretty similar to the photos Danny showed, so fingers crossed. And as I'm sure you can tell, I've completely forgotten the names of these particular species, so is there anyone out there with a better memory who can help?!

Also below from Gruinart Wood,  is an enormous fungi growing in a rotting tree, and some lichen, neither of which I am able to identify. Malcolm, over to you!

Friday 29 October 2010

Wildlife Photography Competition - Michael Anavi

Entries must be in by Sunday 31st October

Many thanks to Michael for this action shot of a Brown Hare

Hypericum calycinum - Rose of Sharon.

This shrubby plant is a garden escape that is widespread on Islay.  It has attractive red berries at this time of year and yellow flowers in summer.  It originates in south-east Europe.

It is commonly called 'Rose of Sharon', but so are a lot of other plants, including a hibiscus which is nothing like it.

More Grey seal photos

Ardnave - October 2010

Thursday 28 October 2010

Dickie Ducket FRPS - Wildlife Photographer - At the INHT Tuesday 2nd November 2010

After a career as a pilot in the Royal Air Force, including 5 years flying with and leading The Red Arrows, I worked for a few years for a national charity. Photography is now my main interest and, since giving up ‘the day job’ in 2001, I have been able to devote much more time to it.

I have been interested in the natural world, and especially birds, since I was a small boy. However I did not consider trying to photograph subjects until a posting to the Falkland Islands in 1985 inspired me to buy a camera.
Unfortunately, my 5-month tour there covered Autumn and Winter but I was still able to see and photograph some of the wonderful wildlife in the Islands. With only basic equipment and a rudimentary knowledge of photography, my pictures served merely as a record of my stay but were an important first step in my progress as a photographer. I returned to the Falklands in 2004 and some of the images taken then are on display in the Galleries.
A few years later, I decided to settle on Canon cameras and lenses, and I purchased my first digital camera at the beginning of 2003. After a short period of trying to take both slide and digital images, I now shoot exclusively in digital.
I live in the Thames Valley where there are a number of opportunities for photographing wildlife, especially water birds. However, I also travel around the UK to take pictures, and I usually arrange a couple of overseas trips each year. In the last few years I have been to Florida, Australia, Lesbos, Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands, Finland, the Falkland Islands, Spain, Norway, Tanzania, and Morocco. In 2007, I visited Florida, Hungary, Finland, Ireland, South Georgia and the Falkland Islands.
2008 was a relatively quiet year, and my only distant trip was in May to the Outer Hebrides (The Uists), where I successfully photographed Corncrake. Perhaps worthy of mention is that I was enrolled as a Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society (FRPS) in October.
2009 got off to a good start with a 2-week trip to Japan to photograph Snow Monkeys on Honshu and Eagles and Cranes in the snow and ice on Hokkaido. In May I visited the Danube Delta area of Romania and obtained some good images of Bee Eaters, Rollers and a number of water birds such as Herons.
I started 2010 with a week in February in the Highlands of Scotland where I photographed Red Squirrel, Crested Tit and Capercaillie in the abundant snow. In May I spent 10 days in Bulgaria photographing Bee Eater, Rose-coloured Starling, and Stone Curlew and a number of other species.
Olivaceous warbler singing after bathing - one of Dickie's shots from a recent rip to Bulgaria

Red Fox

Campbeltown wind turbine factory in administration

Argyll wind turbine factory in turmoil

Published: 27/10/2010

THE future of a wind turbine factory in Argyll is in doubt only a year after the Scottish Government promised it an investment of £10million.
Danish-owned Skykon at Machrihanish in Kintyre suspended all payments to its creditors yesterday.
The company’s chief executive, Jens Pederson, said: “The wind turbine industry is project-based and it is currently being affected by a number of negative factors in the wake of the financial crisis. These effects have also impacted Skykon to the effect that we are in a very cash-strapped situation.”
Skykon took over the factory from Vestas last year when First Minister Alex Salmond visited Kintyre to announce the government backing, which was intended to safeguard 100 jobs and create 300 more.
At present the factory near Campbeltown employs 120 people.
Chairman Kaj Thoren said: “The board of directors has received indications from key stakeholders that there is a willingness to find a solution subject to certain conditions. As a result, we will now make a final attempt to pursue any remaining possibilities available to us.”
Argyll and Bute Liberal Democrat MP Alan Reid said: “The news that Skykon has suspended payments is a terrible shock. What made this even more surprising was that it happened the day after the prime minister announced a £60million investment in offshore wind turbine projects.
“There is clearly a huge demand for towers for wind turbines. The Scottish Government must step in and ensure that another company takes over the Machrihanish development from Skykon.
“Many local jobs depend on this industry.”
Highlands and Islands MSP Jamie McGrigor added: “If Skykon is not to continue, the hope must be that a new buyer will come forward to take on the factory and thus secure jobs and investment.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Skykon has not received £10million from the Scottish Government
– the firm has received £2.4million in regional selective assistance instalments to specifically support jobs at the Kintyre plant. Not a penny more will be paid until the matter has been resolved, and Skykon have assured us they are seeking a solution.”
“The Campbeltown base and its staff have an important role to play in ensuring Scotland continues to lead the development of clean, green energy technology and building a low-carbon economy.”

Extra Protection for Golden Eagles on Jura

The Scotsman

Wildlife Photography Competition - Suzanne Cobb

Many thanks to Suzanne for this great shot of a Common Frog

INHT Wildlife Photography Competition - Last entries 31st October

The last day for entries to our Wildlife Photography Competition is 31st October.  We have had some lovely submissions, but this is definitely one competition where it is the taking part that counts...  In our opinion, many of the photos that have been submitted so far are worthy winners and George is going to have a frankly impossible task.  The standard is so high that it is surely going to come down to what appeals on judgement day!

It is our intention to put all the photographs entered onto a Flickr slideshow that can be accessed through this blog.
There is of course still time (three days!) to send in your entries - preferably by email to

The prize for winning will be a bottle of Bruichladdich whisky.

The rules are simple, anyone can enter (except members of the INHT Management Committee!), and the photographs can be of any wildlife-oriented subject, so long as it was taken on Islay.  It does not matter when it was taken - so if you have a great shot from yesteryear that is just fine...  You may enter as many shots as you like...

We really hope to hear from you

Best Regards
Carl Reavey


The British Trust for Ornithology has existed since 1933 as an independent, scientific research trust, investigating the populations, movements and ecology of wild birds in the British Isles. Its speciality is the design and implementation of volunteer wild bird surveys. Its partnership between a large number of volunteers and a small scientific staff has proved to be a powerful, productive and cost-effective way of monitoring wild birds. Volunteers of all ages and from all walks of life put their bird-watching skills to good use. They record wild birds systematically using survey methods developed by its scientists, who then compile the records and analyse them for publication. This work makes a direct and vital contribution to bird conservation, by enabling both campaigners and decision-makers to set priorities and target resources. It also provides a unique insight into the state of our environment and how it may be changing.

Waxwings in Port Charlotte - Gordon Yates

Two wonderful shots of Waxwings (Bombycilla garrulus) by wildlife filmaker Gordon Yates.  These were taken in Port Charlotte yesterday.

'Feed The Birds Day' - October 30th

RSPB Initiative

Farming of the Future?

Eight Thousand cow 'Super Dairy' proposed

Wednesday 27 October 2010

How to (mildly) irritate a Buzzard

A rather blurry picture of eight Choughs and a Raven mobbing a Buzzard up at Ardnave.  All parties gave the impression of having a good time and at no time during, before or after the (lengthy) engagement did any of the birds involved move more than about 400 yards from the initial point of contact.  The buzzard eventually sat on a fence post, the Raven got bored and went to ground and the Choughs decided that it was more fun doing communal aerobatics in the updraughts created by the large silage shed roof.

The RSPB explanation of 'Mobbing' is:-

'Mobbing' is a noisy, obvious form of behaviour that birds engage in to defend themselves or their offspring from predators.
When a predator is discovered, the birds start to emit alarm calls and fly at the predator, diverting its attention and harassing it. Sometimes they make physical contact. Mobbing usually starts with just one or two birds, but may attract a large number of birds, often of many species. For example, a chorus of different alarm calls coming from the same tree is often a good sign of a roosting owl or a cat.
Mobbing behaviour has been recorded in a wide range of species, but it is particularly well developed in gulls and terns, while crows are amongst the most frequent mobbers.
In addition to flying at the predator and emitting alarm calls, some birds, such as fieldfares and gulls, add to the effectiveness by defaecating or even vomiting on the predator with amazing accuracy. There are reports of predators being grounded by the volume of droppings over their body after a concentrated mobbing attack by a colony of fieldfares.
Mobbing behaviour has many functions. Predators often rely on surprise to succeed. As a predator has been discovered, birds will blow its cover by the loud alarm calls. This will alert other birds to the presence of a predator, and reduce its chances of success.
This noisy mobbing will also serve to impress the appearance of the predator on inexperienced individuals. The constant harassment by the mobbing birds will also drive the predator to a safe distance. The mobbing birds are seldom at risk, provided they keep the predator in sight and do not take too many chances.
A predator may be mobbed regardless of whether it is in flight, on ground or in vegetation. Birds attacking a perched or ground predator always give loud alarm calls and may make physical contact. Flying birds of prey are attacked by swooping down at a steep angle from above and behind, and emitting alarm calls. Sometimes contact is made with bill or feet.
Such attacks are rarely pressed home against really dangerous species, such as goshawks for crows. Mobbing attacks are strongest when the birds have most at stake, such as during the breeding season when young birds are at risk from a wide range of predators.
Birds may mob anything that they consider to be a danger. The cuckoo, owls and day-flying raptors are the birds most commonly mobbed, but cats, foxes, snakes, even humans, are regularly on the receiving end. The cuckoo is of course a danger species in a different way from predators, though the resemblance to a bird of prey, especially when flying, is probably a coincidence.
Since there is a learnt component to the behaviour, birds can start to mob anything they see other birds mob. Therefore, theoretically even inanimate objects such as statues or paint cans may end up being mobbed.
Mobbing is not restricted to danger species or indeed to birds of prey or mammalian predators. In this country, adult crows are likely to be taken only by the rare goshawk, but they often mob buzzards and kestrels among others.
They also mob non-predators such as grey herons, whose large size and flight silhouette they mistake for a bird of prey. In some species like crows and gulls the harassing behaviour characteristic to mobbing is also seen in other behaviours including food robbing.

Whooper Swans (Cygnus cygnus)

A pair of Whoopers on Ardnave Loch a couple of days ago.

Machir Bay

Ringed plover and Turnstones on the beach at Machir Bay a couple of days ago.

The decline of the eel

Guardian article

Seeing is believing

Northern Bald Ibis migration

Follow the link to see a BBC film and article about the work being done in Austria to teach hand-reared Northern Bald Ibis chicks how to migrate - using a microlight.

Tuesday 26 October 2010

Mull Birding Site

THE place to be if you want to know what is happening on Mull

Waxwing calls

Some nice recordings of Waxwing trills from Hugh Harrop up in Shetland

Unidentified Funghi

Growing on a sand dune at Ardnave.  Perhaps Common Ink Cap (Coprinus altramentarius)?


A giant statue of a grouse is to be built on a Perth roundabout ...


Having a wee argument


Three shots of Islay's geese taken while out and about round Gruinart yesterday

Waxwing Invasion

And see Ian's Bird Blog for Islay sightings