Monday 31 January 2011

The Shorefield Project - Update

This rather cheeky ewe has moved in to Shorefield and was munching away on some seaweed over the weekend.  Not sure of her provenance - but I know you pay a premium for salt-marsh lamb..!!

For the latest on the Shorefield Project check out

The Shorefield Project

Star Count Week

Above - light pollution across planet Earth
Below - a close up view of the nebula - a giant gas cloud - in Orion's dagger

Sunday 30 January 2011

Lepas Anatifera - The Common Goose Barnacle


These Goose barnacles were growing out of the bottom of a fish box washed up at the Shorefield.  I filled the box full of other plastic detritus, an engine oil drum, cattle feed supplement bucket and lots of drinks and milk bottles and carted it up to the road.


First lambs of the year.

These were in the lighhouse field in Port Charlotte this afternoon - they were probably born in Jimmy's shed.  Most Islay lambs are not born until much later - April or even May...

Red Breasted Merganser (Mergus serrator)

This male Red breasted merganser was fishing off Port Ban this afternoon and I eventually got up reasonably close.  He was catching small flatfish - which were just that little bit too large to be swallowed easily.  He managed in the end though...

Roe deer (Capreolus capreolus), at Shorefield

This pair of Roe appear to be spending a lot of time in the Shorefiled at the moment.  You can see that the buck's antlers are still in 'velvet'.  The light was poor but they paused briefly for a portrait before presenting me with a characteristic view of their white rumps bouncing away.  The white rump is a quick way of telling Roe from Red deer - Red rumps are beige... if you see what I mean...

Barnacle geese

It has been a rather grey and miserable afternoon following a quick blast of midday sunshine.  Typical Islay winter weather.  The Barnacle geese seem to back to their more usual haunts and patterns of behaviour following the hiatus caused by the very cold spell.


George has a 2.5kw Proven wind turbine above Shorefield near Bruichladdich.  Islay Energy Trust hosted a renewables exhibition/Open Day in Bowmore Hall yesterday.

House Sparrows

Just some (12, I think) of the 38 House Sparrows I recorded for the RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch this morning.

Female Chaffich (Fringilla coelebs)

Common Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis)

Snowdrops are now fully out in our garden at Lorgba, Port Charlotte.

Rook (Corvus frugilegus)

A Rook visits our lawn yesterday during the Big Garden Birdwatch.

Saturday 29 January 2011

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch

I have just dutifully submitted the results of a rather cold hour standing in the garden to the RSPB - and they are not really all thatr exciting.  They included (in order of appearance) House, Sparrows, Starlings, Chaffinch, Blue tit, Great tit, Dunnock, Herring gull, Rook, Blackbird, Jackdaw, Robin and Collared Dove. 

That was the list of birds IN my garden - the list of those seen FROM my garden was rather more impressive - but the RSPB, quite rightly, are not interested in those.  They are not the purpose of the exercise...


Shags (Phalacrocorax aristotelis)

Taken on Islay's west coast a couple of years ago.

Thursday 27 January 2011

Jura - Cath Fotheringham

Thanks to Cath for sending us this collection of photos from her time on Jura

Wednesday 26 January 2011

Islay in the 1950's - more of the photographs of Walter Rintoul

Dairy cattle being paraded at the Islay Showground

Horses at the Islay Show

The Islay Lifeboat

MacBraynes buses at Port Askaig

Port Ellen Pier
Photographs are from the Museum of Islay Life

The Museum of Islay Life

Tormisdale Cliffs

This is a series of shots taken over at the cliffs just south of Tormisdale a couple of years back when I visited with my friends Al and Jill who live on Arran.  These cliffs have the best seabird colonies on the Rhinns - although they are not large by seabird standards probably because the local geology does not provide enough suitable ledges.

This is taken peering over the edge of the cliff.  You can see a Kittiwake flying by down below while a Guillemot and Razorbill look up to see who has arrived...

The seabirds nest side by side - with the Kittiwakes building nests and the auks laying onto the bare rock.  There is a significant build up of guano through the season...

If you crawl up to the edge and peer over with a long lens it is possible to get some close up portraits of the birds - which are not at all bothered by having their pictures taken

Here you can see the classic pointed shape of the Guillemot egg - the Darwinian explanation of the shape being that it is less likely to roll off the edge....

Razorbill eggs are not so pointed - but they tend to nest in nooks rather than on the open ledge.  In either case, it is necessary to hatch chicks that have a developed sense of spacial awareness - otherwise they would fall off!!

Islay Studios - the photography of Mark Unsworth

Online Gallery

Tuesday 25 January 2011

Rooks and a Rainbow

Thanks to Jan for this one from her archives - Rooks (Corvus frugilegus) at their nests in Port Charlotte. 

BBC commission major new series featuring Islay wildlife

BBC Scotland have commissioned a series of programmes from Nigel Pope and John Aitchison, two of the best known producers of television wildlife documentaries.  Filming will take place over two years and will result in four episodes based around the seasonal cycle in the Hebrides.  It is anticipated that Islay will feature prominently.  Set out below is an overview of the series produced by Maramedia, the production company owned by Nigel and John.

The INHT met with Nigel Pope last week - and we hope to bring you updates throughout the production process.  The series is expected to be broadcast some time in 2013.

The team made its first visit to Islay last week - and was successful in obtaining 'exciting' footage - particularly featuring Golden Eagles on the Oa.