Monday 31 December 2012

New Year's Eve

Fun on the beach at Machir Bay.
Malcolm (mine's the one in the middle)

Tuesday 18 December 2012

Sea Eagle - Niall Colthart

Anothe cracking capture from Niall.  More great shots on Facebook...!/niall.colthart?fref=ts

Pair of Otters - Niall Colthart

Taken by Niall during a kayaking trip to MacArthur's Head.  More shots on Niall's Facebook page!/niall.colthart?fref=ts

Scottish Salmon Photography Competition winner

A stunning picture of an amazing pink sunset over the Isle of Gigha has won the Scottish Salmon Company’s (SSC) annual photography completion.
The photo taken by production and sales planner Emma Byers, of Tayinloan, will now be used on promotional literature and on the company’s website which is seen by customers and buyers all around the world.
In the competition, which invited entries from SSC staff and their families, Camilla MacDonald, a biologist with the company won second prize for her picture of Loch Na Keel, Mull and Peter Cassels, an IT systems support analyst, came third with his photograph of Loch Fyne.
Rosanna Pile for The Scottish Salmon Company, which employs over 380 people up and down the West Coast of Scotland, commented:
“Every year we get some fantastic entries and this year the standard was especially high. We work in some stunning settings and the task is to produce a picture that connects them to the place where they live and work.
“This year’s winner, Emma Byers, took a shot of an amazing sunset and it was chosen because of the way it captures the reflecting light and the texture of the sea.”
 Emma, who works out of SSC’s base at Lochgilphead was thrilled. She said: “I don’t take a lot of photos and have never entered the competition before, so this was a very lucky shot. We were coming home by boat after a day with my brother-in-law and his children who live on Gigha and it was such a perfect sunset I’m glad I got the picture.”

Thursday 13 December 2012

Sornasairidh - possibly the marshiest ground on Islay!

Those of you who know me know I've crossed some pretty dodgy ground before in my traverses of Islay's lesser known terrain! Well, to reintroduce my daughter to the joys of Islay walking, we did a walk on Monday to surpass them all! Normally we count potential obstacles en route - rivers, fences, bogs - anything that poses a potential problem to the facility of the walk. We gave up counting on this occasion - but I might just be telling you that to deter you from finding one of Islay's lesser known jewels - viz a viz the delightful little ruin at Sornasairidh, which nestles unassumingly beneath another of Islay's lesser known jewels - Beinn nam Fitheach (appropriately named Mountain of the Ravens).

We climbed a deer fence, marched through marsh, managed (just!) to negotiate the widest ditch on Islay AND find my fallen-out-of-pocket GPS in the bracken. Was it worth it! Anyone else who was out on Monday will know it was!

BIRDS: Fieldfare, Raven, Jackdaw, Blackbird, Twite, Dunnock, Robin, Wren, Starling, Great Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Grey Heron, Meadow Pipit, Oystercatcher, Redshank, Curlew, Buzzard, Rock Dove, Song Thrush, Pied Wagtail

OTHER: Red Deer, Fox Moth caterpillar, Rhizocarpon geographicum, Fuscidea cyathoides (both lichens)

Loch a' Mhala and Beinn nam Fitheach

Sornasairidh and Beinn nam Fitheach


Fungi at Killinallan

Fuscidea cyathoides

Sheep and Robin at Killinallan

Starlings at Craigens

Flock of Twite at Killinallan

Catching geese

Two scientists from the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust have been on the island this week trying to catch Greenland Whitefronted Geese in order to mark them and be able to study their movements. This has been done before here, but not for many years, while birds marked elsewhere, e.g. Greenland, Iceland, and Ireland are regularly seen on Islay.
Yesterday lunchtime, a catch of 31 was made. It may not seem many but is actually more than had previously been marked on the island. The birds were marked with individually numbered metal and plastic rings and a plastic neck-collar. Two birds were given high-tec GPS collars which record their position within 20 metres every four hours and then transmit this information via mobile phone masts and thence to the scientists' computers. If there's no phone mast within range, the data are stored until there is. The solar-powered battery in the collar should last a number of years, potentially giving a mass of detailed information on where the birds stay during the winter, their migration routes via Iceland, and their breeding grounds in western Greenland.

Holding pens for the geese - the catch site is in the background beyond the rushes. Four cannons fired projectiles carrying the 30 x 15 metre net up and over the feeding geese. Because the geese in the holding pens are in the dark, they stay quiet and don't flap or struggle.
A Whitefront waiting to be marked and measured.
A high-tec collar being fitted. On the front is a solar panel to recharge the battery, and just above it a very small protrusion containing the battery, the GPS and the transmission device. The collar weighs c.40 grams (less than an ounce and a half). This goose weighed 3.025 kilograms or just over 6 and a half pounds.

Once the geese are ringed, they are placed in a small dark tent and then released in batches.
A marked goose in a field at Foreland. This was an old friend, C9L, marked in West Greenland in summer 1992 as an adult, and spending every winter on Islay from 1992-93 until it was found dead in January 2006, at an age of at least 15 years; the goose has clearly not been incommoded by the collar. It always wintered in the same area around Foreland. Some geese, like this one, are incredibly site-faithful. Others visit different wintering areas in different winters. There is much to learn from these marked birds.

Monday 10 December 2012

Before dawn in Port Charlotte

Wild geese and a crescent moon high over Port Charlotte before dawn this morning.

Thursday 6 December 2012

Mottled Umber

Mary McGregor found this moth on some dead leaves in the woods at Gruinart on Monday and wondered what it was as she couldn't find it in the usual Field Guide. And nor could I, but Danny Arnold, as always, came to the rescue and told me it was a Mottled Umber, one of the few moths that has a winter flying season (October to February). He also said that it is an amazingly variable moth which can be more or less black and white like this one through pale brown to dark brown, and sometimes with orangey markings, and only a few variations are shown in the Field Guide. This appears to be the third record for Islay. What must have been a caterpillar was recorded from Laggan in June 1941 while I saw an adult at the airport in February this year, which Danny also identified for me, but it was so different from this one that I didn't recognise it when I saw Mary's photograph!

Wednesday 5 December 2012

A Woodcock drive at Dunlossit

Here follows a series of pictures I took today while attending a Woodcock shoot at Dunlossit Estate.  Islay is considered to be one of the best places to shoot Woodcock in the UK, and the estates expend considerable effort in managing their woodland to optimise the habitat.  The guns today were mostly from the UK and Portugal, with the shoot being organised for Dunlossit by their head keeper DJ MacPhee.

Some of the guns with their beaters
The weather was perfect - cold, clear and crisp.  The guns were positioned on the track with their backs to Ballygrant loch while beaters worked their way towards them.  Numbers of birds were seen, the majority of which escaped.  I saw about six killed, five of which fell into the loch to be recovered by the spaniels.

Sunday 2 December 2012

Laggan Point yesterday

Two photos from a stroll on the beach at Laggan yesterday.

Saturday 1 December 2012

Sunset over Loch Indaal

Three shots of what was an exceptional sunset yesterday evening, even by Islay standards.  The weather here during November has been generally rather pleasant.  We have not suffered from the heavy rainfall that has caused much flooding and misery on the UK mainland.