Wednesday 30 October 2013

Loch Gruinart

A wonderful walk a couple of weeks ago on the western shores of Loch Gruinart in bright sunshine with lots of geese and the grand finale was an otter running up the sand towards me!

Monday 28 October 2013

Dr Steve Percival ringing Barnacle geese at RSPB Loch Gruinart

Barnacle geese in the cannon net awaiting ringing and release.

Geese queuing up to be measured

Dr Steve Percival placing a ring around a leg....

Suitably labelled - away we go....
120 Barnacle geese were captured this morning on the RSPB nature reserve up at Loch Gruinart. using a cannon net. The geese feed and roost in huge flocks and it is possible, but by no means easy, to lure them within range of the net by baiting the ground with corn.

Once caught, various measurements are taken, and three rings placed on the legs. One is a red 'locality ring' which can easily be seen with binoculars and shows that the bird was caught in a particular location (it might be a red ring for Gruinart, but a blue ring for Bowmore for example). There is also a white 'Darvic Ring' which can be read, with luck and skill, while using a telescope, and then there is the standard metal BTO ring which can only be read by recapturing the bird, or finding it dead. So each bird captured is eventually released adorned with a fair amount of leg ornament.

The feeding behaviour patterns, population structure and breeding success of these Barnacle geese is of increasing interest to Islay's farmers, who are compensated by the Scottish Government for the very significant damage they do to grazing on the island which would otherwise be available to livestock. The existence of the flocks also means that farmers delay the seeding of the barley fields that are 'growing for Bruichladdich'. In recent years, in common with all areas of public expenditure, the budget available for this compensation has been cut. Some of islay's farmers are now calling for a cull to reduce the numbers.

The cannon netting is co-ordinated by Dr Steve Percival who, with his wife Tracey, has been coming to Islay to study the flocks of wintering geese for many years.

Barnacle geese - Gruinart

Taken from the 'New Hide' on the reserve.

Wednesday 23 October 2013

Slime mould or frog spawn?

In February 2011, we posted a photograph like the one here and debated whether it was a slime mould or some abandoned frog spawn. Three patches like the one shown here were a few feet apart on a path through a field at Foreland a couple of days ago. A close look shows not just the patches of white jelly but also clumps of tiny black spheres. Had this been early spring, I would have again suggested frog spawn from a frog that had come to grief or had, for some reason, had to lay its spawn out of water. But this is October and so not frog spawning time. For once, the internet doesn't seem to be a lot of help with some saying this kind of thing, including with the tiny black spheres, is a slime mould, called star rot, and others saying, regardless of date, that it is frog spawn. What does anyone think?

Wednesday 16 October 2013

Feathered Thorn

On 16th October 2010, I caught this attractive moth in my garden, and it turned out to be only the fourth record for Islay. This morning (16th October 2013), I found I had caught another - Islay's fifth record. It is one of the late flying moths, from mid-September to early December. Some moth names are difficult to understand, but this one is easier as it has feathered antennae (difficult to see in the photograph), while hawthorn and blackthorn are among its larval foodplants. The circle in the photograph is the base of the plastic tube into which I put the moth to take its picture. It is 40mm across (or just over an inch and a half), so it is quite a large insect.

Tuesday 15 October 2013

Barnacle geese at Gruinart yesterday.  An informal count last Friday notched up 36,040 - with just 474 Whitefronts so far...

Monday 14 October 2013

More photos from the wild west side

Dung Cap Fungus
Fox Moth caterpillar
Metellina segmentata (Stretch Orb Weaver)
Violet Ground Beetle (eating a worm!)

Galeruca taneceti - a type of leaf beetle - they were everywhere!
A yellow fungus

Tuesday 8 October 2013

A walk on the wild side

A great walk with lots of things to look at - both little and large, both manmade and natural, both old and young.

Young - Marsh Fritillary caterpillars

Old - ancient Gneiss rock

Small - Ruby Tiger Moth caterpillar

Large (to a caterpillar!) - Stonechat

Manmade - dun near Port Froige

Natural - natural arch near Port Froige

Tuesday 1 October 2013


The sun rises over Islay's eastern hills at 7.30 am this morning (Oct 1st).