This is Glen Astle on the Oa. It’s one of my favourite places on the Oa and the island and although the house is a chough house (a ruin roofed so that chough are able to nest/roost there) I’d love to be able to live there. I often sit there and dreamily think of the sheep I’d have, where I’d grow my vegetables and what kind of boat I’d have so I could fish in the loch. But alas it will never be. Probably a good thing too as it’s really quite remote and the Oa is brutal! But I’ll be helping the RSPB team on the Oa to gather the black faced ewes from here and the surrounding hills tomorrow and the day after. They will be scanned to see how many lambs they are carrying and marked accordingly. By the time this happens though I’ll be back on the mainland, my winter on Islay over.
Spent most of today at least knee deep in soft smelly mud at Loch Gruinart helping James the site manager. We were fitting pipes into the drainage ditch system that currently drains the flats to create a better and wetter environment for waders. They haven’t been set to flood yet but will be in about a week or so. Once they are there will be a marked change in the water levels across Gruinart flats. At the moment the ditches are draining as much water as they can into larger run offs meaning that the flats are dryer for the overwintering barnacle and Greenland white fronted geese. Despite spending all day wallowing in lots of ditches I’ve really enjoyed it. Although I might not have enjoyed it quite as much if it hadn’t been such a beautiful day!! Along with singing skylarks and swooping lapwings I found a really big lump of frogspawn and my first ever leeches. The leeches were a particular highlight of my day, especially because they were beefy horse leeches!
Today was the farmland birds and winter thrush surveys. This means that I get to spend about an hour and a half walking around 7 fields at Loch Gruinart and an hour and a half wandering the two trails whilst watching and counting birds and other wildlife. I can’t complain…they’re two of my favourite surveys. In fact I just like surveys really!
The sightings of note during the farmland birds were around 60 twite, 56 chaffinch, 24 reed bunting, 15 fieldfare and 25 redwing in a mixed flock and 34 skylark. The skylark for me were pretty unusual, I’m really used to seeing very small groups and solitary birds. I had no idea they could gather in such large flocks…it seems pretty obvious now but it was really nice to see. The winter thrush survey was disappointingly quiet on the bird front. I’ve been really lucky recently in seeing bullfinch, goldcrest and mistle thrush but today I saw a few song thrush and plenty of blackbird. Although they’re lovely I think I’ve been spoilt a bit recently! On the non avian front though there were lots of roe deer on both the moorland and woodland trail. I saw 12 but I’m sure there were a few I didn’t spot. (Sorry about the poor deer photo by the way, just a quick iphone picture. Should’ve taken my camera!)