Saturday, 26 September 2020

Northern Bottlenose Whales, Firth of Clyde

There has a been a group of three northern bottlenose whales in the Firth of Clyde since about mid August but they only get reported intermittently and have been pretty far ranging, initially reported for a few days from near Lochgilphead, then from Great Cumbrae island near Largs and finally a week or so ago from Arrochar. I drove through the first and the last of these places on my way to Mull of Kintyre last Sunday, and then passed through them again today on my way home. I did keep stopping at various places for a scan of the lochs hoping to spot them, but I always seemed to be a week or so behind the whales and had no great expectation of seeing them today.

However, I'd just gone about a mile past the turning for Garelochhead at the southern end of Loch Lomond when I got a message that the whales were now in Gare Loch, just 10 miles from where I was. At the next roundabout I made a U-turn and headed back. A great decision as it turned out, because the whales showed very well swimming in amongst the boats and yachts.

Friday, 25 September 2020

Surveying a bog on Mull of Kintyre

This is the life, how could I ever regret changing career in 2012, from I.T. manager to ecologist? NVC surveys of blanket bogs are just the best job in the world, what a habitat, what scenery! 

Wednesday, 23 September 2020

Claonaig ferry, Mull of Kintyre

I called in at Claonaig ferry about 10 miles north of my campsite this morning, on my way to my job near Tarbert. I was amazed to see these two otters asleep on the rocks about 3m below where I was standing and completely oblivious to my presence. I suppose that I could have got myself a once in a lifetime photo if I'd made a noise and woken them, but I decided that they looked peaceful and there was really no need to disturb them.

Monday, 21 September 2020

Winter auks and an eagle, Mull of Kintyre

Quite a few auks around the coast at the moment, including this razorbill and guillemot in Campbeltown harbour. I don't often see razorbills in winter plumage so it was good to get this comparison shot of the two species together.

Sunday, 20 September 2020

Mull of Kintyre

After a long and tiring journey I finally arrived at my campsite at Carradale on the Mull of Kintyre. It's been a beautiful day with stunning views of Jura and Arran and in the last hour of daylight I watched two red-throated divers fishing in front of Ailsa Craig, "Paddy's milestone" from the beach at my campsite.

With all of these new covid restrictions being threatened I was a bit unsure that I'd make it to Mull of Kintyre this week, but here I am, on my own in a caravan next to a beautiful beach. The weather has been glorious and tomorrow I start work on my own surveying a peat bog 😆. I've got all of my supplies with me and apart from buying petrol I don't think that social distancing will be a problem.

The Isle of Arran.

Thursday, 17 September 2020

Autumn flowers on the Great Orme

Photo: Broomrape sp., probably common.

I can't get enough of the Great Orme and it was a wonderful day today, with bright blue skies and still quite a few flowers lingering into autumn.

Thursday, 10 September 2020

Sabine's Gull, Hale

Today I called in at Hale to see the remarkable juvenile Sabine's gull which has been feeding on a stubble field adjacent to the lighthouse for the past three days. When I got there it hadn't been seen for an hour so I wandered down to the shore and managed to pick out a couple of curlew sandpipers with the small dunlin flock. Eventually though the gull did reappear and showed well for 30 minutes or so until I decided to leave.

Thursday, 3 September 2020

Shifting baseline syndrome at Hesketh Out Marsh and Banks Marsh

It says something about how things have changed over the years when I can go to Hesketh Out Marsh followed by Banks marsh and see six spoonbills, great white egret, probably around 40 little egrets and four avocets and still come away feeling a little sad and disappointed, when just thirty years ago I might have considered it one of the best birding days of my life. The reason for these feelings of sadness and disappointment is the lack of waders I saw on the Ribble today. 

Over the past 20 years we've all become accustomed to these wonderful egrets and spoonbills, so much so that we now expect to see them and they barely warrant a mention in any quick scan of the saltmarsh. For sure they are very welcome new additions to the local avifauna, but the other side of the coin is the devastating lose of waders. 

On a single day in September 1983 I saw a flock of 85 little stints at Frodsham marsh but 37 years later it seems like there's barely that many in the whole of the UK. Just look at Birdguides, one little stint here, two there, but very rarely do you hear of double figure counts from anywhere. Today I saw one and it felt like a mega tick. Curlew sandpipers have fared little better, a flock of 24 at Hesketh Out Marsh yesterday was considered likely to be the largest flock in the UK at the moment. Today I saw one in flight.

This is both extremes of shifting baseline syndrome. On the one hand, it would be easy for new birders to dismiss egrets and spoonbills as a common sight on estuaries around the UK and perhaps not realise how rare they were just a generation ago, whilst at the other extreme the baseline for what is a good wader count decreases as each generation passes, so that birders in years to come might wistfully look back at the days of a flock of 10 little stints when the generation before expected to see 80 and before that who knows how many? 

Why does this matter, well if you don't recognise the spectacular growth in egret and spoonbill numbers over a short period of time then perhaps you also won't see them for what they are, climate change indicator species, and if your baseline for a good little stint count is 10 then perhaps you won't recognise that actually even 10 represents a dramatic decline in numbers from just 30 years ago. This is shifting baseline syndrome, each generation sets it's expectations of what is good a little lower than the last because they weren't around to see what things were like two or three generations earlier.

Whilst new additions are welcome, they don't make up for the loses, I'd sooner go back to the days of large numbers of arctic waders in the UK and leave the egrets and spoonbills for holidays to the Mediterranean.

Also today, an injured and over summering tundra bean goose and a couple of pink-footed geese, plus two peregrine and a merlin. Not a bad day really, just a bit sad. I seem to have a lot of sad days at the moment....

Tuesday, 1 September 2020

The Great Orme

The Great Orme, despite travelling to the otherside of the world on more than one occasion, this is where my heart truly is and Llandudno is the place I would most like to live. I've so far not achieved that dream but I guess that I should at least consider myself fortunate to live within a 90 minute drive. Imagine if the dream was to live in Brisbane or Christchurch, I might never get to go again. At least when it's Llandudno I know that I can just jump in the car and be there before breakfast and home for tea.

Popular Posts