October is a great time to be on Islay. The arrival of the geese and swans, the large flocks of finches and the passage of migrant thrushes and other birds make the reserves feel bustling with life. Amongst the finch flocks on the Oa over the last few, up to four bramblings have been seen.
October is also the time that grey seals give birth to their pups.
This pup on the Oa is a couple of weeks old, in a week or so it will shed it's white fur coat and have to learn to swim and hunt for itself.
The other day I counted over 90 pale bellied brent geese on the salt marsh at RSPB Loch Gruinart. Some of these were ringed birds which I was able to take a reading of and send away to the appropriate people:
Click on this link to the Irish brent goose project for details of a family I identified; these birds were caught and rung in Axel Heiberg Island, Canada, in July (with the use of a helicopter!). This is around 2,500 miles, and Islay isn't even their final destination.
Others that were rung in the group included one that had already made its journey to Stranford Lough a fortnight ago, and is apparently known for yo-yoing between sites! Information from these rings can tell us a great deal about migrating birds movements which we would be otherwise unaware of.
Apologies for the lack of photos, unfortunately I'm not in the habit of taking the camera. However, we are counting again today so I will try to take some then.
Winter is upon us now with around 6000 barnacle geese on the Island. While they are amazing to watch, its good to remember that it's not just the barnacle geese that arrive on Islay each Autumn.
These light bellied brent geese arrive from as far away as eastern Canada to Islay, and most only stop here to re-fuel before going on to their wintering grounds in Ireland. There were113 on RSPB Loch Gruinart this morning.
( Theresa Morris, http://www.islaywildscapes.blogspot.co.uk/2014_10_01_archive.html)
The whooper swans, also en-route to Ireland, stop off for a much needed rest on Islay. There were a flock of 88 on the pastures of RSPB Loch Gruinart yesterday.
Theresa Morris is on holiday on Islay at the moment, and has been lucky enough to capture the past week new arrivals while exploring Islay. Have a look at her blog for some amazing photos of this exciting time of year.
No October blog post, despite whatever the title suggests, is complete without a picture of the Barnacle geese. Thanks Theresa.