Sunday, 15 June 2008

Birds at the Woodland Centre

Saturday 14th June 2008
It's early morning and it's raining in the Minch. With a fabulous bank of clouds further round in the sky. (OK, so where else would clouds be!!!) Then we got a sunny patch in the Minch.

After a brief shop in Stornoway we went to the Woodlands Centre and got my favourite table. Once again we failed to complete the crossword but this time it was because our minds were elsewhere - as demonstrated by me repeating one of the clues back to GB as "Sorry, what was that Sound of rain or minds elsewhere in what" after he had said to me "Sound of rain or rapid feet in 3-1-3 ". The reason for the distraction was the same reason it is my favourite table - the view of the bird feeder. Today we had Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Blue Tit, Coal Tit, Robin, Blackbird, Collared Dove and Siskins all come down for nuts.

Because the Woodlands Centre is in the Castle Grounds - the only substantially wooded area on Lewis - it has a completely different bird fauna to the rest of the island. Some of the birds found here are only found outside Stornoway when they have a mini population explosion or are feeling adventurous. Collared Doves are one of the birds found all over the island.

Greenfinch playing peek-a-boo.

Coal Tit with the distinctive white patch on the back of its head.

Robin posing and Chaffinch not posing.

Whilst all the other birds, including its fellow Blue Tits, were struggling to get bits of nut through the mesh, this cheeky fellow came a couple of times and went down the inside of the tube to pinch a whole nut at a time.

Blue Tits taking the conventional approach.

Of today's birds the most exciting were the Blackbird and the Siskins. I Isn't the rarity of Blackbirds, it was the fact that I thought of for a while that this one could be a Ring Ouzel. It had its back to us and we could just see an occasional flask of white that looked like a collar.

It turned out to be a straightforward Blackbird with white cheek patches. Very fetching. We spent the rest of the day wondering whether, despite them being different species, one of its ancestors had had an affair with a Ring Ouzel.

The Siskins (known in Gaelic as Gelaga-bhuidhe) arrived on Lewis last autumn as a small invasion. A few stayed over the winter and into this summer, it is suspected they may have bred here though their breeding site has not been seen. Prior to this year the Siskin was only a rare passage migrant to the smaller islands and up to 1990 (when the "Birds of the Outer Hebrides" by Peter Cunningham was reprinted with corrections) it had never been seen on Long Island (the name given to Lewis and Harris combined).

On the way back home GB saw a Sandpiper or Redshank fly into a field and upon stopping we discovered some Lapwings as well.

This is a young Lapwing.

And an even younger Blackbird - this egg was found on Pat and Dave's lawn with no indication how it got there. Did some Gull or other thief drop it and the grass cushion its fall?

We called at the jetty on the way home.

In the late afternoon an enormous cruise ship passed the island, far out on the horizon.


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