Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Bird in a storm

Yesterday I sat watching my bird feeder (I should have been doing something else but apathy had set in), time disappeared as I watched what appeared to be an organised queuing system along my fence. Most of the birds are common across the UK but are still beautiful to look at.  Ironically in the background the news relayed the frightening (well I would be scared) weather storms hitting America and it made me think.... how lucky I am?,  No I wondered how soon it would be before we get the tail end of the storm as we often do!  And also where do the birds, especially seabirds, go during this weather?  Are they on the wing being buffeted around or do they find a bolt hole somewhere?  
The afternoon brought sunny skies and no wind, Lamlash bay was full of resting seabirds, oyster catchers, turnstones, curlews and a variety of gulls, all huddled in together. Peace reigns for the moment :0)

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Light and colour

The light and colour is truly fabulous around the Island.  The mountains have turned orange and some of the conifers have turned golden.  The sunlight glints through the leaves creating motes of fairy dust (makes a change from fairy rain!). The grounds of Brodick Castle provide some stunning walks at this time of year.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Red squirrels on Arran

After listening to a talk at the Arran Natural History Society meeting about red squirrels I decided I should do a bit more to encourage this cute little rodent.  Arran is so lucky to only have the red variety, and by all accounts a growing population.  Unfortunately the greys carry a particularly nasty disease, one that does not make them ill but it kills the reds. Once reds and greys are in the same area it is only a matter of time before the reds become ill and start to decrease in number. Not only do the greys carry this pox, they are bigger and compete directly for available food.  Greys are spreading across the mainland rapidly, leaving only small pockets of land where reds can be found.  So Arran is an ideal environment, isolated from the greys and with  a plentiful food source within the forestry.  At this time of year they seem to be particularly active, scurrying around foraging which also leads to an increase in road kill.  In the talk it was interesting to note that in some areas, a healthy population is assumed where there is plenty of road kill!!

I decided that a feeder was the best way to help as this would ensure a food supply throughout the winter, so I started to look for one of these.  After being shocked by the price (not forgetting Arran postage!) one of ANHS members made me a couple.  I have seen squirrels in my garden on many occasions as they use the fence as a mini motorway, so that seemed an ideal place to locate my new feeder. The perspex front lets me see how much food is left in the box, the lid lifts, and there is a mini platform for the squirrel to sit on.  Initially I put a block inside the box to take up some room so that less nuts were needed to fill the space.  This ensured they didn't deteriorate before they were eaten.  I was advised to use a drawing pin in the lid to help the squirrels find the lid, but after watching them run pass the feeder for several days I propped the lid partially open.  I think the birds feeding from it then attracted the squirrel.  I now get two sources of amusement - the squirrel feeding and the birds tapping at the perspex.

I now just need to teach the squirrel to close the lid when its finished or the birds will eat me out of house and home!

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Autumn snow on Arran

Well a wet and cold start to the morning with low cloud turned into one of those wonderful blue sky and snow days.  The first snow of the season, although I guess it won’t last long, it really is a sign that winter is on its way.  I now have the right weather to wear my favourite clothes – fleeces and polo neck jumpers!  

On my walk out with the dogs, in the afternoon sun, it was pleasantly warm.  However as soon as we turned into shadow and later in the afternoon I was glad I had my gloves with me.  Even Watson felt the chill – but maybe that was because he spent some time swimming in what can only be described as Baltic temperature water!

Goatfell looked very inviting, but alas not enough time this afternoon to climb it. I am really keeping my fingers crossed that it stays snowy for the weekend.

I love the colours of autumn, yellows, oranges and reds are so warm in contrast to the snowy blue and white.  The next few weeks should see changes more into reds and browns, if we don’t get any high winds to take all the leaves down.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Basking sharks around Arran

Within 10 minutes of setting off in search of basking sharks I was rewarded with my first glimpse.  The shores around the Island seem to be alive with these mighty beasts.  Although I only travelled between Machrie and round the north end as far as Sannox I saw 10 close into shore.

Basking sharks are the 2nd largest fish in the world and can be up to 10 meters long and weight up to 7 tons. They are easy to spot as they slowly meander at about 3 miles/5kph an hour near the surface. On the surface they appear greyish brown and create a distinctive profile.  

Their large mouth can be up to a meter wide, with 5000 gill rakers which are used to strain 1.5 million litres of water an hour. They feed purely on plankton and although they have teeth are non aggressive.

Occasionally they are known to breach the water like whales.  This is usually unexpected and caution is advised for anyone in the water near them.  The last known fatality was in the Firth of Clyde prior to WWII when a small boat was capsized and 3 people drowned.

These fish are protected in UK waters up to 12 miles off shore, as they were previously fished to dangerously low levels. The species is still considered at risk.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Autumn Days

Well it definitely felt a little crispy this morning with a little frost on the car but what a beautiful day.  The mountains were clear and the wildlife very active.  Lots of birds are coming and going in readiness for the winter. Including the Redshank as pictured which is easily recognised by the bright red legs. The light is fabulous for photography, but the low sun can create its own challenges especially on the coast.  Lots of opportunity for some atmospheric shots.  I've just added 24 photographs to a new autumn gallery on my website and will regularly update it  http://www.arraninfocus.co.uk/autumn-gallery/

Tuesday, 2 October 2012