A Hoolie in the Highlands

The wind howled, whipping the greenish grey sea into a frenzy of white water,spraying from the tops and streaking down the backs of large waves. It was blowing an absolute hoolie as the MV Finlaggen steamed from Kennacraig to Islay. Five seabird surveyors stood wrapped up against the wind and spray on the back deck, attempting to detect and identify seabirds. Despite the conditions we picked up a number of different species of divers, gulls, ducks and auks. Highlights included an Iceland gull, two slavonian grebes, black guillemot and three species of diver.

Common Gull

With the wind blowing and the front deck still off limits, we decided to have one day on Islay practicing bird identification. The island was alive with geese, white-fronted, barnacle and a ‘proper’ Canada goose… from Canada! A male hen harrier swooped in front of the car, while at a reserve three females glided amongst flocks of lapwing and golden plover. Later during the day a majestic golden eagle soared above us, while a glaucous gull stood out like a sore thumb amongst the herring gulls.

White-fronted Goose on Islay

Finally after two and a half days the sun broke through, clearing the low cloud and revealing the beautiful Scottish landscape. The sea glittered a deep blue, the low sun warming the reds, browns and deep greens of Islay and the mainland, tingeing the sky pink. In the sunlight of the last trip we also picked up four long-tailed duck, topping off a cracking trip.

But it wasn’t all fun and golden eagles, there was a purpose to this trip. It was a European Seabirds at Sea training course, aimed at standardising the collection of data throughout Europe.
Golden Eagle on Islay

 And did she pass I hear you ask…? You bet ya!


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