Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Feathery Antics

I have always given myself a pat on the back for being able to identify more than your basic species of bird. Many people get as far as pigeon (aka rats with wings), crow (aka big black noisy bird) and seagull (aka seaside rat with wings/chip thief) before losing interest in our feathered friends.

Having lived in the city and spent much time in the country I have built up a small amount of knowledge when it comes to inland bird identification.  Moving to an island and living next to the water has thrown up a whole load of new avian questions, the variety of gulls alone has left me confused.  Yes, there is more than the one type of seagull and they don't all want to steal your chips.

Why bother?  Well firstly I think it's important to have a bit of knowledge about the wildlife that is on your doorstep and shares your surroundings.  As humans we sometimes get wrapped up in our own superiority, our commutes, gadgets, money, everyday problems and often forget how beautiful and important our natural environment is.
Secondly, well I personally find watching wildlife very entertaining, the expressions, the courting, the cute babies, the hardships, the changing seasons, the violence, watching wildlife is more dramatic than any soap opera and more authentic than any reality tv.

Bute really has a bounty of wildlife and the bird population is no exception.  Always wanting to expand my knowledge I set out for the local bookshop to search for something a bit more comprehensive that would enhance my handy little bird bible that I normally refer to.
I was not disappointed in finding an amazing local reference book which surpassed my expectations.  The Birds of Bute provides not only up to date information on the birds found on the island, there are also some lovely photographs.

My current bird bibles, the book on the right, Birds of the British Isles is a great book for beginners with nice clear photographs.
Greylag geese flying over St Ninian's point

The great thing about bird watching is that you don't have to walk far or need any special equipment to view a whole spectrum of sizes, shapes and colours and witness graceful and daring acrobatic and aquatic displays. 
On a short stroll along the waterfront at Port Bannatyne I came across a few characters that kept me amused for a while, especially a couple of comical redshanks, running around crazily on their gangly red legs. 
I managed to take a few snaps but unfortunately my camera lens could not zoom any closer, something I intend to rectify!

Oystercatchers huddled and chattering along the shoreline
A cormorant contemplating life
A curlew and a redshank casually strolling and pecking along

Later in the evening and this time a stroll along the promenade in Rothesay revealed a couple of herons down for their night time fishing with the twit-twoo of a tawny owl echoing from the nearby woods.  These are just a small selection of birds that I've spotted since arriving here and everyday I'm coming across new and interesting winged neighbours, some permanent residents, others seasonal visitors, all with their own quirky personalities and tales to tell.

For those that take their ornithology a bit more seriously there are four bird hides on Bute and a comprehensive website with up to date sightings and blog run by The Bute Bird Group

With over 200 species having been sighted on Bute I intend to slowly digest my new guide with a cup of tea in hand and add to my small but growing bird knowledge.  First on my list are the 9 types of gull that have been observed on the island, only so I can spot the chip thieves before they snatch my fish supper (Scottish for fish and chips)...

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