A few more pictures from my week out on Inishmore, mostly non-passerines. I recorded about 82 species during my time. Good week for raptors with up to three Kestrels seen in a day. Many were most noticeable hovering very early in the day before sunrise. Merlin was seen on most days and probably involved a few different birds. It was nice to see an adult pair of Peregrines tag teaming a Woodpigeon one particular morning even though they missed on the occasion. A few Sparrowhawks out there but like Kestrels and Peregrine they probably breed on the island anyway.
Not as many Red-legged Partridges seen this year compared to last October. One showy pair over at Bun Gabhla which obviously didn't breed as would be expected. I'd imagine that the majority of them will have died off by next year as they aren't likely to reproduce and are very short lived birds anyway. Seem to large numbers of Pheasants out there too. I don't quite get why people go to the expense and time releasing large numbers of non native species onto an offshore island like this. It would be far more beneficial to do something with native species. Most people actually don't realise that Pheasants aren't native to Ireland. There was even a white farmyard duck on Loch Phort Chórrúch. I've seen a few domestic ducks released here in the past, most of which die of starvation.
It was sad to see several landowners/farmers spraying brambles and shrub with what is most likely Roundup. The island has a big problem of land abandonment and many fields are now clogged up with brambles, ferns, blackthorn and hazel. It also makes finding migrants who seek out such habitat extremely difficult e.g. shrikes, Wrynecks, Barred Warblers, etc. Traditionally these would have been correctly controlled by livestock, fire and manual clearance. The use of these chemicals in such a pristine habitat is disappointing to see. The long term effects of these herbicides is still being debated but could be likely to be damaging to environmental and human health. The islands are essentially an extension of the Burren habitat-wise and are rightly renowned for their flora which has been the result of active farming over many centuries. The use of these chemicals could well result in the loss of some of these important flora communities. The majority of farming is dry stock cattle, horse/pony and with some goats which have become more popular again in recent years. I only saw two sheep during the whole week which was two too many as far as I'm concerned. Sheep are just bad news in just about every Irish habitat you can imagine. There are no longer any cereals or root crops apart from the very rare small vegetable patch here and there. This has been responsible for the loss of species like Yellowhammer to these islands. I'm sure Corn Bunting must have been a resident out here in the past although there is no written evidence of this.
There's a great agri-environmental scheme just started on the Aran islands called AranLIFE. Mirrored on the BurrenLife project it describes itself as - "The AranLIFE project is a demonstration project operating on the three Aran Islands over a 4 year period from 2014-2017, co-funded under the EU LIFE Nature programme. It seeks to develop and demonstrate the best conservation management practices of local farmers on the designated Natura 2000 sites of the three islands (protected habitats for flora and fauna of European importance). The project focuses on farming activities on the islands within the Natura designated sites, harnessing local farming knowledge and experience with the scientific expertise of other project partners to overcome some of the challenges of island farming and to improve the conservation status of the designated sites."
It's good to see such projects that reward the farmer for actual results rather than giving money for plans on paper that have no measurable outcomes. It seems to have a good take-up by local farmers. Have a look at the website for further information. http://www.aranlife.ie/
|Belted Galloway Cow|
|Gable stone on old shed, built in 1888 I think?|
|Rock Island Lighthouse|
|Wild Strawberry, rather tasty!|