Tuesday 20th July
Ferry left Islay at 6.30am and misty, cloudy sunrise over the mountains of Jura. A few manx shearwaters and gannets were flying down the sound and the sea was mill pond flat.
Arrived at Colonsay and soon the rain started. Got to the sandy bay that required me to push the bike over the sand to get to Oronsay and then pushed it further until I reached a high dry [!] stone wall. Explored the coast here and then saw a large house and ruined priuory complex further west. Couldn't find anyone in at first but soon met 2 of the most fabulous people that I've met on the tour. The RSPB ceratinly has the top people and Mike and Val are 2 of the best.
I'd heard corncrakes calling whilst coming along towards the big house and Mike, after a coffee and a chat, took me down to where one was about 5 meters away calling from a dense patch of nettles. Could I see it? No chance. It moved left, I followed. It moved right I did the same but in 2 hours I didn't see as much as a feather. How loud the male was as well. The female did a sort of tiny squeak but the male; well, it was loud enough for me to record it on my mobile.
Spent the afternoon helping one of the RSPB volunteers, Niall, put out electric fencing with the hope that it will stop the many greylags from getting to the barley crop before the winter geese arrive. Niall's a tall distinguished ex civil servant from Edinburgh who is now treasurer for the BTO. A most charming work companion.
The evening was spent seawatching at the end of a nearby headland. Not many birds passing; gannets, kittiwakes and auks with 37 greylag quite far out on the ocean. Had seen a crater near the beginning of this penbinsula and it turned out that this was created during World War 2 when explosives were tested here under the watchful eyes of Winston Churchill himself.
Mike and Val had said that I could use the caravan for the couple of days that I was going to be on the island and when I returned there, there was a beer, pizza and salad waiting for me. Their kindness was greatly appreciated and even if I hadn't seen a corncrake the delightful island and wonderful people had made this a very special day.