Tuesday, 28 March 2023

Monday 27th & Tuesday 28th March

A lovely sunny day on Monday gave way to cloud and rain today.

Bird news for yesterday included a count by Marc Eden of 7 White-tailed Eagles (1 adult, 1 sub-adult and 5 immature birds) on the ground near Loch Ruime near Sanaigmore – a slightly different location for these winter gatherings. Later, Marc saw the first Sandwich Tern of the year for Islay at Loch Gruinart and 5 White-tailed Eagles eating a Barnacle Goose at the end of the Killinallan road – were these the same as those seen earlier at Sanagimore? There was also a Greenshank up that way and a Richardson’s Cackling Goose and lone Brent Goose at Craigens. He also saw the old faithful Glaucous Gull at Uiskentuie.

Wheatears were found down at Claddach by Mary R.and at Glenegedale by Jarred Johnson, who also had a Chiffchaff at Kilnaughton and no less than 13 Sand Martins and 2 House Martins at Loch Skerrols. A couple of Sand Martins were also seen up at Ardnave by Steve & Lynn Rogers.

Today, despite the much less pleasant weather, a few folk were out there finding further summer migrants. The Glaucous Gull had moved up to Bridgend for a change of scenery, while Sand Martins and a Great Spotted Woodpecker were found at Loch Skerrols and David Dinsley had his first 2 Wheatears down on The Oa.

In other news, we had reports of Islay being “surrounded” today by more Alpine Swifts – 4 over at Ballycastle, Northern Ireland and 2-3 in Oban and elsewhere in Argyll. Surely there must be one here too?

Thanks to David Livingstone sent in these photos of one of his recent rambles:

Sunday, 26 March 2023

Sunday 26th March

A lovely day of bright sunny, quite warm weather – most appropriate given that we put the clocks on to British Summer Time last night.

The Nature Scotland team sent in some additional records for yesterday 25th March:

Loch Gorm - 20+ Tufted Ducks and 2 Slav Grebes.

Loch Indaal (scanning from Bowmore) – apart from the female Surf Scoter reported yesterday were a Black-throated Diver, 30+ Great Northern Divers, 15+ Red-throated Divers, 50+ Red-breasted Mergansers, 30+ Slavonian Grebes, 1 Little Grebe, 6 Long-tailed Ducks, 8 Goldeneye. 130+ Eider.

Kintra - 5 Long-tailed Ducks, 15 Great Northern Divers.

Other news from yesterday comes from Fiona Mcgillivray who saw a House Martin at Port Wemyss – first for the year here.

Today’s bird news includes some very spring-like records of new arrivals, nesting and migration:

Summer Arrivals: Jarred Johnson had a Wheatear at Gruinart this morning and no less than 8 at Ardnave this afternoon. Along the woodland trail at Gruinary he heard the first Chiffchaff of summer on Islay – or was David Dinsley’s 2 Chiffchaffs at Kinnabus the first? Jarred also had a Sand Martin at Ardnave.

Migration: there were several flocks of Whooper Swans moving through today on their return journey northwards. Jarred first had a group of 8 at Gruinart, then a flock of 62 dropped in. Steve & Lynn Rogers had 53 over Kilnaughton. James How notes that by the evening there had been several groups of whoopers moving north at Gruinart today, the largest flock being a whopping 96. Also on their way north were 10 Redwings seen by Jarred at Gruinart.

Nesting: Ed Burrell notes his first Lapwing incubating eggs at Cornabus this evening.

Other Stuff: There were the usual 4 Little Egrets at Gruinart where up to 4 White-tailed Eagles and a Golden Eagle were noted. 3 more WTE were at Cairnmore woods near Port Ellen and yet another down at Lossit/Kelsey area. Rarity of the day was another relocation of the long-staying Red-breasted Goose by Mark Shield up at the Gruinart North Hide.

Non-Avian: the sunny summer theme continues with sightings of 4 basking Adders at Foreland, Common Lizards at Glenegedale and Peacock, Red Admiral and Small Tortoiseshell butterflies hither and thither.

Corrections; Regarding yesterday’s note about duck hybrids, Malcolm Ogilvie clarifies and corrects my note saying: “hybrids of 121 species of ducks have been recorded, some species with just one hybrid, while Mallard has hybridised with over 60 other species. The total number of duck hybrids known amounts to over 400. One obvious reason for this is that wildfowl have for long been kept in enclosures with multiple species in a single enclosure. Perhaps fortunately, the great majority of hybrids are infertile!"


Saturday, 25 March 2023

Saturday 25th March

 Weather forecasts were a bit out today - it was generally much nicer than predicted, with a lot more sunshine and lighter winds than anticipated.

Theo from the Nature Scotland group sent in these two photos last night of a presumed hybrid Mallard x Pintail seen from the Gruinart hides and Mark S. had seen this "lame duck" wandering along the woodland trail earlier this week. This prompted our resident wildfowl experts to start posting pictures of other horrible hybrids and the comment that there are at least 121 variations of duck hybrids including 60 concerning Mallards. Why is this hybridisation so common in wildfowl compared to other bird families?

Anyway - today's news of "real birds" is as follows:
The female Surf Scoter was still showing in Loch Indaal off Bowmore and the female Marsh Harrier turned up right over by the airport for a change. I saw my first Sand Martin of the year at Ballinaby, while Mary Redman reports a group of 9 Chough down her way at Claddach and Jarred Johnson had 50 White-fronted Geese near Ballygrant and 5 Crossbills at Finlaggan. 

This late afternoon on a sunny and calm Loch Indaal off Port Charlotte there was plenty of seabird action as shoals of tiny fish leapt about on the sea's surface. I counted 24 Red-throated Divers, 39 Razorbills, 4 Black Guillemots, single Common Guillemot, 3 Common Scoter, 6 Eider, 55 Red-breasted Mergansers and 4 Gannets joining the fray at times. 

There was further tantalising news of no less than 3 Alpine Swifts on the northern cliffs of Rathlin today. We can see Rathlin clearly from Islay, but my 'scope isn't quite strong enough to pick out the swifts! 

Friday, 24 March 2023

Friday 24th March


A much drier, warmer and sunnier morning than forecast gave way to more cloud and occasional rain in the afternoon. Winds continues from a southerly direction.

Summer migrants still seem to be very late, but there was our second Wheatear of the season seen by Lucy Atkinson at Port an Eas this morning and Ewan Miles, Theo De Clermont and Jack Waldie from Nature Scotland had our first 2 Sand Martins of the year up at Ardnave Loch along with another couple of Wheatears. They also saw the American Wigeon on Loch Gorm again today, after its “rediscovery” yesterday, while Marc Eden “rediscovered” the long-staying female Surf Scoter with 15 Common Scoter off Bowmore.

Later, the Nature Scotland team spent a couple of hours checking through all the Barnacle Geese around Gruinart / Craigens and found a lone Pale Bellied Brent Goose but no Red-breasted Goose. They found a near summer-plumaged Black-tailed Godwit on the Gruinart reserve and also c31 Knot, c28 Dunlin, 17+ Bar-tailed Godwits. They also found the juv Glaucous Gull back close to its usual haunts just east of Blackrock on Loch Indaal.

I did a walk to the Iron Age fort at Dunosebridge – just to be out in the open in case one of the mythical Alpine Swifts might zoom past - but none did – (there were sightings yesterday on Rathlin Island to our south and Oban to the north). However, there was another lone Brent Goose with a big flock of Barnacles up at Neriby. A drive along the Glen Road and a walk out to Ballygrant Loch didn’t produce any further summer migrants, but it was a lovely sunny morning to be out.

Back at Port Charlotte in the early afternoon there was a fair bit of feeding activity concentrated just off the pier attracting 34 Red-breasted Mergansers, a couple of Eider, 1 Black-throated and 3 Red-throated Divers, a couple of Guillemots and at least 10 Razorbills.



Weds 22 and Thurs 23rd March

 Apologies for the double-late post.

The rain is still heavy here on Islay but when the sun shines, it's spring! Birds are gathering in pairs and displaying or making nests.  The mallard ducklings ought to appear soon.  I noticed a lot more pied wagtails in the fields this week and more lapwing flocks.

The WTE remain busy sitting around, apparently doing nothing - 5 at the head of Loch Indaal yesterday (thanks Marc).   The American wigeon is present among the Eurasians on Loch Gorm.  An interesting report of a juv Glaucous gull at the top of Loch Indaal, can it be the same bird that remained at Uiskentui so long?

Otherwise quite quiet on the birding front as everyone is in search of the Alpine swift who may fly overhead, though with these winds you'd need to be fast!

Thank you all.

Tuesday, 21 March 2023

Tuesday 21 March


Photo from reliable Billy, the only one on the island with a camera it seems at times!  His feeders have been busy with goldfinch, greenfinch and robin.

Beautiful start to today with pairs of chough by the village and Claddach.  I often associate St Patricks day with the first of our wheatears and like to make the effort to be first.  I was pipped to the post though with Ed reporting Islay's first of 2023 at Cornabus!  In my defence I was busy clearing drains all morning, most definitely looking down.

This cheery herald of spring on the spring equinox was just what was needed, inspiring Peter to go out a-hunting.  He didn't find much of note to report. "At Skerrols 15 tufted, 5 goldeneye and a couple of lesser black-backs. Then to Loch Gorm keeping an eye skywards in case an Alpine swift might appear - it didn't of course! Loch Gorm had a further 15 Tufted Ducks, 2 more Goldeneye and 35 Teal. Then to Machir Bay where another couple of Lesser Black-backed Gulls popped up along with 17 Ringed Plover. I returned via the other side of Loch Gorm at Ballinaby where an adult White-tailed Eagle flew by, a male Hen Harrier quartered the shoreline and another 3 Lesser Black-backed Gulls were on the wet fields there with 4 Canada Geese that were much to hefty to try and turn into Cackling Geese! So the rarities and first summer migrants (apart from the LBB Gulls) will have to wait for another day."

Finally Dave reports 4 crossbill in the woods at Bunnahabhain, plus 2 juv and one adult golden eagle.

It has been raining constantly since 3pm. My newly cleared drains will be well tested!

Monday, 20 March 2023

Monday 20th March

 A rainy morning cleared in the afternoon. Not too much wind and quite mild. The remainder of the week may continue in the same unsettled way.

No bird news to report today.