Friday 31 December 2021

Friday 31st December

 A dull, damp, but apparently an almost record-breakingly mild finish to 2021.

 The only people recording any birds on this last day of the year were Ian Dearing who said; “Left today. Luckily a White-tailed Eagle bade us farewell from the ferry near Port Askaig. Many thanks, look forward to returning soon. Happy New Year!”

And Phil Edwards who commented “Had 250 White-fronted Geese at Ballinaby with 100 Barnacles, 20 Greylags, c. 60 Fieldfares and c. 20 Redwings. From the Gaelic Centre there were 3 Long-tailed Duck, 9 Red-breasted Merganser, 4 Goldeneye and 1 Great Northern Diver. Then to the Oa where we saw a male Sparrowhawk near Kinnabus, and had a magical lunch in the RSPB car park with c. 50 Twite (photo), a pair of Hen Harriers hunting (photos) close to the car, and an immature White-tailed Eagle flying nearby. Then 5 Golden Plover on the path to the American Monument.  A Happy New Year to you and all who take time to make the blog happen – for me it’s a lovely new addition to a visit; thank you”.

I’ve no idea how many species of birds have been seen on Islay in 2021, but there has certainly been a good variety. Rarities in spring and summer were indeed rare, with the only truly unusual species as far as I can recollect being Rose-coloured Starling. Late autumn produced the goods this year with Long-billed Dowitcher, Red-breasted Goose and long-staying Cackling Goose, American Wigeon, Ring-necked Duck and a British record 5 Lesser Scaup together. But there have been plenty of other birds of note and interest – at least to us resident birders. Red Kite, Sooty Shearwater, Little Auk, Grey Phalarope, Turtle Dove, Spotted Crake, Mediterranean, Iceland & Glaucous Gulls – even Magpie and Tree Sparrow are noteworthy for us. And nowadays of course we are blessed with ever regular sightings of such disparate species as White-tailed Eagles, Ospreys, Great Spotted Woodpeckers and Little Egrets, while all too easily taking for-granted the wonderful Hen Harriers, Golden Eagles, Corncrakes and Choughs that nest with us and the spectacle of thousands of geese and other wildfowl that winter here. All-in-all a great place to go birding as witnessed by a bumper number of visiting birdwatchers over the year.

SO:: thanks to all the birders, living here or visiting, during 2021 for all the records that keep the blog going. They are more than just of passing interest as they contribute to the Argyll Bird Club database and “further up the chain”. 

Finally: Despite a great year of birding, 2021 will be remembered for the passing of our good friend Ian Brooke. Thanks always to him for having the inspiration to start the blog back in 2007. Those of us who’ve taken on keeping the blog up and running hope he’d be happy to see it still thriving.



Thursday 30th December

A few extra records from yesterday showing that at least one resident birder went out in that awful weather: Mark Shields had 4 Bullfinches and 2 White-tailed Eagles at Loch Gruinart and a Dipper on the River Sorn at Bridgend.

Today’s weather was kinder - mild with light winds, cloudy but mostly dry.

Ian Dearing checked Loch Skerrols and found the first-winter male Lesser Scaup along with 13 Tufted Duck, 28 Teal, 4 Wigeon and a Woodcock. In the afternoon he found a White-tailed Eagle over Kilchiaran Bay.

At Cornabus Ed Burrell had a partially albino Blackbird, sporting a totally white rump.

Phil Edwards was out and about over the island and sent in this report: “Spent an hour at South Hide at RSPB Gruinart and had a ringtail Hen Harrier hunting three times across the pools.  2 Whooper Swans, 93 Pintail; at least 40 Shoveler (the harrier flushed everything part-way through the count!), 600+ Golden Plover, 1 Little Egret.

Then 45 minutes at Blackrock where I managed 17 Long-tailed Duck (13m 4f), 8 Common Scoter (6m 2f), 11 Slavonian Grebes, 2 Red-throated Divers, 2 Great Northern Divers, 6 Eider (3m 3f) and a single female Greater Scaup (I remember rafts of 600 in the 1980s).

Then across the centre of the island (no eagles, no Peregrines, no Black Grouse (are the latter even still on the island?).  At Bunnahabhain, I managed to see 2 Great Northern Divers and 4 Black Guillemots plus a pair of Sparrowhawks (1m 1f) flying over the woods there, fighting.

I stopped off at Loch Skerrols to try for a photo of the female Lesser Scaup but it wasn’t present – just the 1CY male with 20 Tufties all on the far side of the loch.More tomorrow – hopefully "

I believe that Phil's count of Pintail and Long-tailed Ducks are both quite high. His comment about Greater Scaup is sadly true - I wonder if we'll see any counts in even double figures this year, let alone the hundreds that used to occur. I saw a lone Black Grouse on Islay in my first spring living here in 2000 and don't recall that any others have been seen since - so it is quite likely a species that no longer occurs on Islay?

(Peter Roberts)

Wednesday 29 December 2021

Wednesday 29th December

A complete change in the weather from yesterday, with strong winds and quite heavy, persistent rain overnight and for much of the morning. There was a slight improvement in the afternoon, but not sufficient to tempt any resident birdwatchers outside to brave the elements. However, two of our intrepid visitors did just that:

Ian Dearing saw 2 Chough just east of Ballinaby Farm at 1430. While Phil Edwards sat out the storm this morning but made it to Blackrock at 13.00. He struggled to see birds amongst the waves, but noted 5 Long-tailed Ducks and 3 Red-breasted Mergansers. He had a more productive time later at Loch Skerrols where he caught up with the Lesser Scaup, seeing 2 birds - a female and a 1stCY male. He even managed a photo of the male (see below).

Tuesday 28 December 2021

Tuesday 28th December

With regard to yesterday’s note about the concern over bird flu reaching our wildfowl populations on Islay, the RSPB have said the following: “We are monitoring the geese on the reserves closely. So far we have not seen excess deaths, in fact there are rather fewer dead and injured geese than is usual for the time of year. However, this is a developing picture and we have to be vigilant and ready to respond if things change. It is usual for us to leave birds where they are unless they become a hazard or numbers become high”.

It was another fine day – calm and sunny throughout. Visitors Geoff & Natalie had been to Islay’s highest point (491 metres) yesterday at Beinn Bheigier and seen a Snow Bunting up there.

Today Gary had been out and noted a few Goldeneye on Loch Ballygrant and a Great Spotted Woodepcker in the surrounding woods.

I took advantage of the wonderfully flat-calm sea on Loch Indaal this afternoon to do a count of birds at Bruichladdich Pier and then at Blackrock. Results were:

Bruichladdich: 30 Shag; 2 Cormorant; 4 Black Guillemot; 3 Razorbill; 29 Great Northern Diver; 27 Red-throated Diver; 76 Eider; 2 Common Scoter; 14 Red-breasted Merganser.

Blackrock: 7 Shag; 14 Slavonian Grebe; 5 Great Northern Diver; 6 Red-throated Diver; 1 Black-throated Diver; 17 Common Scoter; 43 Eider; 53 Red-breasted Merganser; 9 Long-tailed Duck; 3 Wigeon; 1 Goldeneye – and best bird: the juv Iceland Gull.

James How had 3 White-tailed Eagles, 1 Greenshank and a good-sized pod of c.20 Common Dolphins in Loch Gruinart from the Killinallan side.

Phil Edwards spent much of the day on Jura where he had a total of 5 Otters amongst other good sightings. On the way there he took this lovely sunrise photo near Blackrock where he noted 33 pale-bellied Brent Geese.


 (Peter Roberts)

Monday 27 December 2021

Monday 27th December

 Late news for yesterday is a count from George Jackson of c.25 Pintail at Gruinart.

It was a much better day’s weather today – at least in the morning, with calm, bright, sunny conditions. The afternoon went greyer with light rain at times.

Visitor Phil Edwards noted a lovely but quiet day at the hides seeing a ringtail Hen Harrier in the morning and then perched very close to North Hide at dusk; two adult WTE; 2 Little Egrets, 71 Pintail; 1,000+ Golden Plover and a Goldcrest in the woods. Also, 2 GN Divers at Sanaigmore - one catching crabs (see his photo below).

Rather more worrying is his sighting of a dead Barnacle Goose which may possibly be a bird flu victim. The bird was near the North Hide, head down in the water, completely untouched, not a feather out of place, looking like it had just keeled over.

I was out in the sunshine this morning checking Loch Skerrols and Loch Gorm. The former held 12 Mute Swans, 120 Teal, 13 Wigeon, 37 Mallard, 3 lovely drake Goosanders and one remaining Lesser Scaup with 22 Tufted Ducks. On Loch Gorm were a further 61 Tufted Ducks with 3 Pochard remaining in their midst. Also there were 42 Mallard, 12 Teal, 6 Goldeneye and 4 Whooper Swans.

Offshore at Blackrock were 6 Slavonian Grebes a lone Greater Scaup plenty of RB Mergansers and 9 Long-tailed Ducks.

(Peter Roberts)


Sunday 26 December 2021

Sunday 26th December

We're back! Hope you all had a good Christmas. There were a few folk out and about today, working up the appetite to finish off those mince pies. Peter had bird of the day, an imm Iceland gull at Uiskentuie, plus a WTE, 7 whoopers and 5 goldeneye at Ardnave Loch. There were 3 WTE, 4 whoopers and a sparrowhawk at Gruinart, with an otter giving close views for ages at the South Hide this morning. James had a golden eagle at Gruinart, and then 4 purple sandpipers and an otter at Ardnave. 

Today's pic is from Phil Edwards again, who braved the easterly gales at Machir Bay yesterday. 

Phil tried for the purple sands at Bruichladdich today, but no joy. He did have 11 turnstone and a red-throated diver instead. The rest of Phil's day produced 2 chough at Kilchiaran, a GND at Portnahaven,  16 fieldfare and 10 redwing at Nerabus plus 8 fieldfare and 3 mistle thrush at Ballinaby.

Friday 24 December 2021

Friday 24th December

A hard, cold easterly wind blew all day, but it stayed dry and it was nice to be out and about. Mary-Ann had a tawny owl at Kildalton and a barn owl at Laphroaig. Mary had a WTE at Claddach Loch, Ian Dearing also had one at Ballinaby, before seeing 2 chough nearby then 1 blackwit, 2 little egret and a sparrowhawk at Gruinart.

Phil had this sanderling in a group of 5 up at Killinallan, with 3 gannets, 3 barwits, 3 turnstone and 3 snipe also present. At Kilchoman Schoolhouse Phil saw a merlin, before getting 22 pintail, 621 golden plover, 18 knot and 9 chough at Loch Gruinart. 

That's it, folks - a very Merry Christmas from everyone at the Islay Birds blog. Huge thanks to everyone that reads, writes and contributes, on Islay, in the UK or further afield. Let's raise a glass to absent friends, and may everyone have a peaceful day tomorrow. 

Thursday 23 December 2021

Thursday 23rd December

Profound bleakness for much of the day, before a lovely last 45 minutes of light at sunset, captured brilliantly by Phil Edwards at Saligo...

Phil was busy again today, getting a pair of gadwall at Loch Tallant along with 9 teal. I'm fairly sure the gadwall are a good December record - Malcolm, over to you!! Some of Phil's other sightings include a merlin at Ballinaby, 9 twite at Smaull, otter and GN diver at Claggain and 5 porpoise at Seal Bay. Ian Dearing had a ringtail hen harrier at Ballinaby this morning. And that was all she wrote for today - the forecast is dry for the next couple of days, so Santa can leave the roof down on his sleigh.

Wednesday 22 December 2021

Wednesday 22nd December

Lots to report today, despite the dreich weather. Ian was up at Sanaigmore this morning and saw 9 chough. White-tailed eagles were creating bedlam at the Loch Indaal goose roost for much of the late morning, with 1 adult and 2 sub-adults continually harassing the geese for a good while. Gary later saw 4 just off the merse at Bridgend, and recently arrived visitor Phil Edwards also saw 2 immature birds. Phil also had 8 twite, 52 pb brents and a slavonian grebe off of Blackrock, and observed the following...

"Of ornithological interest was the behaviour of Goldeneyes and gulls in Loch Indaal.  The goldeneyes (a single female; 2 f.; and 1 m. 4 f.) were each associating with a single black-headed gull (3 gulls in total).  The goldeneyes would dive and always come back to the surface immediately adjacent to the gull which was with them.  Occasionally this meant the gull had moved slightly (so perhaps it could see where the ducks were) but often the gull would appear to stay in the same place and the ducks come back to it.  No idea what was in the association for either species, certainly the gull never got anything to eat, but they were at it for at least 30 mins.  I have never seen this before – have any of your “members”?"

Some of Phil's other recent sightings include 4 mistle thrush at Lyrabus (19th), 20 twite, 20 redwing, 2 WTE and a golden eagle around Smaull (20th), 7 whoopers, 8 goldeneye and a little grebe at Ardnave Loch and 60 goldfinch at Ardnave Point (21st).

Lauren and Mark counted Loch Gruinart itself yesterday, with the following highlights from an unusually busy count - 3 little egret, 305 barwits, 651 dunlin, 16 knot, 611 golden plover, 245 oystercatcher, 235 lapwing, 164 curlew, 2 greenshank, 175 wigeon, an otter and a partridge in a pear tree.

Token pics to brighten things up come today from Billy Stitchell on facebook, who had 6 buzzards squabbling over a rabbit, and Malcolm, who responded to my lack of Islay in December photos with a proper winter scene. Huge thanks to everyone for their sightings, emails and comments.

Tuesday 21 December 2021

Tuesday 21st December

It's the winter solstice today - summer and endlessly sunny days here we come! I've no Islay in December pictures handy, so here's Jura in June. Plenty of people out and about sending us sightings today. Dave Wood finally found his binoculars down the back of the couch and saw 200 fieldfare at Risabus, a brambling at Kinnabus and 7 long-tailed ducks and 6 great northern divers at Kintra. Clive is back over on Islay and had 2 little egrets and 1000 or so golden plover at Bun-an-uillt (Loch Gruinart). Ian's Christmas holiday sightings continued - a male sprawk near Duich, 9 pale-bellied brents at the head of Loch Indaal, the obligatory white-tailed eagle sighting (Saligo) and 21 golden plover at Ballinaby. Thanks to everyone above - here's to longer days and better times.

Monday 20 December 2021

Monday 20th December

James from RSPB had the extraordinary sight of 8 white-tailed eagles squabbling on Loch Gruinart this morning. Continuing the theme, Mary was out and about and had another above St Kiaran's church and then 2 adults with a dead goose between Easter and Wester Ellister. A small group of shelduck were in their usual spot at Smelly Corner. 

Morven from NatureScot very kindly sent through the Islay figures from last week's international goose count - 37,800 barnies, 5809 white-fronts and 1477 greylags. Many thanks to her. There's trepidation that the scenes of thousands of dead wildfowl on the Solway coast could easily be repeated here if bird flu manages to take hold in this hugely important migratory hub. Please stay alert for dead or obviously sick birds on Islay, and please do not touch any you may find. You can let RSPB know of any at 

Newly arrived visitor Ian had 30 chough up at Ardnave Point this afternoon. Thanks to everyone for their sightings. 

Sunday 19 December 2021

Sunday 19th December

Evening all. The Islay birdwatching community is apparently on strike, so we will make our own entertainment tonight. Mary sent us this view from Claddach (bandit country!) yesterday, but it was so grey and miserable today I'm going to pretend it's more recent. Mary also had a group of 4 whoopers heading south at lunchtime. 

I hope you enjoy this image, as things are about to get bleak. Earlier this week RSPB released the results of the 2021 corncrake surveys in Scotland, showing another nationwide decline. The full announcement, numbers and further context can be found here, but basically the Islay population is falling faster and harder than the Scottish population generally, down to just 26 calling males this year. The Islay count was over 100 as recently as 2015. It'll be more important than ever next year to report the locations of any calling males, so consider this an early plea to all on Islay to keep an ear open for these elusive birds come April. 

Saturday 18 December 2021

Saturday 18th December

Another decent dry day, with very little wind. At the heads of Loch Indaal and Loch Gruinart big groups of barnacle geese spent much of the day sleeping off a heavy night of full-moonlit grazing. A single lonely looking whooper swan briefly flew north before settling back on to the floods at Loch Gruinart. A few (10 or so) pale-bellied brents dotted the shoreline between Carnain and Blackrock, with a group of 15 sanderling running around between the oystercatchers. Around 250 golden plover passed overhead at Crosshouses, heading toward Bowmore. Probably doing their christmas shopping, like the rest of us.

Here's the last of Ken Reeves's photos from his recent trip to Islay - the American wigeon he and his group saw at ICCI in early December. Thanks Ken.

Friday 17 December 2021

Friday 17 December

red-breasted merganser, Ken Reeves

Cant complain about today. Very nice, weather wise, and my favourite day of the week too. I was out Christmas shopping today which took me to the new Islay Bakery. I made it before the shelves were stripped bare! A new island business, and will likely do very well based on the delicious cinnamon rolls...

Mark over at Gruinart counted 10 whooper swan and 3 WTE at the Loch today.  Later at a hen harrier roost count on NW Rhinns, 6 birds were counted. A good count.

Pete Moore has been in touch with sightings from today - a little egret and 2 WTE at Bridgend, and a further 2 little egret and 2 WTE at Loch Gruinart.  An Iceland gull, he thinks likely 2nd winter, at the head of Loch Indaal. Thank you Pete.

Thursday 16 December 2021

Thursday 16 December

 Chough, Ken Reeves

The month is over half way through, which means 2022 is nearly upon us! The government is advising further restrictions over the next wee while, which makes bird watching the perfect hobby.  Even easier when you live here and can do a lot from you car window.

I was mostly driving today, passing near Black Rock I spotted an immature glaucous gull feeding in the burn there.  At smelly corner I was able to count 10 shelduck.  Over Ellister a pair of ravens were out flying together. 

Wednesday 15 December 2021

Wednesday 15 December


Juvenile white-tailed eagle, Ken Reeves

I was a bit quick yesterday in publishing the blog, I received sightings through from James at Loch Gruinart and David at the Oa about 10 minutes after!

James had 2 WTE and one golden eagle, 2 little egret, a group of 8 whooper swans and a cackling goose all in the Loch Gruinart area.

David had a good count of 12 chough at Laggan.

It was a reasonably nice day today, but it descended into an other soggy mess by the close of the day.

Tuesday 14 December 2021

Tuesday 14 December

 Whooper swan, Ken Reeves

A nice day today, most importantly it was dry! While working out today we even took a layer off, a sure sign of good weather. As I pulled away from the house, a male hen harrier flew close and veered away towards the coast.

Mark had 2 white tailed eagle at Loch Gruinart, as well as a count of 14 pale bellied Brent geese.

Monday 13 December 2021

Monday 13 December

The gale overnight settled down in time for the morning.  Not too shabby a day by comparison to what we have been living with,  finishing with a glorious sunset late this afternoon.  Definitely colder this evening though that is to be expected. 

Margaret spotted 2 WTE over smelly corner this morning. At Currie Sands, I counted 11 turnstone and 8 rock pipit feeding on the sand. They've been resident there over the past 3 or 4 days and, judging by the state of the sand, finding plenty to feed on!

Ken Reeves of Burbage Birder fame kindly sent in the photo in tonights blog, as well as a couple of fascinating records from two of the ringed Greenland barnacle geese: 

"Myself and Steve Lister managed to carry out some ring reading of Barnacle and GWF Geese at two locations .Quite a few of the records are predominately from Gruinart Farm birds but a couple of the records are interesting ...

Greenland Barnacle

EBJ  Recorded on the  03 /10/20 at Gruinart South then on 30/10/20 and 09/01/20 at Balephetrish Hill  Tiree , finally  on 08/01/21 Tiree at Kenovay

ZLX   Recorded on the 25/10/17 on Islay...11 /12 /17 at Ruaig Tiree then at Vindhaeli Iceland on 29/04/18 with ZNJ as a mate. Finally after spending winter 2019 on Tiree and Tiree, winter 20 on Islay until  the next recording on Tiree is 22/12/20  , 24/12/20.The 2021 records from 19/10/21  to 01/12/21 are so far on Islay."

Thank you very much for sharing with us. I shall spread out some of the images through the week to cheer up the blog.

Sunday 12 December 2021

Sunday 12th December

Tonight's ferries are off as we brace for another windy night on Islay. At least it has blown away the persistent rain that had hung around for much of the day. As a result, not many sightings. Ed had 4 WTEs down at Cornabus. On Loch Gruinart, there were 23 knot and 1440 golden plover amongst the usual suspects at low tide, with a peregrine keeping them on the move. 

Saturday 11 December 2021

Saturday 11th December

No further sightings of the great white egret since it was first seen by Gary on Wednesday.

It was the delayed late November cattle sale at Bridgend market today, so that usually means absolutely freezing or belting down with rain. Sometimes both. It was the turn of the rain today. 

Up at Kilchoman, Margaret had 2 sightings of the legendary pesky sparrowhawk in her garden. Visiting birdwatching duo Stu and Tonguey were out and about, seeing the glaucous gull at ICCI, 4 lesser scaup at Loch Skerrols and 65 pb brents and a WTE between Blackrock and Gruinart. At Loch Gruinart they had ringtail hen harrier, little egret, 5 whoopers and good numbers of pintail, before heading down to The Oa and seeing 2 golden eagles.

No pics submitted today, so here's a spare image from Steve Percival taken from an upcoming blogpost about the barnacle goose ringing schemes here.

Friday 10 December 2021

Friday 10 December

 WWT's Kane Bridges has been here with Ed ringing waders at Cornabus. Their total ringed species were 22 woodcock, 4 jack snipe, one common snipe, one reed bunting. While lamping they saw 'plenty of birds', Ed estimating that woodcock are into 3 figures.

David Dinsley found a glaucous gull on the shore below the Gaelic centre, and counted 5 scaup at Black Rock.  While Mark counted 3 WTE in the similar area, near smelly corner/Crosshouses.

On Currie Sands yesterday there was a small flock of 6 rock pipits feeding on the sand.

Wednesday 8 December 2021

Wednesday 8 December


After wind has settled, Gary was out a drive and came across this great white egret in a 'big puddle on the Ballygrant road below Skerrols House'.

Doesn't seem like too much damage here on Islay following Storm Barra, mind you we're used to the winter gales here!  Some amount of rain though, a lot of standing water in the fields.  

Tuesday 7 December 2021

Tuesday 7 December

 Storm Barra hasn't let up all day, not surprisingly no sightings submitted as I imagine people are holding onto their polytunnels and looking for lost slates.

While up checking on the sheep this afternoon, there were 22 turnstone on Currie Sands. A little further along at Port a Rheidhlinn a lonely juvenile shag was taking a break on the beach there.

Monday 6 December

 Ahead of Storm Barra tomorrow, I headed to the local Coop for my 'big shop'. Apparently the rest of the Island had the same idea, the shelves were soon stripped like locusts in a corn field.

Not too much reports given in, James spotted 4 woodcock and 2 little egret at Loch Gruinart.  The wind was picking up as the day went on and the temperature dropping.  The ferries have been cancelled ahead of tomorrows forecast, a typical winters day on Islay! 

Sunday 5 December 2021

Sunday 5th December

A beautiful cold, clear winter day full of massive blue skies. Martin had 7 snow buntings by the edge of the dunes at Machir Bay. James had 3 white-tailed eagles at Loch Gruinart, probably the same three I "photographed" on the low tide mud, apparently waiting for a bus...

At least one of them was ringed, but I was just too far away to read it. The daily autumn/winter spectacle of multiple sub-adult white-tailed eagles at Loch Gruinart is one of the nicer changes to the world in recent years. Unless you are a goose, I suppose

Saturday 4 December 2021

Saturday 4th December

 A fierce NW wind kept most of us inside for most of the day, I suspect, so not many sightings today. 

James had 1555 golden plover, a merlin, 2 hen harriers and 2 woodcock at Loch Gruinart. 

Margaret was putting out some leftovers and watched 2 ravens swoop down and grab her lemon drizzle cake, leaving her veggie sausages untouched. Reminds me a bit of a friend who tried to feed her cat a vegan diet, only to find it digging up moles in her back garden out of desperation.

The only other thing to report today was a nice note from Ken Reeves to the Islay Birds whatsapp group...

"Back home now after another fabulous 6 days on Islay. My first time back with a group since the loss of my friend Ian, so not that easy. Highlights this time were the WTSE snacking on a herring gull at Bridgend on the 29th, 3 lesser scaup, long-tailed duck, bullfinch, siskin and LT tit on the 29th and 2nd. Richardson's Canada goose at Gruinart on the 1st Dec, the American wigeon showing well on the 2nd from the Gaelic College and finally ring-reading the barnies (awaiting results). In your memory, Ian.

Ken Reeves and all my members at Burbagebirders Travel Club"  

Thanks very much to Ken and all of you for reading, contributing and keeping this blog going.

Friday 3 December 2021

Friday 3rd December

Hello bird fans. A typical Islay winter day, wet, windy and mild and with plenty of good stuff to see in between the showers. 

At Loch Gruinart, James had a barn owl still out hunting after sunrise, and later in the day 6,170 barnacles and 319 white-fronts on reserve. Gary had 2 WTE chasing geese near Finlaggan.

It was the last day of the visit for Chris Mills. He had a decent day down in the beautiful SE corner of Islay, seeing golden and white-tailed eagles, 5 yellowhammer, 3 bullfinch, 40 fieldfare, 20 redwing, 30 redpoll, a few siskin and a couple of woodcock. Up at Duich Lots he saw a peregrine perched. 

Steve Lister was also leaving the island today, he and Ken, Heather, Nev and Richard finished with 2 little egrets on the shore north of Bowmore. 

Huge thanks to all the above for your sightings.

The goose count figures we got from Morven at NatureScot the other day made me wonder how this November count compared to recent years... 

Thursday 2 December 2021

Thursday 2 December

Lovely gift of a day after so much wind. plenty of birds on the wing making up for being stuck in shelter for the past wee while. No photos today, I was too busy enjoying the weather.  Photo above taken yesterday looking over to the Rhinns lighthouse.

Margaret has been in touch from Kilchoman Reserve with an eagle day - a white-tailed eagle flew by the house and then spent some time over Machir bay, and earlier she had a good sighting of an golden eagle sitting close to the road at the hut circles 'An Sidhean' near Culbuie. These were once believed to be fairy mounds and children were forbidden to play near them lest they be taken by the 'wee folk'.

Chris Mills sighting for today:

"Good day today with the finding of a drake American Wigeon off the Gaelic Centre, Bowmore in amongst several hundred Eurasians.
Also White-tailed Eagle from here, plus a Pink-footed Goose & again the juvenile Glaucous Gull.
The juv Iceland Gull true to form this morning flew SW at Bowmore along the shore, but earlier at 8.15am and landing just below the distillery.
At Bunnahabhain a flock of 40 Redpolls were in out of the birch and conifers, 2 paler birds were poss Mealy types, but the whole flock was furtive and they never gave more than a few seconds to study them properly.
Mid-late afternoon from the Killinallan road, the Cackling Goose was present just South of Gruinart with 2000 Barnacles. There were 3 Greenshank, 3 Grey Plover, 20+Knot, a young Peregrine,  a ringtail Hen Harrier & 2 WT Eagles sitting on the deck trying to catch a stranded fish in a pool but without success! 

As per Steve Lister & Ken Reeves - Loch Skerrols the 1cy drake Lesser Scaup still present & a Long-tailed Duck."

Thank you Chris, 

Wednesday 1 December 2021

Wednesday 1 December

Pinch and a punch for the first of the month!  A view of a relatively calm Frenchman's Rocks above.  December came in with a blast of wind which did die away as the day went on.  The rocks feature often in the blog as an important vantage of the main migration route of autumn and spring birds.  In the summer they provide an amazing spectacle of hundreds of feeding gannets diving into the fast running waters that race between them and Islay.

Steve Lister found the cackling goose near the RSPB Loch Gruinart visitor centre, and it was later picked up by Chris in the same field. To the west of the reserve, Chris spotted 2 WTE and a male hen harrier hunting.  While he was on the Oa he noted a juv WTE, a ring-tailed hen harrier, and 50 twite, then near Bridgend he found 2 golden eagle showing well.  

Gary reported a greenshank below the power station at Bowmore, and a juv. Iceland gull.  

Mary Anne spotted a kestrel at Laphroig.

Finally, Morven over at Nature Scot kindly shared The International Goose Count figures from 23/24th November: 37,202 barnacles, 6956 white-front geese and 1326 greylag. 

Tuesday 30 November 2021

Tuesday 30 November


Merlin, shared by Kim who spotted the posing bird of prey at Loch Gruinart reserve, taken a couple days ago. Today was a far wetter day with little birds on the move!

Chris Mills was also out today, spying the "Juv Iceland Gull again along the shoreline, Bowmore flying from Gaelic Centre to the harbour 10.15am, seems to have a routine!" The highlight of his day today being a lovely sightings of 3 otters playing in the kelp at Port A Rheidhlinn bay, near Portnahaven.

Monday 29 November 2021

Monday 29 November

Photo of the beautiful lighting this time of year, taken Saturday morning looking down the Irish Sea with The Oa in sight.

As forecast, a slightly milder day today compared to the weekend. A relatively nice morning but the day finished with rain and a gathering wind.

Chris Mills has kindly sent in his sighings from today:  Iceland Gull Juv around Bowmore & last seen SW of distillery

Glaucous Gull Juv NE of Bowmore

4 Scaup Loch Indaal off Bowmore with c12 Goldeneye

28 Whooper Swan Loch Indaal, 
12 Whooper Swan Ardnave Loch 

Loch Skerrols Lesser Scaup 1cy, 6 lesser redpoll, 25 siskin, treecreeper and gold crest.

From the Gruinart platform, ring-tailed hen harrier, little egret, and 3 bullfinch.

Sunday 28 November 2021

Sunday 28th November

 After further rain overnight, today was “the calm after the storm” – a much better sunnier day, with light, but cold northerly/north-westerly winds.

David Dinsley found a First Year Glaucous Gull down on The Oa at Kinnabus this morning and provides us with a photo. He also noted that the Blackcap seen there last week is still present.

David Wood had a Snow Bunting and Long-tailed Duck at Sanaigmore.

Back to Blackcaps – Mary-Ann Featherstone had a different Blackcap at Kildalton today – a male that she managed to get this good photo of – so it seems we have at least 2 that might overwinter with us.

Margaret Brooke up at Kilchoman reports 2 White Tailed Eagles above the Crag this afternoon and a Sparrowhawk visiting on most days.

Regular visitor, Chris Mills had been out enjoying this fine weather and supplies us with counts for various locations across the Rhinns::

Loch Indaal: Juv Glaucous Gull & 33 Whooper Swans (Bridgend): 20 Long-tailedT Duck, 10 Slavonian Grebe, 8 Common. Scoter Blackrock + 5 Great Northern & 3 Red-throated Divers and 30+ Red-breasted Mergansers.

 Sanaigmore; a pair of Golden Eagles and 6 Chough.

 Gruinart RSPB: (mainly from viewing platform): 3 White-tailed Eagles (2 of them on the ground), single ring-tailed Hen Harrier & Sparrowhawk; a Woodcock at dusk;

1 Little Egret (possibly 2); Grey Wagtail overhead; single Chiffchaff in trees by the viewing platform (a late date for here – is it another overwintering warbler?) 

FOOTNOTE: It has been suggested/requested that those of us writing the blog sign our names to our entries. Usually Mary Redman does weekdays and I (Peter Roberts) do weekends.

Saturday 27 November 2021

Saturday 27th November

After a stormy Friday, today was a little calmer, but still with cold northerly winds bringing occasional light rain showers verging on flurries of snow.

The only bird news comes from David Wood who reports 3 Snow Buntings and a Long-tailed Duck at Machir Bay this morning and a couple of Pink-footed Geese nearby at Kilchoman. Val Peacock, taking a walk through Foreland Estate flushed a Woodcock and had 2 White-tailed Eagles overhead.

Friday 26 November 2021

Friday 26 November

 Not surprisingly, there have been no sightings submitted today! A ferocious wind all day which won't calm down until later tonight.  Apart from a solitary raven this morning I saw very little birds braving the weather today, or people for that matter!


Thursday 25 November 2021

Thursday 25 November


Overcast and windy day. A real blast of cold wind which is continuing tonight and into tomorrow; the boats were cancelled this afternoon and have already been cancelled tomorrow, the plane is likely to follow suit, and SSE have issued a potential power cut warning. Day for being in front of the fire tomorrow I think!

James was out at Skerrols and found the lesser scaup, also a coot. 

Up at the croft moving creels we discovered a hole chewed in one. Judging by the spraint that fell out as we lifted it, it seems an otter got in it and chewed its way out! We've seen it come down through the field and over the wall to the beach, presumably after a wash at the loch, but it appears the creels smelt interesting enough to take it from its usual route march! Just glad it got out safely.


Wednesday 24 November 2021

Wednesday 24 November

 The only landscape photo I took today, showing there was some blue sky! Definitely the calm before the storm as the next 2 days look horrendous, weather-wise. This is Claddach Loch, which was created in the late 70's/early 80's as a water supply for Claddach.  The positive knock on effect for blanket bog habitat is evident, and it poses a good example of what can be achieved with peatland restoration. The Loch is also a valuable stop over for migrating birds down on the south western tip, presumably a nice break enroute to Ireland for some.

All eyes are still on Loch Skerrols; David Wood counted the 5 lesser scaup there this morning. On Loch Indaal Peter counted just 5 greater scaup, commenting how unusual a thought it is that the greaters and lessers are here in equal numbers. 30 red-breasted mergansers were also counted there, so too were 3 WTE over the Loch.

Gary found the red-breasted goose on the Ballygrant road, near Esknish.  And Margaret has been in touch with a sighting of the resident golden eagle over Kilchoman.

Driving out yesterday I saw a flock of 8 chough near Octofad, towards The Gleann.  Not much sightings today from me as I was busy checking fences!


Tuesday 23 November 2021

Tuesday 23 November

Orsay Island and Lighthouse, Portnahaven in a rather lovely sunset, around half 3 last Saturday.

The evenings are drawing in and thankfully it is getting colder at last.  Feels cleaner somehow. The crop of autumn berries have been cleared away, but there is a fantastic crop of berries in the Hawthorn bushes along the roadside throughout the island. As they can't be turned into jam or gin, the birds have no apparent competition. Though perhaps they aren't as tasty as the brambles! Driving through Bridgend there was a small flock of fieldfare in one bush at the edge of the woodland, and nearer the Gaelic College there were 3 pheasants that had taken the effort to fly up into the branches for a feed. 

The flock of lesser scaup at Loch Skerrols has been confirmed, reported as 5 in total: one female and 4 males. Nice record for Islay.  Peter also counted 9 whooper, 12 mute swan, 26 mallard, 27 tufted duck, 65 teal, 31 wigeon, 3 little grebe and the lone long-tailed duck is still present.  Peter also counted 25 whooper on Loch Indaal just outside Bowmore along with 6 mute, but no sign of 'my' little whooper yet.

Gary reported 6 bullfinch at Achnaclach woodland at Finlaggan, and 2 common crossbills at Finlaggan house.  A young golden eagle was spoofing the barnacle geese by the loch there.


Monday 22 November 2021

Monday 22nd November

A much more pleasant day today with light winds, virtually no rain and good sunshine, at least during the morning.

 Following on from the discussions about odd-looking Whooper Swans and reports of multiple Lesser Scaup on Loch Skerrols, today’s blog continues in a similar vein.


David Dinsley provided some further thoughts, insights and some photos on the subject of strange swans. He says:


We can’t rule out the possibility of Mary having spotted a Bewick’s Swan but without a positive ID, it’s hard to say for definite, but it's possible she had an encounter one of these strange looking Whoopers.


Up here on The Oa, last October, we all got a little excited at the prospect of a Whistling Swan on the reserve. Instead, we had two aberrant juvenile Whoopers with a small group of standard looking birds, these individuals were noticeably smaller with much darker nebs and in the field, they cut a different profile amongst the rest of the Swans - smaller and with a shorter neck. 


Reaching out to some connections I had in the world of wildfowl, these birds are recognised as potentially the result of inbreeding and at least three pairs have been observed in the past elsewhere.


Just when you think birding wasn't tricky enough.......”

Photos of aberrant Whooper Swan from Kane Brides WWT.

Photos of the aberrant Whooper Swans The Oa, David Dinsley.


The report of Lesser Scaup comes from visiting birder Adam Wilson and 4 were reported this morning via Birdguides – all young birds: 3 male and 1 female. Adam has photos that he will be able to supply when home next week. Today he was on Jura where he reported a possible 2 calendar year American Herring Gull.


Back down to earth with species providing no identification problems, Gary noted a couple of White-tailed Eagles upsetting the geese on Loch Indaal at Bridgend.

Sunday 21 November 2021

Sunday 21st November

Despite yesterday's blog post saying no birds had been seen, it seems at least one person was out and about as  Mary Redman's dad counted a group of 5 Chough yesterday at Octofad quarry.

Better weather today: just a very few light showers of rain during a mostly sunny and dry day with a fairly cold northerly breeze.

David Dinsley started the ball rolling with sightings from The Oa of at least one Tree Sparrow with the House Sparrows and a male Blackcap feeding on apples at Kinnabus this morning - I wonder if the Blackcap is just a very late migrant or going to overwinter?. Meanwhile at the opposite end of the island, Mary Redman noted an odd looking swan on the loch at Claddach. It was like a Whooper, but smaller, but flew off before a full ID or photos could be taken. Bewick's Swan is a first thought, but extremely rare on Islay. Others on the WhatsApp group commented that we had a couple of “odd” swans, smaller and with dark bills last year that we tried turning into Tundra Swans (the N. American race of Bewick's), but in fact were small, aberrant Whoopers. Hopefully Mary’s mystery swan will show up elsewhere on the island and better views will allow its true identity to be worked out.

Up by Glenegedale Martin Armstrong had a Brambling on his bird feeder this morning and this afternoon over at Kilchoman, Margaret Brooke had 2 White-tailed Eagles and 1 Golden Eagle flying above the crags behind her house.

Finally, a report was posted on Birdguides (at 12.52pm to be precise) of 3 Lesser Scaup (including 2 males) on Loch Skerrols today. Hopefully the observer can be contacted for more information and the birds confirmed by other birders tomorrow. There has been a single first winter male Lesser Scaup reported there earlier this autumn, plus a couple of young/female Ring-necked Ducks and possible/probable Greater Scaup – along with numerous Tufted Ducks.

So, with this and the mystery swan it is all eyes open and searching for odd wildfowl tomorrow.

Saturday 20 November 2021

Saturday 20th November

 Another day of variable, quickly changing weather: occasional sunny patches between showers or bouts of heavier rain with blustery winds and cooler temperatures.

With weather like that and a "change-over" day when any visiting birders might be leaving or arriving, there were no bird notes posted today..

Friday 19 November 2021

Friday 19 November

Stuart located the red-breasted goose and the cackling goos in the same barnacle flock below the RSPB Loch Gruinart Visitor Centre this morning.  His notes from yesterday - a black throated diver near Port Charlotte, 4 purple sandpiper at Bruichladdich, a pair of golden eagle at the Oa plus around 90 fieldfare and 30 twite.  Thank you Stuart for your sightings this week.

I counted a flock of 60 fieldfare at Claddach, and was feeling pretty pleased with that high count until Dave Wood at the Oa got in touch with a count of over 400 at Lower Killeyan.  

Marin noted 2 little egret at Gartmain.

Thursday 18 November 2021

Thursday 18 November

Not much to add today from weather or birds!  Peter Kennerley successfully located the cackling goose at RSPB Loch Gruinart, and noted the red-breasted goose had been located by other visitors earlier today.

Driving to Bowmore today, I saw a white-tailed eagle overhead at Bridgend.  Hard to miss!

The evenings are drawing in, but more noticeable are the dark mornings - this morning it was near 8am before the sun light keeked through.  Strange time of year when it is dark when you leave for work in the morning, and dark when you get home.  You appreciate the weekend at this time of year!

Full moon tomorrow, along with an almost total lunar eclipse tomorrow morning. In the UK this will start around 9:02am, lasting for 3 hours. It will be a bit difficult to feel the effects of in the daylight! We'll have to wait and see if the cloud allows us good sightings.  The moon keeps the geese out till late, I imagine giving them a chance for peaceful grazing without eagles harassing them.  

This is also the time when the woodcock traditionally arrive. Commonly referred to in the gaming calendar as the 'Woodcock Moon".

Wednesday 17 November 2021

Wednesday 17 November


Grey and gloomy day, the car read 11 degrees but the wind chill was biting!  Above photo from Bowmore Harbour around lunchtime.

The Ribble Bird Tours continued their adventure on Islay.  3 black-throated divers, 6 long tailed duck on Loch Indaal viewed from Black Rock, around 70 pale-bellied Brent with 'a couple' of dark bellied among them at Smelly Corner. Between Gruinart and Ardnave, 4 WTE and 2 golden eagle were counted, along with nice sighting of both male and female hen harriers.

Tuesday 16 November 2021

Tuesday 16 November

The weather is a back to normal, wet and windy as seen in the view of Port Charlotte above. Still unseasonably warm though with the temperature hovering around 10 degrees. The wind is to get up for an other fierce day tomorrow.  Despite this the The Ribble Bird Tours were out and about, spying no less than 5 WTE over Ellister this morning, being mobbed by 2 ravens and a buzzard.  They also successfully located a cackling goose by Kilchoman Distillery and the 'star birds' at Loch Skerrols.

Mark at Loch Gruinart counted 1428 golden plover there today, that'll help him get to sleep tonight! Also 583 Greenland white-fronted geese were counted in a roost count yesterday.

David at The Oa reported a flock of 270 fieldfare there at the visitor carpark.  David also kindly sent in the following images from last Thursday when over 100 twite were ringed.