Sunday 31 October 2021

Sunday 31 October

A rainy day, but some wonderful light as Teresa has kindly shared.  A stunning sun set over Loch Gruinart.  Later afternoon looking towards Killinallan, an equally stunning rainbow over glass calm waters.

Dan Brown had cackling goose on the north of the Gruinart Flats, and a pair of adult WTE with a kill on the southern side. To the western side, an imm WTE.  Later an adult golden eagle west of Laggan Bridge.  On Loch Gorm, 5 drake pochard and 237 tufted ducks, with 4 ringtail hen harrier and 3 merlin hunting round the edges.  3 greenshank and 4 black tailed godwits on the Gruinart Floods plus large numbers of more common waders.  

James How and Neil McMahon were separately checking over Loch Indaal this morning, collectively they had 14 Slavonian grebe, 3 black throated divers, a raft of common scoters, 10 long tailed duck (some calling), 10 great northern diver, 4 red-throated divers.

The American wigeon was seen at Loch Skerrols again, though no further sign of the ring necked ducks. It is a big loch though... Happy Halloween.

Saturday 30 October 2021

Saturday 30 October

Yesterday's star finds were all still present today, according to reports.  Todays addition is the red-breasted goose seen by Peter on the Gruinart flats.

Today was definitely an eagle sort of day, going through the WhatsApp group.  The majority of activity occurring on the islands off Ardnave Point, pictured above (Teresa Morris).  These are an other important grey seal breeding location. There must be plenty of carrion to be found now we're coming towards the tail end of the breeding season.

Golden Eagle seen this morning on the drive to Ardnave by John McTague, then 4 sub-adult white-tailed eagles off Ardnave Point around Eilean Beag.  

Neil McMahon had one WTE just south of Bowmore this morning, and he outdid John's record with 5 WTE on Nave Island in the afternoon. Then 3 golden eagles over hills east of Loch Gruinart at lunchtime.

Teresa also visited Ardnave and had a golden eagle and WTE in the dunes to the west of the farmyard (photographed).  She also noted the imm WTE on the islands off the point. 

Dan Brown has gotten in touch while he's over leading a birdwatching group. This evening as they arrived, they had a golden eagle attempting to dispatch a greylag goose in a field just outside of Port Ellen, seen from the roadside, and a WTE flew over to check it out.  As they were leaving Kennacraig they counted 5 WTE and a golden eagle.

Nyree and David reported a golden eagle over Machir Bay first light this morning.

Around lunchtime today I too had my eagle fix: a golden eagle with a buzzard by the mast outside Portnahaven village, flying towards Rhinns Point. 

Becky Christie has kindly shared some lovely images of a rather beautiful snow bunting which her young sons Luke and Cameron took while they were at Saligo bay yesterday.

Thank you all for the contributions.

Friday 29 October 2021

Friday 29 October

A busy day for Islay today with a handful of rarities spotted.

A long-billed dowitcher was seen at the North Hide at the Loch Gruinart Floods.  Seen by James and by visitors Mark and Alison Cockburn, and again by Garry Wilkinson who heard it from a group of birdwatchers on a bus tour from Northern Ireland! A very obliging bird indeed.

Slightly out of focus but the best picture of the day of the dowitcher from Mark and Alison. Thank you.

The second rarity of the day was a red necked grebe first reported by Dave and Sian Nevitt, and seen again by Peter Roberts. Dave and Sian also counted 15 Slavonian grebe, 2 black throated divers, 9 long tailed duck, a black guillemot and the 'usual suspects' of scoters, scaup...

While Peter was out he got to chatting with visitors who told him of an American wigeon and 2 ring necked ducks seen yesterday at Loch Skerrols. He swiftly went to check and found them quite easily along with 55 whooper swan. He was able to get this photo of the wigeon:

Again, a classic grainy bird watching photo but clear enough to see the bird!

Last (known) rarity was a yellow browed warbler heard but not seen on Wednesday in the Gruinart area by  Ed Hutchings.

Teresa today was down in the bays between Ardbeg and Ardtalla. She noted no wind and a high tide which produced at Rubha Buidhe 52 greylag, 5 curlew, 7 red-breasted merganser, 1 wren, 3 redshank, 1 heron, one golden eagle, and 20 seals. Further east at Ardmore point were very large flocks of redwing making pigs of themselves on the rowan berries, wren, cormorant, one seal, one great northern diver, one cormorant, 7 fallow deer.  Then in Ardtalla bay and Claggan, 4 goosander, 6 cormorants, one wren, one red-breasted merganser, 4 seals.

As I was driving later this afternoon (around half 5) I saw the unmistakable silhouette of a white-tailed eagle feasting on something on a small patch of salt marsh just off smelly corner at the top of Loch Indaal, and a little further along the beaming white figure of a little egret.  Then, about an hour later in Bowmore Harbour, an otter was quietly fishing.

I did say yesterday I would try find out the name of the burn at Uiskentui - it is called Abhainn Ghlas or the Grey River.  Thank you Malcolm, it annoyed me that I couldn't recall it yesterday! It earned is name in the 1840s when the channel was being dug as part of the project to reclaim the Gruinart flats for agriculture. In doing so they disturbed the clay within which turned the water grey.  

Thanks again to all the reports everyone, we couldn't keep the blog updated and maintain it as a resource for locals and visitors without contributions. If you look to the right on our home page, you will find the number to join our WhatsApp group, or indeed the email to let us know any sightings and photos you'd like to share. What's common for you could be an Island twitch for us! Plus with all these rarities reported today, there could well be more out there, and it's a big island to cover.

Thursday 28 October 2021

Thursday 28 October


A stunning photo from Teresa of the wild Atlantic off Kilinallan point, where she spent the day.  A beautiful gift of a day after the heavy rain recently.  Teresa also observed 52 greylag, 12 barnacles, ring-tailed hen harrier, a white-tailed eagle, 22 twite, 12 lesser black-back gulls, one snipe, 2 stonechat, 8 oystercatchers, a large flock of over 100 starling and 2 chough.

Ed Hutching looked out of the head of Loch Indaal and noted 10 pale-bellied brents, 2 Slavonian grebes, 3 long-tailed ducks, one juvenile white-tailed eagle, and an unconfirmed juv. yellow wagtail. At Loch Skerrols he heard a great spotted woodpecker.

Gary counted 9 scaup where the burn comes out into Loch Indaal at Uiskentui.  I've forgotten the burns name, I'll try find out... Driving back from Bowmore myself I saw a ring-tailed hen harrier by the same spot.

John McTague counted 2 little egret at Carnain this morning.

Down off Portnahaven, the eagle sightings have continued to be regular over MacKenzie Island, pictured off Claddach below.  Usually WTE but today a golden eagle was seen by Tom Evans just outside the village gliding towards the coast.

Yesterday I counted a small flock of around 20 redwing at Ellister, and 2 whooper swan flew low over the house between the showers.

Wednesday 27 October 2021

Wednesday 27th October

 Today’s weather seemed marginally worse than even yesterdays – light southerly winds and overcast with heavy rain for much of the morning, then continued heavy showers in mostly grey skies for the remainder of the day. But is does continue to be very mild!

The poor weather is reflected in the paucity of sightings coming in this evening - just these:

Gary found the Little Egret at Carnain this morning.

I saw the same Ring Ouzel as yesterday: same place/same time – eating cotoneaster berries in my garden at Bruichladdich during lunch-time.

Except for two lovely sunset photos - from Teresa Morris and Ed Hutchins, that's it for today folks!

A later check of emails to the Blog this evening revealed that it wasn't quite it for today with a pleasant note from Nyree & David Fearnley saying: “We are visiting naturalists from Yorkshire, who have been coming to Islay for many years. We love reading your blog when at home in Yorkshire. I lived at Bridgend as a baby for a year when my dad was working for the Islay Estate almost 50 years ago, and my husband David has been coming for over 30 years.

We arrived on Monday and saw a Little Egret on Loch Indaal, close to the mouth of the River Sorn, which is a bird that we have never seen on Islay before. Then we saw another little egret from the main hide at Gruinart yesterday morning.

Yesterday we were at Ardnave Point and saw a Golden Eagle over Nave Island, at least 10 Choughs, and a flock of Sanderlings on the beach. On our way back to Bridgend there was a young White-tailed Eagle on Loch Indaal close to Islay House.

Today at Kilnaughton Bay there was a White-tailed Eagle flying over and a Great Northern Diver very close in on the track to Carraig Fhada. There was a White-tailed Eagle again on Loch Indaal at Bridgend.

And of course the Barnacle Geese are just a delight, we love them”

Tuesday 26 October 2021

Tuesday 26th October

The day started dark, dreary and overcast and only brightened a little. Given the unpleasant conditions, there were few reports incoming, but a few good birds were seen:

Gary saw one of the Cackling Geese between Eorrabus and Ayens (just up the main road towards Port Askaig a little beyond Skerrols). He provided a photo:


Mary Redman found a dead Little Auk washed up on the beach this morning at Claddach.

The other good bird was a Ring Ousel; doubly good ‘cause I saw it feeding on the cotoneaster berries in my garden while I was having lunch - a "garden tick" for me.

Teresa Morris was out and about braving the wet and blustery weather, seeing a couple of Fieldfares feeding on berries up at Craigens, followed by a walk and sea-watch up towards Ardnave Point. A few thousand Barnies were up towards the Point where an Otter was seen on the shore. There was a Golden Eagle hunting up at Nave Island and a couple of Great Northerns and a single Red-throated Diver. Amongst sightings of the usual gulls were 4 Gannets offshore, with a few waders in the Loch and 22 Choughs in a flock. She noted that the build-up of seaweed, gently rotting away, was  providing invertebrate food for a flock of 100 Starlings.

Newly arrived visitor John McTague checked Loch Skerrols finding at least 40 Whooper Swans and a couple of Hen Harriers passing by.

Monday 25 October 2021

Monday 25th October

Another day of sunshine and showers – just as you think it is fit to go out it pours with rain! "Squally" as Teresa Morris's picture below exemplifies. But birdwatchers still went birdwatching:

Teresa sent in some notes from yesterday – 13 Whooper Swans at Craigens and a lovely male Bullfinch near Balulive Farm, Finlaggan and another seen by a friend at Staoisha Eararach near Bunnahabhain.

Ed Hutchins was on The Oa this morning and saw Golden Eagle, Peregrine, and a flock of 50 Twite. Later he reported a Ring Ousel in Port Ellen. (Louise reports a Ring Ousel at Gatehouse on Jura yesterday).

Jax & Dave spent some of their last day here at the N. end of the glen road where another golden Eagle was watched. Later at Kilinallan they had the Little Egret plus 3 White-tailed Eagles. They finished their report with “Had a great week, see you next spring”.

Teresa Morris saw 9 Whooper swans briefly drop into the marsh at Craigens this morning and at Catterdale this afternoon found 3 Golden Eagles plus a buzzard, 2 Ravens and 2 Choughs. She finished the day with sightings of White-tailed Eagle flying over and perching on the flats amongst the Barnies, which must have made them distinctly uneasy? 

Although tomorrow, being the last Tuesday of the month, would traditionally be the time for a “Bird Nerds” get-together, the current circumstances make it a bit tricky. It is now too dark for an evening meeting outdoors, and with Covid restrictions and wariness, it was thought that an indoor meeting might best be avoided. We do aim to restart these informal meetings, open to all birders on the island, at some time in the future.

Sunday 24 October 2021

Sunday 24th October

 Visitors Dave & Sian Nevitt sent in a few notes from yesterday including 10 Icelandic Redwing at Bunnahabhain, and 10 Bramblings on the Glen Road.

They returned to the Glen Road today and had 3 Golden Eagles together, Peregrine, Red Grouse and a couple of Choughs.

Brambling was on the radar again today with Mary-Ann Featherstone seeing a couple of flocks of c. 30 and 20 up at Kildalton, plus 5 or more lingering House Martins.

Gary Turnbull was watching at Finlaggan today finding a Snow Bunting near Finlaggan House, a Golden Eagle over the hills to the west of the loch and a total of 9 Buzzards over the hill ridges along with Sparrowhawk and Kestrel.

Mary Redman had a White-tailed Eagle over Portnahaven this afternoon, so they are still roaming widely across the island.

There were 35 Ringed Plovers and 4 Sanderling on the beach at Machir Bay this morning.

"Bird of the Day" goes to Lance Degnan who found/re-found a small race Cackling/Canada Goose out on the Gruinart Flats from the Visitor Centre in the early afternoon. Presumably the same bird was seen by James How along with 4 Brents, 19 Whooper Swans and a Pink-footed Goose all amidst the Barnies on Loch Gruinart. James managed to get a photo of the Cackling Goose (see below), which is very timely as Jim Dickson, the Argyll Bird Club Recorder reminds us that the small Todd’s race of Canada Goose and the now fully split species Cackling Goose all need close attention, a description and ideally photos, as they are British Birds Rarities Committee species. It is a pity that several are recorded each winter on Islay but some sightings have to be “binned” as there is no supporting evidence accompanying the observation.

Saturday 23 October 2021

Saturday 23rd October

 Weather seemed to have worsened again today with regular showers and grey skies, with strongish southerly winds - not nice! Thus very few birds recorded as most folks stayed indoors..

Undaunted, Teresa Morris was "out and about" despite the dreich weather and amongst other sightings, found a Little Egret on Loch Gruinart on the Kilinallan side. Her photo below - 

Lance Degnan from the 'Birding Abroad' group from Yorkshire and Dorset sent in some exciting observations:  A Little Auk, 5 Slavonian Grebes and 8 Long-tailed Ducks on Loch Indaal and a first-winter Mediterranean Gull at Machir Bay. Yesterday they saw a Red Kite on the Oa.

Friday 22 October 2021

Friday 22nd October

A brighter, warmer, sunnier day with only 1-2 showers and lighter SW winds. 

Lauren Stewart sent in a note to say that the RSPB had carried out another goose count on the Gruinart Reserve this afternoon and had a total of 27,117 Barnies, 515 White-fronts and 7 Pink-footed Geese. There were also 4 White-tailed Eagles (2 adults, 2 juvs), a Great Northern Diver and a Merlin between Ardnave point and Nave Island this morning. 

Mark Shields saw a Carrion Crow at Smaull today. 

I ventured south to Portnahaven this afternoon spending half an hour confirming that there were no seabirds moving off Frenchman’s Rocks. However, I did see, what I believe was the first sizeable flock of Redwings on Islay this autumn, with one group of 60 and another of 20 birds. I also bumped into a visiting birder from WWT who had seen a Ring Ousel on the Gruinart Reserve a couple of days ago – the only one reported this autumn so far?

Teresa Morris had been out and about today, visiting Saligo north, Loch Gorm, and east side of Loch Gruinart, though commented that birding was comparatively quiet. Loch Gorm held 34 White-fronts, 21 Greylags, 1 Whooper Swan and 8 Tufted Ducks. Gruinart at low tide was packed with Barnacle Geese and at dusk there was a spectacular display of the geese disturbed by a White-tailed Eagle. Other birds on sand  included 3 Pale-bellied Bent Geese, 3 Herons, 47 Wigeon, 25 Oystercatchers, 42 Redshanks, 2 Greenshanks and 3 Curlew.. Back at Craigens Teresa noted a couple of Fieldfares - still quite scarce so far this autumn. 

Thanks again Teresa for providing another lovely photo to accompany today's blog:

Thursday 21 October 2021

Thursday 21st October

 A slightly drier, sunnier day, but with 1-2 squally showers and a good westerly breeze.

My account of a couple of WTEs on Nave Island yesterday prompted visitors Ed & Elaine Prince to get in touch with an exciting account of their own earlier observations for Nave Island yesterday:

“We set off for Ardnave point at dawn on Wednesday 20th, and were in position by 8 a.m. There were 3 White-tailed Eagles on Nave Island when we arrived, all sub-adults, and we were impressed with their aerial agility as they skirmished above the island. We had spent much of last week watching two individuals on Loch Gruinart doing nothing much for most of the time, apart from when they caught and plucked a Barnacle Goose in full view, which was quite exciting.

We were crouched behind a large rock on the beach, out of the wind, and as we watched the three birds over the island, another flew in from behind us, right over our heads. Shortly after this another arrived, then another, and this continued again and again until we had a total of eight White-tailed Eagles on the island. They all flew in right over our heads, in good light, and we can confirm that in total there were two adults and six sub-adults. We can also confirm that we counted all eight simultaneously on several occasions.

There was a great deal of interaction between the birds, and we saw two individuals lock talons and cartwheel towards the ground, releasing their grip at only the last possible moment, in a display wildlife cameramen would die for. We left the point at 11 a.m. One or two of the eagles had left by this time, and the remainder were no longer showing, so we speculate that their quarrels may have been centred around ownership of a carcass on the far side of the island. This was supported to some degree by the fact that when we returned at the same time this morning in the hope of a repeat performance not a single eagle was to be seen, though we did have twenty murderous Ravens, which was nice.”

I think that there have been 6 together previously but this must surely be the highest count of WTEs together on Islay so far?

Details of Teresa’s colour-ring sighting of a Whooper Swan have already come back. I contacted the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust last night and they replied with the details this morning – that is service! I think that David Dinsley must have done the same thing as he posted the basic info. this morning on our WhatsApp site: “Great minds etc….”.

The full details are given below. The bird was caught at Martin Mere in November 2017 and has been seen there each winter since. This is the first sighting away from Lancashire, where it is presumably headed now.

24/11/17 – Caught WWT Martin Mere, Lancs.

20/03/17 – Seen WWT Martin Mere, Lancs.

28/10/18 – Seen Scansbrick, Lancs.

01/12/18 – 10/01/19 - Seen WWT Martin Mere, Lancs.

27/10/19 – 05/01/20 - Seen WWT Martin Mere, Lancs.

16/11/20 - Seen Scansbrick, Lancs.

21/11/20 – 26/11/20 - Seen WWT Martin Mere, Lancs.

07/12/20 – Seen Boundry Farm, near Martin Mere, Lancs.

20/10/21 – Seen Craigens, Islay

Teresa Morris had been out again at the north end of Kilinallan dunes and reports 6 Barnies in off the sea, 31 Whooper Swans in from the north, a mix of raptors - Golden and White-tailed Eagles, Hen Harrier, 4 Stonechats, 42 Twite, 4 Chough, 4 LBB Gulls and 4 Ravens,. A swallow was seen early on at Kilinallan and a futher 21 Whooopers landed on the marsh.

Teresa's photo nicely sums up today's weather:

Wednesday 20 October 2021

Wednesday 20th October

 Blustery weather again, with localised, random rain showers, but brighter and sunnier otherwise, although a brisk SW wind for much of the time. Despite slightly better weather there were few birds reported today.

 I did a walk up to Ardnave Point this morning with Mary-Ann Featherstone and her visiting friend Bob Brown. Not a lot to report at all except the now, almost regular White-tailed Eagles on Nave Island – one adult, the other younger.

Mike Hill sent in this message: “A bit better weather today! From our cottage we watched a pair of WTE and a single Golden Eagle interacting over Machir Bay. On the road to Loch Indaal from Kilchoman a Merlin flashed across the road in front of us. From Black Rock we had three Red-throated Divers, a Great Northern Diver and a small flock of Common Scoter. Further down towards Bridgend were two WTE on the ground, one of them eating what looked like a goose.”

The only other report comes from Teresa Morris spending her day in the Loch Gruinart area. She reports a lone Whooper Swan at Craigens with a red ring numbered XJT on the right leg and a BTO ring on the left. We’ll find out its origins and let you know.

She was on the west side of Ardnave in the afternoon noting a flock of 350 Starlings, a flock of 52 Choughs, plus 20 Oystercatchers, 16 Bar-tailed Godwits, 10 Sanderling, 1 Turnstone, 94 Herring Gulls, 11 Cormorants, 4 Gannets, 5 Greater Black-backed Gulls a flock of 28 Twite and an Otter. On Nave Island were 5 Roe Deer.

In the evening she took this lovely picture below Craigens where she’d seen 2 young White-tailed Eagles, a Peregrine and geese going to roost against a stunning sunset.

Tuesday 19 October 2021

Tuesday 19th October

 Another day starting with heavy rain and generally unpleasant conditions, brightening a little by the afternoon and with patches of blue sky by early evening.  Winds from a southerly direction made it very mild.

Visiting birder Alistair Hart sent in this note: “So sad to have heard about Ian, he was always so lovely and welcoming. 2 Sea Eagles yesterday between Octofad and An Gleann was a highlight. A Redwing seen at the edge of Portnahaven.”

The White-tailed Eagles certainly seem to be mobile at present, as Mark Shields noted 3 or more sub-adults chasing the geese up at Gruinart this afternoon. Pia took photos of 2 young birds, possibly some of the same individuals, as they wandered down the coastline between Uiskentuie and the Kilchoman turn-off.

Other than that, the only other reports today are:

From Richard Belter of a Barn Owl quartering the area near Blackpark near Uiskentuie.

From Kate who saw the “Bird of the Day” - a Little Egret up into Loch Indaal beyond Blackrock (plus a Merlin hunting in the same area).

From Teresa Morris who seemed beaten by the weather today and reports just 14 Whooper Swans flying up Loch Gruinart this morning – but provides us with this lovely picture capturing  slightly brightening weather towards the end of the day.

Monday 18 October 2021

Monday 18th October

 A late report for yesterday from Mary-Ann Featherstone and visiting friend Bob Brown of 60 Choughs at Ardnave at around 5pm.

Heavy rain and strong winds at times into early morning today, “brightening” to dull grey and occasional drizzle for much of the rest of the day, though better still with sunny patches and lighter breezes by the evening.

The weather obviously put some folks off venturing too far, so fewer reports today. My contribution was stopping on Loch Indaal at Carnain at high tide this afternoon to count the Barnies (2,750) and check for oddities (none).

Gary noted 200 Barnies up at Eorrabus this afternoon along with 5 White-fronts and 8 Pink-feet.

Visitor Kate was up at Ardnave at 4pm and had 30 Choughs, lots of Greylags and Barnies plus a White-tailed Eagle.

Teresa Morris ventured to Loch Skerrols after the rain eased up this afternoon counting 83 Wigeon, 24 Teal, 12 Mute Swans and 45 Whooper Swan  - plus a White-tailed Eagle.

However, the “professionals” (aka RSPB staff) had been out doing a reserve goose count this afternoon. The good conditions and very settled geese in the fields allowed for the following totals:

Barnacle Geese:  22,045; Greenland White fronts: 450; Greylags: 78; Red Breasted Goose*: 1 on Flats.

Also noted was a leucistic Barnacle Goose on Flats, plus 2 Hen Harriers (1 juv male and 1 female); 2 Sparrowhawks; 1,275 Golden Plover on the Loch; Just 6 Whooper Swans and on the Loch a flock of 151 Wigeon and 13 Pintail.

*SO: The Red-breasted Goose is still with us, albeit elusive. An incentive for us “fair-weather” birders to get out and look harder over the next few days regardless of rain and wind!

AS AN ASIDE: My quick count of 2,750 Barnies today at Carnain had me thinking of how tricky it is counting the entire island wintering population of 30-35,000 or so – hence my reference to the RSPB staff and other goose-counters as “the professionals”. But these numbers (of birds from the Greenland/Iceland population) are small compared to those in continental Europe migrating from Svalbard and Arctic Russia. This week’s BirdGuides News reports an incredible single day count of 134,760 Barnacle Geese logged passing Cape Põõsaspea in Estonia on 13th October. This included a single flock of 11,520. Other huge counts recently have been On 20 May 2018, when 113,442 Barnacle Geese were counted past Rottumeroog in The Netherlands. The record however goes to the staggering 401,000 counted migrating past Gökalv, Blekinge, Sweden on 14 May 2017.

Sunday 17 October 2021

Sunday 17th October

 A dull, misty, but very mild and quite calm day, with drizzle at times in the morning, but brightening up a little in mid-afternoon.

A couple of records of summer visitors hanging on: A Chiffchaff seen by John Overfield at Caol Ila distillery and a couple of Swallows from Gary near Finlaggan.

I had a look at Loch Skerrols this afternoon with Mark Shields. There were tallies of about 45 Wigeon, 15 Tufted Ducks, 10 Mute Swans, 41 Whooper Swans, 15 Greylags and a quite high count (at least for Skerrols) of 190 Greenland White-fronts. There was no sign of yesterday’s Long-tailed Ducks at Blackrock – just a flock of 29 Common Scoter and 3 Slavonian Grebes. Back at Bruichladdich the large assembly of mixed gull species are still avidly feeding on the shoals of tiny fish in the shallows. Still no rarities amongst them, but it is fascinating watching them chasing the fish, darting about and being very successful in catching plenty.

Mike Hill had been out and about today and sent in this report:

The Oa: Peregrine, Golden Eagle, ringtail Hen Harrier, Merlin and Common Buzzard. Flock of 80+ Twite. Pair of Raven. Several Red Admiral were out in the afternoon sunshine.

Loch Indaal: Just round from Bridgend a White-tailed Eagle was spooking the geese and everything else. It landed a couple of times before catching something, probably a duck. It was joined by a Raven as it tucked into its tea.

Kilchoman: Back at the cottage we had a pair of Stonechat and a ringtail Hen Harrier. Two Chough went roost in the old church tower. We saw a pair do this last year, wonder if its the same ones?

Teresa Morris had also been active, but concentrated her time this afternoon after the mist cleared with 4 hours watching at Ardnave. She reports: 26 Chough, 17 Teal, 6 Whoopers flying up the loch from the sea, 1 Otter, 3 Seals, 28 Herring Gulls, 1 Snipe, 33 Dunlin, 7 Oystercatchers, 24 Turnstones, 12 Ringed Plovers, 14 Cormorants, 2 White-tailed Eagles over Nave Island, 40 Barnies in off the sea and a flock of 500 on a sandbar near Kilinallan (see photo below) and a total of 53 Red-throated Divers between Ardnave Point and Kilinallan.

Saturday 16 October 2021

Saturday 16th October

 Firstly, some additional records for yesterday:

Further reports of Whooper Swans on the move came in via Malcolm Ogilvie from Peter McIndeor of Braibruich who saw a flock of 74 whoopers followed by 8 and then a little later another 18 all flying down Lochindaal heading south in the afternoon. It is always tricky to get a clear idea of how many Whoopers are passing through, but it was “best part of a tidy few” yesterday! (It was also noted by Malcolm that, so far, few if any are stopping to feed on barley stubbles as they’ve done in some recent years. This is perhaps likely due to a good and early cut harvest with less seed spilt?

Teresa Morris commented on the fine weather yesterday: “What an amazing day it has been for weather and birding.” Teresa had been out to the Oa yesterday and watched for 4 hours around Lower Killeyan and the RSPB reserve. Golden Eagle, Kestrel and Peregrine showed up, plus 3 Chough, 47 Whooper Swans heading south and a Wheatear looking very much like a Greenland race (see the photo below).

Teresa also provided a super photo of an equally super Islay view:

However, Today’s weather slowly reverted to grey and rainy by mid-afternoon. Gary had been out birding at the Big Strand this morning finding 21 Golden Plovers and a Snow Bunting there, plus a Darvic-ringed Common Gull. This was too far off to read, but worth looking out for. The Machrie River held a gathering of 4 gull species where it flowed into the sea. Later Gary watched at Bridgend Merse counting 250 Golden Plovers, 90 Bar-tailed Godwits, 250+ Ringed Plover and 100+ Dunlin. Also in this area were a couple of Canada/Barnacle Goose hybrids which could be the same birds as seen last year?. John Overfield added 20 Knot to the tally here later in the day and went further down Loch Indaal to Blackrock and Uiskentuie where he found a few Slavonian Grebes and a Black-throated Diver.

Mark Shields noted the following Geese on the reserve about mid-morning today: 21,023 Barnies, 128 Greylag, 41 pale-bellied Brent, 47 Greenland White-fronts, a “small” Canada Goose and 4 Pink-foots.

David Dinsley had been out early, watching 2 White-tailed Eagles breakfasting at sunrise on a Barnacle Goose on  the Gruinart Flats. Venturing further north he had the “usual” flock of 26 Choughs at Ardnave and then 3 White-tailed Eagles at Nave Island. These were an adult pair chasing off a young bird, all of which seemed interested in pupping seals on the beach. David noted a dead seal pup at Ardnave Point that should provide plenty of potential food for the eagles?

Newly arrived on the island today, Mike Hill sent in some initial sightings. He was particularly impressed with "a VERY close encounter with a Merlin sitting on a fence post on the road just before the turn to Kilchoman distillery. It just sat there as we approached slowly in the car with the windows down until level with it. Magical."

I hope Mike will enjoy his stay as much as this week’s contributor Tim Daley has. He was leaving Islay today and comments thus:

“Islay was a fantastic birding and exploring place and there’s no doubt I’ll be coming back. It’s great you have the blog and WhatsApp group,”

Thanks very much Tim and we look forward to seeing you back here whenever you can.

To round the day off John Overfield sent in this picture of a family of Otters he'd just seen this evening. The rock they are on is almost directly outside of my house in Bruichladdich. I ran to the window with my binoculars as soon as the message came in, but they had gone. Darn!

Friday 15 October 2021

Friday 15th October

 A dramatic change for the better in the weather today with bright sunshine, light NW winds, warmth and, best of all – NO RAIN! This promoted a lot of birding activity from the various visiting birders – plus a lot of activity from the birds themselves, with quite a bit of movement. Here is a summary:

Whooper Swans: John Overfield noted 33 on Loch Indaal near Bowmore this morning – all heading off south, A count on Loch Gorm by Tim Daley of 42 at 11am had increased to 118 (including 21 juvs) by the time I got there at midday, with skeins arriving as Ed Burrell and I scanned the loch. A further 14 were on Loch Indaal this afternoon which eventually flew off south.

There were also 55 Teal on the small lochans off the main Loch Gorm and a high count of 156 Tufted Duck on the main loch.

Tim Daley had also ventured up to Loch Gruinart and, from his account, was clearly enjoying the birding in better weather “Finally a beautiful day and I was on the east shore of Loch Gruinart as the sun came up to the incessant yapping of thousands of barnacle geese, occasionally rising to crescendo as flocks took to the air. A couple of White-tailed Eagles certainly unsettled the throng when the eagles settled on the flats although a female Hen Harrier glided across with barely a murmur.” He noted 4 Pink-footed Geese and “a handful” of Pale-bellied Brents amidst the Barnies and a flock of 28 Choughs in the fields. Wades included c.120 Sanderling in tight-knit group with 6 Dunlin and a bit further along were 28 Ringed Plover. A Great Northern Diver, 4 Red-throated Divers and 2 Red-breasted Merganser were noted offshore.

Richard Belter had been up to Ardnave this morning in weather he described as “blue skies, sunshine, no wind - bliss!”. Skeins of Barnies were going over as he recorded single Snow Bunting and Red-throated Diver, 2 Great Northern Divers and 6 Common Scoter.

Up at Finlaggan Gary noted Crossbills and Fieldfares and Redwings overhead and at nearby Achnaclach Woods. On the loch were 5 Little Grebes. 2 Golden Eagles were sky-dancing north of Finlaggan.

Elsewhere, John Overfield down on The Oa had further raptor activity with 3 Hen Harries “kettling” overhead appearing to be moving south. He also counted 13 Whooper Swans, 72 Greenland White-fronts and 4 Pink-feet on Loch Kinnabus and a flock of 50 Twite nearby. The White-fronts are building up in numbers slowly.

With lovely sunny conditions and a calm sea, I spent part of the afternoon counting brtds on Loch Indaal from Blackrock down to Port Charlotte. Best find was a gorgeous pair of Long-tailed Ducks at Blackrock, which I think are the first of the winter? There was also a high count of 15 Slavonian Grebes. Other tallies were: 14 Whooper Swans (all departed south); 162 Greylags; 21 Brent Geese; 70 Eider; 46 Common Scoter; 42 Red-breasted Merganser; 6 Scaup; 90 Shags; 12 Great Northern Divers; 18 Red-throated Divers; 10 Guillemots. I didn’t count the gulls, but there were the same large feeding groups homing in on shoals of small fish as yesterday, close inshore from Bruichladdich down towards Port Charlotte.

Thursday 14 October 2021

Thursday 14 October

WTE in the mist at Killinallan. Teresa Morris

Tim was out today between showers, he had a nice flock of around 30 Greenland whitefronts at Kilchoman with around 100 barnies.  In the fields of the north side of Loch Gorm there were 9 whooper swan: 2 family groups of 2 adults and 2 juveniles plus another adult.  Yesterday Tim had a good day with mixed sightings including 10 greenfinch at Carnduncan, a single guillemot and a razorbill fishing together off Bruichladdich, with a red throated diver and an otter also spotted.  Later, at Portnahaven, a merlin was observed at an unsuccessful starling hunt.  Offshore there was the 'odd gannet' flying south and one group of 15 mixed aged kittiwakes.

Peter was checking Loch Skerrols and had 16 whooper swans, as well as 24 mute swan and 60 mallard. David at the Oa counted 5 whooper swan at Kinnabus (2adult, 3 cygnets).  Dave Protherough counted 6 whoopers flying south along Cornabus valley late yesterday afternoon.  Nice to see the whoopers back.

The Horwich birders yesterday saw 2 adult WTE on a small islet on Loch Gorm. Additionally 16 whitefront and a large raft of scaup.  Near Grulinmore 4 stonechat, yellowhammer and meadow pipit.  At Ardnave they noted a continuous stream of barnacle geese as well as 3, then 2 whooper swan flying in. Back at the RSPB viewpoint and hide, a male hen harrier and a lot of ducks in the pools (teal, pintail, shoveler and wigeon) and a small flock of black tailed godwits. Today it was such a wet and windy day, sightings were limited to 2 chough and a male hen harrier over Machir Bay.  Thank you both for all your records during your stay. Until next time...

At Claddach this morning there were 2 chough feeding on the beach.  A sparrowhawk was being harassed by the starling flock, which attracted 6 hoodies (hooded crows) who had to come and join in the fun.  Yesterday I was at Foreland in the woodland where we often felt surrounded by gold crest calling though I only saw one.  I also heard redwing and saw a flock of around a dozen large thrush species. Certainly a lot of rowan berries to attract them there.

Dreich day at Claddach, Mary

Wednesday 13 October

 Better late than never, here is Wednesdays updates.

RSPB Loch Guinart barnacle geese total is 14,280.

Teresa Morris has been busy over the past 2 days. Tuesdays sightings from Killinallan were 124 sanderling, 82 ringed plover, 6 lapwing, 5 curlew, 16 common gull, 3 heron. 2 snipe on the edge of the dunes.  Birds of prey as follows; WTE, golden eagle, buzzard. Several hundred geese flying down into the loch. See photo above with Oronsay in the background.

Today (Wednesday) Teresa was at Loch Gruinart an had some nice eagle sightings - 2 WTE and a golden eagle.

26 Greenland whitefront at Kinnabus on the Oa.  Thanks David.

Ardnave appears to have been the place to be.  Richard had 7 snow bunting, while John Overfield saw a nice adult pale phase Arctic Skua. Tony Lindsell counted 6 whooper swan coming in over the point, 36 chough, 2 twite, 6 ringed plover, curlew.

Peter had an exciting gull feeding frenzy off Bruichladdich yesterday: "Yesterday afternoon there was a brief "feeding frenzy" of about 75 gulls close offshore at Bruichladdich. There was another today, but much bigger involving about 300 birds. The mix comprised approximately 75 Black-headed Gulls, 120 Herring Gulls, 100 Common Gulls and 5 or so Great Black-backed Gulls. "

"There were also 55 Shags, 4 Red-throated Divers and 15 Guillemots joining in. They were all following (and catching!) shoals of small silver fish (not sand eels) about 3 inches - 80mm long. They rapidly moved up and down the coast with the movement of the fish, just a few yards offshore at times. This lasted from about 2pm for half an hour or so and eventually dispersed northwards"

Tuesday 12 October 2021

Tuesday 12 October

As my husband says, it was a bit of a 'mizzly' day today - misty and drizzly. Or wet, in other words.  My morning had me striding out in knee deep grass to fetch some wandered sheep.  Though they turned out to be feral goats (in my defence, I didn't have my binoculars), I was nonetheless rewarded with a lovely view of an adult pair of sea eagles near Claddach loch.  This is as good a photo as I can share...

Claddach Loch

You can make out the 2 black figures above the loch. Not the best wildlife photo, I'll admit! But it does give you an idea of todays 'mizzly' conditions.

Lauren has given me today's count at RSPB Loch Gruinart - 7895 barnacles counted in the mist, 34 pale-bellied Brent, 29 white fronts, and one pink foot. Richard Belter this afternoon counted over 20 whooper swan coming in off the sea to the loch. While visiting birder John Overfield reported a Hutchinsii cackling goose among the crowds.

Happily I saved some sightings from yesterday for today.

Peter Roberts endured an other sea watch off Frenchmans rocks in the South-West of Islay - "I tried another sea-watch from Frenchman’s Rocks this morning in a moderate WNW. At least it wasn’t raining and the visibility was good, but, once again there was very little variety in what was seen. I was there for 2 hours (8.30 – 10.30) and had the following (all flying south): Auk sp (mostly Guillemots when definite ID could be established) – 495; Kittiwake – 456; Black-headed Gull – 2; Red-throated Diver – 4; Diver sp. 2; Wigeon – 11; Tystie – 2; Dunlin – 7; Grey Wagtail - 4.  There were also the local Shags, Herring Gulls and about 75 Gannets milling about. I’ve no idea why, but the auks were passing through mostly in the first hour (over 400 of the total) while the Kittiwakes mostly came past in the second hour (over 300 of the total)."

The Horwich Birders were also out and about yesterday:  "Walked up Gruinart side [of Ardnave Point] with groups of waders on ebbing tide - ringed plover 210, sanderling 20, turnstone 18 and chough 20 which is half what we usually saw in the past. Off the point overlooking Nave Isle at least 3 RT divers showing and 1 guillemot. A sea eagle flew in and perched on the island and later flew across over point and off towards Sanaigmore.  At Traigh Nostaig the usual piles of smelly kelp covered in starlings and gulls and there were 18 very vocal chough around.  Small numbers of waders,- oyks, dunlin, r plover, and 8  godwits (probably Bar T."  They continued their birding holiday today with a sparrowhawk at Ballinaby, and 2 WTE (one adult, one imm.) perching on separate islands on Loch Gruinart eastern side.  At Braigo a pair of stonechat, while at sanaigmore there was 18 chough.

More from today - a snipe and 15 twite reported by Tim Daley on the foggy Oa.  At Claddach, 7 chough plus 5 rook feeding on the beach.

Currie Sands, Claddach

Monday 11 October 2021

Monday 11 October

It felt a lot warmer today, which explains an adder spotted by Anna Hock near Ballameanach cottages today. I was out the other night with the dog and he appeared with a huge (healthy) hedgehog from the overgrown verges near Portnahaven Village Hall, much to delight and amazement of my 5 year old who was hedgehog hunting! (definately unharmed) Tonight, 2 tiny toadlets were crossing the road near the old Manse outside Port Wemyss.  October can often be a fair month right enough, but it is forecast to get even warmer this week so be mindful of your dog when out walking in case of grumpy adders! But winter is coming...

A lot of reports received today, apologies if I miss anything - I may save some for tomorrow so don't be disheartened! 

Among the day's records was a grey phalarope spotted by Tim Daley in a rock pool just North of Saligo Bay.  It allowed close views and the opportunity for good photos. Lovely bird to see, thanks Tim.  Tim  was at RSPB Loch Gruinart in the morning, and enjoyed a ring-tailed hen harrier 'cruise across the field'.  In the pools, among the 100s of wigeon and teal there was a male shoveler seen as well as a pair of pintail and 15 black-tailed godwits.  Up to 100 golden plover were in flight overhead, while he noted 8 mistle thrush from the roadside.  In the Saligo area, near the phalarope, 2 pairs of chough and 16 pied wagtails were counted.

The geese have continued to trickle in, Teresa was at Ardnave today and counted 1204 barnies arriving in the 5 hours she was there. Lauren has been in touch with today's totals from Loch Gruinart: 23 white front, 21 pale-bellied brents, 1 pink footed goose (all on the loch) and 6895 barnacle geese feeding on the flats.

Teresa was at Ardnave point for 5 hours this afternoon at low tide. On the east side she enjoyed a good day, her highlights were 37 twite, 4 male snow bunting, 3 cormorants, 13 turnstone, 11 chough, 14 oystercatcher, 3 red-breasted merganser, 6 curlew and 4 seals.  At Lech Gruinart one female/ringtail hen harrier hunting at dusk.

Out with his camera Billy Stitchell had a brambling with the house sparrows, feeding on a rowan tree in Ballygrant woods.

David Dinsley counted 2 Greenland whitefront and 3 wigeon at Cornabus.  He also kindly sent in the following image of a merlin at the Oa, happily digesting one of the resident twite. Resident no more.

Margaret had a flock of whoopers fly over the house heading towards Ireland, the first of the season for her. She also enjoyed views of a male hen harrier hunting below the crag.

David Livingstone had nice views of a white-tailed eagle at Leorin, spooking the geese there. 

Thank you everyone.  

Sunday 10 October 2021

Sunday 10th October

The weather was slightly better than yesterday, with prolonged sunny periods punctuated by showers.

Tim Daley had 30 Twite, 12 Reed Buntings and a couple of Swallows at Carnduncan – plus a Wheatear at Killinallan. Later in the day his other highlights were sightings of a White tailed Eagle soaring over the Beinn Ghibheach, east of Gruinart; 2 Choughs in the fields on the walk back to Kilinallan and at the junction of Kilchoman and Sanaigmore roads, a Peregrine, probably female, gliding overhead, holding position into the wind for several minutes, being shadowed by a Buzzard. 

Teresa Morris , staying up towards Craigens, counted 1,200 Barnacle Geese, 123 Lapwing, 47 Brent Geese, 52 Bar-tailed Godwits and 350+ Golden Plovers on that side of Loch Gruinart this morning. 

Chris & Tony (The Horwich Birders) had been out early to Machir Bay finding a flock of 12 Skylarks and the usual 2 Chough flyby with 35 Ringed Plovers and 10 Sanderling on the beach. A later visit to Lily Loch at Dunlossit produced a large mixed flock in the woodland including Bullfinch, Goldcrest, Siskin, Redpoll and tits.  A group of 6 Mistle Thrushes flew in, but still no Redwing or Fieldfares yet.They also ventured down the Glen Road and at the high point had an immature Golden Eagle. and a very vocal pair of chough. Further down the road at Barr Farm was a flock of at least 30 twite and a solitary Goldfinch.

Mark Shields and I had a look for the Red-breasted Goose in the afternoon but didn’t have any luck. On Loch Gruinart we scoped through the large flock of Barnacles with Pale-bellied Brents mixed in with them that Teresa had counted this morning – but to no avail. We did see the 5 Whooper Swans that Teresa had first recorded a little earlier. We then went on to Loch Indaal. On the way, Blackrock produced 3 Scaup and 12 Common Scoter. At the top of the loch as far as Gartmain were a further 256 Barnacle Geese, 146 Greylags and 42 Brent Geese. The Wigeon flock totalled 175, with just 22 Mallard. 2 juvenile White-tailed Eagles were in their usual positions with possibly a 3rd bird at one point. As I returned home in the evening there were 6 Pink-footed Geese in with a handful of Greylags and Barnacle Geese on the RSPB flats, which had also been noted by Richard Belter this afternoon.

A late note came in from Mary-Ann & Jenny Featherstone for 4th October of 3 Barn Owls on the High Road near Buildbase plus another on the Glen Road..

Saturday 9 October 2021

Saturday 9th October

 A grey and rainy day, but still quite mild and with light winds, meant few bird sightings being sent in from the early part of the day:

Dave Protheroe had 20 Barnacle Geese over at Seal Bay.

Margaret Brooke reports a Sparrowhawk and 9 Goldfinch at Shepherd’s Cottage

Chris & Tony (aka The Horwich birders) were out and about in what they rightly called “a dreich day”, but didn’t let it put them off a fairly good look round numerous sites. They started at the mouth of the Sorn and had a White-tailed Eagle fly in low to an island where it watched the barnies. Bridgend woods was very quiet: only a Goldcrest of note and the river in spate so no Dippers seen.  Loch Skerrols held 18 Mute Swan (but only 1 juv) a, few Pochard, a raft of Wigeon and a very mobile flock of Siskins on the walk in. They also ventured up the potholed Kilinallan road, searching in vain through the baronies for the Red-breasted Goose (but see below!) Returning round Loch Gorm a flock of 60 Goldfinches were at Ballinaby and a beautiful peregrine on a fence post near Saligo, finishing with a  Kestrel below Coull in sunflowers.

However, the late afternoon, just prior to sunset turned dry, calm and sunny, prompting me to pop outside here at Bruichladdich and scope across a very flat calm Loch Indaal. It was quite productive too, with birds dotted all over the sea from right up towards Bridgend and down far to the south. There were clearly fish in the sea as there were large gatherings of gulls in the misty distance beyond Port Charlotte. With them were about 60 auks – probably mostly Razorbills actively fishing.  The tally for other species counted was: 76 Eiders, 22 Red-breasted Mergansers, 57 Common Scoters, 5 Great Northern Divers, 10 Red-throated Divers, 1 Black-throated Diver, 4 Black Guillemots, 2 Slavonian Grebes and a single Gannet. Onshore were 2 Grey Herons and a flock of 17 Ringed Plovers.

Visiting birder Tim Daley from Northumberland arrived today and was finding good birds even before he got to Islay, with a couple of White-tailed Eagles sitting on a sea-weedy low tide islet just out from Kennacraig. After that, he saw a group of 4 Black-throated Divers and a few Guillemots Razorbills, Gannets and Kittiwakes on the crossing.

Like myself, Tim got out in the lovely sunny late afternoon. He headed over to RSPB Gruinart where he found the Red-breasted Goose amongst the 1000+ Barnacle Geese on the east side of the loch. Also noted were singles of Whooper Swan, Sparrowhawk and Pintail plus c.15 Black-tailed Godwits.

Visitor Teresa Morris was also out this evening after the rain, finding 42 Twite, 2 Choughs and a Buzzard south of Saligo Bay and 320 Greylags in the fields at Rockside. She sent us this fine sunset photo.

Friday 8 October 2021

Friday 8 October

More barnacle geese skeins have been observed coming in along the west coast.  A steady trickle of an arrival this year rather than a sudden flood of wintering geese.  Similarly, no great numbers of whooper swan reported yet.

Teresa Morris was up at Kilinallan in the rain. At the locked gate at the road end, she saw a sparrowhawk, male hen harrier, barwit, 10 curlew, 2 heron, 6 oystercatcher, 1 cormorant and stags roaring in the distance.

James, Lauren and the RSPB volunteers, Liz and Neve, carried out the Loch Gruinart WeBS today. The highlights as follows; 17 red breasted merganser, 24 Ringed plover, 633 golden plover, 108 lapwing, 1 knot, 242 dunlin, 75 bar tailed godwit, 181 curlew, 32 redshank, 253 teal, 25 pintail, 16 wigeon, 2 whooper swans, 4 snipe, 7 shoveler, 6 black tailed godwits, 3 greenshank, a peregrine, a golden eagle and a white tailed eagle.

The Horwich Birders were out and about towards Machir Bay this morning where they saw 2 chough.  Later they set off to Ardtalla for the afternoon, en route by Bowmore they counted 30 pale-bellied Brent and around 30 red-breasted mergansers.  At Artalla they saw the 'usual' 2 mute swans, as well as 4 herons, 12 curlew, plenty seals about, as well as a lovely sighting of a female otter with 2 young.  At Lagavulin, 8 swallows were busy feeding over the buildings and nearby trees, and a flock of 14 collared doves in a nearby dead tree.   At Port Ellen, 5 pale bellied Brent. On their return a ringtail hen harrier at Loch Tallent and an other at Coull.

Yesterday Shona-Isla counted 26 ringed plover at the 'co-op beach' in Port Ellen. Thank you Shona-Isla.