As predicted, the weather took a substantial change for the worse today with light SW winds and drizzle in the morning and slightly stronger winds and slightly heavier rain in the afternoon. Unsurprisingly, there were no reports of birds on Islay today, so there was time to reflect..................
Tomorrow is the 15th anniversary of when Ian Brooke started the Islay Bird Blog. We thought it might be of interest to go back over the past 15 years highlighting some of the many rare birds found on Islay during this period. So we’ve picked out 15 species found here since 1st May 2007 that are either the rarest in an Argyll/Scottish/UK context – or just rare for Islay. It not only illustrates that Islay is a great place for birding, but also celebrates how useful the Blog has been in bringing birders together and pooling so much useful birding information over the years. Last, but not least it is a further tribute to Ian Brooke for setting it up and keeping it going for so many years, writing daily in his own friendly, down-to-earth, charitable and inimitable style, some of which is repeated below:
2009 - Long-billed Dowitcher: Loch Gruinart 26 April; Ardnave Loch 1 May 2013; Loch Gruinart 29 Oct – 1 Nov 2021. Only 5 Argyll records – four of them including these 3 from Islay. Ian posted on the first two, but had passed away by the 3rd. Much excitement from Ian for both sightings:
26th April 2009: “A phone call from Michal, alerted us to a "twitch" over at the RSPB reserve at Loch Gruinart this morning. Not just one bird, but at the end it turned out to be a twitch of 4 different species. The initial call was for a Lesser Yellowlegs and a Long billed Dowitcher, and these were easily found after prompting from James, as they were quite close to a Shoveler, but skulking around the rushes in the floods in front of the hide. The next shout was for the Green winged Teal, and more was to come, in the sense that at one point, all three birds were in the same field of view in the 'scope at once, at 60x magnification! They were seen by quite a wide range of folk, as the Argyll Bird Club were over on Islay for a weekend meet, and several of their members were fortunate to be there. Some visiting birders also saw the birds and equally impressed. The other species that James had seen briefly was a Spotted Redshank which he saw briefly around 6am.
1st May 2013: A great day over here with plenty of different birds seen today. It all started off with the Argyll birder spotting this Little Ringed Plover, only the second one ever here on Islay, we believe. Mary found a Ring necked Duck at Ardnave Loch as well as a Long billed Dowitcher there too.
2nd May 2013: “James sent through last night this image taken earlier on of the Long billed Dowitcher up at Ardnave. It flew off early afternoon yesterday, and as far as I know has not been seen again. The same story for the Little ringed Plover and the Yellow Wagtail, they could still be out there somewhere
2009 - Cattle Egret: 23 October to 6 November, Lyrabus. This was the first Argyll record, with three more elsewhere in Argyll since. The bird was first seen at Lyrabus and later also in the Ballimartin area, sometimes in the company of a Little Egret. Ian made numerous entries on this rarity:
24th October: “This is a first for Islay, and only the fifth record for Scotland of a Cattle Egret, if accepted. I was out yesterday afternoon, but I was left a note about the bird by Michael Anderson fromEdinburgh, who was over on holiday. Chris and Tony Johnson who had been over for the last 2 weeks, and who had contributed their sightings to the blog, had also seen the Egret on their way to the ferry this afternoon. The bird was also seen by some new birders arriving here today for a week’s birding.
This image was taken by James How, later this afternoon when we were able to catch up together with George Jackson. Hopefully the weather tomorrow might be a bit kinder to allow us to get some more images to share with you. Many thanks to Michael initially for letting us know that the Cattle Egret was here in the first instance.”
25th October: Well, as promised we went out this morning, on the search for the Cattle Egret. There had been a report of another Egret seen last night, so were there 2 out there? We caught up with Tony, one of the vols from RSPB who was on the lookout too along with his 2 colleagues, only to be told that we had all just missed them, but there were certainly 2 birds! Patience is a great virtue, and not many minutes later and Tony had located the Cattle Egret in beside some sheep! Not long after that, and a second Egret landed in the same field, and this one turned out to be a Little Egret. The Little Egret was quite aggressive to the Cattle Egret!”
26th October: “Another image of the Cattle Egret, taken by Mike Anderson who originally saw the bird on Friday. It was still present this morning in the same locality, although the Little Egret was seen flying around Port Ellen Harbour, just as the ferry was docking around 9.30 this morning! I was told yesterday that this was actually the 7th sighting of a Cattle Egret in Scotland, not the 5th, apologies! Still a 1st for Islay and Argyll...”
Tuesday 27th October: “The other week, the topic was the arrival of the Geese, last week Whooper swans, and of late the Cattle Egret, and yes, it is still here, in the same field along with the sheep! I wonder how long it will remain here, time will tell”.
2010 - Red-footed Falcon: 2 May, Port Charlotte. A male - the 3rd Argyll and only Islay record to date. There are no photographs and despite the great rarity Ian’s blog post is “understated”, though the bird’s name is in bold print!
3rd May: “Bob Davison who has just come to live here on Islay, sent in some birds that he has seen…... Bob Davison phoned last night when I was out to say that he had seen a Red-footed Falcon on the Rhinns. It is a dark male.”
2011 - Killdeer: 31st January, Lossit Bay. There are just 4 Argyll records including this one. Ian’s blog shows the more humorous side to his easy-going approach to “twitching”:
31st January: “Another month in and what a finish it turned out to be with a visiting birder seeing a Kildeer Plover down on the South west of Islay. Several of us went in the hope of seeing it, but didn't, but I have just been told that we were looking in the wrong place!”
2012 - Firecrest: 14 October, Gortantaoid: 13 Argyll records with just 2 on Islay, this the second. Ian notes:
“Peter, Pia and the "hound" had taken a walk up to Gortantoid this morning, a very productive walk too. At Gortantoid itself, they had several small groups of Reed Buntings and Yellowhammers numbering between 5 - 10 birds. The best was still to come with a male Firecrest, a Yellow browed Warbler, a Chiffchaff and also a Brambling.”
2013 - Little Ringed Plover: 1 May, Kilchoman; 10 May 2016 Loch Kinnabus. 6 Argyll records, including 3 from Islay – these the latest. The photo is of the 2013 Kilchoman bird. Ian wrote the blog almost single-handedly for all these years – quite a chore/labour of love at times. In this blog he seems tired, apologises for a late entry and leaves out a crucial comma which makes for amusing reading:
10th May: “Over on Loch Kinnabus this morning, Dave Wood had a Little Ringed Plover while on the feeders at their home past Octofad, Tony and Irene Miller had a Hawfinch. As it is getting late, I will sign off and carry on tomorrow when I get up...to be continued”
2013 - Ascenscion Frigatebird: 5 July, Bowmore. An immature was photographed sat on the pier, later seen flying south, on the morning of 5 July 2013. An extraordinary record as the only other record in the UK was also in Argyll, on Tiree on 10 July 1953 – almost exactly 60 years earlier. Here is Ian’s blog:
5th July: “This image was shown to Mary at Gruinart at lunchtime, taken at Bowmore Harbour this morning. Well it is an Ascension Frigatebird, only the second sighting in the UK, the last was seen back in 1953. The image above was taken by Jim Sim and his family from Renfrewshire. The big twitch will now be on to find it as it took off around 9am, in which direction it flew I have not heard...Anyway, if we hear of any further news, we will keep you posted! Late this evening, just had an e mail throughsaying that the bird had seen at 4pm flying over Carnain. Apologies in putting the wrong date on the earlier entry. I have been out looking for the bird this evening, but no joy, suppose that's birding for you”
6th July: “By the way, the Frigatebird increased the number of hits on the blog yesterday with almost 10 times our normal, and even today so far 4 times greater than an average day! Heard that around 30 folk came over on the ferry hoping to see the bird but had no luck, may be made the most of our famed hospitality.”
2016 - Mandarin Duck: 31 March, River Sorn, Islay Woollen Mill. There are plenty of Argyll records, but this is the first and only Islay bird – a lovely drake which clearly enthused Ian:
31st March: “At lunchtime I received a message through from Richard Belter to say that he had a drake Mandarin over on the River Sorn at The Woollen Mill, so managed to get in touch with Peter and Gary as the other were out working and not contactable. Boy, did that duck give us the run around, but it was seen by us all eventually... a new tick for Islay, as far as we know, it has not been recorded here before...”
2016 - Subalpine Warbler: 16 May, Kinnabus. There are 4 Argyll records including this one, thought to be the Western race, now a full species. Ian wrote:
16th May. “Today, we have had a bit of a twitch here on Islay... Dave Wood had seen a "Western Subalpine Warbler" in his garden down at Kinnabus on the Oa, the first for Argyll I am led to believe. Those of us who went, had great sightings of it, thanks Dave”
“Two of the images of the Subalpine Warbler images sent through to the blog by Jim Dickson. Jim commented that this was the "first record the "Western" sub species for Argyll, only the second record of this species after an "Eastern" seen on Tiree back in 2012". Thanks Jim for sharing your images. “
2016 - Isabelline Wheatear: 27 November – 1 December, Machir Bay. This was the first for Argyll and 9th for Scotland. Ian’s blog commented:
3rd December: “Stuart Crutchfield came over this morning on the ferry, and after a long patient wait, Stuart saw the Isabelline Wheatear down at Machir Bay. Early afternoon and Bob got the bird as well, now on his Islay list as well. There are great images of the Wheatear on the Argyll Bird Club's webpage. Well done to all of you who have come and seen it.”
2019 - Avocet: 29 April, Laggan Farm. 5 Argyll records, this, of 3 birds together, the latest and the only one for Islay. Sadly it was only belatedly reported so it never got onto the blog.
2019 - White-rumped Sandpiper: 2, 12th – 13th October, Sanaigmore. Seven Argyll records including 3 on Islay, this being the latest. Ian as usual weaves a story as well as posting the basic details – and phones around to let as many people know as possible before the advent of our Whatsapp group:
12th October: “Today started off as normal, a quiet sort of a day, then the phone rang, with Richard saying that he was convinced that he had 2 White rumped Sandpipers, on a pool up at Sanaigmore, a quick phone call to alert Peter and we all met up and yes it was as Richard thought. James was seen walking down on the Bay so adding his thoughts..”
13th October. “Richard, this morning at around 8am, had seen the 2 White rumped Sandpipers in the same location up at Sanaigmore. The above is an image of the 2 birds taken yesterday by myself...”
2020 - Black-headed Bunting: 28th October, Gruinart. 8 Argyll records including 3 on Islay. Like many of us, Ian struggled with technology at times:
Good try Ian – here it is now, better late than never!:
Winter 2021/2022 - Lesser Scaup: Loch Skerrols. Only 6-8 Argyll records and 3-5 of these on Islay prior to the last winter when a bumper number appeared in the UK. Birds were present on Islay for months and up to 5 together is the largest gathering ever noted in Britain. I’m sure Ian would have had plenty to blog about these and take his mind off his “pesky Sparrowhawk” at his bird feeders for a while!