Saturday 30 April 2022

Happy 15th Birthday to us!!! The Islay Birds best bits

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 2013A 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 from

Edinburgh, 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 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 through

saying 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:

30th November: “Well after a fair bit of groundwork carried by Mike and Peter, the "pale Wheatear" seen down at Machir Bay, and with images sent through to Paul French, who is chair of the British Birds rarities committee, it turns out to be an Isabelline Wheatear. It was still present mid afternoon, seen by Mike and Peter. Obviously, it will have to go to the whole committee before being accepted. To think that it has been around for over a week, and less than a mile away from here....”

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:

28th October: “Hopefully I have got this image of the Black headed Bunting seen by Dan, be it very briefly on Wednesday morning... oops, no I cannot share it with you... another day possibly then!!!”

Good try Ian – here it is now, better late than never!:

2020 - Nuthatch: 2 June, Bunnahabhain. The first record for Islay of a species increasing as a breeding bird in Argyll. This was just a week before Ian passed away and didn’t make it to the blog.

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!

Friday 29 April 2022

Friday 29th April

With a bit of rain forecast for tomorrow this may be the last of the really pleasant dry sunny spell that hasn’t produced any great birds!

Lauren Stewart saw one of the last few “first arrivals” of summer migrants today with 4 Arctic Terns at Ardnave Point.

James How noted 2 Grasshopper Warblers, 2 Whinchats and 3 Cuckoos at Gruinart and 1 Sandwich Tern and 4 Common Sandpipers at Bruichladdich.

The best I could muster was a Little Egret at a small lochan WSW of Loch Gorm called Loch Clach a Bhuaile – a slightly different location for the species on Islay.

The resident Whooper Swan was on Gruinart floods along with the 14 Canada Geese and a flock of 17 Choughs cavorted around Shepherd’s cottage this afternoon.


Thursday 28 April 2022

Thursday 28th April

 Another glorious day of fine sunny weather.

David Wood reported 2 Tree Pipits singing at Kildalton and sent in the picture below.

I took a look from the North and South Hides at Gruinart this afternoon, but it is becoming increasingly quiet - the lovely weather is accompanied by a northerly air-flow perhaps hindering any chance of migration and birds passing through? However, the flock of mixed waders on fields by the North Hide were still there - 3 Curlew with 6 Black-tailed Godwits and 38 Whimbrel. The Canada Goose tally was 13 birds on the floods today.

Wednesday 27 April 2022

Wednesday 27th April

 Despite another decent day of pleasant dry sunny weather, there were no bird sightings reported. The island now has many of the summer birds in, and the sight of Wheatears and sounds of Willow Warblers and Cuckoos is clearly becoming commonplace and "unremarkable".

Tuesday 26 April 2022

Tuesday 26th April

Similar weather again today – dry, some cloud, lots of sunshine and a light breeze from the north.

I was woken by a Cuckoo calling this morning and James How reported two at Gruinart along with calling/singing Corncrake, 2 Grasshopper Warblers and 2 Water Rails. More birds in song were noted across the island, with Ed Burrell hearing Whitethroat and seeing a Corncrake yesterday and another Cuckoo heard at Carnduncan this evening.

Mary Redman has had 5 Canada Geese down at Claddach over the past few days, and there were 2 on Loch Skerrols and 11 on Gruinart this afternoon, along with a pair apparently nesting on Loch Corr up beyond Sanaigmore. What with those reported by Dan Brown on Jura last week plus an additional 6 pairs he saw on Glas Eilean and a pair on Eilean Imersay north of Port Ellen, it looks like Canada Geese are here to stay!

A quick look from the Viewpoint above the South Hide this afternoon turned up a lone Whooper Swan, 4 Greenland White-fronts and still a few ducks remaining: 31 Wigeon, 22 Shoveler and 4 Pintail along with 5 Moorhens.

It is the last Tuesday of the month - so apologies for not yet re-starting the Bird Nerds get-togethers. Now that there are long evenings perhaps we should? If anyone has ideas on the subject do please let us know.

Monday 25 April 2022

Monday 25th April

A slightly cooler, cloudier day with light winds from the north, but remaining dry.

Very few reports of birds coming in today:

Margaret Brooke had a Cuckoo calling this morning up at Kilchoman. James How saw 3 White-tailed Eagles, a Tufted Duck (unusual on the Floods) and 11 Canada Geese around RSPB Gruinart and I took a quick look from the north Hide this afternoon finding a mixed flock of 17 Curlew and 21 Whimbrel and a group of 5 Black-tailed Godwits.

Sunday 24 April 2022

Sunday 24th April

The weather is pleasantly stuck with bright sunshine again all day, though still chill.

Dan Brown departed Islay today saying “Islay and Jura once again shone with 116 species seen……..we tallied up 305 raptor sightings in seven days including 39 of White-tailed Eagles, 10 of Golden Eagles, 55 of Hen Harriers and 5 each of Ospreys, Merlins and Peregrines” Many thanks to Dan for all his records and enthusiasm.

Presumably the same Magpie seen yesterday at Port Wemyys was seen at Kinnabus today by David Dinsley at his bird feeders (photo below).

Gary Turnbull was out in his usual birding area around Finlaggan today watching 5 Buzzards over the hills there, a couple of young White-tailed eagles stalking an Osprey over the loch and a Crossbill flying over Finlaggan House.. He also had a Golden Eagle over Giurbheinn and another over Dunlossit,

Mary-Ann Featherstone reported further Swallows at Kildalton, while I took a look at the north hide this afternoon and noted 7 Canada Geese new in and only 8 Barnacle Geese and 15 Greenland White-fronts remaining. There was also a single Black-tailed Godwit remaining in the midst of 34 Curlews and 1-2 Whimbrel – all disturbed by passing White-tailed Eagles and a Peregrine.

Up at Kilchoman, Margaret Brooke had a fine male Hen Harrier pass by the house.

Other visitors Sue & David Lumb report 6 Sandwich Terns on the coast north of Bruichladdich.

Saturday 23 April 2022

Saturday 23rd April

The fine weather continues - sunny, bright and quite warm out of the easterly breeze.

Dan Brown reported the first Great Skua of the year, seen over Nave Island this morning. On the adjacent offshore islets were 60 Bar-tiled godwits and a group of 10 Whimbrel and 36 Sanderling on the west coast of Ardnave. 

Mary Redman sent in a report of a Magpie down at Port Wemyss and a sighting of an immature White-tailed Eagle high over Claddach. Two more White tailed Eagles were noted by Elliott Bowman circling over mid Cragabus tonight being mobbed by Hooded Crows..

Friday 22 April 2022

Friday 22nd April

 Another lovely sunny day!

Late news from yesterday comes from Fiona McGillivray who saw a Black-throated Diver on the Sound of Islay off from Ardnahoe.

This afternoon at the north Hide the flock of Barnacle Geese was down again to c.150, still with the Brent Goose but missing the 3 hybrids. Viewing from the south hide produced 7 sub-adult White-tailed Eagles still scattered across the flats.

Dan Brown had seen an Osprey again early this morning south of Gruinart flats heading towards Loch Indaal. Later he saw an Osprey over Loch nan Cadnan and then likely the same bird on Jura SW of Craighouse. No rings could be seen on this bird, so it is quite likely a different individual from yesterday’s He had a bit of a “raptor-fest” on Jura with 8 species seen including Hen Harriers seen mobbing the Osprey and a White-tailed Eagle and a Buzzard seen flying off with a live adder – photo below.

Thursday 21 April 2022

Thursday 21st April

 A very pleasant day of sunshine and warmth when out of a cool NE breeze.

Late news in from yesterday: Dan Brown took advantrage of fklat calm seas on Loch Indaal to count divers, finding 41 Great Northrn and 26 Red-throated along with 3 flocks of Common Scoter totalling an impressive  c. 150 birds. He also noted a total of 10 Hen Harriers seen plus further cuckoo at Gruinart and Grasshopper Warbler at Coullabus.

Dan had our first Whitethroat of the year singing at Port Wemyss in the morning and saw an Osprey fishing at Killinallan this afternoon. The photo below shows it with a large fish it had caught. It also shows it wearing a blue colour-ring. The bird is a male ringed on 1st July 2017 as a chick on the Glaslyn estuary Gwynedd, N. Wales - a very interesting and unusual movement.

Other notes from today come from Mary-Ann Featherstone at Kildalton where she had her first cuckoo of the year. Here at Gruinart were the usual 2 Little Egrets, assorted White-tailed Eagles, a further diminished flock of Barnacle Geese still with the Brent Goose and 3 hybrids attached plus 3 White-fronts at the S. Hide. At the N. hide the groups of Mallard ducklings were being picked off by a passing Greater Black-backed Gull.  

Wednesday 20 April 2022

Wednesday 20th April

 Further reports of summer migrants come in on another lovely sunny, but cool and breezy day:

Corncrake at Portnahaven and Grasshopper Warbler singing near Carnduncan last night, House Martins and Swallows over at Gruinart where 2 Blackcaps and a Sedge Warbler were singing. Further Swallows were at Keils on Jura, Claddach on the Rhinns, Kinnabus on The Oa and 15 in a flock over Port Wemyss plus Cuckoos at Glenastle and Cornabus..

A flock of 185 Golden Plover along with 15 Ringed Plovers were sat on one of the bare, stony fields at Ballinaby this morning. The Barnacle Goose flock at Gruinart was slightly reduced to 355 today, with 190 of them visible at the North Hide this afternoon, but still including the 3 hybrids and the Pale-bellied Brent Goose. The Black-tailed Godwit flock had also decreased to just 33 today.

Visitors reported a couple of Little Egrets seen in the trees amongst the Rookery in the RSPB Woodland Trail at Gruinart early this morning, I assume this might be an overnight roost site? They had also seen an Osprey at Finlaggan.

There are young birds about already: a couple of broods of Mallard ducklings on the floods at Gruinart and Lapwing chicks at Cornabus.

Tuesday 19 April 2022

Tuesday 19th April

A day of mixed showers and sunshine.

Firstly some late sightings for yesterday evening: Dan Brown heard our first Grasshopper Warbler of the year, plus 6 Water Rails, 3 Snipe and a Woodcock around the woodland at Gruinart flats.

There were more “firsts” of summer arrivals today here on Islay and across the water on Jura. Dan Brown, watching at Gruinart this morning found a first Sedge Warbler and Tree Pipit (along with another Cuckoo sighting and 3 White-tailed Eagles). Later, on Jura he found our first Whinchat of the year between Feolin and Craighouse and an estimated 10 more Tree Pipits. Other birds of interest on Jura were a total of 9, Hen Harriers, Common Sandpiper, Carrion Crow and hybrids, 35 Skylarks, Merlin and Peregrine.

While on Jura the expected gradual increase in feral Canada Geese was recorded. Nests and groups were noted thus: Ardlussa (3); Ardlussa Bay (3); Lussagiven (1 nest); Craighouse (12); Pladda (11); Eilean nan Gabhar (2); Islets at south end of the sound of Islay (“many”). There were also 8 at Ardnave and 6 at Gruinart today. Yikes that is a total of 45 + “many” = far too many!

Back on Islay, David Wood scored another Whinchat and Grasshopper Warbler on The Oa, where Ed Burrel noted another Cuckoo and a pair of Pintail on his “puddle” at Cornabus and David Dinsley had a tally of 6 Wheatears together at Kinnabus.

I took a stroll to the North hide at Gruinart this afternoon where a flock of c.485 Barnacle Geese are still hanging on along with a pale-bellied Brent Goose and the three odd Canada x Barnacle hybrids. 68 of the Black-tailed Godwits seen in previous days from the south hide popped over to the pools on the north where 65 or more Sand Martins and a lone Swallow were feeding and another Carrion Crow showed well.

There is also a report of a Corncrake "crexing" near Carnduncan this morning

Monday 18 April 2022

Monday 18th April

 A pleasant, but slightly cool day of sunshine and light to moderate SW winds.

All of today’s reported action comes from the Rhinns:

This morning Dan Brown had seen 2 Merlins, 5 White-tailed Eagles and 2 Hen Harriers at Gruinart and noted that plenty of Wheatears had arrived along with White Wagtails at Bruichladdich and Port Charlotte.

Islay’s first Corncrake was scored by Mary Redman at Portnahaven.

At RSPB Gruinart this afternoon 82 Black-tailed Godwits (South Hide) were showing superbly at close range in the sunshine. The woodland trails held lots of Willow Warblers, and the odd Blackcap, while there were plenty of Sand & House Martins and the occasional Swallow over the flats.

Mark Shields noted some lingering winter geese on Gruinart – about 200 Barnacles and 52 Greenland White-fronts along with 6 Canada Geese that presumably won’t be heading off to Greenland soon?

Louise Muir over on Jura reports another of the summer arrivals: a Cuckoo at Craighouse.

Sunday 17 April 2022

Sunday 17th April

Hello Bird Fans. Islay is grey and miserable today, just like my Granny. Fortunately Dan Brown is over to brighten things up with his sightings - an osprey low over Gruinart Flats, 46 blackwits on the scrapes this morning, plus 12 fieldfare at Gruinart in the afternoon. 

Bird of the day goes to an imm male marsh harrier at Loch Tallant, seen by Dave Clugston and Val Wilson and relayed by Angus Murray and Jim Dickson. Thanks all. 

Lucy from RSPB had a swallow at Uiskentuie, and there was a cuckoo being pursued by a cloud of LBJs at Carnain. That's your lot, hopefully better weather and more to report tomorrow. 

Saturday 16 April 2022

Saturday 16th April

A dry day, but still a bit cool and cloudy to start with, brightening in the afternoon.

Yesterday Mary had a Swallow at her croft near Portnahaven. Today there were, I believe, a couple of “firsts of the year for Islay” to report: Mark had 2 Blackcaps around Gruinart and Lauren Stewart heard a Cuckoo near Ballygrant Loch.

Mark also saw 3 Little Egrets and 190 Golden Plover at Gruinart. Sandwich Terns were again seen off Port Charlotte.

Friday 15 April 2022

Friday 15th April

Happy Easter holidays everyone. Islay is chock-full of migrants from the south today, though mainly the holidaying human kind, the feathered ones are still fairly thin on the ground. Lauren and Lucy from RSPB were surveying the loch at Gruinart - some of the highlights were 184 barwits, 4 canada geese, 2 little egrets, 5 white-tailed eagles, 98 dunlin and 71 sanderling.

On the floods in front of the South Hide was a drake garganey, 3 sand martins and 2 little grebes, in amongst the usual suspects. Several small groups of white-fronted geese have been moving through the last couple of days, today 24 stuck around the hides. Near Saligo this afternoon there were 2 WTE, 6 chough, a peregrine and 3 wheatears. 

Thursday 14 April 2022

Thursday 14th April

Another chilly, damp, partially rainy and cloudy day with few observations to report.

Yesterday Angharad saw a Great Spotted Woodpecker along the Laggan River. Do please send in any records of this species as I’d like to check to see if this recent breeding colonist to Islay is still spreading across the island and increasing in numbers.

More singing Willow Warblers are being reported: at Laggan River yesterday and one at Cornabus and three at Ballygrant today. And there were still 6 sub-adult White-tailed Eagles present at Gruinart.

David Wood had our first Common Sandpiper of the year at Kinnabus today and there was a Corncrake reported from Oronsay - so listen out for our first here on Islay.

Wednesday 13 April 2022

Wednesday 13th April

Visitor Chris Lewis was up at Ardnave today admiring the Belted Beauty moths. He also saw 13 Chough, a few Twite and 10+ Wheatear. (He had seen 6 Sand Martins on Loch Skerrols on the 10th and a female Goldeneye and an Otter on Loch Ballygrant yesterday).

Mary reports a large Peregrine close over her house at Claddach and from the coastal path at Port Wemyss there were 7 Eiders flying past: 4 drakes & 3 ducks. Gary had more Sandwich Terms off Port Charlotte today, while Lauren had 4 Whimbrel (I think these are our first  of the year?) at Ardnave.

I took a look at Gruinart from the north hide this afternoon where there were 3-4 Sand Martins, a single Wheatear and still 4 sub-adult White-tailed Eagles loafing about. Although we are still waiting for several of the summer bird species to arrive, the local Mallards have evidently got on with the breeding season as there was a female with a brood of 12 ducklings paddling about.

Visitor Derek Coleman sent in this message: “Left the island yesterday and now back home in London. What a culture shock! Just want to thank all the editors for running a most informative site, which is really useful for visitors to the island. Hope to return soon. Again many thanks and best wishes”


Tuesday 12 April 2022

Tuesday 12th April

Cool and a bit cloudy and damp with more occasional drizzle towards evening. With light SE winds there might have been more in the way of southerly migrants arriving, but there is not much to report.

Mark Shields noted a Willow Warbler and 2 Swallows at Gruinart, 2 Canada Geese and a Kestrel near Saligo.

There were at least 2 Willow Warblers in song in Portnahaven this morning, seen by Alistair Hart.

There were at least 2 Sandwich Terns along the coast between Port Charlotte and Bruichladdich - and apparently they were there yesterday too.

Monday 11 April 2022

Monday 11th April

 A cold, fairly windy and cloudy day with few observations to tell you about.

Neil McGillivray had a Brambling at his bird feeders at Gruinart.

Mark Shields reports 3 Black-tailed Godwits at the S. Hide and just 1 lonely White-tailed Eagle on the loch. He also sent in these photos of one of those confusing and messy hybrid type geese.

Val Peacock had 3 Siskins on her feeders at Port Charlotte for the second day running.

The most interesting observation for me during a quick look on Loch Skerrols was 3-4 House Martins trying to find flying insects over the water - my first hirundines for 2022.

Sunday 10 April 2022

Sunday 10th April

24 hours ago I was counting thousands of geese in beautiful evening sun at Gruinart - today I have 3 fleeces on and there's barely a goose to be seen. The hordes of barnies here seem to have followed the white-front groups overnight, and Gruinart is suddenly very quiet indeed. 5 imm WTE drifted aimlessly over the loch tonight, wondering where all the food has gone, with only a plucky sub-ad golden eagle to chase around. Good SE winds are forecasted over the next couple of days, so that should bring some of our summer visitors a bit nearer.

This morning, in the best of the weather, Derek had 85 common scoters off of Bruichladdich, along with two sandwich terns. This evening, Margaret had 16 chough in at the crag at Kilchoman. And that was it. Fortunately I saved a pic from Billy Stitchell the other day! 


Saturday 9 April 2022

Saturday 9th April

A great Spring day. Jeff had an Iceland gull at Machir Bay, heading toward Coull Point. James had a meagre count of 9 WTEs on Loch Gruinart this glorious afternoon, as well as an osprey headed north, a merlin, 22 twite and a little egret.

Gruinart was buzzing with life, the barnies getting noticeably louder and in bigger groups. Several birds ringed at Malin (Ireland) and Iceland were amongst the flocks. Skeins of white-fronts were heading high and NW, safe journey home to all of them. 119 redshank were feeding on the low-tide mud.

Friday 8 April 2022

Friday 8th April

Bright and breezy today, and lots of raptors being spotted in the clear blue skies. Gary had an osprey and 3 WTE at Bridgend, before Ken had 2 WTE nearby at Carrabus. Meanwhile, Jeff was watching 5 WTE at Gruinart, before seeing one at Port Ban eating a goose near to the monument. On the Bolsay track, Jeff had a ringtail harrier and a peregrine. 

Goose flocks are increasing in size at Gruinart, a sure sign that they won't be with us much longer. The flats had several large groups today, milling around the incubating lapwings. There's been a definite increase in the proportion of Icelandic ringed birds amongst the ring sightings in the last week, so it's possible some of these are geese that have been wintering in Ireland moving back through.

Derek Coleman had bird of the day - 10 of these fantastic belted beauty moths up at Ardnave, 5 males and 5 females. If you've never seen them before, I highly recommend it. The adults are with us for another few weeks.

Thursday 7 April 2022

Thursday 7th April

Slim pickings today, despite the better weather. Jeff had the Iceland gull still hanging on at Bruichladdich. Laura from RSPB had 3 WTE on the flats at Gruinart, 1 of them carrying off an unidentified meal. Elsewhere around Gruinart there were 2 chough, 3 hen harriers, 40 twite, and a measly 3 moths (1 hebrew character and 2 red chestnuts) in the first Heath trap of the year, though conditions were not exactly ideal. Mary sent through this cheerful picture from the prolific Billy Stitchell to brighten things up. 

Wednesday 6 April 2022

Wednesday 6th April

Ken Carruthers and Derek Coleman were out and about again today, unperturbed by the showers and stiff breeze. Derek had a 2CY Iceland gull and four sandwich terns at Bruichladdich, and about 1000 golden plover split into two flocks around Loch Gorm. Ken had a wheatear at Ardnave and chough at both Ardnave and Machir Bay, plus a cackling goose and a possible barnacle x canada hybrid at Ballitarsin. Ken apologises for the following photo - he clearly didn't see Mary's pics yesterday!!

 We also heard from Malcolm, who had four siskins on his feeders in Bruichladdich, and says "There seems to be a pattern here, whereby I don't get any throughout the winter, then a pair or two turn up in March/April for a week or two. Apart from trees in the garden, I'm not near any woodland, so why are they visiting me at all, and why just at this time of year? Nice wee birds, even though a puzzle"

Thanks to all the above for your sightings and comments.

Tuesday 5 April 2022

Tuesday 5th April

An absolutely disgusting day, but surprisingly a few decent sightings came in. Derek Coleman had at least two (and possibly as many as six) sandwich terns at Bruichladdich. Ken Carruthers had a sand martin and at least four house martins at Loch Skerrols, with both these being 2022 firsts for Islay, I think. One of the barnies Ken had at Ballitarsin on Monday was ringed white EKB, and Steve Percival reports this bird was ringed on The Oa in November 2019, but unusually has spent the last two winters on Tiree, before returning to Islay this winter. 

Mary's whooper swans from Sunday were still at Claddach Loch this morning. She also reports a "large sparrowhawk" hanging out at Claddach - the goshawk rumours start here!

In other news - Margaret is back from her travels. She had a male harrier over the newly planted trees at Foreland.  Welcome home Marge. 

I'll leave you with the pictures Mary sent in of her car door the whooper swans at Claddach. Thanks to her and all the above for their records today. 

Monday 4 April 2022

Monday 4th April

Rain, mist and fog all day. Visitor K Carruthers had 2 PB brents in amongst the barnies at Ballitarsin, and that was it. 

According to James's rain gauge, after getting deluged with 188mm of rain in February, we had a mere 38mm in March.

Sunday 3 April 2022

Sunday 3rd April

Before today's sightings, a quick mention that Peter's blog on Friday was the 5,000th posted to the Islay Birds site, almost all of them written by our much missed friend Ian Brooke, the Laird of Kilchoman himself. I know it's not the same now, but I hope he'd be absolutely chuffed that his blog has passed this milestone - it's also the 15 year anniversary on 1st May and we'll try and do something to mark that occasion. 

Anyhoo, on with the burds........and there aren't many to report today. Mary had 24 whoopers down at Claddach loch at lunchtime. At the Gruinart North Hide this morning there were a measly, paltry 6 white-tailed eagles. Barely worth a mention these days. 

Malcolm was in touch to say that more magpie sightings have been reported on the Islay facebook group, with single birds reported on Friday at both Bridgend and Kilnaughton Wood, so it could be there are two here.

In the afternoon a merlin was chasing a snipe around Gruinart Farm and then a strange wet substance started falling from the sky, and that pretty much did for any further sightings. 

Today's rain was the first proper for several weeks - knowing Islay it won't stop until July now!

Saturday 2 April 2022

Saturday 2nd April


There I was, hanging out my washing and watching the 10 imm. white-tailed eagles and 1 imm. golden eagle overhead and congratulating myself on being AMAZING at counting birds, only for James to get an absolutely ludicrous 17 WTE perched together on the low tide mud at Gruinart just a couple of hours later. Extraordinary scenes, and completely unprecedented on Islay as far as I know. The number of young WTEs appearing here has been a real feature of the past few winters, but the 2021-22 numbers have been astonishing. Maybe the bird flu in the barnacle flocks has attracted them with more easy meals than usual, maybe not. The number of breeding adults on the island doesn't seem to have changed, and adult birds are still relatively scarce at Gruinart. We presume these young birds will all very soon disperse along with the wintering wildfowl they have been chasing around these past few months, and we are going to have to wait and see what the long-term effect of bird flu is to both the barnacle goose and white-tailed eagle populations.

Anyway, I'm going to try and get through the rest of this post without mentioning WTEs. Peter stopped in at Loch Skerrols to check on the lesser scaup - no joy. Only a few tufties there today. Ken Reeves had an Iceland gull and a greenshank at Bowmore, 2 golden eagles plus 38 twite at Kinnabus, and a peacock butterfly at Lagavulin. In the afternoon, Ken had a slav grebe on Loch Indaal with good numbers of ducks and divers, before heading to Gruinart, where they saw 15 know the rest. 

That's yer lot, thanks to you all for reading and Ken, Peter and James for their sightings. 

Friday 1 April 2022

Friday 1st April

A slight change in the weather today as it becomes slightly colder and with a little rain and cloud - but still not too awful and a few more spring/summer birds arriving to give us an impression of warmer days to come.

Some late news for yesterday from Ken Reeves who saw a Barn Swallow at Easter Ellister, a Wheatear at Tormisdale and 3 Crossbills at Finlaggan. (I thought the Swallow was going to be the first for the year, but Jim Dickson, checking on the Birdguides website tells us there was one reported at Loch Gorm on 26th March by someone unknown).

Turning to today's highlights: David Dinsley sent in a report of a substantial flock of 56 Lesser Black-backed Gulls on Loch Kinnabus this morning.

Martin Armstrong, heading off the island for a short break this morning saw Islay's first Sandwich Tern of the year at Port Ellen. 

Derek Coleman emailed in the following "Purple spot on east side of Loch Gruinart produced 26 Bar-tailed Godwits, 60 Ringed Plover, 60 Sanderling, 10 Dunlin, 20 Turnstone, 1 Greenshank and a very disoriented Razorbill walking across the mud flats. Last night, there was a lonely looking Barnacle Goose in Bowmore Harbour. Would bird flu be a cause of these last two odd sightings".

I went to Bowmore this afternoon and can confirm that the "lonely looking" Barnacle Goose in Bowmore Harbour that Derek saw last night is now an "ex-Barnacle Goose" floating face-down on the tideline being tucked into by the 2cy Iceland Gull - so quite possibly another victim of bird flu?. On my way to Bowmore I stopped at Gartmain where several hundred Barnacle Geese were stood out on the flats along with the diminutive little Cackling Goose.