Thursday 30 June 2022

Thursday 30 June

 Last day of June, hard to believe! Local school holidays start at lunchtime tomorrow, after which there is chaos on Islay beaches for 6 weeks.

Billy was out at Kilchoman today and noted plenty of sand martins about, as well as rock pipit, meadow pipit, oystercatcher and mixed finch flocks.  As ever, thank you for sharing the photos.

Driving up to Claddach today, there was big numbers of mixed swallow, house and sand Martin at the loch as well as meadow pipit and skylark dust bathing on the road.

Last night James had a sighting of a dark-phase Arctic Skua, a little egret and a barn owl at Loch Gruinart.
This morning on the Oa, Dave W reported a large flock of 22 mistle thrush in woodland near his house.  ('woodland' is perhaps generous/optimistic term of trees on the windswept Oa). Gary reports of Osprey again near Ballygrant, and the rose coloured starling on the shore near the water treatment at Bowmore.

Thanks to all for their sightings.  


Wednesday 29 June 2022

Wednesday 29 June

 Billys photos today of an unfortunate blackbird with a likely life-shortening deformity. It has made it to fledgling and the parents are still feeding it, but I think it is unlikely to survive independently.

A much brighter day today, I saw pairs of chough at Ellister and Port Wemyss enjoying the change.  Elsewhere on the island Gary spotted 2 separate Ospreys in the Ballygrant area. While David D. noted 3 juvenile greenfinch, a male linnet, 4 twite, and a male reed bunting at The Oa RSPB carpark. 


Tuesday 28 June 2022

Tuesday 28 June


Couple of photos from Billy today from the Glen Road, presumably from the car.  For many it wasn't a day for doing much apart from seek cover from the heavy rain. However the late afternoon brightened up for a short time, here in the south anyway. And the evening has given way to an other beautiful sunset looking west. The wind is to drop away and the rain will ease through the week as we apparently head into July.  I'm certainly hoping so as I plan to get my sheep clipped at the weekend.

Not too much to report today, not too surprisingly.  But Gary did note that the rose coloured starling was still present in Bowmore.

Monday 27 June 2022

Monday 27th June

 Photo by Billy of a metal ringed common sandpiper in the Port Askaig area.  Sadly, unable to read the ring!  I'm still to hear back from my ringed oystercatcher at Claddach, however I am led to understand it was ringed as part of a larger project in Ireland.  Indeed in 2019 John Bowler wrote about Tirees' colour ringed oystercatchers, who appear to breed on Tiree but overwinter on Irelands' coast.  The one I saw was part of a family group with 2 fledged youngsters. Though flying, they cannot have come too far.

Also at Claddach this year I have seen my first lapwing chicks in over ten years. The soggy cloudy summer appears to suit the waders well.  Between the showers today the sun was shining enough to remind us it is June. 

This morning, a ring-tailed hen harrier was quartering the boggy area about Claddach Loch.  Over near the airport at the old runway, Shona-Isla spotted a male hen harrier.  Gary reported an adult great spotted woodpecker with a juvenile in flight towards the woods by Ballygrant Inn.


Sunday 26 June 2022

Sunday 26th June


Look who's back! Gary sent us this video (is this a first video for Islay Birds?! I think it might be?!) of a rose-coloured starling in a garden in Bowmore yesterday, apparently the same garden one was seen in two years ago, so I'm going to go ahead and wildly assume it's the same bird. Nice one Gary, thanks.

Mary had two swifts at Port Wemyss on Friday, whilst James gets extra points for reporting his swift on the day it happened, i.e today, at Gruinart. Double D had a bonxie over Kinnabus this afternoon so gets BOTD, as they need all the love they can get at the minute. 

Thanks to all. Mary back tomorrow!

Saturday 25 June 2022

Saturday 25th June

Nothing, not even a beetle to report today. Only the exciting news that Mary is back on the blog on Monday to keep us going.   

Friday 24 June 2022

Friday 24th June

Big news of the day is not a bird at all, Jess from RSPB finding another short-necked oil beetle at the north end of Islay. Short-necked oil beetles are now known to be on Coll, North Uist and Islay in Scotland. Whilst down in bandit country (Portnahaven) it was nice to see 30-40 arctic terns on and around MacKenzie Island, it's been a few years since I've seen them there. Elsewhere, Lauren had lots of belted beauty larvae at Ardnave, and Michal had a corncrake at Lossit, and kestrel and hen harrier at Kilchiaran. 

Graham and Barbara seem to have enjoyed their last full day on the island, with a gropper, ringtail HH and an adder at Loch Gruinart and a male HH on The Oa. Thanks very much to them and everyone else above for their records. 

Gordon Yates plays us out again with another great picture. Cheers Gordon. 

Thursday 23 June 2022

Thursday 23rd June

Late news from yesterday is that Double D had 2 short-eared owls at The Oa, check out his twitter page (@naturenortheast) for some nice footage of one of them. 

For today, visitors Graham and Barbara had the scoters at Easter Ellister plus 2 imm WTEs nearby. Lauren had a hen harrier and a singing blackcap on the reserve at Gruinart, while Jess from RSPB had northern colletes bees at 8 different locations at Ardnave this afternoon. Bee Of The Day to her.  

We finish with a fantastic picture from Gordon Yates of a whinchat reducing the (wood tiger?) moth population, thanks to him and everyone else that has contributed today. Tioraidh!


Wednesday 22 June 2022

Wednesday 22nd June

At some point I'll have to report the bleakness that is last night's corncrake numbers, but we'll start with the more cheerful stuff. Visitor Graham Baldry gives us a short-eared owl sighting for the second day in a row, this time from the Glen road and with a male hen harrier also seen. Graham also had a harrier on the high road. Thanks Graham!

James from RSPB had 5 grasshopper warblers reeling at Loch Gruinart last night, and today a bullfinch with 2 juvs and 2 whooper swans. Last night he also had 2 calling corncrakes at Gruinart, on the second island-wide count of the season. Despite the decent weather conditions it seems to have been a tough night. The Rhinns (from Bruichladdich down to Portnahaven), for so long one of the strongholds for corncrake on Islay, had just 4 calling males. 7 more were picked up around NW Islay, but I've not yet heard of any more from elsewhere around the island. Just 7 years ago we were over 100 calling males, so this is quite the decline.

So, for any visitors reading, here's a quick reminder of the website for reporting corncrake sightings (or hearings) to the birdy folk at RSPB. Every one counts these days!

RSPB Corncrake Calling

Tuesday 21 June 2022

Tuesday 21st June

Summer solstice today, and it will feel like a long day when we've finished counting corncrakes at 2am tonight, as it's round 2 of this year's crex surveys. A couple of good records today - Twitter sensation David Dinsley had a short-eared owl on The Oa, so gets BOTD. Hot Ed Burrell only narrowly misses out with his sighting of crossbills with young in Cornabus forestry. Very few confirmed breeding records for Islay, according to Malcolm. 

Visitor Graham chipped in with a male hen harrier and a pair of golden eagles at The Oa this afternoon, and that's yer lot, apart from this common darter near Saligo. 

Thanks to all the above for the sightings. 

Monday 20th June


Sorry for lack of entries, blame internet issues plus the summer sightings slump. Ken Reeves brightens the blog up today with a photo of the infamous Easter Ellister velvet scoter male. For the uninitiated, this is widely believed to be the legacy of an ornamental wildfowl collection at Ellister in the 1980s, so it must be a fair old age by now. No wonder it's asleep in the photo. It generally pairs up with a common scoter female every year, gets a few people excited and then does absolutely nothing, presumably just eating Werther's Originals and moaning about how things used to be better in the old days. 

Anyway, back in the real birds world, Hannah had a bonxie off of Kildalton feeding on a deal gull, and Mary had a colour ringed oystercatcher at Claddach. Details when we get them. If that doesn't keep you coming back, nothing will...

Sunday 19 June 2022

Saturday 18th June

 A decent day's weather - warm, sunny with just an occasional shower in the late afternoon/evening.

Still quiet for birds, but Ken Reeves is over again for a few days and saw the drake Velvet Scoter on the lochan at Easter Ellister that seems to be blessed with eternal life.

Friday 17 June 2022

Friday 17th June

Another fairly cool, cloudy, sometimes rainy day today. 

No birds to report other than a useful sighting by Val Peacock of a Great Spotted Woodpecker in the woodland surrounding Loch Skerrols, close to where she had discovered them nesting a year or two ago. Hopefully they are doing the same this year.

Thursday 16 June 2022

Thursday 16th June

While we were basking in warmth and sunshine a week or so ago, the south of England was cold, wet and windy. The tables have turned a little today as it was apparently the hottest day of the year in the south with temperatures approaching 30C, while a bit cool, and cloudy (but not that dreadful) here.

The only current bird news is that the Great White Egret is still with us, finding lots to feed on in the floods from the South Hide.

The RSPB kindly sent in the results of the breeding seabird survey that took place last week by boat around Snaigmore/Smaull. It doesn’t make for happy reading, with numbers greatly reduced. The first figure is the count for June this year (2022), the figure in ( ) was the figure for exactly the same area in June in 2000:

 Razorbill: 149  (523)

Guillemot: 88   (505)

Fulmar:  94   (237)

Kittiwake: 0  (167)


Wednesday 15 June 2022

Wednesday 15th June

 Cloudy, mild with a bit of light drizzle in the afternoon. 

After a few days of quiet, with few if any birds of note, Steven Muir saw a rarity (at least for Islay) today in the shape of a Magpie sat on the telegraph wires near the Celtic Crafts shop at Portnahaven. However, I doubt it will cause a huge influx of birders on a twitch ......

Tuesday 14 June 2022

Tuesday 14th June

A cool, cloudy drizzly sort of day. I came back to Islay today on the 6pm ferry out of Kennacraig which took an odd route sailing in very close between Gigha and its few skerries. The open sea was full of birds right the way across. Several tight groups of dozens of birds - Gannets, Greater & Lesser Black-backed, Herring Gulls, Kittiwakes, Guillemots, Razorbills and Manx Shearwaters - avidly feeding. Elsewhere along the route there were many more of the same scattered in small groups: hundreds of Guillemots, slightly fewer Razorbills; a good sprinkling of Gannets and Kittiwakes, about 150 or more Manx Shearwaters and even 3 Puffins.

No birding news actually on Islay today, but a photo from RSPB Lucy of a lizard seen on The Oa.

Monday 13 June 2022

Monday 13th June

The Great Sightings Drought of June 22 is over - Lucy from RSPB found the GW egret lurking on the Gruinart floods this morning and then Brian and Jill Holdsworth got in touch to give us some birds from the Saligo area - a corncrake, a group of chough, single dunlin and both male and female harriers. DJ MacPhee also reported a corncrake near Bruichladdich.

Lucy also had a siskin at Gruinart, plus this marsh fritillary. Thanks to all for the sightings. 

Sunday 12 June 2022

Sunday 12th June

Bleak times at the bird blog, with no sightings again and not even Peter's exciting daily weather report to fall back on. At Gruinart, the usual June stuff. The odd corncrake has started calling again after a week or so of quiet, but there seem to be very few around at the minute. Hen harriers are busy feeding young, newly fledged chough are following their parents about. There's been no further reports of the great white egret. 

Saturday 11th June


Friday 10 June 2022

Friday 10th June

Another day of blustery SSW winds, but sunnier with very little in the way of showers. It was also another day with no bird news to report.

 But today’s date is a somewhat sadly memorable one, being the first anniversary of the passing of our good friend and creator of this blog, Ian Brooke. I’m sure many of us on Islay and readers of this blog from further afield will be giving a little of their time to fondly remember Ian and to pass on good wishes in their thoughts to Ian’s wife Margaret.

Thursday 9 June 2022

Thursday 9th June

 Southerly breezes, cool, cloudy and fine drizzle at times has obviously put everyone off going birding today, so no bird news to report. 

Wednesday 8 June 2022

Wednesday 8th June

A change in the weather overnight to cooler, rainier and cloudier conditions, but still warm enough and with some bright sunny patches at times throughout the day.

James Donaldson saw a couple of Arctic Terns off Blackrock today. I took a quick look at the North Hide this afternoon and noted that the Gadwall and Ruff are still with us. The Ringed Plover and Dunlin tally there is down to 35 and 26 respectively. Still several Teal, Mallard, Lapwing, Redshank, Oystercatcher and Moorhen chicks present.

There is a welcome return of the Rochdale Birders (aka Gordon and Pauline Yates) who were obviously happy to be back on Islay for the umpteenth time: 

Where else but Islay could you go out and see 2 Golden Eagles, 2 Sea Eagles, 2 hunting male Hen Harriers, one big female Sparrowhawk, a Great White Egret and one male Great Spotted Woodpecker all before 11am!! Super sunshine and at least 12 Marsh Fritillaries at Gearach with a pair of Shelduck at Bruichladdich with 12 young!

James How sent in these far better photos of the Great Egret taken on Monday.

Tuesday 7 June 2022

Tuesday 7th June

The RSPB did a survey by fast boat setting out from Port Askaig (courtesy of Gus Newman at Islay Seaventures) of breeding seabirds along the cliffs from Saligo to Smaull this morning There were plenty of Razorbills, Guillemots, Shags and Fulmars but no Kittiwakes. Whether the numbers counted reflect an increase, decrease or status quo we wait to find out once numbers are fully tallied (though the total lack of Kittiwakes is a definite decrease as the former small colony there has completely gone now). Other birds noted on the journey were Golden Eagle and Peregrine plus a Great Northern Diver at sea between Islay and Colonsay. On Nave Island it was a surprise to see a flock of 60 Bar-tailed Godwits and 15 Knot.

Back on land the Great Egret was showing well from the North Hide at Gruinart this afternoon (another digi-scoped image below) and there were 2 Swifts seen by Mark Shields over Ballinaby.

Monday 6 June 2022

Monday 6th June

Dry again today, but cooler with more cloud.

There was a belated report of an immature/male Marsh Harrier over the reed-bed at Machir Bay on Saturday seen by a visiting birder.

James how reported the Great Egret  on the Flats at Gruinart this morning. I popped in to the North hide at Gruinart this afternoon seeing the same male Ruff that has been present for a couple of days now. Also present was a drake Gadwall, 3 Black-tailed Godwits, and the usual lame Barnacle Goose accompanied by the drake Wigeon. Plenty of young birds about too - chicks of Oystercatcher, Redshank, Lapwing, Teal,  Mallard, Mute Swan and Black-headed Gull.

Down on The Oa, David Dinsley spotted two Spotted Flycatchers at Kinnabus.


Sunday 5 June 2022

Sunday 5th June

Bright and sunny again today with a little more cloud and breeze at times, but still very much like summer.

Not much to report on the bird front. David Dinsley had been up to Ardnave and saw a pair of Great Skuas on Nave Island and a couple of Little Terns close to shore at Ardnave.

I checked the hides at Gruinart in the afternoon and found the male Ruff still present. The sub-adult White-tailed Eagle passed by causing the usual upset and I saw my first Teal ducklings of the season.

Saturday 4 June 2022

Saturday 4th June

Superb weather again today – barely a cloud in the sky, warm, sunny and a light breeze at times – but still possibly the hottest day this year?

Up at Kilchoman Margaret Brooke sent in a note of some fascinating Chough behaviour she witnessed today: “Just had a great encounter with 2 Chough chasing a stoat between the house and church wall. The Chough who were very cross landed on the ground just outside my door. As the top half of the door was open I went to see why they were on the ground and saw the stoat hiding under my post box. When it ran out they chased it along the path out to the road”

There was a sub-adult White-tailed Eagle sat on the sand at the top of Loch Gruinart at lunchtime, which eventually flew off in the direction of Gortantaoid where a Golden Eagle was circling high.

At the North Hide this afternoon a white-ruffed male Ruff was new in and a pleasant surprise. The slowly drying out floods there are exposing more mud and presumably providing lots of worms and wigglies for the ever-present Dunlin and Ringed Plovers to feed on: There were 124 Dunlin and 66 Ringed Plover today.

The “mystery egret” of yesterday was relocated at the South hide in the late afternoon and is a mystery no more. After a long period of sitting with its head tucked under its wings, it showed good views of the head and bill colour, stretched an enormously long neck and flew off showing its legs at last – definitely a Great Egret in breeding plumage and possibly the same bird that was reported on Mull two days ago. Below is a truly awful digi-scoped attempt of a photo: not much good but “better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick”.

Friday 3 June 2022

Friday 3rd June

A splendid day today – the weather was bright, warm, sunny and dry and there were 1-2 interesting birds seen.

Mary Redman had a Swift over her house at Port Wemyss this morning – that is the first seen on Islay this year.

Over at Cornabus Ed Burrell saw a Stock Dove on some reseed grass – again the first of 2022.

The 9 Black-tailed Godwits are still feeding in exactly the same little pool by the north Hide today from where I saw my first Black-headed Gull chicks of the season.

Out from the South hide viewpoint was an egret. It was a long way off in a heat haze, thigh deep in vegetation so I couldn’t see its legs. There was nothing anywhere near to gain a size comparison. One minute it looked large with a heavy bill and I was turning it into a Great Egret. Next it turned its head and looked quite slim, so I went back to Little Egret! I watched it for an hour and it barely moved! Nothing was right for either species: it had lots of fine body plumes like a breeding Great but not a trace of the characteristic head plumes of a breeding Little Egret. The bill was “wrong” for both species - dark grey above, a bit paler (yellowish?) on the lower mandible at the base. At times the bill looked heavy and with a “jowl” - but it was a long way off.. As is so often the case,, eve n with an ID as simple as this, the literature leaves you scratching your head in bewilderment! Do Little Egrets have such a lot of body plumes as this bird – especially without showing a trace of the head plumes? Nothing online could tell me. Information about bill colour is all over the place – the emphasis being on the very obvious that we all know - "Little Egrets have black bills and Great Egrets have yellow bills" – but of course it is not that simple and the variations not adequately explained. Look out for it tomorrow and hope it is A) half a mile closer; B) shows its legs and feet and C) is standing next to something to work out what its true size is.

Thursday 2 June 2022

Thursday 2nd June

Another fine, sunny, dry day with just a light breeze.

Fiona McGillivray reported a Barnacle Goose yesterday evening on the sea by the Old school at Gortan. So that makes two Barnies not making it home to Greenland this summer as the other one still lingers off RSPB Gruinart’s North Hide.

Other late news from yesterday was an Osprey observed by visiting birders out on Loch Gruinart which was seen again today by Lucy from RSPB whilst walking the Moorland Trail.

Today up at Kilchoman, Margaret Brooke notes a Cuckoo calling up behind Kilchoman and a female Hen Harrier seen at Culbuie on her way to supply RSPB Gruinart with their regular Thursday fix of homemade cakes and biscuits.

I did my usual check of the two hides at Gruinart this afternoon. New in were a group of 9 Black-tailed Godwits from the North Hide where there was much activity from about 95 Dunlin and 35 Ringed Plover. Despite a low tide exposing vast acres of mud and sand across Loch Gruinart, there must be rich pickings on the floods as the water level drops to attract these birds in. Here too were Oystercatcher, Lapwing and Redshank chicks and my first sightings of Shoveler ducklings for this year. A female Bullfinch was seen along the Woodland Trail.

Wednesday 1 June 2022

Wednesday 1st June

A gorgeous day’s weather - sunny, warm and calm – a great start to June. But James How sent in the measurements from his rainfall gauge indicating a wet May with a reading of 90mm this year compared to 40mm last year.

 James had seen a Golden Eagle this morning at Gruinart being mobbed by 2 Hen Harriers.

 I did a walk at Loch Skerrols this afternoon and again failed to come across any sign of Great Spotted Woodpeckers – they don’t seem to be so obvious this year and I’ve not had many reports at all of birds in the usual places where they’ve been cropping up and breeding in recent years. Let me know if you’ve been seeing them……….

 A later look at the hides at Gruinart confirms we are approaching the quiet midsummer period. A couple of Black-tailed Godwits are still at the North Hide and the lame duo of Whooper Swan and Barnacle Goose still survive.

 George Jackson sent in a note concerning a new interactive Eurasian/African Migration Atlas from the BTO. It is all good and exciting stuff – take a look at it: Eurasian-African Migration Atlas . However, Islay seems to appear briefly, but rapidly disappears off the face of the earth as you zoom into to the interactive species maps. Jura remains to the east and Colonsay to the north but Islay sinks into the Atlantic!