Friday 29 July 2022

Friday 29th July

Sightings still very few and far between, but there are definite signs of the seasons changing. A heavy dew around the moth traps this morning, the hazelnuts are growing, and flocks of greylags are starting to assemble in the in-bye fields. Winter starts after the Islay Show, according to the local legend. So we have two weeks to go then!

Lauren had 2 greenshanks at Loch Gorm yesterday, whilst Laura had a WTE, a hen harrier and several buzzards on the weekly guided walk at RSPB Loch Gruinart.

Wednesday 27 July 2022

Tuesday 26th July

James reports 630 dunlin on Loch Gruinart yesterday (Monday 25th). This tired looking Tachina grossa was on the moorland trail at the reserve today. 

Thursday 21 July 2022

Thursday 21 July

 An other pleasant day here on Islay, not too hot so won't complain!  I've been busy topping thistles most evenings, a job I've put off until the waders left the fields. It appeared that the lapwing, redshank and oystercatcher used the thistles as safe cover so I was loath to tackle them too soon.  However this backfired slightly as it was quite a task! Especially without a tractor. 

This morning at Claddach Loch there was a pair of white-tailed eagles.  This evening I went to check on them again, and this time spotted a fledgling with them! Only one as far as I could see but I will keep an eye out for them tomorrow.

Going into late summer, bird sightings always quieten down.  As such many a birder then turns to their back up hobby of moth trapping. Below is a photo which will appeal to some readers!

A clouded magpie, found by Billy who is proof that it pays to take your camera everywhere!  Malcolm says "fairly widespread in England and Wales, but only occurs in the SW of Scotland, with Argyll being its furthest North."  A first record for Islay. Well done Billy!


Wednesday 20 July 2022

Mon 18/Tues 19/Wed 20

 Bit of a catch up blog today! Series of events coupled with my bad memory.

Monday was a hot day here at last, everyone was out enjoying the summer.  Karen Graham spotted 2 hen harrier, one at Ardnave and the other near Kilchoman.  

On Tuesday, Karen noted an Osprey over the Lily Loch, while Gary had a great spotted woodpecker in the woods beside his house at Ballygrant. 

Over the weekend at Tormisdale there were a total of 11 chough between the croft and Carn Farm.

Dead Sea birds continue to be collected by the local beach rangers in their hundreds, sadly.  

Todays photo of a happily alive black guillemot taken off Caol Ila at the weekend by Billy.


Friday 15 July 2022

Friday 15 July

 Half way through July already, where is the summer going? 

Yet more reports of dead and dying birds on Islays beaches.  Very sad to encounter, lets hope it doesn't last too long.  

Advice copied from the Machrihanish Bird Observatory FB page:

* Keep to footpaths

* Keep dogs on leads

* Do not pick up or tough dead or sick wild birds

* Do not touch wild bird feathers or surfaces contaminated with wild bird droppings.

* If you keep poultry or other birds, wash your hands and lean and disinfect your footwear beef  tending to your birds.

* Please report dead wild waterfowl (swans, geese or ducks or other wild birds such as gulls or birds of prey) to DEFRA's GB helpline 03459 335577

Thursday 14 July 2022

Thursday 14 July


David D took this photo of a juvenile cuckoo near the Oa carpark. Instinct is an incredible thing, to be raised by meadow pipits but to 'know' they are cuckoo; to migrate and go onto lay their eggs in other birds nest without any of it learned from a parent...amazing!  When I was young, my parents hatched some ducklings from under a hen. She was most distressed when they leapt into water every chance they got, the instinct too strong to ignore. The same cannot be said for the chickens hatched out under a duck. 

 This evening at Claddach, a peregrine was being seen off by resident gulls. Similarly this morning a buzzard was being mobbed by a pair of herring gulls. A pair of lapwing were in the fields near the house.  out at the gulls, wheatear, rock pipit, meadow pipit, greylag geese, and gannet off shore. 

The unavoidable subject of avian flu is on everyones minds. The local charity 'Islay Development Initiative' among many things, clean the beaches. Today from just around a quarter of the The Big Strand they collected 168 birds (mainly guilliemots).  As ever the advice is do not touch or intervene. Report any suspected cases to DEFRA 03459 335577.


Weds 13 July


David Livingstone sent in this lovely photo of a pair of blackheaded gulls.  

There have been more dead and dying birds around Islay over the past few days, Machir Bay appears the worst but Kintra (The Big Strand) hasn't been spared.  The advice remains the same, do not touch.  SSPCA have released a press release to say they will not take in any bird casualties for the time being to avoid bringing bird flu into their centres.


Monday 11 July 2022

Monday 11 July

 Today on Islay we enjoyed more cloud cover, mild temperatures and a good wind all day. I would complain, being July, however after watching the news with 'extreme hot weather warnings' across parts of the UK, I'll count my blessings.  

Not much in the way of sightings submitted today, though Michal reported swifts at both Kilchoman and Kilchiaran.  Sadly there have been further reports locally of more dead seabirds washing ashore on Jura and Islay.  

Todays photos of the active gannets in the Sound of Islay (Billy Stitchell) taken yesterday.


Sunday 10 July 2022

Sunday 10th July

Thank goodness for David Dinsley, who keeps us going today with a minke whale seen from The Oa footpath, 2 swifts at Upper Killeyan and then 3 more swifts over Kinnabus a few hours later. Everyone else was too busy eating ice creams on what was probably one of the hottest days of the year so far on Islay.

Here's the adult that was with the young curlew at the Machrie yesterday, courtesy of David Livingstone. Thanks to the two Davids. 

Saturday 9 July 2022

Saturday 9th July

The awful news today is that AI/bird flu has been confirmed on Rathlin Island, off the NE coast of Northern Ireland. It seems probable that some or all of the birds appearing on Kintyre and Islay west-facing beaches recently have come from Rathlin, though we still await the results of the AI testing carried out by Nature Scot staff here earlier this week. A reminder to anyone not already aware to please report any dead birds to DEFRA on 03459 335577, and not to touch any you find sick or dead.

Mary had a family of wagtails and lots of apparently healthy gannets flying past at Claddach.

A great pic of a young curlew on the Machrie road today from David Livingstone to finish with. Thanks David.

Thursday 7 July 2022

Thursday 7 July

 Cant speak for the whole island but certainly here on the south of the Rhinns, the heavy mist didn't lift all day.  Though it was warm.

Reports continue from Kintyre and Islay of several sick or dead birds along the coastline.  Nature Scot have gathered some to be sent away for confirmation of avian flu.

It does seem to be mainly guillemot at this stage. Difficult though it is to walk away, the advise is to not touch dying or dead seabirds but to report them to APHA.  See the government guidance by copying the following link into your browser:

At Claddach today whilst I was moving my cows, I heard chough through the mist in the direction of the beach.  The ringed Oystercatcher adult was in the field with its youngster. Sadly the adult has wool wrapped between its two legs, hopefully this will work itself loose as it didn't look tight.  The lapwing chick lives! And is finding good cover among the thistles it seems.  Down in Portnahaven this evening 2 grasshopper warblers were reeling.


Wednesday 6 July 2022

Weds 6 July

Ring-tailed hen harrier over Keills yesterday, clinging tightly to its lunch! Thanks Billy as always for the photo.

An other autumns day in summer today, although it was warmer for sure the wind just didn't let up all day. Just beyond the lighthouse island Orsay over a dozen gannet were flying close to the waves.  The Arctic terns are still very active and noisy and a smaller group of 8 or so came over the 'wee beach' in Port Wemyss to check us out. Something else I have noticed at Claddach is the resident gull colony are more frantic in their morning hunt for scraps. A tradition at the croft that has gone on for decades, I still throw them a couple heels of bread when I have it. Often it is just a couple of herring gulls and maybe 4 common gull at most. But the gulls are waiting for me lately and 'begging' for the food.  I've not known them so hungry before.

Alan kindly added their highlights from yesterday: On the RSPB guided walk on The Oa, 2 golden eagle, 5+twite, 2 wheatear, 2 black guillemot.  Dunyveig Castle, 2 rock pipit. Bruichladdich from the cottage window one curlew, one common sandpiper, one ringed plover and 3 black guillemot.


Tuesday 5 July 2022

Tuesday 5 July

Tuesday brings us some sad news in the form of bird flu having apparently reached our shores.  We had a barnacle goose with a positive result back in February but no suspicious deaths since. However, today was a report of a number of guilliemot washed up dead on Machir Bay, and apparently Kintra too.  

Mark Shields writes: I had a couple of reports of dead birds at Machir Bay, two estimates between 10 and 15 on the southern half of the beach. I went this morning and found 4 pretty quickly, so have reported to DEFRA. All were adult guillemots and all were fairly recently dead. It’s not uncommon to find guillemot ‘wrecks’, and there’s a variety of possible reasons, but with the current bird flu spread it’s worth reporting anything similar to DEFRA on 03459 335577. More info at the link below. Advice remains to not touch any sick or dying birds, and to keep dogs on leads.

Sadly there wasn't much other sightings reported today were other dead seabirds as a result of this sobering news. Apart from a crossbill over the Dower House, as seen by Mary-Ann and a curlew up at Claddach this evening. First for a while.


Monday 4 July 2022

Monday 4 July

Well, what a lovely start to September we are enjoying in July! Still, I suppose we can't complain when we see the state of other corners of the world.  In short it was a rubbish day.  I nearly stumbled upon an eider duck near Port Wemyss, obviously a bit poorly given its movements.  On the nearby Lighthouse Island of Orsay, the Arctic Tern colony were making a huge commotion. From a distance there looked to be around 40 in the air.  Up at Claddach yesterday, a common sandpiper took the time to fly up from the beach to the house, where it sat atop a fence post alarm calling at me.  Despite the distance it evidently thought I was too close!  Also a pair of chough flying over my inby fields towards the loch, perhaps going up for a drink.

Billy was out on one of his hikes, this time to Loch Nam Ban, near Ardnahoe. He sent in some lovely images of a grey wagtail and a whinchat which I have shared with you here.

Alan is over with his partner this week and has shared his first day's highlights. Kilchoman Church, one chough, 2 twite, 5 raven. Kilchoman Distillery, one twite. Bruichladdich, one red-breasted merganser, one black guillemot.  Many thanks.

Ed reports of a sad Greenland Whitefront goose at Cornabus.  

Sightings are thin on the ground, but it not because of the lack of activity, simply a cause of lack of time for the local birders.  We are well into the summer season, despite my weather reports!  So any and all sightings from visitors are always a welcome addition.


Saturday 2 July 2022

Saturday 2nd July

Hee-haw to report today, other than a hunting barn owl and a little egret, both at Loch Gruinart. Neither of which would pose for a photo 30cm away, so you'll have to make do with this late instar forest bug/red-legged shield bug at Gruinart the other day...

...which will eventually turn into this guy...

Friday 1 July 2022

Friday July 1

 Pinch and a punch for the first of the month! A generally nice day and decent start to the month.  A little chill come the evening though reminding us not to get too carried away, and a damp weekend ahead to dampen my optimism for shearing.

Out walking along the coastline here on the Rhinns, it was nice to see the gannets in their steady numbers going north and south between fishing grounds and Ailsa Craig. Especially given the devastation bird flu is causing in other bird colonies such as the gannet colony on Bass Rock, and in the skua population on St Kilda.

James reported this years rainfall figure for June as 75mm, 15mm up from same time last year.