Friday 30 September 2022

Friday 30th September

Very different weather today. Strong westerlies and heavy rain overnight and into the  morning, gradually eased off into a slightly sunnier, blustery afternoon, but deteriorated again into squalls by evening.

A visit to the N. Hide in late afternoon was fairly uneventful, though after the heavy rain there was a lot more standing water. This had attracted more birds in: Teal had increased to 138 and brought with them 7 Wigeon and 8 Mallard. There were 45 Lapwings and a lone Golden Plover actively feeding along with hundreds of Starlings that weren’t there yesterday. The 3 Black-tailed Godwits that were there yesterday were still there today. 14 Curlews was an increase over recent numbers. Other than that there were 2 Carrion Crows with the Hoodies and a lost Gannet flew right up to the end of the Loch and sensibly turned round and went back out towards the sea again.

Thursday 29 September 2022

Thursday 29th September

A change for the better in the weather today - sunny, dry, warm and fairly calm - a real treat to be out.

Some records in from Steve & Lyn Rogers who are very welcome new resident birders on Islay: on Monday 26th they saw an Osprey from the S. Hide and had a count of 140 Shags in Kilnaughton Bay, where they saw 4 Red-throated Divers the next day along with 2 White-tailed Eagles over their garden at Emerivale, Port Ellen. Today they had 3 Redwing in their garden. 

Ed Burrel down at Cornabus on The Oa also had a small flock of Redwings today - both sightings being the first of autumn. Ed also notes a single Twite at Cornabus today.

I was out this morning, first on the Kilinallan side of Gruinart where I counted 254 Curlew. Then on to Loch Gruinart where they were another 102, so a total of 356 birds. At Blackrock on a calm sea there were 62 Common Scoter, 67 Red-breasted Mergansers and 4 Red-throated Divers. Further up towards Gartmain a further 24 Red-breasted Mergansers made the grand total 91, plus single Greenshank and 421 Wigeon.

A mid-afternoon check of Loch Skerrols was less interesting: 49 Teal and 22 Mallard being about it.

On the way home I noticed 3 Whooper Swans on Gruinart and Lucy RSPB had a group 0f 40 Barnacle Geese there later on.

Wednesday 28 September 2022

Wednesday 28th September

A sunnier, dry day, but the NW winds keep blowing. The Barnacle Goose "trickle" has dried up - no birds at all today. I wandered down to the N. Hide this afternoon and it was a case of "same old - same old" . But the sun was shining and I reflected that I could be 10 storeys up in a city tower-block somewhere. Here I was watching a wonderfully close adult White-tailed Eagle pass by. Then an immature Golden Eagle wandered through, followed by another hunting. A female Hen Harrier and a couple of Buzzards spooked the "same old" 50 Teal and a Peregrine zoomed by. Meanwhile 6 Whooper Swans were catching up on their sleep on the flats after presumably flying all the way from Iceland. Closer to hand in front of the hide a steady stream of Meadow Pipits passed overhead and a trio of Black-tailed Godwits fed with half a dozen Curlew and 5 Roe Deer and several Brown Hares: not such a bad day on reflection!

Added to that Mark reports 2 more WTE, single Grey Wagtail and Whimbrel and 38 Golden Plover. 

Tuesday 27 September 2022

Tuesday 27th September

 Another chilly, blustery day with squally showers from a fairly brisk NW wind. 

The Barnacle Geese continue to trickle in, with 52 in a flock on Loch Gruinart this afternoon. Gary T. had been watching on Loch Indaal and reports 6 Brent Geese with the Greylags at the Gaelic College, 2 adult White-tailed Eagles scavenging from the gulls near Bridgend where a Peregrine was chasing the waders.

Monday 26 September 2022

Monday 26th September

Yesterday's lone Barnacle Goose was indeed a harbinger of winter as a further 18 were seen in Loch Gruinart at lunchtime by James How. Other indicators of summer being over were a couple of Scaup at Uiskentuie this afternoon and 6 Whooper Swans noted by James (along with a dark phase Arctic Skua) at Loch Gruinart later, capped off by 250 Pink-footed Geese seen flying over by Ed Burrell this evening.

With continuing quite blustery, showery weather with winds from the north and west forecast for the next few days we may see more northerly migrants coming our way with a good tail wind?

Sunday 25 September 2022

Sunday 25th September

I forgot to mention for yesterday that Gary had seen an adult and young Red-throated Diver close inshore at Uiskentuie .

Today it was cool, grey, cloudy, blustery, with quite strong winds from the north and west with drizzle and rain. Not very nice and not much to report from the bird front. However, Mark did see a single Barnacle Goose with a handful of Greylags at Loch Gruinart - possible/probably the first arrival of the impending winter? Otherwise the "usual" couple of Hen Harriers and a White-tailed Eagle from the North Hide this afternoon.

Saturday 24 September 2022

Saturday 24th September

Some rain overnight, but a mostly bright, sunny day with moderate northerly winds.

Following my mention yesterday of over 800 Greylags at Gruinart, Louise Muir sent in a note to say she'd had 1,500 at Bridgend today.

The only other bird news came from David Dinsley who saw a Corncrake near Kildalton. He comments that it is an odd location - flushed from dense bracken. It is also an odd date - a quick look at the records, spanning back to the 1970s and there are just ten September records for the species on Islay, the latest on 29th and this equal to the other latest September sighting. (There have also been three October records up to the 5th). But who knows how long such a secretive species may linger here after they've stopped breeding and calling?  

Friday 23rd September

An hour in the North Hide this afternoon produced a few interesting sights. Thee was a huge gathering of Greylag Geese that I started to count. Shortly after reaching 800, with more to go, an immature White-tailed Eagle flew in and put the whole lot up. After that, about 50 Greylags walked very cautiously back down the tideline on a rising tide towards the eagle sat on the water's edge. They got to within about 4-5 metres of it at which point the eagle was getting its feet wet, flew off and scared the whole Greylag flock again.

Apart from that there were 3 Black-tailed Godwits on the floods along with 58 Teal and a Carrion Crow. On the opposite side of the loch there was a flock of 180 Lapwings plus 2 Hen Harriers cruising by. Coming in from the north and  mostly passing straight through was a total of 70 Brent Geese - a single Whimbrel accompanying one of the larger flocks.

Elsewhere, David Wood reports a single Whimbrel on The Oa this morning.

Friday 23 September 2022

Thursday 22nd September

George Jackson had a cacophony of birds in his garden at Coultorsay with 12-15 Song thrush, 6 Blackbirds and 3 Bullfinches among other finches visiting. Down at north hide at Loch Gruinart Peter Roberts saw 2 Black-tailed Godwits and a Whimbrel flying over.

On the morning's guided walk at Loch Gruinart we witnessed a Pied Wagtail making a close escape from a speedy Sparrowhawk!

Thursday 22 September 2022

Wednesday 21st September

Wednesday seems to be the day for eagles! Mary-Ann Featherstone had two White-tailed Eagles at Cnoc Bay and Liam Price had two flying low past Carraig Fhada lighthouse whilst he was buttering his morning toast! 

Nigel and Nikki visiting from Chesterfield saw two Golden Eagles over Nave Island after a quiet morning at Gruinart. Up at Ardnave they also spotted 12 Chough, a male Hen Harrier and a mix of waders including Sanderlings scuttling along the tide lines, as well as a number of Snipe on their walk back to the farm. 

Mary-Ann also had 16 Red-breasted Merganser at Cnoc Bay and Liam had his first sighting of 3 Slavonian Grebes in their winter plumage by Carraig Fhada lighthouse on Monday evening.

Thanks all

Wednesday 21 September 2022

Tuesday 20th September

 Some late reportings from yesterday with Patrick Cavannagh flushing a green sandpiper from a pool by a track to Mulindry.

Down at the Oa, I had an adult white-tailed eagle and a sparrowhawk near the car park, with five chough and five ravens flying by the American Monument. Not sure whether to take that as a good or bad omen!

Tuesday 20 September 2022

Monday 19th September

Mary-Ann Featherstone had a redshank down at Cnoc Bay mid-morning. Down at Port Wemyss Mary Redman spotted an immature white-tailed eagle, as well as two chough at Currie sands which she's been seeing regularly, and a wheatear at Claddach. There was a very large flock of 1155 greylags and a peregrine on the low tide mud at Loch Gruinart.

And Paula and Will who have been regular visitors to Islay for the last 20 years, saw a pair of golden eagles and a merlin down at the Oa, and had a great northern diver at Claggain Bay.

Monday 19 September 2022

Sunday 18th September

No sightings for today, but word of 3 dead gannets at Machir Bay, and a sick young one on the Flats at Gruinart is a reminder to continue to be mindful of bird flu, not to touch sick or dead birds and to report to DEFRA on 03459 33 55 77

Sunday 18 September 2022

Saturday 17th September

Dave Wood had 10 brent geese on Loch Indaal at Bowmore, the first I've heard of on Islay this autumn. Certainly it was a quieter day for pink-feet, the constant skeins of the past few days were absent at Gruinart, anyway. There were 6 knot on the loch itself. 

Mary-Ann had 15+ long-tailed tits at Kildalton, and Glen Morrison reported a male hen harrier near Kintra. 

Thanks to all for your sightings

Saturday 17 September 2022

Friday 16th September

The main news for Friday is David Wood's extraordinary sighting of a corncrake at Kinnabus at The Oa. 

Elsewhere, the pink-feet continued to move, with at least 240 heading SE high over Loch Gruinart, most in groups of 20-30. David Dinsley also had 27 going over Kinnabus.

Friday 16 September 2022

Thursday 15th September

Pink-footed geese sightings were coming in thick and fast today. At Gruinart, James saw 54 land on the loch, and Fiona was watching a skein of 60 fly over Port Charlotte. The pink-footed pilgrimage was not only observed on Islay, but at locations all along the west coast: "hundreds" of the birds were sighted over Ardnamurchan and the South Lakes (reported by Neil McMahon and Teresa Morris, respectively), while 705 were reported by Peter over North Uist. Autumn has most definitely arrived. 

Other sightings today include 14 black-tailed godwits on Loch Gruinart seen by James, and two white-tailed eagles over Easter Ellister seen by Fiona.

(Blog edited to remove a zero from Peter's goose sighting!)

Thursday 15 September 2022

Wednesday 14th September

 More pink-footed geese were on the move today: Louise reported 65 flying over Craighouse on Jura, and at Gruinart Mark spotted a skein of 29 making their way south-east.

In other news, James was watching an osprey at Loch Gruinart.

Wednesday 14 September 2022

Tuesday 13th September

Yesterday was another busy day on the birding front at Loch Gruinart, with James reporting eight curlew sandpipers, two little stints, ten knot, 12 black-tailed godwits and two peregrines, and Mark reporting a flock of 20 snipe. 25 pink-footed geese were also sighted flying over Loch Gruinart from the north-west.

Down at Port Wemyss, Mary spotted a whitethroat and a male hen harrier, as well as two chough on Currie Sands (on Monday).

Over at Ballivicar, Ed saw a marsh harrier, while down at The Oa, David D was watching no fewer than 31 twite on the feeders in the RSPB car park.

But yesterday's most unusual - and most enigmatic - sighting has got to be that of a Sabine's Gull glimpsed from the Kennacraig-Islay ferry by an unnamed source.

Monday 12 September 2022

Monday 12th September

 A day of changeable weather: dry and fairly sunny in the morning gradually giving way to cloud and occasional light rain in the evening.

Not much bird news, though James has been watching on Loch Gruinart this evening and found 5 Curlew Sandpipers and a Peregrine.

Jim kindly sent in some information on a colour-ringed Dunlin he'd seen on his visit last week. It had been ringed in late August 2018 as a juvenile at Ynyslas National Nature Reserve in Wales.

Sunday 11 September 2022

Sunday 11th September

A distinct change in the weather today, becoming progressively cooler, windier, breezier and wetter as the day progressed.

The weather (and it being Sunday - a day of rest) has resulted in there being no bird sightings to report. However, David Livingstone kindly forwarded this great photo of a Buzzard sat on a telegraph pole taken yesterday evening to brighten the day's blog.

Saturday 10 September 2022

Saturday 10th September

 A quite hot, calm, sunny and dry day.

Jim Dickson managed a bit of birding before heading for home on the afternoon ferry. A wander at Foreland produced a couple of Bullfinches, plus Goldcrests, Treecreeper, Blue, Great & Coal Tits. Nearby at Sunderland was a flock of 220 Linnets. Loch Gorm held 56 Mallard and down at the floods by the Parking area at Machair Bay he found a Spotted Redshank, 2 Ruff and 2 Black-tailed Godwits (see photo below). Finishing up with a look at Loch Skerrols he noted a single  Moorhen and Tufted Duck.. Many thanks Jim for all your observations this past week - Haste Ye Back..............

Elsewhere, David Livingstone was out on the golf course at the Machrie and took this photo of a Hen Harrier passing by.

Friday 9 September 2022

Friday 9th September

Dry, mostly sunny, quite warm and continuing southerly / easterly light winds.

Jim Dickson’s final full day on Islay produced further good sightings: 2 White-tailed Eagles and a Little Egret on Loch Indaal near Bridgend in the morning (also seen by Gary T. a couple of hours later) and a single Barnacle Goose at the top of Loch Gruinart – presumably the lone bird that has been popping up occasionally all summer? Further searching on Gruinart in the morning produced 10 Curlew Sandpipers, 4 Greenshank, a Grey Plover and another White-tailed Eagle at a similar time to another eagle being watched at Ballygrant by Gary. Back at Gruinart this afternoon, I joined Jim to watch the waders as the tide rose. There were masses of Curlews, Dunlin, Br-tailed Godwits and Oystercatchers and hidden away within the flocks a couple of Curlew Sandpipers, 2 Little Stint and 2 Black-tailed Godwits. Out on the flats were 45 Wigeon and 6 Pintail. 2 Peregrines (one young bird and an adult) were causing mayhem, but catching nothing. Around the edges of the saltmarsh alba Wagtails were still much in evidence, with about 30 counted at the head of the loch.

(Yesterday there was a complete island count of Greylag Geese which produced a very high total of over 3,200 – plenty for the Eagles to eat this winter!)

Thursday 8 September 2022

Thursday 8th September

 A much cloudier, muggy sort of warm day with lighter winds and very little rain. There were a number of folks out birding - Jim Dickson, Graham Cundall, Mary Redman, James How, Gary Turnbull, Hannah Stanger and David Dinsley all contributing some interesting sightings:

Wheatears were again much in evidence: 6 @ Port Wemyss, 8 @ Carabus including large Greenland birds (see photo below).

In Loch Indaal Jim found the first of the autumn's Slavonian Grebes - 3 including a summer-plumaged bird along with 43 Eiders, 164 Wigeon, a Little Egret, a summer-plumaged Grey Plover, 2 Greenshanks, 131 Bar-tailed Godwits, 41 Knot, a Pintail and 38 Red-breasted Mergansers. (I had a summer-plumaged Red-throated Diver there later in the day).

White-tailed Eagles were popping up all over the place: 2 at Carrabus and one heading off with a rabbit in its talons (see photo below). Hannah saw another two young birds on Texa (photo below) and Graham saw another at Machair Bay..

Loch Gruinart produced a good variety: Jim had 12 Curlew Sandpipers, a Little Stint and 5 Golden Plovers, a Spotted Flycatcher, 8 Siskins,

160 Linnet and a Lesser Redpoll on the Craigens side. Later he counted 130 Black-headed Gulls, 3 Pintail and the 2 White-tailed Eagles again. James upped the autumn Black-tailed Godwit tally to 30 seen from the viewing platform.

Elsewhere, Jim counted  63 Tufted Duck on Loch Gorm; Gary saw an Osprey passing the ferry by Gigha and Mary had a Grey Wagtail at Nerabus. Graham reporting from Machair Bay had the 2 Ruff again on the flood along with 2 Bar-tailed Godwits and then 23 Sanderling, 5 Ringed Plover, a Kestrel and Sparrowhawk plus a few Choughs on the beach and towards the radar station on the hill.

Wednesday 7 September 2022

Wednesday 7th September

Another day of ever-changing weather. Stormy, rainy with rainbows for brief periods followed by sunshine after. winds still in a generally southerly/easterly direction.

There were several birders dashing around the island today:

Visitor Graham Cundall had seen 2 White-tailed Eagles and 2 Buzzards at Traig an Luig (where the road goes up to Foreland from the coast north of Bruichladdich) this morning. one of the eagles had a white wing-tag, If anybody knows its origin please let the blog know. Later, Graham was at The Oa and saw 6 Twite on the seed feeders at the RSPB car park.

Jim was active again today, and I joined him for some of the time. He was at Bun-an-Uilt (Killinalan on Loch Gruinart) this morning finding 5 Greenshank, 3 Golden Plovers and a comment that there seemed to be more Wheatears about today - several looking like the larger Greenland race. James How also reckoned there were more Wheatears present today as he was out with others doing an island-wide Greylag Goose census.

Louise Muir was also up at Gruinart and found a Swift. We don't see many on Islay and this could well be the last of the year?

Later in the morning Jim found an Osprey at Bridgend - possibly/presumably the same bird that has been on the island for a few days? Graham Cundall saw it later, back hunting over Loch Gruinart.

Back down on the Oa at Port Nan Galen, David Dinsley had a couple of Choughs, single Sparrowhawk, Kestrel and Merlin, 12 Twite, 14 White Wagtails and a couple of Wheatears. 

This afternoon Jim & I paid a visit to Margaret Brooke up at Kilchoman, calling in at a few birding spots along the way. The washed away track to Machir Bay seems to have been repaired now and allowed us to go down to the car park where the floods produced a couple of Ruff, another Wheatear and c.25 alba (mostly Pied) Wagtails. Sanaigmore held 4 more Wheatears seen flying in off the sea, another Sparrowhawk, 6 Chough a further c.30 Pied Wagtails, 10 Twite and a Great Northern Diver offshore. Nearby at Ballinaby there was a single Whinchat. Tufted Duck were building up in numbers on Loch Gorm with c.75 this afternoon along with 5 Wigeon and a family of Mute Swans.

We returned to the north hide in late afternoon, but it was much quieter than yesterday. c.70 Wigeon, a single Ruff and big numbers of Snipe were notable - small flocks coming and going totalling c. 80 birds.

Finally! Late this evening, Jim watched c. 890, mostly juvenile, Kittiwakes in 20 minutes between Port Charlotte and The Oa in the mouth of Loch Indaal and Laggan Bay. All seemed to be feeding. Good to know that some Kittiwakes are still breeding and producing young that aren't being hammered by bird flu...............

Tuesday 6 September 2022

6th September

Another day of changeable weather - a bit of rain to start with and occasionally cloudy during the day, but mainly dry, warm and sunny with a moderate breeze still coming from an easterly direction.

Yesterday's good run of birds continued. Jim was out this morning on Loch Gruinart finding a minimum of 16 juv Curlew Sandpipers, 4 juv. Little Stints plus an Osprey, Peregrine, Marsh Harrier and White-tailed Eagle. Down at Claddach, Mary Redman had two Peregrines and Jim had another sighting of White-tailed Eagle close overhead at Bruichladdich later in the morning and a flock of 41 Common Scoter in Loch Indaal..

I joined Jim for an afternoon session at the North Hide in mid-afternoon as it had been so productive yesterday. It didn't disappoint. Although often difficult to see in fairly thick vegetation, and quite far away, we managed to pick out not one, but 2 Pectoral Sandpipers. We also relocated the Spotted Redshank, which, much later on, was joined by a second bird. At various times we were joined by Louise Muir and friends, and James How and between us also saw the Osprey fishing on the loch, the female type Marsh Harrier come past, a couple of passes by a hunting Peregrine and occasional sightings of a Little Egret and single Ruff. Also on the floods were at least 25 Snipe and a flock of 45 Wigeon 

Jim provides some back-of-camera screen shots of some of today's goodies: From top to bottom: a fishing Osprey; Curlew Sandpiper; a colour-ringed Dunlin; one of the Spotted Redshanks

Monday 5 September 2022

Monday 5th September

Heavy rain and easterly winds again in the morning, giving way to a bright sunny day with winds dropping by the afternoon.

A bit more of interest on the birding front today:

James, returning to Islay on the 7am ferry from Kennacraig saw 7 Sooty Shearwaters and then an Osprey at Bridgend on the way home.

A WhatsApp note from Mary this morning alerted us to an odd/unidentified passerine at Claddach that Jim and I went in search of. We couldn’t relocate it, but it was thought to be an immature Pied Flycatcher. On the way down there Jim had seen the first Pale-bellied Brent geese of the autumn – 2 birds at Carnain and single Whitethroat and Whinchat at Cladville.

In the afternoon Jim made his way up to Gruinart finding another 3 Whinchats at Craigens and a colour-ringed Knot at Carnain bearing an orange flag UXV over a yellow ring on the left leg. We’ll be trying to find out where it originates from and let you know.

I joined Jim on the road between the hides in mid-afternoon and thence to the north Hide. Despite maintenance work going on on the reserve, we managed to find a good selection of waders on the floods (which are now quite full due to the heavy recent rain. There was a total of 4 Ruff, 2 Greenshank, a Spotted Redshank and 6-8 Black-tailed Godwits – all allowing good size- comparisons to a smaller wader in their midst which proved to be a Pectoral Sandpiper. There was also a Curlew Sandpiper out on the flats.

(We met up with Graham Cundall and his wife in the North Hide who had seen a Hen Harrier pass by and corrected his record of yesterday, confirming that the geese seen at Kilchiaran weren't Pink-footed - many thanks for letting us know)..

Sunday 4 September 2022

Sunday 4th September

Heavy rain with strong easterly winds this morning gave way to bright sunshine this afternoon, but the winds persist.

Visitor Graham Cundall reports 31 Pink Footed Geese feeding on stubble at Kilchiaran this morning – an early arrival of a predominantly winter visitor.

Jim Dickson has been out and about again today despite the awful weather this morning. Up at Gruinart he noted 11 Pintail - again a first autumn/winter arrival. Further up towards Ardnave were 2 Whinchats, 2 Black-tailed Godwits, a Ruff and 45 Sand Martins. Later, at Gortan he found a juv. Curlew Sandpiper with roosting waders.

I wandered out to the North Hide at Gruinart later in the afternoon and found Jim’s 11 Pintails with about 25 Wigeon, 5 Black-tailed Godwits, 2 Whimbrel, a single Greenshank and a very fine immature White-tailed Eagle sat on the bank in glorious afternoon sunlight, being harassed by a mix of Ravens, Rooks and Hoodies.

Saturday 3 September 2022

Saturday 3rd September

 A day of light easterly winds bringing with it fairly constant rain - quite heavy at times. Not nice, but it didn't deter Jim Dickson who arrived today on the early ferry from Kennacraig. His journey across was extremely productive with counts of at least 71 Sooty, 1 Balearic and 1200 Manx Shearwaters, 2 Storm Petrels, 2 Fulmars, an Arctic tern and 300-400 Kittiwakes.

Once here he seems to have wasted no time before reporting a summer-plumaged Grey Plover and 75 Wigeon at Bridgend, then on to Loch Gruinart. Here he found an Osprey fishing and at least 3 juvenile Curlew Sandpipers and a Greenshank. Later, down at Port Charlotte he watched a pod of 8 Dolphins, possibly/probably Common.

Friday 2 September 2022

Wednesday 31st August – Friday 2nd September.

A bit of a catch-up with the few sightings that have been made over the past few days. The weather has been fine, dry, warm and sunny until today when it has turned overcast and drizzly, with the threat of heavier rain tomorrow – though with easterly winds perhaps some autumn migrants may be blown in??

On Wednesday 31st August, Mary-Ann Featherstone counted 8 Buzzards over Kildalton.

Yesterday (Thursday 1st September) David Dinsley saw a dark-phase Arctic Skua from the ferry off Ardmore.

Today Mary Redman reports 2 White-tailed Eagles over Easter Ellister while Gary Turnbull had another couple of Ospreys over Skerrols.

Andrew Scott sent in the following account: “A quiet week for birds on Islay, the only real highlight being a Golden Eagle at Port Bhan on the Sound of Islay on Tuesday. On the ferry back from Port Ellen this morning two dark phase Arctic Skuas were harassing the Kittiwakes."