Monday 31 October 2022

Monday 31st October

Happy Halloween, with the horrors of heavy rain showers and a relatively strong breeze.  It does look like autumn but it is still oddly warm.

On the birding front - Owen and Glynis have been in touch with at least 4 ring-tailed hen harriers between the Bowmore road and Gruinart, as well as hundreds of redwings.  They also report a suspicious diver which had the tell tale signs of a Pacific diver alongside a Great northern diver.  Unfortunately no phone to hand and no camera, but wanted to make local birders aware while looking at the divers in Loch Indaal.

Mike had a quieter day, finding the cackling goose in a large barnacle flock by the coastguard cottages at Kilchoman this morning.  The views from Gruinart were 6 gadwall, 2 black-tailed godwits, and one little egret. in the air, a hunting hen harrier.

Rob L. reported the cackling goose again in the Kilchoman area later in the day.

David D. on the Oa reported 2 red-throated divers over the American Monument.  

Around Portnahaven and Port Wemyss, there is still huge flock of fieldfare with a handful of blackbirds and redwing among them.  I have seen a merlin most days harassing goldfinch flocks. 


Sunday 30th October

Eagles everywhere at Loch Gruinart this morning, with at least 3 white-tails and 1 goldie, but quite probably more than that. 

Owen and Glynis continue to be busy, reporting "Mini bird race today confined to Indaal, Skerrols and Gruinart produced 60 species seen including two WTE stood on mud by Bun-an-uillt, Gruinart, 10+ Twite and s.p. GND between Bowmore and Bridgend, two drake Gadwall RSPB lower hide, two Chough Coull Farm, male and female Hen Harrier, Redwings everywhere and didn’t see a Rock Pipit all day!!!"

Mike Bell kindly sent us his sightings, "Still lots or Redwings around, largest flocks 480 Kilchoman,  140 Ardnave House,  130 Ballinaby. On the raptor front 2 WTE Nave Island, 2 Loch Gruinart, 2 Bridgend & 1 Ballinaby, Golden Eagle 1 Ardnave road, 1  Borichil Mor, 2 north of Scarrabus, Hen Harrier ringtails at Gruinart & Kilchoman, male Saligo, Marsh Harrier still at Gruinart. Also 3 Pochard Loch Gorm, 2 Little Egret Gruinart wetland,  2 Grey Plover & 170 Sanderling Traigh Nostaig, 34 Brent Geese Blackrock & another 6 Bowmore."

James had a snow bunting on the road to Gortantoid, and says his rosefinch hasn't been seen for two days now. 

That's yer lot, here's another great pic from Neil McMahon to finish. Thanks all. 

Saturday 29 October 2022

Saturday 29th October

Slim pickings today. Dave Wood was set for worst BOTD ever with a bullfinch at Risabus, before Owen and Glynis saved the day with a cackling goose at Kilchoman, with nearby WTE and 50+ twite. There was no sign of the long-tailed duck at Loch Skerrols, but they did get two slav grebes and a GND in full summer plumage off of Uiskentuie. 

This evening, a golden eagle was spooking the geese at Gruinart Farm, with a tawny owl hooting away in the wood up the hill. 

Another pic from Cam and Luke Christie to finish with. Thanks to them and the rest of you for reading and contributing. Clocks go back tonight. Winter is Coming... 

Friday 28 October 2022

Friday 28th October

Desperate scenes as Peter's soggy Huawei fights for its life in a boiler cupboard. Updates as we have them. Until then, birdy stuff...

The common rosefinch is still at Loch Gruinart in James's garden. Dan Brown was busy as always, reporting 50+ common scoter, LT duck, 16 scaup, 15 slav grebes, 11 RTD, 5 GND and 2 WTE on Loch Indaal this morning. In the afternoon, he and his group had the marsh harrier in front of the hides at Gruinart, 30+ chough over the dunes at Killinallan and 4 WTE and an imm goldie around the loch. 

Steve Rogers had a late swallow at Emerivale, and Owen and Glynis had a flock of c10 crossbills in roadside woodland between Ardbeg and Kildalton.  

A couple of great pics to finish with, courtesy of Neil McMahon ...

and Cam and Luke Christie...

Thanks very much to all

Thursday 27th October

DISASTER! as everyone's favourite retrospective weather reporter/bird blogger dropped his phone in a puddle, leaving us blog-less last night. Apologies. 

Thursday was a busy day of sightings though, with James How's common rosefinch at Gruinart being the pick of them.

Elsewhere, Alan and Karami had goldeneyes at Ardnave Loch and golden eagle, 40+ chough and great northern diver around the Point. Owen and Glynis had a female long-tailed duck and a redhead goosander at Loch Skerrols in the morning, and peregrine and hen harrier chasing the golden plover flock at Loch Gruinart in the afternoon. Cackling goose and a single juv pink-foot on the Flats rounded off their day. 

Cam and Luke Christie (aged 13 and 11) sent us their sightings from this week past. Their highlights were a juv WTE going for a cygnet on Loch Indaal on Sunday, with 2 adult WTE nearby on the shipwreck. They had 10 harbour seals between Bunnahabhain and Rhuvaal on Monday and on Wednesday, a big flock of ringed plover and dunlin above the high tide line at Bowmore harbour. 2 purple sands at Carraig Fhada finished their list. 

Here's one of their pictures of a WTE causing havoc!

Far too many birds on the whatsapp group to report, but highlights were a coot at Ballygrant Loch (Billy Stitchell), snow bunting on the Big Strand (Gary Turnbull), 6 WTE at Skerrols (Dan Brown) and the kingfisher still hanging around, this time at ICCI. (Gary again).

Huge thanks to all our contributors today and every other day. 

Wednesday 26 October 2022

Wednesday 26th October

 Wednesday 26th October

 Another blustery day of showers and sunshine producing fewer bird records than of late.

However our two couples of visiting birders – Owen & Glynis Roberts and Alan & Karami Ure were out enjoying some of the more regular birding highlights that Islay has to offer – lots of raptors including Hen Harriers, Buzzards, Sparrowhawk, Golden & White-tailed Eagles and another sighting of our presumably semi-resident Marsh Harrier. Alan & Karami checked out the Loch Skerrols area finding a Slav. Grebe, a few Tufties and a Dipper. Owen & Glynis also clocked 35 Brent Geese on Loch Indaal.

Gary T. saw the Kingfisher up at the top end of Loch Indaal again today.

The only other notifications coming in on the WhatsApp were a couple of photos of another of those confusing Canada Geese seen by Dan Brown complete with “odd” features and apparently looking a bit like a parvipes subspecies of Lesser Canada Goose. With genuine vagrants of “smaller” and “larger” types of Canada Geese (Cackling and/or Greater), coming in with the Barnacles, plus an increasing local population of feral Canada Geese that could be any or a mix of species, subspecies (several in each species), plus potential hybrids between Canadas & Barnacles it seems it will be a conundrum that will never go away. It intrigues some keen birders into a laudable forensic attempt to sort it all out, while leaving other birders “cold”, perplexed and dismissive of ever trying to sort anything out – if indeed there is anything to sort out depending on whether you are a “lumper” or “splitter”. 

Malcolm O.’s comments today sums up the latter viewpoint succinctly: “I long ago decided that Canadas fitted into nine different types based on size and colour. All were either large, medium or small and all were either dark, medium or pale. Forget sub-specific names, select just two from the above choices – Sorted!”

For those with an inquisitive mind of the former viewpoint this paper in British Birds is worthy of scrutiny: The Cackling Goose in Britain. Andy Stoddart. BB. 109. November 2016. 677-684.

Tuesday 25 October 2022

Tuesday 25th October

 A blustery, cloudy day, but mostly dry.

 Martin Armstrong saw a Barn Owl near to home at Glenegedale last night.

Dan Brown was on Jura for much of the day, finding lots of activity from 5 White-tailed Eagles, 3 Golden Eagles and 4 Hen Harriers. The Goldies apparently very aggressive towards an adult WTE and later a Common Buzzard. He also saw a Hen Harrier crossing from Jura to Islay. Plenty of Long-tailed Tits, Goldcrests, Treecreepers, thrushes, finches and pipits plus a single Brent Goose and feral Canada Goose on Jura.

Back on Islay, a group managed to get over by boat from N. Ireland. They struck lucky with a sighting of a Cackling Goose, while Malcolm O. saw a “smallish” Canada Goose, but not small enough to be a Cackling Goose at Leorin. There has been a lot of online discussion about the splitting and genetics of Canada Geese in the last couple of days and the conundrum over what is and isn’t identifiable never seems to be resolved. Less contentious was Ed Burrell's first Shoveler for his “Farm List” at Cornabus today! Jackie Wedd on her last day on Islay turned up Goldeneye on Loch Gorm and filled in a few other species gaps for her holiday list.

Non-avian interest included 12 Bottle-nosed Dolphins seen by Neil McMahon from Port Ellen as he and his group departed. On Jura Dan’s group had a tantalising view of a large Hawker-type dragonfly that they couldn’t get close enough to ID.

I spent a bit of time in the 2 RSPB hides at Gruinart in the afternoon. With nothing better to do I counted the ducks and came up with 230 Wigeon, 40 Shoveler, 45 Pintail, 55 Mallard, 425 Teal and 4 Gadwall. More exciting was a group of 10 Greenshank on the floods as the tide rose – the most I’ve ever seen together on Islay. Out on the loch itself were 4 Whooper Swans and a lone Brent Goose with the Barnies.

Owen & Glynis Roberts had also been watching on Gruinart and counted 500 Golden Plover and 10 Snipe. Earlier they’d marked up 25 Brents, 13 Whoopers and a Kingfisher on Loch Indaal up towards Bowmore.

Alan and Karami Ure were also enjoying the spectacle of Golden and White-tailed Eagles on their travels on the Mulindry road and on The Oa, where they saw plenty of Fieldfares and Redwings. Up at Kildalton in Knock Bay was a Red Deer stag out on one of the small islands that the deer seem to regularly swim out to.

Monday 24 October 2022

Monday 24th October

Malcolm reports that the two colour-ringed Greenland White-fronts seen a couple of days ago at Ballinaby were both caught on Islay in winter 2019/2020 and have been seen in the same area in both subsequent winters.  Further “ringed bird news” came from Neil McMahon who yesterday found a dead Greater Black-backed Gull at Ardnave bearing a BTO ring and reports today that it was ringed as a chick on Sanda Island on 4th July 2019.

Other bird news of interest today comes from Neil McMahon who found a Puffin fishing between Orsay and Port Wemyss (we rarely see them close inshore, especially at this time of year). Neil also found a late swallow at Port Charlotte, a Dipper at the Woollen Mill and Crossbills calling at Finlaggan. Dan Brown reports a Cackling Goose with Barnies on Loch Gruinart, plus a juv. Golden Eagle. Up at Ardnave he had 4 Gadwall flying south, plus White-tailed Eagle and 8 Chough. Meanwhile Jackie Wedd found a Canada Goose with Barnies on the High Road and 3 Lesser Redpoll with a flock of Goldfinches on the Glen Road. Over at The Oa David D. watched a female Merlin hunting winter thrushes at upper Killeyan. Visitors Owen & Glynis Roberts were watching on Loch Indaal, finding a couple of Slav. Grebes and a summer-plumaged Great Northern Diver near Uiskentuie, 23 Brent Geese, 50 Knot, 50 Bar-tailed Godwits  further up into loch Indaal, a redhead Goosander on Loch Skerrols and 9 Twite at Ardnave.

Various other wildlife sightings made the Whatsapp pages:  Peacock butterflies at Ardnave and the RSPB Offices, plus 65 Grey Seal pups up at Ardnave c/o Dan; 9 Bottle-nosed Dolphins at Port Askaig c/o Fiona McGillivray and Otters at Bruichladdich c/o Neil and another at Ardnave seen by Alan & Karami Ure.

Thanks to all for your records.

Sunday 23rd October

Despite yesterday's drizzle, we received plenty reports from sites all across the island. 

Firstly, Richard Belter brings us his final report of his holiday on Islay: 200 Greenland white-fronts at Loch Skerrols.

Dan Brown had a ridiculously productive day out, kicking things off with sightings of 4 WTE, a GE, merlin, a hen harrier two chough, an otter and large flocks of reed bunting and redwing, all on the East side of Loch Gruinart. Then at the top of Loch Indaal, he witnessed a female peregrine scoop a common gull off the water, before being put in its place with an attack from a WTE. Also in the vicinity were 8 scaup, 4 slavonian grebes, 20 common scoter, a kingfisher, little egret, snow bunting and 18 pale-bellied Brents. Later on, he spotted two drake long-tailed ducks on the Big Strand, and a another pale-bellied Brent amongst a mixed goose flock on the High Road just north of Port Ellen.

Neil McMahon was watching the same flock, noting a pink-footed goose. Earlier in the day he was at Ardnave where he saw 2 WTE on Nave Island - presumably lured there by the prospect of a seal pup buffet - and a red-throated diver nearby. Later on, he found a purple sandpiper feeding on the beach in Port Ellen.

Liam Price enjoyed a lunchtime stroll between Carraig Fhada and Kilnaughton Bay, during which he spotted 2 chough, a RTD and a GND, and a mystery hawk... unfortunately no other sightings to confirm ID!

Dave Wood reports lots of birds moving through the Oa: brambling, 2 blackcap, chiffchaff, 4 goldcrest, 2 whoopers, and lots of redwing, chaffinch and reed buntings. 

Martin Armstrong took a drive along the Glen Road where he saw 2 male hen harriers, and some large thrush flocks - mainly redwing.

Visiting birder Owen Roberts watched a WTE lazily drift southwards along the shore from Bruichladdich, and later on went to Machair Bay where he counted at least 70 ringed plover accompanied by 5 sanderling.  

Judith Hooper spent the last day of her trip up at Ardnave, bringing us the following sightings: female HH, marsh harrier, a plethora of waders incl 12 barwits and 3 turnstone feeding on the beach at Nostaig, 6 whoopers, little grebe and two snipe at Ardnave Loch.

Thanks all for sending in your sightings. Having seen lots of big lenses around the island over the last couple of weeks, I know that many of you are keen photographers: if you have any good snaps you'd like to share, do send them in along with your reports!

Sunday 23 October 2022

Saturday 22nd October

Owen and Glynis Roberts kicked off their day with some birding at Uiskentuie, where they saw eight adult male long-tailed Ducks, four Slavonian Grebes and an amazing, almost straight line of 19 Red-throated Divers slicing their way through a flat calm Loch Indaal. They head over to Gruinart in the afternoon where they saw a white-tailed eagle and a ringtail hen harrier hunting in the fields (counts later upped by Dan Brown who saw 2 WTE and 4HH in the same area, along with 3 golden eagles). Owen and Glynis also report two straggling swallows still at Port Charlotte. 

Louise Muir also found a summer visitor not quite ready to give up the Scottish weather just yet: a wheatear at Knockrome. On her drive between the Jura ferry and Craighouse last night she also saw numerous woodcocks.

Also on Jura, Jura Neil McMahon reports four otters, lots of Great Northern Divers and a red-throated diver, as well as providing us with a catch-up sighting of a pink foot spotted amongst a mixed goose flock at Port Ellen on Friday.

Steve Rogers was down at Kilnaughton where he saw 4 redwing, a female eider and another Great Norther diver.

On his last full day of this trip to Islay, Richard Belter went to Machair Bay where he found two knot.

Judith Hooper had a productive afternoon's birding on the Killinallan side of Loch Gruinart where she saw a - mercifully alive! - grey phalarope, 30 sanderling, 3 greenshank, endless redshank and curlew, 50 barwits, 100+ dunlin and 60 ringed plover. She also reports six  long tailed tits seen from the Sanaig road.

Dan Brown is back on Islay; from his ferry journey he brings us counts of 36 GNDs, 10 RTDs 5 whoopers, 9 porpoises, as well as a pair of Canada geese on the islands in the Sound of Islay. He also reports a water rail at Loch Gruinart and 70+ twite along with 20 reed bunting at Loch Gorm.

In non-bird news, Jackie Wedd was watching an otter by the Port Charlotte lighthouse, but today's star non-avian sighting has to be this whopping flapper skate egg case, found by Dave Protherough on the Big Strand (pictured).

Friday 21 October 2022

Friday 21st October

Today was another busy day on the birding front. To kick things off, here is Malcolm's account of his morning drive: 

"I drove the Glen Road from Ballygrant to Bridgend this morning and every berried hawthorn and rowan in the roadside trees and hedges seemed to have Fieldfares and Redwings in them. No count but certainly hundreds of each.  A single adult Pink-footed Goose was among c.5000 Barnacles on the sand at Bridgend. It wasn’t paired to a Barnacle as far as I could tell, though this can happen. An immature or adult female Merlin did some high-speed hedge-hopping near Mulindry."

Neil McMahon and Steve Rogers both visited The Oa reserve where they both saw twite on the car-park feeders, and (presumably the same) carrion crow. Neil and Steve also spotted a woodcock and male HH, respectively.  

Neil then headed to Kildalton where he found around 1000 redwing, and then to Ballygrant where he saw two hen harriers, a merlin and a peregrine. He rounded off his day's birding by watching 16 whoopers from the beach at Port Ellen.

Staying on the south side of the island, Kate Coombes reports two chough and a WTE at Kilnaughton, and David Dinsley reports a jack snipe at Lower Killeyan.

Judith Hooper was treated to a close-up flyby from a WTE at Kilchoman, where she also reported 1 twite, 30 curlew, 4 whoopers, a reed bunting, a snipe and two stonechat. 

Jackie and Dave Wedd saw potentially the same WTE while driving between Loch Gorm and Gruinart, before heading to Ardnave, where they saw two little grebe and a family of six whoopers on the loch, 40 twite, and a red-throated diver and razorbill from the Point.

To round off today's blog, Elaine and Eddie sent in a lovely highlight reel of their holiday to Islay:

"No rarities for us this time, but highlights of the trip included a WTE spectacularly lifting a huge fish from the surface of the sea at Ardnave, watched by 5 snow buntings, and an otter on the rocks outside Bruichladdich distillery gates, feeding on the incoming tide and ignoring the waves crashing down over it. Our early morning drives from Bruichladdich to Gruinart in the dark saw steadily increasing numbers of redwings, chased down the road on one occasion by a sparrowhawk with night vision, and on another by a pair of stoats."

Thank you all for your reports today! 

Thursday 20th October

Plenty of reports today; keep them coming in!

Neil McMahon sighted three immature WTEs on the sand at Bridgend, before heading up to Gruinart where he was treated to views of the long-staying female marsh harrier, a ringtail hen harrier, a little egret and a possible first-year male American Wigeon (this at the South Hide). Neil then headed to Ardnave - sighting a juvenile golden eagle en route - where he found 60 twite and around 20 chough by the loch.

On the Oa, David Dinsley spotted a Todd's Canada Goose grazing amongst the now numerous Barnies at Kinnabus, while Dave Wood took a turn around the cliffs by the American Monument, where he found five goldcrest. Top marks if you can see the goldcrest in Dave's photo, because I can't.

Jackie Wedd also reported goldcrest, sighting at least four at Loch Skerrols, as well as a dipper, bullfinch and siskin in Bridgend Woods.

At Cornabus, Ed Burrell reports growing numbers or teal, snipe and Greenland white-fronts.

Judith Hooper was birding around Sanaigmore where she saw a marsh harrier, at least 30 chough, four jack snipe, two male hen harriers and a merlin.

Thursday 20 October 2022

Wednesday 19th October

Autumnal sights aplenty today with multiple reports of fieldfare streaming in across the island. 

At Portnahaven Ian Ford saw well over 1000 of the birds in a mixed flock also containing a hundred or so redwing, before upping his count of each species on his drive north up the Rhinns, to approximately 3000 fieldfare and 300 redwing. He also reports two immature WTEs passing overhead causing havoc amongst the flock.

Fieldfare also seem to be faring well over on the Oa, with David Dinsley reporting hundreds passing through during the morning.

At Gruinart, the story was much the same, with thousands of both fieldfare and redwing seen throughout the day.

Wednesday 19 October 2022

Tuesday 18th October

Sad tidings today as the grey phalarope sighted on Sunday looks to have met a sticky end, spotted by Mary on Currie Sands. On the plus side though, its death does not look to be AI-related, and we now have some photos that confirm that this unlucky creature was indeed a grey phalarope. Mary's walk was not all doom and gloom however, as she also saw two WTEs, a ringtail hen harrier and a buzzard, all alive and well.

Up on the Oa, David D reports two fieldfare near Lenavore, as well as a single pink-foot amongst 63 Greenland white-fronts, 201 Barnies and a straggling willow warbler at Kinnabus, while Dave W spotted two merlins at Kinnabus and three goldcrests at Risabus.

Over at Kildalton, Mary-Ann was watching a male hen harrier harrying ducks on the loch. 

Judith Hooper also reports a male hen harrier, this one north of Smaull, along with a WTE and a whinchat. She then visited Saligo where she was treated to views of three snow buntings and a jack snipe before heading to Canduncan where she spotted a peregrine.

Ian Ford spent the day on Jura, where he witnessed a "raptor fest" at Lagg, sighting male and female sparrowhawks and hen harriers , an immature peregrine, three immature WTEs (being mobbed by at least eight ravens)... and - mobbing a golden eagle - an immature male goshawk! If this sighting is accepted it will be the first record on Islay or Jura for around a decade.

In non-raptor news, Ian also saw two Great Northern Divers off Lagg Pier.

Richard Belter had yet another productive birding day, sending in this report: "Ardnave at first light showed good numbers of chough, approx 20-30. From Killinallan track was a little egret and a WTE. At Blackrock were 10 scaup, 2 scoter, 4 merganser. From Bruichladdich pier were 9 red throated diver, and from Uiskentuie were 5 slav grebes, 15 scoter, 1 great northern diver and 1 red throated, plus 20 merganser".

And lastly, Kate Coombes reports 12 whooper swans overhead on what sounds like an idyllic sunset run along Kilnaughton Bay. 

Thanks to all for your numerous reports today!

Monday 17 October 2022

Monday 17th October

 Another day of moderate, blustery winds from the west bringing light rain showers and cloud between sunnier spells.

It would seem that the unpredictable (and somewhat unpredicted) weather put birders off venturing out today - nothing in this evening via email or WhatsApp. The only bird notified is a Little Egret seen going to roost at Gruinart this evening.

Sunday 16 October 2022

Sunday 16th October

Continuing westerly winds, but much brighter and sunnier in the morning, clouding up again by late afternoon with very little rain.

Whooper Swans continue to migrate through the island without stopping too long. A cumulative total of c.100 were notched up today in small groups flying in a generally southerly direction.

Other interest noted was a group of 6 Arctic Terns seen by Richard Belter sat on the rocks by Bruichladdich Distillery (with 5 Red-throated and one Great Northern Diver offshore).  Laura Nicoll on a walk to Port an eas out on The Oa from Kilnaughton had a group of 8 Chough.

“Bird of the Day” however, goes to Richard who found a Grey Phalarope close inshore by the slipway at Port Wemyss at lunchtime. It hung around long enough for Fiona M. to see it, but it had gone by the time I arrived.

My only contribution today: a couple of Pink-footed Geese with Greylags at Claddach, 100 Tufted Duck and a Goldeneye on Loch Gorm and a flock of c.900 Starlings in the stubble at Kilchoman.

Saturday 15 October 2022

Saturday 15th October

Colder today with stronger, chilly winds. Again, mostly dry, but showery and sometimes with quite thick clouds.

Scott & Ruby noted a latish Swallow at Port Charlotte and sent in this photo of the Great Northern Diver they saw yesterday at Bunnahabhain eating a large flounder. This was presumably the same bird that Richard Belter saw there today. Richard writes:

“Early morning at Gruinart showed male and ringtail hen harrier, but facing into bright sunlight showed most birds in silhouette. At Bunnahabhain great northern diver was out in the bay and a couple of redwing passed through. Evening produced magnificent sight of thousands of barnacle geese coming in to roost at Gruinart. “

David Dinsley on The Oa found a few more Redwings – 30 in all - and up at Ballygrant, Gary T. mentions what sounds like a larger arrival of thrushes: “Redwings, Fieldfares and Blackbirds streaming in to a small woodland south of Gartness, Ballygrant”.

I met up with Richard in the N. hide at Gruinart this afternoon noting that the Black-tailed Godwits are still with – 15 in total on the floods with c.300 Lapwings and a very secretive Jack Snipe lurking in the wet vegetation with two Common Snipe.

Finally, David Livingstone sent in this photo of a lone Chough he saw this morning at Singing Sands.

Friday 14 October 2022

Friday 14th October

Mostly sunny again, with moderate winds, with an occasional light shower at times through the day.

Richard Belter reports today from various locations: "Loch Gruinart this morning held the usual variety and numbers of species as described on previous days. Loch Skerrols had 2 whoopers, 50+ Greenland white fronts, c.30 teal and 30 tufted ducks. At Blackrock I could only see 1 red throated diver. Sanaigmore had 4 chough and up the Killinallan track showed greenshank, redshank, bar/black tailed godwit, golden plover, dunlin, turnstone, curlew, red breasted merganser, and in amongst the barnies were a sprinkling of brents"

Also watching at Gruinart was James H. who counted 19,135 Barnies, 101 White-fronts, 18 Brent and a single Pink-footed Goose. He also noted 5 Greenshank, a Ruff, the currently resident Marsh Harrier and a few passerines – Redwing & Bullfinch. 

There were a further 27 Brents on loch Indaal at Carnain noted by Mark.S.

Down on The Oa, Ed Burrell reported his first Jack Snipe of winter at Cornabus and David D. had a sprinkling of Barnies (193), White-fronts (15) a couple of Wigeon, and a Mistle Thrush, but still no Redwings. The bird feeder at The Oa RSPB car park is attracting Twite and allowing great views - 36 there today.

Up at Bunnahabhain Scott & Ruby were finding Redwing, plus Fieldfares in a small mixed flock, plus a close-in Great Northern Diver. (They later went over to Jura where they watched 4 Hen Harriers, single Kestrel and Merlin and 10 or more Buzzards).

Loch Gorm was the setting for what Fiona M. describes as a “dog-fight” between 2 White-tailed Eagles and a ringtail Hen Harrier this afternoon. Although very harassed, the harrier did escape! 


Thursday 13 October 2022

Thursday 13th October

A reasonable sunny start to the day, but clouding up and drizzling at times by the afternoon.

Richard Belter reported a beautiful sunrise and a walk by Ardnave Loch producing a flock of 15 Choughs. A little later Mick Highfield increased the count of Chough in that area to 25 with a walk to Ardnave Point where he scored a Snow Bunting.

Richard was at Bruichladdich latr on where he had a Red-throated Diver and a “Commic” Tern.

Mark S. saw the long-staying female Marsh Harrier and equally long-staying Carrion Crow from the N. hide at Gruinart.

Wednesday 12 October 2022

Wednesday 12th October

Mostly dry, sunny and breezy.

A bit of bird news coming in again from all quarters. Down on The Oa David D. had 3 Brent Geese in Kilnaughton Bay this morning (staying for much of the day and seen by several others including David Livingstone who kindly sent in the great photo) and later saw a female Scaup with 7 Tufted Ducks on Glen Astle loch, 98 Barnies and a Greenfinch in with Linnets and Twite at Kinnabus. (He also reported a Jack Snipe seen on a camera trap there feeding a couple of night ago). Steve & Lynn Rogers were also watching at Kilnaughton where they noted 4 Great Northern Divers.

At this end of Islay I took a twirl around loch Gorm this morning and came across a stubble field just past Kilchoman full of Whooper Swans – 135 in all with about 40 or more young birds included. They were with lots of Greylags and small numbers of Barnies. I wonder how/why they choose one of the many stubble fields over another? On Loch Gorm was a total of 70+ Tufted ducks and a nice drake Pochard with them.

In the afternoon it was good to bump into Bob Davison in the N. Hide at RSPB Gruinart where we were pleased to find 12 Gadwall and 3 Ruff on the floods with a whole range of the usual dabbling ducks, plus a further 12 Whoopers. Out on the flats it was lowish tide and every square metre of sand and mud seemed occupied by a Barnacle Goose – a really fine sight. With them were a couple of large Canada Geese, and a total of 11 Brents. Squeezed in between them was a tight flock of c.500 Golden Plover. Bob had also seen a Little Egret here earlier in the afternoon. James H. made a slightly later visit to Gruinart and upped our count of Black-tailed Godwits to 25.

Richard Belter was belting around the island and sent in this report: This morning at Kintra out at sea were 5 eider. Flying about were 4 chough, and around the rocks 4 rock pipit. .At Claggain bay 2 tysties, 2 great northern divers and few gannets. At the Oa were twite and linnets by feeders at car park, also golden eagle near farm building. At Blackrock this evening were 23 scoter and 7 scaup.

Tuesday 11 October 2022

Tuesday 11th October

The Barnies keep on coming! James H. counted 24,200 at Gruinart this morning. There were also 113 Greenland White-fronts, 5 Pink-footed and 2 large Todd’s/parvipes type Canada Geese along with a couple of White-tailed Eagles and 355 Golden Plover.

Richard Belter was also out and about enjoying the spectacular sight at Gruinart of thousands of Barnacle Geese, plus a ringtail Hen Harrier, the Marsh Harrier, 6 Pintail and a Greenshank. Up at Ardnave was a lone Whooper Swan (most of yesterday’s birds have seemingly moved on to the south?) and later 12 Common Scoter at Uiskentuie.

There are various contributions and observations from “the other side of the island”:

 Mary-Ann Featherstone found 25 Whooper Swans at Loch Dubh, just north of the airport and later a possible Hobby back near Kildalton. Liam Price who was disturbed by a racket outside his house that turned out to be two Choughs pecking at some solar panels on his next door neighbour’s roof by Carraig Fhada Lighthouse – hopefully they are not that hard up for food? He also reports single Slavonian Grebe and Great Northern Diver in Kilnaughton Bay. Mick Highfield over at Kinnabus had a few Barnies mixed in with Greylags and a mixed flock of a couple of hundred Linnet with a few Twite, Meadow Pipits and Stonechats thrown in for variety – also noted by David D.

Monday 10 October 2022

Monday 10th October

An improvement in the weather today, with lighter winds and generally drier and sunnier after yesterday’s wind and rain. It was an action-packed day for the various birders resident and visiting as they watched the classic late autumn migration of Whooper Swans and the return of huge numbers of wintering geese along with a few other goodies.

Redwings were reported by Ed Burrel on the Oa this morning and later his first Greenland White-fronted Goose of the winter down at Cornabus along with a single Wheatear. The Barnacle Geese were piling in to Loch Gruinart this morning too. James How counted 10,285, plus 50 Greenland white-fronts, 32 Brent Geese, two Pink-footed Geese and a Todd’s type Canada Goose there. With them, coming down the loch from the north were 21 Whooper Swans. Visitors Scott & Ruby confirmed “Endless flocks of Barnies coming in down Gruinart” at the same time, later commenting it was an experience of a life-time and were especially pleased as they’d visited 4 times previously and never coincided with this very special spectacle. While the Barnies came in and mostly settled, many of the Whooper Swans were passing straight through. Steve and Lynn Rogers had 37 south over Kilnaughton Bay; other visiting birders reported flocks from elsewhere across Islay: a family group of 6 from at Bowmore (plus another flock of 15 Brent Geese) seen by Mick Highfleid; and another group of 5 at Emirivale. In the afternoon Richard Belter checked out loch Skerrols to find over 100 Whooper Swans there (plus 15 Greenland White-fronted Geese),  then James how counted a whopping 157 on the flats at Gruinart this evening which may settle here for the night? So maybe 300 Whoopers today??

Some of the other birds sighted today includes Gary Turnbull’s record of a pair of Canada/Barnacle Goose hybrids at Bridgend, White-tailed Eagles and Hen Harriers dotted about the Island and on Jura, seen by various birders. The female Marsh Harrier appeared at Bridgend and Merlins were seen over at Kinnabus by David Dinsley and at Ballygrant by Morag King who’d been over on Jura and seen a lovely Great Northern Diver plus Otters. Richard Belter was watching at Blackrock this afternoon and counted 4 Scaup, 4 Red-breasted Mergansers and 6 Common Scoter.

Sunday 9 October 2022

Sunday 9th October

A disgusting day. But it didn't deter Richard Belter, back for his holidays and spotting a ringtail, marsh harrier, 3 whoopers, 9 Greenland white fronts, 12 pintail, and bar and black tailed godwits in amongst the barnies at Gruinart. 

DJ MacPhee from Islay Outdoors also had the marsh harrier at Gruinart, Morag had 2 WTE around Loch Indaal and Malcolm saw 8 whoopers heading north at Bruichladdich. Malcolm also noticed a sighting of 2 ad snow buntings at Ardnave on Saturday whilst checking his socials on the facebook. 

That's all folks. Thanks to all for their records. 

Saturday 8 October 2022

Saturday 8th October

The goose count continues to rise. 9300 barnies, 21 white-fronts, 38 pb brents and a pink foot were with 16 whoopers and 14 blackwits at Gruinart this morning, all seen by James. Later, James had 580 golden plover, 8 whoopers and 2 WTE plus a peregrine.

Martin Newell continues to turn up some nice things,with a small race Canada goose amongst c1600 barnies at Bridgend, plus a juv arctic tern off Bruichladdich. 

Elsewhere, Lucy had 23 chough at Ardnave, David Dinsley had a good-for-the-oa count of 4 barnies at Kinnabus. As I write this, the now usual scene of bedlam at Gruinart as 2 WTE scare the bejesus out of thousands of geese around the Flats. Winter has arrived. 

Friday 7th October

The first serious arrival of geese for this winter overnight at Loch Gruinart. James had 1980 barnies this morning, with 3 large Canadas, maybe all Todd's? By the afternoon the barnie count was up to 6280 and rising, with 19 white fronts new in, and 29 pb brents on the merse. Also at Gruinart, Laura had 2 WTE and the (presumably long-staying) marsh harrier. 

Elsewhere, the whooper movement continued, Double D seeing 14 at Lower Killeyan and Hot Ed winning with 26. Ed also had 35 pink feet at Ballivicar. 

Visitor Martin Newell gets Bird of The Day with a med gull at Blackrock. 

Thanks to all. 

Thursday 6 October 2022

Thursday 6th October

Another day of breezy north-westerly winds and plenty of rain showers and cloud between very occasional brighter spells.

But the winds brought with them the first more obvious arrivals of winter. Most noticeable was a movement through the island of Whooper Swans. First reports were from David Dinsley, Dave Protherough and Ed Burrell on The Oa with 4 on Loch Kinnabus and 31 at Cornabus. This increased to 21 on Loch Kinnabus later in the day with some of the Cornabus birds heading off beyond The Oa. Mark Newell saw 17 coming in from the NW at Killinallan, later picked up by Mark Shields on Loch Gruinart, with a further 33 seen there by Lucy Atkinson later. These may have been the same birds seen by Malcolm Ogilvie flying over Bruichladdich, close to where Mary Redman saw another group of 8 at Uiskentuie followed by 40-50 in stubble fields between Bruichladdich and Port Charlotte. If anybody wants to hazard a guess as to how many individuals were coming and going I’d probably not argue with them, though I’d guess c.100 birds as Mark reckons at least 53 were involved on Gruinart alone.

Mark Newell up at Killiinallan also found the first winter Snow Buntings (2) plus 33 Brent Geese and 75 Barnacle Geese arriving onto the island. A bigger flock of 352 Barnies arrived into Loch Gruinart by lunchtime.

Away from the influx of wildfowl, were a couple of scarcer finds: Gary Turnbull reports a couple of Tree Sparrows amongst the small birds feeding on wild bird feed planted on field edges between Newton and Redhouses north of Bridgend and Laura Nicoll saw the female Marsh Harrier at Gruinart – assuming it is the same individual, it has been around on the island for quite a while now.

Wednesday 5 October 2022

Wednesday 5th October

Another day of westerlies bringing cloud and rain in the morning (even a bit of thunder at midday), then brightening a little in the afternoon with heavy showers between blue skies and intense rainbows.

I was at the N. Hide this afternoon and met with visitor Mark Newell who had seen a Little Stint at Gruinart on last Saturday 1st Oct. we watched an ever-increasing array of wildfowl in the ever-increasing water levels of the floods - all in bright sunshine. There was a lone Whooper Swan and the Black-tailed Godwit group had risen again to 11 birds today. There were also 120 Lapwing on the wet fields nearby. Raptors put on a great show: a distant golden Eagle was mobbed by a Peregrine that came past the hide later. A female/imm Hen Harrier glided across the flats several times - or was it 3 different birds? The fence just out from the hide provided a wonderfully close view of a perched Sparrowhawk, followed by the best looks at Merlin I've had in ages. Out on the high tide over Loch Gruinart a single Arctic Tern paraded up and down for a while.

While in the hide, a message came through about a possible Turtle Dove at Loch Gorm. I went off in pursuit, but not having any detail of who had seen it, what time it was seen, or where exactly around the extensive perimeter of Loch Gorm it was seen, it was inevitably a bit of a wild goose chase. However there were some wild geese to make it worth the effort - the small flock of 54 Barnacle Geese that came in ahead of the crowds last week were assembled with masses of Greylags in a stubble field next to Kilchoman Distillery.

Elsewhere, Louise Muir reports a flock of 43 Goldfinches and a young White-tailed Eagle at Craighouse, Jura today. 

Tuesday 4 October 2022

Tuesday 4th October

 Raining and grey until mid-afternoon when it brightened slightly. No observations today apart from a few notes from visitors Scott & Ruby who were watching Loch Indaal from Blackrock where they counted 50 Common Scoter, 20 Red-breasted Mergansers, a few Red-throated Divers and single Razorbill and a late "Commic" Tern.

I took a look at Loch Skerrols again as ducks seem to be on the increase on Islay at the moment, but there was nothing other than a few Mallard and Mute Swans.

Down at Easter Ellister, Mary Redman saw a quite late Wheatear.

Monday 3 October 2022

Sunday 2nd & Monday 3rd October

 Sunday's weather was tolerable - a bit of dry and sunshine with light winds. Monday was a different matter, with overcast, rainy conditions by the afternoon.

Not a lot of birding going on, and understandably, no records at all today. Yesterday, apart from reports of White-tailed Eagles at Gruinart and Claddach (2) along with Peregrine and Choughs at the latter, the only sighting of note was a flock of 17 Brent Geese on Loch Gruinart in the afternoon. At least 2 of these had colour rings on, but despite a lot of re-positioning to try and get all the necessary details, they kept their distance.

Saturday 1 October 2022

Saturday 1st October

After more heavy rain overnight, today was squally with heavy showers between sunshine and a good SW breeze.

A look around the Loch Gorm area this morning located the small number of Barnacle Geese that have already arrived. There were 30 with 5 Pink-footed Geese tucked in with a flock of Greylags on stubble at Sunderland and another 15 with Greylags on stubble between Machir and Coull. At Ballinaby there was a single Whooper Swan with another bunch of Greylags.

This afternoon a check of the two hides at RSPB Gruinart was quite productive. The heavy rain has nicely topped up water levels and the wildfowl are coming in. The combined total for both hides was 94 Mallard, 48 Pintail, 277 Teal, 24 Wigeon and 4 Shoveler. There were now 4 Black-tailed Godwits at the N. Hide and the star attraction was a female / immature Marsh Harrier at the S. Hide.