Another dry, but cooler and cloudier day.
Apart from a lovely close-up Great Northern Diver in the bay at Port Charlotte, the only birds reported today were 17 Whooper Swans landing on Loch Gorm this morning.
A much nicer day with bright sunny conditions, clear skies and light winds.
It was Andrew Chick's last day on Islay and he reports thus:
"managed 91 species in 5 days with today’s highlights being Great Northern Diver at Port Ellen, 2 adult White-tailed Eagles on the B8016, ringtail Hen Harrier at Loch Gorm and 15 Twite on the beach at Machir. Love the island!"
He also shared a couple of great photos:
George Jackson was out this morning at Loch Skerrols: "
George Jackson was out this morning at Loch Skerrols: "Near Loch Skerrols this morning: a group of about 20 Redwing in the trees; then by the loch there were a half dozen Siskins feeding on Alder cones. Numerous Blackbirds in the woodland - I counted 20 in the small area I was walking through. Later, about 10.00 am, driving down the High Road there were at least 40 Fieldfares on a stubble field on east side of the road"
A drier, sunnier day, with brisk southerly winds.
Visitor Andrew Chick emailed to give us an account of his day birding today - a good comprehensive list with some interesting species:
"Spent the whole day between Loch Gruinart RSPB and Ardnave. 70 species seen, but struggling with Golden Eagle.
Another blustery, windy, wettish, westerly day, so few observations again. Dave Protherough saw 7 Whooper Swans battling south in the strong winds at Cornabus this morning. Steve & Lyn Rogers had a White-tailed Eagle fly over their house at Port Ellen where they also saw 25 Ringed Plover on the beach. Up at Kilchoman Margaret Brooke got her fix of daily raptors with a Peregrine and 2 Golden Eagles this afternoon.
Not much in the way of reports, just Mary's WTE at Port Wemyss and Mary-Ann's 3 woodcock at Seal bay.
In goose news, Malcolm was in touch to try and answer Peter's questions about low white-front numbers yesterday. He writes "I've now had news from Tony Fox in Denmark, who monitors Greenland Whitefronts throughout their range, and he tells me that (a) it seems to have been a *very* poor breeding season with low numbers of young and (b) somewhat surprisingly there still seem to be many more birds than usual at this date still in Iceland, where they, too, have been experiencing the warm southerlies that we had until very recently. So, two of your guesses were correct, and, while we can expect more to arrive here, the final total will very likely be down on last winter's 6-7000."
This fits with reports I was reading the other day of very low numbers of Bewick's swan in the UK at the minute, also thought to be related to exceptionally warm conditions in the Arctic this autumn. Thanks to all the above.
|pic c/o Neil McMahon|
A blustery, windy day with apparently nobody out there braving the elements looking for birds. However, the official International Goose Counts took place on Islay during the preceding two days and Morven Laurie kindly sent in the results:
There were 34,782 Barnacle Geese, 3,578 Greenland White-fronted Geese and 1,622 Greylag Geese. This compares with the International Count a year ago (November 2021) of 37,202 Barnacle Geese and 6,956 Greenland White-fronted Geese. Both species are below last year's total; the White-fronted Geese nearly 50% down which seems quite extreme. Does anyone know why? Is it avian flu, a disastrous breeding season, the birds haven't all arrived yet - or wintering somewhere else?
Rain overnight gave way to a drier, but windy morning becoming quite sunny by the afternoon.
James How reported from Gruinart a good selection of raptors: 4 White-tailed Eagles, at least 3 Hen Harriers and single Golden Eagle and Marsh Harrier. The Marsh Harrier (assuming it to be the same individual that has been present since late summer) is just about the longest-staying of its species on Islay. A guest at the Port Charlotte Hotel showed Gary T. this photo of the bird in question taken today.
Ian Lycett (and his Dad) were living the dream in the sunshine getting outrageously cute otter pictures...
...and seeing 4 imm and 1 adult WTE, 2 hen and 1 marsh harriers, presumably around Gruinart. They also had 4 pink-feet at Craigens and 10 slav grebes and a couple of LTD off of Blackrock. Thanks to them both.
Dave Wood gets BOTD with a goosander on Loch Kinnabus. That's all. It's a good day for fans of retrospective weather reports, as Peter, your leader, has returned from holidays raring to get blogging again. Back to him tomorrow.
Dead barnies continue to be found around Loch Gruinart - the usual plea for all dead wild bird reports to DEFRA on 03459 33 55 77. Don't touch sick, injured or dead birds.
Our only sightings from today are ominous in this context. 3 WTE chasing geese at Cornabus (Ed) and 4 doing the same at Gruinart (James).
|pic c/o David Livingstone|
2 little egrets at Gruinart with a barn owl out and about in the evening. Lucy had 3 WTE on Gruinart Flats, Polly Mather had 2 more at the head of Loch Indaal.
Steve Rogers had a single pink foot in with the greylags near Kilnaughton, with a cormorant flying over.
Down that way, Ed also had a water rail at Cornabus.
Mark and Alison had the last day of their trip, and sound like they will be back sometime. They reported "This morning on the way to Machir beach we had a ringtail Hen Harrier near Gruinart and an adult male Loch Gorm. Ali spotted an almost full adult Golden Eagle agle sat on a mound near the road southeast of the Loch, it soon took off to hunt along a low ridge- superb. Not to be outdone, a pair of adult WT Eagle were throwing their weight around on the Loch.
We finished up at Gruinart at dusk, hoping to see Otter and just as we were about to leave one appeared in front of the southern hide- mission accomplished"
Great pic of the Port Ellen bay dolphins from the other day from David Livingstone
Thanks very much to him and everyone else for the contributions.
Lastly, Dave Wood from The Oa has written a piece on twite for the rspb website here https://community.rspb.org.uk/placestovisit/islay/b/weblog/posts/twite-2108976433
Mark and Alison had a swallow near Lagavulin, and then a good old Islay WTE day, with 4 imm at Loch Indaal, 2 at The Oa and 2 more at Ardmore, with an adult over Bridgend in the afternoon to give them a bit of variety.
BOTD goes to this waxwing in a garden in Port Charlotte. First Islay record of this year, I think?
|pic c/o John Livingstone|
Thanks to all the above.
8 woodcock at least around the reserve at Gruinart, plus 6 hen harriers at a communal roost site in the NW Rhinns.
Mark and Alison Agnew continued their Islay adventure with "Early morning dog walk: Water Rail flew from the marsh near our holiday cottage at Lyrabus south of Gruinart. Loch Indaal, viewing from Blackrock to Port Charlotte:
|pic from Neil McMahon|
Angharad had a pod of dolphins in Port Ellen bay in the morning. And that's yer lot. Thanks to all.
|pic c/o Neil McMahon|
In more cheerful news, visitors Mark and Alison have just arrived for their first ever Islay visit and seem to be enjoying it, reporting "Ardnave Point: 12 Chough, 50 Twite,45 Ringed Plover, 50 Sanderling, 3 Reed Bunts. Ardnave loch: 6 Goldeneye, 2 Little grebe. Road to Gruinart: 2 young W T Eagle tussling together headed off N. Gruinart: 2 WT Eagle on sands soon after those above so we believe different. Also 2 young Golden eagle. 18 Whooper S. 9 Grey plover. Loch gorm this afternoon 24 Tufted duck, 5 pochard, 1 Goldeneye, 1 Little grebe".
Stuart had 3 WTE and 2 goldies at Gruinart, 3 species of diver on Loch Indaal, plus LT ducks, slav grebes, common scoters and an otter.
Mary (remember her?) gets BOTD with a water rail at Octofad.
That's all, thanks very much to everyone above for contributing.
MARY?! MARY?! MAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARY?!
I'm starting to think that Mary might have left to start her own bird blog.
Anyway, Stuart had a few hundred fieldfare and redwing at The Oa, plus twite, 3 golden eagles, chough, peregrine and merlin. Louise had a jack snipe on Jura. Mary-Ann had 3 WTE at Kildalton.
|pic c/o Neil McMahon|
More importantly, Malcolm was in touch to confirm yesterday's parsley ID and to point out the inadequacies in my mushroom knowledge. They were, of course, button mushrooms (Agaricus bisporus).
Thanks to all
Mary is still on strike, so unfortunately that means more sausage chat. Parsley seems to be the consensus opinion for the unidentified herb, so that's that mystery solved.
BOTD without doubt yesterday was Stuart's yellow-browed warbler in Port Charlotte. Stuart's other highlights from a busy day were 3 WTE, marsh harrier, 3 greenshank and little egret at Gruinart, and 2 black throated, 5 red throated and 10+ great northern divers on Loch Indaal in the afternoon. Also present there were 40+ common scoter and 10 slav grebes. Kingfisher and 3 purple sands near Bowmore.
|pic by Neil McMahon|
James had a flock of 30 snipe, 3 gadwall, 32 whoopers, 1100 teal and 450 whitefronts at Gruinart.
David Double D Dinsley had 3 whooper swans at Loch Kinnabus, and that was it for bird records.
Fortunately, we have one of the nation's foremost ornithologists resident on the island, with over 50 years of goose surveying and several books to his name. He sent us 5 sausages, 3 mushrooms and some unidentified herbs - any opinions as to their ID very welcome. Thanks Malcolm!
All the visitors are gone, so it falls to the people of Islay to go outside and write down the birds they see. Let's see what's in the post bag today...
Martin had a little egret at the mouth of the Sorn. Hot Ed had 3 WTE, a goldie, a jack snipe, and a barn owl at Cornabus. In the evening he managed to ring a couple of woodcock. Plus a very late swallow, which is apparently in this video clip somewhere...
|pic c/o Ed Burrell|
Thanks to all.
It was Mike Bell's last day of his holiday today, he didn't do badly on what was a pretty poor day for birdwatching. His highlights were..."all raptors: a pair of golden eagles chasing a hare in the rushy field by the road at Ballinaby gave super views, a hen harrier nearby. At Gruinart 5 WTE sheltering on the edge of the saltmarsh at 0910 hr, all leaving towards Bridgend by 1100 hr, also the marsh harrier, a hen harrier, and 2 golden eagles over nearby hills. At Borichill Mor 2 hen harrier and a peregrine. Another peregrine at Kilchoman late pm. " Thanks very much to Mike for all his records this past couple of weeks.
|Whooper swans at Cornabus, c/o David Livingstone|
On Loch Gruinart floods there were 113 dunlin, 6 mute swans, 17 whoopers, 73 mallard, 291 wigeon, 493 teal, 31 shoveler, 48 pintail, 3 gadwall, a little egret, a little grebe and one very lonely looking pink foot.
Nick Skilbeck and group had golden eagle at Finlaggan, and then purple sands, 100 sanderling, 3 grey plover, 6 barwits, 1 blackwit, 6 turnstone, 6 dunlin and 50 ringed plover around Ardnave Point. Back at Gruinart they saw the long-staying marsh harrier.
Mary had a barn owl at Port Wemyss in the evening to close.
Thanks to all.
Not much reports today, but what there was was worth it!
Mark Lewis got the 1pm ferry from Kennacraig to Islay and reported a Leach's Petrel and a juv Pomarine Skua out in the sound.
Mike's tallys for the day: At Gruinart first thing 6 Brent Geese, 2 WTE, a hen harrier and the marsh harrier plus 130 redwing. A walk in Bridgend Woods found a grey wagtail, 5 goldcrest, a treecreeper and 5 siskin among the selection of wee birds. At Bridgend 3 WTE, a hen harrier Borichill Mor and a peregrine Cnoc Don Mor. Back at Gruinart a pink-footed goose with whitefronts, now 13 black-tailed godwit, still 6 gadwall, and 61 pintail and 48 shoveler both the best totals I've had over the last 10 days.
Thanks for all for todays sightings.
Yesterday, I encountered my first woodcock of the year. Nearly stood on it when I got out of my car to feed the cows. After seeing snipe all year, they seem so big!
Mike was out today with the following sightings to add: 8 Whooper swan S Kilchoman at 0750 hr, a hen harrier at Carnduncan, a WTE, a golden eagle, 2 hen harrier and a peregrine at Gruinart, a male harrier at Cnoc Don Mor and 120 fieldfare near Avenvogie
On the local WhatsApp group Gary T. reported 10 bullfinch on the road to Finlaggan. While Nick S. was also on the Oa, reporting WTE, peregrine, ring-tailed HH and a merlin.
News through from Morven at Nature Scot that last week's island-wide goose count was 39,156 barnies, 3,782 white fronts and 2,236 greylags. Thanks very much to Morven and Nature Scot for sharing this with us. This is an extra, earlier, count designed to give Nature Scot more info on the effects of last winter's bird flu outbreak in the barnacle goose population here. This is a high count of barnies, though we know from ring re-sightings that many birds that will ultimately winter in Ireland and other places are still on Islay at the minute. It's also low for white-fronts - fingers crossed for these numbers increasing, if and when there's an easing of the strong southerly winds that we've had for what seems like weeks now.
Elsewhere, Nick Skilbeck and pals from Worcester and Malvern bird group enjoyed their first day on the island, with 80 species seen and highlights being "Loch Indaal, Several GND’s, 2 slavs, 30ish common scoter, also 31 whoopers over, then on to Gruinart, male and female hen harriers, 2 merlins, a Wt tailed eagle, 100’s redwings, a dozen pintail, two gadwall, 1000 or so golden plover, several barwits, one blackwit, plus many other common waders. Also a bullfinch. Then to Ardnave point, 15 chough, 30 twite."
|pic from Neil McMahon|
Mike Bell had a trip up to Ardnave and saw 5 grey plover and at least 6 purple sands at Traigh Nostaig, with at least 31 chough in the wider area. Back down at Gruinart, there were 11 blackwits. Notably, Mike had zero WTEs for the first time in his holiday, which shows how prevalent they are becoming.
That's all folks, thanks to all the above for their sightings.
Only one place to start today and that's Neil McMahon's juv pallid harrier, first seen by him around Machir Bay and later re-found and photographed at Sanaigmore. It's a first for Islay, and only the 3rd Argyll record, subject to BBRC approval. A great find. Well done Neil. The link below will take you to Neil's Twitter where several great pics of the bird can be seen
Elsewhere, Mike reports "Today 4 goldeneye on Loch Gorm, male hen harrier over the muir. 47 brent geese along the shore east of Bowmore. A walk at Gartbreck found 2 grey plover and 26 turnstone among the usual selection of shorebirds. At midday 2 golden eagle Cnoc Don. A nice selection of waders came onto the Gruinart wetland at high tide with knot, dunlin, bar-tailed godwit, redshank and 12 greenshank. Also 8 gadwall, 2 WTE and 2 hen harrier."
John and Jonty Wilson are back on the island, and found "White-tailed Eagle 1 Ardnave and 1 Gruinart,Hen Harrier Ring tails Ardnave,Gruinart and The O all singles. Greenshank 1 Gruinart. Twite ca 150 at Kinnabus but may be more as ring tail scattered them, 5 on the feeders by car park. Chough 4 at Ardnave. Two were great as they flew towards us and landed only 4 m from the car at the waters edge and drank! Brent 22 PB near Bridge End."
Double D had two white tails at Gruinart...
...plus "Female Marsh Harrier at Ardnave Loch, 2 Little Egret from the North Hide, and a Barn Owl on The Oa last night."
Tonnes more birds on the whatsapp group, too many to type out! Thanks to everyone
No doubt about BOTD today, David Dinsley's long-eared owl at The Oa. Neil McMahon and group had a WTE and 5 whoopers at Loch Finlaggan. At Gruinart, there were 3 pink feet and a PB brent in one of the big flocks of barnies on the West side of the loch.
|photo by Neil McMahon|
Mike Bell was busiest birder today, however, reporting "At Loch Gruinart a productive 45 min produced 2 WTE, male & ring-tail hen harriers, marsh harrier, a peregrine, the 2 little egret still present and at least 800 teal today. A pleasant walk along the Laggan river found 9 bullfinch and 3 goldcrest among the wee birds. Up the Glen road a golden eagle gave a fabulously close view up by Storakaig, also c.100 each of fieldfare and redwing here. Back west male & ring-tail harriers at Sanaigmore, another 2 harriers at Ballinaby and Coull, and a golden eagle and 4 chough also by the road at Ballinaby to round off a good day ". Thanks to Mike, Neil and DD.
Heel, toe, here we go!
Whoopers were a regular sight all day, taking advantage of the light NW winds. Margaret, Malcolm and Neil McMahon saw groups of 16, 21 and 23 respectively all on the move around the island.
Mike Bell was as busy as always, reporting "5 Whooper swan, a WTE and a merlin at Kilchoman first thing, another 18 whoopers on Loch Gorm with a male harrier along the road. At Gruinart 4 WTE squabbling over a still alive barnacle goose, a few more ducks including 58 pintail and 33 shoveler. At The Oa I had a hen harrier, a peregrine and a merlin but the golden eagles didn't show due to the showers. Also 14 twite at the feeders at the car park and a flock of 280 at Kinnabus. At Kilnaughton bay 2 red t diver, 3 great n diver and 3 chough. Back at Kilchoman 19 whoopers flew south at dusk.".
|pic by Neil McMahon|
Neil McMahon and his group managed one more WTE at Gruinart (5) plus a goldie and the marsh harrier. They also had a little egret, 3 hen harriers, 6 greenshank and a male blackcap. Elsewhere around the island they saw 17 whoopers headed south over Port Charlotte, with otter and GND near the hotel. Further afield, at Ardmore Point they had c70 sanderling and 4 RTD.
Thanks to all
Hello all. The calm after the storm brought out the birds. It was Owen and Glynis's last day on Islay, and they managed 65 species in what turned out to be a lovely day, during a whirlwind trip around Lochs Indaal, Gruinart, Skerrols and Gorm. Some of their highlights were a juv golden eagle near Skerrols, 2 GND and 5 Slav grebes on Loch Indaal, 2 chough, 70 ringed plover and some sanderling at Machir Bay and 2 drake gadwall, a blackwit and 2 little egrets at Loch Gruinart. They finished with 96 species for their trip, not counting that putative Pacific diver. Not bad! Thanks very much to them both.
|pic by Neil McMahon|
Whooper swans were moving through Loch Gruinart all day, and Mike Bell picked up groups of 18, 10, 13, 27, 9 & 18 through the morning, with 12 brent geese also present. At Killinallan he had 2 hen harriers, 45 twite and at least 16 chough. An afternoon count of Loch Indaal from Smelly Corner to Bruichladdich turned up 48 red t diver, 35 great n diver, 39 slavonian grebe, 102 eider, 94 common scoter, 5 long t duck, 3 goldeneye, 77 merganser and 5 black guillemot.
It was the first day of the first barnacle goose count of the winter today, day 2 tomorrow. At Gruinart, 3 WTEs were making a difficult job even trickier, and James also had peregrine and sparrowhawk.
That's all folks, thanks to all.
A wild weather day on Islay and not much to report as a result.
Mike rightly called it a "challenging" day for bird watching but still managed a "merlin at Kilchoman, 2 golden eagles Cnoc Don behind Loch Skerrols in the sunny period early pm. 2 little egret on flooded fields Gruinart but very few ducks on the wetland late pm"
Owen and Glynis quite rightly stayed indoors in the morning and got a blackwit at Gruinart when things settled down a bit in the afternoon.
Double D somehow kept his camera steady long enough to get this pic of a jack snipe at The Oa. BOTD to him for the effort.
Thanks to all the above.
Driving home earlier today I was surprised to see 3 whooper swan in the field among the Highland cows at Ellister, apparently having mis-aimed when approaching Ellister Loch. Later this evening, a small flock were flying south towards Ireland in the dark.
This afternoon came a surprising story from a friend out walking her small dogs in the hills near the village, only to be harassed by a young raven who went on to knock the dogs of it's feet!
Owen and Glynis set out to try locate the possible Pacific Diver: "No sign of putative Pacific Diver today despite a thorough look at the top end of Indaal. The words needle and haystack spring to mind! No BTD either, but did accumulate RTD into double figures and at least three GND whilst searching! Also three WTE over Bridgend woods and 42 Common Teal and eight Whoopers have suddenly appeared on Skerrols."
Louise had a good game of 'raptor bingo' between Craighous and the ferry on Jura this morning: Hen harrier, merlin, peregrine, kestrel and a WTE all within 15 mins.
Mike too had a good raptor day with 2 WTE and a hen harrier at Kilchoman, a male hen harrier and a pair of golden eagle at Ballinaby, then later a further 2 male hen harrier and a merlin near Storakaig on the Glen Road. He also had good counts of redwing - 250 at Kilchoman and 700 at Craigens. On a walk from Ballygrant to Port Askaig he reported 6 long-tailed tits, 5 gold crest and 3 bullfinch. A coot at Ballygrant loch, at least 6 yellowhammer at Keills and 10 siskin at Ballygrant. Mike also noted a movement of whooper swan, counting 31 at Kilchoman early in the day, and 12 later flying south over Keills.
Rob L. had a good count of 30 chough at Killinallan this afternoon.