Tuesday, 28 March 2023

Monday 27th & Tuesday 28th March

A lovely sunny day on Monday gave way to cloud and rain today.

Bird news for yesterday included a count by Marc Eden of 7 White-tailed Eagles (1 adult, 1 sub-adult and 5 immature birds) on the ground near Loch Ruime near Sanaigmore – a slightly different location for these winter gatherings. Later, Marc saw the first Sandwich Tern of the year for Islay at Loch Gruinart and 5 White-tailed Eagles eating a Barnacle Goose at the end of the Killinallan road – were these the same as those seen earlier at Sanagimore? There was also a Greenshank up that way and a Richardson’s Cackling Goose and lone Brent Goose at Craigens. He also saw the old faithful Glaucous Gull at Uiskentuie.

Wheatears were found down at Claddach by Mary R.and at Glenegedale by Jarred Johnson, who also had a Chiffchaff at Kilnaughton and no less than 13 Sand Martins and 2 House Martins at Loch Skerrols. A couple of Sand Martins were also seen up at Ardnave by Steve & Lynn Rogers.

Today, despite the much less pleasant weather, a few folk were out there finding further summer migrants. The Glaucous Gull had moved up to Bridgend for a change of scenery, while Sand Martins and a Great Spotted Woodpecker were found at Loch Skerrols and David Dinsley had his first 2 Wheatears down on The Oa.

In other news, we had reports of Islay being “surrounded” today by more Alpine Swifts – 4 over at Ballycastle, Northern Ireland and 2-3 in Oban and elsewhere in Argyll. Surely there must be one here too?

Thanks to David Livingstone sent in these photos of one of his recent rambles:

Sunday, 26 March 2023

Sunday 26th March

A lovely day of bright sunny, quite warm weather – most appropriate given that we put the clocks on to British Summer Time last night.

The Nature Scotland team sent in some additional records for yesterday 25th March:

Loch Gorm - 20+ Tufted Ducks and 2 Slav Grebes.

Loch Indaal (scanning from Bowmore) – apart from the female Surf Scoter reported yesterday were a Black-throated Diver, 30+ Great Northern Divers, 15+ Red-throated Divers, 50+ Red-breasted Mergansers, 30+ Slavonian Grebes, 1 Little Grebe, 6 Long-tailed Ducks, 8 Goldeneye. 130+ Eider.

Kintra - 5 Long-tailed Ducks, 15 Great Northern Divers.

Other news from yesterday comes from Fiona Mcgillivray who saw a House Martin at Port Wemyss – first for the year here.

Today’s bird news includes some very spring-like records of new arrivals, nesting and migration:

Summer Arrivals: Jarred Johnson had a Wheatear at Gruinart this morning and no less than 8 at Ardnave this afternoon. Along the woodland trail at Gruinary he heard the first Chiffchaff of summer on Islay – or was David Dinsley’s 2 Chiffchaffs at Kinnabus the first? Jarred also had a Sand Martin at Ardnave.

Migration: there were several flocks of Whooper Swans moving through today on their return journey northwards. Jarred first had a group of 8 at Gruinart, then a flock of 62 dropped in. Steve & Lynn Rogers had 53 over Kilnaughton. James How notes that by the evening there had been several groups of whoopers moving north at Gruinart today, the largest flock being a whopping 96. Also on their way north were 10 Redwings seen by Jarred at Gruinart.

Nesting: Ed Burrell notes his first Lapwing incubating eggs at Cornabus this evening.

Other Stuff: There were the usual 4 Little Egrets at Gruinart where up to 4 White-tailed Eagles and a Golden Eagle were noted. 3 more WTE were at Cairnmore woods near Port Ellen and yet another down at Lossit/Kelsey area. Rarity of the day was another relocation of the long-staying Red-breasted Goose by Mark Shield up at the Gruinart North Hide.

Non-Avian: the sunny summer theme continues with sightings of 4 basking Adders at Foreland, Common Lizards at Glenegedale and Peacock, Red Admiral and Small Tortoiseshell butterflies hither and thither.

Corrections; Regarding yesterday’s note about duck hybrids, Malcolm Ogilvie clarifies and corrects my note saying: “hybrids of 121 species of ducks have been recorded, some species with just one hybrid, while Mallard has hybridised with over 60 other species. The total number of duck hybrids known amounts to over 400. One obvious reason for this is that wildfowl have for long been kept in enclosures with multiple species in a single enclosure. Perhaps fortunately, the great majority of hybrids are infertile!"


Saturday, 25 March 2023

Saturday 25th March

 Weather forecasts were a bit out today - it was generally much nicer than predicted, with a lot more sunshine and lighter winds than anticipated.

Theo from the Nature Scotland group sent in these two photos last night of a presumed hybrid Mallard x Pintail seen from the Gruinart hides and Mark S. had seen this "lame duck" wandering along the woodland trail earlier this week. This prompted our resident wildfowl experts to start posting pictures of other horrible hybrids and the comment that there are at least 121 variations of duck hybrids including 60 concerning Mallards. Why is this hybridisation so common in wildfowl compared to other bird families?

Anyway - today's news of "real birds" is as follows:
The female Surf Scoter was still showing in Loch Indaal off Bowmore and the female Marsh Harrier turned up right over by the airport for a change. I saw my first Sand Martin of the year at Ballinaby, while Mary Redman reports a group of 9 Chough down her way at Claddach and Jarred Johnson had 50 White-fronted Geese near Ballygrant and 5 Crossbills at Finlaggan. 

This late afternoon on a sunny and calm Loch Indaal off Port Charlotte there was plenty of seabird action as shoals of tiny fish leapt about on the sea's surface. I counted 24 Red-throated Divers, 39 Razorbills, 4 Black Guillemots, single Common Guillemot, 3 Common Scoter, 6 Eider, 55 Red-breasted Mergansers and 4 Gannets joining the fray at times. 

There was further tantalising news of no less than 3 Alpine Swifts on the northern cliffs of Rathlin today. We can see Rathlin clearly from Islay, but my 'scope isn't quite strong enough to pick out the swifts! 

Friday, 24 March 2023

Friday 24th March


A much drier, warmer and sunnier morning than forecast gave way to more cloud and occasional rain in the afternoon. Winds continues from a southerly direction.

Summer migrants still seem to be very late, but there was our second Wheatear of the season seen by Lucy Atkinson at Port an Eas this morning and Ewan Miles, Theo De Clermont and Jack Waldie from Nature Scotland had our first 2 Sand Martins of the year up at Ardnave Loch along with another couple of Wheatears. They also saw the American Wigeon on Loch Gorm again today, after its “rediscovery” yesterday, while Marc Eden “rediscovered” the long-staying female Surf Scoter with 15 Common Scoter off Bowmore.

Later, the Nature Scotland team spent a couple of hours checking through all the Barnacle Geese around Gruinart / Craigens and found a lone Pale Bellied Brent Goose but no Red-breasted Goose. They found a near summer-plumaged Black-tailed Godwit on the Gruinart reserve and also c31 Knot, c28 Dunlin, 17+ Bar-tailed Godwits. They also found the juv Glaucous Gull back close to its usual haunts just east of Blackrock on Loch Indaal.

I did a walk to the Iron Age fort at Dunosebridge – just to be out in the open in case one of the mythical Alpine Swifts might zoom past - but none did – (there were sightings yesterday on Rathlin Island to our south and Oban to the north). However, there was another lone Brent Goose with a big flock of Barnacles up at Neriby. A drive along the Glen Road and a walk out to Ballygrant Loch didn’t produce any further summer migrants, but it was a lovely sunny morning to be out.

Back at Port Charlotte in the early afternoon there was a fair bit of feeding activity concentrated just off the pier attracting 34 Red-breasted Mergansers, a couple of Eider, 1 Black-throated and 3 Red-throated Divers, a couple of Guillemots and at least 10 Razorbills.



Weds 22 and Thurs 23rd March

 Apologies for the double-late post.

The rain is still heavy here on Islay but when the sun shines, it's spring! Birds are gathering in pairs and displaying or making nests.  The mallard ducklings ought to appear soon.  I noticed a lot more pied wagtails in the fields this week and more lapwing flocks.

The WTE remain busy sitting around, apparently doing nothing - 5 at the head of Loch Indaal yesterday (thanks Marc).   The American wigeon is present among the Eurasians on Loch Gorm.  An interesting report of a juv Glaucous gull at the top of Loch Indaal, can it be the same bird that remained at Uiskentui so long?

Otherwise quite quiet on the birding front as everyone is in search of the Alpine swift who may fly overhead, though with these winds you'd need to be fast!

Thank you all.

Tuesday, 21 March 2023

Tuesday 21 March


Photo from reliable Billy, the only one on the island with a camera it seems at times!  His feeders have been busy with goldfinch, greenfinch and robin.

Beautiful start to today with pairs of chough by the village and Claddach.  I often associate St Patricks day with the first of our wheatears and like to make the effort to be first.  I was pipped to the post though with Ed reporting Islay's first of 2023 at Cornabus!  In my defence I was busy clearing drains all morning, most definitely looking down.

This cheery herald of spring on the spring equinox was just what was needed, inspiring Peter to go out a-hunting.  He didn't find much of note to report. "At Skerrols 15 tufted, 5 goldeneye and a couple of lesser black-backs. Then to Loch Gorm keeping an eye skywards in case an Alpine swift might appear - it didn't of course! Loch Gorm had a further 15 Tufted Ducks, 2 more Goldeneye and 35 Teal. Then to Machir Bay where another couple of Lesser Black-backed Gulls popped up along with 17 Ringed Plover. I returned via the other side of Loch Gorm at Ballinaby where an adult White-tailed Eagle flew by, a male Hen Harrier quartered the shoreline and another 3 Lesser Black-backed Gulls were on the wet fields there with 4 Canada Geese that were much to hefty to try and turn into Cackling Geese! So the rarities and first summer migrants (apart from the LBB Gulls) will have to wait for another day."

Finally Dave reports 4 crossbill in the woods at Bunnahabhain, plus 2 juv and one adult golden eagle.

It has been raining constantly since 3pm. My newly cleared drains will be well tested!

Monday, 20 March 2023

Monday 20th March

 A rainy morning cleared in the afternoon. Not too much wind and quite mild. The remainder of the week may continue in the same unsettled way.

No bird news to report today.

Sunday, 19 March 2023

Sunday 19th March

Derek Polley reports on another boat trip from Ballycastle today to Ardnave and Gruinart. It sounded like the wet morning was a bit of a wash-out, but a much better afternoon. He was happy with views of “loads of Barnacles and White-fronts - where we are seeing 6 is good”

At Gruinart this afternoon a ringtail Hen Harrier flew past the front of the hide, then 3 Golden Eagles over the hills directly opposite the hide. Finally a White-tailed Eagle gave stunning views over the field between the hide and the visitor centre. It flew within 50 m of the hide. His verdict: “absolute stonking megatick”.

Other news came in from Derek Killick who enjoyed a couple of dippers and a pair of Grey Wagtails on the Sorn at the Woollen Mill. Later a Slavonian Grebe in full breeding plumage in Loch Indaal off Bowmore was a fine sight. Ed Burrell noted his first returning Lesser Black-backed Gulls of the year at Cornabus, where Lynn & Steve Rogers found Woodcock amongst other species.

Both Ed Burrell and Jim Dickson reminded us of a recent influx of Alpine Swifts into the UK. Many of them are in the west, and one was seen on Mull on 16th. The weather looks not very conducive to make a swift of any species very happy, but do keep an eye up towards the sky…………………

Saturday, 18 March 2023

Saturday 18th March

An overcast, drizzly, grey and at times foggy start to the day gave way to a much brighter afternoon, but it went back to grey and drizzly by evening.

Jim Wells and his birders from northern Ireland have come over in their fast boat in the past couple of days. Yesterday they reported 7 different sightings of at least 3 White-tailed Eagles, plus Choughs, 4 Little Egrets, close views of Twite, Hen Harriers and woodcock. Today they found more of the same and supplied a few nice photos of White-tailed and Golden Eagles for the blog - many thanks.

Eslewhere, Elliott Bowman reported 6 Choughs in one of his fields at Cragabus and I can confirm that the juv. Glaucous Gull is still at Uiskentuie.

Thanks to Malcolm Ogilvie for his response to my request for information about heronries. Do keep the info flowing..........

Friday, 17 March 2023

Friday 17th March

No bird news coming in tonight, but Morven Laurie has kindly forwarded the recent international goose counts as follows: 29,067 barnacles, 5168 white-fronts, 768 greylags.

A couple of requests for information that anyone out there may be able to help with:

GREY HERONS: This species has been censused nationwide on occasions since the early 1900s and there is a further census going on this year.  If anyone is aware of a heronry on Islay please let us know. They are often small, obscure and tucked away in a different place to previous years - so we may not be aware of them.

GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKERS: After colonisation and a rapid increase in recent years, I wonder if they are fizzling out on Islay! I've not been hearing them so much or hearing of people seeing them so often as 2-3 years ago. If you hear or see one please let us know.

Thursday, 16 March 2023

Weds 15th and Thursday 16th March


An other beautiful image from John Spiers via the Argyll Bird Club. This is a stunning capture of a WTE being closely watched by the wintering marsh harrier at Gruinart, hoping it might spook a snack out of cover!

Apologies for the double entry, a busy day and time just disappears before you know it!

Yesterday Malcolm reported our recent exotic visitor, the magpie, south of Claggain bay.  "LP" on the WhatsApp group gave a good account of a peregrine successfully hunting a common gull, going onto feed nearby.

Peter stopped by Loch Skerrolls today and found 2 drake goldeneye and a great spotted woodpecker in the nearby woods.

Up at Claddach yesterday a WTE came in via MacKenzie Island and flew overhead looking down at me before soaring off inland.  Up at the loch there was a merlin while down at the bay the chough were feeding again.  In the neighbouring crofts there is a young whooper who has been seemingly left behind, strong enough to fly from field to field, but not to cover any real distance.  It does seem bright enough though, usually feeding and moving around.

Wednesday, 15 March 2023

Tuesday 14 March

 A day of 2 distinct seasons, starting with snow, hail and sleet going on to finish in glorious sunshine!

Yesterday when I was leaving the house in Port Wemyss around 10am, a huge flock of barnacle geese were overhead heading inland and north to Loch Indaal. As I drove around to Portnahaven a WTE was being harassed by the gulls. Coincidence...?

Up at the croft a pair of chough were feeding at the bay, this makes 4 round 'my' area as there were an other 2 down by the village.  The Oystercatcher numbers have been growing and I stopped to check for the flagged ringed TTE from last year who was in the fields with its young with sheep wool wrapped around its tags and hobbling it legs. I was delighted to see him/her in the field with a large flock, no wool in sight!  Though I never heard back, I am understand there is a ringing project in Dublin bay.

George reported bullfinch and greenfinch on his feeders. The first since last autumn.  Dave report a purple sandpiper at Bruichladdich, Peter located 2 woodcock at Loch Allan, while James had a golden eagle at Ardnave while at Gruinart a WTE, 4 little egret and a few lesser black-backs.

Todays photo from John Speirs who was over on Islay with Argyll Bird Club.  It shows a WTE with a deformed beak.  There is an other with a radio tag who was caught in a malnourished state, so this presumably makes 2.  I had a budgie like this once.  Somehow I dont think I would manage to clip this ones beak armed with a towel and a pair of nail clippers!  It's made it this far though I imagine the winter is easier with a supply of carrion.   Here's hoping it continues into adult hood.

Monday, 13 March 2023

Monday 13th March

 A cold NW wind and occasional rain made it seem that spring is still a long way off. Some time at the RSPB hides at Gruinart produced a grand total of 5 Little Egrets again along with a Greenshank on the floods at high tide. 

Sunday, 12 March 2023

Sunday 12th March

 Cloudy, rainy at times, but not too cold. A walk to the American Monument was wet with few birds! The immature Glaucous Gull remains in residence on the beach at Uiskentuie.

Saturday 11th March

 The wonderful weather fizzled out at about lunchtime, and by evening it was wet and windy and very unpleasant.

The only bird of note was the long-staying Marsh Harrier seem again up at Gruinart.

Friday, 10 March 2023

Friday 10th March

With the weather reports of snow-chaos in many areas of the UK we should be feeling very smug and happy on Islay today - a glorious day of bright sunshine, no wind and enough warmth for a decent heat haze when out birding.

Mark Shields reported 6 White-tailed eagles toying with a Barnacle goose on the flats at Gruinart this morning. Apparently plucking it a bit, but not killing it and eventually the poor creature flew off. I think we should set up a counselling service for traumatised geese?

James how reported 8 White-tailed eagles up there at lunchtime and by the time I popped up to the RSPB hides in mid afternoon there were 9 loafing about and causing the Barnies to be on the alert. On my way there the female Marsh Harrier flew along parallel to the road at Jack's house. From the north hide there was one Little Egret successfully fishing. A total of 15 Whooper Swans were present on the floods.

Thursday 9 March

 Some sightings on this cold, dry day from Ewan and John on the Nature Scotland wildlife touring group.  At the Oa they caught sight of a merlin, then down at Kintra discovered a dead little auk, then 3 very much alive long-tailed ducks in the sea nearby. Their hunt for the red-breasted goose was hampered by a lot of WTE activity putting up the flocks of barnacle geese, but then success at last near Craigens! The female Marsh Harrier is still to be seen at RSPB Loch Gruinart, then round Loch Gorm 2 ring-tailed hen harrier.  Then off Portnahaven, a gannet. First I've heard of for a while.

At Uiskentui, mr/mrs Reliable the Glaucous gull was still present.  I took a walk there in the late afternoon and discovered the attraction could be attributed to the 3 dead seals on the high tide mark along with a few  very decomposed barnacle geese. 

No bird photos today, instead you'll have to make do with this of the beautiful sunset from Port Wemyss.  Later there was heavy snow with lovely big flakes, but undoubtedly will not be there in the morning!

Thursday, 9 March 2023

Weds 8th March

A freezing start to the day, but the sun is warm once you find a sheltered spot! 

Sightings and pictures from Billy who was out West towards Kilchoman and treated to the sighting of a flock of golden plover, buzzard, chough and lapwing.   Nearby in the flooded pools near Loch Gorm, a flock of teal balancing on the ice.  Near Ballygrant in a walk in the woods he was joined by gold crest flitting about in the pine trees.

Over by Claddach some of the fields have nice flooded pools this time of year with lapwing, curlew and pied wagtail feeding nearby (once the ice melts).

Wednesday, 8 March 2023

Tuesday 7th March


An other of Billys cracking photos to add colour to todays blog.  

A beautiful but very cold day on Islay, a keen frost and a light cover of snow overnight but the warmth of the sun during the day soon melted it all.

Today Kathy and John returned home, thank you for your contributions to the blog.  It is only through the WhatsApp group that we can collate local sightings and keep the blog up-to-date.

The new David Attenborough series "Wild Isles" starts this week on Sunday 7pm.   It looks to be an amazing series showcasing Britains wildlife, and Islay features throughout. Most notably a sequence of WTE hunting and capturing a barnacle goose.  The sequence took 2 years to capture, a case of being in the right place at the right time exactly.  So many things could go wrong:  follow the wrong eagle in the camera, the shot obscured by thousands of geese etc.  On the One Show the Producer and one of the camera men were discussing this particular shot as the highlight of their work, and it served as an example of how hard being a wildlife cameraman can be! Looking forward to seeing the end result!

Tuesday, 7 March 2023

Monday 6 March

 Getting colder today with temperatures to drop further still on the forecast for the coming week. The false spring has drawn to a sharp end!

The north winds will be halting  any migration attempts. As such, the unwavering presence of the glaucous gull continues at Uiskentui Strand.  Kathy also ventured down towards Portnahaven where she located a sub-adult male hen harrier then on the drive towards Kilchiaran one WTE and 3 golden eagles very high.   Later at Bowmore, an adult WTE by the Gaelic Centre.  

At Claddach over the weekend there was a WTE, 2 chough, 2 separate flocks of passing whooper swan on the loch, and lapwing spread out on the neighbouring 'Windy Edge' croft.  A sparrowhawk was spotted flying low over the fields, making me realise I really haven't seen many this winter. Near Craigens farm yesterday 4 pied wagtail were feeding in the fields. Nice to see them returning.

Even with the cold wind-chill, when the sun came out there was a heat to be felt. So it shouldn't have been surprising to see the marsh-fritillary caterpillars taking the chance to warm up in the sunshine on a sheltered clump of grass.  It should serve as a warning to be careful of sleepy adders when out walking at this time of year!

Sunday, 5 March 2023

Sunday 5th March

All quiet on the bird front today, with only Kathy Evans' sightings of male and female harriers on the Glen Road to report. Kathy also saw the glaucous gull in the usual place. Malcolm took the time to write in to give some context - "In the dim and distant past, actually 1986, a first-winter Glaucous Gull spent the 1986-7 winter sitting on the end of the shingle spit which juts out from the Uiskentuie Strand. It was in the same place for the following three winters, gradually maturing until by 1989-90 its plumage was close to being adult. There are a few summer records of it during that period, but, unlike in winter when it seemed like a permanent fixture on the spit, it clearly went elsewhere for some of each summer, though it isn't known where. Perhaps the present one at Uiskentuie is preparing to follow suit!".

Thanks to Malcolm and Kathy

Saturday 4th March

Hello bird fans. Here we go with Saturday's sightings.

Kathy finally caught up with the RBG at Craigens and sent us this pic...

...from John Ridley. Elsewhere, Kathy had the glaucous gull at Machir Bay. Only joking, it was at Uiskentuie. Has anyone actually seen it flying?! 

And that was it, apart from 2 WTEs over Kilchoman reported by our very own Margaret Brooke. 

Thanks to all. Cheerie!

Saturday, 4 March 2023

Friday 3rd March

Couple of nice images from Billy after a walk around Ballygrant Loch.
It was Kens last day today. On the ferry to back to the mainland he counted 114 great northern divers, 19 red-throated divers, 6 Slavonian grebes and 3 harbour porpoises.  Thanks Ken for all your contributions.

Also returning to reality was Chris, who tells us his birding list was 115 species while on Islay! Thanks Chris. 

Valerie took a turn to Kilchoman and located the 2 jack snipe at the marsh, then round at Saligo 20 twite.
Kathy took the time to report that the glaucous gull is still at Uiskentui. That gull certainly has a favourite spot!  Finally as the evening drew in, Margaret had a count 18 chough above the crag at Kilchoman reserve.

It's been a lovely settled spell of weather this week with a spring like feel in the air,  but it has been steadily getting colder.  Looking ahead next week looks much the same, with cold winds from the north meaning the met office has announced yellow ice and snow warnings for the NW and eastern coast.   Not quite time to pack away to big coat yet!


Friday, 3 March 2023

Thursday 2nd March


Last photo from Simon for todays blog of the red-breasted goose, demonstrating how easy it is to miss among a few hundred barnacle geese.

The cackling goose was leading today's seekers on a merry goose-chase! First seen at Skerrols before the flock was put up, then later discovered at Earrabus.

Jim was over with David J. today and found the American wigeon drake at Loch Gore, 2 hybrid barnacle/Canada geese outside Bowmore, the juv Glaucous gull at Uiskentui, 2 drake gadwall and 6 little egret at Loch Gruinart, a yellowhammer in song. At Loch Gorm area a male hen harrier, plus 6-8 golden eagle and 3 WTE.   But alas, no red-breasted goose today! 

Thanks to all for your contributions.

Thursday, 2 March 2023

Wednesday 1 March


A cracking photo from Simon again, this time of the 2 whitefront races side by side. "The Greenland white-fronted goose has a darker plumage and orange-yellow beak, while the European or Russian white-fronted goose has a lighter plumage with a bright pink beak."

The contributors to the WhatsApp group (details to join on the right) have had an other busy day, helped by the lovely weather and sunshine.   Chris started his day over towards Kilchoman, reporting Merlin, female hen-harrier, WTE plus a large mixed thrush flock of over 200 birds, mainly fieldfare, around 40 skylark and their first linnet of the trip! In the marshy area of Machir Bay he was able to count 15 common snipe plus 3 jack snipe.  In fields nearby he located a cackling goose among a huge barnacle goose flock.  Later at Bridgend 2 adult and one immature WTE could be seen high above, the surf scoter located again off Bowmore, then late last night he heard at least 2 tawny owls calling in Foreland Woods.

Steve located the red-breasted goose south of the RSPB Loch Gruinart Visitor Centre. From the carpark at The Oa there were 80 twite, and high above 5 WTE above Kinnabus.  Later at Claggan Bay Steve counted 7 black-throated divers, 10 great-northern divers and a red throated diver.

Lastly, Louise reported 2 WTE above Port Askaig, while Valerie located 2 pink footed geese with white-fronted geese opposite Esknish Farm turn off, Ballygrant.

Wednesday, 1 March 2023

Tuesday 28 Feb


Photo from Simon of a young WTE during his stay here on Islay. He returned home a few days ago and we are thankful of his contributions!

No northern lights on Monday night to be seen, at least not as visible as Sundays. Low cloud scuppered most peoples views.  But on the birding front people had more success.

Valerie kicked off the day with a surf scoter among the common scoter flock off Bowmore.  The flock was later counted at 108 by Steve who also noted one Slavonian grebe and one black guilliemot.  Valerie also noted the red-breasted goose at Craigens mid-morning, and the marsh harrier at Loch Gruinart. A little later she was able to catch sight of an ermine stoat.  We have an unusual population on Islay where only some go white in the winter, not all.

Chris was at RSPB The Oa reserve where he counted 95 twite at the feeders in the carpark, and elsewhere a ring-tailed hen harrier and a WTE.   Later at Ardbeg he spotted a single pink-footed goose with around 30 greylag.

Thanks to all for you sightings.

Tuesday, 28 February 2023

Monday 27 Feb


In a spectacular night of Northern Lights the whole country appeared to have enjoyed, Islay was no different.  An incredible experience enjoyed from so many's back garden! Above from my own in Port Wemyss.

Back to the birds and the activity was also flurried! Difficult to pick through the WhatsApp group but here goes. The highlights:

Chris had an immature WTE, an adult pair of golden eagles plus a male hen harrier at Sanaigmore. Then at Gruinart observed a male hen harrier mobbing the marsh harrier in front of the viewing platform on the RSPB Woodland trail. Also spotted on the Salt Marsh was 3 WTE. Later he found the red-breasted goose among a flock of 2000 barnacles before the flock was put up by WTE's.  Near Killinallan his highlights. was a greenshank, and a jack snipe.

At the Oa Ian reported an other jack snipe as well as a common snipe as he walked away from the car park, while David D. counted 40 twite there.

Valerie had a good day out - at Finlaggan a Goosander, 3 WTE, and a sparrowhawk; at Stonefield 40 redwing; at Coulabus there was 40 twite, 80 fieldfare and a kestrel.  Back at Gruinart she noted 15 whooper swans high overhead.

Sunday, 26 February 2023

Sunday 26th February

Another busy day of people looking at birds in beautiful blue skies. Here we go...

Some late sightings for Saturday 25th came through from Chris Mills this morning. On Loch Indaal he had c16 long-tailed ducks, c20 slav grebes, 15 GNDs, 10 RTDs, c30 RBMs and 8 goldeneyes. Ian Ford chipped in with a tawny owl calling in Bowmore, also last night. 

On to today, and Ashley Saunders got us started with a woodcock at Kildalton. Ian Ford then saw the glaucous gull at...yeah, you guessed it. Chris Mills had 2 chough nearby and slav grebe close inshore at the same location. He then saw lots of raptors - WTE at Kilchoman, and WTE, 2 goldies, 2 hen harriers, 3 buzzards and a sprawk at Ballimartin. Not to be out-eagled, Ian Ford then saw 3 WTEs over Gruinart and a ringtail harrier near Craigens. Michael Harrison laughed at this feeble effort and reported 5 golden eagles at Sanaigmore, plus hen harrier and merlin. 

Valerie Wilson reported 3 LTDs, 7 slav grebes, c100 common scoter on Loch Indaal and 4 WTEs over Loch Gruinart. Margaret had a stonechat in her garden, the first for a while. 

James tried to kill the upbeat Spring-is-on-the-way vibes by sending in a picture of a manky dead dolphin, but we'll save that treat for another time. Here's a cracker from Billy Stitchell of a crossbill at Finlaggan instead. 

Thanks to Mary for passing on, and to all the above for their sightings. 

Saturday, 25 February 2023

Saturday 25th February

Eyes down for a full house of Islay birds. 

Simon Knight was the latest in a very long line of people to record the glaucous gull at Uiskentuie. Does it ever move?! Simon also had 2 WTEs from the viewing platform at Gruinart. Ashley Saunders picked up "2 cackling/canada x barnacle hybrids" on the Gartbreck road, before seeing a pair of merlins mating on a telegraph pole at Mulindry and an otter at Bunnahabhain. Later in the day they saw an imm golden eagle on the Glen road, an adult WTE over Jura and a young WTE hunting barnies at the Woollen Mill. 

Chris Mills had the female surf scoter in with around 100 common scoters out from Bowmore. In the afternoon he had 3 WTE between Lochs Indaal and Gruinart and this great view of a merlin...

...perched on a fence post on the Carnain - Coullabus road. Steve Rogers finishes off our visitor reports with 3 WTE high over Kilnaughton. 

Our own Mary had a singing skylark down in bandit country at Claddach. It was that kind of beautiful day. Gruinart is very busy with woodcock at dusk at the minute, it's a fine sight with Venus and Jupiter looking spectacular in the SW sky. 

Speaking of beautiful things, here's Oa warden David Dinsley with an excellent short film he made about about twite and other Oa things. Well worth a watch. 

Thanks to all the above. 

Friday 24th Feb

 Lots of sighting submitted during the course of the day via the WhatsApp group (Instructions to the right of this post).

Ashley S. was out exploring the Loch Gorm area and reported 5 golden eagles (2 adult pairs and a sub-adult) as well as an adult pair of WTE.  At Craigens they spotted a pale-bellied Brent goose among the barnacles as well as a Russian Whitefront.  En-route there were 3 purple sandpiper at Bruichladdich and the glaucous gull still present at Uiskentui.  

The other highlights on the island include - Dave W. recorded 40 skylark in a flock at Risabus; Chris M. had a flock of over 100 fieldfare overhead between the Uiskentui and Gruinart area, and 17 chough at Kilchoman; Steve reports a great white egret at RSPB floods at Loch Gruinart; Steve W. reported 'lots' of yellowhammers on the pheasant feeders near Kildalton cross.

Off the island, Chris M sent in his sightings from the ferry crossing Port Askaig to Kennacraig. 2WTE at Kennacraig, 7 Slavonian grebe, 24 great northern divers, one red necked grebe, imm Golden Eagle over Jura, and 2cy glaucous gulls.

Thank you for all your sightings, dont forget, photos are equally welcome!

Finally Morven sent through the International Goose Count results - 24,656 barnacles, 5470 whitefronts, and 894 greylags.  

Friday, 24 February 2023

Thursday 23 Feb

 A day of two halves today! Fair in the morning, showers in the afternoon.  Some nice sightings submitted today:

Simon K. reported a glaucous gull still present at Uiskentue (by the turn off to Gruinart), and a walk around Ardnave Point found 9 bar-wits, 10 purple sandpiper, lots of sanderling and ringed plovers, around 40 chough in a single flock, both golden and WTE, and off shore great northern diver, black guillemot and a kittiwake.

Ashley S. reported 2 Russian white-fronted geese at Gruinart; off Uiskentue a long-tailed duck and Slav. grebe.  At Coillabus, Leorin and Craigens they found Hen harriers, then later by the Islay Woolen Mill spotted 2 pink-footed geese with the locals.

Steve reported the marsh harrier still present at the Gruinart area.

Finally a report submitted by 'LP' of 3 WTE above Grannys Rock, Kilchoman.

An other of Billy's fabulous photos, this time of a Goldeneye duck, at Ballygrant.
Thanks to all for todays sightings.

Thursday, 23 February 2023

Wednesday 22nd February

 A nice spring day with lovely sunshine, although showers later in the day to catch out everyone who was optimistic enough to hang out their washing!  An other sign of spring - Margaret reported her first hedgehog of the year at Kilchoman reserve.

Elsewhere on the island there appears to be a modest fall of mistle thrush - 4 at Ellister, 2 at Kildalton, and finally one reported at the Oa.  No doubt more else where.

The sunshine appears to have spurred the local eagles into action with 2 WTE at Gruinart, and a pair at Cornabus hunting geese and a solo bird over Finlaggan.  2 Golden eagle seen on the Glen Road.  

Other sightings include a flock of long-tailed tits at Kildalton (Mary-Anne); Crossbills at Finlaggan and a barn owl by Bridgend (Steve W.);  Glaucous gull at Uiskentue, Short-eared owl at Finlaggan (Simon K.); 2 Todds Canada geese seen among whitefronts at Kintra (Steve); and finally the red-breasted goose was seen three separate times, all in the fields on the West side of Loch Gruinart.

Billy was out at Ballygrant loch and shared sightings of tufted duck, goldeneye, coot, mallard and little grebe.

As an additional note, my sisters on the Island of Kerrera were gathering sheep on the west side of the island and were being watched by a whopping 15 WTE and 2 juv. Golden eagle enjoying the thermals above them! Being so close to Mull appears to have made Kerrera an ideal youth club!

Wednesday, 22 February 2023

Tuesday 21 February

 Not too bad a day, more signs of spring with 2 skylark calling overhead at Currie Sands.

Simon and Steve both reported the cackling goose at Mulindry.  Simon going onto the Oa with a count of 40-50 twites at the carpark plus the ever hopeful merlin.  He also was treated to the sight of 2 golden eagle displaying.  Steve retreated inland and was rewarded with sightings of the red breasted goose and the marsh harrier at RSPB Loch Gruinart reserve.

Monday, 20 February 2023

Monday 20 Feb

 Reasonable enough day today (for February), although quiet on the sightings side of things there was lots of activity about.  The fields are still wet underfoot, but the waders don't appear to mind with mixed flocks of curlew and oystercatcher at the croft.

Out in the fields near Portnahaven a male hen harrier was busy hunting. He's been a regular these past few days. At Uiskentui, the glaucous gull was still present, reported by Simon K who also enjoyed watching at otter on the rocks at Bruichladdich. 

Photo today from my pal Billy to brighten up the blog - a siskin on the feeders at his home.

Sunday, 19 February 2023

Sunday 19th February

Simon Knight was out early, spotting the glauc gull at Uiskentuie, then later in the morning seeing a hen harrier at Gruinart. Steve Williams picked up the long-staying marsh harrier, also at Gruinart, before finishing up with a drake goosander on Loch Indaal, viewed from Whin Park. 

And that was it for reports. Common consensus amongst people I've spoken to this week is that there are very few geese around. Nature Scot are counting on Tuesday and Wednesday, so we will know more then.

That's all folks. Cheerie!

Saturday, 18 February 2023

Saturday 18th February

A great morning gave way to a dreich and bleak afternoon. At Gruinart, the woods and hedges were full of singing song thrushes and robins. On the woodland trail, rooks were getting territorial and treecreepers were, well, tree creeping. There was a merlin at Loch Gorm, and 13 chough behind Machir bay. Steve Williams picked up the female surf scoter off of Bowmore. Steve Percival got the RBG at Gruinart and a Cackling goose at Carnain. 

Thanks to all

Friday 17th February

Steve Williams had a WTE and a hen harrier at Loch Gorm, the glauc gull at Uiskentuie and one of the Siberian white-fronts at Gruinart. And that was it, though there was an interesting unconfirmed report of a snowy owl near Bridgend from a visitor from Shetland. 

Catching up on some old pics we haven't used yet, here's some of Tom Lowe's 60 purple sands at Ardnave on the 12th 

Thursday 16th February

Steve Percival had the red-breasted goose at Gruinart

Wednesday 15th February

Hot Ed Burrell had 90 lapwing and a peacock butterfly at Cornabus. Steve Percival is back on the island, and picked up a Todd's Canada goose in with the white-fronts at Ballinaby

Tuesday, 14 February 2023

Monday 13th and Tuesday 14th Feb


A lovely photo from Tom Lowe of an other 2 Russian white fronted geese among the Greenlands yesterday (Monday) east of Port Ellen on the way to the ferry. Thank you very much for your contributions during your stay!

James also spotted a Russian Whitefront at Loch Gruinart, as well as the red-breasted goose.  At Finlaggan, Gary noted the crossbills were active, while at Kinnabus David D. reported a merlin.

Today was the last day for Waltraud, who kindly took the time to report kittiwake, common scoter and great northern Diver on the ferry back to reality.  Thank you very much for your sightings during your stay also.

Down in Islay's best side in the SW, I've noticed ravens busy with nesting materials and courtship flights.  Outside Portnahaven small flocks of lapwing and curlew in the fields, while up in Claddach Loch the mallard pairs appear busy.  Today I saw my first primroses of the year, despite the cold Spring is on its way! There are even a few lambs in the fields.

Apologies for the double report, first day back on the blog and I promptly forgot!


Sunday, 12 February 2023

Sunday 12th February

Tom Lowe had the RBG at Gruinart early this morning, the photo below is one he took of the same bird at Gruinart a couple of days previously. 

After that, Tom had a high count of 60 purple sandpipers at Ardnave, along with 39 chough, and a WTE. There were 370 grey seals on Nave Island, another good count. Back down the road at Gruinart, Tom had 5 WTE, 2 imm goldies, 5 little egrets and the marsh harrier. Over on Loch Indaal, there were female surf and velvet scoters plus 120 common scoters off Blackrock, with the glauc gull still at Uiskentuie and the Siberian race white-front at Corsapol. 

Dan Pointon reports a Richardson's Canada from the glen road and 24 twite at Machir Bay, with chough and a male hen harrier also in the area. Last night he had 2 barn owls along the high road.

Waltraud saw a male hen harrier on the road to Kintra. And that's yer lot. Mary's back tomorrow!! Thanks to all the above for their sightings. 

Saturday, 11 February 2023

Saturday 11th February

Dan Pointon got things started today by confirming the glaucous gull is still at Uiskentuie. Later he had the drake American wigeon at Loch Gorm and surf scoter, velvet scoter and slav grebe all off Bowmore. Dan finished up at Gruinart, seeing a PB brent, 3 WTE, chough, marsh harrier and 2 hen harriers. 

Tom Lowe was out and about again, with 32 chough, a Lapland bunting and 2 purple sands between Sanaigmore and Ardnave. He also got this pic of the American wigeon...

Our own David Dinsley is back and saw 2 crossbills at Lower Cragabus on The Oa. Thanks to all. 

Friday, 10 February 2023

Friday 10th February

Hello bird fans. Another busy day of sightings from our visitors. Waltraud had a golden eagle, 7 chough and 8 twite at Machir Bay. Janet bade farewell to Islay with a WTE at Port Ellen as she was waiting for the ferry. Tom Lowe was busiest though, with the glaucous gull still at Uiskentuie and 2 small Canadas at Ronnachmore. At Gruinart, he had red-breasted and cackling goose, marsh harrier and a pair of gadwall, and gets BOTD for this effort, a Siberian race white-front at Corsapol. Well done Tom, a great spot. I think one was reported last winter by Dan Brown, I wonder if it is the same bird?

Thanks to all the above for their sightings. 


Thursday, 9 February 2023

Thursday 9th February

After yesterday’s strong winds it was a much more pleasant, sunny and dry day. We’ve a number of keen visiting birders on Islay at the moment and they’ve done us proud with a whole range of very exciting sightings.

The immature Glaucous Gull was seen at Uiskentuie by several observers. Then things got exciting when David & Janet Franklin ventured to Ardnave and found a drake Surf Scoter in the channel between the Point and Nave Island (see photo grab below). Janet comments “The adult male Surf Scoter was associating with two immature male Eiders and a Common Scoter female. There were also Red-breasted Merganser, Shag and Great Northern Diver in the channel and a single Black Guillemot. Later they saw a flock of 28 Choughs and a ringtail Hen Harrier. Tom Lowe was at Loch Indaal and located a Richardson’s Cackling Goose, (photo below) where a White-tailed Eagle was feasting on a carcass. He went on to Loch Gorm where he found a drake American Wigeon – presumably the same bird that was seen there last month. As a bonus he also saw the long-staying Marsh Harrier near Loch Gorm and a couple of White-tailed Eagles over Kilchoman. Barry and Wautrad were down at Frenchman’s Rocks where they saw a Fulmar and then 7 Twite near Loch Gorm.

Wednesday, 8 February 2023

Wednesday 8th February

A much windier, grey day, but a few keen folks were birding.

David & Janet Franklin were on The Oa in the morning where they found a flock of 200 Twite, a Rock Pipit and a Peregrine. Near to Port Ellen were a couple of Golden Eagles followed by two White-tailed Eagles and a Buzzard as they later passed by Whin Park on Loch Indaal.

Barry & Wautrad Englefield were up at Ardnave where they too found a Golden Eagle along with Choughs. By the hides were a male Hen Harrier and a good selection of the usual waders and geese.

On a more sombre note, we heard today that Nature Scot confirms that a Great Black-backed Gull, Ringed Plover and Whooper Swan all found dead back in December are confirmed as having died from Avian Flu.

Tuesday, 7 February 2023

Tuesday 7th February

Malcolm Ogilvie reports two Purple Sandpipers on rocks on beach below Port Mor, Port Charlotte and notes “can't remember seeing them there before, but don't often go there in winter. Reason today was a long-dead Common Dolphin., Another, rather fresher, at Sanaigmore last week. Causes of death unknown.

Visiting birders Barry & Wautrad and David & Janet Franklin were out and about in the much nicer, drier, sunnier, milder weather today and found the immature Glaucous Gull at Uiskentuie again (photo below). They also noted a Golden Eagle over Finlaggan followed by an adult White-tailed Eagle. Later, at Gruinart the resident female type Marsh Harrier showed up along with a Sparrowhawk and they tallied 4-5 White-tailed Eagles, with 3 together sat in front of the North Hide.

I did a short walk at Machir Bay where there were a total of 37 Ringed Plovers on the beach.

Monday, 6 February 2023

Monday 6th February

The weather took a bit of a turn for the worse again today - grey skies, damp, cool and a bit breezy. Thus nobody ventured out birding.

Sunday 5th February

Better weather today - brighter, dry, moderate winds. This got me out on a walk along the coast and heather moorland from Sanaigmore north to Ardnave Loch. It was an interesting scramble, but, given it is February, understandably birdless  - just two Meadow Pipits and a Stonechat, plus a few gulls and Oystercatchers along the shore.

On the way we saw the Marsh Harrier feeding on something along with a Buzzard, north of Gruinart, which Lucy Atkinson clocked a little later. A couple of young White-tailed Eagles were also on the prowl. A couple of Little Egrets remain on the RSPB Floods.

Saturday, 4 February 2023

Saturday 4th February

 Weather improving slightly, especially by the afternoon and tomorrow looks a lot better. Maybe there will be some bird news to report - but none today.

Friday, 3 February 2023

Friday 3rd February

 A replica of yesterday - but not quite so breezy.

Thursday, 2 February 2023

Thursday 2nd February

 Foul windy and wet today - so nobody went out birding - very sensible!

Wednesday, 1 February 2023

Wednesday 1st February

 Morven Laurie kindly sent in the January International Goose Count totals today:

29,492 Barnacle Geese + 5,114 Greenland Greater White-fronted Geese + 963 Greylag Geese.

Weather today was pretty awful - cloudy, wet & windy. But Mary Redman was out and about  seeing a couple of White-tailed Eagles at Claddach Loch this morning along with a couple of Choughs and a lone Curlew at Currie Sands. At the other end of the Rhinns, Margaret Brooke spied a couple of Golden Eagles flying along the crags at Kilchoman.


Tuesday, 31 January 2023

Tuesday 31st January

 A fairly wild and windy day with quite cold, icy showers at times between bouts of sunshine.

I managed an hour or so at the two RSPB hides at Gruinart in the afternoon. The very long-staying female type Marsh Harrier was seen on a couple of occasions. An adult and later a young, White-tailed Eagle sauntered through and put up many of the Teal, Wigeon, Shoveler and Pintail present, but a total of 29 Whooper Swans on the floods were not phased, there were also plenty of Snipe, a pair of Gadwall and a tally of 3 Little Egrets.

Monday, 30 January 2023

Monday 30th January

 A blustery, windy and wet day, so no bird notes to tell you about, though Mary Redman had seen Barn Owls at Easter Ellister and Port Wemyss last night.

Sunday, 29 January 2023

Sunday 29th January

A change in the weather with overcast, breezy drizzle. Few people ventured out, but one piece of exciting news comes from Margaret Brooke up at Kilchoman (who was not going out either - and didn't need to!):

"Just seen from kitchen table - Pallid Harrier flying across garden (confirmed by James How)"

That will look good on the RSPB's Garden Birdwatch !

Saturday, 28 January 2023

Saturday 28th January

A bright, sunny, fairly calm morning, turning a tad cloudier with hints of drizzle by later afternoon. But it encouraged a few folk to go out birding:

Malcolm Ogilvie reported two flocks of Redwings seen today, 15-20 on the Oa near Mid Cragabus, and 30-40 near Laphroaig,

David Wood migrated from his home territory on The Oa this morning to check out birds in Loch Indaal off Blackrock and Bowmore with the following results: 25 Long-tailed Duck, 24 Slavonian Grebe, 28 Great Northern Diver, 12 Red-throated Diver, 13 Goldeneye, 158 Common Scoter, 55 Red-breasted Merganser, 2 Tysties, and 37 Eider. That is a fairly high count of Common Scoter, but seemingly the Surf Scoter no longer with them.

Jim Wells was over from N. Ireland with a boatload of birders. They were up at Ardnave and Gruinart this morning finding 4 White-tailed Eagles, 29 Chough, groups of Twite, 4 of James's 5 Little Egrets and the very long-staying female Marsh Harrier.

I did a walk up to Ardnave Point this afternoon, but by then it was remarkably quiet. The only geese were 250 Barnacle Geese on Nave Island, where 240 Seals were hauled out. The coastline held a few small groups of common waders, but the fields and grazing seemed empty. Ardnave Loch had a group of  7 Whooper Swans in residence.