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.