Sunday 30 April 2023

Sunday 30th April

Singing Spring things everywhere today. Malcolm had a cuckoo calling at Bruichladdich at lunchtime. Mary had grasshopper and sedge warblers at Claddach, and passed on news from the facebook of a corncrake calling in Port Wemyss. Dave Wood had a late fieldfare at Risabus, plus reeling gropper and a cuckoo. Steve Rogers continued the singing migrant theme with a whitethroat at Emerivale, plus a whimbrel. And that was all she wrote. Thanks to all the above. 

Saturday 29 April 2023

Saturday 29th April

I'm afraid it's slim pickings today, bird fans. Our only reports are Gary's glaucous gull at Uiskentuie, and Double D's blackcap at Ballygrant. Malcolm emailed in to fill the gaping hole in my knowledge of Churn Island - "Eilean a Chuirn, to give it it's proper name, is one of the larger skerries off the south-east coast and is the one with a lighthouse on it." Thanks Malcolm!

At Gruinart, there was no sign of James's green-winged teal or pectoral sandpiper at the North Hide. A drake gadwall was the best I could manage. The corncrake below the Visitor Centre is still present and occasionally calling during the day. That's all. Cheerie!

Friday 28 April 2023

Friday 28th April

Late news from yesterday, Dave Wood whilst westering home had 4 little egrets at Kennacraig, 73 GNDs on the crossing and great views of a basking shark at Port Ellen. 

Reports have been coming in today of corncrakes now calling at Kilchoman (Margaret) and Newton (James Donaldson). Social media influencer David Dinsley gets BOTD with 2 puffins off of Churn Island (I've never heard of it either) and also had 5 whimbrel there. It was a whimbrel-y kind of day, Ella from RSPB had one at Blackrock, and there were 8 more at Carnain. And that was it. Happy Friday everyone. 

Thursday 27 April 2023

Thursday 27th April

Not much to report on a cold, wet and grey Thursday, but the few records we do have are decent. Double D had Islay's first whitethroat for 2023, plus a sedge warbler at Kinnabus. And here at Loch Gruinart there was our first corncrake of the year, calling away below the Visitor Centre this morning and then on and off throughout the day. 

Annie had a sparrowhawk on the weekly walk at Gruinart and one of the resident harrier pairs were foodpassing. And that's yer lot. Thanks to all. 

Wednesday 26 April 2023

Wednesday 26th April

Regular visitor Peter Gill kindly emailed in some of his highlights from his recent week on Islay. Peter writes "The highlights were two adult White-tailed Eagles, one at Sanaigmore, the other NE of Ardbeg, two Golden Eagles, one again at Sanaigmore, the other near Loch Skerrols, drumming woodpeckers at Loch Allen and Bridgend Woods, a male Hen Harrier daily passing our cottage (Lyrabus), the Glaucous Gull at Uiskentuie, a small flock of Long-tailed Tits at the bridge NE of the Woollen Mill, two Yellowhammers at a Pheasant feeder W of Loch Skerrols and most unexpectedly a flock of about 20 Manx Shearwaters closely accompanying the ferry for about 15 minutes out from Port Ellen. The hides at Gruinart were rather disappointing for both ducks and waders but perhaps the persistent and strong Easterly winds were partly responsible for this."

Little bird news over on Whatsapp, apart from cuckoos at Kildalton (Mary-Ann) and Glen Astle (Double D). Mary-Ann also had a pair of common sandpipers and David a pair of whimbrel at Seal Bay. No further reports of the pec sand at Gruinart, but there was singing blackcap and my first sedge warbler of the year. North of Saligo there were 3 bp golden plover and 29 whimbrel. 

No pics today, sadly, so here's a red deer caught on trail cam grazing corncrake cover at an RSPB reserve and looking suitably guilty. 


Tuesday 25 April 2023

Tuesday 25th April

Bleak times for the blog, with Peter on holiday and Mary with her hand stuck inside a ewe somewhere down in Bandit Country. Anyway, Hot Ed got things started this morning with a gropper at Cornabus, before Steve Rogers saw a yellowhammer at Emerivale. Ddavid Ddinsley picked up the first Islay whinchat record for the year at Glen Astle, and then saw another at Kinnabus. Mandy had a cuckoo calling near Carnduncan and Mary-Ann saw 9 green hairstreaks enjoying the sun at Kildalton.  

The pectoral sandpiper was still at Gruinart first thing this morning. 

Whimbrel continue to move through, with groups of 48 and 16 near Saligo. There were 2 sub-ad WTE near Loch Gorm this evening. The cold northerly wind is doing nothing to encourage the corncrakes, and the waders could use a bit of rain. 

That's all. Thanks to all the above. Cheerie!

Monday 24 April 2023

Monday 24th April

 Yet another dry, sunny, but coolish day with a light breeze with a few good birds of interest noted.

Mark Shields had 10 Whimbrel at Saligo and a singing Blackcap at Gruinart. Another singing Blackcap was clocked along with Grasshopper Warbler by Mary-Ann Featherstone at Kildalton, where she also confirms Great Spotted Woodpeckers in residence. Meanwhile, down at Portnahaven, Mary Redman saw a Buzzard heading off with a good sized Adder in its talons - the second report of this snake as prey for Buzzards this spring. Annie Rudd had 4 White-tailed Eagles on the flats at Gruinart where James How scored the best birds of the day. This morning he saw Jack Snipe and Water Rail and later, at the North Hide found a Green-winged Teal and Pectoral Sandpiper. I've been carefully checking every Teal at Gruinart the whole winter for a Green-winged, and I was at the North Hide yesterday! Below is a photo of the Pec. Sand, which I won't have a chance to go and see as I'm off-island from tomorrow morning and handing over the blog to Mark Shields for a fortnight.


Sunday 23 April 2023

Sunday 23rd April

A cloudier day today, but still dry and quite sunny for much of the time.

My comment about nest-boxes for Barn Owls in yesterday's blog prompted the following interesting comment from Malcolm Ogilvie:

"In the 1990s, when Mike Peacock and I were monitoring up to 20 Barn Owl nest sites each year, we put up several boxes hoping to prolong the use of derelict buildings or to provide alternatives close by.. I think I even got a small grant from SNH to buy some sheets of plywood. Some were used immediately, but one or two were commandeered by Jackdaws. Our study stopped in 2001, so there's certainly scope to try this again."

A few birds noted today included a Grasshopper Warbler from Ed Burrell at Balaclava, a Cuckoo at Kilchoman from Margaret Brooke and 4 Arctic Terns seen by Mary-Ann Feathrstone at Kildalton.

David Dinsley noted the lone Pink-footed Goose lingering at Kinnabus and saw on Facebook that someone had heard a Corncrake near the Water Treatment Works at Port Charlotte.

I took a look at Gruinart this morning and found 17 Black-tailed Godwits out on the flats, one Little Egret in residence and more lingering geese - this time a group of 8 Barnacle Geese flying over at Craigens.

Saturday 22nd April

Another day of fine sunny weather with a cool, light easterly breeze.

I forgot to add the first sighting of Sedge Warbler for the year - and also the first Lapwing chicks on the RSPB Gruinart Reserve to yesterday's blog c/o James How.

Another belated note was from Peggy MacEachern who heard a Cuckoo up at Lily Loch yesterday.

Despite the fine weather there wasn't a lot of bird news to report - David Dinsley saw 2 Sandwich Terns in the bay at Port Ellen, then there were more Cuckoos - 2 seen or heard by Mary-Ann Featherstone at Kildalton and another at Cornabus from Ed Burrell. Elliott Bowman also had Cuckoo at mid Cragabus plus 8 Swallows, a couple of White-tailed Eagles and 4 Buzzards.

Up at the "Kilchoman Reserve" Margaret Brooke reports: "for once it was exciting cutting the grass to see the first Wheatears in the garden and  Golden Eagle being mobbed by gulls". 

I was pleased to hear Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming in the woodland at Foreland and further sure signs of spring is this photo-grab of a Barn Owl starting the breeding season in style in a purpose-built nestbox on Islay. Perhaps we should be putting out more of these as older buildings that they traditionally nest in become too derelict?

Friday 21 April 2023

Friday 21st April

A very bright and breezy day: strong easterly/north-easterly winds, but wonderfully dry and sunny.

Yesterday evening I came across a fine flock of 335 Golden Plovers, most in breeding plumage, on grassy fields at Leorin. 

Hannah Stanger reported a Cuckoo at Glen Astle yesterday and another today at Kinnabus.

Today's news come from Annie Rudd @ RSPB who  says ""We’ve just completed a survey of the wetland birds of the Loch Gruinart area. Here are some of the birds we saw today:": 103 Ringed Plover, 71 Dunlin, 54 Redshank, 36 Black-tailed Godwits, 126 Teal, 75 Wigeon, 24 Shoveler, 11 Whooper Swans, 9 Mute Swans, 4 Eiders, 6 Grey Herons and 3 Little Grebes.

I took a walk around Ardnave and found a group of 6 Whimbrels, plus a couple of lone birds. Scoping across to Nave Island there was an immature Iceland Gull wandering about with a few Herring and Greater Black-backed Gulls among the 350 Grey Seals on the beach.

Thursday 20 April 2023

Thursday 20th April

 A lovely bright, but breezy sunny day with Easterly winds and few clouds.

Fiona McGillivray reports a Magpie at Craigfad yesterday evening - an Islay rarity!

Today there were more sightings of Whimbrels: just single birds so far at Port Wemyss and Claddach c/o Fiona and Mary Redman.

Margaret Brooke noted a Hen Harrier on parade between Coull and Saligo this morning while I had my first Blackcap - singing nicely in woodland between Lochs Allan and Ballygrant this morning.

Down on The Oa David Dinsley noted straggling lone Pink-footed and Greenland White-fronted Geese and saw a colour-ringed Twite on the feeders at The Oa car park that had been ringed in Teeside - perhaps that is where it went for winter from Islay? (Photo below)

Across the Sound, Louise Muir had a Grey Wagtail at Craighouse on Jura.

Wednesday 19 April 2023

Wednesday 19th April

 A bright sunny day with brisk easterly breezes.

Islay caught up with lots of new summer arrivals today. But reports in from The Oa first. Ed Burrell at Cornabus noted more Swallows in today, plus a good number of Sand Martins around a small colony nest site. Also down that way, David D. saw a lone Pink-footed Goose at Kinnabus in the morning and found Islay's first Common Sandpiper of the year in the evening.

Back on the Rhinns, spring was in the air - well a Snipe was - as Annie Rudd reported a drumming bird at Gruinart inspired by the lovely weather. Mark S. up at Saligo this morning had a fly-over of 26 Pink-footed Geese, a Jack Snipe, and Golden Plover plus the first Grasshopper Warbler of 2023 for Islay. This evening he scored another first for 2023 with a Whimbtel at Ballinaby and found a Canada Goose and the 13 Black-tailed Godwits still at Gruinart.

With easterly winds forecast for the next couple of days, there could be further interesting arrivals on their way?

Tuesday 18 April 2023

Tuesday 18th April

 A warm, quite summery day - sunshine all round but a bit breezy from the SE.

Down on The Oa the two Davids reported plenty of Wheatears coming in. David D. had 8 this morning, along with a couple of Willow Warblers and a single Swallow at Kinnabus where a flock of 32 Golden Plover were present. Later, David W. reported a count of 32 Wheatears, just round the RSPB buildings and tracks without looking on the coast and noted that there were only a couple present yesterday - so a definite arrival.  He also noted a Blackap at Risabus.

Down this way on the Rhinns, I had a further 55 Golden Plover in a very active flock around Loch Gorm between Ballinaby and Machir Bay, along with a group of 8 Pink-footed Geese.

Jim Dickson messaged to say that the first Corncrakes had arrived on Tiree on the 13th, which prompted a message from Mary Redman to say that her mother-in-law heard one calling near Cladville "the other day"! I wonder what day it was..................

Monday 17 April 2023

Monday 17th April

A pleasant enough day of mixed cloud and sunshine with little if any rain and quite mild with light winds.

Craig Walker saw a real frenzy of activity in Loch Indaal just off Bruichladich this morning, with a concentration of small fish attracting hundreds of gulls, terns and gannets in a tight feeding group while the action lasted.

David Dinsley had a Jack Snipe in flight at Upper Cornabus followed by a couple of Swallows at Lenivore - still remarkably few of these about so far this spring.

down at Claddach this evening Mary Redman enjoyed views of a male Hen Harrier and a couple of the local Choughs.

Sunday 16 April 2023

Sunday 16th April

Rain overnight, and a grey, overcast start to the day gave way to a bit of sunshine before drizzling again in the evening. Despite mainly SE winds it wasn't that warm.

Down on The Oa Ed Burrell saw a Merlin at Cornabus and later a single Black-tailed Godwit on loch Cornabus. Up at Gruinart in the afternoon, the 12 or so Black-tailed Godwits were still in front of the S. hide and later on a fine flock of 65 turned up on the flats, visible from the North Hide. All these Black-tails were in variousstages of lovely breeding plumage in contrast to the Bar-tails out on the flats where 160 were counted along with plenty of other waders - 347 Ringed Plovers, 12 Grey Plover, about 20 Dunlin, lots of Curlew and a few Knot and Sanderling. Back on the floods were 2 Little Egrets, 3 Tufted Ducks and 5 Whooper Swans as well as plenty of Sand Martins buzzing about.

At Port Ban were a couple of Sandwich Terns seen by Craig Walker.

Saturday 15 April 2023

Saturday 15th April

 Light SE winds and sunshine made it a much more pleasant day.

Correction to yesterday’s blog: The Cuckoo was at Kilnaughton, not Kildalton.

Mark Shields noted the beginning of the usual Black-tailed Godwit spring northwards passage through Islay, with a count of 15 at Gruinart. He also saw a Buzzard carrying off an Adder – I wonder if they are immune to their venom, or just clever enough not to get bitten?

James How saw 2 Black-throated divers in summer plumage as he was travelling back to Islay on the ferry yesterday, along with single Sandwich Tern and our first Arctic Tern of the year. Today up on his home patch at Gruinart he also saw the godwits, plus a couple of Ruff. Single House Martin, 28 Sand Martins, plenty of Willow Warbler song, 17 Twite a Little Egret, Merlin and a White-tailed Eagle made for a nice mix.

Friday 14 April 2023

Friday 14th April

Squally showers and sunshine  and moderate SW winds gave ay to a brighter, dry and sunny afternoon. 

Mary Redman saw a Barn Owl near Portnahaven last night. Today Swallows were seen by David D. and Ed Burrell at Ghiol on the Oa and Imeraval. Later David D. had a couple of female Goosanders on Loch Kinnabus. Our first Cuckoo of 2023 on Islay was heard by Steve & Lynn Rogers at Kildalton. Back on the other side of the island Lucy Atkinson had the first Blackcap (a female) of 2023 for Islay, plus 20 or more Sand Martins at Gruinart North Hide, a Willow Warbler on the Woodland Trail and a group of 7 Barnacle Geese still lingering with us.

Thursday 13 April 2023

Thursday 13th April

 An odd day's weather - bright and sunny at times, squalls of rain in between. Milder than yesterday with moderate winds. 

David Dinsley reports good numbers of Manx Shearwaters and Razorbills flying north past The Oa and Willow Warblers were singing (in the sunny spells) at Port Charlotte.

Wednesday 12 April 2023

Wednesday 12th April

The rain and strong winds continued on and off for much of the day, though there was a brief respite in late morning and around lunchtime. It was cold too and this evening is particularly unpleasant. All this is of course building up to reporting that there is virtually no bird news to tell you about again today. The only person braving the elements was Gary T. who was at Gartmain this morning and apart from spying an odd-looking wader that eluded identification had 9 Goldeneye on the sea there. 

Tuesday 11 April 2023

Tuesday 11th April

 A very pleasant sunny morning gave way to a windy and wet afternoon. Apart from a few Sandwich Terns off Bruichladdich, there seems to be no other bird news to report today.

Monday 10 April 2023

Monday 10th April

Willow warblers now seem to be singing from every tree and bush at Loch Gruinart. It's very Spring-like, all of a sudden, with blossom and green things everywhere. A quiet day for sightings though, with only Mary's swallow at Claddach and Hot Ed's 2 drake shoveler at Cornabus to report. 

The Islay Nature Centre in Port Charlotte re-opened for the 2023 season today, so go support them if you can. It's also their Members and Community Day on Wednesday. 

That's all. Bye!

Sunday 9 April 2023

Sunday 9th April

Basically, the wind blew really hard all day and no-one saw any birds.  

Saturday 8 April 2023

Saturday 8th April

Here's another of Double D's pics of the young WTE that was hanging around at The Oa recently...

 ...and here's where it's been recently, courtesy of Ruth Tingay. It's G5/24, a Mull bird. 

It's probably one of the few things headed south at the minute. With yet another day of strong SE winds there's lots of stuff on the move. Gary had an osprey at Whin Park, heading toward Gruinart. 6 more blackwits were newly arrived at the Gruinart South Hide. And it's now really slim pickings with geese, with only 8 barnies and 4 white-fronts at Gruinart this evening. 

Sand martins now seem to be everywhere, there were plenty presumably enjoying the flies around Bowmore water treatment works. At Gruinart, an otter was walking the woodland trail this morning, the 6 little egrets are still in front of the hides and there was a good count of at least 174 redshank amongst the ducks sheltering in the rushes. 

Emily McGarva was kind enough to email in her sightings from today, at Lossit Bay she had 2 male wheatears, 2 ringed plover, many gannets offshore heading south and lots of lapwing displaying in the fields. At Portnahaven, there was a chough over King Street. Thanks Emily. 

That's it. Cheerie!

Friday 7 April 2023

Friday 7th April

Scotland, by Alastair Reid

It was a day peculiar to this piece of the planet,

when larks rose on long thin strings of singing

and the air shifted with the shimmer of actual angels.

Greenness entered the body. The grasses

shivered with presences, and sunlight

stayed like a halo on hair and heather and hills.

Walking into town, I saw, in a radiant raincoat,

the woman from the fish-shop. ‘What a day it is!’

cried I, like a sunstruck madman.

And what did she have to say for it?

Her brow grew bleak, her ancestors raged in their graves

as she spoke with their ancient misery:

‘We’ll pay for it, we’ll pay for it, we’ll pay for it!’

from Inside Out – Selected Poetry and Translations (Edinburgh: Polygon, 2008)

That's enough culture. On with the birdies. 2 newly arrived willow warblers were mingling with the hordes doing the Easter Egg Hunt at RSPB Loch Gruinart's Woodland Trail. Elsewhere around the reserve, skydancing harriers, my first adder of the year, Northern mining bees, drinker moth larvae and beauty and wonder everywhere. In the evening, 11 blackwits, a ruff, 3 gadwall and a greenshank were at the North Hide. 

Out in the Finlaggan area, there was a merlin, more skydancing harriers and at least 9 buzzards making the most of the thermals.

Double D got this great pic of a sat-tagged white-tail at The Oa. He also got a house martin at Kinnabus, and a magpie at Upper Killeyan (BOTD). Steve Rogers saw 2 sandwich terns at Kilnaughton and our very own Peter picked up 4 manxies close to Islay from the ferry as he headed off for his Easter hols. Mary had a swallow in Port Wemyss.

That's yer lot, thanks very much to all the above. Happy Easter to everyone that reads or contributes to the blog. 

Thursday 6 April 2023

Thursday 6th April

 The wind has gone round to a light NW in a beautiful sunny day. 

But the wind may not be to the liking of the remaining Barnacle Geese. Malcolm O. noted : "A flock of about 100 circling noisily over Bruichladdich this lunchtime wondering where all their friends have gone, and doubtless hoping today's north-west wind won't last too long, which it doesn't look as if it is going to." Mark Shields also noted some lingering Barnies - 800 at Sanaig and 550 at Craigens - so still a few to get on their way.

But the emphasis is on summer with the first Swallow of the year on Islay - seen by David Dinsley at Ineraval out on The Oa this morning. He also had a female Wheatear at Kilnaughton. A second Swallow was notched up by Annie Rudd at Loch Gruinart at lunchtime. 

Other odds and ends up at Gruinart included 3 Little Egrets and a couple of Sand Martins seen by Mark. 

STOP PRESS: Mark S. revised his count of Little Egrets having just seen a total of 6 - certainly the highest number together on Islay, equalled I think only once before in recent months. 

Wednesday 5 April 2023

Wednesday 5th April

 A pleasant mild spring day - drizzly to start with, but dry and moderately sunny later with light winds from the south and west. 

There is a little bit more detail about the Irish WT Eagle that overflew Islay recently, kindly provided by Tom Lowe.Apparently it came by on 23rd March, was on Rathlin at about 12.30pm, an hour later was over Port Ellen and an hour after that was over Loch Gruinart. It was flying at various elevations from 97 - 126 metres up at speeds varying from 25 - 70 kph. It doesn't sound as if it stopped here long?

Today David Wood had 3 Willow Warblers, a Goldcrest and a Redwing at Risabus on the Oa. 

As the sea was calm, I took a look over Loch Indaal from Port Charlotte up to Bruichladdich. The place was very busy with all sorts of feeding seabirds. Amongst the odd Black Guillemot, Gannet, gulls including quite a few Kittiwakes, Eiders and RB Mergansers were a total of c.60 Red-throated and 10 Great Northern Divers, over 100 Razorbill in tight feeding groups of 10 -20 spread across the loch, and 2-3 small, active flocks of Common Scoter totalling 42 birds. Far over the other side were many small black, white and black-and-white dots of birds that were too far to identify, but presumably more of the same: it would be fascinating to know what the actual number of all these species was................... 

Calling, fishing and perching on the rocks around Bruichladdich were 8 Sandwich Terns.

Tuesday 4 April 2023

Tuesday 4th April

A breezy southerly wind with a spattering of rain and quite a bit of cloud at times. The wind gives us a  link to the only bird news today - a note from Mark Shields ...........

"Yesterday's strong SE wind appears to have had an effect. Only 732 Barnies and 45 White-fronts left at Gruinart this morning. Eerily quiet"

So there we are - winter is over with the bulk of the geese gone north, hopefully to have a summer free of bird flu. All we need now is some warmth and a few more summer migrants to arrive.

Monday 3 April 2023

Monday 3rd April

 A good bit breezier and cooler today, but not much in the way of rain. 

The only bird news to share today comes from the Irish White-tailed Eagle re-introduction programme that has been going for a year or two based on the Shannon in the SW of the Republic. Apparently one of the young birds released there has been wandering far and wide - a bit like the young WTEs released on the Isle of Wight. This particular bird has already been clocked, via its satellite tag, making the following journeys all around Ireland and up to Scotland where it has roamed extensively as shown in this picture:

The picture below shows what it has been up to more recently - another journey north to Scotland, but this time instead of going north via Kintyre, it has island-hopped over Rathlin and up through Islay and on to Colonsay before reaching Mull. Fascinating stuff!!

Sunday 2 April 2023

Sunday April 2nd

 A pleasant sunny dry and mild spring day, though very little to report from the birding front. Gary T. was up and about early for a Sunday morning and noted the Glaucous Gull still stuck to its spot at Uiskentuie. A little later Marc Eden found Islay's first Willow Warbler of 2023 singing at Laphroaig. In the afternoon David Dinsley had another Sand Martin at Kinnabus, while Gary T. finished the day with a report of a Shoveler in the pool where the Gartmain burn meets the beach - an odd location.

In other news, Steve Percival informed us that a radio-tagged Barnacle Geese he has been monitoring left Islay yesterday heading north towards its breeding grounds. It won't be long now before they are all gone for summer..................

Saturday 1 April 2023

April 1st

The day started fairly inoffensively: mild, dry with sunny spells, but deteriorated into grey and occasional drizzle by evening. The weather wasn't so awful to stop the regular boatload of birders crossing over from Northern Ireland who seemed to have enjoyed their time seeing the usual and expected goodies - harriers, eagles, choughs, barnies a Peregrine and 2 Little Egrets. 

James How reported in from Gruinart with a similar account, adding single Sparrowhawk, Gadwall, Brent Goose and Great Spotted Woodpecker to the list (presumably the latter not at the same time and field of view as the other sightings!) He also upped the Little Egret tally to 5 and had a total of 67 Whooper Swans. He scooped the prize for "B.O.T.D." with another sighting of the long-staying Red-breasted Goose.

Billy Stitchell had been up to Loch Ballygrant seeing much the same as I did yesterday (aka. not seeing a Ring-necked Duck), but has provided a couple of lovely photos for the blog - thanks Billy.