Friday 30 June 2023

Friday 30th June

Light winds, grey skies and a fair bit of light rain at times.

The only birding news comes from Tom Evans who, despite the not very nice weather took himself up to the highest point (491 metres / c.1,600 feet) on Islay yesterday, camped out and reports thus:

"I bivvyed up Beinn Bheiger Thursday night. Fairly disappointing from a weather and wildlife perspective but there were a pair of inquisitive Golden Plovers keeping me company".

Given the date and the behaviour of the Golden Plovers, it would suggest a breeding pair - always good to have this sort of information to fill in the gaps in our knowledge of what we have on Islay - especially from an area that few bother to venture to.

Thursday 29 June 2023

Thursday 29th June

Rain overnight, but overall a bright and sunny day.

Kath Butterworth noted Twite on her visit to The  Oa today plus a couple of Golden Eagles soaring above Leorin.

David Livingstone saw this Curlew chick down in the Machrie area - so good to see that a species that is having such a hard time and decreasing in numbers is still able to rear chicks.

Wednesday 28 June 2023

Wednesday 28th June

The day started overcast with drizzle, which gave way to a pleasantly bright and sunny afternoon.

Kath Butterworth was birding around the Rhinns today finding ring-tailed Hen Harrier hunting at Saligo, a couple of Tufted Duck on Loch Gorm, 35 Chough at Ardnave and a couple of White-tailed Eagles in a field near Ardnave Loch for half an hour or more this afternoon. She finished with a sighting of a drake Velvet Scoter (presumed to be the Easter Ellister long-stayer) just off Bruichladdich (still watching it as I write this at a little after 9pm, with Malcolm Ogilvie taking a look too as he can probably see it from his office window!).

I spent the day on a brilliant boat trip to Rathlin Island. I was on the island for the first time last August when most of the seabirds had gone. Today, approaching by boat and working our way along the northern cliffs, was very different. The numbers of Guillemots and Kittiwakes nesting is phenomenal. apparently it is the largest Guillemot colony in UK with just short of 150,000. There were plenty of Razorbills, Fulmars and a good number of Puffins too along with a Great Skua. One of the main reasons Islay doesn't have anything like this number of nesting seabirds is, I suspect, largely due to geology. Rathlin's geology provides miles of great cliffs with masses of suitable nesting ledges that just aren't available with most of the type of rocks and formations that we have here.

The middle photo is one of Rathlin's three lighthouses, now a visitor centre run by the RSPB to show visitors the nesting seabirds from a safe distance.

Tuesday 27 June 2023

Tuesday 27th June

A more distinct change in the weather today with overcast skies and more solid light rain on and off for much of the day.

Kath Butterworth has been out birding despite the weather and found a Red-throated Diver at Carraig Fhada and a Bar-tailed Godwit in Loch Indaal near Bowmore. Later, down at Easter Ellister she found a White-tailed Eagle and then noted several groups of Manx Shearwaters passing by at Port Wemyss where she also saw a possible Pomarine Skua.

Monday 26 June 2023

Monday 26th June

 A few strong, but short-lived showers of rain in an otherwise warm and sunny day.

Kath Butterworth provides the only bird news for the day: a White-tailed Eagle seen flying over Claddach at lunchtime, then landing briefly on Eilean Mhic Coinnich (aka McKenzie Island). 

Sunday 25 June 2023

Sunday 25th June

A bit breezier, but still basically warm and sunny after an odd shower overnight.

Fiona McGillivray saw an Osprey catching a fish in the low tide channels of loch Gruinart near Bun an Uilt today. There haven't been so many records of Osprey this year, so a good record.

The other useful record today comes from Kath Butterworth who confirms Corn Crake calling at Conisby this evening - already logged by Louise Muir who is our official Corn Crake census coordinator. 

Saturday 24 June 2023

Saturday 24th June

 Changeable weather with rain in the morning, sunshine in the afternoon and windy in the evening.

Visiting birder Kath Butterworth arrived today seeing c.35 Manx Shearwaters on the ferry journey to Islay and then 3 Cuckoos and a Grasshopper Warbler at Gearach after arrival.

Friday 23 June 2023

Friday 23rd June

The weather changed overnight with some heavy and steady rain that has continued on-and-off throughout much of today - just what our gardens need!

Tom Evans sent in some notes on Corn Crakes: "2 Corn Crakes calling at same time  just outside Portnahaven Wednesday evening. I hear one most evenings around the coast guard lookout. There is a regular crexing from the binneach between Portnahaven and Port Wemyss as well".

Further news comes from Mary Redman who saw a male Hen Harrier at Black Rock and a couple of Curlews near Port Mor. 

Also a report of a lone Red-throated Diver feeding at Carraig Fhada this evening - perhaps one our the breeding birds?

I was talking to one of the archaeologists from the Reading University group over here at present who tells me that one of the group was bitten by an Adder yesterday.


Thursday 22 June 2023

Thursday 22nd June

No change in the weather: hot and sunny as usual..................

Margaret Brooke sends in a variety of observations from her neck of the woods, seeing a  Stoat with a mouse on road on the way to Gruinart and notes of breeding birds: a nest of Barn Owls with 4 owlets, "her" young Buzzards still on the nest on the crags. and 2 young Choughs successfully fledged.

Malcolm Ogilvie is finding further interesting and rare moths for Islay. He says: "The attached seems to be only the fourth record for Islay and, suiting its slightly less than stunning appearance, it is called, quite accurately, Small Dotted Buff, and was about 13mm (half an inch) long".

David Dinsley reporting from The Oa mentions a Corn Crake calling there this afternoon along with Yellowhammer in song at Callumkill. He also mentions "stacks of invertebrates on the wing" including Small Pearl-bordered Fritillaries, Grayling butterflies and  Black Darter and Keeled Skimmer dragonflies. 

Finally Gary Turnbull notes that the young Glaucous Gull is still loitering on occasions at Uiskentuie and is fast becoming one the longest-staying of its species on Islay.

Wednesday 21 June 2023

Tuesday 20th & Wednesday 21st June

Happy Longest Day Of The Year.

I was off Islay yesterday in Glasgow witnessing torrential downpours in the evening that stopped the Scotland versus Georgia football match for an hour and a half. I've no idea if it was quite so wet on Islay? Today it seems mostly sunny with dark clouds and odd showers threatening and still quite warm with 20+ degree temperatures.

There was no bird news at all for yesterday though a reply regarding "late tadpoles" came forth from Malcolm Ogilvie: "Yes, it would be late if these are frog tadpoles, but toads are always later and so possible, while they could be palmate newts which are the latest of the three.".

Bird news today is a report from David Dinsley of a rufous-type Cuckoo  and a pair of Kestrels at Imereval, The Oa. 

On my ferry return this afternoon there were a couple of feeding groups of Manx Shearwaters seen totalling 35-40 birds.

Monday 19 June 2023

Monday 19th June

A sultry day of sunshine and showers.

Some late bird notes from yesterday:

Ella Simpson saw a Short-eared Owl along the High Road yesterday evening. There hasn't been a report of this species in months, but there must be a pair or two tucked away breeding out there?

Mary Redman reported a Corn Crake crex-crexing away outside her house at Claddach last night.

Yesterday's Osprey report is apparently a photo taken by our regular supplier of great bird photos, Billy Stitchell who took a photo of one flying over Loch Allan. It is on the Islay Facebook page if you know how to navigate such things!

Today we have a report from David Dinsley of a Long-tailed Duck loafing about with moulting Eiders at Kintra. He says there is another couple in Loch Indaal. This is a very unusual sighting with only one previous June record - ever! Photo below:

Mary-Ann Featherstone has a family of Bullfinches over at Kildlton - always good to get confirmed breeding records.

Up at Kilchoman, Margaret Brooke has found tadpoles in her pond and wonders if it is not a bit late ?

Sunday 18 June 2023

Sunday 18th June

 Back to dry and sunny again today.

Mary Redman reports a male Tufted Duck on Claddach Loch and a Kestrel flying overhead at Lossit.

Apparently there is something on the Islay Facebook page about Ospreys, but I can't find it - maybe more tomorrow!

Saturday 17 June 2023

Saturday 17th June

Rain at last! Some overnight and a bit more in showers during the day, with plenty of cloud, but still quite warm and humid.

No birds to report today, but there were cetaceans:

Steve & Lynn Rogers had 4 Porpoises near Gigha yesterday on the 6pm ferry and James How had 25 or more Common Dolphins from the Islay - Colonsay ferry today.

There has been a little colony of 4-5 pairs of Black Guillemots nesting in the infrastructure of Bruichladdich pier for quite a few years, but I've not been seeing much evidence of them this season. I took a quick look there this evening and couldn't find any and I wonder if the level of disturbance nowadays is too much even for this usually very tolerant species? They seem to be OK nesting in Oban harbour next to holiday-makers eating ice-creams and fish & chips, but there have been lots of folk out and about on the pier in this recent hot weather and currently Jet-skis are zooming around in noisy circles, close in, for much of the afternoon. It may be perfectly harmless, but who knows? 

Friday 16 June 2023

Friday 16th June


Temperatures up to 25C and more today, but the forecast looks like rain tomorrow - maybe the spell is broken?

No news today, but Gordon Yates sent in a message yesterday about a ritual he expects every spring concerning a Shelduck in Bruichladdich:

"The long awaited arrival of the female Shelduck with her young happened today in spectacular fashion when she escorted to the beach 22 young!!"

Thursday 15 June 2023

Thursday 15th June

It just gets hotter and drier and sunnier........................

Margaret Brooke wrote in last night with a photo of her "bird-feeding station" that cannily excludes birds from feeding! Look at all those hungry Starlings sat on top. She says: "The young starlings have not worked out how to get into the feeding cage thank goodness".

There is a obviously a "love-hate" relationship going on with Starlings - not wanting to feed them, but not disliking them that much that she wants to see that "Pesky Sparrowhawk" nab one?

 Margaret also reports progress with "her" Buzzards nest which now has two chicks being fed.


Wednesday 14 June 2023

Wednesday 14th June

A slight breeze for a short while this morning broke up the unrelenting/wonderful (delete depending on how you feel) hot, sunny weather.

No bird news today, but Malcolm keeps the blog alive with interesting moths:

"I caught a Bramble Shoot Moth, (photo below) a micro (very few have vernacular names). The caterpillars of this one do indeed feed on brambles, but not commonly here as this is only the second record for Islay. The only previous record having been in 2009 at RSPB Gruinart. It's just about 1 cm in length.

I also caught a Dark Sword-grass moth which is a migrant, with others saying on the Scottish moth group that they are turning up further north along with Red Admirals, so look out for them".

(You could easily be excused for swatting this little chap thinking it was a clothes moth!)

Tuesday 13 June 2023

Tuesday 13th June

With the hot, settled weather continuing here, I can easily believe that there are reports of record 30+ temperatures in some parts of Scotland today - hottest day of the year so far with 30.7 in Threave, Dumfries & Galloway..

Mary Redman keeps the blog alive tonight with reports from Claddach of a successful fledging of one of the Chough nests down that way - 3 chicks seen with their parents today. Out on McKenzie Island this evening Mary saw the White-tailed Eagle  again.

Louise Muir counted 200 Rooks on a sprayed field at Sunderland Farm.

Here at Bruichladdich a pair of House Martins is trying to make a nest under the eaves of the house next door. Even in a good year the material they use isn't up to much - not enough clay and too much sand. Very often the nest either dries out and collapses half way through construction, or worse - halfway through the nesting season with eggs or chicks crashing to the floor below.. I recall George Jackson (the previous George Jackson!) trying to help by mixing up a more clay-rich soil in a puddle for them. With the extreme dry and heat this year I don't think they stand much of a chance of making a nest at all. I tried a different approach to helping them out by putting up a small array of artificial nest-boxes a few years ago, but they've only used them once or twice (but the House Sparrows are appreciative!).

Monday 12 June 2023

Monday 12th June

It seems to get hotter by the day with the dry, cloudless skies and almost calm conditions going on for another sweltering day.

The only contributor today is Mary Redman reporting from Claddach where she saw a couple of White-tailed Eagles round and about there and McKenzie Island on Friday. She noticed rafts of Greylag goslings in the area that might be attracting them to a fairly easy meal?

Sunday 11 June 2023

Sunday 11th June

The weather reverted to hot, dry and sunny again today - last night's rain showers very short-lived.

A couple of interesting sightings today:

Fiona McGillivray saw a/the female Marsh Harrier around Loch Gorm and a Whooper Swan (presumably summering here) near Ballinaby/Saligo.

Shona Isla saw the first this year of what is an uncommon and unpredictable summer wanderer to Islay: 3 Swifts over the  pontoons at Port Ellen harbour this afternoon.

Saturday 10 June 2023

Saturday 10th June

RAIN!!! - after another hot and sunny day the clouds blew in by late evening and gave us some welcome heavy, but so far isolated downpours.

Jeff Duncan finished his week of birding on Islay with sightings of a couple of Manx Shearwaters and a Bottle-nosed Dolphin on the ferry back towards the mainland. He noted that he had seen 81 species of birds in a leisurely week of birding.

I'd checked on a little Sand Martin colony in a bit of an old quarry on the raised beach towards Uiskentuie where there seemed to be 10 - 20 birds going in and out of holes in the sandy cliff face.

This evening we were up at Kilchoman with Margaret Brooke drinking a dram in memory of Ian who passed away two years ago today - how time flies...............

Talking of flies here is a picture of Merodon equestris (aka Narcissus Bulb Fly) - a Hoverfly that mimics bumble bees, found by David Beaumont in Port Charlotte today . A fine looking wee beastie even if it does appear to be missing the tibia and tarsus on its rear right leg!

Friday 9 June 2023

Friday 9th June

Sunshine and dry, warm weather persist, albeit with a light easterly breeze.

Results have been tallied for yesterday's seabird survey around Islay. Only certain areas were counted (particularly Nave Island,  Ben Mhor, Texa, Soldier's Rock, Sanaig and the Lossit coast) which are the main colonies and more difficult to census from land. not all species were targeted, but this was the overall score for the 4 that were given all the attention (numbers are all "AONs" = apparently occupied nests rather than counts of birds - of which there were many loafing about on the cliffs and surrounding sea:

Kittiwake – 522: Guillemot – 797: Razorbill – 446: Fulmar 60:

I am told that some of these totals are (at least at some of the sites) an improvement on previous recent years. For example - there were 236 Kittiwake nests around the Lossit cliffs in 2019 and there were 391 there yesterday, but Fulmars seemed well down in numbers (94 on Sanaig cliffs in 2022 and just 25 yesterday). 

The only other bird notes are from yesterday: Jeff Duncan saw 4 Cuckoos together up toward Sanaigmore.

Thursday 8 June 2023

Thursday 8th June

Further bright sunny weather, but a little more breezy from the east making today's circumnavigation of Islay for a seabird census a bit bumpier than wanted. We are still adding up the totals, so will post the details tomorrow. On the way round we did see a large pod of dolphins chasing the boat plus a pair of Great Skuas on Nave Island, several Manxies and Puffins offshore and 6 Canada Geese with goslings on the beach at Proaig.

Jeff Duncan is visiting again and sent in a report for yesterday of 2 male Whinchats at Claddach with 3 Tunstone and a Rock Pipit at Currie Sands. Today he had a male Hen Harrier at Gruinart. Graeme Glass was also at Gruinart watching Snipe, then found a Little Tern up at Ardnave Point.

Wednesday 7 June 2023

Wednesday 7th June

 More fabulous weather today. I think everyone has gone to the beach, swimming and having picnics rather than birding as there is no news to impart tonight.

However, maybe there will be something to say tomorrow, as a breeding seabird census is planned.

Tuesday 6 June 2023

Tuesday 6th June

There was quite a bit of cloud this morning, but then the weather went back to form and it turned out sunny and warm as usual.

Bird news from our visiting birders -  Cuckoos at Lagavulin & Ardtalla; Grasshopper Warbler near the airport; 30 Chough at Machir Bay and Spotted Flycatcher at Bridgend Woods - thanks to you all for your contributions.

I was pleased to see that nesting waders are still able to survive outside of nature reserves, with sightings of several pairs of Curlew, Lapwing (both species clearly with young) and drumming Snipe up around Ballimony.

However Louise Muir tops it all with two Minke Whales seen in the Sound of Jura. 

Monday 5 June 2023

Monday 5th June

Another sweltering day on the Scottish Riviera.

We were out last night doing the 2nd Corn Crake survey across Islay. I managed to find one extra calling bird on my Rhinns section and Lauren Stewart writes in to say: "We had 6 Corn Crakes calling during the Loch Gruinart reserve survey last night, with 4 of them being really close together in one field (like the ‘good old days’ I am told) we also had 2 Barn Owls and a Tawny Owl on the reserve too."

Our good friend (and probably Islay's most regular and long-term visiting birder) Gordon Yates is back with us and reports thus: "Great Spotted Woodpecker feeding young in same nest hole that was used in 2022 at Ardilistry. White Tailed Eagle at Ardbeg, Marsh Harrier at Black Park and a dozen Marsh Fritillaries at Gearach."

The GSW news is good to hear and the Marsh Harrier is interesting - is it a new one or that long-staying bird that has just been keeping out of sight for a month or so?

Elsewhere on Islay today Graeme Glass reports sky-dancing Hen Harriers, Steve & Lyn Rogers note a White-tailed Eagle over Emerivale and Jeff Duncan saw the Glaucous Gull at Uiskentuie - is this bird going to stay all summer.............

Sunday 4 June 2023

Sunday 4th June

This fabulous warm and sunny weather is almost becoming boring - a rain shower and a bit of cloud and a breeze might make a novel change!

Not much bird news I'm afraid. I heard through the grapevine that Arctic Terns might be nesting (or trying to) on Blackrock this year and had a quick look. There were indeed a few hanging about and settled - mainly on the side you can't see properly from the usual viewpoint. There is a tiny bit of "beach" and a patch of plant life, so presumably it is possible. At least it is safe from the disturbance that most of the beaches get.

Shona Isla wrote in to say that there were 4 dolphins between Carraig Fhada and the pier at Port Ellen this evening.

Saturday 3 June 2023

Saturday 3rd June

 A bit of sea mist persisted this morning but burnt off to further scorching weather and sunshine.

Reports of umpteen Cuckoos and the odd Chiffchaff from over Port Ellen and Kildalton way and I did a walk down to the coast through Glenastle on The Oa. Both I and David Dinsley checked the field where the Turtle Dove was seen yesterday, but it seems to have moved on.

I think I can award myself with BOTD today. I pulled up onto the grassy fields at Carnain to eat an ice cream when a family of Water Rails crossed from one wet bit of dense cover to another. 5 gorgeous little black balls of fluff followed two parent birds and gave some brilliant, protracted views. So rare to see Water Rails at any time - a family group was very special - and in the middle of a hot afternoon - Magic!

Friday 2 June 2023

Friday 2nd June

 Another scorcher with no sign of the weather changing.

A bit of non-avian interest from yesterday from Lauren Stewart: "Yesterday we did our Marsh Frit transect and got 63 individuals on Creag Mor, this is a lot more than normal for us at this time of year. We also had Green Hairstreak and lots of 4 Spotted Chasers."

Continuing the butterfly theme, Steve Rogers saw mating Small Coppers in his garden at Emerivale today.

Margaret Brooke (Patron St. of Starlings and other small birds) reports a close encounter at Kilchoman with a "pesky" Sparrowhawk that was just about to get to grips with a screeching young starling it had just caught. She clapped her hands and it let it go and they both flew off  - presumably in different directions? (Margaret also had a Golden Eagle today that wasn't at all "pesky").

James How did a lot better at the RSPB Gruinart hides today than I did yesterday, finding 2 Whooper Swans and a Marsh Harrier in the morning then a Greenshank in the afternoon.

But without doubt, Bird of the Day goes to David Dinsley on The Oa where he found a very fine-looking European Turtle Dove at Kinnabus - lovely photo below. (Only about 50 records for Islay and getting less frequent as their British breeding population plummets).

Thursday 1 June 2023

Thursday 1st June

Glorious weather again, though there were a few clouds in the middle of the day. The weather makes it feel as if spring is over and we are in midsummer and the birding doldrums.

I spent mid-morning through to mid-afternoon around both sides of Loch Gruinart. from Killinallan to the hides and saw nothing out of ordinary. Of course, in reality it was a splendid time that any birder from southern UK would kill for: just the "same old" White-tailed Eagles, displaying Hen Harriers, masses of nesting waders on the RSPB reserve and a sprinkling of Choughs here and there - all in a magnificent setting of a wild sea inlet surrounded by sand dunes, moorland and hilltops. There were about 20 each of Ringed Plover and Dunlin on the floods - are they still heading north or just not bothering?

Elsewhere on Islay: Ed Burrell still has 2 Spotted Flycatchers in his sights at Balaclava and Cornabus, while off  The Oa Reserve David Dinsley had summer-plumaged Great Northern Diver. At the other extremity of Portnahaven/Currie sands Mary Redman had a couple of Choughs, 5 Turnstone finding invertebrates to feast on in the rotting seaweed and a couple of Common Sandpipers on the beach.