Monday 31 July 2023

Monday 31st July

 A mostly grey and drizzly sort of day.

Thanks to Owen & Glynis Roberts who reported on their second day on Islay with some interesting results:

"14 BLACK-TAILED GODWITS in sheep field east of Saligo. 3 GREENSHANK together at Loch Gruinart. Female HEN HARRIERS - one near the turn to Sagaigmore and close views of a very pale bird at the Gruinart RSPB hides"


Sunday 30 July 2023

Sunday 30th July

Sunshine - rain - sunshine - rain.........but it didn't stop Ed Burrell seeing a Swift over Cornabus, which was his first there.

I took a walk up from Kilchiaran to Granny's Rock overlooking Machir Bay. The track going up was full of birds - common stuff, but action-packed. 30-40 Meadow Pipits on the wires at times and 3-4 Willow Warblers suggesting  a bit of autumn migration along with family parties of Stonechats, Reed Buntings and Ravens.

Saturday 29 July 2023

Saturday 29th July

 A day of sunshine and showers with a moderate breeze.

Just the one posting today - but a very good one:

David Wood did a sea-watch from The Oa this afternoon and had a Cory's Shearwater. There have only been four previous accepted Islay sightings -  August 1973, September 1993, October 1996 and August 2002. I believe there have only been 9 in Argyll, the last in August 2005 on Tiree. Apparently they were going past County Kerry this morning at a rate of 15 a minute - but just the one on Islay will do!

Despite that excitement, David didn't pull anything else much out of the bag - 800 Manx Shearwaters was a good tally along with the usual Gannets, auks, Kittiwakes and Fulmars - all heading westwards.

Friday 28th July

No birds to report today, but some notes from George Jackson for yesterday:

"Quick look at Loch Skerrols this morning: about 20 hirundines feeding way out over the water included at least 1 House Martin. A pair of Mute Swans had 6 smallish cygnets. In the woods by the track going back to the car there was a family of 4 Spotted Flycatchers"

" Last three days we’ve had about 30 Swallows round the house each evening (pre-roost) with up to 10 going into the shed where a pair nested"

George also noted Graylags grouping up in small groups on various places: 10 out on Loch Indaal, 57 on Loch Gorm, 30+ towards Coull and c.30 on the shore just north of Bruichladdich.  He wondered if these are likely to be moulting birds gathering?

Thursday 27 July 2023

Thursday 27th July

Not quite so much like summer any more with squally showers, grey skies and lower temperatures. Just two bits of bird news today:

Gary Turnbull had an Osprey fishing in Loch Indaal at Bridgend and Ed Burrell had a Greenshank on Loch Cornabus.

Wednesday 26 July 2023

Wednesday 26th July

A fine sunny start to the day, but the weather deteriorated to rain and breeze in the late afternoon with overcast skies.

Mary-Ann Featherstone reported a pair of Spotted Flycatchers feeding young at Kildalton. Not earth-shatteringly exciting to most, but a really useful record. As I am writing a new book on the birds of Islay and plough through thousands of sightings on the databases and annual reports, trying to assess numbers of the more regular species breeding or passing through Islay, it is information like this that is so often sadly lacking, but so very useful.

Jim Dickson sent in a message today saying that sea-watching was getting interesting on the West coast of Scotland, with 2 Pomarine Skuas seen in Loch Fyne today plus a Balearic Shearwater off the Ayrshire coast. Maybe a visit to Frenchman's Rocks tomorrow might be in order? 

Tuesday 25 July 2023

Tuesday 25th July

 A pleasant, sunny and dry day.

Steve & Lynn Rogers at Imeraval heard Tawny Owl calling last night - their first down that way for a couple of years.

Margaret Brooke reports Oystercatcher on her lawn up at Kilchoman - it is the time of year when they have finished breeding and some disperse to odd places and leave Islay for winter to the south of us.

Monday 24 July 2023

Monday 24th July

 A reasonably pleasant sunny day, but just a handful of observations:

Ed Burrell had seen a Greenshank yesterday over at Kilnaughton and George Jackson had a Black-throated Diver yesterday evening off Uiskentuie. Today, George had noted a very young/just fledged Whinchat at Kilchoman.

Sunday 23 July 2023

Sunday 23rd July

Nothing to report from Islay today apart from the fact that it was absolutely bloomin' beautiful this afternoon. James had 30 common dolphins on the ferry to Kennacraig. 

Peter is back tomorrow. Cheerie!

Saturday 22 July 2023

Saturday 22nd July

Hee-haw in the inbox or whatsapp for Islay today, though Annie did report a short-eared owl north of Lagg on Jura. At Carnain this evening there were 10 little terns, 4 arctics and around 140 dunlin.

pic c/o Rob King

And that's all she wrote. Cheerie!

Friday 21 July 2023

Friday 21st July

It's Friday, and the weekend starts with Mary-Ann reporting a RB merganser with 2 chicks at Cnoc Bay. 

It was Al Kitching's last day on the island and he managed two more harriers at Gruinart, bringing his weekly tally to six. Looking toward Kilchoman he had a golden eagle, but the Islay choughs eluded him again.

pic c/o Al Kitching

Whist Annie and I were painting the hide at Gruinart an adult WTE drifted overhead. Lauren had 2 different corncrakes north of Saligo, one calling and one seen. 

Rob and Anna emailed in their final update for the week too, driving round Loch Gorm they saw yet another corncrake close to the road, then heard a reeling gropper just before the Sanaig turn. A barn owl was seen as they headed toward Sanaigmore, plus a WTE. At Loch Gruinart, they watched 2 WTE sharing a fish, 120+ curlew and 6+ greenshank, plus a ringtail harrier getting its breakfast stolen by a buzzard on the Flats. 

I missed a late record from Margaret of 12 chough and a buzzard over the crag at Kilchoman on Thursday.  

That's all, thanks very much again to all the above, particularly Al and Rob for taking the time to pass on their sightings and saying such nice things about the blog. Cheerie!

Thursday 20 July 2023

Thursday 20th July

Rob, Anna, Paula and Adrian headed back to The Oa yesterday and saw a pair of goldies, 4 chough and a porpoise. Today they "...joined Annie's guided walk at Loch Gruinart; a distant male Hen Harrier then 3 ring-tails together from the Moorland trail looking for all the world like a newly fledged family party. A single WTE out on the flats.

Anna and I spent the rest of the day at the reserve and had an Adder, more Hen Harrier sightings including 2 males. From the north hide we had 2 WTE, 1 ringtail HH (who later mobbed the eagles when they took flight), 2 Greenshank, a Green Sandpiper and half a dozen Snipe"

Rob also had a few dragonflies around Loch Gruinart - golden ringed, common darter and common hawker, and the above beetle, which he thinks might be Hemicrepidus hirtus or hairy click beetle. Anyone out there know for sure?

A quiet day on whatsapp, with only Steve Rogers' 39+ shags in Kilnaughton Bay to report

Al Kitching is still loving his Islay trip, today down at Portnahaven and seeing arctic terns at McKenzie Island, plenty of seals...

...and stonechats in the field behind the church. A ringtail hen harrier near Kintra ended the day for him.  

That's all for today, thanks very much again to all our contributors. 

Wednesday 19 July 2023

Wednesday 19th July

Another glorious summer day. Al Kitching headed for The Oa in search of choughs, but missed out. He did see 3 WTE (2 pictured below) and a small flock of twite by the Monument, so it wasn't all bad.

Little to report apart from that. The RSPB ragwort team had a juvenile cuckoo near Smaull and I had this hoverfly, sericomyia silentis (I think!) up on the Moorland Trail at Gruinart. 

That's it. Cheerie!

Tuesday 18 July 2023

Tuesday 18th July

A beautiful day and some good sightings. David Dinsley gets BOTD with a juv long-eared owl on The Oa...

...which is a superb record. Malcolm points out that the last breeding record on Islay was in 1953, and that was only a possible breeder. Double D later had a juv cuckoo and a WTE at Cragabus and Cornabus respectively. 

Al Kitching is on day 3 of his hols, and still enjoying himself it seems. His highlight was this juv spotted fly in Bridgend Woods along the Sorn. 

Al also had a goldcrest feeding two fledglings, and a treecreeper in the same area. South of the Machrie, there was a ringtail hen harrier. Thanks Al.  

Rob King and Anna, Paula and Adrian are also on Islay for the week and sent through their highlights of their first few days - a couple of common dolphins from the ferry on Saturday, 5 chough at Ardnave and ringtail HH at Gruinart on Sunday. On Monday, 3 chough at Kilchoman, a bonxie south of Nerabus, plus a few manxies and "good numbers" of arctic terns around Portnahaven. Today they went to The Oa and did the guided walk with Annie from RSPB and saw golden eagle, 12+ tysties, fulmars, 3 chough, kestrel, twite, linnet and a late singing sedge warbler. Dark green fritillary was also present. Later there were 3 common sands east of Ardbeg and our old friend the glaucous gull still in its usual spot at Uiskentuie. 

Phew. That's all. Thanks very much to all the above for their records and pictures. Cheerie!

Monday 17 July 2023

Monday 17th July

A late corncrake still calling north of Saligo and a blackcap having a brief sing at Gruinart were my best efforts today. On a beautiful afternoon near Saligo we had a distant glimpse of a couple of cetaceans, probably bottlenose dolphins, but too far away to be sure.

Over on whatsapp, Double D reported an adult pair of kestrels with 3 juvs near Kinnabus, Mary-Ann saw a bullfinch, and our Mary had another kestrel at Tormisdale today and a bonxie over Portnahaven yesterday. 

Al Kitching went up to Ardnave Point today in search of choughs. He didn't see any but did get ravens, sand martins, and both male and female hen harrier...

 ...thanks very much Al.

Reports persist of dead birds, particularly auks, around Islay and other parts of the Scottish coast at the minute. Please follow the guidance at the link below if you find any.

That's yer lot! Thanks to all. 

Sunday 16 July 2023

Sunday 16th July

Sightings! Al Kitching had a tystie at Kilnaughton and Margaret had a young wheatear and a couple of stoats up at Kilchoman. Thanks very much to both of them. 

Saturday 15 July 2023

Saturday 15th July

Hello bird fans. Nothing in the way of sightings from Islay today. Forgot to report a corncrake calling through the afternoon yesterday near Saligo. Bye!

Friday 14 July 2023

Friday 14th July

 A reasonable start to the day gave way to cloud and drizzle by the afternoon.

An odd mix of "stuff" to report tonight:

The bad news comes from Ed Burrell, who did a walk along the shore ta Kilnaughton Bay and found 4 freshly dead adult Razorbills, 2 freshly dead Guillemots and a freshly dead Fulmar. There were also some older remains of a Puffin. Presumably these are most likely to be casualties of the still-present Avian Flu?

On a slightly happier note, Mark Shields, out and about on the RSPB Gruinart reserve, found two of his favourite insects: a large fly called Tachina grossa and a Musk Beetle Aromia moschata.


Thursday 13 July 2023

Thursday 13th July

 Warm, dry and sunny all day.

Gary Turnbull had a veritable raptor-fest at Finlaggan this morning with 2 White-tailed Eagles, 3 Hen Harriers, 5 Buzzards and two Ospreys (the latter fishing).

Other news comes from Hannah Stanger who saw a couple of Puffins off Beinn Mhor and Mary-Ann Featherstone who found a Little Egret at Cnoc Bay and a female Hen Harrier up near Ardtalla.

Up at Gartmain near high tide was a group of 38 Bar-tailed Godwits - all in grey, non-breeding plumage, presumably early return birds from their northern breeding grounds.

Wednesday 12 July 2023

Wednesday 12th July

Another nice enough day's weather, but another quiet day for bird news: David Dinsley reporting 4 Greenshank from Upper Killeyan on The Oa.

Tuesday 11 July 2023

Tuesday 11th July

 A pleasant sunny day with light breezes, but nobody reporting any birds.

Monday 10 July 2023

Monday 10th July

Light rain overnight , and mainly cloudy, with showers and cloud over much of today.

Gary Turnbull kindly started things off today with reports of an Osprey at Finlaggan and presumably the same Glaucous Gull back at Uiskentuie that has been there on and off since early last winter.

David Dinsley had 4 Wigeon at Cornabus - the first returning birds of autumn I suppose? Later he saw a Swift nearby at Kinnabus - the third day in a row for the species. 

Further reports from Cornabus came from Ed Burrell who noted: " the Woodpigeon count has gone berserk this evening with 47 eating my clover! Previous record smashed". (The larger flocks of Woodpigeon are usually from autumn through winter to spring). Ed also had a flock of 27 Mistle Thrushes - again a fairly high count for this species on Islay.

Margaret Brooke had 14 thrushes on the lawn up at Kilchoman - I wonder if they were Mistle Thrushes too?

Dead and dying auks are still showing up. Not huge numbers, but still distressing. Steve & Lynn Rogers found a dead Razorbill on Singing Sands yesterday and a sickly Guillemot at Kilnaughton today.

Sunday 9 July 2023

Sunday 9th July

 Another bright, sunny, dry and warm day.

Another day with Swifts on the island: Mark Shields had a couple over the RSPB Visitor Centre at about midday.

I was out this afternoon helping with ringing of a brood of Barn Owls - two chicks in a nest-box. They were very docile and sleepy throughout the indignity of it all.

Saturday 8 July 2023

Saturday 8th July

Breezy to start, but warm, sunny and dry.

Frank Cavanagh reports 3 Red-throated Divers seen yesterday lunchtime at Claggain Bay. These could well be breeding birds coming down from the lochans on the hills to feed in the sea.

Today's news is all about Swifts. Always a scarce and unpredictable species on Islay there were reports from David Wood of one from the ferry close to Lagavulin, then a little further on the journey 2 more at Ardmore. A little later, Frank Cavanagh saw one on The Oa. There was obviously a bit of a passage going on as Jim Dickson messaged to say he was seeing 30 or more down at the south end of the Kintyre peninsula at lunch time.

David Wood also mentioned that the sea on the ferry crossing was busy with plenty of auks and Manxies.

Friday 7 July 2023

Friday 7th July

Very blustery overnight with rain and wind this morning giving way to brighter, sunnier weather from late morning onwards.

The only news today is not good news: Mary-Ann Featherstone reporting one dead and one sick Guillemot in Cnoc Bay over by Kildalton this morning - perhaps victims of Bird Flu?

Thursday 6 July 2023

Thursday 6th July

The weather today becoming progressively more cloudy, blustery and rainy.

Only one sighting for the day courtesy of  David Dinsley who saw a Greenshank at Loch Kinnabus.

Wednesday 5 July 2023

Wednesday 5th July

 A mostly sunny, dry day, breezy but warm.

On Islay a few birds of interest were seen: Mary Redman had a Bonxie at Currie Sands, David Dinsley saw the female Marsh Harrier again at Gruinart and visitors, newly arrived today, Frank & Patrick Cavanagh saw Golden Eagle and another Bonxie at Lower Killeyan.

I went to Colonsay for the day on just about the first boat of summer making the day trip possible. I was heading for the wonderfully named "Pig's Paradise" cliffs to look at the nesting seabirds, as in all the years I've been on Islay I'd never been before. Great minds think  alike and we bumped into David Jardine who had come all the way from Kennacraig on the ferry to do the same thing. He had counted 430 Manxies on the crossing from the mainland plus a Storm Petrel. On our journey to Colonsay we saw another Storm Petrel.

The seabird cliffs were spectacular. glorious weather and a mass of densely packed Guillemots, Razorbills and Kittiwakes with plenty of Shags and Fulmars as supporting cast.

Tuesday 4 July 2023

Tuesday 4th July

 Drier, warmer and sunny today.

Bird news sent in today is all about "babies"! Annie Rudd reports Fulmar chicks from The Oa. Mary Redman saw a second brood of Lapwing chicks at Claddach and Margaret Brooke messaged about young, fledged Pied Wagtails up at Kilchoman. This evening following a very interesting talk at the Natural History Trust HQ in Port Charlotte (all about Farming for Wildlife - "High Nature Value Farming"), Ed Burrell was mentioning well-grown Curlew chicks on the land he and Samira farm at Cornabus.

Val Peacock was up at Finlaggan this afternoon and found a pair of Little Grebes and later, at Bunnahabhain several Common Sandpipers.

Monday 3 July 2023

Monday 3rd July

Sunny for a while, then quite hefty rain showers seems to be the weather theme throughout the day.

No bird news today but one oddity and one tantalising possibility from yesterday.

Frank & Patrick Cavanagh saw a very convincing candidate for a Barolo (Little) Shearwater from the Kennacraig-Islay ferry yesterday alongside 50-100 Manx Shearwaters. 

That was the tantalising bit. The oddity is the photo below, taken by Fiona Doyle (not sure where, but presumably on a beach on Islay). 

It isn't some rare bird never seen on Islay before, nor is it some species escaped from a collection, but an odd, probably leucistic pipit - likely a Meadow Pipit. While albinism is a genetic mutation that causes complete lack of melanin pigment, leucism is only partial loss of pigment in various amounts - hence the dark eye.

Sunday 2 July 2023

Sunday 2nd July

 Another day of sunshine and showers. 

David Dinsley had a Great Skua at Stremnishmore on The Oa today and David Wood did a sea-watch from The Oa for 2 hours from midday. Plenty happening offshore there: 4 Puffins, 7 Common Scoter, an estimate of 1,200 Manx Shearwaters, 200 Gannets, 200 Kittiwakes, 30 Guillemots, and 10 each of Razorbills and Fulmars.

Saturday 1 July 2023

Saturday 1st July

Changeable weather today - breezy and quite cool with sunny periods mixed with showers.

The only bird news today comes from Gary Turnbull who reports an Osprey up at Finlaggan - there were two days in June with sightings of Osprey - I wonder if it is one bird here throughout, or individuals passing through?

Kath Butterworth saw a family of Stoats up at Craigens on Thursday evening. Having just been told today that a group of Flamingos is called a "flamboyance", I checked on what a group of Stoats is called. Apparently, apart from the rather pedestrian "gang" or "pack" they are also known as a "caravan": not a lot of people know that.......................