Thursday 31 August 2023

Wednesday 30th & Thursday 31st August

Yesterday was much the same as the day before: same weather and no birds to report. Today was slightly different, with it being a bit drier and breezier with winds from the east.

George Jackson visited Machir Bay this morning and I was there this afternoon, both of us finding a similar number and array of species on the beach: 55 Ringed Plover, 12 Dunlin (3 with black bellies), 10 Sanderling and 8 Turnstones. We both checked Loch Gorm, George counting 350/400 Greylags which had all gone by the afternoon when I saw 6 Tufted Duck and 10 Common Scoter there.

Gary Turnbull had a young White-tailed Eagle playing with the Greylags on loch Indaal at Bridgend this morning. Ed Burrell down at Cornabus sent in a note about the abundance of finches about at the moment. 70+ Goldfinches were feeding on thistles, but as they become scarce, moving on to seeds of juncus. He commented that Chaffinches had been in good numbers too, with plenty of young suggesting a good breeding season. Steve & Lyn Rogers at Kilnaughton mentioned that the Goldfinches and Sparrows in their garden were going for knapweed and pampas grass seeds.

Tuesday 29 August 2023

Tuesday 29th August

Another day of very similar weather - sunny until you think about going out, then it rains. Consequently, nobody did go out and there are no birds to tell you about today.

Monday 28 August 2023

Monday 28th August

Another changeable day with sunny bits and showery bits with a light westerly pushing it all along.

Mary-Ann Featherstone had a Barn Owl up at Ardtalla yesterday evening. today there were a couple of interesting sightings: Liam Price saw a female Marsh Harrier by The Machrie and James How saw what is quite likely to have been a Temminck's Stint on the RSPB Floods - but it flew off giving only fleeting views. There are only 5 Argyll records of Temminck's Stint - two of them from Islay, both at Gruinart and both in May (2000 & 2014).

Otherwise it was news about raptors: Gary Turnbull watched a White-tailed Eagle, first perched on the old bit of wrecked ship in the Merse at Bridgend, then practising its hunting skills on the Greylag Geese. Down at Claddach, Mary Redman saw another (adult) White-tailed Eagle and a Sparrowhawk.

Sunday 27 August 2023

Sunday 27th August

Light NW winds, mostly dry, cool but with a few light showers. 

The hint of NW winds made Martin Armstrong think of a sea-watch off Frenchman's Rocks this morning. So he, myself and Bob Davison set off hoping against hope that something might come of it. Nope! Nothing doing! A few distant Manx Shearwaters and close-up Gannets were milling about and going in no particular direction and there were almost no Kittiwakes or auks and just a couple of Fulmars. The only thing to brighten the hour we spent there was a Great Skua sauntering by and a Whimbrel as we left.

Saturday 26 August 2023

Saturday 26th August

Sunny, but a NW breeze and 1-2 showers.

David Dinsley saw an adult White-tailed Eagle offshore from Lagavulin either attempting to predate a Gannet or steal its catch - but neither was successful. Later he found another White-tailed Eagle juvenile further along the coast, plus an Otter at Claggain Bay.

Ed Burrell had a Dipper on the Cornabus burn. There are surprisingly few records of Dipper away from the hot-spot areas of the the River Sorn.

Friday 25 August 2023

Friday 25th August

Another day of sunshine with sporadic, sometimes quite heavy showers.

David Dinsley was out and about on The Oa where he saw a female Merlin at The Oa RSPB Car Park.

Thursday 24 August 2023

Thursday 24th August

Weather today: odd bits of sunshine between some quite heavy showers.

It is all about perched eagles today:  Margaret Brooke had a Golden Eagle perched at the hut circles opposite Culbuie road end this morning. Mary-Ann Featherstone and friends had a young White-tailed Eagle perched on the trig. point on top of Fairy Hill, the eagle being mobbed by 3 Buzzards and Ravens. (Picture taken by Alex Clayton).

Wednesday 23 August 2023

Wednesday 23rd August

Arrived back on Islay this evening into ghastly damp, cold, cloudy weather. Perhaps it has been like this all day - and that would be a good reason for lack of any bird news. However, there was plenty of activity on the ferry-crossing:

At Kennacraig there were 2 Little Egrets and a Greenshank and the crossing was full of auks with their young, plus lots of Manx Shearwaters, Kittiwakes and Gannets, along with a pod of c.15 dolphins.

Tuesday 22 August 2023

Tuesday 22nd August

A little bit of bird news today:

David Dinsley counted a flock of 60 Redshank at Kinnabus, rightly commenting that this was a very high count for this site - in fact it seems quite a good sized flock anywhere on Islay.

A second report from The Oa comes from Ed Burrell who saw yet another really quite late Swift at Cornabus, commenting that "they're like buses - wait 5 years and then 2 come by in a couple of weeks".

Elsewhere, Mary Redman saw a Wheatear down at Claddach and  couple of White-tailed Eagles on nearby hills. 

Monday 21 August 2023

Monday 21st August


I'm still off island, so can't comment on the weather. Bird-wise we have a note from Margaret Brooke who notes : "Pesky Sparrowhawk chasing large flock of Starlings over garden. James How saw a Kestrel over the crag yesterday"

James also reported today that there were 3 Peregrines and a Sparrowhawk (not stipulating whether it was pesky or not) at Gruinart..

Sunday 20 August 2023

Saturday 19th & Sunday 20th August

Being away from Islay at the moment I've no idea what the weather is doing. I do know that it was far too windy for me to get over to Bardsey in N. Wales yesterday or today.

There was a late report in that a Great Shearwater had been seen somewhere between Islay and Rathlin on Thursday, but whether it was in our territorial waters or not is yet to be discovered,  let alone whether it was a genuine sighting.

Yesterday's bird news comes from Margaret Brooke who saw White-tailed and Golden Eagle as well as Sparrowhawk up in the Kilchoman/Coull area. David Dinsley had a couple of Swifts hawking over Kinnabus - quite late in the season? 

No bird news so far from Islay today, but Ed Burrell noted that there was news of an Alpine Swift not far away on Rathlin: so if you see any swift over Islay check it hasn't got a white belly!

Friday 18 August 2023

Friday 18th August

 I'm writing this blog from the tip of the Llyn peninsula in N. Wales where the weather is atrocious and making it look unlikely that I'll get over to Bardsey tomorrow for a 70th Anniversary of the Bird Observatory celebration. 

Looking at the weather for Islay it seems that it is much the same - rain and near-gales. Hence nobody has reported any birds for Islay today.

Hoping for better weather tomorrow - and a few birds to tell you about. 

Thursday 17 August 2023

Thursday 17th August

A day of sunshine and warmth - temperatures up to 20C or more.

Steve & Lynn Rogers came in on the early ferry from Kennacraig to Port Ellen and counted 264 Guillemots on the water and a fly-by Great Northern Diver, but not much else. I departed for the mainland on the ferry they came in on. I didn't take the trouble to count the Guillemots, but confirm there were a lot out there, including plenty of young. Again, there was little else other than the usual sprinkling of gulls and Gannets. But we did have brief looks at a few dolphins and porpoises.

The only news from the island is an update from Margaret Brooke with a photo of her Barn Owl chicks looking nearly full grow and ready to go.

Wednesday 16 August 2023

Wednesday 16th August

 A dry, mild, fairly sunny day with a light westerly wind.

It was the light westerly and dry conditions that inspired me to have another go at sea-watching from Frenchman's Rocks this morning. I spent a pleasant enough hour there from 7.30am to 8.30am. As usual when sea-watching off Islay, there is rarely anything earth-shatteringly mega, but, with clicker in hand I stared down the eyepiece of the scope and meditated on the shearwaters passing by, hoping I'd be snapped out of the trance when a different shearwater to a Manxie popped into view. The trance continued uninterrupted for the whole hour as I clocked up 671 very fine Manx Shearwaters, seemingly all heading east and south down into their Irish Sea colonies. With them went a trickle of Kittiwakes - about 120 in all; equal numbers of young and adults which seemed a good sign for a decent breeding year? Single Great Skua livened things up a bit, but best of the bunch was a total of 4 European Storm Petrels passing by quite far out to sea. Only one Fulmar and 6 auk sp. were noted - and of course there were plenty of Shags and Gannets wandering this way and that, but seemingly going nowhere in particular.

Tuesday 15 August 2023

Tuesday 15th August

Mostly sunny - very pleasant.

Autumn is kicking in with first records of waders building up on Loch Gruinart. James How reports 9 Greenshank, 54 Knot, 10 Sanderling, 1 Whimbrel and 5 Arctic Terns there today.

Monday 14 August 2023

Monday 14th August

Another day of mixed weather - mostly sunny and calm when it was very "midgey",  interspersed with rain showers and light breeze  - when the midges disappeared for a while.

However, there are no birds to report today other than some very large distant flocks of waders zipping about across the flats at Loch Gruinart - presumably Dunlin - but who knows what oddities might be lurking therein!?

Sunday 13 August 2023

Sunday 13th August

A mix of sunshine and occasional moderate showers with a light to medium southerly breeze.

After all the talk of exciting seabirds around other parts of the Scottish and Irish coast two intrepid observers tried their luck peering wistfully off the coast of Islay today.

David Wood down on The Oa  did a two hour stretch finding an Arctic Skua, 5 Sandwich Terns, c. 1000 Gannets, 80 Manxies, 40 Fulmar, 15 Kittiwakes and just 2 auk sp.

At Frenchman's Rocks Alistair Hart managed a bit of time before heading off the island for home.  He had lots of Manxies, Fulmars and Gannets, but particularly enjoyed good views of 2 Arctic Skuas and his first Islay Puffin. (Thanks Alistair for sharing all your sightings while over on Islay - see you again soon).

Meanwhile, Jim Dickson was trying his luck by spending the day on the return ferry journey from Oban to Tiree. Still no sign of those mythical Cory's Shearwaters, but some interesting species and numbers of birds in much more open seas. Sooty and Balearic Shearwaters were noted along with Storm Petrels, Grey Phalaropes and Arctic Skuas.

Elsewhere on Islay Steve and Lynn Rogers had a single White-tailed Eagle over Kilnaughton this morning and Margaret Brooke noted a Sparrowhawk perched on her fence.

Saturday 12 August 2023

Saturday 12th August

Better weather than forecast, with plenty of sunshine in between squally showers.

Jim Dickson reported on our Islay Birding  WhatsApp yesterday that there were masses of good seabirds swilling about in Scottish waters and that we should take a look today. I did just that for an hour and a half this morning off Frenchman's Rocks and saw 168 Manxies, about the same number of Kittiwakes, a handful of Fulmars and 78 Shags sat on Frenchman's Rocks. The nearest I got to "exciting" or "different" was a passing Black-tailed Godwit and an immature Skua that was probably Pomarine, but too far offshore to be sure. 

Ever-enthusiastic, Jim tells us in another message this evening that there were vast numbers of Cory's, Great and Sooty Shearwaters, Wilson's Storm Petrels and all sorts off Annagh Head (out on the NW coast of Eire) today, and that we should go and have another look off Frenchman's Rocks tomorrow. Alistair Hart is inspired - I'm not!

The only other bird news today is of a Peregrine over Ardbeg this morning - and another at Kilnaughton this afternoon, seen by Cameron Murray.

Friday 11 August 2023

Friday 11th August

A fine sunny day deteriorated into overcast and rainy by late afternoon - but at least the wind dropped a little.

Alistair Hart ventured to Frenchman's Rocks again just before lunch noting a steady passage of Gannets and a few Manx Shearwaters. Cameron Murray was also down in that part of the island finding a small passage of Whimbrels this morning, moving south at Portnahaven, plus an adult White-tailed Eagle. 

At Loch Skerrols there was yet another Osprey.

Thursday 10 August 2023

Thursday 10th August

Much breezier today, but still dry, warm and mostly sunny.

Gary Turnbull, our chief Osprey spotter, did his stuff today with an Osprey seen over the Sorn as it came out into Loch Indaal at Bridgend.

A walk on Machir Bay produced 35 Ringed Plover with about 10 Dunlin. I also checked a large group of 200 Common Gulls roosting on the rocks at high tide north of Bruichladdich - just in case there was something more interesting in their midst. Needless to say, there wasn't but worth a try............

Wednesday 9 August 2023

Wednesday 9th August

Mostly dry and sunny, a bit cloudier and very light drizzle on rare occasions.

Ed Burrell found a Cormorant on "his" loch at Cornabus, commenting that the bird would be disappointed if he was hoping to find a meal there. He also counted 394 Greylag Geese, which he confirms is a high count for the time of year and suggests it must have been a good breeding season for them.

Martin Douglas was over on Jura and found an Osprey fishing and a Golden Eagle too - both at Loch Tarbert.

Back on Islay Alistair Hart had a White-tailed Eagle down at Cladville and a Chough nearby.

Tuesday 8 August 2023

Tuesday 8th August

Another good sunny, warm and dry day. 

Trouble these days is we never know whether we should be enjoying it or feeling bad about global warming ! The news this morning reported the hottest global July ever recorded, which is worrying. But Margaret Brooke notes that at least the butterflies up at Kilchoman were happy with it as she clocked up a dozen or more Peacocks on one of her Buddlea bushes.

No bird news today - but a couple of further notes for yesterday: Alistair Hart saw a Barn Owl last night between Portnahaven and Port Wemyss and Val Peacock saw a Little Egret on Loch Indaal up at Bridgend yesterday afternoon.

Monday 7 August 2023

Monday 7th August

Mostly dry and sunny with a light breeze, but very occasional light showers of rain.

Alistair Hart seems to be the only person out there birding today - and continuing to be "green" and birding by bicycle. He writes: "This wee daily cycle loop is proving very productive. Ring-tail Hen Harrier near Cladville, 2 White-tailed Eagles on rocks near usual Loch. Also a Kestrel there. Juvenile Goldfinches present - breeding evidence for the area".

Sunday 6 August 2023

Sunday 6th August

A lovely sunny and warm day.

Tom Evans saw 2 White-tailed Eagles near Cladville Farm at 11am today and in the same area Alistair saw a couple of Whitethroats carrying food - perhaps late broods still being fed?

On the way back from Bowmore this evening a Barn Owl was dicing with death along the road at Blackrock.

Saturday 5 August 2023

Saturday 5th August

A decent, dry and sunny day with light winds after overnight rain.

Margaret Brooke sent us a lovely photo of a couple of young Barn Owls nearly fledging and seemingly pushing for the right to exit their nest-box first! Margaret also noted a Sparrowhawk up at Kilchoman.

Alistair had been out cycling in the pleasant weather reporting: "Just a quick cycle today, the wee loop from Portnahaven, Claddach and Ballymenach. 1 Raven, 2 Buzzards (very vocal) and 2 White-tailed Eagles (put the Graylags up that were on the small reservoir/loch by Claddach)"

Friday 4 August 2023

Friday 4th August

 A pleasant sunny day, but lots of midges this evening.

Margaret Brooke reports from Kilchoman: "High jinks this afternoon with 14 Pied Wagtails out on the grass and a stoat came out to try and catch one. It was them dive-bombed by the Swallows, so it retreated under a bush. Also some young Linnets getting fed at edge of long grass"

Owen Roberts sent in his notes from the opposite side of the island: "Had a look at the woodlands between Port Ellen and Kildalton in today's better weather. The highlight was a small roving flock of Common Crossbills, almost in the same spot as we saw them late last autumn. Great, Blue, Coal and Long-tailed Tits, plus Treecreeper, did no harm to our trip list!"


Thursday 3 August 2023

Thursday 3rd August

Mostly sunny, but showers at times. A bit of a northerly breeze tempted Alistair Hart to try his luck at sea-watching at Frenchman's Rocks. His results were: 

Gannets  - around 220, mainly fishing around Frenchman's Rocks: Manx Shearwaters - only small numbers, c.40: Kittiwakes 30: Fulmar 11: Black Guillemots 2:

Sadly no skuas and a possible storm petrel sped off before proper views could be gained.

Wednesday 2 August 2023

Wednesday 2nd August

A few showers again today, but otherwise quite sunny and warm. Perhaps the nicer weather has encouraged a bit more outdoor activity:

Alistair starts us off with a pale-phase Arctic Skua near Frenchman's Rocks and 4 Ravens near Currie Sands and finding a Golden Plover nearby later. In the same neck of the woods, Mary Redman found a nice summer-plumaged Black-tailed Godwit at Claddach.

On the other side of the island David Dinsley scored with another Swift coming in off the sea at The Oa, and Ed Burrell watched a young Cuckoo being fed by their favourite host - a Meadow Pipit - at Cragabus. A somewhat less welcome sight was a count of c.30 Canada Geese flying in to Cornabus from Kintra.

Out at Machir Bay I saw five early returning Sanderling on the tideline, 2-3 of them still in decent summery plumage.

Tuesday 1 August 2023

Tuesday 1st August

Not as drizzly as yesterday, but still not much like summer - warm and humid, but showery at times.

George Jackson had a Cuckoo fly across in front of the car at Lower Cragabus on Sunday - getting almost "late" for this species that quickly returns towards Africa after mating and dropping its eggs in a host's nest. George also counted a flock of 50 Ringed Plover at Uiskentuie this evening.

Owen & Glynis were out and about today and had quite a high count of 35 Tufted Ducks on Loch Gorm this morning. At Ardnave there was a party of 5 Choughs plus several ones and twos. A mixed flock of c200 Twite and Linnets over a flax field at Kilnave were constantly disturbed by a male Hen Harrier quartering the field. (No sign of yesterday’s Black-tailed Godwits).

Down on The Oa, David Dinsley had a couple of Sandwich Terns at Kintra along with a fly-over Whimbrel. Hannah Stanger noted activity from a fledged and parent White-tailed Eagle down at Ardbeg during the day - good to know that some chicks have fledged this year.

News from across the water comes from Andy Harris who had a Short-eared Owl at Feolin ferry on Jura this morning.