Saturday 30 September 2023

Saturday 30th September

Not sure what the weather was like on Islay today as I'm writing this from Dumfries & Galloway.

The bird news comes from a host of people and all corners of the island:

Peregrines were noted at Kintra, Gruinart and at the American Monument on The Oa.

White-tailed Eagles were everywhere - one at Whin Park at 4pm, two at Gruinart in the evening and 3 near the Dower House at Kildalton. 

Hen Harriers noted at the American Monument, Bruichladdich, 2 at Gruinart.

Last night David Dinsley counted 4 Barn Owls between Kinnabus and Port Ellen plus a Tawny Owl in Cairnmore Woods. David also saw a lone Whooper Swan  on Loch Kinnabus. Mary Redman's Chough total at Currie Sands was 12 today along with a Wheatear. James How gets Birds of the Day prize with a Little Egret and an Osprey at Gruinart  this evening plus a group of 10 Stonechats.

Friday 29 September 2023

Friday 29th September

 A mostly dry, sunny and moderately mild day.

My sole contribution is to record yet again, the 3 White-tailed Eagles on the flats at the top of Loch Indaal as I went past this morning. Two young birds were out on the saltmarsh, one of them eating an unknown prey item. Further away was an adult bird. A quick stop at Gartnatra produced 12 Brent Geese.

Apart from that, the Chough count goes up by the day, with 30 together seen by Alan Bowie up at Ardnave.  Alan also noted both species of godwit at Traigh Nostaig.

Patrick Barton is visiting us and saw 5 Whooper Swans going past Port Charlotte this afternoon:

However, Bird of the Day goes to David Wood who scored a Kingfisher at Kildalton.

Thursday 28 September 2023

Thursday 28th September

A brighter, mostly dry day with moderate breezes, becoming a tad windier and wetter by late afternoon.

On my way into Bowmore this morning I paused at the top of Loch Indaal and watched the usual trio of White-tailed Eagles sat out on the flats and saltmarsh islands surrounded by Greylag Geese all looking a bit nervous.

Down at Claddach Mary Redman was again counting Choughs - 13 there plus a further  3 near Balameanach.

That was all the news from Islay, but David Wood returning on the ferry this afternoon noted 4 Little Egrets and 3 Greenshank at Kennacraig plus a small pod of Common Dolphins south of Jura.

Wednesday 27 September 2023

Wednesday 27th September

Foul weather of wind and rain for much of the day courtesy of Hurricane Agnes somewhere out in the Atlantic. Nothing particularly gale force or torrential, just unpleasant and enough to keep most of us indoors.

George Jackson passed by Uiskentuie and saw the / a Glaucous Gull on the beach. I look every time I go by and I never get that lucky.

Emily McGarva spotted a Little Egret down at Portnahaven - a new location for the species on Islay I think? amazing what a strong wind will do.............

The origin of the neck-collared Greylag I saw yesterday was revealed today via a rapid reply from ringer Bob Swann. The bird was "collared" on Islay in November 2017 and has been seen here in most of the intervening 6 years since.

Tuesday 26 September 2023

Tuesday 26th September

The wind and rain finally gave way in the afternoon to a bit of dry and sunshine.

First bird note of the day came from Val Peacock looking outside of her window on the seafront at Port Charlotte where she photographed a couple of geese:

A single Brent with a lone Pink-footed Goose - the odd couple!

Later, Alan Bowie, newly arrived on the island, whilst watching a White-tailed Eagle down at Gruinart got brief looks at what he reckoned might be a female Marsh Harrier. Down at the opposite end of the island, Ed Burrell had 5 Whooper Swans drop in to Cornabus where a flock of 200 Rock Doves were resting up after eating barley at Ballivicar. Gary Turnbull took a quick look at the top of Loch Indaal at Bridgend noting 3 White-tailed Eagles out on the grassy saltmarsh islands where a Little Egret fed. Down at Portnahaven Mary Redman was counting crows - well Choughs and Ravens to be precise - 5 Chough at Claddach and 2 more on the beach later followed by 11 Ravens over her house at Port Wemyss.

As the sun came out, so did I. A look at Loch Indaal at Gartnatra produced a Greylag Goose with an orange neck-collar that I'll try and find out about in due course. Later up at Gruinart, the S. Hide wasn't too productive, but the N. Hide held 7 Black-tailed Godwit, 2 Ruff and 2 Little Egrets seen far out on the flats at high tide.

Monday 25 September 2023

Monday 25th September

Better weather today - drier, sunnier, mild and less windy. As nice as it was, there isn't much bird news to impart:

Ed Burrell had 6 Pink-footed Geese down at Cornabus/Ballivicar and David Dinsley watched a flock of 18 Chough on The Oa mobbing a Golden Eagle.

Sunday 24 September 2023

Saturday 23rd & Sunday 24th September

Further days of squally, windy, rainy weather, Sunday being the worst of the two days. Nobody ventured out yesterday, hence no blog but cabin fever struck today and I ventured up to the RSPB hides in the afternoon rain. Last time I was up at the hides there wasn't any open water in sight and the whole area was being topped by large tractors. Today it looked back to its good state with masses of water and birds congregating. From the South Hide there were 5 Ruff and 4 Black-tailed Godwit along with a good tally of 40+ Snipe. The North Hide had a couple more Black-tailed Godwits, another Ruff and a Greenshank. Wildfowl numbers were building up with plenty of Wigeon, Teal and Mallard plus about 40 Pintail - but all the ducks are in that drab post-breeding eclipse plumage still. It was far too wet for any sensible raptors to be out and there were no American passerine vagrants on the woodland trail.

Friday 22 September 2023

Friday 22nd September

A day of fairly blustery NW winds, rain showers and intermittent cloud and odd sunny spells, all caused by something called Hurricane Nigel. While "Nigel" is causing some horrible weather, it is also causing an extraordinary run of rare American vagrants, which prompted foolhardy locals (aka Me) to go looking for some. I went to Frenchman's Rocks for an hour and half of humiliation this morning, dodging rain and wind and seeing almost nothing - even the "common" species were in short supply. The most exciting aspect of the whole debacle was seeing a paltry few Manx Shearwaters flying in the opposite direction to that which they normally do. This afternoon I went way up to Gortantoid to check out the isolated scrubby bit of woodland cover there: as good a place as any for an American warbler or similar to pitch down in. I saw three Chaffinches! In all fairness, there were a lot of migrant Meadow Pipits, White Wagtails and Skylarks, plus 8 Wheatears, but nothing to get the heart racing. While there the news came through of a Baltimore Oriole on Rathlin.................

Apart from my sorry tales, Mary Redman had counted 13 Chough down at Port Wemyss yesterday and a group of 7 Snipe  at Octofad and a White-tailed Eagle at the top of loch Indaal this morning. Up at Gruinart, James How had the first group of Whooper Swans (17 of them) come in to the Flats (not there this afternoon), plus 3 Ruff from the South Hide.

Thursday 21 September 2023

Thursday 21st September

Another day of mostly rain, cloud and cool conditions.

The weather conditions across the N. Atlantic are blowing exceptional numbers of vagrant American passerines across to the UK, with all sorts of exotic warblers turning up in the usual places. Jim Dickson exhorts us to go and look in every bush as there must be something good lurking here on Islay. Unfortunately unlike  the small, bare islands of Fair Isle, Lundy and Bardsey, Islay is umpteen times larger and covered with lots of woodland, so it is all a bit frustrating and daunting. David Wood took up the challenge and thrashed around every bit of cover on The Oa and found 2 Goldcrests!!

Elsewhere in that part of the island, Ed Burrell had a couple of Whimbrel at Kintra and David Dinsley had a flock of 60 Pink-footed Geese over Kinnabus. This evening down at Gruinart James How had 27 Barnacle Geese, 20 Brent Geese, 59 Pink-footed Geese (could they be the same as those at Kinnabus?) plus 3 Black-tailed Godwits, and single Peregrine and White-tailed Eagle.

Wednesday 20 September 2023

Tuesday 19th & Wednesday 20th September

Yesterday's weather was awful with persistent rain, thus not too surprising that no birds were reported and no blog written.

Today was a little better, but still strong showers at times and a strong wind. James How saw 17 Brent Geese and the first little group of 22 Barnacle Geese this morning at Gruinart, while down at Cornabus, Ed Burrell was watching 2 White-tailed Eagles trying their best to reduce the Greylag Goose population. He also noticed an increase in Snipe numbers.

Jim Dickson wrote in with tales of good seabirds elsewhere on the nearby west coast of Scotland and encourages us to go forth and sea-watch in the next couple of days...........

Monday 18 September 2023

Sunday 17th & Monday 18th September

Sunday was a distinct change in the weather, becoming wet, cold and windy - hence no birding done and no birds reported.

Today was a lot better, with sunshine for much of the day but some heavy isolated showers in the afternoon/evening.

George Jackson sent in a note to say that his late, second brood of 4 Swallows in his shed have successfully fledged, but chose the rotten weather of yesterday to do it and were hanging about in his shed making a mess today.

Today's news was from David Dinsley of a Black-throated Diver off Kintra and a Peregrine there low over the waves this morning, followed by a Merlin at Glenastle. James How noted other raptors up at Gruinart this evening - 2 White-tailed Eagles, a Peregrine and 2 Hen Harriers.

There was also a belated report of a Kingfisher on the mouth of the River Sorn at Bridgend last Monday, 11th September.

Sunday 17 September 2023

Saturday 16th September

 Fairly quiet start to the weekend, though it was nice to see a kestrel over Currie Sands Saturday morning. David D. back on the Oa also had a kestrel, as well as a high count of 5 white-tailed eagles over Kinnabus, while David W. counted 19 chough elsewhere on the Oa.  Mary-Ann also had chough (2)
over Cnoc Bay, heading to Ardtalla.

Todays photos from Billy Stitchell from last week. The "Family Tree" taken near Port Askaig.

Saturday 16 September 2023

Friday 15 September

 A rusty return to the blog for me after a few months! And here we are suddenly in autumnal-September with migrants arriving, leaves falling and conkers to be found, and us rummaging for our 'big coats' and hats.  My husbands fishing boat is back in Bowmore now till next year, so winter is definitely close on autumns heels. 

The autumn migrants can sometimes mean the local birders are lured away from their nests - David D. ventured to Ardnave, probably about as far from the Oa as he could get without a ferry, to report 2 greenshank at Ardnave Loch. He must have left his camera at home...

Peter had a spy out from Black Rock counting 47 common scoter and one black throated diver. Then round at the head of Loch Indaal a good count of 17 mute swans.

Mary-Ann reported 12 red-breasted mergansers at Cnoc Bay, plus a tawny owl calling.  

James had the curlew sandpiper at Loch Gruinart.

Finally, Sam sent in a sighting of a male hen harrier at Springbank.

Thanks to all for your sightings, don't be shy to send in photos too! It fairly cheers up the diary.

Thursday 14 September 2023

Thursday 14th September

A lot better weather than the sudden wintry spell of yesterday. Mostly dry, with a few showers, certainly a good bit warmer with moderate westerly breezes.

A few bits of bird news for today: Fiona McGillivray noted the Chough flock down her way at Port Wemyss counted in at 19 birds at lunchtime.

Steve & Lyn Rogers had a male Hen Harrier over the low road near the airport in the afternoon, while Sam Turnbull had another Hen Harrier and a White-tailed Eagle at Lily Loch this evening.

In between, James How checked out Gruinart this evening as the tide came in and found an Osprey, Peregrine, 320 Bar-tailed Godwits and 322 Teal just arrived. He also saw a single Little Stint that might warrant closer inspection (if anyone can get close enough) as there is always the possibility at this time of year of an American "Peep" turning up.

Wednesday 13 September 2023

Wednesday 13th September

A distinct change in the weather today - cool, cloudy, windy and, in the end, rainy.

Mary Redman sent in a report for yesterday of 20+ Chough over Portnahaven/Port Wemyss in the early afternoon. This was at about the same time yesterday that Val Peacock and Lesley Silcock counted 30 Chough between Saligo and Sanaigmore. That is a good lot of Choughs; lets hope they have had a good breeding season, with lots of fledged young surviving into autumn.

Mary also had a Sparrowhawk "tussling" with Pheasants at Carn and a Barn Owl last night at Claddach.

Today's news comes from Ed Burrell who heard Chiffchaff at Cornabus and from myself from a visit to Gruinart in the morning. The tide was low and waders abundant. 5-6 Greenshank were present again, a flock of 60+ Lapwings on the fields and 200 Bar-tailed Godwits feeding. The remaining water channels attracted a lot of Black-headed Gulls actively feeding - 180 in total. Best find was a female or young Marsh Harrier.

Tuesday 12 September 2023

Tuesday 12th September

Another lovely, mostly dry, sunny day with light westerly winds. But much of the bird news reflects impending winter.

James How set the ball rolling with a report of the first 3 Barnacle Geese of the winter arriving at Gruinart along with 4 Pink-footed Geese this morning. At lunch-time David Wood reported a flock of 30 Pink-footed Geese flying eastwards on The Oa, followed not that long afterwards by another 60. Discussion ensued about the various favourable weather conditions in the North Atlantic making the arrival of our winter geese so much earlier than usual. 

In the afternoon, Val Peacock and Lesley Silcock did a walk from Saligo to Sanaigmore seeing a few more Pink-footed Geese flying over, plus 30 Chough near Saligo and a pair of Golden Eagles, When I went to pick them up I met a Swiss birder who says he saw a flock of 50-60 Barnacle Geese at Gruinart yesterday.

With nothing better to do on my return home I took a look at Loch Gorm and counted the Greylag Geese there. 1,410 were evident with folks around the island saying they had other large numbers elsewhere at the same time: 440 at Cornabus for starters, so one heck of a lot of them about and comparable to Jim Dickson's count last week of 1,510 at Bridgend and others elsewhere.   

Monday 11 September 2023

Monday 11th September

Mostly warm and sunny, but a few light scattered showers with a light westerly wind.

Gary Turnbull noted 3 White-tailed Eagles perched up at Bridgend. Two were out on the old wreck on the mud and sand flats, the other on the saltmarsh.

James also saw White-tailed Eagle up at Gruinart where there were 3 Ruff, a Water Rail and a flock of 175 Linnets.

Down at Portnahaven, Stuart Todd saw another White-tailed Eagle out on Orsay Island, plus a flock of 800 Starlings. 

Sunday 10 September 2023

Sunday 10th September

The heat wave continues across much of the UK, but it was much more tolerable here - pleasantly warm, mostly sunny, but a few cloudy, showery intervals.

I checked out Gartnatra in mid-morning and found the flock of Wigeon temporarily close in accompanied by the American Wigeon, but it wasn't long before they all flew out into the centre of Loch Indaal, joining a group of 36 Red-breasted Mergansers and became too distant to enjoy.

The only other bird news comes from Ed Burrell who found a couple of Pale-bellied Brent Geese on the beach at Port Ellen.

Saturday 9 September 2023

Saturday 9th September

The weather was a bit more autumnal today - less heat, more cloudy spells and an attempt at times to rain.

Some of the bird sightings were distinctly autumnal too, with Jim Dickson, on his last day on Islay kicking off this morning with a second calendar year Glaucous Gull down at the favourite hang-out of Uiskentuie.In the same area from there up towards Carnain were 3 Wheatears  and then a sizeable flock of 350 Linnets at Coullabus. The winter feel was emphasised further when, up at the top of Loch Indaal at Gartnatra a flock of 79 Wigeon were counted, and with them a young American Wigeon. 

James How continued the autumnal theme by finding the first of the usual small passage of Pink-footed Geese - 4 of them on Gruinart flats.

Val Peacock, Lesley Silcock and I took a walk out in the afternoon from Gartbreck along the coast to Laggan Point. A flock of 50 Ravens were gathered along the shore where scattered Wheatears and White Wagtails were noted. Up at Laggan there was a perched Peregrine on the point and an adult Whooper Swan on the loch. On the return was a decent count of 11+ Greenshank amidst the usual waders and ducks.

While doing that walk, Jim was sailing back towards the mainland noting a Golden Eagle on the Jura side of the Sound out of Port Askaig and a male Hen Harrier over Jura itself. At the same sort of time James How took another look over Gruinart finding 2 White-tailed Eagles, 3 Curlew Sandpipers, Peregrine, 23 Turnstone, lots of Knot, 65 Teal and a Carrion Crow. But best of his finds by far was a Pectoral Sandpiper.

On my return homeward, I stopped at Gartnatra and managed to locate the, by now, very distant flock of Wigeon including a very distant view of the American Wigeon still with them. While watching that a splendid Osprey came over, hovering over the water in search of fish. 

So, all-in-all, a good day's birding with some scarce finds. But if it is rarity we are after, then the prize goes to Mary-Ann Featherstone who found a Vestal Moth in her moth trap today - apparently the first record for the vice-county and a genuine Scottish rarity.

Friday 8 September 2023

Friday 8th September

Yet another superbly bright, hot and sunny day thanks to global warning.

Jim Dickson was up and about before 9am finding 8 Slavonian Grebes at Gortan. I got there an hour or so later but they had vanished by then, leaving 10 Common Scoter as the second prize. A little later, Jim found the first Brent Geese of the autumn - a couple at Carnain. Later in the day he noted a Grey Wagtail down at Wester Ellister.

After not seeing Slav. Grebes I continued on to the the Killinallan side of Loch Gruinart with former resident birder Lesley Silcock who was visiting. Not much out of the ordinary to report there, but a young White-tailed Eagle, Peregrine and Hen Harrier made her day.

Thursday 7 September 2023

Thursday 7th September

The weather gradually deteriorated during the day into cloud and showers, though still warm with an easterly breeze, increasing in strength at times.

Louise Muir on Jura kicked off the day's sightings with a Magpie at Craighouse - a rare find indeed.

David Dinsley then reported 4 White Wagtails at the RSPB Oa car park.

Then it was all down to Jim Dickson, zipping between both sides of Loch Gruinart , Loch Indaal and Loch Gorm at various times during the day. At Gruinart in the morning he found 2 juv Little Stints and a juv Curlew Sandpiper, a moulting Grey Plover, three White-tailed Eagles along with a large Greenland type Wheatear, c.10 White Wagtails mixed in with a few Pied Wagtails on the tideline. Although the bulk of the more common waders were not counted, except for 107 Lapwing, he noted an increase in Sanderling numbers plus 196 Black-headed Gulls. He thought hirundines were on the increase too, having seen 18 House Martins over Gruinart Farm. Out on Loch Gorm were a Shoveler and 18 Teal.

Wednesday 6 September 2023

Wednesday 6th September

Another hot and sunny day, but a bit more of an easterly breeze kept it a little cooler - unlike other parts of the UK that were predicted to have the hottest day of the year today.

Jim Dickson was at Gruinart early, finding a summery-looking Grey Plover along with 3 Golden Plover, and big numbers of Bar-tailed Godwits.

Mary-Ann Featherstone reports Tawny Owls calling at Kildalton over the past few nights, which prompted Steve & Lyn Rogers to add that they have been hearing female Tawny Owls at Emerivale/Kilnaughton this week, but no males.

James How took a look over his home patch at Gruinart this evening finding a few goodies: Osprey, Peregrine, 7+ White Wagtails and the first Little Stint of the autumn.

This evening there was a gathering of assorted gulls feeding on shoals of tiny surfacing fish close in at Bruichladdich.

Tuesday 5 September 2023

Tuesday 5th September

Another hot and sunny day on the Costa del Islay.

David Dinsley counted a very precise 244 Linnets at Kinnabus this morning (plus a lone Goldcrest!). This prompted Jim Dickson to message that, as I discovered a couple of days ago, there were also very big groups up at Gruinart. He noted several flocks over 100 strong and thought there must be thousands on the island - but are they local breeders gathering together or migrants in from elsewhere? Goldfinches were also numerous with dozens of groups of 40-60 dotted about at Gruinart. Jim was back at Gruinart this evening to catch the waders on the tide and counted part of a substantial flock of Knot, reaching 320 before they flew off (this partial count is the largest ever recorded on Islay). Also in the area were 3 White-tailed Eagles, a Wheatear and 20 Shelduck. Earlier in the day Jim had looked at Loch Gorm noting an increase of Tufted Duck to 55 birds and an increase to 5 Slavonian Grebes off Uiskentuie.

Monday 4 September 2023

Monday 4th September

A hot sunny day - just like summer!

Jim Dickson has been birding around Loch Indaal today and found a juvenile Curlew Sandpiper (photos below - one with a Dunlin) - first of the autumn. There were also 73 Eiders and the 3 Slavonian Grebes again offshore.

Elsewhere, David Dinsley was excited by the sighting of a Blue Tit (yes, honestly!) at Kinnabus. They obviously don't see many in that part of the island, far from any decent Blue Tit habitat. I doubt there will be a big twitch ensuing to see it................

Sunday 3 September 2023

Sunday 3rd September

A dry, mostly sunny day with light easterly winds again. 

Jim Dickson was up and birding first today, back to Loch Gruinart where a few raptors were noted - White-tailed Eagle, large female Sparrowhawk hunting Linnets and a Peregrine making a kill. Yesterday's female Goosander was still there along with 129 Teal, 5 Black-tailed Godwits and a juvenile Ruff. Looking at the top of Loch Indaal from Carnain to Bridgend he found 55 Goldfinch, 49 Red-breasted Mergansers an plenty of Dunlin, Ringed Plover, Knot and Bar-tailed Godwits. Back at Gruinart this afternoon was a very impressive total of 15 Greenshanks - 11 of them were at Bun-an Uillt. (There have only been two larger counts, both in the 1970s). On Loch Gruinart with the tide far out, were 149 Knot and 9 Black-tailed Godwits.

I walked up to Ardnave Point, but it was fairly uneventful. Sparrowhawk, male Hen Harrier, 2-3 Buzzards annoying the Ravens and 15 Sanderling at the point was about the lot. Back at Ardnave Loch a group of 14 Black-tailed Godwits with a large Ruff were flying about. On The return down the road towards Gruinart RSPB were two flocks of Linnets totalling at least 175 birds.

At the other end of the island, Mary-Ann Featherstone reports another Sparrowhawk - a male this time - at Kildalton.

Below is one of today's Whinchats photographed by Jim at Craigens.

Saturday 2 September 2023

Friday 1st September & Saturday 2nd September

What a difference a day makes! The weather yesterday was not much different to today - pleasantly warm, sunny and light easterlies, but the birding was very different. The difference being that yesterday nobody went birding and today someone did! That someone being Jim Dickson who is over for a week or so and immediately began notching up some good sightings this morning before most of us were up!

Jim started at Loch Indaal from Port Charlotte on flat calm seas, with single Great Northern and 2 Red-throated Divers and 4 Common Scoter. Further up between Bruichladdich and Gortan were 31 more Common Scoter and 3 summer-plumaged Slavonian Grebes. At Uiskentuie and further into the Loch were 132 Ringed Plovers, 95 Dunlin and 22 Knot. Heading up to Loch Gruinart, the Craigens side was checked first: 1 Whimbrel, 4 Black-tailed Godwit, 6 Greenshank, adult and juv. White-tailed Eagle, a female or immature Goosander, 16 Knot, 47 alba Wagtails including good number of White Wagtails and 70 Linnet. Further along things got even better with a male Yellow Wagtail and a Green Sandpiper - both Islay rarities, plus young Ruff, 4 Common Terns, a ringed Peregrine on prey. Searching up the other side of Loch Gruinart produced Kestrel, 80 Goldfinch and a juv Whinchat. 

Afternoon excursions continued with a Sparrowhawk at Nerabus,  along with another Whinchat, 40 Chaffinches, and lots of alba Wagtails and hirundines. At Octofad a Carrion Crow was seen. Back around Loch Indaal later produced 52 Wigeon at the Gaelic College and a squashed dead Barn Owl on the road between there and Bridgend. The day finished with a count of 1,520 Greylag Geese at the top end of Loch Indaal.

A very full-on day, and he even had time to take a few photos - many thanks Jim: