Tuesday 31 October 2023

Monday 30 October

 The busy season is still upon us, with lots of sightings and plenty of variety - lets begin!

The day started with a wonderful count of 21 waxwings over Bowmore by Dan Brown, then Gary with a high count of over 500 golden plover at the head of Loch Indaal and Old Reliable the glaucous gull at Uiskentui. 

Over in the SE of the island, 5 chough, a merlin, a golden eagle and both red throated and great northern divers all at Carraig Fada, then a red kite over Kilnaugton cemetery.   Could have been the same red kite reported at Upper Cragabus a couple hours previous.  Over to the West at Currie Sands there was 5 chough and a curlew.  Round the Portnahaven area 'a lot' of winter thrushes stripping the late berries. Most notably down this corner is the increased numbers of blackbirds on the verges.

The barn owls continue to be busy. They must have had a good summer? One in Sams garden at Ballygrant/Finlaggan side in the morning, later at night 2 at Blackpark, one at Kilchoman and one at Claddach.

Thanks to all for your contributions, photos as ever are very welcome. Peter Whitehead kindly sent some images to be used - it fairly cheers up the blog! I'll begin with my favourite of a brown hare. Thank you Peter.

Sunday 29 October 2023

Sunday 29th October

Another damp, drizzly day with a moderate breeze and occasional sunny spells.

A new cohort of visiting birdwatchers were out on their first day on Islay. Mike Bell  was full of enthusiasm. Here is his report in full:

"A very successful first day back on the island. Raptors: 2 White-tailed Eagles, 1 Golden Eagle,  1 Hen Harrier,  1 Merlin at Gruinart, another Hen Harrier at Eresaid, a cock Merlin on the Coullabus road, a Golden Eagle at Sanaigmore, a male Hen Harrier at Saligo, a Peregrine at Coull and finally a third Merlin at Kilchoman. Also 9 Pink-footed Geese at Kilchoman, 5 Ruff at Craigens, 3 Greenshank at Bun an Uilt, impressive numbers of birds along the Bowmore to Bridgend shore with 57 Whooper Swans, 46 Brent Geese, 5 Canada Geese, 572 Wigeon and 64 Knot among the waders. 33 Siskin at Eallabus".

Laura Edwards-White saw a Barn Owl last night on a fence post near Blackrock and a Hen Harrier at Ardnave Point today, while Dan Brown saw probably the same Barn Owl this morning at Black-park and a Short-eared Owl over loch Indaal this morning. This evening he counted 4 Hen Harriers going to roost. The non-stop raptor-fest continued with Sam Reavey  reporting a male Hen Harrier and a Barn Owl at Gruinart in the evening, while Sam Turnbull had another sighting of Golden Eagle at Sanaigmore. However the best raptor sighting was Sam Reavey's Red Kite over Mulindry. (Sam also clocked the other "Bird of the Day" - a Glaucous Gull at Uiskentuie).

Other stuff: 
Several people looked today for the Lesser Grey Shrike with no success. Maybe it has finally decided that sub-saharan Africa beckons (I could have given it a lift as that is where I'm headed tomorrow, leaving the blog in other capable hands for 3 weeks or so).

Martin Armstrong has a ringed Brambling at his garden feeders, but can't get quite close enough views to read the tiny ring and find out its origins.

Several folks mention large numbers of finches and Redwings present.

Saturday 28 October 2023

Saturday 28th October

Another grey, drizzly sort of day. Being a Saturday and a change-over day for accommodation, several of our contributing visiting birders departed and few of the new arrivals have started birding yet. Thus, there were were few sightings to report today.

A Barn Owl was sen last night by Seamus Breen near Bridgend as he left the island. Newly arrived birder Laura White-Edwards saw a Barn Owl this evening near Blackrock - possibly the same bird?

I took a look at Gruinart RSPB this afternoon - the whole place alive with many large flocks of agitated  Barnacle Geese making location of the Red-breasted Goose a non-starter. Most of the agitation was engendered by White-tailed Eagles passing by. Equally flighty were the Golden Plover, so no chance to try and relocate the American Golden Plover.

Friday 27 October 2023

Friday 27th October

Intermittent short, sunny spells between grey and light rain.

Mark Cockburn sent in a late entry for yesterday of a female Blackcap on the north shore of Loch Ballygrant. Today he noted two Arctic Terns at Port Charlotte (also reported by Val Peacock).

Lots of other activity across the island today with a late Wheatear seen by Ed Burrell at Cornabus along with a somewhat out of habitat Great Spotted Woodpecker and his first Woodcock of the winter.  Steve Percival noted a Golden Eagle at Sanaig and Seamus Breen observed a White-tailed Eagle hunting the geese at Kilchoman.

Steve Ward provided some interesting records from various locations across the island, starting with a Red Kite consorting with a Buzzard at Tallant. Later he was over at Cornabus seeing the female American Wigeon again along with a Merlin and no less than 4 White-tailed Eagles. By the afternoon he was up at Port Askaig scoring our first Waxwing of the winter, plus 4 more White-tailed Eagles over Jura and c.60 shags sat on the nearby cliffs.

This evening James How reported from RSPB Gruinart where there were 5 Ruff, 18 Brent Geese, single White-tailed Eagle (10 or more birds today across Islay?), Jack Snipe and Carrion Crow. The high tide had pushed up good numbers of waders including 385 Bar-tailed Godwits, 90 Redshank, 305 Lapwing, 2 Grey Plover, single Greenshank and an ever-increasing total of 8 Little Egrets.

Below are some more photos taken by Neil McMahon during his recent tour of Islay.

Thursday 26 October 2023

Thursday 26th October

The weather deteriorated into rain showers today, but there were still plenty of people out birding.

There were numerous reports of Hen Harriers and White-tailed Eagles from various parts of the island, Steve Percival was out checking on "his" Barnacle Geese and relocated the Lesser Grey Shrike on its usual fence-post at Braigo and a couple of Cackling Geese at Coull (see photo below - one apparently typical hutchinsi, the other smaller and darker) where a huge chunk of the island's Barnies remain amidst the unharvested barley. He also found a Red Kite soaring over West Carrabus at about midday and a Ruff at Craigens. 

Malcolm Ogilvie noted 420 Golden Plover near Bowmore in the morning, and visitor David Fairhurst checked through another large flock at Gruinart and found a young American Golden Plover with them. I popped up for a look later in the afternoon and had a few quick views, but the flock was very mobile out on the grassy fields east of the Visitor Centre. Steve Ward also caught up with the Plover (and the Cackling Geese too), while David had gone across to see the female American Wigeon at Cornabus, noted again by Ed Burrell this morning.

Other stuff: A Brambling on James How's bird feeder at Gruinart at lunchtime; 20 Brent Geese at Gartnatra on Loch Indaal and 28 Whooper Swans flying south over Gruinart this afternoon.

Below are two great photos from Steve Percival of the Ruff seen today and the Lesser Grey Shrike tucking into a tasty beetle.

Wednesday 25 October 2023

Wednesday 25th October

Another pleasantly sunny and dry day. 

The day started early with a note from Louise Muir on Jura that she was hearing 3 different Tawny Owls and two Barn Owls.

Steve Ward noted the 2W Glaucous Gull which reappeared at Uiskentuie just before 9am.

Thereafter a likely candidate for a female American Wigeon was found by Dave Fairhurst on small ponds near Kintra and the road leading out to The Oa. Ed Burrell took a look later and confirmed it looks a good fit, but the bird is distant and better views are desirable.

Neil McMahon who departed with his Naturetrek group yesterday kindly sent in a few photos of his stay to brighten up the blog - many thanks and "haste ye back".

Tuesday 24 October 2023

Tuesday 24th October

 A pleasant day - dry, sunny, with light mostly easterly winds.

George Jackson reported two further White-tailed Eagles over Bruichladdich yesterday, increasing the likely current tally for Monday into double figures. Neil McMahon noted a Barn Owl at Cruach last night before heading off Islay today - thanks very much for all your records during your group's stay.

Audrey & Bob Turner noted a few Goldeneye, Long-tailed Duck, Mergansers and Red-throated Divers off Blackrock this morning, Malcolm Garden adding Great Northern Diver there later on. Malcolm also noted the Lesser Grey Shrike in situ at Braigo in the morning: exactly where I found it this afternoon.

There was a huge concentration of Barnacle Geese over at Coull today, feeding on a partially harvested barley field where 3 Cackling Geese,  c.15 Whooper Swans and 17 Pink-footed Geese were also present. They were all very flighty, partly disturbed by White-tailed Eagles.

As Neil left Islay today he saw 3 Golden Eagles over the island from the ferry and an Arctic Skua halfway back towards the mainland. There were also a pair of Goldies seen by Ed Burrell, chasing Hooded Crows at Cornabus. Ed also recorded a first for his farm - a Short-eared Owl, but sadly it was dead!

There were reports coming in of c.12 Little Egrets at Kennacraig and other locations nearby on the mainland - these and 7 Little Egrets seen by James How at Gruinart this afternoon are particularly high counts for the area. James also counted 1,710 Golden Plovers at Gruinart.

Monday 23 October 2023

Monday 23rd October

Many Thanks to RSPB's Annie Rudd for being thrown in at the deep end and doing such an excellent job on the blog for the last 10 days or so. She (and others hopefully) will be back at the end of the month to cover another few weeks into late November.

Visitor Jeremy Watkins - noted the following yesterday: Mute and Whooper Swan, Teal, Tufted Duck, female Goldeneye and Little Grebe at Ardnave loch and 2 female Hen Harriers, Golden Eagle and 8 Chough towards Ardnave Point along with Red-throated and Great Northern Diver and 8 Common Scoter from Bruichladdich pier.

Today's weather was a little less idyllic, though not too bad compared to what the east coast of UK has had to tolerate of late. But with a good crowd of visiting birders coming and going there has still been plenty reported.  The Naturetrek group led by Neil McMahon did a "night drive" last night finding 3 Barn Owls and a squashed Tawny Owl on the roads between Port Ellen to Bowmore. today they were up at Bridgend seeing the usual couple of White-tailed Eagles out on the flats, followed later by 5 up on Nave Island and a further/different 2 adult birds at  Ardnave Point which also turned up 50 Twite and a couple of 1Y Ring Ouzels with Fieldfares. Ardnave loch briefly held a Long-tailed Duck which didn't hang around too long. They rounded the day off nicely with revisits to Sanaigmore to see the Lesser Grey Shrike and the "resident" Glaucous Gull at Uiskentuie.

Their total of at least 7, possibly 9 White-tailed Eagles was added to by Ed Burrell noting  3 more adult birds at Cornabus.

Mark & Alison Cockburn reported "another great day on Islay" including a few similar goodies, but added today's sighting of Red-breasted Goose in fields near the RSPB Visitor Centre. they looked for the L.G. Shrike at Sanaigmore but only found a male Hen Harrier and 14 Choughs.

Elsewhere, Martin Armstrong continues to have a couple of Greenfinches at his feeders at Glenegedale, Louise Muir notes Brent Geese on Jura and Mary Redman had a "mystery bird" along the Cultoon road - with a finch-like bill, dark head and some rusty/red colouration noted in flight.

Sunday 22 October 2023

Sunday 22nd October

It was a perfect day for eagles and they seemed to be everywhere today. Neil McMahon was treated to two Golden Eagles at the Oa, and one more south of Storacaig. Steve Percival had a White-Tailed Eagle at Coull Point; Mark and Alison Cockburn also had a White-Tailed at Ardnave Point; and I saw another one flying over the Sound of Islay.

Non-eagle sightings around Islay include Ed Burrell’s Jack Snipe at Cornabus. Martin Armstrong had a Brambling and a female Greenfinch at his garden in Glenegedale – the second spotted in the Islay gardens this week! The first was a male spotted by Malcolm Ogilvie on Thursday. Mark and Alison Cockburn had Hen Harriers (1 male, 1 female), 12 Chough, 25 Twite, and three small Canada Geese at Ardnave. A small Canada Goose was also spotted by Steve Percival at Loch Indaal today. Neil McMahon had a Great-Spotted Woodpecker and fifty Siskins at Skerrols, and Brambling and Twite at the Oa. I also had about 35 Twite on the west side of Sgorr nam Faoileann, as well as a family of six Ravens, a Kestrel, and a dramatic display of a Ringtail being mobbed by a pair of Hoodies. All in all, a beautiful day for weather and birds!

Saturday 21 October 2023

Saturday 21st October

The trees today were full of birds! Neil McMahon had a Ring Ouzel in a whitebeam by Port Askaig ferry terminal; Louise Muir had a Hawthorne full of 32 Field Fare and 46 Redwing by Craighouse; and I made a Barn Owl fall out of a gorse bush at Loch Gruinart (it was fine).

This morning on Loch Indaal there were 6 Common Scoter, one Slavonian Grebe, 14 Red-Throated Divers, and a Little Egret, all spotted by Jim Duncan. Mary-Ann Featherstone had eight late House Martin at Kildalton.

Yesterday there were some late Swallows at Kichoman, 17 Chough at Machir Bay, 10 Long-Tailed Tits at Coultorsay Garden, and a Whinchat at Uiskentuie all seen by George Jackson.

This afternoon Emma Watkins reports she’s almost certain she spotted a pair of Lesser Yellow Legs in amongst the lapwing and curlew on the second field on the right having turned into Killinallan Road. And a Yellow-Browed Warbler was heard at Craighouse by Neil McMahon.

Friday 20 October 2023

Friday 20th October

The Red Breasted Goose was being prominently illusive today, spotted by Jim Duncan in the morning but hidden for other visitors and for the Ella Simpson and myself when we did the Gruinart Goose Count. There are over 10,000 Barnacle Geese on the Gruinart Flats at the moment though so I think we can be forgiven for missing it. Other birds at Gruinart include Red Kite, spotted by Niel McMahon, Rhuaridh Fotheringham, and Lauren Stewart (who also spotted six Long-Tailed Tits in the trees by the Office earlier today). Neil’s other sightings at Gruinart include two Ruff and two Greenshank from the North Hide. On the East side of Loch Gruinart, Jim Duncan had three Little Egret, six Greenshank, a Snow Bunting. And the last bit of news that’s come in toady from Gruinart (from Neil McMahon and Julie Meikle) is that two White-Tailed Eagles have flown in pushing up a storm of Barnacle Geese!

Elsewhere on Islay, at Risabus, Dave Wood had a flock of 350 Fieldfare with just seven Redwing, and 2 Mistle Thrush amongst them. And last night Mary Redman had a Tawny Owl near Ellister and a Barn Owl at Port Ban – so keep your eyes peeled tonight!

Thursday 19 October 2023

Thursday 19th October

It's been a much busier, birdier day than I was expecting even though everything ought to be hunkering down or being blown away in this weather. We start with a lovely flock of 50 Fieldfares at Balaclava reported by Ed Burrell.

In raptor news, we had a White-Tailed Eagle snacking on a hare at Loch Finlaggan, spotted by Neil McMahon, who spotted an another one at Bridgend at lunchtime. Two White-Tailed Eagles were also hanging around Loch Gruinart this morning, spotted by Lucy Atkinson.  Also at Gruinart, Julie Meikle had a Merlin by the visitor centre. Last – but definitely not least – Billy Stitchell had two Red Kite over Ballygrant Inn.

There were lots of Divers around today, four (two sets of two) Red-Throated Divers flying over Loch Gruinart this morning. Neil McMahon saw three more Red-Throated at Loch Indaal, as well as two Black-Throated Divers and two Great Northern Divers. Neil’s other sightings today include: 30 Whooper Swans, a flock of Pale-Bellied Brents, the local Glaucus Gull, a drake Long-Tailed Duck, seven Common Scoters, three Scaup, three Slavonian Grebes, and a Lesser Grey Shrike that just doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.

Paul Disken shared this photo of the Red-Breasted Goose looking very bold this afternoon – from this picture you could be fooled into thinking that it’s even a little bit easy to spot.


Wednesday 18 October 2023

Wednesday 18th October

Things started off strong down at the Oa, David Dinsley had a Jack Snipe at Lower Killeyan and Angharad Ward wowed with this excellent photo:

In the afternoon Brambling were spotted by David Dinsley at the Oa car park.

Red Kite were seen all over the island, Julie Meikle had one ear Port Wemyss, Paul Disken saw one at Bridgend and two at Nerabus, and Lauren Stewart and Rhuaridh Fotheringham spotted one flying over the raised beach at Loch Gruinart.

Paul Disken also had a Crossbill over Loch Skerrols and two Snow Bunting over Rubha na faing!

Tuesday 17 October 2023

Tuesday 17th October

Red Kites are the bird of the day, at least two have been soaring over Islay, one seen by David Jardine at Sanaigmore, 2 spotted by George Jackson at Coultorsay, and Lucy Atkinson saw one at Kilnave. 

The Lesser Grey Shrike is still kicking about at Sanaigmore, David Jardine had it in the morning, and it was still there for Jim Duncan this afternoon about 15:30. 

I forgot to mention that yesterday (as well as counting 20,514 barnacle geese at Loch Gruinart) Lauren Stewart also spotted a peregrine walking around on the saltmarsh in front of the hides on the reserve. It was still there today at 14:25 with a White-Tailed Eagle sat about 200m away from it too, they didn't seem to mind one another but I guess there's no point fighting when they've got so much to snack on down on the loch! 

This evening I had two Chough and two Great Northern Divers at Saligo bay, and I disturbed two Barn Owls on the road by Ballinaby.  

Monday 16 October 2023

Monday 16th October

 There’s been lots of news from all around the island today – thanks everyone for posting your sightings on the WhatsApp group or sending an email.

Theo de Clermont is still on the island and is keeping us well up to date with his sightings. This morning at Loch Gorm he had a juvenile Long-Tailed Duck and 25+ Tufted Ducks. In the afternoon he had 5 Scaup, 2 Long-Tailed Ducks, 2 Slavonian Grebes, 2 Goldeneye, and 2 White-Tailed Eagles at Loch Indaal.

Mary Redman had a White Tailed Eagle and a male Hen Harrier at Claddach Loch, then a Sparrowhawk hear the house and a Peregrine out towards the coast. Yesterday she had a Merlin at Currie Sands.

Mary-Ann Featherstone reports from the Battery: 1 Grey Heron, a pair of Red-Breasted Mergansers, 3 Oystercatchers, 2 Herring Gulls, and 14 Common Seals. She also has good news from Seal Bay: Islay’s loneliest Curlew has finally made a friend!

Here at Loch Gruinart our Barnacle Goose count came back at 20,514.

Sunday 15 October 2023

Sunday 15th October

News from the west of Islay: Mary Redman saw 5 Chough this morning at Currie Sands, and the Lesser Grey Shrike was seen (still at Sanaigmore) by Paul Disken and George Jackson. Paul Disken also spotted a hobby over Loch Gruinart and a Glaucous Gull of Ardnave Point this afternoon!

Further south, Ed Burrell found a painted lady at Balaclava. Mary-Ann was at Ardtalla beach today with Bob Brown and was treated to 3 Grey Herons, Mergansers, Mallards, Mute swans, Rock Pipit, 6+ Pied wagtail, Chaffinch, 50+ Redwing, Oyster catcher, Curlew 5+, Buzzard, Raven and a lovely male Common Hawker dragonfly. I headed up Beinn Bheigier this afternoon and was rewarded with a pair of Golden Eagles soaring at the top and a Peregrine whizzed passed me on the way down.

I realised I haven’t been following Peter’s lead and promoting a bird of the day, but maybe I’ll do a bird of the week instead. For me, it’s the humble Barnie. Since they arrived en masse on Monday they’ve transformed the island into a constant birdie bonanza and it’s great to have them back. For anyone with raised eyebrows, you can let me know when we have 15,760 Corncrake/Shrike/Red-Breasted Geese on the island and I might change my mind!

Saturday 14 October 2023

Saturday 14th October

The weather has been a real autumnal mix of heavy showers and beautiful sunshine - hopefully you’ve all managed to dodge the downpours! I however, had a very soggy walk north of Killinallan and saw 3 Great Northern Divers, 1 Golden Eagle, 2 White-Tailed Eagles (tucking into something on the beach), 4 Black-Tailed Godwits, 2 Greenshank, 4 Whooper Swans, 2 Wheatear, and 12 Golden Plover.

Theo de Clermont has also had a busy Saturday, from Kilhoman this morning he saw 3 Swallows and 6 White-Tailed Eagles. North of Portnahaven he saw a Merlin and a White-Tailed Eagle. From Loch Indaal he got 1 Long-Tailed Duck, 1 Slavonian Grebe, 5 Great Northern Divers, about 20 Red-Throated Divers, 2 male and 1 female Scaup, 30+ Common Scoter, and 3 late Common Tern. Finally, from the south hide at Loch Gruinart he saw 1 White-Tailed Eagle and 13 Gadwall.

To round off the day, it was good to hear that the Lesser Grey Shrike is still around, reported by David Dinsley.

Friday 13 October 2023

Friday 13th October

It’s been a busy, birdy day! Ed Burrell flushed a Jacksnipe at Cornabus and spotted a Todd’s Canada Goose at Balvicar. Another Todd's was seen at Loch Gruinart by Dan Pointon. The Red-Breasted Goose was spotted at Gruinart by Theo, who also saw a Glaucus Gull from the North Hide.

James How, Lauren Stewart, and myself have had another hard day counting birds in the sunshine here at Loch Gruinart, here are our results for the goose counts and WeBS:

13,160 Barnacle Geese, 279 White Fronts, 79 Pale Bellied Brent’s, 929 Teal, 229 Wigeon, 145 Mallard, 45 Pintail, 25 Shoveler, 3 Tufted Ducks, 2 Gadwall, 1 Shelduck, 17 Red-Breasted Merganser, 74 Black-Tailed Godwits, 11 Snipe, 1 Ruff, 453 Lapwing, 803 golden plover, 215 Oystercatchers, 46 Ringed Plover, 6 Knot, 31 Sanderling, 482 Dunlin, 351 Bar-Tailed Godwits, 121 Curlew, 61 Redshank, 55 Turnstone, 7 Greenshank, 96 Black-Headed Gulls, 97 Common Gulls, 28 Herring Gulls, 3 Great Black-Backed Gulls, 16 Mute Swans, 14 Whoopers, 1 Little Egret, 7 Herons, 1 Peregrine, 1 Merlin, 2 Hen Harriers, and 2 White-Tailed Eagles.

Other incidentals we saw on the way round include 1 Wheatear, 3 Bullfinches, 2 Swallows, and a Jacksnipe.

Shrike news: the Lesser Grey Shrike was seen again this morning by Neil Bew, it did seem to be settling into life on the Sanaigmore road but was a no-show this afternoon for Steve Rogers. Peter Roberts saw it tucking into washed up earthworms so here’s hoping for some more rain!

My favourite bit of bird news today came in from David Dinsley who saw a juvenile Corncrake that seems to have stopped for a rest at Kinnabus. It now has a long night and good north westerly wind behind it and should be safely off again on its long journey south.

Thursday 12 October 2023

Thursday 12th October

The early birder catches the Shrike! Peter Roberts was the first person to report spotting the Lesser Grey Shrike today at 9am. It seemed to stick around at Sanaigmore  as it was reported there by Gary Turnbull, Ian, Jim Dickson, and James How throughout the day. 

Elsewhere on the Rhinns, a brood of 5 Whooper Swans were seen by Malcolm Ogilvie at Ballinaby. 

Three White-Tailed Eagles were seen by Andy Bunten on the mud flats at Loch Indaal - presumably they are also celebrating the return of the geese. 

The Todd's Canada Goose was at Cornabus again, spotted by Ed Burrel.

The last report of the Shrike was this evening at 17:40 at Sanaigmore by Lucy Atkinson, Lauren Stewart, and Annie Rudd (me!). Incidentally, while we were waiting for the Shrike we also spotted a Great Northern Diver (in winter plumage), a Golden Eagle and a male Hen Harrier around Sanigmore. 

Wednesday 11 October 2023

Wednesday 11th October

By about 9am, the weather began to turn a little more pleasant and by the end of the day it was sunny and dry with a light wind, albeit chilly.

The Lesser Grey Shrike was searched for at Sanaigmore this morning, but we had no luck. It may be still on Islay, but who knows where?

At the far end of the island Mary-Ann Featherstone was watching a couple of Golden Eagles and David Dinsley had 15 or so Greenland White-fronts at Loch Kinnabus. Otherwise all the action was back on the Rhinns. 

On Loch Indaal there was the usual mix of sea-ducks and divers plus a couple of Black Guillemots off Bruichladdich. Whooper Swans were again much in evidence. 60+ on the fields near Kilchoman and groups totalling 110 on Gruinart. The Barnacle Geese were beginning to wander further afield and White-fronts much more regular. James How did another count in the afternoon and tallied 15,760 along with 327 White-fronts and 41 Brent Geese - though these were coming and going in small groups during the day and probably exceeded 75 in total. Large Canada Geese were seen at Loch Gruinart and on Loch Gorm (where 2 splendid adult White-tailed Eagles sat in bright sunshine on old fence posts close to the water's edge). On the floods were 13 Black-tailed Godwits, 2 Ruff, 6 Greenshank, single Little Egret, White-tailed Eagles and plenty of ducks and Snipe.

Bird of the Day goes to James who miraculously found a Red-breasted Goose amongst the vast flocks of ever-moving Barnacle Geese on the flats. Luckily for us we bumped into James after he'd found it and we relocated it briefly before everything moved off as the tide rose.

Tuesday 10 October 2023

Tuesday 10th October

The morning's weather wasn't too bad - fairly dry and bits of sunshine with a lighter wind. By afternoon it was back to dreich! - rainy at times, breezier and cloudy.

James How and I went in search of the Lesser Grey Shrike at Smaull this morning. We plodded about for a couple of hours and found nothing (though a pair of Golden Eagles were a welcome sight). That was the bird written off, until an email came in this evening from visiting birder Linda Graham who had found it this morning at Sanaigmore and sent these photos - very frustrating!!!

Other news - Ed Burrell was out last night and caught and ringed a Jack Snipe at Cornabus. He noted good numbers of Common Snipe too. He saw a Todd's type Canada Goose at Ballivicar this morning and a marked Greenland white-fronted Goose at Loch Cornabus that had been ringed at Loch Ken in Dumfries & Galloway in winter 2020/21.

Margaret Brooke had Hen Harrier over her garden up at Kilchoman, while Ian Howarth saw 30 Whoopers and 6 Pink-footed Geese near Blackrock. As I motored over to Smaull this morning I noted 67 Whooper Swans in the barley fields near Kilchoman and many of the Barnacle Geese now venturing out across the Rhinns to feed after all being huddled on the flats at Gruinart yesterday.

Gary Turnbull had an odd sighting of a skua sp.  flying south from Bridgend down Loch Indaal.

James How had a look in the rain and murk over Gruinart this evening and had another group of 79 Whooper Swans, 42 Snipe, a Ruff and 2 Greenshanks at the North Hide.

Monday 9 October 2023

Monday 9th October

A bit of calm between the storms and rain bought about a very good day's birding, with lots of people out and enjoying the weather and the birds.

Visitor Neil Bews sent in notes from Port Wemyss where he saw 9 Chough and a flock of 40 Redwing over Portnahaven. Later, up at Loch Indaal he noted quite a rarity: a single Taiga Bean Goose, with a small number of Pink-footed Geese towards Bridgend. In the afternoon he found a MerlĂ­n between Saligo Bay and Machair Bay and a group of 68 Whooper Swans near Coull Farm.

I was out all day with another couple of visiting birders, starting with a look at the various viewpoints on Loch Indaal from Port Charlotte right up to Gartnatra. The sea was flat and birds were dotted all across the bay - many Guillemots and Razorbills,  40 Red-breasted Mergansers, 50 Eiders, 30+ Red-throated Divers, 2-3 Great Northern Divers, 40 Common Scoter, 16 Mute and 10 Whooper Swans, 6 Slavonian Grebes, 3 "small" Canada Geese - races unknown, 15 Brent and c.10 Pink-footed Geese. The usual couple of White-tailed Eagles were in residence and noted by Sam Turnbull and ourselves, presumably delighted to see the first large numbers of Barnacle Geese arriving in small groups throughout the morning.

We continued to Gruinart by late morning and spent the rest of the day there. Several other folks were watching the area - Mary-Ann Featherstone and friends, plus the RSPB staff, all mesmerised by the massive arrival of Barnacle Geese today - surely a much bigger single, initial arrival than usual? The flats were covered in them and the noise and sight of them occasionally rising into the air to shift location or in response to White-tailed Eagles passing by was a splendid sight. I was delighted that James How and his RSPB team saved me the effort of counting them - a wonderfully precise 18,222 !!!

Other goodies in the Gruinart area included 4-5 Hen Harriers, single female Marsh Harrier, a total of 5 Little Egrets, 14 Black-tailed Godwits, the big Golden Plover flock in gorgeous light and swirling about in murmurations. Greenland White-fronted Geese began arriving too - 97 counted by the RSPB along with 7 Brent, 8 Pink-footed and 64 Whoopers - possibly different to the 40 we'd seen earlier and the 21 seen by James in the morning. James also saw 3 Canada Geese, reckoning two to be Todd's which are small races of Canada Goose and 1 hutchinsii type, aka. Cackling Goose.

Redwings were also on the radar, with the first arrivals of small flocks today - Margaret Brooke seeing them up at Kilchoman and David Dinsley noting birds coming in at The Oa (plus a Fieldfare and a Long-tailed Tit on the cliff-tops) this morning. Mary-Ann Featherstone saw a further Redwings 35 at the hides, while Gary Turnbull was seeing groups, plus more geese moving through on Jura before finding the first 4 Scaup of the autumn at Blackrock.

Geese and Whooper Swans were being seen passing through in groups all over the island - Mary Redman noted them at Portnahaven and Margaret Brooke up at Kilchoman, with Whoopers coming down onto the Barley fields there.

Over at Cornabus, Ed Burrell briefly saw a White-winged gull - probably Glaucous. This evening David Dinsley reports 3 Jack Snipe and 2 Barn Owls at Kinnabus.

HOWEVER: All this excitement may be second to a sighting of a "grey shrike" seen by Annie Rudd up at Smaull this afternoon. Great Grey is a darned good find and rarity on Islay, but this one had the looks of a Lesser Grey Shrike about it, which would be a first for Islay. The weather looks awful for tomorrow, but no doubt some folks will want to go up and try and relocate it to see more.

Sunday 8 October 2023

Sunday 8th October

A very grey, dreich sort of day. No strong winds and not too much rain, but just damp...........

Mary Redman was finding Barn Owls last night at Claddach and Shona Islay had 3 Choughs feeding on Kilnaughton beach today: there isn't a lot of beach-feeding reported with Choughs on Islay.

The other bird news comes from Gruinart. James How and myself were out there independently this morning. A couple of young White-tailed Eagles were noted, James counted 1080 Golden Plovers and I counted about 500 Barnacle Geese. He saw 25 Brent Geese, a Bullfinch, 3 Redwings (some of the first of autumn) and a flock of 14 Snipe. I had lovely views of a lone Little Egret.

Saturday 7 October 2023

Saturday 7th October

Heavy rain and wind overnight gave way to calmer conditions and drizzle during the day. But we seem to be getting away lightly with the weather compared to the nearby mainland with landslides and floods closing roads towards Kennacraig.

Despite the awful weather another 835 Barnacle Geese managed to get here this evening according to James How up at Gruinart. Down at Claddach, Mary Redman saw a flock of 30 Snipe in the morning then ventured to Blackpark finding a late-ish Wheatear and a Hen Harrier up at Gruinart.  

Friday 6 October 2023

Friday 6th October

A calm, partially cloudy start gave way to overcast conditions and light rain by late afternoon.

Ed Burrell saw a Merlin down at Cornabus, while James How reported 580 Golden Plover and 315 Lapwing at Gruinart.

I too ventured up to the hides at Gruinart and can add 10 Black-tailed Godwit seen on the floods from the N. Hide. There were also a total of c.90 Barnacle Geese on the flats. On the way there I scanned from Blackrock where 3 Slavonian Grebes bobbed about on a calm sea with c.20 Red-breasted Mergansers and 2 Brent Geese.

Thursday 5 October 2023

Thursday 5th October

Another unpleasant day of mostly wet and cloudy conditions, brightening a little in the afternoon..

The only bird news comes from visitor Patrick Barton who noted a White-tailed Eagle on prey at the top of Loch Indaal where there were also c.70 Barnacle Geese.

Wednesday 4 October 2023

Wednesday 4th October

Non-stop rain and grey skies today, so nobody doing much birding.

Sam Turnbull saw a couple of White-tailed Eagles over Whin Park at the top of Loch Indaal this afternoon.

James How reports the first decent-sized flock of Barnacle Geese (480) into Islay this winter up at Gruinart this evening along with 22 Brent Geese, 212 Lapwing and 11 Black-tailed Godwits. the Barnies are perhaps on their way despite fairly unfavourable wind directions?

Tuesday 3 October 2023

Sunday, Monday & Tuesday, 1st-3rd October

No birds were reported on Sunday. 

Yesterday David Dinsley and Ed Burrell both reported Merlins: one at The Oa car park and one at Cornabus. Gary Turnbull confirmed the continuing presence of White-tailed Eagles (two of them) at Bridgend, plus a few Barnacle Geese and 100+ Golden Plover. In the afternoon yesterday Ed was commenting on a large gathering of 28 Collared Doves at Cornabus.

Today Ed was watching White-tailed Eagles down at Cornabus and Ballivicar catching Greylag Geese whilst a Golden Eagle observed proceedings.  James How was out this evening at Gruinart North Hide where a female Marsh Harrier was a good find along with 4 Little Egrets, 4 Ruff and 3 Black-tailed Godwits. There were also 30 Barnacle Geese, but there is still no sign of any large numbers yet with the winds being predominantly SW