Wednesday 17 April 2024

Wednesday 17th April

A bright, dry and sunny day, though the only bird news from Islay comes from Linden who counted 155+ Black-tailed Godwits from the North Hide at RSPB Gruinart. Spring peaks of this migrant on its way to breed in Iceland are almost always higher than autumn returning birds. This count is a fairly high one, though numbers do seem to have increased in the past 25 years. There have been 2-3 counts over 300 and an exceptional tally of 850 in April 2013.

Margaret Brooke noticed a Barn Owl in her nest-box via CCTV last night. The bird was ringed, and as neither of the usual nesting pair were ringed, she wonders if this might be one of last years ringed young taking a look at its old home!

Away from Islay, Fiona McGillivray heard a drumming Great Spotted Woodpecker in the woods at Inver on Jura today. This species is probably a regular breeding bird on Jura nowadays, but there are very few records confirming this in the past 10-15 years.

Away from birds, Mary-Ann Featherstone saw her first Emperor Moth of the year (a male) at Kildalton today.

Tuesday 16 April 2024

Tuesday 16th April

Cool, but sunny and dry for my return to Islay after a few days away in central France where it was hot, sunny and the air full of the song of Nightingales!

Many thanks to Malcolm O. for standing in as blogger in my absence, I'm sure we'll be hearing more from him in the future.

The only report today comes from Gary Turnbull who met a birder at Whinpark this morning who reported an Osprey at the mouth of the River Sorn a little earlier. I noted 15 Brent Geese near to Blackrock as I returned home this morning.

Other than that, Jim Wells, who had been over from N. Ireland recently, sent in details of some Barnacle Goose colour rings he had read. Steve Percival had replied in detail; the birds involved being a mix of individuals ringed in S. Iceland and here on Islay. The oldest were a couple of Islay-ringed birds from 2017 who had been noted back here in all subsequent winters, while one of the Iceland-ringed birds had been seen in Donegal as well as here in later years.

Monday 15 April 2024

 Monday 15th April

On a day with strong west to north-westerly winds with fierce squalls containing hail at times, and much colder than yesterday, it looked as if there were going to be no bird sightings at all. and then, in the afternoon, Mary-Ann reported a male Blackcap at Kildalton Thank you, Mary-Ann. You've saved the day! Blackcaps have been recorded from the more mature woodlands for many years, with the first probable breeding in 1985. There have only been a handful of probable or confirmed breeding since then, though with rather more singing males each spring, plus occasional wintering birds.

Selecting a Gordon Langsbury photograph was pretty simple today.


Sunday 14 April 2024

 Sunday 14th April

I would first like to apologise to Linden Kingston for describing him yesterday as a visitor. He isn't, having come to Islay to work for the RSPB. Enjoy your time here, Linden, as I'm sure you will. It's quite difficult for birders not to.

With some of the birders who contributed so much last week having belatedly been able to leave the island, the flow of information has subsided a little, but David D saw a Common Sandpiper at Seal Bay and heard a Chiffchaff singing there at about midday, while Frank Cavanagh saw two Common Sandpipers at Loch Ballygrant later in the afternoon. Gary saw a Gannet off Bruichladdich pier, which I confess I didn't see, my excuse being that my computer monitor obscures some of my view of the sea! Finally, Linden counted no less than 64 Black-tailed Godwits (aka Blackwits) from the south hide at Gruinart. These will presumably be on their way to Iceland for the summer.

What better Gordon Langsbury photograph to post than this one of Blackwits.


Saturday 13 April 2024

Saturday 13th April 

A day of mixed weather with an increasing south-west wind, with occasional, mainly brief, but heavy squalls, and sufficient wind to persuade the Captain of the Finlaggan to cancel the last two sailings of the day. 

To start with there were a couple of refinds from yesterday, with Mary catching up with the Snow Bunting at Claddach and Ed seeing the immature Glaucous Gull just inland of Bridgend. He also saw a sky-dancing Hen Harrier a little further along, before noting two White-tailed Eagles on a carcass at Leorin on his way home. Gary saw a different WTE from the layby on the Bowmore side of Bridgend. David D saw two Sandwich Terns on the beach at Port Ellen, while visitor Linden Kingston saw four just north of the Gaelic College. These frustrating terns appear every spring, disappear for the summer, before reappearing in August, often including a juvenile or two. Their breeding location remains a mystery.

Another sighting by Linden was of 14 Light-bellied Brent at Blackrock, reminding me that Lucy saw a small number at the same place last Wednesday. The northward migration of these Brent to their arctic Canada breeding grounds continues well into May. David D also saw a Common Sandpiper (Islay's first this spring) in Laggan Bay, while Patrick Cavanagh reported a Storm Petrel in Claggain Bay together with small numbers of Manx Shearwaters. He also saw a White Wagtail in Kilnaughton Bay. Alistair rounded off the day with a Merlin just north of Portnahaven, a Sparrowhawk at Port Ban and three Red-throated Divers, one coming into summer plumage, at the mouth of Portnahaven harbour.

Because of the ferry cancellations, some of our visiting birds are having to spend an extra night here and may find time tomorrow morning to do a bit of seawatching. A welcome example of a positive side to our currently not very good ferry service.

No photographs were received today, so this one of a pair of Sandwich Terns by Gordon Langsbury seems the most appropriate one to post.

Friday 12 April 2024

 Friday 12th April

That's more like it!  Thank you very much to all the contributors today, who have been out and about, seeing good birds and sharing them on WhatsApp. Frank Cavanagh was first off, seeing an exceptionally early Storm Petrel and a few Manx Shearwaters heading west around The Oa first thing in the morning, as well as some Fulmars on the cliffs. Storm Petrels are regularly seen during autumn seawatches at Frenchman's Rocks, sometimes in low hundreds, but the previous earliest date was 21st May. Maybe the recent high winds have brought it inshore. They've never been proved to breed here, though their typical musky smell has been detected a couple of times in suitable locations at Stremnishmore and Smaull.

Alistair saw a fine male Snow Bunting at Claddach at about midday, together with a Wheatear, and, while doing a short seawatch at Frenchman's Rocks, had 30+ Gannets and 10+ Manx Shearwaters, as well as some Razorbills and Guillemots. In the early afternoon, Frank had a pair of Whimbrel, the first this spring, also at Claddach. Later on, he saw a juvenile Glaucous Gull at Bridgend, which had been seen earlier in the day by Gary Turnbull, while, in the late afternoon, Sam saw a Little Egret on the Bridgend merse opposite Whin Park, close to where I saw two earlier in the day. Little Egrets have been steadily moving north as a breeding species in Britain, but seem to take a number of years of visiting before they start to breed. There have been long-staying birds on Islay since 2008, and, since 2018, from one to three birds have been here year-round. Let's hope it isn't too long before they decide to nest. Of course, another possibility is that all the birds that are wandering north of their breeding range are of the same sex (!), but that's difficult to prove for a species with the male and female seemingly identical.

Here are three photographs submitted today. Alistair's Snow Bunting and Frank's Whimbrel and Glaucous Gull. Thanks very much for these.


Thursday 11 April 2024

 Thursday 11th April

Well! I have to say that I'm very disappointed. Not a single bird record was posted to WhatsApp today, nor has there been a single e-mail reporting something of interest. Indeed, the only post was from Hannah who saw a pod of Bottle-nosed Dolphins heading towards Texa. Now, I know that dolphins can "fly", after a fashion, but they aren't really birds. So, despite a much nicer day than yesterday, with even a little bit of sun, it appears that birding round the island was at a very low ebb. I will therefore add an observation from my garden, of a pair of Collared Doves which decided that the ideal place to mate was on my bird table. Good for them. I feed a lot during the winter, up to 40 around Christmas and the New Year, and am rewarded by two or three pairs nesting in the garden, together with their exceptionally boring (to me) song droning on for hour after hour, week after week, month after month.

It seems appropriate to post a photograph of a Collared Dove taken on Islay by my late and lamented friend, Gordon Langsbury. He and I collaborated on a photographic book of Islay birds back in 2006 and he generously said his photographs could be used as I felt fit.

Wednesday 10 April 2024

 Wednesday 10th April

I suppose I should have expected as much. Peter has gone swanning off to France on a jolly and asked if I would write this blog while he was away. So here I am, with my very first blog, on a day when it rained all morning and was pretty dreary in the afternoon and there were no e-mails and no WhatsApp messages, because, very obviously, no-one was out birding and, even if they had been, they wouldn't have seen anything for me to tell you about. Thank you, Peter!

Fortunately, Margaret Brooke at Kilchoman sent in this charming photograph of the Barn Owl pair in her nestbox, showing that, for them at least, love is in the air.

Also, thanks to Lucy at the RSPB, it is possible to confirm that, as expected, there was a mass exodus of both Barnacle and Greenland Whitefronts last weekend as they took advantage of the strong easterlies to get them on their way to Iceland, where they stop off for up to a month before moving on to breed in Greenland. Some of each species remain, having missed that migration opportunity, clearly hoping there will soon be others.
Tomorrow looks as if it is going to be a *much* nicer day, so please get out there and let's have some interesting birds to tell you about tomorrow. 

Tuesday 9 April 2024

Tuesday 9th April

A breezy, sunny and dry day.

The potentially interesting gull (is there such a thing? I hear some of you ask) didn't show up today and various birders on our WhatsApp group sent in their thoughts, suggesting it might well be just a skinny Herring Gull - or words along those lines.

A Sandwich Tern or two has been parading up and down between Bruichladdich and Port Charlotte yesterday and today - as they so often do in early spring, before vanishing for good later. Talking of vanishing, Jim Wells contacted me to say that a Red-breasted Goose has been seen, with Barnacle Geese, on N. Uist yesterday, which could well be "our" bird, now heading off, albeit in the totally wrong direction for the species, with "our" Barnies going to Iceland and on to Greenland.

Mary-Ann Featherstone reports a Blackcap at Bowmore yesterday and Angharad Ward saw a female Blackcap at Kinnabus this morning. Also at Kinnabus, David D. confirms the continued presence of the Yellowhammer, while on The Oa, American Monument trail a lone Redwing reminds us that it still isn't fully summer yet, though two Swallows there gives us hope. Alistair reports Goldcrests and Willow Warblers in the Woodland Trail at Gruinart, plus House and Sand Martins and a Little Egret on the floods, while on the other side of the loch Louise Muir had 70 Golden Plover at Killinallan. Bill Bealey saw a Hen Harrier at Duich and Hannah Stanger had dolphins at Lagavulin.

Monday 8 April 2024

Monday 8th April

 Storm Kathleen has passed by and the weather was fairly pleasant today - lighter winds and a bit of sunshine. Sadly the sunshine and clearer skies turned into thicker cloud by the evening when it would have been possible to see a partial eclipse of the sun - lets hope Texas, where the eclipse was total, had better luck.

Bird news kicked off today with David D. reporting a Yellowhammer at Kinnabus and 6 Long-tailed ducks, a Wheatear and 2 White Wagtails at Kintra. Then news turned to Swallows and Martins - 4 House Martins seen at Kildalton by Mary-Ann Featherstone, then reports of increasing numbers of Swallows. Mary Redman, lambing down at Claddach noted a couple to start with, then 5 or 6 more just minutes later followed soon after by 2 House Martins and then a passage of hirundines thereafter, with a peak count of  30 Swallows at Currie Sands.

Alistair was at Cladville sighting a lone Redwing and a White-tailed Eagle and confirming more Swallows and Martins. Not to be left out, Ed Burrell scored the year's first Blackcap - a male - down at Cornabus.

Later this afternoon, down at Loch Kinnabus, a sharp-eyed David D. noticed the gull in the photo he provided below, thinking it may well be a Caspian Gull. Jim Dickson, Argyll's "seagull specialist" confirms it is a good candidate for this species, split some years ago from Herring Gull, and potentially a first for Argyll. Hopefully David will find it again tomorrow to get further confirmation of the very subtle features that would clinch the ID.


Sunday 7 April 2024

Saturday 6th & Sunday 7th April

Two days of Storm Kathleen, that for us on Islay at times seemed more like a "storm in a teacup! There were some strong winds at times and some of the ferry crossings cancelled, but it didn't seem that bad, plus it was pleasantly mild and quite sunny at times. A bunch of summer migrants arrived. But before talking of summer arrivals there was mention from Malcolm O. about departing winter birds, a.k.a. Barnacle Geese. He sent in this weather map of Storm Kathleen suggesting that it produced ideal conditions (strong winds from a southerly direction) for Barnacle Geese to depart Islay and arrive in Iceland with barely a flap of their wings! His thoughts were confirmed by his goose contact in Sligo, Eire who noted that a lot of Barnacles departed 2-3 days ago, confirmed by a couple of satellite-tagged birds. 

But what of summer visitors? Yesterday Linden saw Sand Martins at Gruinart (plus 15 Back-tailed Godwits). David Dinsley had Swallow and WillowWarbler at Kinnabus, plus 2 Swallows at Emerivale. Gary T. posted that "a birder" was in the bar at Port Charlotte hotel saying they had heard a Corn Crake yesterday at Conisby. This would certainly be in the right place, but would be the earliest ever by 4 days according to my notes saying that there were no April arrival dates noted until the late 1990s, but these are annual since 2003, with four dates from 9 to 12 April, all since 2010. To round things off, Alistair saw 2 Sandwich Terns at Bowmore

Bill Bealey, newly arrived for a visit to the island, counted 80 Oystercatchers roosting on the long strand near the Machrie.

Today there have been more migrants - Ed Burrell had a single Swallow  at Cornabus in the morning with 8 there plus the first House Martin on Islay this year in the afternoon. David D. had 2 Swallows at Kinnabus plus the year's first Cuckoos - two of them, both quite early, but not the earliest - (photo below) and Ella Simpson had more Swallows between Beinn Dubh and loch Leathann.

Malcolm O. noted the first Linnet on his bird feeders at Bruichladdich in a long time.

Friday 5 April 2024

Friday 5th April

Not a very pleasant day, with grey skies and rain for a lot of the time with a moderately brisk breeze. This is apparently just the "warm up" for tomorrow and the weekend when Storm Kathleen arrives with gale force winds..........

Gary T. was out watching a Golden Eagle over the slopes at Carrabus and good numbers of Bar-tailed Godwits and Redshank on the mud in Loch Indaal. There was also a Sandwich Tern there with the gulls. 

Jeff Duncan reported a large flock of Golden Plover in fields north of Port Ellen and a male Sparrowhawk hunting at Kilnaughton before heading off on the ferry out of Port Ellen where he saw a few Manxies en route.

Down at Potrnahaven Mary Redman watched a White-tailed Eagle scaring everything up over McKenzie island.

Thursday 4 April 2024

Thursday 4th April

 A reasonable, mostly sunny day with the odd bit of cloud and drizzle now and then.

Willow Warblers have started to pop up all over the place: Gary T. heard them singing in woods near Finlaggan and David D. had more singing at Upper Cragabus. Linden, a new arrival at RSPB Gruinart had others in the woodland at Gruinart and found the first Swallow of summer there.

Gary T. also commented on calling Snipe on the Mulreesh road, and a couple of Little Egrets at Loch Indaal near Whin Park and David D. had 4 Wheatears, a Peregrine and 4 Otters on The RSPB Oa Reserve.

Jeff Duncan went out and had a further look at the Red-breasted Goose today (photo below), still fairly faithful to the same set of fields on the south side of the road on the RSPB Gruinart Reserve. After scoring that goodie, he was at Loch Indaal near to Bridgend where a couple of White-tailed Eagles hung out and 5 Greenshank were noted. Over at Kintra Angharad Ward saw 5 Chough - they are not so abundant over that side of the island, so an interesting record.

Wednesday 3 April 2024

Wednesday 3rd April

A grey and drizzly day not inspiring anyone to spend too much time outside. David Dinsley saw a female Goosander on Loch Kinnabus that had turned up there yesterday, In the same area was a Willow Warbler. Another Wheatear popped up, seen by Mary Redman down at Claddach where she also had a White-tailed Eagle overhead, while Jeff Duncan had an adult Golden Eagle and a Hen Harrier over Foreland. Nearby, at Carnduncan Mandy H. heard a Chiffchaff that has been around that area since 26 March.

Tuesday 2 April 2024

Tuesday 2nd April

Single Wheatears were seen at RSPB The Oa and at Shepherd's Cottage Kilchoman, while the first Sandwich Terns of the year were clocked - 2 of them at Port Charlotte. Also of note was a Little Egret at Gruinart.

Monday 1 April 2024

1st April

A dry start followed by grey and light showers for April Fool's Day.

Jeff Duncan was up and about early in a successful quest for the Red-breasted Goose at Gruinart.

Over on Jura, Louise reported a Cormorant on the stone pier at Craighouse.

There being very few of the earlier summer arrival species reaching us so far (a handful of Sand Martins, Wheatears and Chiffchaffs, with further single Wheatears at Kinnabus and Craigens today), But David Wood found a Willow Warbler (also at Kinnabus) today. This is a fairly early (but increasingly so) arrival date for the species on Islay. There have been six March records all since 2007 - getting earlier due to climate change? Who knows?

Sunday 31 March 2024

Sunday 31st March

A pleasant, dry and sunny day with temperatures reaching 11-12 C in the afternoon.

No further news of yesterday's stranded dolphin - hopefully it swam back to the open sea.

Mary Redman saw the only summer migrants of the day - 2 Sand Martins at Claddach this morning. Val Peacock and I took a walk up to Ardnave Point in the afternoon and found none - not a Wheatear to be seen anywhere! An immature White-tailed Eagle was on Nave Island amidst 400 seals, 3 Roe Deer and about 50 Barnacle Geese, but got bored and flew back to the mainland and down Loch Gruinart. Merlin and female Hen Harrier also put in an appearance and it was a delight to see small groups of Twite and to hear them in full song - an understated Linnet-like twitter with added nasal notes intertwined. Back at Gruinart we worked our way through thousands more Barnacle Geese and eventually found a Brent Goose in their midst and some great views of the Red-breasted Goose.

Jeff Duncan had a couple of male Hen Harriers near Loch Gorm and another near Foreland. He also noticed a large flock of Common Scoter in Loch Indaal off Port Charlotte.

Saturday 30 March 2024

Saturday 30th March

Showery in the morning, but dry and sunny this afternoon - still chilly!

Wendy Mattingley sent in a few last records from her visit including a Merlin at Gruinart on Thursday 28th and 4 Manx Shearwaters as she left Port Ellen yesterday.

Louise Muir had seen 4 Short-eared Owls and 4 Hen Harriers over a distance f 4 miles feeding at Ardmenish flats on Jura yesterday.. It was assumed that there must be a good lot of voles about for them, though Margaret Brooke notes that the diet of "her" Barn Owls at Kilchoman includes frogs at the moment.

On Islay yesterday, Malcolm O. recorded 16 Goldfinches on his feeders, which was twice his previous highest count.

The main news on the Whatsapp today was of a Common Dolphin stranded in shallow water in Port Ellen bay. Fingers crossed that it managed to swim free after high tide this evening.

Friday 29 March 2024

Friday 29th March

A big change in the weather, with bright sunny skies but still a cool breeze.

Marc Eden found 3 Wheatears together by Saligo Bay and Mary Redman had another at Claddach (plus a Carrion Crow), but there were no other summer migrants noted.

Bird-feeders were in the news today: Malcolm O. saw a Siskin on his, commenting that he only ever sees them there in late March and early April. Fiona McGillivray reported that John McCallum at Port Askaig has apparently been coaxing an impressive 20-30 Yellowhammers to his feeder recently. I did a walk to the American Monument at the Oa with Roger B., but saw very little other than a good showing of Twite at the Car Park feeders.

At Gruinart, James How comments that there are already a few Lapwings on nests, plus sightings of White Wagtail, 15 Black-tailed Godwits, a pair of Gadwall and a White-tailed Eagle taking a Barnacle Goose.

Thursday 28 March 2024

Thursday 28th March

Rainy, cold with blustery east winds in the morning, becoming only slightly better in the afternoon, with drier, more sunny conditions.

Roger Broad ventured out to Portnahaven this morning finding 6 Purple Sandpipers and 25 Turnstone in the harbour there and an immature White-tailed Eagle at Cladville on the way back. In the same area, Mary Redman counted 15 Whooper Swans on Claddach Loch this morning, gone by the afternoon when 9 Canada Geese were in residence there.

Elsewhere, Lucy Atkinson saw another Wheatear over at Smaull, and in the Gruinart area James How had Golden Eagle, Chiffchaff and the Red-breasted Goose. Roger B. continued on his wanderings to Gartmain where 2 Long-tailed Ducks were noted in the lee of quite choppy waters in Loch Indaal.

Wednesday 27th March

Cold, wet and windy all day, but a few folk braved the elements.

Mike Dilger was on Jura and found 35 Brent Geese just north of Craighouse and a Wheatear south of Ardlussa.

On Islay, Roger Broad  was out on The Rhinns finding another Wheatear at Smaull, and 3 Little Egrets and 2 Merlins at Gruinart where 32 Whooper Swans were resting up.

Wendy & John Mattingley sent in their notes for their visit to Islay, which included 8 Black-tailed Godwits from the S. Hide at Gruinart and a mixed flock of 50 Fieldfares and Redwings today plus 21 Whooper Swans on Ardnave Loch and a Wheatear at Ardnave Farm on Sunday 24th.

Tuesday 26 March 2024

Tuesday 26th March

A surprisingly pleasant day - a cold easterly wind, but bright and sunny, though becoming cloudy with stronger winds by evening.

Mike Dilger was at RSPB The Oa this morning and enjoyed the Twite on the feeders at the car park - 17 in total. Back up this way he found a Wheatear on the shoreline north of Bruichladdich and this afternoon scored three diver species at Sanaigmore - just singles of RTD and BTD with several GND.

I wax out this morning at Gruinart with Roger Broad looking for the Red-breasted Goose. We had glorious views of many thousands of Barnacle Geese, but the RBG eluded us. Up at Ardnave Loch there were 12 Tufted Duck, 4 Goldeneye, 3 Canada Geese and 5 Whooper Swans and on the floods, the Lapwings and other waders were very active.

Back at Bruichladdich for lunch it was great to see a very low-flying line of 33 Whooper Swans heading north up Loch Indaal past the house, while David Wood had a further 55 Whoopers on Loch Kinnabus.

Roger went out again this afternoon and connected with Red-breasted Goose albeit briefly, close to the RSPB Visitor Centre. In that area he also had 2 Little Egrets and 200 Bar-tailed Godwits. Out on the flats were 80 Pintail that had been flushed off the reserve floods. On his way back he found 6 Purple Sandpipers in the usual spot opposite the minimarket at Bruichladdich.

Apart from the birds, we were delighted to see a family of Otters (female plus two cubs) on the rocks just outside the house at Bruichladdich this morning. Gary T. saw them a little bit later and Fiona McGillivray confirmed that this was a family that she had been watching via a trail camera on the little  freshwater pools just south of Bruichladdich all this week, where they have been catching and eating frogs.

Monday 25 March 2024

Sunday 24th & Monday 25th March

Sunday and Monday were two very different days. Yesterday was gloriously sunny, mild and pleasant. Today was another stinker, with cold rainy and windy conditions blowing in from the east as a change from the wet windy weather we'd had from the west last week.

However, the birds and the birders didn't reflect these stark changes:

Yesterday Marc Eden  noted a very good tally of 82 Whooper Swans departing Islay over Sanaigmore with another 10 sitting in a nearby field feeling less inspired to head off towards Iceland into a headwind - they'd probably be making good progress today with the wind from the east?

On a walk from Smaull around the coast to Sanaigmore, Val Peacock and friends found Peregrine, Kestrel, Buzzard and a Wheatear at Smaull, plus sky-dancing Hen Harriers over Loch Gorm.

Today Marc hit the jackpot with a fine view of the Red-breasted Goose at Gruinart (camera capture photo below). This individual has been about all winter, but has only been seen on rare occasions. Elsewhere, Steve & Lyn Rogers noted their first couple of Gannets in Kilnaughton Bay this year.

Saturday 23 March 2024

Friday 22nd & Saturday 23rd March

Two cold days with strong westerly winds and squally showers at times.

Yesterday Marc Eden had the first Sand Martins for Islay this year - 3 of them sheltering in the lee of trees at Loch Skerrols. Today, James How found a Chiffchaff at Gruinart. I hope these first, brave summer arrivals survive the ghastly weather!

Thursday 21 March 2024

Thursday 21st March

 Grey, windy and drizzly - not very pleasant at all - and nobody out there recording birds today.

Malcolm Ogilvie pointed out that my comment yesterday that a few Barnacle Geese linger on is incorrect - in fact most of them are lingering on, as they often do into late March and early April. With the next few days threatening strong west and WNW winds, they are unlikely to be heading towards Iceland and Greenland in a hurry.

Louise Muir had a fleeting view of a probable Common Sandpiper yesterday - that would be the earliest ever on Islay, the previous earliest being 25th March 2021. Jim Dickson reports that one had been seen in Scotland a couple of days ago.

David Dinsley saw a colour-ringed Oystercatcher at Kintra yesterday, prompting Joanne Dailey to send in a photograph she had taken of the bird on 29th February - also at Kintra. The big yellow ring on the right leg has the number 46 on it. We should be able to find out where it was ringed.

Wednesday 20 March 2024

Wednesday 20th March

A fine, bright, sunny day; spring is here and we had birds to prove it:

David Dinsley saw the first Chiffchaff of the year at Kinnabus this morning, while Marc Eden found our first Wheatear - a lovely male - at Ardnave this afternoon.

Winter is on the wane, but a few Barnacle Geese linger on, including some with blue darvic rings at Octovulin, seen by Fiona McGillivray which are from the Icelandic breeding population.

Tuesday 19 March 2024

Tuesday 19th March

Jim Dickson was in touch today to let us know that summer migrants are beginning to turn up in Argyll including Chiffchaffs and Wheatears. However, nothing showing on Islay yet.

Clive McKay had sky-dancing Hen Harriers up at Bun an Uillt today and a count of 345 Bar-tailed Godwits at Gruinart. He also noted a cluster of Marsh Fritillary butterfly caterpillars at Creag Mhor.

Monday 18 March 2024

Sunday 17th & Monday 18th March

The nice sunny weather yesterday lasted until lunchtime today, then deteriorated into rain and wind this afternoon.

No bird news for yesterday, though several of our regular contributors sent in notes about interesting moths and seeing their first Adders of the spring.

Today, Morven from NatureScot kindly sent in the counts for the final international goose count of the season, carried out on 12/13 March, totals as follows: 27,648 Barnacle Geese, 4,926 White-fronted Geese and 918 Greylag Geese.

Continuing the goose-themed blog, Jim Wells, who was over from N. Ireland on 11th March, sent in details he'd received back from Steve Percival on colour-ring sightings of Barnacle Geese his group noted while here. There was an interesting mix of birds:

  • 5 were only ringed on Islay this winter
  • 1 was ringed at Inishkea, Ireland in March 2019 and was wintering there until winter 21/22, since when it seems to have been wintering on Islay
  • 1 was ringed in Donegal in March 2018, but all other sightings each winter have been on Islay, apart from one in Iceland
  • 1 was ringed on Islay in 2018, was on Islay in subsequent winters, but had spent time on N. Uist in winter 20/21 and 21/22 and has returned to Islay to winter since
  • 2 birds ringed on Islay in October 2019 have been returning here each winter since
  • Another ringed on Islay in October 2018 has been seen here in each subsequent winter
  • 1 ringed as an adult here in October 2014 has been here each winter since

Saturday 16 March 2024

Friday 15th & Saturday 16th March

A sunny day yesterday with a cool breeze turning into a drizzly, windy afternoon today.

Mary Redman saw a Lesser Black-backed Gull at Claddach and a White-tailed Eagle over McKenzie Island yesterday, while Elliott Bowman had a pair of White-tailed Eagles in woods near Mid Cragabus where he found a Golden Eagle today. Clive McKay reports 70+ Dunlin on wet pools close to the road at Gruinart flats today.

Thursday 14 March 2024

Thursday 14th March

A mostly rainy, cool day.

After seeking some help on our WhatsApp group yesterday on where to find Red Grouse, Mel Chowns, on her last day birding on Islay, was delighted that the info actually worked - finding a couple of grouse on the Bolsay track, up behind Port Charlotte. Mel also found a couple of Great Northern Divers at Loch an t Sailein in the morning.

Wednesday 13 March 2024

Wednesday 13th March

Mostly dry, cool and fairly sunny. 

Craig Walker saw a Kingfisher at Daill burn and Mel Chowns found a male Hen Harrier on the low road near Laggan River.

Tuesday 12 March 2024

Tuesday 12th March

Back to a very rainy Islay this evening - but it was rainy all the way along the journey north from Lincolnshire. 

Jim Wells had been over to Islay with a group by boat from N. Ireland yesterday, noting at least 4 White-tailed Eagles, 4 Hen Harriers, 3 Little Egrets and 36 Choughs. His group also read over a dozen numbered darvic rings on the Barnacle Geese which will be passed on to Steve Percival.

Today Mel Chowns reported another very enjoyable day of birding. Nothing sensational seen, but a good variety seen well including lots of waders in Loch Indaal, where there were 8 Brent Geese, plus 2 Dippers and Grey Wagtails at the Woolen Mill and another close view of Golden Eagle up towards Ardnave.

James How did see something a little more towards the "sensational" end of the scale with a re-sighting of the Red-breasted Goose at Craigens while doing one of the regular goose counts. He also noted a couple of Lesser Black-backed Gulls on Nave Island, plus Golden and White-tailed Eagles at Gruinart.

Monday 11 March 2024

Sunday 10th and Monday 11th March

Late news from Saturday from Fiona McGillivray of 18 Whooper Swans over Bruichladdich.

No news on Sunday.

Today Mel Chowns was out birding and sent in the following observations:

"Female Hen Harrier at RSPB Gruinart. Nice views of Treecreeper on woodland walk plus Goldcrest..Two Choughs at Kilnave and a further 40 choughs at Ardnave. One immature Golden Eagle being mobbed by a pair of Buzzards, then 3 fabulous immature White-tailed Eagles on the sand at Ardnave  on north end of Loch Gruinart. Finally a single Peregrine and 25 Whooper Swans on the Ardnave loch. What a first day! "

Down at Cornabus, Ed Burrell counted 50+ Skylarks and noted 6 Eiders at White Hart beach. At Claddach, Mary Redman had 3 Whooper Swans this morning, 2 White=tailed Eagles on McKenzie Island and another over Nerabus.

Over on Jura Louise Muir had two Yellowhammers on her bird feeder at Craighouse.

Saturday 9 March 2024

Friday 8th & Saturday 9th March

There was some late news for Thursday including 18 Whooper Swans at Cornabus and 4 Little Egrets at Gruinart.

Yesterday (Friday) Theo found a Russian White-fronted Goose with the Greenland White-fronts at Gruinart - quite a rarity on Islay.

No reports on birds for Saturday.

Thursday 7 March 2024

Wednesday 6th & Thursday 7th March

 Two days for the price of one tonight!

Yesterday Theo from Nature Scotland had seen, amongst other things, a Pink-footed Goose at Claddach and another flying over at Gruinart where there were 2 Grey Wagtails and a White-tailed Eagle. Up by Kilchoman Distillery were three more White-tailed Eagles (2 adult and 1 young bird), plus a Male Hen Harrier. 

But his highlight of the day was just SE of Loch Gorm in the morning where a Golden Eagle was watched nearly, but not quite, catching a Hare, but soon after, successfully taking a Common Gull. Whilst feeding on its prey a pair of adult White-tailed Eagles came in, chased it off and polished off the remainder of the gull.

Mary Redman was on Jura yesterday watching a couple of Peregrines tussling with each other near Craighouse.

Today Mary noted a White-tailed Eagle having a go at the geese at Octofad as she did her school run to Port Charlotte.

Tuesday 5 March 2024

Tuesday 5th March

I don't know what the weather was like on Islay today as I'm writing this from southern England. But it was obviously good enough for folks to be out birding and send in the following reports:

Theo from Nature Scotland was at Gruinart first thing where there were two Black-tailed Godwits, 4 Little Egrets, 2 Hen Harriers, 2 White-tailed Eagles and a Golden Eagle. Up at Ardnave were 18 Choughs, 33 Whooper Swans, 10 Goldeneye, another Hen Harrier and some Twite mixed in with a flock of Linnets. This afternoon off Bowmore he noted 18 Long-tailed Ducks, 7 Slavonian Grebes, 15 Goldeneye, 8 Red-throated and 10 Great Northern Divers, 50 Eider, 80 Common Scoter, 20 Red-breasted Mergansers and a Black Guillemot. Finishing up at Loch Gorm there were 7 Tufted Ducks and a further 12 Goldeneye. Assuming that all the Goldeneye seen today are different from each other, that would be a substantial total of 37 birds.

Mary Redman reported from Claddach down on the Rhinns, where there were 4 Whoopers this morning, and 10 there in the afternoon. Also down her way were 2 White-tailed Eagles, Hen Harrier, Peregrine, Mistle Thrush and a few Choughs.

Monday 4 March 2024

Monday 4th March

 Another mostly sunny day, but breezy and cold.

It was Kathy Evans's last day and she made the most of it, watching the 2CY Glaucous Gull at Bridgend (photo below) and a distant female Goosander on Loch Skerrols. A couple of Hen Haariers popped up at Kilchoman and Gruinart where she read a few colour rings on the Barnies (info on those tomorrow ?).  

Sunday 3 March 2024

Sunday 3rd March

Mostly pleasant and sunny today, but a few moderate rain showers at times.

Not a huge amount to report today, but David Dinsley saw 14 Choughs on the lawn in front of the Machrie Hotel. Kathy Evans was pleased with a "good raptor day": 2 Golden Eagles, up to 4 White-tailed Eagles near Claddach and Hen Harriers near Portnahaven and Gruinart. She also had 5 Little Egrets at  the Gruinart viewing platform.

Saturday 2 March 2024

Thursday 29th February - Saturday 2nd March

A triple-billing to catch up the blog today. No bird news at all on Thursday and yesterday the only news was from Valerie Wilson of the Glaucous Gull still at the top of Loch Indaal and a couple of White-tailed Eagles at Portnahaven.

Today was a bright sunny, very pleasant day that produced a bit more to tell you about:

Valerie saw a Pink-footed Goose amongst the Barnies on fields near to the Woollen Mill. Later, David Wood wandered away from The Oa to look off Blackrock and reported 10 Long-tailed Ducks, 8 Great Northern, 1 Black-throated and 4 Red-throated Divers, 80 Eider, 4 Slavonian Grebes, 14 Red-breasted Mergansers, 2 Common Scoter and 3 Black Guillemots.

Ed Burrell provides us with the first valuable nest record of 2024, having seen a Collared Dove incubating on a nest in his cow shed at Cornabus (he also reports dolphins this evening in Kilnaughton Bay).

Kathy Evans got lucky up at Gruinart with a sighting of the long-staying Red-breasted Goose. She had also seen a couple of White-tailed Eagles from the viewing platform, Hen Harrier and Golden Eagle at Ardnave and another Golden Eagle plus15 Chough at Sanaigmore (but none up at Ardnave).

Wednesday 28 February 2024

Wednesday 28th February

 A mainly unpleasant grey and rainy day.

Despite the rotten weather, there was a slight portend of spring with the first Lesser Black-backed Gull of 2024 seen by David Dinsley at Kinnabus.

Tuesday 27 February 2024

Tuesday 27th February

Rain and cloud with odd sunny spells in between.

Despite the not too great weather, it did feel a bit like spring with Dunnocks and Robins singing here at Bruichladdich and Song Thrushes at Kildalton.

Valerie Wilson was watching Choughs and a White-tailed Eagle at Sanaigmore and Steve & Lyn Rogers had had 43 White-fronted Geese at Cornabus.

Monday 26 February 2024

Monday 26th February

 A lovely bright and sunny day throughout.

Gary Turnbull had an impressive count of 5 White-tailed Eagles calling over Finlaggan this morning.

Whooper Swans seem to be on the move, with Mary Redman finding 20 on Claddach Loch  and James How noting 29 up at Gruinart. James also saw a Peregrine and 6 Woodcock at Gruinart.

Joanna Dailey on a return visit came across the regular Chough flock up at Ardnave - 24 in total, at least 17 of them colour-ringed, while over on Loch Indaal she watched a White-tailed Eagle chasing a gull, which presumably got away.

Other than birds, Mary Redman took a photo of some Marsh Fritillary caterpillars warming up in the sun.

Sunday 25 February 2024

Sunday 25th February

A cold but sunny and dry day.

Martin Armstrong saw a couple of Red Grouse at the Ard, Port Ellen this morning, while James How reports Golden and White-tailed Eagles at Gruinart, 10 Slavonian Grebes, 15 Long-tailed Ducks, single Scaup and the presence of Common Scoter, Red-throated and Great Northern Divers on Loch Indaal.

I took a walk up to Killinallan this afternoon and noticed 3 White-tailed Eagles together at the north end of Gruinart. All three flew off towards Ardnave as the tide rose and pushed them off the sand banks.

Visitor Valerie Wilson started her visit to Islay well, with the young Glaucous Gull asleep at the top of Loch Indaal, then the Red-breasted Goose on the west side of Gruinart in the afternoon. A little later she was at Blackrock where the Slavonian Grebes were accompanied by a Great Crested Grebe - quite a rarity here. It was rare enough for me to go straight out on receiving the Whatsapp message and go on a "twitch" for it. Unfortunately, despite close scrutiny of the various assembled ducks, grebes and divers there was no further trace of it.

This evening Mary-Ann Featherstone heard a couple of Tawny Owls calling at Kildalton.

Saturday 24 February 2024

Saturday 24th February

A dry, sunny but chilly day.

Jonathan Farooqi reported plenty of activity off Bowmore in loch Indaal this morning, with 20 Slav. Grebes, 20 Red-throated Divers, 15 Great Northern Divers, 1 Black-throated Diver, 25 Long-tailed Ducks, 100 Common Scoters, 100 Eider, 30 Red-breasted Mergansers and a single Scaup. (The Slav. Grebe and L T Duck numbers are quite high counts). 

Jonathan also found the Red-breasted Goose, 2 White-tailed Eagles and 5 Greenshank at Gruinart Flats, a Golden and White-tailed Eagle over the Ballygrant end of the Glen Road, 2 more White-tailed Eagles at Finlaggan and a Dipper at the Woollen Mill.

Louise Muir was on Islay seeing additional White-tailed Eagles at Kilmeny (a young bird) and Gearach (an adult) - so a possible tally today of 5-8 birds?. 

Margaret Brooke is back at Kilchoman where a Hen Harrier flew across her garden.

There was a bit of belated, but very welcome and interesting bird news from Jim Duncan and John Graham who had been on the island recently. They had taken a photo of a collared Greenland White-front that Ed Burrell confirms as a bird caught on Greenland in July 2008 that has been wintering on Islay every year since - a good age for a goose!

John and Jim also sent in a series of excellent photos of a couple of happily boxing Hares, followed by an attempted catch of the two Hares by a Golden Eagle, with an end result photo of a forlorn eagle and two lucky lagomorphs!

Great action photos - many thanks for sending them in - and thanks to everyone for their records which all go to the Argyll Bird Club database and help fill in an overall picture of  what and how many birds are here.

Friday 23 February 2024

Friday 23rd February

Very rainy overnight and into the morning, brightening to a sunnier, dry afternoon.

Martin Armstrong had an impressive count of 4 White-tailed Eagles over in the Cairnmore/Kilnaughton area this morning. 

The young Glaucous Gull was seen again at Bridgend this evening by Jonathan Farooqi.

Ash Cooper had another White-tailed Eagle, plus a Peregrine and 18 Choughs at Sanaigmore. 

Thursday 22 February 2024

Thursday 22nd February

Another day of two halves - this time a sunny morning giving way to a rainy and cloudy afternoon. However, this didn't deter the keener birders from getting out and about.

David Livingstone watched a White-tailed Eagle taking a Barnacle Goose in the air at Kintra this morning.

A Glaucous Gull identified as a 2Y was seen by several observers today at the top of loch Indaal - Steve Lister pointing out that it must be a different bird to the other older immature bird that has been hanging around Uiskentuie for months. Jonathan Farooqi found the Red-breasted Goose again today on the Gruinart Flats this evening. Other sightings include Golden Eagle up at Carrabus, Hen Harrier  near Machrie, 2 Canada Geese at Ardnave and a flock of 40 Ravens up at Laggan Bridge.

Wednesday 21 February 2024

Wednesday 21st February

The day started out grey and rainy, but slowly improved with some sunny spells in the afternoon.

Visiting birder and wildlife photographer Ash Cooper sent in a few records from the last few days:

17th: 6 Little Egrets at RSPB Gruinart

18th: a male Marlin nr Ardnave Loch

19th: a flock of c80 Linnet in stubble fields between RSPB and Ardnave Loch, c.15 Yellowhammers near Ballitarsin, being chased by a Marlin and 8 Ravens flying around the American Monument on the Oa

20th: a flock of c.75 Twite in stubble fields nr Sunderland Farm, and a Golden Eagle over the moorland on W side of Loch Gorm. He:took this great shot of a male Hen Harrier up at Glean Mor yesterday.

Also on 20th: Jonathan Farooqi is back birding on Islay and noted a single Pink-footed Goose at Kilmeny and a Carrion Crow at Kintra where he read neck collars ADX, AHD & ADZ on four collared White-fronts. Malcolm O.& David Dinsley confirmed that they were all ringed at Cornabus in winter 2017/18 and have been regularly seen in that area this winter.

Steve Willis had seen a young Glaucous Gull up at the top of Loch Indaal yesterday evening.

Today's news: Val Peacock  watched a male Hen Harrier hunting and displaying out over Ballimony where a Woodcock and a couple of Buzzards were also noted. Ash relocated the Glaucous Gull up at the top of Loch Indaal (photo below - is it the long-staying bird or a different one?), while Jonathan had found a Russian White-front with the Greenland White-fronts at Gruinart and got distant views of the elusive Red-breasted Goose from the RSPB Visitor Centre.

Tuesday 20 February 2024

Tuesday 20th February

The day developed into something tolerably pleasant with plenty of sunshine if a bit breezy, and it was good enough to get me out in the afternoon to the Gruinart hides.

Nothing sensational was seen, but it was full of activity with large numbers of Lapwing and Golden Plover, smaller groups of Dunlin, Curlew and Redshank and 3-4 Greenshanks showing in good light. The ducks were numerous and a delight in the sunshine. 10 Whooper Swans were pootling about and a Little Egret present.

Monday 19 February 2024

Sunday 18th & Monday 19th February

A grey, drizzly day on Sunday meant very little birding news, though Mary-Ann Featherstone reports a total of 200 Lapwing north of Port Ellen mobbing a Buzzard.

Today was a little bit brighter - mostly dry with a bit of sunshine at times. Gary T. saw a pair of Great Spotted Woodpeckers towards Lily Loch - always good to receive records of this species to assess how many pairs might be breeding.

David Dinsley saw a Snow Bunting down on The Oa and Steve Williams watched a Golden Eagle over the Glen Road in the afternoon.

Malcolm O. sent in a note to say that 4 White-fronted Geese were caught at Kintra on Saturday and fitted with numbered neck collars. They were seen just a few km away at Coillabus today, but any further sightings of these or any marked White-fronts (including numbered leg rings) would be gratefully received.

Saturday 17 February 2024

Saturday 17th February

Ghastly weather today - at best overcast, grey and misty, at worst, grizzly, or breezy with rain.

Understandably, the birding news is limited, though Steve Williams did get out and found a White-tailed Eagle and Hen Harrier up at Gruinart.

Otherwise, there was a note posted on the Islay Facebook page that Malcolm O. picked up on regarding birding etiquette on Islay. There has apparently been some fairly dodgy and potentially dangerous behaviour from a photographer (presumed to be a birder) who has parked up in awkward places on bends on our narrow roads to wander off and take pictures. It is sometimes quite frustrating when something good is seen in a spot that is unsafe to stop in. However, the plea is to be careful and thoughtful to other road users, and find somewhere that is safe to pull off the road and if necessary walk back to where you want to be.

Friday 16 February 2024

Friday 16th February

 A grey, dreich sort of day - but mild and calm.

Steve & Lyn Rogers saw a Barn Owl last night near the airport.

Today there are further reports from Steve Percival and Steve Williams of the Red-breasted Goose in the Gruinart area and the two Cackling Geese up at Skerrols - a lone Pink-footed Goose with them.

The Kingfisher was seen again by Steve Williams at Bowmore Harbour, while Gary Turnbull was seeing Golden Eagles at Carrabus and the Glen road, a Merlin at Newton and Hen Harrier at Scarabus, plus Crossbills on the Cluanach road near the Abbatoir.

I was down at Port Ellen in the afternoon and counted 8 Whooper Swans at what appears to be a new outfall associated with the rebuild of Port Ellen Distillery. This is attracting large numbers of greylags, mallard, corvids and gulls. I'm sure someone with the necessary, devotion, will-power and know-how could carefully check through all those gorgeous immature gulls and rustle up something rare....................

Thursday 15 February 2024

Wednesday 14th & Thursday 15th February

A couple of days of varied, but mild winter weather - sun and showers yesterday and fairly overcast, misty, drizzly today.

Nothing reported yesterday, but a few bits and pieces coming in today:

Steve Percival noted 2 Cackling Geese with the Barnies at Bridgend, also seen by visitor Tricia Cuninghame at Gruinart this morning. White-tailed Eagles also noted - 2 seen by Gary Turnbull and later by Tricia on their usual rocky island at the mouth of the River Sorn at the top of Loch Indaal. From the other side of the island, Ed Burrell sent in a note of a Carrion Crow seen by Larry Griffin at Kintra.

Gary also watched a couple of Otters at Carrabus Burn near Blackrock this morning.

Tuesday 13 February 2024

Monday 12th & Tuesday 13th February

Not a lot of bird news to report over the past two days of blustery, sunny weather with sometimes heavy rain showers. Yesterday Gary Turnbull noted flocks of Skylarks and Meadow Pipits  enjoying the sun in the fields and pasture up at Finlaggan, making it sound almost spring-like. Today Malcolm Ogilvie passed on a Facebook message that John Cameron saw a Kingfisher on the pier at Bowmore this morning. This prompted a response from another Islay resident saying that they had seen one at Port Askaig pier last August!

Sunday 11 February 2024

Sunday 11th February

Mostly dry and sunny today, with occasional showers - not too bad for winter.

The Red-breasted Goose rediscovered yesterday was seen again at Loch Gruinart today by Steve Percival. Other than that, I noted 18 or more Brent Geese along the coast of Loch Indaal this afternoon from Uiskentuie down to Bruichladdich.

Saturday 10 February 2024

Thursday 8th - Saturday 10th February

Back from my travels to a very wintery Islay - strong winds, cold and occasionally rainy, which by all accounts has what the weather has been like for much of the time I've been away. No surprise then that there is not a lot of bird news to report.

On Thursday, Martin Armstrong saw 3 White-tailed Eagles down at Easter Ellister, while yesterday, James how saw 3, probably different White-tailed Eagles up at Gruinart along with a Golden Eagle, Peregrine, Sparrowhawk and 3 Woodcock.

Today Ella Simpson had another White-tailed Eagle at Gruinart, plus a Barn Owl hunting followed by a much more exciting find - the Red-breasted Goose on Gruinart flats.

But there is plenty going on for anyone interested in birds at all levels. The latest edition of our local newspaper "The Ileach" out today tells all! The front page covers recent workshops, some of it in the Gaelic medium, run by the RSPB at Gruinart for primary school children. Inside pages have articles on Jura's Primary School taking part in the RSPB's "Big Schools Birdwatch"; a fairly detailed report by NatureScot on the status of the Chough on Islay and another piece promoting Islay's Winter Birdlife Festival. The latter being a series of events organised partly in Gaelic, by the RSPB, BTO and ICCI and running between 21 - 23 February.

Thursday 8 February 2024

Wednesday 7th February

 A beautiful winter's day today on Islay.

Mary Redman was treated to a Short-eared Owl this morning at Octofad, followed by a White-tailed Eagle at Claddach. She also had a pair of Chough hanging around all day and a flock of around 20 Curlew. 

In Bruichladdich, Sam watched an otter eating it's catch - Malcolm has been seeing a number in this spot frequently including a female and two well-grown cubs and, separately, a dog otter. 

Thanks all!

Wednesday 7 February 2024

Tuesday 6th February

 Hip Hip Hip Hooray. The sun most definitely had his hat on for (most) of today! 

Thanks to Louise Muir for her sightings today. First a Little Egret at Craigens and after a few reports we've had in of Snow Buntings the last few weeks, Louise managed to spy a Lapland Bunting at Killinallan!

Tuesday 6 February 2024

Sunday 4th and Monday 5th February

The tap has been turned on full the last two days on Islay. Rain, rain and yet more rain. A walk down the road at Gruinart on Monday evening through endless puddles did mean spying a host of frogs. 

Thanks to Dave Wood who reported seeing a snow bunting on the Oa on Monday.

Sunday 4 February 2024

Wednesday 31st January - Saturday 3rd February

The dreich weather continues on Islay. On Thursday I had a ringtail cruising the flats at Gruinart, and two White-tailed Eagles sat at the top of Loch Indaal, admiring the admittedly very cloudy view. 

Saturday saw a break in the weather and some welcome rays of sun between the showers. Iolo who's visiting from Orkney, took a trip up to the hills beyond Killinallan, and was rewarded with two White-tailed Eagles close to the beach and two Golden Eagles close to Sgarbh Dubh.

Tuesday 30 January 2024

Tuesday 30th January

Another beautiful day on Islay with some welcome sunshine.

Annie was enjoying the sun in all its glory at Lower Killeyan (pictured), and had a Snow Bunting down on the Oa monument walk, with 27 Twite at the car park and 11 Chough at Kintra.

Up at Loch Gruinart, Sam, Ella and Iolo saw three Hen Harriers and a snipe, whilst I had a male Hen Harrier late in the day up at Ardnave. 

Monday 29 January 2024

Monday 29th January

Today has been a still and beautiful one on Islay, with a welcome reprieve from the gusts of the last week and the sun shining. Not much to report from across the island. The geese were enjoying the sun out on the Gruinart flats today alongside the Little Egrets. 

We were sad to hear today of the passing of George Jackson over the weekend, a keen birder who lived in Bruichladdich for many years. Thank you to Fiona for passing on the news, and who said, 

I visited him last month and despite his Alzheimer's his interest picked up when I was telling him about Islay's geese and eagles. 

Our thoughts are with his family. 

Sunday 28 January 2024

Wednesday 24th to Sunday 28th January

It's been a week of strong winds, showers and dull cloudy days on Islay, sending the birds and it seems the birders alike into hiding. 

Between the rain this afternoon a trip to the hides at Gruinart saw me disturb a sheltering Buzzard along the woodland trail, with the usual waders and ducks frequenting the waters, whilst a restless flock of Dunlin trilled away into the dusk.

Wednesday 24 January 2024

Mon 22 - Tuesday 23 Jan..

 A wild spell of weather here: the wildlife are hiding from the worst of it while the humans batten down the hatches and pray for their polytunnels.  It very normal for January to be awful, indeed many roll their eyes at the frequent named storms, however, I find it is easier to remember than the days of the week this time of year.  Behind the wind it is still surprisingly mild, and the grass continues to grow.

At Bowmore Harbour after Isha I watched a drake goldeneye benefitting from the shelter and enjoying a feed.  Before Jocelyn, a ring-tailed hen harrier braved the gusts at Octofad, and a pair of Ravens typically laughed in the face of it all, tumblings and reeling together above Currie Sands.

Morven at Nature Scot kindly sent through last weeks international goose count figures for Islay:

Goose count figures from last week (16/17 Jan):


26,527 barnacles

4390 white-fronts

1511 greylags