Monday 22 July 2024

Sunday 21st & Monday 22nd July

 Firstly, a big "Thank You" to Linden for doing the blog in my absence.

The weather yesterday and today was a mix of light winds with sunny spells and showers - more sunshine today than yesterday.

Yeterday's news was of  an Osprey seen up at Killinallan and a good list from Clive McKay: a Barn Owl last night at Uiskentuie, a female Marsh Harrier in heavy moult at Gruinart where, on the evening high tide he counted 386 Bar-tailed Godwits, 7 Black-tailed Godwits, 88 Curlew and 55 Oystercatchers and 5 Sandwich Terns flying high over Gruinart towards Loch Indaal.

Today, Gary T. saw 2 Ospreys around Finlaggan along with a Short-eared Owl and a variety of other "stuff" - Crossbills, Siskins, Redpolls, Sedge Warbler, Moorhen, 7 Tufted Ducks - and an Otter! Later, he counted 21 Black Guillemots at Caol Ila.

Jamie Johnson saw the female Marsh Harrier again today at Gruinart, while David D. had a pair of White-tailed Eagles on The Oa.

Saturday 20 July 2024

Saturday 20th July

 Two Spotted Flycatchers reported by David this morning at Kinnabus. Gary had a mega report from Bunnahabhain of 34 Black Guillemot, 2 Great Black Backed Gulls, 5 Shag, 11 Cormorant, 2 Mute Swan, 6 Oystercatcher, 1 Common Sandpiper, 1 Curlew, 2 Pied Wagtail, 2 Grey Wagtail, Siskin, Bullfinch, 3 Spotted Flycatcher families and a Golden Eagle!

Friday 19 July 2024

Friday 19th July

 A very quiet couple of days in the bird chat with the only report being my sighting of a Little Egret at Gruinart - potentially the same one seen down at the Oa earlier in the week. 

Only notes from today were few Harriers around Gruinart and a visitor report of a White Tailed Eagle flying very low over them as they drove up to the reserve.

Wednesday 17 July 2024

Wednesday 17th July

 At Loch Gorm this morning Lauren had a fishing Osprey, Gary had a lone Whimbrel north of Bruichladdich Pier. 

Chatting to David at the Oa yesterday we were wondering how long the Little Egret would hang around Kinnabus and it seems today was the day it decided to move on. It didn't go far though it seems with Ed reporting one down at Cornabus this afternoon.

Tuesday 16 July 2024

Tuesday 16th July

 This morning Sam had a White-Tailed Eagle flying over Kilmeny Church towards Keppols, and slightly later a great report of 5 Red-Throated Divers, 10 Common Tern, 20+ Shag, 7 Black Guillemots and 9 Red-Breasted Merganser with 3 young. 

My day at the Oa started with Little Egret still hanging around. On the guided walk we had the golden Eagle pair seen perched from the trail and 4 Hen Harrier - 1 female and 3 young. 2 Whinchat in the afternoon as well as a handful of Dark Green Fritillary butterflies on the wing. 

Monday 15 July 2024

Monday 15th July


Only one sighting from Sunday and that was Mary's very early Marsh Fritillary webs. 

In the early hours of this morning Gary spotted a hunting barn owl at Bruichladdich. David had a Little Egret - a rare visitor to the Oa - roosting near the house which seemed to hang around all day, joined by a couple of Greenshank this afternoon. Mary was back this afternoon with a larger sighting - a White-Tailed Eagle over Claddach.

Saturday 13 July 2024

Saturday 13th July

Some excellent reports coming in to start the weekend off, firstly from Mary with a Dark Green Fritillary on the wing and a family of Spotted Flycatchers. Up at Ardnave I totalled 53 species with the highlights being a couple of Black-Tailed Godwits, a calling Corncrake, a couple of Bonxies flying around over Nave island with one sitting for a while and a pair of White-Tailed Eagles. David rounded off the day with a Little Egret spotted on Loch Kinnabus.

Friday 12 July 2024

Friday 12th July

 A late report emailed in yesterday from Stephen on a visit to Jura ticking off several raptors starting with a juvenile Golden Eagle being mobbed by a falcon - either Kestrel or Peregrine. Followed by a ringtail Hen Harrier seen twice possibly around a nest. Finally and most excitingly he also had two sightings of an Osprey -  a rare observation on Jura.

Fiona kicked things off today with a pair of Whooper Swans landing in a field near Kilchoman. Mary had a flock of 25 Wood Pigeon being watched by a pair of White-Tailed Eagles.

Outside of bird news I had the first Garden Tiger Moth of the season at Gruinart.

Thursday 11 July 2024

Thursday 11th July

 My highlight from the day at Gruinart were a very vibrant Lesser Redpoll, our usual pair of Bullfinch and a young male Hen Harrier.

More exciting reports from around the island came from Gary this morning with an Osprey on the River Sorn and David's sharp eye picking out two Greenshank flying over the Oa.

Wednesday 10 July 2024

Wednesday 10th July

 A slightly gruesome day in the bird chat with the only report coming in from Mary after a walk at Kilchoman of a couple of dead Shearwater, and another couple of dead Fulmar. She also noted a dead seal and a dead cetacean with a calf which Craig identified as a Rissos Dolphin.

In slightly lighter news, while walking through the woodland at Gruinart I had a family of Goldcrest flitting through the trees.

Tuesday 9 July 2024

Tuesday 9th July

 Just a couple of reports coming in today with the wind picking up again after a welcome break in the weather. This morning at The Oa car park I had three swifts circling above - a fairly infrequent visitor to the island. This afternoon we also had Twite, Whinchat and a Juvenile cuckoo being fed by a handful of pipits.

Near Claddach, Mary had a late report of another juvenile Cuckoo and a Ringed Plover nest with eggs but seemingly no parent birds in sight. Hopefully more news on it in the coming days.

Monday 8 July 2024

Monday 8th July

Glorious weather again with calm, warm sunny conditions, though this is scheduled to change into a solid belt of rain approaching from the south - either tomorrow afternoon or on Wednesday depending on which weather forecasters you believe.

Mary R. had a hunting Hen Harrier at Craigfad today, while Linden had a different family party of Spotted Flycatchers up at Gruinart followed by the first returning Whimbrel at Machir bay this evening - an impressive total of 28 birds.

Sunday 7 July 2024

Sunday 7th July

Another glorious sunny and calm day. 

David Dinsley saw a Swift high over Loch Kinnabus, plus a Cormorant and a female Shelduck with a brood of 9 chicks near Port Ellen.

Over at Gruinart, Linden  had a White-tailed Eagle and a Spotted Flycatcher with at least 2 chicks.

Saturday 6 July 2024

Saturday 6th July

 A pleasant sunny day - a little more like summer.

Apart from a few reports of regular species there was an Osprey seen by Gary T. being harassed by gulls over the merse at Bridgend before heading off towards Loch Skerrols.

Friday 5 July 2024

Thursday 4th & Friday 5th July

An improvement in the weather from cool and rainy yesterday to eventually a very pleasant calm and sunny day today.

Yesterday was fairly quiet for bird reports: a Merlin near the airport seen by Steve & Lyn Rogers, while Linden up at Ardnave had a good count of 28 Chough along with a White-tailed Eagle and the usual Whinchats and Twite. There was no sign of the reported shrike.

Today just two bits of news: Gary T. had a Great Spotted Woodpecker in woodlands at Achnaclach near Ballygrant and Louise Muir on a trip away from home on Jura had a pair of Crossbills at Gearach on Islay.

Wednesday 3 July 2024

Wednesday 3rd July

A mostly wet, grey, drizzly and quite breezy day again with occasional bursts of dry and sunshine.

Linden sent in a report of an email received at RSPB Gruinart this morning from an unknown observer of a possible Great Grey Shrike up at Ardnave. Exactly where and when it was seen, whether it was indeed a shrike and whether it was seen today is unclear - but you never know...........

Meanwhile, some more solid birding news from Mary Redman who again saw the Chough family at the half dozen Ravens down at Currie Sands along with a female Hen Harrier at Portnahaven, Sparrowhawk at Easter Ellister where the old faithful drake Velvet Scoter has been noted for yet another year on the roadside loch.

Tuesday 2 July 2024

Tuesday 2nd July

Another drizzly, grey day with a moderate breeze and just occasional sunny bits.

Quiet on the bird front today, with a report from Val Peacock of a couple of fine, breeding plumaged Red-throated Divers off Port Charlotte this morning and a tally of 6 Ravens from Mary Redman down at Currie sands along with a noisy family group of 5 Chough.

Monday 1 July 2024

Monday 1st July

 Grey and drizzly today,

Yesterday Mary Redman found a male Kestrel that had seemingly been predated by a Buzzard that had left a few of its own feathers behind (not shown in the photo) in the attack  - sad, in that Kestrels are not that common on Islay.

Today Mary saw a male Hen Harrier down at Claddach and David D. found the first of autumn's Greenshanks at Loch Kinnabus.

Sunday 30 June 2024

Thursday 27th, Friday 28th June, Saturday 29th June and Sunday 30th June

Given that I'm condensing four days into one blog, you can tell that there isn't much to report.  The weather has been very different day to day: wet and windy, more like winter on Thursday, then a mixed bag with drier, sunnier weather between rain showers on Friday and fairly pleasantly sunny and warm on Saturday and Sunday, though still with occasional cloud and the odd rain shower.

Bird news is typical of midsummer, with just a few reports of the resident breeding birds: Hen Harriers at Easter Ellister and Finlaggan, Common Sandpipers at Port Charlotte, broods of Whinchats at Mulreesh and Balulive, White-tailed Eagle at Bunnahabhain and a walk by Lucy A. to Rhuvaal producing 2 Whitethroats, Reed Bunting, Stonechat, Redpoll and Kestrel.

Wednesday 26 June 2024

Wednesday 26th June

A fine start to the day, but it became progressively more cloudy, misty and damp with an increasing light wind. But there have been a few birds of interest today:

David D. was on a nocturnal ramble after midnight last night and heard Water Rail calling at Carnain followed by a Long-eared Owl calling near Loch Skerrols. Records of this owl are few and far between - possibly in part because they are so elusive. 

Gary T. continued the day's notes with a good sighting of two Short-eared Owls tussling in the sky behind his house at Ballygrant.

Kate Butterworth saw a Red-throated Diver flying over the Sound this morning on her way to Jura where she had Red-breasted Merganser with young at Lussa. On her return she found a Swift flying over Bruichladdich.

There have also been reports from Steve & Lyn Rogers and Jackie Wedd of Minke Whales seen from the Islay - Kennacraig ferry yesterday and today,

Tuesday 25 June 2024

Tuesday 25th June

Another "proper" summer's day with warmth and sunshine - but not a lot of bird news to tell you about:

Mary Redman counted 6 Ravens on her croft at Portnahaven, while Gary T. noted large groups of Mistle Thrushes in woodland beside his house at Achnaclach near Ballygrant and a couple of Crossbills flying from Dunlossit towards Finlaggan. Kath Butterworth was at Kilchiaran where she noted 4 Choughs  and a couple of Sparrowhawks.

Monday 24 June 2024

Monday 24th June

A cloudy and misty start turned into a bright and warm sunny day.

Linden and James were out and about at RSPB Gruinart noting White-tailed Eagle, 3 Hen Harriers, Whinchat, Blackcap and Whitethroat. On the other side of Gruinart at Killinallan, Kath Butterworth saw Little Tern, 17 Bar-tailed Godwits, and Golden Plover in summer plumage. It was Jackie Wedd's last day until she returns in October. Venturing to Loch Skerrols she found Long-tailed Tits, Siskins and Goldcrests. Of non-avian interest were Common Hawker dragonfly and Common Lizard and Ringlet butterfly.

Sunday 23 June 2024

Saturday 22nd and Sunday 23rd June

A substantial improvement in the weather , with bright, warm and sunny conditions for much of Sunday.

There were reports from various corners of the island yesterday including resumed 4am calling of a Cuckoo at Emerivale from Steve & Lynn Rogers. Kath Butterworth had a Golden Eagle out on The Oa, Jackie Wedd watched a Wheatear family at Currie Sands and Mary Redman got lucky with a Short-eared Owl at Claddach and a White-tailed Eagle at Easter Ellister.

Today Gary T. had further news of White-tailed eagles, with two on the sand at the water's edge at the top of Loch Indaal near Whin Park. Kath had a male Hen Harrier at Claddach and a Skua sp. chasing a tern at Frenchman's Rocks. Better still she noted three different Corn Crakes in the Portnahaven area. Jackie Wedd added a fourth Corn Crake calling up at Conisby along with reports of two Hen Harriers on the RSPB moorland trail, Golden Eagle and Buzzard at Loch Gorm and a Tree Sparrow near the Port Charlotte Hotel.

Away from Islay, Linden saw a Storm Petrel from the ferry.

Friday 21 June 2024

Thursday 20th and Friday 21st June

 It is midsummer, but it doesn't seem like it, with cool temperatures and various spells of cloud and rain at times on both days.

Yesterday Kate Butterworth reported Spotted flycatchers feeding young at Bunnahabhain on Wednesday and yesterday heard Corn Crakes calling during the day at Gruinart and Ardnave. (I've listened on a couple of nights for them up at Conisby where they have been reliable and regular in previous years, but not a squeak so far this summer).

Today Kate reported on a number of colour-ringed Choughs seen and had a family of Mistle Thrushes at Sanaigmore - always useful to get confirmed breeding records such as these!

David Dinsley scored bird of the day with a Tree Sparrow near The Oa RSPB car park.

Jackie Wedd is also visiting and noted plenty of waders - Curlew, Dunlin, Ringed Plover, Oystercatchers, along with Sedge Warblers, Reed Buntings, Linnets and Arctic Tern on the Loch Indaal Way footpath.

Wednesday 19 June 2024

Wednesday 19th June

 A fine, sunny, fairly warm day today. There were reports of 2 Crossbills at Gatehouse on Jura and a Swift over Loch Kinnabus. Up at Gruinart it was quite quiet at the two hides, but Blackcap, Sedge & Willow Warblers and Whitethroats all in song, plus a Cuckoo still calling. Around Loch Gorm Whinchats and Stonechats were also evident and singing.

Tuesday 18 June 2024

Sunday 16th - Tuesday 18th June

Three days of variable, cool weather with spells of sunshine interspersed with light rain and cloud at times - though a lovely sunny late evening tonight.

I suppose it is that time of year when spring migration is over and autumn return hasn't yet begun. A bit of the doldrums, with nothing much happening on the bird front other than the regular breeding species going about their business, so not a lot to report.

On Sunday there was a note of a male Hen Harrier at Loch Gorm and a Blackcap at the RSPB hides, Gruinart. Yesterday a White-tailed Eagle was seen at Finlaggan being mobbed by a Hen Harrier. Today further Hen Harriers noted at Ballygrant and Laggan Bridge, a Peregrine watched perched up for 10 minutes on the Glen Road and a couple of White-tailed Eagles on the High Road near Laggan. On the beach near Blackrock a gathering of c.100 Bar-tailed Godwits was counted this afternoon.

Saturday 15 June 2024

Saturday 15th June

 A quiet day for reports with only one coming in on the bird chat, but what an incredible sighting it was from Dave Wood with a few Bottlenose Dolphins, a Minke Whale and an incredible minimum estimate of 5000 Manx Shearwater seen from the ferry near Gigha!

Friday 14 June 2024

Friday 14th June

 Another fairly quiet day today, Simon had another male Hen Harrier near the airport, Gary saw a couple of young cuckoo at Finlaggan. 

In butterfly news, Mary-Ann had a Painted Lady at The Battery and I had my first Common Blue of the year on Jura.

Thursday 13 June 2024

Thursday 13th June

 After a brief break in the weather yesterday, the wind is back with a vengeance and as a result there were very few reports coming in today. Mary had a male Hen Harrier near the airport and we had a pair flying by the Gruinart offices but that's it. Hopefully a bit more activity tomorrow although I don't think the weather is looking much better!

Wednesday 12 June 2024

Wednesday 12th June

 Eagles all over the shop today, with Goldies sighted at Gruinart, Gorm and The Oa and some unsavoury White-Tail action at Claggain Bay. 

Steve had two Red Throated Divers at Kilnaughton this morning and later 2 Eider Ducks with 3 chicks.

Adding on to his sightings from yesterday, Simon had 2 Ringed Plover and 5 Sanderling at Saligo.

Our volunteers at RSPB Loch Gruinart saw a pair of Hen Harrier off the moorland trail. 

Outside of bird news, I had several Dew Moth and huge numbers of Marsh Fritillary enjoying the sun on The Oa.

Tuesday 11 June 2024

Tuesday 11th June

 Some excellent reports coming in today with Steve reporting 48 Shags at Emerivale and 70 at Kilnaughton! Lucy had a pair of Hen Harrier along the low road around the airport. 

Another day of seabird surveys for me with Peregrine, a Female Kestrel with two fledged juveniles and another handful of Auks, Fulmar, Gannets and Gulls.

On the Oa guided walk today we had a pair of Whinchat showing very well and a distant Goldie. Nothing compared to Simon however getting his first Golden Eagle sighting, and getting a real show seeing two together between Bruichladdich and Kilchoman.

Monday 10 June 2024

Monday 10th June

 An early start today with Gordon counting 42 bar-Tailed Godwits at Blackrock at 7am, which I think hung around all day as I saw a flock roughly that size driving past at around 3pm. Gordon also noted a singing Blackcap in Port Charlotte. 

David and I we're out doing seabird surveys down at the Oa with the usual suspects: Fulmar, Gannets, Guillemots, Razorbills and Tysties. My highlights were a family of Wheatear with a male, female and three juveniles and a Peregrine. 

Simon added in this evening at least 5 Sand Martin, 20+ Oystercatcher, 5 Gannets and good numbers of Lapwing and Swallows at Machir Bay as well as a female Eider at Sannaigmore.

Sunday 9th June

A quiet day of reports following the influx yesterday. Linden had a Bonxie over Sanaigmore, and Simon reported hearing a Cuckoo from the woodland side of Finlaggan mid-afternoon and had 3 Black Guillemot at Caol Ila bay. 

Sunday 9 June 2024

Saturday 8th June

Reports flying in today. Whooper swans took the limelight this morning with James having 4 fly over Gruinart flats, and Louise doing a double-take after seeing 2 in Small Isles bay on Jura. 

Down at Claddach, Mary had 5 Curlew near the loch this afternoon, the first down there for a while.

This evening, Simon reports 2 Common Sandpiper and 2 Shelduck on the sandy bay between Kildalton and Kildalton Church. Simon also sent in a report from Friday afternoon seeing 1 female Hen Harrier and 2 Curlew at Gruinart's north hide. 

Linden's walk to An Claddach bothy from Ballygrant saw 6 Common Sandpiper, a male Hen Harrier, a Kestrel over the water, a Common lizard, 3 Common seals and two gannets practicing for the upcoming Olympics with some synchronised diving! On the return journey over the moorland, Linden was treated to more raptors! A Peregrine, Male Hen Harrier, Sparrowhawk and great view of a Golden Eagle and another Male Hen Harrier at the same time, alongside good numbers of Curlew and an Adder. 

Thanks for all of today's reports. 

Saturday 8 June 2024

Friday 7th June

 Heavy showers in the morning cleared into some beautiful sunshine, though the blustering winds continue.

Starting at Gruinart, James had a spotted flycatcher, whilst I had a male and female Bullfinch down near the south hide and Lauren had 3 Black-tailed Godwits. Gordon had 90 Bar-tailed Godwits on the bay by Blackrock. Linden, Freddie and I also spotted these three very fresh Oystercatcher chicks along Loch Gruinart.

Thanks to Malcolm who received reports of a Magpie in a garden in Port Ellen from Wednesday this week. Either the one seen a while ago is hanging around or a new one has been blown in. 

Elsewhere, Martin also had a lone Whooper swan at the reservoir up from Laphroaig distillery and Linden a Whitethroat on the high road.

Thanks for all of today's reports.

Friday 7 June 2024

Thursday 6th June

The sunshine was out between showers today on Islay.

Linden saw 10 Dunlin, 5 Ringed plover and an Arctic tern at Bruichladdich this afternoon, and a Mistle thrush south of Loch Gorm.

I started the day in Portnahaven with 2 Chough, 26 Arctic tern on McKenzie Island and a calling corncrake. Making my way around Loch Indaal, I had two Tysties off of Bruichladdich pier and 4 Chough on the Big Strand along with a group of 12 Dunlin.

Wednesday 5 June 2024

Sunday 2nd June to Wednesday 5th June


Apologies for the last few missing days of bird blogging….

Not much has been reported in-between the seemingly unseasonable wind and hail showers!

Made up for today by report from Gary of an Osprey being buffeted by the strong winds we’ve been experiencing over his house, on the Finlaggan side, towards Loch Nan Cadhan.

Saturday 1 June 2024

Saturday 1 June

Apologies for yesterdays missing entry, no excuses I was just distracted and forgot! Which is a pity as yesterday had more reports that today!

FRIDAY May 31st. Ed was first in with a report of an Arctic Skua over Cornabus, plus his American wigeon still present.  Linden noted a pair of bullfinch at Gruinart plus a blackcap.  Later when doing a tern survey looking out to Orsay and MacKenzie islands, they noticed gull chicks.

Today, SATURDAY June 1st.  I headed off to Ardbeg Distillerys Feis day, nearly as far from home as I can get on Islay.  On the drive down we saw a WTE quite low over Craigfad/Nerebus.  Later at Port a Rheidhlinn beach a shelduck pair with young ducklings, plus a common sandpiper on the bridge.  After Lindens report of gull chicks yesterday I realised the breeding gull numbers near Currie Sands is very low; normally you are mobbed by a dozen or more when you get near but this year you are lucky to draw the attention of 2.  

Thursday 30 May 2024

Thursday 30 May

Apparently its June tomorrow, I've no idea what's happened to the past 5 months but they've gone by in a blur of rain and wind.

Slightly more activity on the local WhatsApp group:  Linden reported 2 WTE between Loch Gruinart and Loch Indaal earlier today, then a round of 42 bar-tailed godwits and an arctic tern feeding near Bruichladdich.  Steve R. noted a red-throated diver near Kilnaugton while Ed (on release from Cornabus) had a count of 30 sanderling nearby.

Wednesday 29 May 2024

Wednesday 29 May

An unseasonal day with cool weather and birds more familiar over the winter months:  a glaucous gull photographed today near Bridgend by David D. , plus a Greenland white-fronted goose at Cornabus reported by Ed.

Today Bowmore had their 'Feis Day', which meant the local CO-OP was a mile walk for those locals without parking access. Tomorrow is Kilchoman Distillerys turn - if you aren't here for the whisky, I'd perhaps give Machir Bay a miss tomorrow.

Tuesday 28 May 2024

Tuesday 28 May

 A dreich day here on Islay, but the Feis continues regardless. Today was Laphroig and Port Ellens turn. I'm sure the flowing whisky would turn any frown upside down!

On the birding front all was quiet - James reported the Osprey at Loch Gorm still in the area, plus a spotted flycatcher in his garden.  Here at round the circular walk at Claddach I heard corncrake and sedge warbler as well as being monitored by the active lapwing on the route.  Swimming into Currie Sands a pair of Eider duck while the bay itself is noisy with common sandpiper, arctic tern, herring gull, oystercatcher and dunlin.

The weather looks much the same for tomorrow, though a little drier fingers crossed.

Monday 27 May 2024

Monday 27th May`

As expected, whisky beat birds as far as the many visitors to the island were concerned. It was a lovely sunny day, but the only report was from Ed, saying that the American Wigeon was still on Loch Cornabus. I can add my own sighting of an adult Pied Wagtail visiting my garden and feeding on insects on and around my lawn. They visit fairly often in winter, when small numbers turn up on the shore in front of the house, but I hardly ever see one in summer, so suspect that there may be a breeding pair not far away, perhaps along the rather overgrown small burn which runs between my neighbour's house and the one beyond it, coming from the fields up towards Conisby.

 Here's a photo of a Pied Wagtail by Gordon Langsbury.

Sunday 26 May 2024

 Sunday 26th May

The forecast rain never really came, but it stayed overcast with a mainly easterly wind.

Ed Burrell reported that the American Wigeon was back on Loch Cornabus after a brief absence, and he also saw seven Mallard and one Teal brood on the loch. The presence of six drake Eurasian Wigeon led to Ed wondering if that species had ever bred on Islay. The answer is yes, just once back in 1993 when a brood was seen on Gruund Loch, a remote loch on moorland between Laggan Point and Gartbreck. Summering pairs have been reported at RSPB Loch Gruinart in a number of years, but, while breeding has been suspected there, it has never been proved - or not yet.

The absence of any other bird records might have something to do with Feis Ile have started yesterday, with each distillery having an open day in turn, with musical entertainment taking place through the day coupled with, of course, an abundance of the locally made beverage. Several thousand visitors are here for the week coming from many different countries, but including, it seems, very few birders. Each to their own.

Saturday 25 May 2024

 Saturday 25th May

The sun was out for much of the day, but the wind, now from the east and south-east, remained quite strong until mid-afternoon.

There was just one bird sighting reported today, which was of an Osprey, or perhaps that ought to be the Osprey, seen by Linden at the same location near Loch Gorm where Mandy saw one on Wednesday last week. The bird she saw was perched on a telegraph pole with a fish in its talons. The one Linden saw today was carrying what he thought was a rodent.

Leaving birds (again), a Red Admiral Butterfly was in my garden in Bruichladdich this afternoon feeding on the flowering heads of chive plants. This is the first I've seen this year and I hope it presages another good season for them. Numbers in some parts of Scotland in 2023 were described as "spectacular". Migrants can arrive this early, but equally they now hibernate quite regularly over the winter in Scotland and emerge in the spring.

Friday 24 May 2024

 Friday 24th May

Some sun, plenty of overcast, not much wind and no rain. 

Here are some bird records starting with "Cuckoo News". Two males attracted attention today, one that wakes up Steve Rogers by sitting in a tree in his garden near Port Ellen and starting to call from around 4.15 am. Steve wonders if there is a reason why Cuckoos were put into clocks all those years ago. The second male was reported by Margaret Brooke and was calling from a much more elevated perch - the top of the Kilchoman Church tower. Steve also heard the bubbling call of a female, which doubtless the Kilchoman bird would like to hear, too. Around 11.00 am, Martin Armstrong saw two White-tailed Eagles successfully hunting gulls off Blackrock. 

Other, non-ornithological, news came from The Oa where David D had the first Marsh Fritillaries on the wing, while Mary-Ann saw a Chimney Sweeper Moth at Kildalton. Unsurprisingly, this moth is almost jet black all over apart from a tiny amount  of white at the wingtips. For unknown reasons, almost all the relatively few Islay records are from or close to the east coast, from Bunnahabhain in the north to Ardtalla and Kildalton in the south.

Thursday 23 May 2024

Thursday 23rd May

The strong north to north-west wind continued overnight and through to early afternoon before moderating a little, though still from the north. It was overcast all day but without more than a few millimetres of rain, certainly not as much as was forecast.

There was perhaps slightly more bird news than might have been expected, given the weather. Louise saw a Mistle Thrush in Craighouse, Jura, this morning, complete with a nice example of WhatsApp's predicted spelling! Ed Burrell reported a Greenland White-fronted Goose at Loch Cornabus, possibly the same one as last Monday, though where was it in between, while Linden had at least 17 Arctic Terns at Portnahaven.

On Facebook, David Livingstone reported, plus excellent photographs, Gannets feeding in Kilnaughton Bay, a rather sensible place for them when the wind is in the north.

Wednesday 22 May 2024

 Wednesday 22nd May

The day started rather overcast and misty and didn't improve much in the morning, while during the afternoon the wind got up from the north, reaching over 40 mph, and this is forecast to last through the night and most of tomorrow, with rain. Spring seems to gone into reverse.

Only two reports have been received today. Linden had a Bullfinch at Gruinart in the morning, a not very common species, being mostly confined to the larger woodlands, as one might expect, though there is at least one past breeding record from Gruinart. Mary Redman saw a pair of Mistle Thrushes at Ellister, another not very common bird, though more widespread than the Bullfinch.

And here is a Mistle Thrush photographed by Gordon Langsbury.


Tuesday 21 May 2024

 Tuesday 21st May

Another dry day, if not quite as sunny and warm as yesterday, ending with quite a dense mist as night fell, or at least there was here in Bruichladdich.

The "best" bird of the day was undoubtedly the Red Kite seen by Linden over The Oa. They are not quite annual visitors here and can occur in any month of the year. When re-introductions started in Scotland in 1989 based round the Black Isle, a number of birds turned up here especially in autumn, perhaps of birds that felt they ought to migrate and presumably flew down the Great Glen and then turned south. Such sightings gradually petered out and there are now additional populations in Perthshire and in Dumfries and Galloway of rather more sedentary birds with, altogether, over 300 pairs, so it is anyone's guess where this one wandered from.

Another good sighting was of a Greenshank at Cornabus Loch, seen by Ed Burrell and only the second one he's recorded at that locality.

And for those of you who don't see enough Red Kites, here's a photo of one by the late Gordon Langsbury.


Monday 20 May 2024

Monday 20th May

Another lovely sunny day with clear blue skies.

Ed Burrell, reporting from loch Cornabus notes a Greenland White-fronted Goose but no American Wigeon today. The goose is very late, but may not be fit enough to have flown back to nest in Greenland.

Mary Redman reports Canada Geese on McKenzie Island - an unwelcome feral addition to Islay's birdlife, that seems to be slowly increasing its presence year by year.

Linden Kingston up at Gruinart notes Redpolls, Spotted Flycatcher and a White-tailed Eagle.

Craig Walker sent in this photo of a Four-spotted Chaser dragonfly at Loch Gorm this morning.

Sunday 19 May 2024

Sunday 19th May

 Cool with light cloud, but dry and quite pleasant.

Nothing seen to get anyone setting off on a twitch around the island, but lots of good summer residents being reported:

Spotted Flycatchers and Cuckoos at Cairnmore, more Spotted Flycatchers, Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs, Treecreeper and Grey Wagtail in Bridgend woods, while at Glenpatrick over on Jura there were Sand Martins, 8 Yellowhammers, 6 Reed Buntings, Red-throated Diver, Shelduck and Golden Eagle.

I was up at Kilinallan in the afternoon where a flock of 80 Bar-tailed Godwits were noted on the rising tide.

Saturday 18 May 2024

Saturday 18th May

A grey and cooler start to the day, but brightness and sunshine prevailed by the afternoon.

The American Wigeon remains in situ at Cornabus. Otherwise, there was no news other than Linden finding a Whinchat at Loch Gorm.

Mary-Ann Featherstone sent in an encrypted message from Kildalton mentioning "SPBF on the wing". I make an educated guess that this is Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary butterfly, Such a long name to type out on Whatsapp - I'm sure I'd have done the same abbreviation!

Friday 17 May 2024

Friday 17th May

A hot sunny day with  gentle breeze - lovely weather!

Ed Burrell reports that his American Wigeon is still present at Cornabus, with David D. noting Spotted Flycatcher at Kinnabus (plus Narrow-bordered Bee Hawk Moth on The Oa). Sam Turnbull had a male Hen Harrier at Ballymartin and Mary-Ann Featherstone had 2 male Bullfinches at Seal Bay and a further pair at Kildalton Dower House.

Bird of the day undoubtedly goes to a report from Louise Muir of a Turtle Dove seen by her husband Gordon on Jura - an increasingly uncommon migrant nowadays. 

Thursday 16 May 2024

Thursday 16th May

A mostly sunny day with occasional very light smatterings of rain.

Apart from Ed Burrell confirming that the 2CY American Wigeon is still in residence on loch Cornabus, there was just one other bird report - this was from Martin Kaye still out at 9pm on Machir Bay where there were 15 Sanderlings.

Martin had been on Jura for much of the day where a pair of Hen Harriers near Feolin, a Golden Eagle and a male Whinchat near Loch Tarbert plus a total of 6 Cuckoos during the visit were noted. 

It is Martin and Carole Nelson's last day on Islay tomorrow and they comment they have had a great week. Thanks to both, and all visiting birders for contributing their records to the blog and the Argyll Bird Club database.

Wednesday 15 May 2024

Wednesday 15th May

A fairly pleasant sunny day deteriorated into grey and rain by early evening.

Ed Burrell reported that the "mystery Wigeon" was still lurking at Cornabus this morning, but no further news on unravelling what it definitely is. He also noted that he'd found the year's first Oystercatcher (photo below) and Curlew nests on his land there.

This morning Mandy H. sent in a note about an Osprey perched on a telegraph pole near loch Gorm eating a fish it had caught. Martin Kaye saw presumably the same bird in the same area at 5pm doing much the same thing (photo below). He also did the circuit around from Port Charlotte to Portnahaven and back via Kilchiaran in the morning finding up to 5 Cuckoos, Arctic Terns on McKenzie Island and a Golden Eagle at Kilchiaran.

I was down at the two RSPB hides at Gruinart in the afternoon, not seeing too much, though the whole area looks in very good shape and full of Lapwings with chicks wherever you look. A single Whooper Swan is still in residence. I obviously didn't look carefully enough as Linden K. found a Garganey there a little later. Going round the back of loch Gorm past Ballinaby this afternoon the fields there also look great for waders with nesting Lapwing, Redshank plus a group of at least 8 Ringed Plovers there along with a couple of Golden Plover and a Whimbrel.

Tuesday 14 May 2024

Tuesday 14th May

 Mostly grey and raining today.

Birding news centres around numerous folks reporting further Corn Crakes, Cuckoos and Common Terns (3 seen by David D. on Loch Kinnabus which is an unusual location for the species). Martin Kaye was watching Loch Indaal where there were plenty of Bar-tailed Godwits, and Knot (some in summer plumage), plus Red-breasted Mergansers and Sandwich Terns.

However, the main interest of the day is a bird seen by Ed Burrell on Loch Cornabus which may be an American/Eurasian Wigeon hybrid or a 2CY American Wigeon. Viewing this distant bird in the grey, rainy conditions was not the best, so no definite verdict is given yet, but something worth pursuing and sorting out tomorrow. 

Monday 13 May 2024

Monday 13th May

 A cloudy start turned into a rainy afternoon.

Mary Redman was the first person this year to mention Islay's midges! A late entry for last night talks of Corn Crake, several Grasshopper Warblers, Hen Harrier and over 1,000 midges at Claddach.

Another Corn Crake was heard yesterday afternoon by Steve and Lynn Rogers from the RSPB Gruinart Woodland Trail. 

Today, Martin Kaye had 13 roadside Whimbrel near Kilchoman and a range of birds up at Gruinart - White-tailed Eagle (photo below), 80 Bar-tailed Godwits, hundreds of Ringed Plover and Dunlin, then a Brent Goose on Loch Indaal later. In the same neck of the woods, Steven and Julia Garner noted 5 Great Northern Divers in breeding plumage between the old lobster and crab pens at Ardnave and Nave Island, plus 10 Chough.

Sunday 12 May 2024

Sunday 12th May

 Cloudier and breezier from the SE today, but still quite pleasant.

Further bird news from yesterday includes  a report from Steven and Julia Garner of a Corn Crake calling down at Portnahaven, and 20 Choughs and 65 Ringed Plovers seen by Martin Kaye at Machir Bay and Kilchoman. Visitor Chrissie Nicholson saw a Little Egret out on Orsay which flew over to the mainland at Port Wemyss - a much less usual area to find one on Islay.

Today James How had a high count of 1,285 Dunlin up at Gruinart along with 3+ Corn Crakes calling there and 3 Whooper Swans on the flats. David Wood was at the other end of the island at Claggain Bay where excellent viewing conditions produced  lots of divers - 15 Great Northern, 2 Red-throated and 1 Black-throated. On the RSPB Oa bird feeders, Martin Kaye photographed a colour-ringed Twite - presumably one of the birds previously ringed here. Martin also found 2 pairs of Common Scoter and a pair of Tufted Ducks on Loch Gorm.

Saturday 11 May 2024

Saturday 11th May

A bright, breezy, sunny day.

Gavin Walkingshaw sent in the following enthusiastic account of his birding on The Oa:

"A great early afternoon walk at the Oa. Cuckoo - close view, perched on tree. Whitethroat singing. Skylarks having dust-baths on the track. Twite - one carrying sheep wool. Twite with right leg rings of orange above yellow. Whinchat on fence post. Chough, two calling and flying near waterfall gully. Five Hoodies in tumbling flight near waterfall. Starling and swallow around Upper Killeyan . Calling Willow Warblers everywhere."

Elsewhere, birds of note include 4 Brent Geese seen by Gary T. at the top of Loch Indaal at Bridgend, a Spotted Flycatcher at Cornabus c/o Ed Burrell,  and a Magpie still lurking at Glenegedale, seen by Martin Armstrong's family, but a species still eluding him on Islay! Otherwise, plenty of reports of the, by now, regular summer arrivals established - singing, displaying and nesting.

My contribution is the sight of 2 Gannets very close in at Bruichladdich, diving in to feed just off the pier - the first I've noted feeding here this year so far.

Friday 10 May 2024

Thursday 9th May & Friday 10th May

Further pleasant weather on both days encouraged some birding across the island.

Yesterday Gavin Walkingshaw continued to enjoy his stay on Islay, which some of us who live here may, at times, take for granted:

"It is heartening to see and hear so many birds on this lovely island. Cuckoo calling at Cragabus and Kildalton. Red-throated Diver in bay by Port Ellen distillery. Lots to see at Claggain bay - Whimbrel, Common Sandpipers, Ringed Plover, Oystercatcher on nest on shingle, Common Tern, Wheatear, Black Guillemot and 5 Great Northern Divers fishing together in the bay. At Loch a Chnuic beyond Ardbeg there were lots of seals on the rocks. On Sunday we saw an otter in this bay. Heron, Common Tern, Red Breasted Mergansers, Common Sandpipers, about 20 Whimbrel and two Great Northern Divers fishing in the bay."

Mary Redman was finding further Mallard broods and Lapwing chicks down her way at Claddach, while David Dinsley found a Tree Pipit at Callumkill in the morning.

This morning, David Livingstone noted a flock of 40 Whimbrel on the links at the Machrie golf course and sent in a photo.

Fiona McGillivray is hearing Grasshopper Warblers down at the Rhinns Hall, Portnahaven, while Stuart Todd, resident there reports a Corn Crake calling between there and Port Wemyss over the last couple of days. Linden K. saw White-tailed Eagle and Whitethroat up at Gruinart.  

Magpies - a local rarity - have been seen today by Mary Redman over at Tormisdale and presumably a second bird at the Gaelic college.

Thursday 9 May 2024

Wednesday 8th May

A fine sunny day, with a light breeze and not too cold, though turning into light rain by the evening.

Gavin Walkingshaw clearly enjoyed his day birding: "Another great day for birds on Islay. A Red-throated Diver in Bowmore Harbour at 9.30 am. A flock of Bar tailed Godwit and a few Whimbrel with a flock of Knot (two in summer plumage) in the bay by the Gaelic Centre. An Arctic Tern in Portnahaven Harbour.  A beautiful Great Northern Diver in summer plumage fishing close to shore in the bay by Port Ellen Distillery at 4.30 pm."

Steven & Julia Garner watched 3 Whinchats, and a Grasshopper Warbler on the road down to The Oa where they saw 8 Twite on the feeders at the RSPB car park.

Mandy H. reports a Whitethroat singing at Carnduncan over the past couple of days and Mary Redman had Mallard with ducklings already out on Claddach loch.  (There were half-grown Lapwing chicks in the fields next to the car park at Machir Bay too). Up at Kilchoman, Margaret B. informs us that the Barn Owl has laid its second egg.

Tuesday 7 May 2024

Monday 6th & Tuesday 7th May

Lovely weather! Bright and sunny, a bit of a cool breeze on Monday, but a little warmer today.

Yesterday Hannah Stanger had 21 Whimbrel at Lagavulin, present for much of the day. Sam Turnbull reported Cuckoo at Ballygrant and David Dinsley had a Wood Sandpiper at Cornabus.

Today, Ed Burrell had seen the Wood Sandpiper still in situ at Cornabus where there was also the pair of Pintail and 5 Wigeon. Down at Claddach Mary Redman had a "lonely" Barnacle Goose flying over the loch. Visitor Gavin Walkingshaw was at Cragabus watching Cuckoos catching big caterpillars, then White-tailed Eagle at The Oa RSPB car park and 5 Ravens and several Wheatears  out at the American Monument. Up at Kilchoman, Margaret Brooke noted a Fulmar on the ledges for the first time this spring, while her Barn Owl nest has a first egg laid. Visitors Steven and Julia Garner ventured all the way to Rhuval and saw a couple of White-tailed Eagles up there.

Sunday 5 May 2024

Saturday 4th & Sunday 5th May

 Two cool, grey, fairly calm days with patchy mist and fog.

Yesterday Emily Garva noted 5 Arctic Terns out towards McKenzie Island where they will hopefully be breeding. Ed Burrell had a pair of Pintail on Loch Cornabus - that would be an exciting breeding record!.Over at Kildalton Mary-Ann Featherstone had one of the first Tree Pipits of the year for Islay and Jura. and also commented on a few lepidoptera on the wing - Orange-tip, Common Heath, Green Hairstreak and Green-veined White Butterflies and Emperor Moths.

The only bird news today also came from Mary-Ann who had a cuckoo at Glenegedale.

Friday 3 May 2024

Friday 3rd May

Sunny to start with, then a bit of cloud and rain in the afternoon, but still a fairly pleasant day.

More sightings of summer migrants across the island today. Cuckoos and Grasshopper Warblers here and there Sedge Warbler at Carnduncan a Whitethroat singing at Gruinart and a Corn Crake calling at Port Wemyss. Thanks to you all for sending in these records.

There was an impressive gathering of 55+ Eiders off Bruichladdich on a flat calm Loch Indaal this afternoon. and a count of 60 Bar-tailed Godwits at Gartnatra, Loch Indaal.

More impressive was a sighting of an Osprey by Gary T. up at the top of Loch Indaal near Bridgend. More impressive still was a count made by Linden of at least 147 Whimbrel at Rock Mountain. Typically spring passage involves much bigger numbers of birds than in autumn and numbers have been steadily increasing over the past 20 years. While it is difficult to assess true numbers passing through in any single day, as birds in smaller flocks move through and may all be different, this is the highest single count ever - the previous highest was 126 on Loch Indaal in 2017.

Thursday 2 May 2024

Thursday 2nd May

A lovely sunny spring day with a warm breeze from the east.

George Jackson emailed in with some sightings for Wednesday. His wife, Pat was up near Loch Allan, Dunlossit in the evening and heard the distinct ‘yaffling’ call of a Green Woodpecker that then gave a short, but clear view as it flew towards woodland NW of the loch. There are just 6 previous records, the last in 2010. George also notes ca.12 Shelducks on a recently cultivated field N of road, S of Ballygrant and ca. 25 Red-breasted Mergansers at Blackrock.

Bird news for today includes a Sedge Warbler at Kinnabus for David D. who later found an Osprey fishing at Laggan Bridge. Ed Burrell had a Whooper Swan at Loch Cornabus and Mary Redman enjoyed a "lovely chorus" of Whimbrel and Common Sandpipers at Currie Sands.

Other interesting bird news came in via Clive McKay and Steve Percival about some of our Barnacle Geese that have been radio-tagged. An Icelandic research group have plotted a number of Barnies returning to Iceland and have a website showing on a map some of their journeys. Most look like they take a good straight line directly NW, but one seemed to have misjudged, went past Iceland, circled about in the N. Atlantic, returned all the way back to Orkney and rested for 8 days before heading off again. At the other end of the scale, one Barnacle Goose made the crossing of some 900 km [560 mi] from the UK to Iceland in just seven hours - a heck of a speed, presumably with a good wind blowing up its backside to help it along!

You can look in more detail here:

Wednesday 1 May 2024

Wednesday 1st May

 After a slightly damp, grey start the day turned out warm, dry and sunny. 

The only bird news is of a couple of drake Garganey seen by Linden and James from the N. hide at RSPB Gruinart. A couple of Sandwich Terns were making a lot of noise flying up and down past here at Bruichladdich during the day and 6 or more Red-throated Divers were just offshore.

Ed Burrell and Malcolm O. saw their first Green-veined White Butterflies of the season at Cornabus and Bruichladdich respectively.

Tuesday 30 April 2024

Tuesday 30th April

A second day of grey skies and fairly continuous light rain with a south and south-easterly moderate breeze.

With the weather as it is, there were no bird records coming in today, though when I passed Port Charlotte today I stopped and made a brief count of the the number of nests in the rookery there. It is very active at present and it seems there are about 35 nests. In the past 10 years or so there have been up to 40-50 nests. If anyone has rookeries near them on Islay, do count nests and let me know so I can add this useful information to the Argyll database.

Monday 29 April 2024

Monday 29th April

The weather finally changed, with overcast skies and plenty of rain all day.

The only bird notes come from john Whittle who had an impressive count of 60+ Whimbrel on a field between Port Charlotte and Portnahaven.

Peter Gill & family are regular visitors and emailed with their sightings from their stay last week. They were particularly pleased with the great number and variety of raptors seen. Birding highlights included 4 White-tailed Eagles (all adults) at Loch Skerrols on 24th; 2 Merlins at Gruinart on 17th; 9 Long-tailed Ducks off Kintra including 3 gorgeous drakes, on 21st; Great Spotted Woodpeckers at Kildalton on 17th and Port Askaig on 23rd.

Sunday 28 April 2024

Sunday 28th April

Brilliant weather again, with warmer temperatures too. But still cold overnight and one or two odd, isolated and quite heavy icy showers for a short while in the morning.

I met up with Linden in the morning to go back to Laphraoig to look for the possible goshawk. we sat atop a hill with a view over the patches of mixed, mainly coniferous woodland for an hour or two and solved the mystery. A first view was of a pair of Accipiters incredibly high in the sky, one of which displayed and eventually plummeted down quite close to us in strange undulating display flight. It was all so quick that it was difficult to gauge size or see finer details of plumage colour. About 40 minutes later we saw them again, this time a very clear male Sparrowhawk emerged from the forest and went up high to display again with its much larger female mate - problem solved: only Sparrowhawks, but still a fine sight in the sunshine. While sat there we also heard Great Spotted Woodpecker and saw a fine male Crossbill.

Elsewhere today, David D. had Whimbrel, Sandwich Tern and singing Blackcap at Seal Bay and Mary Redman found 6 Golden Plover by her house down in the Portnahaven area for much of the day.

Over on Jura, Fiona McGillivray had a Short-eared Owl and a Green Hairstreak Butterfly near Feolin.

Saturday 27 April 2024

Saturday 27th April

The fine sunny weather continues with a gentle breeze and just a very light sprinkle of rain in the morning.

Mary-Ann Featherstone reported a likely adult Little Gull seen briefly on the beach at Port Ellen yesterday.

Today's main point of interest was a Goshawk displaying over Laphroaig, reported by Linden. Jim Dickson commented that it has been many years since there has been an acceptable record of this species for Islay, so hopefully this one will be seen again and pass muster.

Other interest today has been a Great Spotted Woodpecker noted drumming near Bridgend Hotel by John Whittle and a Short-eared Owl seen by Gary T. at Finlaggan. There were two reports of decent-sized flocks of Whimbrel: 30-40 at Claddach seen by Mary R. and a further 30 at Kintra seen by David D.

James How was up beyond Gortantaoid today and had the exciting sighting of a Minke Whale with calf.

Friday 26 April 2024

Friday 26th April

The glorious sunny, but chilly weather again today, with just a light breeze, though only a couple of bird notes for you:

Gary T. had our first Whitethroat of the year up near Ballygrant on the path to Dunlossit, while visitor John Whittle found our first Tree Pipit over at Ardlussa on Jura.

Linden from RSPB recorded a couple of Orange-tip butterflies at Crosshouses.

Thursday 25 April 2024

Thursday 25th April

The pleasant sunny weather continues, though still chilly and with a very light sprinkling of rain once or twice.

Down at Currie Sands Mary Redman saw 5 Choughs and at Claddach, a big flock of Whimbrel. Cuckoos are still being reported - Mary R. saw one near Portnahaven and Elliott Bowman took a video of one singing on wires, being closely watched by a potential host.

Butterflies and moths were being seen and notes sent in. Over at Kildalton and the nether regions of Islay, Mary-Ann Featherstone was seeing Speckled Woods, Green Hairstreak, Green-veined Whites, Peacock and showy Emperor Moths. David D. also saw Green Hairstreak  down on The Oa, from where he took this lovely photo of a newly arrived Whinchat.

Wednesday 24 April 2024

Wednesday 24th April

 Continuing blue skies, dry and sunny with a cold nip in the air.

David Dinsley was finding further summer migrants on The Oa: a Whinchat and Grasshopper Warblers at Kinnabus and Cuckoo at Glen Astle. At the other end of the island James How reports Cuckoo, Sedge Warble and "loads" of Sand Martins at Gruinart this morning and 31 Whimbrel at Saligo. Another group of 15 Whimbrel were flying about the fields around Bruichladdich later in the day.

John and Susan Kirkman (on holiday from Yorkshire), sent in some notes for 22nd April including a Dipper at Kilchiaran (always interesting to find one of these away from the River Sorn), 7 singing Willow Warblers just south of Port Charlotte and 4 Arctic and 2 Sandwich Terns at Portcharlotte,

Tuesday 23 April 2024

Tuesday 23rd April

Another lovely sunny day on Islay, even though still a bit of a light and chilly breeze.

A few more new migrants in today. Top of the bill was an Osprey seen by David D. on The Oa. Down at Smaull Lauren Stewart found Islay's first Whinchat of 2024. Elsewhere there were further reports of Cuckoos, Willow and Grasshopper Warblers. David W. saw 4 Manx Shearwaters on his ferry crossing and a couple of Arctic Terns in West Loch Tarbert. 

Monday 22 April 2024

Monday 22nd April

Another lovely sunny day, with a further trickle of new summer birds turning up. Ed Burrell had 10 Whimbrel pass through Cornabus and Linden had the first Sedge Warbler of the year on the floods at Gruinart. Mary-Ann Featherstone noticed a couple of Terns (presumably Arctic?) at Kildalton and a Blackcap was heard singing by David D. at Kinnabus early this morning. But spring is in full swing for some species, with James How noting the first Lapwing chicks at RSPB Gruinart. 

Visitor Joanna Dailey who had been on Islay back in February, sent in details of a colour-ringed Oystercatcher that she saw on her visit. It was a bird ringed as an adult near Dublin in July 2020 and seen in that area at times every year since. this was the first sighting away from Eire.

Sunday 21 April 2024

Sunday 21st April

 A very fine, dry day with sunshine and a good temperature - very summery.

Amongst the continuing reports of the usual and expected summer migrants such as Cuckoos, Blackcaps and Common Sandpipers, there were Grasshopper Warblers reported at Cornabus and Glen Astle on The Oa. There were a few other interesting sightings: Ed Burrell had a flock of Redwings at Cornabus and David D. noted Fieldfare on The Oa. It can't be long now before they are away for summer. Ed also had a total of 23 Black-tailed Godwits on Loch Cornabus, which is not a usual location for the species, especially in that number. More unusual still was a pair of Tree Sparrows seen by David D. at Kinnabus. This species appears very erratically on Islay, but did breed on The Oa in 2009.

Here at Bruichladdich there is Collared dove nest-building in the hedge around the garden and a small group of drake Mallards gathering on the sea, numbering 12 today. Presumably these are males that have bred and now left the females to do all the hard work. 

Saturday 20 April 2024

Saturday 20th April

A fine, dry, calm and sunny day, though not that warm.

People were reporting warblers all over the place today. Mandy h. had our first Grasshopper Warbler of the year singing at Carnduncan, with James How noting others at Sanaig. Later, Mary-Ann Featherstone had Grasshopper Warbler along with Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers over at Kildalton (she also sent in a note of Cuckoo there and at Ardbeg yesterday afternoon). 

David D. notes a report on the Islay Facebook page of Corn Crake calling at Portnahaven this morning, and 5 Common Sandpipers seen by him at Loch Kinnabus, with a first Whimbrel of the year at Ardtalla later - David wood notching up another 3 Whimbrel at Kildalton in the afternoon. 

Margaret Brooke had Cuckoos calling at Kilchoman where Swallows were back, as they were here at Bruichladdich prospecting outbuildings for nest sites.

Linden Kingston noted a flock of 23 Whooper Swans just landed in Kilnaughton Bay  at 5.20pm, and I had what is presumably the same group of 23 flying directly up Loch Indaal at 8pm this evening. I wonder if they were on their way to Iceland this evening or are going to rest up and head off tomorrow?

So, we have a good proportion of the summer migrants noted here now - just a few more species to arrive, hopefully along with some good warm weather.

Friday 19 April 2024

Thursday 18th & Friday 19th April

Yesterday's weather was awful - damp grey and rainy. So nobody went birding and there was nothing to report. Today was much nicer - dry, bright and sunny again, though still not much bird news to impart.

Mandy H. reported Willow Warbler singing at Carnduncan, Linden had a male Blackcap on the RSPB Gruinart  moorland trail and Ed Burrell had a White Wagtail at Cornabus. 

Non-avian news was another Emperor Moth on The Oa seen by David D.

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.