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

Sunday 21 January 2024

Friday 19th - Sunday 21st January

 Bulk entry tonight before the power goes out again. I write this as Storm Isha gets underway, going to be a blast by all accounts.

On Friday at RSPB Loch Gruinart a drake green-winged teal was reported, I've shamelessly copied the image from the Twitter....

The same day Dave Wood emailed through the following:  "As part of a BTO winter gull survey we carried out a co-ordinated count of roosting gulls on Loch Indaal and Loch Gruinart yesterday afternoon.


Combined totals were 


Common Gull 1173

Herring Gull 670

GBB Gull 25

B-h Gull 57

Glaucous Gull 1


Also at head of Loch Indaal a WTE and a Barn Owl."

On Saturday Dave had an other scan of Loch Indaal around lunchtime, finding 210 common scoter, 12 long-tailed tuck, 4 great-northern diver, 4 Slavonian grebes, 90 eider, 7 goldeneye and a first winter Glaucous gull.  

Mary-Ann reported a sparrow hawk at Kilnaughton.

At Tormisdale, Roy told me about 'his' barn owl pair in his outbuildings. The female is now so tolerant she sits and watches them coming and going to bring in firewood.

Thanks to all for your contributions.

Friday 19 January 2024

Weds 17th and Thursday 18th January

The cold spell continued with Wednesday seeing a nice covering of snow over the island. Even had enough for sledging after the kids didn't get to school. The perks of living down a track the council neglects to grit...and tar...

Back to birds, on Weds on the croft there were around 30 golden plover feeding in the fields, plus a notable increase of winter thrush. Mainly redwing, but some fieldfare and a mistle thrush at Ellister.  High overhead a WTE was visible, and in fact seen most mornings on the school run.

Andy on his last day reported Great northern and black throated divers at Kilnaugton bay, plus 8 whooper swan.  Thanks Andy for all your contributions.

Thursday - Steve reported otter on the rocks near his home. Off shore 2 merganser, a black guilliemot plus 2 WTE with what looked like a mallard. All off Emerivale.

For me, Thursday was a 'chough day' - 2 at Currie Sands, 2 at Nerebus, and 3 at Octofad.

Tuesday 16 January 2024

Monday 15 and Tuesday 16 January


 Beautiful image of a chough submitted by Phil following is stay last week. Many thanks.

Speaking of chough, the Portnahaven pair have been busy between the village and Currie Sands, making the daily trip to find their food.

Over on the WhatsApp group yesterday, Angharad reported a snow bunting at the Oa, possibly the same solitary bird I saw near the monument last Friday.  Andy meanwhile reported red-throated and great Northern divers off Uiskentui along with the Glaucous gull.

Today James located the red-breasted goose off Craigens.

It is a sharp, cold spell with snow on the Paps of Jura contributing to a real wind chill.  Some snow lay at Keills but the rest of the island stayed green.  One of the reasons the geese like us so much!

Sunday 14 January 2024

Sunday 14th January

The weather was mostly, grey, cold and drizzly at times - not as good as forecast.

I took a look from the two RSPB Gruinart hides this morning. the main birds of note being 4 Little Egrets and 110 Pintail - one of the higher counts of a species that has shown a steady increase in numbers over the past 20-30 years.

Saturday 13 January 2024

Saturday 13th January

 A cool, grey day, quite calm and mostly dry, but occasional drizzle.

Andy Sallabank watched from Blackrock at 4pm finding a few Red-breasted Mergansers a Red-throated Diver and 5 Long-tailed Duck. At Kildalton, Mary-Ann Featherstone had a couple of Tawny Owls calling. I was down at Port Charlotte and noticed the 4 Brent Geese still floating about close offshore - not the most obvious choice for them for a good feed?

Friday 12 January 2024

Friday 12th January

Cold, Greyer and damper, but still quite calm today. 

Andy Sallabank was up at Ardnave finding a Grey Plover and Purple Sandpipers, plus a Golden Eagle and a pair of Peregrines chasing the waders.

David Dinsley checked Kilnaughton Bay at Port Ellen where he found 11 Whooper Swans and a drake Gadwall (plus an Otter).

Here at Bruichladdich I noticed that the Black Guillemots are beginning to investigate their usual nest sites in the pier - spring is in the air!

Thursday 11 January 2024

Wednesday 10th & Thursday 11th January

Not much coming in on the birding front in the last two days, though the weather has continued pleasantly, dry, sunny and cold.

I wandered out to Lochs Ballygrant and Lossit yesterday morning. The trail around Ballygrant was flooded and impassable and apart from 2 Little Grebes and 6 Tufted Ducks there wasn't a lot happening. At Loch Lossit there was a pair of Goldeneye and a Great Spotted Woodpecker.

The only news today is from Val Peacock who saw 4 Brent Geese down at Port Charlotte.

Further reports came in for a late evening update:

George Jackson was up at Loch Skerrols at lunchtime and saw a probable male Goosander. Visitor Andy Sallabank was at Gruinart enjoying the geese and waders and finding a nice selcteion of raptors - Sparrowhawk, Buzzard, Hen Harrier and a White-tailed Eagle harassing the geese. A little later up at Ardnave he found a Golden Eagle and 18 Whooper Swans on the loch.

Tuesday 9 January 2024

Tuesday 9th January

Very chilly, but dry, sunny and slightly breezy.

Mary Redman reports a White-tailed Eagle at Portnahaven this morning. There are seemingly plenty of them about, spread right across the island. She also had a couple of Choughs at Currie Sands and a male Hen Harrier at Octofad this afternoon.

Monday 8 January 2024

Monday 8th January

Further pleasant, dry and sunny weather with a light breeze, but nobody out birding, though I did notice our resident Glaucous Gull at Uiskentuie as I drove past at lunchtime.

Reports of our White-tailed Eagles came in for yesterday: 2 at Kildalton and another 2 in the Port Wemyss/Portnahaven area.

Sunday 7 January 2024

Sunday 7th January

At last - some glorious winter weather. A high pressure system now sits, unmoving, over the UK providing dry, sunny and calm conditions with frost and blue skies, which promise to last for much of the next week.

A walk along the shore of Loch Indaal from Ronnachmore, south of Bowmore, to Gartbreck in the middle of the day was very pleasant. flat calm seas and lovely light allowed for some splendid views of all the usual wintering wildfowl and waders. Most notable were a couple of Greenshanks, 3 Grey Plovers, 60+ Turnstones, and 120 Eiders. 

On the return to Bruichladdich, a quick stop at Uiskentuie confirmed that Gladys the Glaucous Gull was alive and well, seen floating passively among a small group of fishing Red-breasted Mergansers - presumably hoping that one might surface with food it could steal?

Saturday 6 January 2024

Saturday 6th January

Fairly calm, with plenty of sunshine with showers between.

With our visiting birders gone there was an eerie silence, with no emails or WhatsApp messages coming in except for a report of a Tawny Owl over at Kildalton from Mary-Ann Featherstone.

I did go out, taking a walk from Kilchiaran up to the Dun Chroisprig overlooking Machir Bay. A couple of White-tailed Eagles overhead and a Grey Wagtail in the stream at Kilchiaran was all I could muster.

Friday 5 January 2024

Friday 5th January

Rainy to start, but brightening a bit to be fairly sunny, dry and calm by the afternoon.

Kevin McCormick sent in the following on his last day on Islay: "After the heavy rain this morning I didn't go far initially and watched the birds on the rising tide of Loch Indaal near Bridgend. I disturbed 2 Snipe on the way to my vantage point and then counted 34 light-bellied Brent Geese among the Wigeon. I had 3 Bar-tailed Godwits among the Oystercatchers before they were joined by what became 120+ group of Dunlin and a couple of Ringed Plover. On the Loch were two pairs of Long-tailed Duck, Goldeneye, Red-breasted Merganser, 4 Slavonian Grebe, and a couple each of Great Northern and Red-throated Divers. We then went down to the Mull of Oa. The light was fantastic (and it stayed dry) but there was not much birdlife around. I did see one male Hen Harrier. We also saw a few of the wild goats including one that can't have been more than a few days old. Our highlight of the day though were the two Barn Owls we saw from the car around 4.30pm - one perched, one flying and both seen from the main road from Bowmore, perhaps just half a mile before Bridgend.

Heading back home tomorrow but a wonderful trip as ever (if too short). It is so good to have the website and access to the WhatsApp group. Thanks to all involved and look forward to the next trip".

Phil Edwards was on the ferry back to the mainland today, and by the sound of it it wasn't the most exciting time of his life!: "The ferry journey was probably the most boring I have made.  After 2 GND on the edge of Port Ellen Bay, there were no birds save one Common Gull until just off the mainland coast where a Black Guillemot and a Black-throated Diver were present.  Should you be interested in West Loch Tarbert, there was a WTE on the rocks at the mouth and 2 Red-throated Divers halfway up.


So that’s it.  Many thanks for the blog which I read all year and am grateful to have been able to contribute to.  Possibly not back for Xmas 2024, but should be for 2025.  I wish all Islay birders a very happy and productive New Year."

Thursday 4 January 2024

Thursday 4th January

Further mixed weather of sunny spells and rain which didn't stop our visiting birders from getting into the field.

Kevin McCormick clocked the young Glaucous Gull at Uiskentuie - it must be super-glued to the beach?

He also added: "The day got off to a good start with a distant White-tailed Eagle on the rocky bits on Loch Indaal near Bridgend. Great light at RSPB Loch Gruinart as the sun came out later in the morning and after watching the geese on the flats, I spent some time at the viewing platform and in one of the hides watching the Pintail, Whooper Swans, Curlew, Shoveler, Lapwings and Teal. A Buzzard was the only bird of prey I saw. Walked out to Ardnave point with the family later, seeing two White-tailed Eagles over on Nave Island. There was a Great Northern Diver in the channel too. We saw 8 Chough on the way back in the rain. Driving back along the Ardnave road with the sun out again we had a brief view of a Merlin and a male Hen Harrier too. Another great day on the island".

It was Phil Edwards' last day on Islay and spent it up and around Ardnave: "There were 14 ad and 4 imm Whooper Swans on Ardnave Loch with 3m Goldeneye.  We walked a short way up the western side to have lunch after which the heavy rain showers cut short any further progress, but the sun was lovely while it lasted.  We had c. 60 Sanderling, 14 Purple Sandpipers, 5 Turnstone, 4 Bar-tailed Godwits, 4 Ringed Plovers, c. 30 Curlew, c. 40 Oystercatchers, 12 Grey Plovers and c. 60 Common Gulls.  Two Chough were around the beach".

More of his super photos below - and a huge thanks to him for his records and accompanying photos while he has been here.

Wednesday 3 January 2024

Wednesday 3rd January

Yet another fairly grey and rainy day, with just a couple of visiting birders doing the rounds:

Phil Edwards reports thus: "Rain and wind meant another lazy morning, but when we opened the bedroom blinds around 10.00 there were two Golden Eagles hanging over the hill at Smaull, close to the cottage.  Nice start! We finally made a move at midday and had lunch in the South Hide at the RSPB reserve where a male Peregrine was playing havoc with the waders – some 1,200+ Lapwing, 1,500+ Golden Plover, and 60 Ringed Plover being airborne at once.  Also c.400 Common Gulls which is the most I have ever seen.  Also present among the ducks were 2 ad 4 imm Whooper Swans, 2 Little Egrets and three Roe Deer.  We had just left the hide when all the ducks and previously unseen geese flushed and of course a White-tailed Eagle was flying close by!  Rushed back into the hide where we were able to watch it be joined by a second bird and both then engaged in three bouts of talon-grappling – very nice.  From there we headed to Machir Bay and while on the way encountered two Golden Eagles over Sunderland Farm on the south shore of Loch Gorm – presumed to be the same pair we had seen first thing this morning.  Having braved heavy rain while walking Machir Bay at sunset, we had two Chough and then unexpectedly encountered the 2CY Glaucous Gull standing on the northern end of the beach with 3 GBBG, c.60 Common Gulls, and 47 Oystercatchers.It flew off around the headland heading for Saligo Bay".

Kevin McCormick, newly arrived, sent in his first report: "First I was in Bowmore and had the scope out across Loch Indaal. Nice close in views of a pair of Long-tailed Duck, male Goldeneye and a Great Northern Diver. A Kingfisher by the distillery rocks too. Further out, a small raft of Eider, a larger raft of Common Scoter (150+ birds) plus 4 Scaup, 3 Slav Grebes, a few Black Guillemot and several pairs of Red-breasted Merganser. At Carnain I had a sparrowhawk - plus at least 13 light-bellied Brent Geese in with Shelduck. Over at Machir Bay/ Kilchoman - 1 Golden Eagle + 2 Raven, a Buzzard and 32 Ringed Plover".

His Kingfisher is the first for a while, and in a slightly different location as most are seen up at Bridgend where the River Sorn flows into Loch Indaal.

Tuesday 2 January 2024

Tuesday 2nd January

The weather went back to damp and dreary for much of the time as portrayed by Phil Edwards:

"A quieter and slower day today.  Woke to wind and rain again and thought there’s only so much bad weather a birding holiday can take, so turned over and went back to sleep.  When we did venture forth at c. 11.30 things were a bit brighter and there were plenty of geese at Ballinaby.  Glenda (why Glenda?) was still absent from Uiskentuie but there were 2m and 1f Eider offshore.  We stopped at various points around the top of Loch Indaal but our main focus was to try and see Calum’s Scaup at Bowmore.  We caught up with six of them (2m, 2 imm m, 2f) in a raft of 178 Common Scoter with 4 Slavonian Grebes also present.  There were 6m Goldeneye around, one close into shore (photo), with 5m and 3f Red-breasted Merganser and three Great Northern Diver.  A flock of c. 100 Dunlin flew south over the Loch.  We also walked out to the end of Bowmore Pier where a GND was in close (photo) and a Rock Pipit was foraging on the fishing boats (photo).  We checked out Loch Skerrols where there were 15 Tufties and a female Goldeneye; then to the Woollen Mill where there were 1m 1f Siskin, but a walk in the woods produced nothing but a Woodpigeon."

Other bird news came from Clive McKay who diligently counted Bar-tailed Godwits roosting at high tide along the western shores of Loch Gruinart. He was understandably surprised to arrive at a figure of 970. This is the highest count ever (there was a count of 650 in 2017, then 863 on the recent WeBS count on 15th December 2023).

(It is also noteworthy that Phil's Spotted Redshank seen yesterday was a very good find as Jim Dickson informs us that there were none seen in Argyll at all in 2023).

Monday 1 January 2024

Monday 1st January

Another year starts and it begins with some much appreciated nicer weather - fairly calm, dry and sunny for much of the day.

Mary Redman and Sam Turnbull sent in notes for final birds of 2023, having seen a rather out of season Gannet at Currie Sands and Barn Owls at Ballimartin and Newton yesterday.

Starting off 2024, was Calum Scott with the first distant sighting of Glenda the Glaucous Gull near Bridgend, plus 8 Scaup at Bowmore. Later, Calum noted a single Pink-footed Goose on Gruinart Flats while searching in vain for the RB Goose, then a Barn Owl hunting near Uiskentuie in the failing light.

A non-avian note from Clive McKay who had a group of c. 8 Bottle-nosed Dolphins off Ardnave Point - an Islay lifer for him. Below is his record shot of them vey close inshore amid the breaking waves (they are the little black streaks!).

Shona-Isla saw 10 festive Choughs at 2nd hole of Machrie Golf Course - not often seen in that area, and especially playing golf!

I took a walk at Loch Skerrols in the afternoon sunshine, but there was nothing too exciting there - just 14 Tufted Duck and a pair of Goldeneye.

Phil Edwards spent the day birding and gives us this enthusiastic account:

"New Year’s Day caught us out since it dawned surprisingly sunny when the forecast had been for rain. Sadly, despite the nice weather, things failed to go well during the morning – few geese at Gruinart Flats; no Glaucous Gull at Uiskentuie; and no birds at all at Finlaggan let alone a Snow Bunting or Crossbills as reported a little time back.  So at midday we opted to do yesterday’s aborted walk to Killinallan Point which changed our luck around.  On arrival we had an immature female Peregrine repeatedly stooping at a Raven which had been giving it some grief beforehand.  As we walked down from the farmhouse we happened upon a lovely flock of c. 40 Twite which allowed me to get close enough for some photos.  Out at the Point while having a late lunch, there were 14 Ringed Plovers on the beach and we watched two White-tailed Eagles soaring over Nave Island and Ardnave Point.  Other birds present included one Greenshank, one Great Northern Diver, 14 Reed Bunting, and three Stonechats.  On the way back along the eastern side of Loch Gruinart we had a male Peregrine, and then bird of the day in the shape of a Spotted Redshank feeding with two Greenshanks and three Redshanks in the shallows.  Also present were two female Goldeneye, two pairs of Red-breasted Merganser, six Turnstones, uncounted Bar-tailed Godwits, Curlews, Wigeon, Teal and Mallard, two Shelduck, and c. 200 Rooks.  We finished the day with around 20,000 Barnacle Goose first all along the mud in the loch and then on the grass of the flats before they were spooked by something and rose into the air calling loudly and flying away.  Not a bad start to 2024."

The Spotted Redshank is a good find - only 4 previous November records, one in December and none previously in January.

Here are Phil's photos of New Year Twite: