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).