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

 Saturday 16th 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

 Friday 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 21st 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.