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Isle of Islay


1-6 November 2007


F. Simpson & Ayrshire SOC Touring




Islay, located off the west coast of Scotland, is probably the best place to watch wild geese in the British Isles. Not just because of the numbers involved but due to the remote and beautiful setting. The island certainly holds most of the entire wintering Greenland population of Barnacle Geese. Driving or cycling almost any of the main roads can feel at times like you are on a 'goose safari'. It is all too easy to become blas about them as you search for Islay's other great birds such Chough, raptors and divers. And don't forget the Greenland White-fronted Geese!


I was lucky enough to be bird leader on a recent trip to Islay with SOC Touring arranged by Tony and Gerda Scott of the Ayrshire branch. Having been to the island seven times before I was keen to go back following my last visit in 1998. Next time I wont leave it so long!


Islay has a special magic which can be hard to pin down but 50,000 wild geese, Golden Eagle, Chough, Otter, the diverse landscapes, and the Hebridean air are certainly some of the constituents behind it. We stayed in Bridgend, an ideal location for watching the crepuscular arrival and departure of thousands of Barnacle Geese to and from their roosting sites at the head of Loch Indaal. The sight and sound of flights of wild geese over the island imparts a true sense of wilderness and it was real pleasure to be miles from London for a change! The six day trip notched up 109 species of birds (106 personally), as well as Otter, Red Deer, Roe Deer, Fallow Deer, Wild Goat, Grey Seal, Common Seal and Pipistrelle Bat following exploration of Loch Gruinart, Loch Indaal, Ardnave Point, Machir Bay, The Oa, Kildalton and Claggain Bay.


And of course we found time to visit the Bruichladdich and Ardbeg distilleries, and sample a fair few of the Islay Real Ales (Saligo seems to be the favourite)! Thanks to Tony and Gerda for organising a marvellous trip and all the participants who helped to make it a thoroughly enjoyable holiday.





White-tailed Eagle, Golden Eagle, Hen Harrier, Merlin, Peregrine, Chough, Snow Bunting, Twite, Great Northern Diver, Black-throated Diver, Red-throated Diver, Barnacle Goose, Greenland White-fronted Goose, Brent Goose, hutchinsii Canada Goose, Scaup, Common Scoter, Whooper Swan, Pintail, Hooded Crow, Arctic Tern & Otter.





SOC Ayrshire Touring

The SOC Ayrshire: Touring section

Tony & Gerda Scott, 4 Hilltop Place, Ayr, KA7 3PB  e-mail: [click SOC Touring on the menu bar]



Luxury mini-coach overland

Caledonian MacBrayne ferry from Kennacraig to Port Askaig.


Bridgend Hotel


OS Explorer 353 Islay North 1:25 000

OS Explorer 352 Islay South 1:25 000





01.      Ogilvie, M. 2003. The Birds of Islay (Including When and Where to Find Them). Lochindaal Press.

02.      Ogilvie, M. 1992. The Birds of Islay (Including When and Where to Find Them). Lochindaal Press.

03.      Elliott, R.E. 1989. Birds of Islay. Helm.





     Islay Birds Blog

     The Oa RSPB Reserve

     Loch Gruinart RPSB Reserve
The Hebridean Islands of Islay and Jura

     Malcolm Ogilvie - Islay Expert and Local Recorder

     Islay Info

     The Islay Directory

     Armin Grewe's Islay Site

     Caledonian MacBrayne Ferries





Day 01       01/11/07     Kilmarnock > Tyndrum > Inveraray > Tarbert > Kennacraig > Port Askaig > Bridgend

Day 02       02/11/07     Bridgend > Loch Indaal > Loch Gruinart > Bowmore harbour > Bruichladdich

Day 03       03/11/07     Loch Gruinart > Ardnave Loch > Ardnave Point > Port Charlotte > Machir Bay > Bridgend Merse

Day 04       04/11/07     The Low Road > The Oa > Upper Killeyan > Port Ellen > Kildalton > Claggain Bay

Day 05       05/11/07     Loch Indaal > Carraig Dhubh, Loch Gruinart > Bowmore harbour > Bridgend Woods & Merse

Day 06       06/11/07     Bridgend > The High Road > Kilnaughton Bay > Ardbeg Disitillery > Port Askaig > Ferry home


Snow Bunting, Ardnave  2007 Fraser Simpson




  Map of sites visited on Islay  2007 Fraser Simpson




Day 1
Thursday 1 November 2007
Kilmarnock > Tyndrum > Inveraray > Tarbert > Kennacraig > Port Askaig > Ballygrant > Bridgend > Loch Indaal

Continuous rain or heavy showers for most of the day


 Loch Indaal  2007 Fraser Simpson


Most of the party of SOC members departed from Ayr, picking me, then Ingrid up in Kilmarnock at 0610h, Robin in Kilmaurs and Edna in Ardrossan before leaving Ayrshire for the journey north, then south - such is the nature of the geography of Kintyre. Our destination was Kennacraig in West Loch Tarbert for the 1300h ferry to Port Askaig on the Isle of Islay. Heavy rain for most of the journey.


Noted on the drive though mainland Argyll
The A83 was closed due a massive landslide which meant a longer detour north to Tyndrum. Species noted in the rain: Buzzard, Grey Heron, Hooded Crow, Raven, Kestrel, Canada Goose, Mallard and Carrion Crow.


Tarbert harbour, Argyll
Some of the party went for a coffee while I had a look around Tarbert harbour for white-winged gulls in the rain. Most interesting were two hybrid Carrion x Hooded Crows that were probably F2 or backcross birds. Other species observed: Little Grebe (2), Grey Wagtail, Redshank (2), Oystercatcher (10+), Curlew (2), Eider (20+), Herring Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Black-headed Gull and Linnet (2).


Ferry from Kennacraig, West Loch Tarbert >  Sound of Islay > Port Askaig, Isle of Islay
The rain eased and the sky brightened... slightly. None of us though were keen to stay on deck so we watched for birds from the comfort of the lounge while enjoying our first Islay Ales. The ferry passed three, very close, Great Northern Divers in West Loch Tarbert. More divers were present more distantly though only four were positively identified as Black-throated Divers. Single Guillemot and Razorbill were noted as well a few Kittiwakes. Small groups of less than 20 Eiders were seen and large numbers of Cormorants were gathered on rock ledges on the outskirts of the loch. Things went quiet on the open sea until we reached the Sound of Islay when Robin Turner observed a flock of five Long-tailed Ducks passing the ferry. Shag were fairly numerous in the Sound.


Port Askaig, Islay > Ballygrant > Bridgend Hotel
Arriving on Islay we were soon in the minibus and checking every passing field for grazing geese along the road to Bridgend. The weather was pretty dreich but we encountered the first wild Greenland geese between Ballygrant and Bridgend with at least 1000 Barnacle Geese in three dense flocks. Also 500+ Rooks foraging in similar pasture.


Bridgend Hotel [NR 337624] > Bridgend Merse & Loch Indaal [NR 330620]
After unpacking in the very welcoming and comfortable Bridgend Hotel, some of us walked down to Loch Indaal along the footpath. The darkening, grey sky looked flat and featureless until the first skeins of geese arrived from the north. Then with flocks of all sizes whiffling down from various heights, the sky took on a new perspective. The Barnacles continued to yelp long after touching down on their muddy roosting sites. Around 2500-3000 Barnacles arrived from the north-east with most birds landing in front of us very close to the road - spectacular even in the drizzle. Species noted: Redwing (3), Chaffinch, Robin, Wren, Blackbird, Herring Gull, Curlew, Redshank, Shoveler, Oystercatcher, Pheasant, Mallard, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Song Thrush, Starling and Blue Tit. A flock of c150 Jackdaws went to roost over Bridgend Woods. The drizzle soon began to turn to light rain and we headed back to Bridgend Hotel for dinner and enjoyed the first of some fine food.




Day 2
Friday 2 November 2007
Bridgend Hotel > Bridgend Merse/Loch Indaal > Blackrock > Lyrabus > Gruinart Flats > Aoradh, Loch Gruinart RSPB Nature Reserve > Bowmore harbour/Loch Indaal > Bruichladdich

Cloudy to overcast, little wind & very mild 16C


 Loch Gruinart  2007 Fraser Simpson


Bridgend Hotel, Bridgend [NR 337624]
I woke up just before seven this morning and on opening the window I could hear the geese! Barnacle Geese, already leaving their roost site, flying inland to feeding sites. More musical notes revealed a small party of Greenland White-fronted Geese as well.


Bridgend Merse & Trigh Cill an Rubha, Loch Indaal [NR 330620]
After breakfast we began with a short trip down from the hotel where the A846 from Port Askaig suddenly sweeps to the left on reaching Loch Indaal, revealing an extensive landscape of mud, merse, water and sky.

Hundreds of 'Greenland' Barnacle Geese were still present on the mudflats and two small race, probably Richardson's (hutchinsii) Canada Geese and at least four Brent Geese were soon found. Sifting through the waders and wildfowl revealed Pintail (c18), Golden Plover (300+), Grey Plover (1), Bar-tailed Godwit (10+), Whooper Swan (12; 2 x b/4), a raft of c250 Scaup near the tideline along with Curlew, Oystercatcher, Dunlin, Ringed Plover, Turnstone, Mallard, Teal, Wigeon and the first of many Ravens on this trip.


Gruinart Flats area from B8013 [NR 291665]

Heading up towards the Loch Gruinart area we first stopped near Gruinart Flats at the derelict building just east of Loch Gruinart House, remaining in the bus to observe the first groups of thousands of Barnacle Geese. Three groups of Red-legged Partridge (including a covey of seven) were noted along the road past the small, wind-sculpted woodland at Coullabus Plantation. White-fronted Geese were present in small numbers with many apparently still to arrive from their staging post in Iceland. A group of 50 birds were noted here. A female/immature Hen Harrier was glimpsed by just one member of the party so we pulled into one of the lay-bys along the single track road for a better look around. Species noted: a distant Peregrine, Skylark (8 overhead), Redwing (10+), Buzzard (4+) and more flocks of Redwing and Chaffinch along Gruinart Belt. 'Wild-type' Rock Doves passing.


Aoradh, Loch Gruinart RPSB Nature Reserve [NR 275672]

Two members managed to observe a female Merlin zipping past, flushing everything in its path. Small numbers of Greenfinch and Chaffinch around the feeding station at the visitor centre and a group of Collared Doves (9) resting up in the trees around the farm buildings.


The hide, Loch Gruinart [NR 278674]

Since I was last here in the late winter of 1998, a new hide has been constructed much closer to the wetlands at the head of Loch Gruinart and the views are much improved. We searched for the Green-winged Teal amongst the 400 or so Eurasian Teal, though most of them were roosting, inactive or generally obscured in juncus marshes. Species noted included: Whooper Swan (20+), Pintail (20+), Shoveler (10+), Lapwing (100+), Bar-tailed Godwit (2), Brent Goose (flock of 17 north), Barnacle Goose, White-fronted Goose, Greylag Goose, Mallard, and Wigeon. The cattle feeding point to the left of the hide was scoured for Chough though only Hooded Crow, Rook and Jackdaw were found. Highlight was the white wing-tagged, juvenile White-tailed Eagle that flew down the eastern side of Loch Gruinart. Perhaps it had just arrived from Mull or further north as we had heard of no recent sightings. It settled in a rough field at NR 297683 for a while but was not seen to depart. Returning to the visitor centre, a Coal Tit was observed foraging in the gorse bushes.


Bowmore harbour/pier, Loch Indaal [NR 310600]

We went to Bowmore (Peregrine over near the generating station) for lunch with the party splitting up to try various eateries. I went to the harbour to 'scope for divers and seaduck on Loch Indaal. A 1st-winter Red-throated Diver was present just 40 metres off the pier but soon moved further out. Two Great Northern Divers were found, one retaining a fair amount of breeding plumage. A lone, male Common Scoter hung around briefly then departed, perhaps to join the rest of the flock somewhere out there on this huge sea loch. A 1000+ Barnacle Geese were in the sky between Bowmore and the Laggan Point area, possibly flushed by the air ambulance which came in. I later met a couple a couple birders who had heard that an eagle had disturbed them and they had seen a Long-tailed Duck in the harbour the previous day. Also noted: Red-breasted Merganser (10+, Turnstone (1 + 2 flew past), Shag (5), Rock Pipit (2), Mute Swan (8), Black-headed Gull, Herring Gull, Common Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull and Great Black-backed Gull. Starling, House Sparrow and Pied Wagtail were present in the streets and gardens of Bowmore.


Bridgend Hotel [NR 337624]
Pied Wagtail (2) on the bowling green, Collared Dove, Greenfinch (5+) and six Rabbits enjoying a Buzzard-free moment. When I used visit in the 1990's, Buzzard were frequent, but, like elsewhere, they are everywhere in good numbers now.


Bridgend > Bruichladdich

Hundreds of Barnacles and around 30 Greylags in the north-western corner of the merse at NR 324628. Also various wildfowl and waders glanced here as the bus passed by. Peregrine racing along the coast near the promontory just west of Blackrock and which we managed to pick up from the bus again just further along near Uiskentuie. Brent Goose (7) feeding in the bay at Glenburn House/Blackrock (NR304628).


Bruichladdich [NR 267613]
We stopped here to search for Purple Sandpipers, finding four with seven Turnstone. We were actually just outside Malcolm Ogilvie's house and he came out to chat with us. A very late adult Arctic Tern then appeared in the bay. Also Rock Pipit (3) feeding amongst the seaweed and two Great Northern Diver catching flat fish offshore. We then visited the Bruichladdich distillery after which there was not much good daylight remaining.




Day 3
Saturday 3 November 2007
Bridgend Hotel > Bridgend Merse/Loch Indaal > Blackrock > Lyrabus > Loch Gruinart > Kilnave > Ardnave Loch > Ardnave Point > Loch Gorm > Port Charlotte > Loch Gorm > Kilchoman/Machir Bay > Bridgend Merse/Loch Indaal

Mostly cloudy though some sun breaking through late afternoon, winds picking up & noticeably cooler today around 10C


 Machir Bay  2007 Fraser Simpson


Bridgend > Loch Gruinart
Moorhen noted on a small pool in the merse grassland.  Peregrine again today near Blackrock.


Aoradh > Kilnave > Ardnave Loch
Large numbers of Barnacle Geese with small groups of White-fronts. Flock of Fieldfares (12) and Goldfinch noted.


Ardnave Loch [NR 284727]
Stopped and scanned the loch for duck and grebes. Scaup (f), Pochard (m), Goldeneye (6 ff + 1st-w male), Tufted Duck (c10), Teal (30), Little Grebe (3-4), Whooper Swan (2), Greylag Goose (c60), Barnacle Goose (c200), Mute Swan (1) and Raven (2).


Ardnave Loch > Cnoc na Faire, Ardnave Point [NR 292747]
Walked to Ardnave Point through the dunes and winter-grazed grassland. There were good numbers of Twite with several flocks amounting to at least 80 birds. The first Chough, a pair, were observed just north of the loch. No flocks were located but another two or three pairs were seen between the loch and the point. Ravens common in the area with at least 11 birds noted. Also at least six Buzzards. Whooper Swan (3) flew south-west. Shag (16) on a sandbar in Loch Gruinart. A few Meadow Pipits passing over. Close to the gravestone surrounded by railings, four Snow Buntings were flushed. Two later returned, providing stunning views for everyone at close range. Rock Pipit (2) on the railings. Peregrine 'scoped sitting near the trig point on Nave Island. At least seven Skylarks feeding in longer grassland. A black-morph Rabbit was also observed in the dunes.


Back at Ardnave Loch [NR 283724]
More geese had since appeared at the southern end of the loch with over 600 Barnacle Geese and 160 White-fronted Geese. Kestrel (1).


Port Lag na Trghdh, Port Charlotte [NR 254584]
Driving to Port Charlotte for lunch, another Peregrine was observed between the villages of Bruichladdich and Port Charlotte. The party split up between the Croft Kitchen and the Port Charlotte Hotel. A Grey Heron was found feeding in a very small, wooded burn running into the village. Noted in the bay: Great Northern Diver (1), Red-throated Diver (1), Black-throated Diver (1), and yesterday's Arctic Tern! Also Guillemot, Great Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull and Stonechat noted.


Loch Gorm: Sunderland Farm > Rockside Farm area [NR 2364/NR 2264]
Several small groups of White-fronted Geese including one with 200+ birds. A ringtail Hen Harrier was hunting the rough ground between Loch Gorm and the single track road before crossing over to a stubble field where it made a quick dive-bomb at a Buzzard on a post. The fourth Peregrine of the day was observed between Loch Gorm and Machir Bay.


Machir Bay [NR 205633]
Snipe (1) flushed from wet ground along the stream by one member of the party. This spectacular bay was windy with few birds. No one seemed to mind. The location is superb and the sun (rare on this trip) briefly broke through. Ringed Plover (19), Turnstone (12), Oystercatcher (11) and Common Gull (51). Back in the dunes below Kilchoman fours separate pairs of Chough were observed flying inland (perhaps to a roost site) over a fifteen minute period in the late afternoon. Another was observed feeding in short turf, its left leg bearing a blue ring and its right leg a lime-green ring over a dark-coloured ring.


Bridgend Merse & Traigh Cill an Rubha, Loch Indaal [NR 330620]
Walked down from the hotel after arriving back before dusk. Bar-tailed Godwit (24+). Whooper Swan (22). There was a reasonably nice sunset over Loch Indaal and Beinn Tart a'Mhill. Hundreds of Barnacle Geese arriving from the north, north-east and south after 1650h. Pipistrelle Bat fluttering around after dark. The mud and water was dotted with numerous wader and wildfowl, most rapidly becoming unidentifiable in the fading light.




Day 4
Sunday 4 November 2007
Bridgend Hotel > Bowmore > The Low Road > The Oa > Upper Killeyan > Mull of Oa > American Monument > Port Ellen > Kildalton Church > Claggain Bay > Port Ellen > Bowmore

Overcast,  no sun, light winds


 Mull of Oa  2007 Fraser Simpson


Bridgend Hotel > Bowmore > The Low Road
Brent Goose (4) and a male Goldeneye noted on Loch Indaal between Bridgend and Bowmore. Many flocks of Barnacle and White-fronted Geese observed, particularly in farmland just south of Bowmore.


The Oa > Upper Killeyan [NR 282423] > Mull of Oa [NR 270416]

A flock of c200 Barnacles and c100 Whitefronts were noted in the Cragabus area. In contrast to yesterday's smooth, soft topography of Ardnave dunes, 'rugged' was a good description of our cliffside views on the Oa today. We scanned the hills and cliffs around the Mull of Oa for eagles, finding only Peregrine and Kestrel. A number of feral/wild Goats were seen, some completely pale like Sheep. Species noted: Hen Harrier (1-2 ringtails), Peregrine (m + f), Kestrel (m), Gannet (2 ads SW), Raven (2), Buzzard (4), Starling (110) including one mimicking a Wigeon's 'whistle', Fieldfare (60+), Hooded Crow (3), Redwing (c20), Meadow Pipit, Stonechat (2), Wren (3), Skylark, and Robin. A Jack Snipe was also flushed though seen only by Mary and Keith. Later a 1st-winter male Hen Harrier was observed hunting over a red moss/bog. It made a playful dive for a perched Buzzard which flew up, only to be buzzed from above by a Peregrine!


Upper Killeyan > Port Ellen
On the drive back to Port Ellen, 10 Stonechats were noted along the length of the single track road, mainly on roadside fence posts. A small charm of seven Goldfinches bounced in front of the bus. Several small flocks of Redwings and Fieldfares were noted. Also Buzzard (2), Hooded Crow, Rook, and Jackdaw, particularly around the farm buildings. A flock of c400 Barnacle Geese were grazing near the cemetery near Kilnaughton Bay.


Port Ellen > Kildalton
Being Sunday, everywhere was closed for lunch but we were diverted to the Cybercaf for a bite to eat. A Buzzard was soaring over Port Ellen's sheltered bay. On the drive through the enchanting landscapes of the Kildalton area, many small flocks of Redwing and Fieldfare were encountered. A few Common Seals in Ardilistry Bay. Buzzard (3). A decent-sized flock of 100 Chaffinches was flushes by the bus near Kintour. A few Fallow Deer noted from the long straight road after Ardilistry Bay. Wood Pigeons appeared to be more common here than other parts of the island we has so far visited.


Kildalton Church [NR 458508]
Stopped at the remains of the Kildalton Church with its well preserved Celtic High Cross. Whooper Swan (11) flew west. Greylag Goose (20+) in a nearby fields. Also Redwing, Great Tit, Buzzard and Hooded Crow noted.


Claggain Bay [NR 465535]
I like the Ardtalla road to Claggain Bay. It is a dead end and it feels remote. One has to return by the same route. We scanned this large bay for some time and located at least six Great Northern Divers, Black Guillemot (3), Red-breasted Merganser (3), Shag (10+), Turnstone (6), Gannet (2 ads, c2 kms out), Whooper Swan (5 SW), and Mute Swan (4). Grey Heron (3) flew north-east over the bay, 'cranking' loudly before disappearing over the rocks at Rubha Buidhe. The big excitement came as we were getting reading to leave. After checking the surrounding hills regularly for eagles, at 1545h Tony finally spotted three Golden Eagles above Beinn Bheigeir. I quickly got the 'scope on them for a few moments before they disappeared over the ridge. One was a 1st cy bird, so likely a family party. We were not back on the bus one minute when I noticed some ripples in the bay which was relatively calm. Fairly sure it was an Otter, we all piled out a managed great 'scope views of it diving, rolling on its back and catching a large fish. Then, back on the road to Port Ellen, we had a 'safari-like' moment when a huge Red Deer stag (photo at foot of page) stood just metres from the bus at Collie nam Bruach and most of us managed a photograph through the bus windows. What a great afternoon!


The Low Road: Port Ellen > Bowmore
Heading north on the Low Road over the desolate moors and blanket peat bogs of the Glenegedale and Duich areas, two Hen Harriers were observed hunting in the gloom. A Pipistrelle Bat was seen along Loch Indaal between Bowmore and Bridgend.




Day 5
Monday 5 November 2007
Bridgend Hotel > Bridgend Merse/Loch Indaal > Blackrock > Lyrabus > Gruinart Flats > Carraig Dhub, Loch Gruinart > Aoradh, Loch Gruinart RSPB Nature Reserve > Killinallan > Carraig Dhubh > Bowmore harbour/Loch Indaal > Bridgend Woods > Bridgend Merse/Loch Indaal

Cloudy, occasional sunshine and brief heavy showers, strong and blustery winds


 Barnacle Geese  2007 Fraser Simpson


Bridgend > Loch Gruinart
Species noted on the drive around the head of Loch Indaal: Brent Goose (1), Barnacle Goose, Greylag Goose, Shelduck, Wigeon, Teal, Mallard, Curlew, Grey Heron, and a Peregrine (again) near Blackrock. Another Peregrine was seen well by most of the party in the Craigens area in the south-eastern area of Loch Gruinart. Huge flocks of Barnacle Geese in the Craigens area.


Carraig Dhubh, Loch Gruinart [NR 295695]
This looked a good vantage point to observe the vast expanse of mud, sand and shingle but a fierce wind was blowing and keeping the 'scope steady was problematic. Species noted: Greenshank (2), Black-tailed Godwit (min 1), Bar-tailed Godwit (min 2), Goldeneye (5), Linnet (2), Dunlin, and Meadow Pipits (o/h). Good numbers of waders scattered over the exposed areas but difficult to identify at range. Good numbers of grazing Barnacle Geese on the far side, east to Kilnave. Back on the bus, we heard that Mary and Keith had seen what they thought to be a Grey Phalarope being attacked by a Herring Gull!. Headed to the RSPB visitor centre at Aordah for some shelter and coffee before walking to the hide to try again for the Green-winged Teal. Noted around the car park and feeding station: Buzzard, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, House Sparrow, Wren, Robin, and Blackbird. Large numbers of Barnacle and Greenland White-fronted Geese visible in the reserve from the high vantage point here.


The hide, Loch Gruinart RPSB Nature Reserve [NR 278674]
A female Sparrowhawk was seen zipping along the embankment of the screened approach track to the hide. We escaped a short and heavy downpour which was proceeded by brilliant sunshine. The fantastic plumages of many species were illuminated in the brief sunlight before the clouds closed in. The Teal flocks were much more active today but no sign of the Nearctic duck. Black-tailed Godwit (9+), Bar-tailed Godwit (1), Pintail (24+), Shoveler (60+), Little Grebe (1), Teal (350+), Brent Goose (4 o/h), Barnacle Goose, White-fronted Goose, Lapwing, Curlew, Mallard, Grey Heron, Wigeon, Starling, Hooded Crow, Pied Wagtail, Buzzard, Rook, and Jackdaw. On the walk back a Coal Tit was noted again in the gorse bushes along with Dunnock, Robin, Blue Tit as well as a few Meadow Pipits passing overhead.


Killinallan [NR 312718] > Carraig Dhubh, Loch Gruinart [NR 295695]
We returned to the east side of Loch Gruinart, finding a couple of Chough at the end of the single track road to Killinallan. Back at Carraig Dhudh, conditions were slightly better. Just as we arrived, two Chough flew south along the coast. No sign of the Phalarope. Sanderling (flocks of 2, 7 + 35-40), Knot (2), Greenshank (2), Black-tailed Godwit (6+), Bar-tailed Godwit (4+), Redshank, Ringed Plover, Turnstone, Dunlin, Oystercatcher, Curlew, lapwing, Golden Plover, Raven, Hooded Crow, and Peregrine.


Bowmore harbour/pier, Loch Indaal [NR 310600]

Back to Bowmore for a bar lunch again today. A nice flock of 35 Pale-bellied Brent Geese were observed in a small bay near the generating station close to the town. I walked down to the harbour but quickly retreated due to the amount of salt spray and waves crashing over the pier! Loch Indaal was pretty rough with not too much found. Good views of a Black-throated Diver was nice though. Several wader flocks were moving around, probably disturbed as the tide was reaching its peak. A flock of c250 Golden Plover passed by, heading north toward Bridgend Merse. On the small shoreline immediately south of the harbour, as you look towards the distillery, six Twite were quietly feeding in the company of 16 Turnstone and a Pied Wagtail. Also noted: Great Northern Diver (2), Whooper Swan (18), Red-breasted Merganser (4), Shag, Eider, and Mute Swan (pr).


Bridgend Woods: Bridgend Hotel > Strath Plantation > Towmore Plantation & River Sorn [NR 350625]

For a slight change we decided to concentrate on finding some of the scarcer woodland birds such a Bullfinch or perhaps a Dipper on the River Sorn. We took the trail behind Bridgend Hotel and followed it towards the Islay Woollen Mill. Some of the party diverted off to Islay House Square to visit the Islay Ales Brewery and the Batiks gallery of Elizabeth Sykes. The rest of us carried on through the woods along the track towards the woollen mill. With the fading light and time of day, few birds were found. Species noted: Goldcrest (1), Long-tailed Tit (6+), Treecreeper (2-3), Buzzard (3), Blue Tit, Great Tit, Wren, Robin, Dunnock, Fieldfare (c30), Chaffinch (c25), Kestrel, Grey Heron (2), Grey Wagtail (2 o/h), and White-fronted Goose (65 o/h),


Bridgend Merse & Traigh Cill an Rubha, Loch Indaal [NR 330620]
To end the day, some of us walked down to the merse to watch the geese arriving to roost. Goldcrest heard calling along the footpath. Shelduck (5) sifting through the mud, close to the road. A Hare and a Roe Deer were active in the grassland after dusk.




Day 6
Tuesday 6 November 2007
Bridgend Hotel > Bridgend Merse/Loch Indaal > The High Road > Avenvogie Bridge > Kilnaughton Bay > Port Ellen > Rubha  Chuinnlein > Ardbeg Distillery > The Low Road > Bowmore > Bridgend > Ballygrant > Port Askaig > Kennacraig > Inveraray > Kilmarnock

Overcast,  no sun, light winds


Kildalton  2007 Fraser Simpson



Bridgend Hotel > Bridgend Merse & Loch Indaal [NR 330620]

Due to restrictions in the number of hours our driver could be on the road for our return journey, we had a late breakfast. This allowed me to get down to Loch Indaal at first light. Several Treecreepers calling, two winter songsters (Robin and Wren), Blackbird and Chaffinch noted. There were masses of Barnacle Geese still out on the flats - perhaps they were also having a late breakfast? Just as I arrived I heard the familiar piping note from a Kingfisher as it left a bank of merse grassland and flew along a watery channel and out of sight. A nice flock of c800 Rooks and Jackdaws flew north over Loch Indaal and over Bridgend Woods, the whole assembly calling against a pale blue sky with crescent moon and dark pink streaks as the sun rose. The Scaup flock was showing better this morning and at least 217 were counted. Several male Red-breasted Mergansers were displaying to a single female. A group of 12 Shelduck were feeding where last night's five had been. Two adult and five juveniles Whooper Swans flew north over the 19 feeding below in the loch. Other species noted: Brent Goose (4), Grey Heron, Eider, Golden Plover, Dunlin, Ringed Plover, Linnet, Dunnock, Meadow Pipit, Lapwing, Raven, Curlew, Teal, Oystercatcher, Wigeon, Greylag Goose, Shag, Starling, Greenfinch, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Black-headed Gull, Herring Gull, and Great Black-backed Gull.


In contrast to yesterday afternoon, there appeared to be much passerine activity around the hotel this morning. As we loaded up the bus, some of us saw Mistle Thrush, Goldcrest, Long-tailed Tit (16), Goldfinch (5), Great Tit, Blue Tit, Robin, Blackbird, Buzzard, Pied Wagtail, and Wren.


Avenvogie Bridge [NR 345557]
Thanks to some good gen from Malcolm Ogilvie we managed to locate the Crossbills here in the spruce plantation along the B8016 High Road between Bridgend and Port Ellen. A male and female were observed rather distantly in a few pines on the edge of the spruce forestry at NR 345561 after a flock of five (suspected to be Crossbills) finches flew over the canopy just to the left of here. The male dropped down out of sight but the female continued to show for some time, with the yellow rump and bill particularly distinctive, even at this distance. Other species observed: Goldcrest (3+), Coal Tit (several birds calling), Goldfinch (juv), Chaffinch (c20), Hooded Crow, Grey Heron, Buzzard, Meadow Pipit (a few flying overhead) and a Hen Harrier seem by Keith from the bus, overlooking Cnoc nan Caorach.


The High Road to Port Ellen
Fieldfare, Redwing, Blackbird, Hooded Crow, Buzzard, Raven and Meadow Pipit noted. Grazing flocks of Barnacle Goose and White-fronted Goose in pasture around Leorin.


Kilnaughton Bay [NR 347454]
As we walked down to the beach, a flock of 87, probably migrant, Wood Pigeons flew over the edge of the Oa. Up until now we had only noted one or two here and there with most sightings in the Kildalton area. An aggressive Mistle Thrush appeared to be defending an area around a rocky outcrop next to Cornabus Burn and it chased of approaching Redwings and a Song Thrush. A female Sparrowhawk glided over the wind-shaped wood behind the bay. Single Great Northern and Red-throated Diver were located. Two inquisitive Common Seals pushed their noses out of the water, close to the tideline. Species noted: Turnstone, Rock Pipit, Shag, Eider, Stonechat, Buzzard, Hooded Crow, Wren, Robin, Blackbird, Herring Gull, Black-headed Gull, and Common Gull. Robin spotted some grebes way across on the other side of Port Ellen bay near the ferry terminal so we drove round there for a closer look. A ringtail Hen Harrier flew east over the bay as we were boarding the bus.


Rubha  Chuinnlein, Port Ellen bay [NR 364448]
Failed to locate the grebes from the vantage point at Rubha  Chuinnlein overlooking Loch Leodamais in Port Ellen bay. A female Merlin was tracked for several minutes as it crossed the bay and flew along the far coast before heading inland close to Kilnaughton Bay, after flushing some Black-headed Gulls off the beach. Species noted: Red-throated Diver (1), Black Guillemot (2), Eider (12+), Red-breasted Merganser (2mm/1f), Guillemot (1), Shag (16) on the rocks, Great Black-backed Gull, Hooded Crow, and Herring Gull. For lunch we visited the Old Kiln Cafe at Ardbeg distillery. Pied Wagtails noted in the car park here.


The Low Road: Port Ellen > Bowmore
A gathering of Ravens (8) and Buzzards (3) was present on the road close to a roadkill rabbit and pheasant...and some stupid pheasants looking at the dead pheasant! Another rabbit cowering at the roadside appeared to be suffering from myxomatosis. Brent Goose (22) present at the usual spot on Loch Indaal, just north of Bowmore.


Bowmore > Port Askaig [NR 432693]
We enjoyed our last flocks of wild geese from the bus and several groups of White-fronted Geese were seen and a flock of 500+ Barnacle Geese. The only Coot of the trip was glanced in a marshy pool along Ballygrant Burn. Ravens common along this road with more than 10 seen. Also: Curlew, Buzzard, Hooded Crow, Rook and Jackdaw.


The Sound of Islay
For those who missed the eagles above Claggain Bay, Robin found some last minute birds just before boarding the ferry at Port Askaig. Two Golden Eagles were watched for some time across the Sound of Islay on the Isle of Jura. One bird was observed giving the classic eagle flap just three times in five minutes. Everyone managed to see these distant birds and this was certainly a good end to the trip. Shag (10+) and Grey Heron (2) also noted.


On the ferry, some of us searched the Sound from the deck until the light dimmed to dusk. The eagles were observed again, slightly further south on the west coast of Jura. Species noted: Great Northern Diver (1 on sea, 2 flying S), Kittiwake (3), Black Guillemot (3), Auk sp. (3), Razorbill (1), Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, and Eider.




SPECIES LIST - ISLE OF ISLAY - 1-6 November 2007  ^ top









 Mute Swan

 Cygnus olor







 Whooper Swan

 Cygnus cygnus







 White-fronted Goose

 Anser albifrons flavirostris







 Greylag Goose

 Anser anser







 Canada Goose

 Branta canadensis







 'Richardson's' Cackling Goose

 Branta hutchinsii hutchinsii







 Barnacle Goose

 Branta leucopsis







 Brent Goose (Pale-bellied)

 Branta bernicla hrota








 Tadorna tadorna







 Eurasian Wigeon

 Anas penelope







 Eurasian Teal

 Anas crecca








 Anas platyrhynchos








 Anas acuta








 Anas clypeata








 Aythya ferina







 Tufted Duck

 Aythya fuligula







 Greater Scaup

 Aythya marila







 Common Eider

 Somateria mollissima







 Long-tailed Duck

 Clangula hyemalis







 Common Scoter

 Melanitta nigra








 Bucephala clangula







 Red-breasted Merganser

 Mergus serrator







 Red-legged Partridge

 Alectoris rufa








 Phasianus colchicus







 Red-throated Diver

 Gavia stellata







 Black-throated Diver

 Gavia arctica







 Great Northern Diver

 Gavia immer







 Little Grebe

 Tachybaptus ruficollis








 Morus bassanus








 Phalacrocorax carbo








 Phalacrocorax aristotelis







 Grey Heron

 Ardea cinerea







 White-tailed Eagle

 Haliaeetus albicilla







 Hen Harrier

 Circus cyaneus








 Accipiter nisus







 Common Buzzard

 Buteo buteo







 Golden Eagle

 Aquila chrysaetos








 Falco tinnunculus








 Falco columbarius







 Peregrine Falcon

 Falco peregrinus








 Gallinula chloropus








 Fulica atra








 Haematopus ostralegus







 Ringed Plover

 Charadrius hiaticula







 Golden Plover

 Pluvialis apricaria







 Grey Plover

 Pluvialis squatarola








 Vanellus vanellus








 Calidris canutus








 Calidris alba







 Purple Sandpiper

 Calidris maritima








 Calidris alpina







 Jack Snipe*

 Lymnocryptes minimus







 Common Snipe*

 Gallinago gallinago







 Black-tailed Godwit

 Limosa limosa







 Bar-tailed Godwit

 Limosa lapponica








 Numenius arquata








 Tringa totanus








 Tringa nebularia








 Arenaria interpres







 Grey Phalarope*

 Phalaropus fulicarius







 Black-headed Gull

 Larus ridibundus







 Common Gull

 Larus canus







 Lesser Black-backed Gull

 Larus fuscus







 Herring Gull

 Larus argentatus







 Great Black-backed Gull

 Larus marinus








 Rissa tridactyla







 Arctic Tern

 Sterna paradisaea







 Common Guillemot

 Uria aalge








 Alca torda







 Black Guillemot

 Cepphus grylle







 Rock Dove

 Columba livia  WILD-TYPE







 Wood Pigeon

 Columba palumbus







 Collared Dove

 Streptopelia decaocto








 Alcedo atthis








 Alauda arvensis







 Meadow Pipit

 Anthus pratensis







 Rock Pipit

 Anthus petrosus







 Grey Wagtail

 Motacilla cinerea







 Pied Wagtail

 Motacilla alba








 Troglodytes troglodytes








 Prunella modularis








 Erithacus rubecula








 Saxicola torquata








 Turdus merula








 Turdus pilaris







 Song Thrush

 Turdus philomelos








 Turdus iliacus







 Mistle Thrush

 Turdus viscivorus








 Regulus regulus







 Long-tailed Tit

 Aegithalos caudatus







 Coal Tit

 Parus ater







 Blue Tit

 Parus caeruleus







 Great Tit

 Parus major








 Certhia familiaris








 Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax








 Corvus monedula








 Corvus frugilegus







 Carrion Crow

 Corvus corone







 Hooded Crow

 Corvus cornix








 Corvus corax








 Sturnus vulgaris







 House Sparrow

 Passer domesticus








 Fringilla coelebs








 Carduelis chloris








 Carduelis carduelis








 Carduelis cannabina








 Carduelis flavirostris







 Common Crossbill

 Loxia curvirostra







 Snow Bunting

 Plectrophenax nivalis







* Not seen by me


MAMMAL LIST - ISLE OF ISLAY - 1-6 November 2007  ^ top




 Erinaceus europaeus

 Pipistrelle Bat

 Pipistrellus pipistrellus


 Oryctolagus cuniculus

 Brown Hare

 Lepus capensis


 Lutra lutra

 Grey Seal

 Halichoerus grypus

 Common Seal

 Phoca vitulina

 Red Deer

 Cervus elaphus

 Fallow Deer

 Dama dama

 Roe Deer

 Capreolus capreolus

 Feral Goat


+ Road casualty only

 Red Deer Stag, Kildalton  2007 Fraser Simpson


 Machir Bay  2007 Fraser Simpson


Fraser's Birding Website

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