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The Islay Autumn Wildlife Expedition: 12th-16th October 2023

12th - first afternoon

We all met at the Kennacraig ferry terminal and started with the 2hr ferry trip to Port Askaig. Through West Loch Tarbert we had Great-Northern Divers, Harbour Seals, Eiders, Gannets, Shags, an Otter and a distant Golden Eagle!

Down the Sound of Islay we saw a few Red Deer and 2 distant White-tailed Eagles across on Jura.

Heading off from Port Askaig we traveled straight to the NW of the island to see a local rarity - a Juvenile Lesser Grey Shrike! A 1st for Islay, 4th for Argyll and a new species for all of us which showed fantastically!

Heading to RSPB Gruinart we had our first Ringtail Hen Harrier of the trip and shortly after, our first Male Hen Harrier flying over the large Barnacle Geese flocks with a few Greenland White-fronted Geese mixed in. Heading on to Kilchoman we had 4 Choughs and 2 flocks of Whooper Swans before retiring to our house.

13th - Day 2

Shortly after leaving Kilchoman we spotted a pair of close White-tailed Eagles (*WTE) at Loch Gorm before continuing on to Ardnave for a walk. The Chough were elusive with just a few glimpses in the dunes. We then headed up to the centre at Loch Gruinart for lunch. While we were finishing up lunch, Theo found a Red-Breasted Goose distantly out on marsh in the hoards of around 13000 Barnacle Geese!, with a Todd's Canada Goose appearing shortly after. Heading down to the hides we found another WTE, a 2nd year Glaucous Gull, Little Egret and lots of wildfowl and waders. On leaving we heard news that the Red-breasted goose had relocated much closer to the road, so quickly drove along and enjoyed great views <100m away before heading home.

14th - Day 3

A Peregrine and a WTE over the house, with the eagle heading off and joining 5! more WTE's over

Machir bay with a Ringtail Hen Harrier and 22 Sandering there too, was a great start to the day.

Heading down to the Rhinns peninsula to Portnahaven we found a few Grey seals with pups, Turnstones and Ringed Plovers, before heading round to the moorland areas for lunch finding a Merlin and another WTE out there.

Stopping in at Loch Indaal on the way back yielded - Great-northern and Red-throated Divers, Common Scoters, Eiders, R-B Mergansers, Dunlin, Knot, 3 Scaup,1 Slavonian Grebe and 3 late Common Terns. South hide at Loch Gruinart was next stop with another WTE, female Scaup and several duck species there. A Ringtail Hen Harrier flying alongside the van by Loch Gorm in golden light was a great end to the day.

15th - Day 4

We headed straight for The Oa RSPB in the SE of the island finding 4 Hen Harriers, 3 Choughs, 2 Twite and a distant perched Golden Eagle.

Lunch at Port Ellen, then round some of the sheltered bays in the SE of the island finding lots of Harbour Seals, Red-breasted Mergansers, Black Guillemot and eventually 2 Otters!

On the way back a Male Hen Harrier appeared by Loch Gorm in the fading light.

A night-time wander out with the thermal imager rewarded 2 Barn Owls as an extra!

16th: Last day

A pit stop at Kilchoman distillery was first port of call, then onto Loch Gorm, finding a Juvenile Long-tailed duck amongst the Tufted Ducks, A distant WTE and a Hen Harrier there too.

Next onto Loch Indaal where we had a Scaup, 2 Long-tailed Ducks, 2 Slavonian Grebes, 2 Goldeneye, Whooper Swans and 2 WTE.

A quick stop at Loch Skerrols for more Geese, Tufted Ducks, Treecreeper and some bright Bullfinches. Finally onto Bunnahabhain quickly spotting 2 Golden Eagles before lunch. A browse in the distillery and 2 more Golden Eagles distantly over Jura before heading for the ferry.

The crossing yielded a few Great-northern and Red-Throated divers, Eiders and lots of Black Guillemots. A male Hen Harrier just before the ferry docked finished the trip in style!

Species list: 107sp Birds and 8sp Mammals...


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