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The Isle of Islay Pre Season Staff Outing / Tour Recce for the new package date in Oct 2023

Our guide Theo has done a blog post about the trip, read how we get on below...

Thursday 23rd March:

Ewan and Theo left Mull early that morning and after ferry issues we

eventually got through to Oban and picked Jack up and got underway. On our way

down to Kennacraig we quickly stopped at a tiny loch to twitch a drake Lesser

Scaup, a scarce visitor this side of the Atlantic.

We arrived at Kennacraig and straight on the ferry starting in West Loch Tarbert - a productive start with 3 Long-Tailed Ducks, 3 Slavonian Grebes, 25+ Eider, 2 Little Egret, 2 White-tailed Eagles, 30+ Great-Northern, 12+ Red-Throated and 1

Black Throated Diver. Further along the crossing we had a few Gannets and Auks.

Arriving at Port Askaig we made our way north to Bunnahabhain, where we quickly

picked a group of 4 Bottlenose Dolphins! so treated ourselves to a few drams from

the very well placed Bunnahabhain distillery, one we will return to for sure.

We then continued our way across the island stopping at Loch Finlaggan and Loch

Skerrols which were relatively quiet with a few duck species on each. Making our

way to the north shore of Loch Indaal, we spotted a gull roosted forming - mostly

Common Gulls and a few Lesser-black backed, Black Headed and Herring

Gulls, Jack then spotted a Juvenile Glaucous Gull in the flock, a new species for


By this time it was late afternoon and we made our way back passing through RSPB

Loch Gruinart for a quick unproductive check for anything scarcer amongst the

thousands of Barnacle and Greenland White-fronted Geese. We settled in for our

first night Kilchoman ready for the next day.

Friday 24th March:

In the morning we went straight to Loch Gorm where we found a few Teal, Tufted

Ducks and Goldeneyes and a Male Hen Harrier. Scanning along the south shore

Theo picked up a small group of Eurasian Wigeon and in with them a drake

American Wigeon, another fairly scarce visitor from across the Atlantic and a new

species for Ewan and Jack! Continuing north we arrived at Ardnave we were greeted

by our first 2 Sand Martins of the year and a couple of Northern Wheatears as well

as lots of Brown Hares. We enjoyed a walk out to the point finding the flock of c50

Chough and a rookery of Grey Seals.

Back down to Loch Gruinart for a thorough search of the reserve for the rest of the

day produced - 2 White-Tailed Eagles, 1 Golden Eagle, 350+ Golden Plover,

Black and Bar-tailed Godwits, Knot, Dunlin, Redshank, Ringed Plovers, Snipe,

Greenshank, Little Egrets, Teal, Wigeon, Gadwall, displaying Shoveler, 50+

Pintail and 3 Whooper Swans. Theo also found a rather unusual looking Pintail x

Mallard hybrid from the north hide. Later on amongst the geese, Theo spotted a

single Pale-Bellied Brent Goose.

Saturday 25th March:

Up fairly early we went more or less straight to Loch Indaal, picking up the Juvenile

Glaucous Gull once again. In stunning flat calm conditions scanning from the

Blackrock and Bowmore was very productive with 6 Long-tailed Ducks, 30+

Slavonian Grebes, Black Guillemots, Goldeneyes, Red-breasted Mergansers,

130+ Eider, 1 Black-throated, 20+ Red-Throated and 35+ Great-northern Divers.

Theo also picked out a Female Surf Scoter amongst the Common Scoter, a new

species for all 3 of us!

Continuing south we headed to RSPB The Oa, walking to the point we had 15+

Twite, 1 Golden Eagle, Kestrel, Ravens, Skylarks, Meadow Pipits and a few

Fulmars back on their ledges.

A few distillery stop offs were then in order as the rain came in in the SE of the

island, where Ewan spotted another group of 12 Bottlenose Dolphins while we

were down there!

Making our way back north Ewan picked up a female Marsh Harrier SE of the

airport and a second scan of Loch Indaal in better light gave us better views of the

Surf Scoter. We then picked up a few beers and a much needed Indian takeaway

and headed back to Kilchoman.

Sunday 26th March:

An early ferry meant an early start, picking up the Juvenile Glaucous Gull once

again on Loch Indaal and a pair of Hen Harriers along the way to Port Ellen before

we boarded the ferry.

A busier crossing with far more Auks, Gannets and Kittiwakes and a flock of c40

Whooper Swans flying north back to Iceland. To finish the trip back through West

Loch Tarbert for more divers from the ferry, Theo picked up a pair of Sandwich

Terns, a great way to end a successful trip seeing 101 bird species and 8 mammal

species on Islay and of course bagging a few drams of whisky to take home.

Islay, see you in October!

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