We had a stunning five day package tour on the Isle of Islay last week and we were privileged to be bathed in sunshine for most of it! Read about our sightings below...
We all met in Kennacraig and took the 1pm ferry across to Port Askaig. On arrival we headed straight to Loch Indaal and got our first experience of the Barnacle Geese in nice numbers out on the mudflats.
We then headed north to the Gruinart area and got stunning views of an adult WT Eagle trying to catch a Barnacle Goose! We first spotted the raptor flying low in front of the van and then it suddenly picked up the speed and was in hot pursuit of the goose. The goose managed to drop down to safety in a shallow channel just as the eagle had it talons out and ready to strike! Surprisingly the eagle did not make another attempt and the goose got to live another day!
After a first wonderful breakfast by Jane we headed to northern parts of the island and first of all RSPB Loch Gruinart. En route to the reserve we had more stunning eagle action with 2-3 birds flying overhead and flushing 1000s of Barnacle and Greenland White-fronted Geese!
On the reserve itself we recorded 55 species of birds which included Whooper Swans, Pintail, Shoveler, Gadwell and much more.
After lunch we headed to the north coast and were treated to c20 Chough and c100 Grey Seals hauled out.
Another stunning sunny morning as we ventured south to explore some of the habitats on the Oa and SE Islay. A juv Glaucous Gull was seen on Loch Indaal along with RB Mergansers and Goldeneye.
We had stunning views of Northern Ireland as the clarity was ultra HD! c40 Twite were seen along with 2 Kestrels and a Golden Eagle perched up on the coast. I had a brief flyby of a male Merlin but nobody else got onto it. Again dad got onto a male Hen Harrier in SE Mull but no other eyes managed to see it. GN Divers were enjoyed in a few coastal sites.
On the evening we did a night walk and enjoyed viewing some of the stars / constellations in the unpolluted Hebridean skies along with having a go at the thermal imager. 🌖 ✨ 🪐
We explored the Rhinns peninsula on the morning and enjoyed some waders around Port Charlotte which included Dunlin, Turnstones, Ringed Plovers, Curlew and Oystercatcher. Grey Seals out at Portnahaven and a drive around the hill-grounds were quiet but dramatic scenery. A listen for Crossbills in the S Spruce blocks proved fruitless.
In the PM we had another check around Gruinart and managed to find the Red-Breasted Goose in among 1000s of Barnacle Geese. Everyone managed to get a view in the scope before it headed down a channel and out of view...what a stonking bird!
On the reserve we got a view of the wintering female Marsh Harrier along with great view of Common Snipe. Little Egret and WT Eagles were other noteworthy sightings.
On the final day we explored some the eastern habitats on the island. It was perfect conditions and state of tide to see Otters but unfortunately they may have been feeding on amphibians nocturnally at this time of the year so we did not manage to see any.
On the return ferry crossing to Kennacraig we did some sea watching and managed to record Black-throated Divers, Slavonian Grebes, GN Divers, Razorbills and an adult WT Eagle perched on a skerry just off Jura.
I want to thank the following...
🙏 All the guests who joined the experience, I hope you have enjoyed your time on Islay.
🍰 To Jane for providing all of the wonderful meals and looking after the guests 😋
🙌 To dad (John Miles) for his expertise whilst guiding and looking after the guests along with helping out in the house / kitchen.
🖊 Ewan Miles