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Saturday, 13 April 2013

13th April Migration underway!

Exclusive group morning at Cley, plenty of Marsh Harrier action, sev Buzzard. Highlights Yellow Wag Cley & flava wag over, 2 Wheatear, plus lots of Sandwich tern, 1 Commonn Tern. Swallow, Sand Martin, Meadow pipits & Linnets moving west along coast & still plenty of Brent Geese c200.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Exclusive Tour 9th & 10th April

Tuesday 9th April Exclusive 2 Day tour

We started the day  within a mile of the accommodation! A lovely 
Barn Owl sat perhed, patiently awaiting it's prey, also nearby a smart male Yellowhammer was singing. Another couple of quick stops en-route to the coast first to enjoy 2-3 Grey Partridge, plus several beautiful Brown Hares.
We stopped off firstly at Hunstanton & took in the Fulmar colony along the cliffs, also on the beach nice views of Brent Geese, Bar-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Turnstone, Oystercatcher & 4 species of the regular gulls.

We reached Holme and took a walk out towards the grazing marshes, we had fantastic views of several
displaying Marsh Harrier. We also from here saw Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, several Snipe & Curlew. Plus more wonderful views of Hares this time boxing! A Chiff- Chaff was calling along the hedgerow, plus 2 Goldcrest.

We stopped off several times at hides & pools on the way up towards the Observatory, we missed out on a pair of Garganey, but did have lovely views 
Little Grebe, Gadwall, Wigeon Teal, Snipe, displaying Lapwing & a smart male Wheatear.

Into the dunes & on to the shoreline, there was a nice group of
 Skylark. The shallow pools yielded a nice mixture of shorebirds, Avocet, Grey Plover, Ringed Plover, Bar-tailed Godwit, Curlew & Redshank & c50 Brent Geese flew on to the grazing marsh.

We then lunched up to the Observatory where clients were given an overview of the Obs & the ringing. We also enjoyed the warm sun, sheltered from the harsh wind. 
Tufted Duck, Marsh Harrier, Buzzard & Brents all on view as we ate!

We then headed on to Titchwell & had a good slection of wildlfowl & 1000's of gulls. Highlights were
 female Long-tailed Duck, c30 Snipe, 3 Mediteranean Gull, Black & Bar-tailed Godwit,  breeding plumage Spotted Redshank, a Litttle Ringed Plover was a new arrival today & great views of a close up Water Rail.

We finished the day over tea & cake with a nice list of 85 species.


Wednesday 10th April Exclusive 2 Day tour

As one of the clients aptly put it we start the day with a lovely breakfast & a 
Barn Owl!! This was a different bird from yesterday but gave just as lovely views both perched & hunting!

We then stopped off just before reaching the coast, we had yet another lovely 
Barn Owl mainly sitting perched, maybe a sign of the difficulties this species has had in the last few weeks finding enough food. We also had nice close views of a pair of Marsh Harriers, also Wigeon, Teal, Shelduck, Redshank, Curlew & Lapwing.
We then visited Burnham Overy, nice selection of shorebirds & around 200 Brents, plus around c60 Golden Plover several acquiring breeding plumage, plus 2-3 Snipe, more Marsh Harriers . We heard Bearded Tit briefly & had lots more wildfowl.
We headed for Cley, but were son pulling off the road for two superb Red Kites just soaring low over the fields, these were also joined by 2 sky dancing Marsh Harriers!
We lunched at Cley & then visited the hides & the East Bank, highlights were 3 Ruff, c30 Black-tailed Godwit,with several "icelandica" birds acquiring rich red breeding plumage! Lots of Harrier & Avocet activity including some interesting behaviour caught on video. Other noteworthy birds were brief Bearded Tits, 3 Sandwich Terns, 2 adult Mediterranean Gulls & Sand Martin. Arnolds marsh held c60 Dunlin, Ringed Plover, Black & Bar-tailed Godwit, Curlew & Turnstone.
We finished the day with lovely views of a Cettis warbler, unusually showing very well & possibly due to a predator below, it was constantly alarm calling throughout.

Just under 100 species in the 2 days, so not bad considering the late spring & lack of summer migrants!! Probably most notable for the wonderful views of
 Barn Owl, Marsh Harrier & Brown Hares!

Monday, 8 April 2013

8th April Visible migration Hunstanton - at last!

8th April 2013 Hunstanton Cliffs

Well after the longest period I ever remember of East or North Easterly winds we eventually saw a swing to the SW this morning, albeit by the afternoon the wind was back in the NE!!

Just enough time this morning for some visible migration at Hunstanton Cliffs though.


Hunstanton Cliffs 620 - 820am Chris Mills, Gary Hibberd

Birds south - 
354 Woodpigeon, 
15 Rook, 
6 Skylark, 
26 Starling, 
1 Blackbird, 
2 Tree Sparrow 
29 Pied Wagtail, 
65 Meadow Pipit, 
31 Chaffinch, 
1 Brambling, 
21 Greenfinch, 
277 Goldfinch, 
54 Siskin, 
62 Linnet, 
1 redpoll sp., 
2 Yellowhammer, 
12 Reed Bunting. 

1 Pied Wagtail - North. 

Plenty of birds to keep your interest. But difficult conditions with birds high & variable in direction, with light 2 SW breeze, no cloud. Goldfinch count good.

I then headed on to Holme, where a fem Black Redstart was present, plus up to 7 Marsh Harriers in the air, with 3prs performing aerial acrobatics!

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

27th March 2013

27th March 2013

A couple of hours before office duties along the North Promenade, had me running back for the camera! The Little Gulls were performing well on the high tide, too good an opportunity!

Secured 1-2 images but will head back & hopefully improve on todays efforts.

At least 10 Little Gulls & still good no's of others - images below & also  pictures showing why they are all still hanging around, the treasures of the shoreline!







Large areas of the beach look like this!!

Monday 25th March - Exclusive Birding day

25th March 2013 

Today was an exclusive days birding for a group of 3 persons.  The weather still unseasonally very cold, we spent much of the morning hopping from one location to another with short sorties to look for birds. We started the day with a visit to a harbour area & there was good views of Bar & Black-tailed Godwit including 1 "limosa & 7 Icelandica"  Curlew, Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Brent Geese & other wildfowl also a smart pair of Red-breasted Merganser flew by. We then headed off to search some nearby farmland & were rewarded with lovely close up views of Brown Hare, 20+ Yellowhammer, c20 Corn Bunting, c30 Linnet plus 4-5 Brambling amongst the flock. 

We then searched the lanes nearby & soon we were having excellent views of 2 Marsh Harriers hunting & witnessed one catching a rat! We searched a another harbour area & had more close up views of shorebirds, before heading on to Titchwell, where we lunched.

After lunch we headed out on to the reserve, we were treated to some good views of several smart Brambling, shortly followed by real close up views of Water Rail. Out on the lagoons, it was as cold as any day this winter, an arctic cutting wind - we headed for the refuge of the hides! A real feature in the last week has been the massive numbers of gulls & this was evident here as well, with several thousand on the lagoon. We picked out Pintail, some superb drakes close to the hide, then the Long-tailed Duck flew in, shortly followed by a really smart drake Garganey! Probably wishing it had left it's migration a week or two later!! Ruff, Snipe, Curlew,  Dunlin, Bar & Black-tailed Godwit & Spotted redshank were all scoped & lovely views too. The Marsh harriers were up briefly - then it was time to work through the gulls - lots of 'em!

There was at least 1500 Gulls, mainly Black-headed & Commons, plus Herring, Great & Lesser black-backs amongst the masses we picked out a minimum of 5 Mediterranean Gulls & 1 Yellow-legged Gull!

The day was nicely rounded off on the drive back with 3 hunting Barn Owls!

Sunday, 24 March 2013

24th March 2013 Gulls - lots of 'em

A quick walk from the house along the seafront to the lighthouse & back - 3000+ gulls along shore at Hunstanton, 
many Commons, no Meds obvious but 3+ Kittiwake, plus c70 Turnstone

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

20th March 2013 Otters!!

We currently have Otters showing extremely well & over the last few days Josh Jaggard has been capturing some wonderful images. Josh recently completed a degree in wildlife photography & has been joining me on tours & workshops. He has great enthusiasm & good in the field wildlife skills.

He has been watching these Otters for several months & now has a real understanding of their haunts & habits, this with careful fieldcraft has enabled him to capture some lovely images.

Couple of images from this week below - 




Josh will be running trips over the next few weeks if you are interested then drop him us an email on joshjaggard@norfolkbirding.com

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Tuesday 5th March Two Day tour

Tuesday 5th March Two Day tour

We started the day at Cley, we bumped into David & Pat Wileman whom had just seen a Water Pipit off the West Bank, but despite several attempts it remained elusive or had moved on! On the Beach pool the 
Purple Sandpiper was still present & showing very well, along with a couple of Ringed Plover, plus Lapwing &
"littoralis" Rock Pipit. 
We picked off a few birds whilst looking at the sea, Red-throated Diver, Gannet, Guillemot, Razorbill & 2 Gannet. The best bird was undoubtedly a female Goosander off the end of the East bank, that was close inshore before flying off west. On Arnolds there was a good scattering of shorebirds,Curlew, Bar-tailed Godwit, Ringed Plover,Grey Plover etc.Off the East Bank we had very brief views of Bearded Tit, plus 2 Marsh Harrier, lots of wildfowl & c1000 Brent Geese, including one leucistic bird.

The group made a unanimous decision to spend the afternoon trying to see the WT Sea-Eagle. This turned out to be my 2nd failed attempt!! However, it was glorious sunshine & we did have continuous views of 
Buzzard, a Red Kite, Nuthatch, Treecreeper & a briefly flushed Woodcock.

Without too much trying we had recorded 94 species over the two days.

Monday, 4 March 2013

Monday 4th March Two Day tour Day One of Two Goshawk & Woodlarks

Monday 4th March Two Day tour

Todays tour was mainly designed around seeing Goshawks. But we made an early start with a wander around Lynford, where there was 
Treecreeper, Nuthatch, Marsh Tit, Siskin & other commoner woodland birds but no sign of Firecrest or Hawfinch.

Although cold, the weather brightened & the sun was out, so by mid morning it made sense to head off & look for raptors. We started steadily with 
Buzzards up & down, not quite thermalling, but with up to 7-8 Buzzardvisible. 2 Kestrels were active, but no "accipiters" in the air in the first hour. Then the Buzzards became more active & we then eventually a male Goshawk got up & twice flew across the skyline. The second view was slightly more prolonged allowing able everyone to scope the bird & appreciate the size & wing action, with heavy slow flaps before & again disappearing into the trees. We decided to try one of the most regular sites, but access is still not possible from the South or West due to Forestry commission work. We did have 2 singing Woodlark here & 1 hunting male Sparrowhawk.

We took a late lunch at a 3rd site, but despite the sunshine raptor activity was slow, 
1-2 Buzzards & 1 Kestrel,plus 2 more singing Woodlark. We finished the day looking for Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, we were a little late in the afternoon & we heard a Lesser Spotter Woodpecker drumming, but couldn't locate it before the drumming ceased. We did have lots of singing 
Marsh Tit, Nuthatch, Great Sp Woodpecker, Brambling Treecreeper, 2 Kingfisher & Siskin.

Sunday 3rd MarchA recce with Nick Moran down into the Brecks produced a male Goshawk, displaying Sparrowhawk, several Buzzard & singing Woodlark.

Friday, 1 March 2013

Friday 1st March Exclusive Day tour

Friday 1st March Exclusive Day tour

We started the day at Sculthorpe NR, there was an excellent mixture of winter woodland birds, good numbers of 
Siskin, Redpoll, Brambling & Chaffinch, we also had lovely views of Long-tailed Tit, Treecreeper
& Marsh Tit.
 The feeder offered really excellent close views of around c30 Brambling, 6 Reed Bunting, plus apair of Bullfinch & great views of 2 Water Rail. We didn't manage to see the Bittern, but did have Buzzard & Marsh Harrier. We headed up towards the coast & stopped off for a lovely feeding flock of c40 Yellowhammer & a few Corn Bunting, plus 2 nice Grey Partridge.
We then lunched in a harbour area, nice views of Bar-tailed Godwit, Grey Plover, Redshank & Little Egret plus many Brent Geese & wildfowl. We spent the afternoon with a great mix of waders, shorebirds & wildfowl. Lovely views of Pintail, Shoveler, Wigeon, Teal, Black-tailed Godwit & Snipe.
We finished with a look a long the shoreline, a real nice selection & good numbers of Knot, Sanderling, Dunlin & big numbers of gulls. Suddenly, the shorebirds & gulls were in the air & a Peregrine appeared, swept through the flocks & stooped, it was soon clear the Peregrine had been successful with a shorebird hanging from it's feet. It perched up on a sandbar & sat plucking it's prey, it was a nice end to a couple of great days  - but not for the shorebird!

Thursday, 28 February 2013

Thursday 28th February Exclusive Norfolk Day tour

Thursday 28th February Exclusive Day tour
Today got off to great start at Buckenham,  We started with lovely views of several 1000 Wigeon. In the great light early in the day our clients were able to take some beautiful images of the Wigeon, around  plus lots of Lapwing. We did extremely well for raptors this morning as well with  4 Marsh harrier, 2 Buzzard, 1 Merlin, 2 Peregrine & a male Hen Harrier. A nice surprise as well thsi morning with 110 Bewick Swans at the east end of the marsh, several flying west over our heads.

We stopped off at Buckenham & although the Geese have now clearly gone, there was around 
c3000 Golden Plover along with 1000+ Lapwing.

I stopped off further east so we could have lovely close up scope views of
 c70 Bewicks & 34 Whooper Swan. We made another stop & had lovely views of a hunting & then perched Barn owl.

We then moved further north, we had several  large flocks of 
Lapwing & Golden Plover, plus another good flock of Bewicks - around another 200.

Cranes were proving more elusive today but we enjoyed a good flock of 
Pink-footed Geese around c1200.

A stop for lunch still failed to produce any Short-eared Owls, but some consolation was nice views of swarming flocks of 
Golden Plover & lots of Lapwing.We searched around the east end of Hickling & were rewarded with a hunting Short-eared Owl, a male Hen Harrier & several Marsh Harrier.

We finished the day with another good raptor roost at Hickling,
  2 male Merlin, a male Hen Harrier very close views & perched on the ground including plus c30 Marsh Harrier, a Barn owl & 2 Cranes.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Monday 25 February Exclusive Day tour

Monday 25 February Exclusive Day tour

I picked up the clients today from Catfield & it was just a short drive before we having lovely close up scope views of
 c240 Bewicks & 28 Whooper Swan. We made another brief stop for a roadside hunting Barn owl.

We then headed down towards Great Yarmouth. We stopped off briefly at one of the Broads & had nice views of 
Great Crested Grebe, Shoveler, Tufted Duck & the first Marsh Harriers of the day. At Great Yarmouth armed with a loaf of bread, we were able to feast our eyes over around 80 Mediterranean Gulls, with point blank views of 1st winters, 2nd winters & adults. We also noted 4 birds with darvic rings on, I hope to have the details of these birds soon. We also noted Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Black-h-Gull, lots of Common Gull, Herring Gull & Lesser BB Gull. Offsore there was around 300 Cormorants roosting & an obvious northerly passage of Gannet.

We then moved further north up the coast towards Horsey, a large flock of 
Lapwing & Golden Plover were overhead, & a good flock of Pink-footed Geese around c1200 were located, amongst the flock was  2 White-fronts, 6 Barnacles & a Ross's Goose. There was an odd large leucistic Pink-foot but I couldn't find any Tundra Bean Geese. Overhead 2-3 Marsh harrier pplus Buzzard & we heard Cranes calling in distanceA stop for lunch still failed to produce any Short-eared Owls, but some consolation was nice views of swarming flocks of Golden Plover & lots of Lapwing plus Egyptian Goose, 2+ more Marsh harrier 

Shortly after lunch a 2-3 scans from various vantage points produced a  group 
11 Cranes in a flock feeding out in the fields. We then searched the beach at Sea Palling, but the tide was out & I couldn't find the Purple Sandpipers, Gannets were still moving & a nice flock of c40 Sanderling were present

We finished the day with a great raptor roost at Hickling,
 1 male Merlin, 2 Hen Harrier including superb views close of a grey male, c30 Marsh Harrier, 4 Barn owl & 2 Cranes.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Sunday 24th February Day 3 of 3 day tour North Norfolk

Another cold, grey day - with a gusty NE wind, made it feel very chilly! However, we still had an excellent day......first we stopped off in a rough field full of unharvested rape & maize. A lovely mixed flock were scoped as they dived in & out of the hedgerow - 30 Brambling, 50 Linnet, c20 Chaffinch, 20 +Goldfinch, 2 Greenfinch, 1-2 Yellowhammer & Reed Bunting.

A brief stop for a smart Red Kite overhead & then another farmland stop; this failed to produce Tree Sparrow, but at least c60 Yellowhammer & more Linnet & Chaffinch, plus Buzzard & a Marsh harrier.

We weaved on along the lanes towards Burnham Overy, but were again distracted, this time for a nice flock of skyward Pink-footed Geese, after a bit of driving around we found them feeding inland of Burnham Deepdale - around 1500-2000 Pink-footed Geese. Despite 30 minutes of scanning we failed to pull out anything unusual.

We then headed to Holkham/Burnham Overy area, we had 1000's of Wigeon & Teal, plus Shoveler & Shelduck, several Marsh Harrier, plus 5+ Buzzard & a hunting Barn Owl, but we couldn't make any of these into Rough-legs! However, a nice surprise was c20 White-fronted Geese.

We lunched at Cley, 3 Red-throated Divers flew past, but the sea was relatively quiet. After a thaw & coffee in the cafe plus a close hunting Barn owl we walked out along the East & Sea bank, a lovely mix of birds along here - c130 Dunlin, c30 Bar-tailed Godwit, 6 Knot, Redshank, Curlew, Turnstone & a single Purple Sandpiper. In the dunes there was c20 Linnet, a few Skylark but no sign of Lap Bunts.

Total 3 days - 108 species

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Saturday 23rd February Day 2 of 3 Day tour

Today got off a little slowly! We arrived at Buckenham, but couldn't find any White-fronts or Bean Geese, nor were they at Cantley either. We did however have lovely views of the beautiful Wigeon, around c1500 still present, plus lots of Lapwing, 2-3 Marsh harrier, 2 Buzzard & a selection of wildfowl.

Next stop still failed to produce target birds! With no sign of any Short-eared Owls, but some consolation was nice views of Golden Plover, 500+ Pink-footed Geese, Egyptian Goose, 2+ more Marsh harrier & lots of Lapwing.

Finally our 3rd stop came up trumps, with lovely close up scope views of c180 Bewicks & 26 Whooper Swan. A stop for lunch was brief in the biting cold wind! This produced more Marsh harriers, 2 Barn owl en-route; but lacked the desired Cranes. However shortly afterwards a 2-3 scans from various vantage points produced a fantastic group & the largest I have seen together this winter with 27 Cranes in a flock including 3 juvs.

We then headed for the coast, we did well (not only the birds we saw, but managing over an hour in the absolutely arctic wind on the beach!!). First up were a couple of really smart adult Mediterranean Gulls feeding along the shoreline with a mass of other gulls. The shoreline was littered with seaweed & closer scrutiny revealed a good number of shorebirds as well, c100 Turnstone, c20 sanderling, 2 Knot & the real stars 2 Purple Sandpipers. Close offshore beyond the reefs were c80 Common Scoter & 3 Red-throated Diver flew south.

We finished the day with a great raptor roost at Hickling, 2 male Merlin, 3 Hen Harrier including a grey male, c50 Marsh Harrier, 1 Barn owl, 5 Bewicks swan & 12 Cranes

Day two 101 species running total

One of todays Purple Sandpipers - 









Friday, 22 February 2013

Friday 22nd February Day one of 3 day Group Tour NW Norfolk

We started the day with a couple of quick stops en-route to the coast first to enjoy 4-5 Grey Partridge, then  a few Golden Plover mixed in with Lapwing

We reached Holme a took a walk into the dunes & on to the shoreline, there was a nice group of Skylark & Linnets. The shallow pools yielded a nice mixture of shorebirds, Dunlin, Sanderling, Grey Plover, Ringed Plover, Turnstone, Bar-tailed Godwit c200, Curlew c100 plus Redshank & c200 Brent Geese along the waters edge. Eventually after a bit of waiting the Snow Bunting arrived firstly flying past & overhead, a nice group of around c40, but they landed distantly. We walked over & were soon enjoying them at close quarters. They were restless & mixed up with a nice flock of Linnet & Goldfinch.

We then headed up to the Observatory where we seawatched, producing close inshore Eider, Red-breasted Merganser, Goldeneye & several flocks of Teal. More distantly several 1000 Common Scoter were to be seen occasionally in flight, plus 3 Long-tailed Duck flew east.

It was a very cold day, with biting easterly wind & we warmed with a cup of tea, but were soon distracted as I Peregrine put 100+ Curlew, 200 Brent Geese into the air. A distant Marsh harrier & Buzzard also present.

En-route along the coast we stopped off much closer views of 2 hunting Marsh harrier. We lunched & then headed off inland & had a couple of successful stops around farm barns with a lovely flock of c100 Yellowhammer, c20 Corn Bunting, c30 Linnet & c30 Brambling.

We then headed on to Titchwell & had a good slection of wildlfowl & 1000's of gulls. Highlights were female Red-crested Pochard, several really smart Pintail, c30 Snipe, 5 Ruff, c20 Black-tailed Godwit, c30 Dunlin & 2 Spotted Redshank.

We finished the day at a raptor roost with good success 2 Merlin, 7 Hen Harrier, 1 Peregrine & Kestrel 

88 species recorded

Monday, 18 February 2013

Islay Winter Birding Tour Report 8th-16th February 2013



Friday 8th February


We collected the clients from Nottingham & then headed north for Glasgow, where we collected the final member of the group in Glasgow. Overnight in the Premier Inn, at North Stepps.


Saturday 9th February - Kennacraig harbour & ferry crossing.

We left Glasgow at 0730 & arrived at the ferry crossing from Kennacraig to Islay in the late morning of Saturday 4th Feb. En-route we had seen our first Hooded Crows, Raven, Buzzards, Red-breasted Merganser & Eider. For those in the front of the vehicle there was also a very brief view of a Dipper!

We had breakfast or brunch as it was, by 11am & enjoyed a full Scottish, before finishing the final leg of the journey to Kennacraig harbour. We had around 30 minutes to spare & scanning the bay produced several Red-throated Diver & Black Guillemot.

We boarded the ferry for the crossing shortly after midday and took our position for birding during the crossing on the side deck.

The crossing as usual provided a good cross section of wintering seabirds.  Several Red-throated Diver, numerous c40 Great Northern Diver & a fantastic raft of 15 Black-throated Diver.

There was also lots of Shag, Red-breasted Merganser & Wigeon.  Also of note were several more Black Guillemot, Kittiwake, c10 Common Scoter plus a fly-by Velvet Scoter & Gannet

We arrived late afternoon at Port Ascraig and decided to head for the accommodation, via the Supermarket at Bowmore.

We stopped off several times for the big flocks of Barnacle & Greenland White-fronted Geese, we also scanned the Loch Indaal bay just from the outskirts of Bowmore, where we had nice scope views of some c40 Common Scoter, c12 Long-tailed Duck, 5 Slavonian Grebe, Eider & Goldneye.

We eventually dragged ourselves away, deciding that we really ought to make sure we secured our food provisions for the next few days! After shopping we did have wonderful views of around c7000 Barnacle Geese going to roost at the head of Loch Indaal.

 




Sunday 10th FebruaryLoch Gruinart RSPB Reserve & Ardnave Point

Breakfast was arranged for 7.30, and we were all in the van & on our way by 8.15am. It was cold grey morning, with a biting cold SE wind, plus occasional showers making birding difficult.

As we headed out along the lanes to the famous and magnificent Islay RSPB reserve we were very quickly looking at spectacular flocks of 500+ Barnacle Geese  & 100+ Greenland White-fronted Geese. We scanned hard through the flocks, but unfortunately we didn’t find the Lesser Canada Goose on this occasion.

I find a sheltered spot & we had just got out the minibus when a Barn Owl,  flew by a nice surprise!
We scanned the masses, & suddenly all the Lapwing were in the sky as a female Merlin flashed by & then popped up on to a gate post allowing nice scope views!

We then headed off to Ardnave Point eventually we convinced ourselves to head out, donning all our layers & waterproofs – it proved worthwhile! We eventually located a nice flock of 50 Chough, plus nearby a few minutes later a flock of c25 Twite also appeared & a pair of Stonechat appeared, suddenly the weather didn’t seem quite so bad!

The walk back produced lots of Raven & a scrutiny of Ardnave Loch produced 10 Whooper Swan, 2 Little Grebe,  c150 Teal plus Goldeneye & Tufted Duck.

Next stop was the RSPB Visitor centre where we treated ourselves to some warmth, lunch & a hot drink, the group were able to provided an educational talk by James How the RSPB Site Manager. James explained the history& importance of the reserve and we then headed off to the viewing platform. From here there was a mix of ducks & geese, Wigeon & Teal were in abundance, with a 64 Pintail amongst them. A single Snipe flew over providing fairly brief views for those wjo were quick enough!

We ended the day heading towards Saignamore, where we noted Fieldfare, Mistle Thrush & Redwing in the fields. But the best bird was late in the day as I fired the minibus up the track to get up closer to a superb juvenile soaring Golden Eagle,  a great way to end the first full day on the island.


Monday 11th FebruaryLoch Gruinart East Shore & Loch Gorm area

After breakfast we headed for the shores of Loch Indaal, as today was much calmer & brighter.

We scoped the bay from several vantage points & had good views of Great Northern Diver, c12 Slavonian Grebe, c50 Greater Scaup, 30 Eider, 12 Long-tailed Duck, c40 Common Scoter Shag, Goldeneye, Red-breasted Merganser & Wigeon. Once on the shoreline there were also large numbers of wildfowl & shorebirds, notable counts were 50 Shelduck, 100+ Oystercatcher, 100+ Teal, 200+ Bar-tailed Godwit, Redshank & a few Dunlin.

We then headed towards the Bridgend area of the estuary, a male Hen Harrier flew by but disappeared very quickly hunting low across the fields. As we headed back towards the head of the Loch, suddenly the skies were full of panicking geese, the culprit a low juvenile Golden Eagle, skimming across the tops of the woods. It disappeared over the trees, we jumped in the minibus & made a fortunate decision to head north, as we gunned the minibus out of the trees the Eagle appeared ahead of us. I sped alongside & we eventually jumped out & were able to watch as it soared above us – fantastic!

We stopped off along the Gruinart flats, there was a good number of Barnacle Geese today on the south  side of the road, so I checked them thoroughly. I didn’t take too long before I had located the Richardsons Canada Goose amongst them, we were all able to get good scope views

We then headed up to the Loch Gorm area where we located a confiding adult Iceland Gull feeding on a carcass & nearby the fields held c20 Twite, c10 Linnet, c10 Ringed Plover & c100 Lapwing.



Tuesday 12th February – The Oa & SE to Claggan Bay


Today was a challenging day with strong easterly winds ensuring that most of our birding was done from the minibus or in short stops, but never the less we still saw some new birds & Otter!

We started briefly in Port Ellen harbour and here we were treated to nice scope views of an Otter for around 20 minutes as it dived, fished and swam, climbing out on to the rocks each time with a new prey item!

We then headed to the Oa & walked out on to the sea cliffs, it was difficult conditions in strong winds & despite this being an excellent area for raptors, they clearly had decided to sit tight! We did note several Fulmar & Gannets though.

We then took the minor winding road from Ardbeg to Claggain bay in the south east corner of the island. In the various bays there were Red-breasted Merganser, Goldeneye, and Rock Pipit.

The scenery and rocky bays are wonderful along the south east stretch of coastline. After a couple of stops, we reached the pier 1 mile west of Ardbeg, and there was good numbers of Oystercatcher & Turnstone. Plus nice views of a group of Common Seals hauled out on the rocks.

We stopped off to look for woodland birds, but were interrupted as a Golden Eagle passed overhead, again we sped off after it, we managed to keep pace as it headed eastwards, but this bird eventually disappeared, but yet another great encounter with these wonderful birds!

We reached Claggan Bay & had lunch in this beautiful south eastern spot of the island, offshore several Great Northern Diver & Eider were noted.

I then stopped off at some feeders, which in the past have been very productive, but sadly they were empty & there was no sign of the scarce Yellowhammers I have seen here in the past.


Wednesday 13th February – Portnahaven

We had already noted the weather forecast for today with 40 – 50 mph winds & driving rain! Sadly the forecast was correct! We ventured out in the morning & watched the sea crashing on the shores, we took in some shorebirds & had very close views of c12 Pale-bellied Brent Geese.

We stopped off at the Wollen Mill & walked the river but couldn’t find the Dipper, there was a great selection of Chaffinch, Coal, Great & Blue Tits at the feeders there!

We settled in the afternoon for a visit to a couple of the islands Gift shops!




Thursday 14th February – Loch Indaal, Loch Skerrols, Bunnahabain & Bridgend Mill

The day dawned fine, with much lighter winds & we vowed to make up for the lost birding time of yesterday! A pair of Chough greeted us from the door of our accommodation calling as they flew over, plus c20 Reed Bunting were perched nearby. Angus & Isobel our accommodation provider also showed the group his new prize Bull – “George” whom seemed a pretty placid creature.

We started the day proper, with a visit to Loch Skerrols, it didn’t hold too much in the way of waterfowl, but 3 Treecreeper & one of the rare “commoner” birds a single Moorhen were worthwhile birds in the context of Islay birds! There were a few Teal, Wigeon, Tufted Duck, but little else of note. 

We then stopped off again at the woollen mill, before we had even left the minibus we were watching a single Dipper. This bird delighted everyone with 15 minutes of swimming & acrobatics just below the bridge providing great views!

We then headed off to Bunnahabain. We climbed the road in the minibus, stopping off for Buzzards & the lovely views. We arrived at the distillery & the usual adult Iceland Gull, was in residence showing very well, we then watched 2 Otters in the bay & just offshore Great Northern Diver, Red-breasted Merganser, Eider & 3 Black Guillemots were present in the bay.
This preceded an amazing next hour where we were able to watch fantastic views of 2 adult Golden Eagles firstly perched on the hillside, just some 500m away, followed by both birds soaring overhead! We lunched & also along with the eagles noted Kestrel, Buzzard & Raven.

I tried a couple of short visits to wooded areas, but couldn’t locate any Great
Spotted woodpecker or Long-tailed tit but we did note a nice flock of Fieldfare & a few  Redwing.



Friday 15th February –  East Shore of Gruinart,

A really good weather day, dry with some sunny spells.

We headed off down the east shore of Gruinart, this excellent area produced a good number of birds,  c8000 Barnacle Goose, 5 Great Northern Diver, 10 Goldeneye, 1 Goosander, 4 Eider, 6 Red-breasted Merganser,  great views of a hunting Merlin, 120 Wigeon, c300 Shelduck, 120 Oystercatcher, 100 Curlew, 500 Bar-tailed Godwit, 30 Turnstone, 14 Grey Plover, 20 Sanderling, c120 Dunlin, 25 Redshank, c40 Ringed Plover, 6 Rock Pipit, 6 Skylark, c15 Reed Bunting & flocks of 20, 40 & 60 Twite.

We lunched at the RSPB centre Gruinart & then headed off to Saignamore, halfway along the minor road a Barn Owl crossed the road ahead of us out hunting in the middle afternoon! Possibly due to the poor weather earlier in the week. Buzzards were everywhere, plus a Kestrel.

We were soon stopping again as a good flock of finches lifted out ofan adjacent field. A good scan showed a really nice mixed flock of c250 birds – c200 Chaffinch, c20 Linnet, Skylark & real star birds c10 Brambling. I had an inspired moment as I suggested a Merlin might pass by if we sat & waited……30 seconds later a Merlin came hurtling through. It gave close pursuit & disappeared down the road weaving between the bushes!

We eventually reached the bay & decided that on a short walk in the beautiful sunny blue skies. As we walked out a raptor appeared moving along the ridge, a Golden Eagle plus a 2nd bird, 7th & 8th sightings of the trip! The beach was beautiful & we didn’t see another soul, scattered along the beach were Ringed Plover, Oystercatcher & Turnstone.

We finished the day with a drive around Loch Gorm, c240 Teal were on the loch plus a few Tufted Duck & Mallard. A Pair of Stonechat showed nicely & we finished off with a hunting ringtail Hen Harrier crossing the road in front of us.



Saturday 16th February – Port Ascraig harbour & ferry crossing to Kennacraig

We headed down after breakfast to Port Ascraig said our farewells and were aboard the ferry heading back to the mainland by 9.30am.

The crossing provided a good selection of birds to finish the trip, c15 Great Northern Diver, 5 Red-throated Diver, 5 Kittiwake, 1 Razorbill , several Black Guillemot & Common Scoter.




Summary

Overall we had a successful trip, recording 104 species of birds.

The number of species was just half the story, the continual observations of quality species, with good views of many scarcer species was one of the really enjoyable factors, cumulative sightings over the week produced – 8 Golden Eagles, 100 + Great Northern Diver, 20+ Slavonian Grebe, , 60+ Chough, 5 Hen Harriers, 3 Merlin,  Black Guillemot, Long-tailed Duck, 150+ Twite, plus the Small race Canada Goose amongst the vast numbers of Barnacle Geese.