Stepped outside more routine survey work and joined Steve, Sarah and Sami Sankey for a day's birding around Islay. A family holiday from their normal base in Orkney was blessed, thankfully, with half reasonable weather and today was no exception. As might be expected a long and varied involvement as " conservation players" over the years meant there was a lot of information to exchange ( and a bit of gossip! ) resulting in a really great day out.
We headed out for the Oa, called in to see the Warden, walked the full path circuit, had great views across to Northern Ireland and had some good birding. Time invested in pinning down Golden Eagle finally paid off, with a flying bird east of The American Monument and, then, success in our finding two adult birds perched on high rocks allowing then to survey a vast area of their territory. Hen Harrier and Peregrine also "fell" to our patience but, best of all, was the real contextual experience of seeing Whooper Swans migrating south, doubtless on their way to their wintering grounds in eastern Ireland or, perhaps, even further afield. They advertised their presence first of all through their soft, bugling calls, which nonetheless carry a great distance. Eventually we found them , a single line of thirty birds way out over the sea , gradually making their way southwards against the distant and somewhat misty outline of Ireland. A nice memory to retain. Whilst the Oa can appear to be devoid of birds, persistence can pay off. An examination of the "food crop" field at Kinnabus provided some tremendous views of Twite and, later, odd thrushes and Goldfinch were seen.
Out eastwards towards Claggain Bay with a whole variety of species on offer.....Kestrel, Merlin, 6 Great Northern Diver in a party, Red-throated Diver, Red-breasted Merganser, all picked up despite the rather moderate visibility. Finally, a stop up at Loch Indaal to pull in a few more species and bring to an end what had been a really enjoyable day!
And did you realise Islay to Orkney , or vice versa, can be done in a day!!! Leaving on the 0700 hours ferry from Islay to the mainland (2 hours ) , driving north east up the Great Glen and then up the A9 (7 hours ) and then another ferry to Orkney ( 1 hour ), plus a bit of relief here and there, makes it entirely feasible. Impressive, eh!!