Tom Gray’s Nature Notes: Islay - a first visit for us

Tom Gray
Tom Gray

Mrs Gray and I joined up with 12 fellow Fife members of the Scottish Ornithologists Club for their adventurous weekend outing to Islay.

We had an indication of the pleasures to come when a Red Kite was spotted from the car by the roadside just north of Perth and later a Tystie (Black Guillemot) was identified on a calm Loch Tarbert from the afterdeck of the ferry as iwe set out to sea and crossed to the island.

On checking in at our guest house in Bowmore our birding scouts advised us to park by the Bowmore/Port Helen road junction and await the fall of dusk when the sky further darkened, echoing to the barking call of hundreds of Barnacle Geese flying overhead from their grazing in the surrounding fields, to land in the safety of the saltmarshes lying between us and the open bay.

Next morning, our whole party set off in convoy on the road to Port Helen, where our driver drew attention to the white, angular object in the field by the roadside, inducing a dismissive response from the back of the car of “ That’s only a piece of quartz”! Thankfully the espied angular white object, on closer inspection resolved itself into the unusual rear view of an Icelandic Gull of which with an occasional Glaucous Gull we were later to see several more.

Gaggles of Barnacles, having flown out from their overnight roosts, were soon identified, while grey Greenland White-fronted Geese were easily distinguished. Carrion Crows with larger Ravens, were distributed across the fields, as if punctuating the landscape, and an occasional Eagle was seen flying above the ridge paralleling the road.

Who needs to holiday abroad for exotic wildlife?