Thursday, November 08, 2007

Isle of Islay with Ayrshire SOC Touring

I was lucky enough to be Bird Leader on a recent trip to Islay with SOC Touring arranged by Tony and Gerda Scott of the Ayrshire Branch. Having been to the island seven times before I was keen to go back following my last visit in 1998. Next time I won’t leave it so long! Islay has a special magic which can be hard to pin down but 50,000 wild geese, Golden Eagle, Chough, Otter, the diverse landscapes, and the Hebridean air are certainly some of the constituents behind it. We stayed in Bridgend, an ideal location for watching the crepuscular arrival and departure of thousands of Barnacle Geese to and from their roosting sites at the head of Loch Indaal. The sight and sound of flights of wild geese over the island imparts a true sense of wilderness and it was real pleasure to be miles from London for a change! The six day trip notched up 109 species of bird, Otter, Red Deer, Roe Deer, Fallow Deer, Wild Goat, Grey Seal, Common Seal and Pipistrelle Bat following exploration of Loch Gruinart, Loch Indaal, Ardnave Point, Machir Bay, The Oa, Kildalton and Claggain Bay.

Highlights included masses of Barnacle and Greenland White-fronted Geese, small numbers of Brent Geese and a couple of hutchinsii Canada Geese, five Golden Eagles, an immature White-tailed Eagle, Snow Bunting, Chough, Twite, Hen Harrier, Peregrine, Merlin, numerous Great Northern Diver, Long-tailed Duck, Pintail, Grey Plover, Purple Sandpiper, Kingfisher, Jack Snipe, Grey Phalarope, Crossbill, and a late Arctic Tern.

And of course we found time to visit both the Bruichladdich and Ardbeg distilleries and sample a fair few of the Islay Real Ales! Thanks to Tony and Gerda for organising a marvellous trip and all the participants who helped to make it a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

A full trip report can be found on my website at

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