A rather exciting day in many respects, although the weather was cooler and less sunny than of late. A fog bank out at sea early on restricted observations slightly , but cleared later leaving a grey but crisp day.
Gannets and auks in low numbers beat there way off shore and a few Manx Shearwater and Kittiwake were in evidence. A few Red-throated Divers flew north and were a prelude to later. As is customary at this time of year two or three parties of Goldfinch sped through northwards and a couple of Grey Heron rested out on one of the islands. Three Canada Geese were off Portnahaven, having been around for a couple of days,and in open conflict with the now territorial Grey lag Geese!! The southern Rinns appear to be largely devoid of Barnacle Geese with only 24 noted.
Outer Loch Indaal was utterly calm and allowed a good look to be taken at the various birds that were dotted around. The majority were Great Northern Divers, a few Common Scoter and noticeably very few auks contrasted to a couple of days ago. Much later in the day a loose "flock" of Great Northern Divers was found in the Inner Loch, and also one of Red-throated Diver, again a feature of this time of year and a phenomenon that can lead to some quite high counts if sea conditions permit.
Whilst preoccupied with counting birds in the morning a female Merlin had perched nearby quite happily but sped off northwards up the loch as soon as I moved!
A few Swallow and Sand Martin, odd Northern Wheatear, a mixed flock of wagtails and pipits on open grazing at the head of the loch, probably increased numbers of Eider, a distant Cuckoo and a fine flock of Turnstone which swept in, all signified migration was moving up a gear. Even at the head of the loch Great Northern Divers were easily seen offshore.
And then , as I was settling down to lunch and a coffee, a call from James How advised a Ring-necked Duck had been reported from Ardnave Loch. Not strictly within my personal recording area, but a necessary imperative to have a look at!! What a fine male bird too, showing off its bill markings to good effect, its grey sides and peaked head. At the onset it was asleep for quite a time, which may have suggested recent arrival, but later was active alongside the Tufted Duck and Goldeneye at the site.The bird was distant and efforts to capture a photograph resulted in an image sufficient to prove its identity but little else ( despite struggling with editing facilities this morning!!). Whilst there, a flock of 70 + Bar-tailed Godwit swept in from the west and on to Loch Gruinart and a suspected Lapland Bunting flew over, called, diverted everyone from the task of viewing the duck, but continued on northwards. Other records have occurred in Scotland apparently in the last few days. Quite a large pack of Barnacle Geese were across from Ardnave Loch and James How made the point that birds seem to "filter " up there from elsewhere on the island and progressively move off north on their long flight to Iceland and then on to Greenland. Perhaps this explained the apparent absence of birds on the southern Rinns.
More time alongside Loch Indaal didn't produce anything else that was new, but the final bonus of the day was discovering a new (to me) Golden Eagle vantage point with the bird remaining perched in situ for around 20 minutes. Near home a party of migrant Whooper Swans shared a loch with 22 Grey lag Geese. A fine end to a very productive day!!