Another glorious day with the wind easing slightly, although surface conditions out on Outer Loch Indaal still not calm enough to get a good survey completed, particularly combined with the sun dappling effects on the surface!
A male Whinchat near home and a pair later near Coull were the first I'd seen this year. A couple of groups of "Greenland" Wheatears at the tip of the Rinns suggested passage and more Whitethroat and Sedge Warbler appear to be present. A Golden Plover flew north near Portnahaven, as did a Ringed Plover, and 3 Sandwich Tern and 5 Arctic Tern were present within Loch Indaal. A single male Garganey at the RSPB Loch Gruinart Reserve was also new.
Whimbrel were much in evidence with passage near Portnahaven and birds at several points around Loch Indaal and near Ballinaby. Of 45 that were resting at the head of Loch Indaal , 40 suddenly rose and made their way north east, climbing at a very steep angle. In early May, 2008 (see archives), I made various comments about Whimbrel spring passage and their intended breeding areas. Of the birds passing north up the west coast of Islay I think we can be sure their eventual breeding area is in Iceland. Birds that are heading north east are possibly part of the Shetland or Scandinavian breeding population, in this case their intended flight line having been affected by the seriously strong and persistent easterly winds we are experiencing. That these birds use the Great Glen as a "lead line" is of alternative interest given the obvious benefit taken from this "short cut" by skuas and terns in some autumns as observed at Chanonry Point near Inverness. I have observed this choice of NE direction before by Whimbrel,therefore, birds passing up the west coast of Britain, and using Islay as a staging post, may then opt for the two route choices more commonly than we think!
A seawatch produced nothing of particular interest with all species seemingly involved in feeding movements. A couple of groups of Dunlin ( 19 and 10 ) were resting up around Loch Indaal, a sure sign they were on the move, and a single Greenshank near Bridgend, but generally wader numbers were low. The low tide conditions and bright sunlight prevented any useful examination of the wide expanse of sand and mud at the head of the loch.
A group of 23 Red-breasted Merganser enthusiastically fed on a near surface food source accompanied by 3 Arctic Terns simultaneously exploiting the prey! Two Barnacle Geese on the open sands near Bridgend were clearly injured, but may yet survive the summer as has been seen to happen previously. Numbers of Shelduck (110 ) and Oystercatcher (140 ) were of note, although more of the latter could have fed way "offshore".
At Gruinart resplendent Pintail, Shoveler, Teal, Wigeon, a Red-breasted Merganser and a Tufted Duck were all on show together with the handsome male Garganey. Sadly breeding wader numbers seem to be reduced this spring, but time will tell, certainly some replenishing rain would not go amiss!
At Ballinaby the Curlew Sandpiper present yesterday was still around together with some striking "Northern" Golden Plover, a few Dunlin and a group of Whimbrel.
So, all in all, not a bad day!