You've seen this Island before. More times than you will care to recollect. As you look at old man Great Britain on the map, at the very tip of his nose is the Island of Islay. Located off the coast of Scotland and a part of the realm since the 6th century.
First settled some 10,000 years ago we can only imagine that this fascinating Island paradise has been the haunt of the bird species that frequent the island land mass, for at least a millennia or more.
This is primarily what we at Islay Birding are interested in. The many winged and in flight birds that visit the Island of Islay all year round. For those with the greatest sense of timing, you can also capture the wonderful delights of Geese migrating. Up to 10,000 in a single day can be visible.
Thousands upon thousands of Geese, be they Barnacle Geese, Pale Bellied Brent Geese or the Greenland Whitefront Goose, travel thousands of miles across the North Atlantic to escape the huge freeze experienced in Canada over the Winter months.
The island is habituated by 3,000 permanent human residents across its 239 square miles of mountainous and hilly terrain, with its peak reaching an altitude of 491 metres at Beinn Bheigier.
Bowmore is the capital of this Island which has been cut off from Scotland proper and the British islands landmass for a millennia. As well as the birds, there is a wide variety of wildlife present and some in staggering numbers.
Being an island its relationship with the sea is great, a reason why so many birds flock to the isle for feeding is the amount of fish and mammals that reside on its borders. Also a reason for the mammals themselves to venture further in during peak bird migration seasons.
Otter, Common seals and Grey Seal with Minke Whale, Pilot Whale, Killer Whale and Bottle-nosed Dolphin have all been spotted off the coast. Meanwhile back on land, a conflagration of Adder and Common Lizard are prevalent with various butterfly and moth species abound.
Red Deer, Roe and Fallow can be observed throughout the island numbering around 7,000. Twice the amount of humans. Although around 60,000 people visit the island to enjoy the wildlife and one of the most natural of nature reserves in the UK.
Tourism is not the only economy driver here however. Would it surprise you to find out that here of all places, Whisky distillery is still going strong. With its inception in 1779, at its height 23 distilleries were operating on this the seventh largest island in UK waters.
They are colourful, spectacularly varied and everywhere. You don’t have to be a “birdwatcher” to enjoy them, but if you are already interested a Wildlife Safari will blow your mind!