This island in terms of the entire UK, is a nature reserve of its own making. Cut off from mainland Scotland for millions of years, the island is teaming with wildlife. Countless species reside where only 3000 humans dare to live.
Of course we are mainly interested in the birds and their activity and if you do venture to the Island of Islay for birding, you will not be left disappointed. Not even on the worst day imaginable could you fail to spot at least ten species of birds.
Where to begin, we will leave the most exciting for last. First of all, the Birds of Prey. This little island is home to the greatest population of birds in the UK. Consider that geese fly 5000km to reach this beauty spot and then consider how many Birds of Prey must know this occurs and find it a veritable feeding ground.
Eagles, Falcons, Hawks, Kites, Ospreys, Buzzards and Harriers all visit during the year to get their fill of dinner. Undoubtedly some live local, others may travel hundreds of miles for the feeding frenzy and action.
Also resident during the year are Ducks. Mallard, Teal, Tufted, Red-breasted Merganser and Common Scoter can be spotted all year round. Visiting at varying seasons are Wigeon, Shoveler, Pintail, during October to March. Scaup, Goldeneye, Longtail from September to April.
We have only just begun. Waders can be found at Loch Gruinart and Loch Indaal. Gulls too are present with Glaucous and Iceland Gulls and for those with keener eyes, the Lesser Black-backed in the warmer months.
All species of Tern flock to the Islay too, Common, Arctic, Little and Sandwich can all be ticked off. Birds of Prey that are resident all year round are the Barn Owl and Tawny Owl with the Short-eared owl more apparent in the summer. Chough too can be found all year round.
The Eurasian Whooper Swan visits often with the peak being October and November and Shearwaters passing in great numbers over Frenchman's Rocks in August and Petrels and Gannet visible as well. A variety of Divers and Grebes frequent the Islay and the Great Northern Diver is most notable in April and in the spring. Now to the festival that most bird watchers are fascinated by. The annual migration of around 50,000 geese and probably more besides.
In previous years, the amount of geese visiting the Island of Islay has reached a peak of 10,000 in a single day. The varieties of geese are various. Barnacle, Brent, Pinkfooted and Canada Geese have all been spotted over the island for the last few decades and they simply keep on returning.