Goose-tastic

Growing up around the mosslands of Southport, I am well used to huge flocks of geese around the place but Islay is something else. Geese are just everywhere - Barnacle Geese are by far the commonest and a flock assembling just outside our B&B was a great start.
There were also good, though much smaller numbers of Greenland White-fronted Geese around as well.
The early part of the day was predictably freezing cold but the sun started to peep from behind the clouds around 9 as we scanned our umpteenth flock of Barnacle Geese. Something spooked them (I 'blame' John) but as they had just jumped up the field a bit, John found one of our target birds - a Richardson's Lesser Canada Goose. This is a much smaller version of our regular resident Greater Canada Geese and smaller than the Barnacles. Though distant, we watched it for a while and I managed to get some distant record shots that showed the diagnostic white patch on the top of the breast,
From our viewpoint we also noted a female Merlin perched in a tree as well as a large flock of Skylarks. Earlier we had had a couple of Twite in amongst a large flock of Linnets.

We headed up to Ardnave Point in the hope of seeing some Choughs and a few other things. The walk up to the point was generally unproductive apart from flushing several Snipe and more Skylarks. However, overlooking the sound between the point and the island, John had picked up an Otter which we watched for a good hour or so. It fed very actively, one point clearly tucking into a Wrasse for at least five minutes - Simon King eat your heart out! The sound also had several Great Northern Divers, Tysties, Purple Sandpipers, Turnstones and  plenty of Grey Seals. As we finally got back to the car, John was disturbed to find the local bovine population licking it! The car was covered in cow slobber so we were grateful that it rained later in the evening. At least the Choughs were showing well along with several Whooper Swans and Teal.

From there we made our way back and down to Portnahaven where the Gyr Falcon had been seen a couple of weeks previously. En-route we stopped at several places observing several Great Northern Divers, as well as a few Red-throated Divers and Common Scoter. Red-breasted Mergansers were very common along teh coast and a stop outside the Bruichladdich distillery yielded a couple of splendid Purple Sandpipers and a few Pale-bellied Brent Geese.
We made our way to Portnahaven via the back road and managed to find a couple of ring-tailed Hen Harriers and several Buzzards including five in the air at once. Our stake out of the possible Gyr roost site went unrewarded in terms of falcon activity but the sight of a Roe Deer on the small island was rather incongruous.

We finished off the day at the Port Charlotte Hotel with a fine meal and a couple of pints of the local brew (not the whiskey). Tomorrow we'll be searching for more raptors so I hope the weather remains as good as it has been so far.

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