An over­looked re­serve boast­ing sev­eral Is­lay spe­cial­i­ties

Bird Watching (UK) - - Go Birding - JOHN MILES

RmuchSPB SMAULL IS one of those re­serves you don’t hear too about, but there is a hard track to take you on a lovely walk across the grass­lands to­wards the re­serve. It is sit­u­ated in the north-west cor­ner of Is­lay, with Loch Gorm just across from the coun­cil car park, where you can en­joy the won­der­ful sandy beach found at Saligo Bay. The re­serve has a sim­i­lar collection of breed­ing birds to Loch Gru­inart, but without the hides and large wet flashes. The fields do con­tain some wa­ter, so waders are nu­mer­ous, with Curlew, Red­shank, Lapwing and Oys­ter­catcher present. The sea is never too far away, en­cour­ag­ing Ringed Plovers, while man­age­ment caters for Corn Crakes and Twite, with crop­ping to feed the lat­ter and cover for the early Corn Crakes. To the north of the re­serve are some rocky ar­eas en­cour­ag­ing Golden Ea­gle to hunt the many rab­bits. Pere­grines are here, too, with Chough never too far away.

OTHER WILDLIFE Ot­ters are found along the shore; with Bot­tled­nosed Dol­phins hunt­ing the sea

Wheatears are com­mon along the track, es­pe­cially in au­tumn. Win­ter is the goose time of the year and we saw large num­bers of Bar­na­cle Geese with a hand­ful of Green­land White-fronted Geese. Pas­sage waders drop in, such as Golden Plover on the grass­land and Green­land Ringed Plover, Turn­stone and Dun­lin on the beach. Some rar­i­ties recorded here in­clude Grey Phalarope, Pec­toral Sand­piper, Ice­land Gull and even Ring-billed Gull, but the real gem was a Green­land Gyr Fal­con seen by one of the lo­cal farm­ers while we were on the is­land.

Bar­na­cle Geese

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