The annual invasion of the thousands of Barnacle Geese is an impressive event every autumn on Islay. Perhaps this is the reason that the mini invasion of whooper swans is easily overlooked, although around 7,000 birds migrate to the UK annually. The whooper swans' journey is almost as impressive as that of the barnacle geese. The whooper swans migrate every year from Iceland to the Uk and Ireland and can therefore be seen between October and March. The RSPB has the following information about the whooper swan: "The whooper swan is a large white swan, bigger than a Bewick's swan. It has a long thin neck, which it usually holds erect, and black legs. Its black bill has a large triangular patch of yellow on it. It is mainly a winter visitor to the UK from Iceland, although a couple of pairs nest in the north. The estuaries and wetlands it visits on migration and for winter roosts need protection. Its winter population and small breeding numbers make it an Amber List species." Another interesting detail is that whooper swans pair for life.
I'm not sure how many swans are present on Islay in the winter, I guess it will be around 20 to 100. The first picture shows a pair of whooper swans pictured at Loch Ardnahoe in October 2010. The picture below shows the swans in flight at Kilchoman, which is a breathtaking view, especially when you are lucky to see a large group. The largest group I have seen so far is a group of 15 last year near Bridgend.
Whooper swans near Kilchoman