This page features current news and views from Skye and elsewhere. It will also provide an opportunity for others working locally to report research and results.
On 9th September 2010 pupils from Elgol Primary were at the swimming baths in Kyle when they spotted a strange bird feeding on the nearby football field. On returning home George Love-Jones checked his bird book and was convinced he had seen a Black Stork. This is an extremely rare bird in this part of the world and had never previously been recorded in Skye and Lochalsh. I was contacted by George's father and managed to get in touch with the school and spoke with staff and pupils. A number of pupils drew sketches of the bird and we sent the record away to the British Birds Rarities Committee. I have just heard from the Secretary of the committee that the record has been accepted - well done to everyone at the school in achieving this 'first' for Skye and Lochalsh. George's sketch is shown.
Sabine's Gull breeds on arctic tundra from the coast of Siberia to Alaska. It winters in the Atlantic off the south-west coast of Africa and is a regular but scarce passage migrant to Scotland. During the last few years Nick Davies of www.hebridean-whale-cruises.co.uk has found birds annually in August and September in the Minch from South Rona north to the Shiants. There are a number of banks here which provide tremendous feeding for seabirds. I had only previously handled a dead adult Sabine's which was found dead near Torrin in 2008. Nick has found a number of birds recently in Skye waters so I took the opportunity to-day to go out on Orca 1 from Gairloch. Unfortunately we failed to find a 'Sab' in Skye waters but did locate a first summer bird several miles north in the Minch off the 'Burma' bank - a great first for me. There were also about 50 Sooty Shearwaters, good number of Storm Petrels, and several Arctic Skuas. We only managed one Minke Whale and some Harbour Porpoise but yesterday Nick had a small pod of Killer Whales off Rubha Hunish. It is ironic that you have to go to Gairloch to explore the rich waters of north Skye, but with Nick's expertise, it is a trip well worth the effort. I still have to record Sabine's on Skye but thats for another day.
John Smith has been monitoring Golden Eagles in Lochalsh and the wider area for more years than he can remember and Rule Anderson from Kintail is now providing the engine and legs much needed for long-term Eagle studies. Some 27 home ranges were checked with only 15 pairs in territories. Only 8 pairs were known to be on eggs, and 5 pairs had young. Of these only three pairs fledged but luckily two managed to fledge twins. In all of John's time monitoring Eagles in the area, this is the first occasion twins have been recorded. Similar to Skye, the poor May weather is thought to have been a factor.
In 2011, after another cold winter similar to 2010, we again had a slight increase in nesting attempts. However, this year there was a slight fall in the number of hatched chicks. The very wet, cold and windy weather in May and early June seems to have been the cause of an unprecedented number of failures, leaving us with 10 fledged chicks only, from 10 nests, well below the long-term average for Skye. Of the five pairs which failed on chicks, these could all have been early season or just after hatching when the weather was very poor.
Ken Crane and Kate Nellist
The BTO Atlas team has sent out an email thanking all volunteers for their help, and as local Atlas organiser I would like to add my own thanks to all local volunteers. We have managed to achieve our objective of covering at least 8 tetrads in each of our 10km squares, and this has included visits to islands such as Scalpay, Soay and South Rona. Hugh Insley and a 'hit squad' from the Highland Branch of the SOC managed to cover most of Raasay. During the 4 years of the survey, records of 202.7 million birds of 567 species have been submitted by some 17,000 volunteers. There were 178,463 timed tetrad visits and 3,838,935 roving records have been submitted. Our small band of volunteers on Skye have played an important part.
Some species are still breeding so these late records remain important - such as those of Spotted Flycatcher, seen in Martin Benson's image. House Martins are also still breeding so look for evidence of adults carrying food so we can continue to get confirmed breeding records into the system either through roving records or via myself.
Thanks again .........Bob
The annual bird report for Highland for the year 2016 has just been published by Highland Branch SOC. Many of the records contained in this website are included in the report. Sean Morris from Rum wrote the Lochaber summary in the report and ‘yours truly’ wrote the Skye and Lochalsh summary. Several colour images have been reproduced and include several from Bob and Martin Benson. I have a small number of copies available at £9, otherwise contact Highland Branch SOC at www.highlandbirds.scot.