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.
The tick-borne disease charity BADA-UK (Borreliosis and Associated Diseases Awareness-UK) and Ray Mears have issued a warning to outdoor workers and outdoor-pursuits enthusiasts to be vigilant about a potential increased risk of tick bites this spring. The charity is using its annual awareness campaign Tick Prevention Week from 26 March to 1st April to highlight the problem. All reports suggest the tick population and its distribution is increasing and with this comes the risk of contracting Lyme disease (Borreliosis) and other tick borne diseases. New research published earlier this year suggests the prevalence of Lyme disease bacteria in in the UK tick population is considerably higher than most recent estimates indicate. For more information see www.bada-uk.org.
As we prepare to fly back to-morrow our three week break is coming to an end and the weather is more seasonal with temps hitting 17 degrees to-day. Aiguamolls Reserve on the Costa Brava is a favourite with lots of Gadwall (see image), and there were also many more Greylag Geese there than we had previously seen, pushed south on the back of the cold eather affecting the rest of Europe. Amongst the Greylags were two European White-fronts thought to be the third record for the area, and two Bewick's Swans one previously ringed at Slimbridge. Because of the cold weather there was an absence of early summer migrants as Swallows and Sand Martins would normally be on the move. No matter where you watch birds weather patterns can be strongly influential in what you see. With Blue Rock Thrush and Peregrine Falcon to-day the species list stands at 126 which does not include a probable Rock Sparrow, and - Wallcreeper will need to wait for another day. Just in case you were wondering we were also visiting family as our son lives in Barcelona, and a trip to the Nou Camp to see Barcelona beat Valencia 5-1 wil hopefully convince you that holidays are not entirely about birds.
Though happy to get away from the winds and rain of Skye, it was not anticipated that the bad weather would follow us. Temperatures in Spain plummetted to all time lows as we visited the Ebro Delta and Aragon. Lake Gallocanta in Aragon was frozen and the wintering grounds for thousands of Common Cranes, at 4000' was exposed to an icy siberian blast which meant few walks and most birding was from the car. Migration often starts in February in Spain but apart from a few Black Kites there was little sign of anything on the move. Highlights so far have included 64 Great Bustards in the steppe areas west of Lleida where we found lots of Black-bellied Sand Grouse but no Pin-tailed. A search for the rare Dupont's Lark proved unsuccessful. Birds of prey have so far included Golden Eagle, Booted Eagle, Merlin, Hen Harrier and as ever no shortage of Marsh Harriers. An obliging Moustached Warbler at the Ebre was a first and it was good to catch up with many favourites including Purple Gallinule and Glossy Ibis as well as regular Skye species like Black-tailed Godwit and Jack Snipe. There is a selection of images in the overseas section of the Gallery and we hope to visit a few Catalonian hotspots in the coming week.
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.