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.
Last year was one of our best year's for productivity on Skye and a pair also bred successfully for the first time on Lochalsh. There was some expectation that 2012 would bring back good numbers of birds. Unfortunately these expectations have not been met and with only 5 pairs so far confirmed breeding, numbers have reduced by 50%. This is also a pattern evident elsewhere with no birds at all breeding in England and numbers seriously depleted in the south of Scotland. There are a number of explanations for this including weather - it was a seriously cold winter in Europe where many birds may migrate to; it was also extremely wet and windy in the west of Scotland. This may point to a problem of poor winter survival. Another more sinister explanation is that birds are being systematically targetted by sporting interests at winter roost sites. Whatever the problem, it is evident that the species has reached a new crisis point. In terms of the local study I am extremely fortunate that many individuals pass me sightings. This is especially important at the present time just in case some breeding pairs may have been overlooked - many thanks for all the help.
We are extremely fortunate that large numbers of Twite breed in Skye and Lochalsh. A species of high conservation concern, it is the classic 'LBJ' (little brown job) which is often ignored, but which unfortunately has been in rapid decline in many parts of the country. Whilst a small number of birds overwinter, the vast majority migrate and are absent from the area between November and early April. An increasing number seem to be visiting gardens in early spring where there are feeders and where there is an opportunity to observe them closely, and most importantly, check the legs for colour rings. Our birds winter in several areas and have been recorded in north England, on the north-east coast of Scotland, and more recently in Orkney. The bird shown in the image was ringed as a juvenile in the west mainland of Orkney during last winter and found last week at Greshornish. Another Orkney bird was recorded at Ose. A bird recorded at Achachork on the 28th April had been ringed at Foveran north of Aberdeen in the winter of 2008/09. As well as wearing a metal ring they will show a sequence of colour rings and it is important to record these in the proper sequence on each leg. I will happily pass details on to the ringers involved.
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.