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.
A reminder that there are still places available for the SOC conference on Saturday November 17th. The cost is £20 for the day and I can send booking forms to anyone who is interested. The programme for the day is as follows:-
10.00 Arrival and Coffee
10.30 Introduction & Welcome – Ken Shaw
(Chair of morning session Alex Joss)
10.40 Setting the Scene – Bob McMillan
10.50 30 years of Golden Eagles on Skye – Kate Nellist
11.20 Corncrakes on Skye – Shelagh Parlane
11.50 Skye and Lochalsh Atlas Results – Bob Swann
12.20 - Questions
(Chair of afternoon session Ken Shaw)
13.30 Gaelic names of birds - Tristan ap Rheinallt
14.00 25 years of Bird Recording in Lochalsh – Brian Neath
14.30 Manx Shearwaters – Mike Werndly & Martin Carty
15.20 Keynote address - The Sea Eagle Saga – John Love
16.10 Wind-up and way forward – Ken/Alex/Bob
With family now living in Barcelona, visits have become more frequent during the last few years. It is very difficult anywhere in the city to escape the noise of Parakeets screaming above the noise of traffic and visitors. There are several species, with Ring-necked and Monk the most common and their origins are probably with caged birds which excaped from captivity. Other 'escape' species include Zebra finch and Common Waxbill (see image). The latter, a first for me, was found on a visit to a reserve at Llogrebrat - a reserve which is easily accessible, if a little noisy, as it is right beside the airport. Water levels were a little low at this time but a lot of migrants were moving through including Common Redstart, Blackcap and Pied Flycatcher. All the parks in Barcelona are worth checking for migrating species. Away from the city, we were lucky to spend a few days in rural Aragon. Though there remains a lot of semi-natural steppe country, it failed to yield any of the speciality species other than Little Owls which occupy many deserted farm buildings. Intensive agriculture and irrigation has become a feature of the area and sprinklers provide excellent perching posts for Southern Grey Shrike, Kestrels and Buzzards. There were huge numbers of hirundines passing through as well as lots of Wheatears, Whinchats and Yellow Wagtails. No doubt attracted by the large numbers of passerines, Hobby, Peregrine, Marsh and Montagu's Harrier were all recorded. A series of irrigated rice fields attracted large numbers of White Storks, Mediterranean Gulls, Lapwings, Common Snipe, Greenshank, Redshank and several Green Sandpipers. This was all in an area rich in birds which does not feature in any of the guide books - Catalonia and Aragon have a great deal to offer. See the overseas section of the Gallery for several images taken on this recent trip.
2012 was an unusual year from the point of view of weather and for the corncrake survey. May and June were dry and sunny but extremely cold and windy during the day but the wind tended to drop in the evenings providing perfect corncrake surveying conditions with a calling male being heard 100s of metres from its calling site – which presumably works well for female corncrakes as well as surveyors! The first reports of corncrakes on Skye came in early May - around week later than in 2011 - which may be explained by the strong northerly winds delaying their arrival or suppressing their night-time calling. One male was first heard on the 2nd May and stayed on the same location through the summer until 25th July. Most of the other males called for 1-4 weeks before either moving territory or ceasing their night-time singing. With regard to numbers, there were at least 23 individual calling males on the island and a maximum or 33. Unfortunately we cannot talk about breeding or fledging success as the only evidence of breeding is from reports of actual sightings of chicks; this year we heard of two broods. We will have a better idea of actual breeding success when we see how many males return next year as only 1 in 5 adult corncrakes will survive to the next year so most of the males which return in 2013 will have been born in 2012. Reports via the Skye Birds website provided the survey with important information on the location of calling males and the number of days/weeks that males spent on a particular site, all of which helped inform management and protection of the birds.
My thanks to all contributors and for the support of www.skye-birds. com
Shelagh Parlane RSPB Corncrake Project Officer, Skye
The Highland Bird Report 2014, published by Highland Branch of the SOC has just been published. The majority of the records submitted to this website are forwarded for compilation into this report, which represents all the records which have been accepted as occurring in the Highland recording area. Skye and Lochalsh district is part of this region and the report contains a summary of the highlights for the district. There is also a summary of records from Lochaber which includes the Small Isles. Sean Morris from Rum has compiled this summary and we regularly carry records from the Small Isles and Morar. Please contact me if you need a copy as I have a few available at £9 or £11 including postage.