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 website is now in its 10th year and the archive provides a good source of comparison for arriving spring migrants over these years. Though we had an early March report of Wheatear this may well have been a mis-identification. The cold weather is undoubtably a factor and local migrants such as Pied Wagtails, Skylarks and Meadow Pipits have yet to arrive in any number. In the south of England there were 120 Wheatears at Portland Bill to-day, and other reports of Ring Ousels along the south coast, birds clearly held up by bad weather. By this time we would normally have several reports of Wheatears, Chiffchaffs, Sand Martins and the occasional Swallow or House Martin. The cold weather and snow looks set to continue until the end of the week so it may be April before we start seeing our first long distance migrants. Meanwhile keep feeding our resident species because they will need it.
Ever since I was a young birdwatcher, a drake Harlequin duck seemed a special bird to try and see, with its superb blue and chestnut plumage. It took me years, until a trip to British Columbia in 2010 finally rewarded me with some superb views of a group of males. There have only been about a dozen records in Scotland of wandering birds from the Icelandic population, and the recent find by Brian Rabbits of a drake on North Uist proved too tempting and I made a quick overnight ferry trip. Although my views were distant, the late afternoon light was terrific, and the bird was feeding on the edge of some rocky islets all on its own. Also in the Balranald area was a Ring-necked Duck and a Snow Goose with Greylags. There were hundreds of Barnacles, and amongst them somewhere was a Richardson's Canada Goose, but this evaded me. As ever the Uists were teeming with birds with hundreds of Twite and Lapwings displaying everywhere. Thanks to Steve for his help and check out www.western-isles-wildlife.com for more information. Note the image shown was taken in Canada.
Whilst Skye enjoyed some pretty settled winter weather, we disappeared to Spain for a few weeks, primarily to visit family, but also to look for birds in Catalonia and Aragon. Carrying a Skye 'man cold' did not help, and we certainly experienced a range of weather. Barcelona is always a wonderful city to visit and its many parks host a variety of species, many of them escaped from captivity and now thriving. There are several species of parakeet and the image shows a pair of Blue-crowned Conure which we found, one of the rarer species which originates in south America. Over the three weeks we managed to record 126 species and the overseas Gallery on the site displays some of the images. Highlights from local Barcelona sites such as Llogrebrat included some early hirundines, Garganey and Red-crested Pochard. The Ebre Delta is a huge area and after three visits we are starting to get to know our way around. There were loads of Greenshank, Green and Wood Sandpipers with literally hundreds of wintering Little Stint. We only managed to spend a few days in the midi-Pyrenees in Aragon based in a converted farm building at about 3000 feet. Seeing Golden Eagle was a reminder of home and the occasional Lammergeir a bit of a bonus. A flock of 16 Hawfinch and a nice male Brambling, very rare in these parts, were unexpected extras. A pair of Alpine Chough proved very obliging at a nearby reservoir where I spent several hours searching for Wallcreeper - fast becoming a bogey bird for me. This is a wonderful area to visit and I am very happy to provide advice and suggestions on where to go.
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.