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 trip to Iceland had always been part of our wish list, even more of a focus when many of the migrants which pass through Skye are Iceland bound. Our 9 day trip was all too short as this is a big country with a great deal to see, and we concentrated our efforts in the north. Breeding densities of waders was amazing and Whimbrel, Redshank, Golden Plover and Black-tailed Godwit were everywhere and breeding productivity was high. There are few natural predators, and an absence of domestic cats and Hooded Crows no doubt contributes to this. On Flatey Island, Red-necked Phalaropes were running around at our feet and our only disappointment was that the brilliant breeding plumage of Grey Phalaropes evaded us. A Gyr Falcon perched 20 feet from us but proved camera-shy. In all we recorded some 60 species and there are a selection of images in the Overseas Birds section of the Gallery. Though well known for killing and eating whales, Icelanders are now exploiting the lucrative whale watching market and well they might. A trip out from Husavik would have been good enough for the Humpbacks alone, but provided the real highlight of our trip with sightings of two Blue Whales. The largest mammal on earth, Blue Whales remain extremely rare, and the opportunity to spend some time, and photograph several dives will be a lasting memory - see the cetacean section of the Gallery.
A small group of us managed to organise a trip to the remote island of Oigh Sgeir or Hyskeir which lies 5 miles south-west of Canna. Consisting of basalt columns, it is home to the lighthouse which was designed by the Stephenson brothers and built in 1904, remaining manned until 1997. The lighthouse is clearly visible from our home in Elgol so the opportunity to visit during a terrific spell of settled weather was too good to miss. It was probably too late in the season to get a proper handle on the breeding birds and though a number of Arctic and Common Tern chicks had fledged, the numbers did not seem to be high with a combined population of 150+. Great Black-backed Gulls and Herring Gulls were also breeding along with a few waders including Common Sandpiper, Oystercatcher and Ringed Plover. There were several creches of Eider duck and Greylag Goose. A young brood of Red-breasted Merganser was a bit of a surprise at such a remote spot. There were three pairs of Bonxies but no strong evidence of breeding. Migrants were already on the move with Whimbrel, Redshank, Dunlin and Ringed Plover passing through and it is enticing to predict what rarities might turn up at such a remote location. A total of 21 bird species were recorded in the area and there was also evidence of White-tailed Eagle visiting from the presence of pellets. There was a healthy population of Common and Grey Seal. Others have written about the presence of cetaceans and Basking Sharks in this area, but in the trip to and from Elgol, nothing was recorded other than Harbour Porpoise, confirming what is presently a poor season for cetaceans in the area. Details of plants, spiders and other insects were also collected.
Learn about upland birds against the backdrop of the magnificent Torridon hills in the Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve. BTO are running this course as part of their 'What's Up?' project which aims to encourage more recording of upland birds. It will combine an indoor training session and (weather permitting) some time out in the field. A chance to fine-tune your skills, meet some like-minded people and enjoy the mountain scenery. The course will be held in Kinlochewe Village Hall, Torridon between 10.00 am and 4.00 pm on Saturday 13th July, 2013.
To book a place please email /p>
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.