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.
I'm not really a twitcher in the true sense, but if rare birds turn up nearby I'm keen to seek them out and add them to my local list. If it involves a nice ferry journey, especially taking advantage of my Highland Council 'bus pass, all the better. When the news broke on Monday afternoon of a Mourning Dove on Rum, and with Calmac heading that way the following day, a quick change in plans was justified. With the winter timetable, it was possible to go direct from Armadale where I was joined by Andy and Richard who had journeyed down from Ullapool. At Mallaig another 35 intrepid birders from all over the UK, twitchers in the true sense, many who had driven up from the south overnight, joined the trip. Rum was to experience a mini invasion, some giddy with excitement at adding a new bird to their life or year list, others giddy from what had been a bumpy sail in strengthening north-westerlies. The bird had been found below feeders in Sean Morris's garden and after a 15 minute march, we assembled in Sean's garden and waited. With only a couple of hours before the ferry returned, time was of the essence. Though the bird had been seen before our arrival, it had flown to a nearby conifer and was hidden in the depth of the foilage. Occasionally the wind blew the branches apart to reveal the tell-tale dove silhouette but otherwise, it had seen us, and wasn't moving. A strategic move to a nearby field enabled better views to satisfy everyone, and allow a few record shots to be taken. With soup, cake and drink provided in true island style, the contented visitors trecked back in time for the ferry. Apparently as soon as we left the bird came out of the tree and fed out on the grass - clearly it had encountered twitchers before! Thanks to Sean, Mike and everyone on Rum for looking after us so well and dealing so patiently with everyone. Thanks to Sean for the use of the image. There have only been three previous records of Mourning Dove in Britain, two of them in Scotland.
Our annual summer corncrake survey picked up 38 calling males which is the highest number since these surveys started in the 1990s. Very many thanks to Skye Birds contributors and to those who gave me weekly reports of their local corncrakes. The more information we have about the whereabouts of corncrakes the better we can protect them and promote their breeding success. Most of the birds were on the west coast of Trotternish but 14 males were calling on Waternish which is up on the previous 4 years. There were a scattering of reports from elsewhere on the island from July onwards. We had at least 4 sightings of both chicks and adults which was unusually high for Skye. The contractors, who cut the meadows for silage, also saw some corncrakes during mowing in September (all escaped!). Corncrakes generally have two broods each year, on average, the first in late May early June and the second in July. However, research carried out this year on the Coll showed that the average laying date of the second brood was 2 weeks later than normal. We won’t know the effect of this until we see how many corncrakes return next year. Nationally , the corncrake had not done so well this year with the overall count down by 23%.
Shelagh Parlane RSPB Corncrake Project Officer, Skye
The Red-rumped Swallow originally found at Talisker Bay on Skye on 17th June 2011, and photographed subsequently by Ian Fulton on 29th June, has now been identified as belonging to the race daurica japonica which breeds in the eastern Palearctic and Oriental regions. It differs from the European form by streaking on the throat and underparts, a darker face pattern and an incomplete collar and the determination has been made by the British Birds Rarities Committee. This bird represents the first record of Asian Red-rumped Swallow in Britain and the same bird was present on Sanday, Orkney on June 9th 2011. The Skye bird was also photographed by Christine Hammond from Carbost whose image is shown here.
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.