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.
This american species breeds in the western states of Canada/USA and winters off the Pacific coasts of Central and South America. It has been recorded about a dozen times in Scotland, but never in winter. Interestingly, a bird was present on Canna in early July, 1981 but subsequently died. Probably a product of the unusual weather systems, coming across the Atlantic, the bird was first noted by local residents Geraldine and Winnie MacKinnon several weeks ago, and was photographed by Stewart Connor. The images were sent to Bob Swann. Although in Bulgaria at the time, Bob was able to identify the bird as a Franklin's Gull and the news broke. The Sunday Calmac service to Canna stays for about two hours on the island and an intrepid group of Highland birders managed to get over to the island on 16th February. In cold but glorious weather, the bird was seen at close range flying over the fields and seemingly hawking for insects. There are several images in the Gallery. The climax to a superb day out and thanks to everyone on the island for their help.
For the first time this winter I managed to get a count of the small flock of Greenland White-fronts which winter in the Broadford area. Not an easy task, the birds were scoped on Pabay from the new Broadford Pier, and I estimated there were 14 birds. This is roughly similar to the numbers we had last winter, but a far cry from the peak count of 82 in December 2000. Another flock in the north of Skye was previously in the Skeabost area and peaked at 75 in 1978 but numbers again declined thereafter. For the last 10 years this small flock has been in the Kilmuir area and numbers have reduced to around 20. Numbers have therefore rapidly declined at both sites and as this species is a scottish 'priority' bird of conservation concern, the declines should be a source of some concern to both statutory and non-statutory organisations. It is a bird which is vulnerable to disturbance and although previously spending much time on croftland in the Breakish area, it was occasionally shot at, and it is little wonder that the birds now rarely leave Pabay. Unfortunately, with such low numbers, there is now little resilience in the population and it may only be a matter of time before it disappears completely from the area. According to the latest WeBS report the species has shown a 41% decline in the last 10 years, so the problem is not unique to Skye.
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.