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.
It may be another 4 months until the Commonwealth comes to Glasgow for the 2014 Games but one epic race is already under way. In Spring each year millions of birds complete marathon migrations from their wintering grounds in Africa back to Scotland in order to breed. Over the last few years the British Trust for Ornithology have been conducting ground-breaking research into the annual movements of one our most fascinating migrants – the Cuckoo. This has included tracking individuals using small solar powered satellite tags. In 2013 individual male Cuckoos were caught and fitted with tags at the two neighbouring National Trust for Scotland properties of Balmacara Estate and Kintail & West Affric in Ross-shire. National Trust for Scotland staff at the two properties have been keenly watching the movements of “their” birds on the BTO’s website since. In late February Balmacara’s “Livingstone” and Kintail’s “Patch” were both near the equator in Commonwealth country Cameroon and starting to move north back towards Scotland. The friendly rivalry between the two Trust properties has been roused and staff at each are now backing their bird to be the first one back to Scotland. They are inviting members of the public to predict which of the two birds will make it across the border first, and on which precise date. The winning entrant will receive a £25 e-voucher to spend at the National Trust for Scotland online shop.
Balmacara Estate Property Manager Iain Turnbull said: “We’ve obviously got an affinity for Livingstone from our property and will be rooting him on, but in all seriousness we’re just hoping that both Cuckoos survive the exhausting journey back to their breeding grounds in Scotland okay. This work by the BTO is proving absolutely fascinating and it’s incredible to think birds currently in Cameroon will soon be calling from the moors above our office!” You can follow the “Great Cuckoo Race” and find out about the competition on the Balmacara Estate and Kintail Ranger Service Facebook pages and watch the movements of the birds directly on the BTO website http://www.bto.org/science/migration/tracking-studies/cuckoo-tracking
If you follow this blog you will have noted we visit Spain, or I should say Catalonia, at least twice a year since our eldest son moved to Barcelona in pursuit of a local girl. They were married on March 14, a fusion of Scottish and Catalan culture, and rather than have a birdy picture I thought you might enjoy an image of Neil and Irene on what was a very happy wedding day. The weather was wonderful throughout with temperatures up into the 20's every day and our first week was very much wedding related with not too many birds to report.
On the 2nd week we headed north into the midi Pyrenees, in particular the Sierra Guara in the Huesca area. I also celebrated a birthday and my reward for a pre-dawn start was a Wallcreeper at Alquezar, a first for me after several years trying. It was possibly the same bird seen by John 'the bird' from Eigg who visited the same area several weeks earlier. There is a rather poor image in the Gallery. Another highlight was a visit to a vulture feeding station. This coincided with a visit by a Spanish film crew doing a piece on the greek tragedy of Antigone - and some 500 Griffin Vultures coming down for food. There were also a few Egyptian Vultures and probably two distant Lammergeirs, as well as a Golden Eagle spicing things up. Many migrants were on the move and a second lifer was a Black-eared Wheatear which breeds in Spain, and we were lucky to see a spectacular newly arrived male. A Bearded Tit at Lake Sarinena was a first for me in Spain and we enjoyed good views of a Penduline Tit. The last two days brought our first rain of the fortnight, coinciding with a visit to the Ebre Delta. Many of the wintering waders had already moved on though large numbers of Swallows were arriving. Whiskered Terns were already in breeding plumage and Audoin's and Slender-billed Gulls were displaying. We recorded over 120 species in our 2nd week, very much reflecting the fantastic birding opportunities available in this special part of Spain. There are a range of photographs in the Overseas section of the Gallery.
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.